A Libraryland Festivus: Miracle Edition

There was a lot of interest in my Festivus post, mainly because no librarian can resist a good complaint. Or that I said things that struck home with the greater library community. As a result, I am pleased to say that there are some Festivus miracles to report.

First, there is overwhelming agreement that people need to not overreact to online “journalism” that says things like libraries/librarians/things librarians care about are dead/in trouble/otherwise not important. There were some subsequent vows not to speak or share such things in the future because it’s a waste of our time. It’s a Festivus miracle!

Second, my talk about professionalism has led to better and deeper conversations about identity within the profession. (Read Cecily Walker first, then Andromeda Yelton.) By my own admission, I was talking about the superficial kinds of appearance issues that Cecily has summed up as “the purple hair and tattooed” category. These are the kinds of things that annoy me and as such fall under the definition of grievance. It’s important to note that there are librarians who are confronting with deeper and more profound professional identity issues because they are non-white and non-cisgendered. I consider this to be a two-for-one miracle: I learned something important from my grievance and people who are better equipped and more knowledgeable about this issue are talking about it. Another miracle, I say!

Third, the reference to the graduate school enrollment chart has gotten the notice of people who can do stuff about it. Elizabeth Lieutenant, who wrote the research paper that included the graph, has gotten inquiries from ALA folks wanting to know more about the data. (Yes!) Granted, thus begins a new cycle of what-do-we-do-about-library-science-graduate-programs kinds of conversations but this time we have the cousin of anecdotal data, actual data. So, I hope this means it will result in actual progress. Yep, another Festivus miracle!

Fourth, well, there is no corresponding miracle that goes with the Declaration of the Right to Libraries. However, there is a great and thought provoking post by Sarah Houghton about the wrong kind of love between libraries and their communities. Money quote:

I don’t think we focus on “library/librarian love” for the sake of our communities, to remind them of what we do so they’ll use us more, as an outreach or advocacy tool, or as a political move to solidify our value in the minds of stakeholders.

We do it to make ourselves feel better.

Take the time to read it. I think it sets advocacy thinking in a new direction and gets to what marketing people have known for years: being able to connect the product (libraries) to what it means to the individual (our communities). This, if it came to pass, would be yet another Festivus miracle.

Last, but certainly not least, I experienced a very divided reaction to the inclusion of the ALA Think Tank on the list. The public comments on the blog were in defense of the group while the private messages I received were all in agreement with me. This is troubling in a couple of different ways. Why don’t the people who have issues with the group feel comfortable commenting publicly? Why are the group supporters dismissive of past problematic topics and social interactions within the Think Tank? Neither question sits with me very well.

Some people on Twitter seemed incredulous that an association with the group could be a detriment. As a Mover & Shaker, I’ve heard tales from other award winners about how this award has been used against them. This comment from a Will Manley column has always stuck with me.

If I see the Mover and Shaker Award on a résumé, that application ends up in the circular file. I want workhorses, not show horses.

As much as we try to be enlightened logical creatures, “guilt by association” is alive and well in the librarian profession. I’m not going to rehash the arguments concerning the award itself (God knows they are numerous), but I hope this serves as one illustration that the connection to the library group or award has the ability to limit the candidate. It’s not reasonable or fair, but we don’t live in such an objective world yet.

I wouldn’t think I would need to remind my peers that what you say online can be found and used when making decisions regarding them. The Think Tank is such a public forum; your words matter so choose them wisely. If you have an issue with that, then there are closed, secret, and otherwise private librarian groups out there. Find those forums and join them.

And, really, you shouldn’t surprised when the antics and words of others within the group put you in the same light. For if you stand by while someone is spewing venom and do not speak up to admonish them, how much culpability do you share in letting them act that way?


These are the Festivus miracles that I have experienced. Feel free to share yours in comments or blog posts.

