Based on some of the reaction that I have received, I think I should try to provide a better example as to the point I’m trying to make. The easiest way for me to illustrate a point is with a metaphor, so bear with me.
Imagine libraries as being like the Army. Some people (paraprofessionals) enlist in the army while others (librarians) go to West Point or Officer Candidate school. Each group is taught the same set of skill basics that are needed to carry out the core mission of the Army. Once they have graduated from their programs, they are arranged into military units in which officers and enlisted operate in the same field space. Though they are seen side by side and can perform some of the same operations, they have different backgrounds and training.
In my perspective, what is happening in libraryland would be the equivalent of the constant comingling of the duties of the officers and enlisted. For librarians like myself, it arises to the question “Why did I get an MLS for this?” (or, to continue the Army metaphor, “Why did I go to officer training when I just could have enlisted?”) It’s not a matter as to whether or not the duties or skills of the paraprofessional are valuable or not; it’s a matter of the investment of time and resources by a librarian to allow them to step into higher library organizational functions. I don’t think I’m alone (and judging from some of the notes I have received, I’m not) in being someone who believes that because I spent the time, energy, and money in getting the advanced degree that my duties within the library should reflect that.
One might easily point out that there are no guarantees in this life; that the degree does not confer a magical ascent up on the library hierarchy to where a person “believes” they should be. But I don’t think it’s an unreasonable, pompous, or elitist presumption to believe in. And why not? If I was training for long distance running for the Olympics, I would think a high school track meet is beyond my level of training. It’s not because the high school track meet is terrible or unworthy of my attention, but because my training is not on the same level.
Yes, there are paraprofessionals who can (and have) stepped into these roles and done well; that aspect is beside my point. I’m sure each librarian of this post can point to the positive and negative aspects of their paraprofessional and support staff (and likewise with paraprofessionals thinking of librarians). This might strike some as a startling revelation, but there are a broad numbers of situations out there in libraryland. Not every staffing is going to be the same, nor the duties or levels of competence of any of those staff members.
But, to put this gently, this isn’t about the paraprofessional. This post is about the librarian. If you want to invoke the saying, “Shit rolls downhill”, then you’re right. What is discussed here and in the previous post has broader staff implications. I leave that for the other excellent paraprofessional blogs out there to discuss. But, for my blog, that’s the topic du jour.