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.

A Libraryland Festivus

In the words of Frank Constanza, “The tradition of Festivus begins with the Airing of Grievances. I got a lot of problems with you people. Now, you’re going to hear about it.

Since the world now operates on lists (see also Buzzfeed), I’ve condensed my grievances into bite sized pieces. Like all holiday meals, please chew on it a bit before you report back your opinions of the meal to this chef.

  • Every article that puts librarianship in a negative light

Can the thin skinned reactions over three or four line internet scat masquerading around as  “journalism” stop, please? People are going to say that librarians/libraries/books/tax funded public good are dead because it’s what makes people click on their links. This paragraph is now longer than the majority of the hit-and-run “articles” that pass for online discourse these days but the sheer volume of response energy spent hyperventilating over these things is, well, stupid and pointless. I concede that I have gotten caught up in it in the past, but I’ve moved on and so should you.

If only they were actually about professionalism and not merely screeds about dress codes (or worse) childish temper tantrums over the desire post anything online under the guise of “personal space” without professional consequences. Newsflash: how you look and act around the community you serve matters. How you dress is up to you, but if you step outside of the people’s expectations as to how [insert your kind of librarian] should look it’s going to take work to show them that you are a competent professional. It’s not up to them to expand their definitions, it’s up to you to do the work that will prove those definitions are wrong.

Also, if you post online, it reflects on you. Period. End of discussion. People get disciplined or fired for their words and actions online every day in just about every industry. There is nothing special about librarians that makes them exempt from that reality. And if anyone wants to wave the “freedom of expression” flag at this, then you clearly don’t understand the underlying concept and how it doesn’t protect you from social consequences.

FYI, the total number of working librarians in the United States is around 156,000. The employment forecast for the profession is a growth of 7% from 2010 to 2020 to a whopping 166,000. It doesn’t take a genius to see that the math is not good since the number of graduates will vastly exceed job growth and retirement. But it does take a sufficiently irritated SOB like myself to say that the finger pointing should begin in earnest to fix this issue. So start finding ways of fixing it.

Because as we all know, nothing is more exciting to library advocates than symbolic gestures that carry the emotional gravitas of hitting the Like button on Facebook. The phrase “right to libraries” is so clunky that the Clampetts probably drove it to Beverly Hills. I now know how Lloyd Dobbler felt when “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.” Thanks for the pen, ALA. Pew revealed recently that libraries have a 95% approval rating. We don’t need a declaration about how everyone should have a library, we need a call to action that explains and justifies funding and support. Get on it.

  • The ALA Think Tank

Honestly, if you can’t control your resident lunatics, please at least keep them within the confines of your posting area. When people in the position of hiring within the library start talking about membership in the group as being a liability on the resume, you might want to work on your image within the library world. (Fine tune your brand. MAKE IT HAPPEN.) Also, saying “sorry, but I’m not going to set boundaries for behavior” clashes with the previously offered idea that the next generation of library leaders will come from that group. If you can’t lead by example or application in there, how do you expect to lead within other organizations? How will brand new librarians know what functional debate and rational discourse look like when all they’ve seen is venomous barbs and bad faith? Show some pride and dignity; get your house in order.

I’ve said my piece for this year’s libraryland Festivus. I’m interested to see what other grievances people write about within libraryland. I am hopeful that the honesty here will provide the proper catalyst for future changes in the right direction.

If it worked, then I’d say it was a Festivus miracle.

Edit: Changed “peace” to “piece” in second-to-last paragraph. Apparently, they are not synonymous with each other in that idiom.