17 thoughts on “A Libraryland Festivus: Miracle Edition

  1. Just a quick clarification: The graph came from the following ALISE report: Wallace, D. P. (Ed.). (2012). Library and Information Science Education Statistical Report 2012. Chicago, IL: Association for Library and Information Science Education.
    Thanks for drawing more attention to the graduate school enrollment chart. It’s encouraging to know that professionals are concerned about the issue, especially since I’ll be one of approximately 9,000 new LIS grads competing for a job when I graduate in 2016 (assuming that the average LIS student takes 2 years to complete their program). I have confidence that I’ll be able to find a job and build a rewarding career in Libraryland (or beyond), but it’s quite deflating knowing the sheer number of resumes I’ll be competing with. I’m not sure what can be done about the issue, nor would I be able to affect any type of change (if at all) until I’m established in my career. I’m looking forward to observing further conversations regarding this issue, and whether Courtney’s request for a citation results in any official discussion within ALA. Maybe that will be next year’s Festivus miracle.

  2. I just made the same comment over at Will Unwound, but it holds true here, too: Maybe it’s time for the phrase “mover and shaker” to go. Not because I have a problem with “rockstar” librarians (that term seems to be on its way out, thankfully) but because being labeled as such is not always (hardly ever) viewed positively, which is unfair to the person being recognized. Why can’t we pay tribute to good work without bestowing a label that will follow that person–for better or worse–through their career?

    • It wasn’t a label it was an award. I received it in 2013 along with several people I really respect who have done tremendous things, such as Community Building. What Will does not acknowledge in his piece is that many of us who won are both work horses and show horses. INALJ will always get more attention that my 9 years working as staff and a librarian, often weekend shifts (when no librarian was present) and shifts from 6:30am-3pm or 3:30pm-Midnight. I often was doing two jobs as well, since we were understaffed, as so many in our field do. Of course my resume reflects this reality as well and if Will chooses to stop considering me as a candidate after seeing me awarded for the hard work I do with INALJ then it would have been a bad place for me to work anyway, But if he continued down the resume he would also see the other work horse work I have been doing as well, though INALJ has been a tremendous and time consuming task as well.

      I do wish there were more awards- and at the university and colleges I have worked for staff as well as librarians were honored campus-wide yearly. But I do not regret that I have the Movers and Shaker Award and I know that it takes hard work and sacrifice for most who end up on the list. Why would we ever assume that everyone would view it positively? We are too diverse and yet too insular a community for that to happen. The award isn’t the problem.

  3. “I wouldn’t think I would need to remind my peers that what you say online can be found and used when making decisions regarding them. The Think Tank is such a public forum; your words matter so choose them wisely. If you have an issue with that, then there are closed, secret, and otherwise private librarian groups out there. Find those forums and join them.”

    Thank you for addressing this. For the most part, I like the ALA Think Tank. Now, I was once belittled on it. I did not let it bother me and kept addressing my point. Eventually, others began showing agreement with me. The experience was annoying. Still, I’m not one to back off from a debate.

    However, it just baffles me what people write about on this group’s forum. Even so, as public employees, we should not complain about our jobs on a public forum. I should add there is a difference between complaining about one’s job and another asking for advice on how to address an issue. Another thing, some people appear to be on it all the time. I want their job. Seriously, try to limit your time on a Facebook group. It looks bad. Perhaps, I’m paranoid.

  4. When you talk about comparing public and private discussion of ALA Think Tank, 1) my anecdata matches yours, and 2) I think at least part of it comes from the expectation of people in our field, that we will “be nice.” We’ve got this hesitation to critique, in public. (This is unhealthy, but that’s a whole other discussion.)

    But there’s more than that, in ALATT’s case. People who have left (or never joined) and been public with critques have been discussed in a very negative light, in the group. That’s hard to take, especially when you can’t defend yourself because you’re not a group member. And there’s also a perception–I think this one might be a reality, actually–that the upper echelons of that group (which I hesitate to refer to as such, but if you watch the group’s dynamics, certain people are treated REALLY WELL) have a fair bit of influence and a louder voice than the average librarian. While these folks got their status by being nice people (their disregarding of minority viewpoints aside), and I honestly don’t think any of them would stoop to vindictive behavior, I still think there’s a hesitation to piss them off.

    When I left, I did it pretty quietly. I was sad and angry, because I felt that JP’s decision to continue with mob rule, rather than trying to develop community standards, was a slap in the face. (Not a personal one. I mean, we’ve met, and I like him, but I am quite sure he wasn’t thinking of me when he posted to his Tumblr. Rather, he was ignoring multiple cases of bullying and silencing and tone-policing, much of it handed out very unevenly and unfairly; he was also ignoring statements that ALATT doesn’t feel safe for minority viewpoints, as well as requests that he and other mods step in and help in some way.) I wanted to comment on it, but dissent, in that thread, seemed particularly unwelcome. (To be clear, the community squashed it, not JP himself.)

    I, myself, never got bullied, or if I did, I’ve forgotten about it. I rarely even got silenced or tone-policed. But that was only because I was extremely careful. I learned pretty early, in that group, that anything one says carelessly, any sign of perceived aggression (with exceptions for certain members of the upper echelons) or too strong an opinion about the wrong thing, would be met with vitriol. I walked really close to that line, one time, in a conversation about the group’s culture, and the lesson was reinforced. In that case, it was PC, not JP, brushing off my concerns and making the joke. (I feel like I should add, I like him just fine, too, in real life.) I’m sure his goal was to diffuse the people who were riled up, but it really did feel like he was saying “Your concerns aren’t valid. Go have a drink.”

    It’s hard to put a finger on the exact issues that need addressing, or their causes–which is what I was trying to do, really politely, in the thread with PC. In private, I’ve called the culture there “broey,” which I sort of hate to do here–I know people have compared JP and PC to frat boys, and I know they hate that. But there is a difference in how people are treated, how much respect they get, based on their status in the group. And status seems to be tied to gender, probably because any group where “partying hard” is the measure of success has an inherent gender bias in a larger culture where men and women are held to different standards. There is also a certain “don’t harsh our mellow” vibe, even in the face of really important issues. If you feel threatened, or bullied, or silenced, the onus falls on YOU to leave and miss out on the largest social media gathering of librarians; never is a bully or harasser asked to leave and miss out. If you step in and get someone’s back, you just risk being subject to the same vitriol. It’s not a good culture, and that makes me sad, because I know the people who started it wanted it to be fun and a little rebellious and, you know, GOOD. Maybe their hesitation to step up and help it BECOME good is just denial–after all, they themselves are treated well, right?–and not an active decision that minority viewpoints don’t matter.

    But it feels the same.

    Anyway, I’ve come out pretty unambiguously in favor of codes of conduct/anti-harassment statements, in the past, so my belief that the community should have some kind of standards for behavior is unsurprising. I was really pleased to see that you agreed.

  5. Andy, it is highly irresponsible of you to take a workhorse/showhorse quote from a comment that someone else wrote on my blog regarding Movers and Shakers and create the impression that it is from me. Clearly, that is the case with Naomi above (which you have not corrected). Also, I have gotten several emails from people who have forwarded to me tweets from you on the very same subject. And somehow this quote, which is being attributed to me, you are now applying not just to Movers and Shakers but some group called ALATT, a group I know nothing about. My respect for you is less than zero. Surely you can find some other way to get your click count up. Merry Christmas.

    • Will, you’re right. I could have used better wording to indicate that it is a quote from someone else in your column. In placing the direct link to the column, I thought that would act as enough direct context for people to see the quote and how it is presented within your column. I thought that was enough but considering how many people are linking it to you with that understanding, it wasn’t enough. My apologies.

      You’re wrong about how I’m applying the quote. I’m using it to demonstrate how guilt by association exists within the profession, not that it applies specifically to the ALA Think Tank. From what I have been told over the years, this extends to bias against the MLS/MLIS programs of certain colleges and universities. I’ve been told of library managers and directors who will not hire Clarion graduates because they don’t like the program there. That’s setting aside a group of people without considering anything beyond the name on their degrees. Guilt by association is alive and well within the librarian profession and the Think Tank is no exception.

      I’m sad to hear that your respect for me is less than zero. I still hold considerable respect for you. You can always reach me at my email if you think that’s a better venue than comments.
      Merry Christmas to you.

  6. Pingback: Airing of (Profession-Related) Grievances during #librarianfestivus [Part 2] | Archives Mouse

  7. Pingback: I Love Doing Homework « Elizabeth Lieutenant

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