Aww yeah, Rita Meade.
In truth, the problem is much larger than Terry Deary himself – the media has been getting libraries wrong for a long time and it doesn’t look like the issue will resolve itself anytime soon. Instead of angrily blogging about it, however, as I’m wont to do, I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf and try to offer positive solutions – or at least get a dialogue started regarding possible solutions. (Don’t worry, though: if others angrily blog about him, I will read the posts and shake my fist at the sky in solidarity.)
There are things we can do that don’t include angry letter writing, angry blogging, or Deary book bonfires. I’ve listed below five ways to support libraries RIGHT NOW. These are simple, very obvious (hey, sometimes we need reminding) tips that librarians talk about all the time, but they can have a big impact if they are done by enough people in enough communities.
— Rita Meade, Why We Shouldn’t Ignore Terry Deary: 5 Ways to Help Your Library Right Now (Go, @screwydecimal!)
This is what libraries do. I think it’s great that some libraries are able to lend out items other than books, because it shows that they are responding to the needs of their particular community. But again, I do not see it as a desperate move to stay relevant…. We’ve got relevancy coming out of our ears.
— Rita Meade, “Ask a Librarian About the Odd Things Happening at Libraries” (via The Atlantic Wire)
1) JOB SECURITY
I can’t think of a bigger stressor than that one this these days. As budgets shrink, librarianship is becoming more and more unstable. My own job is threatened every six months or so, and every six months I panic and do (unpaid) grassroots advocacy to fight the cuts. This should not be, and it does not contribute to a stress-free work environment.
@olinj: How about the ever present spectre of budget cuts & possible layoffs?
How about that? That’s fun, right? Moving on.
2) DEPLETING RESOURCES
Budget cuts don’t just threaten the existence of our jobs - they decrease our ability to do our jobs as effectively as possible. This includes but is not limited to a lack of materials (books, office supplies, desks, even paper is scarce) and cancelled programs, like storytimes and RIF. And if you think these kinds of programs are not important, I’m going to send you a dictionary because you obviously need to re-learn the definition of important. I mean, the children who come into the library today are going to be running the world soon. Do we really want them to not be as educated as they possibly can be?
@pnkrcklibrarian: If the ILS breaks, I’m only one who can fix it. Broken OPAC shuts down public, cataloging, tech services, acquisitions, etc
@XineGirl: Watching the library building be worn down because there’s no budget for maintenance. Not even carpet cleaning. UGH.
@XineGirl: Watching the digital divide get deeper and wider as people w/out computer skills are told “Go online!” for EVERYTHING
@aswatki1: constantly asked to do more more more for my patrons….but with less money than ever before.
@AnnieSeiler: Stretching an already super thin budget to last for all of your programs for the entire year, and justifying every penny.
@wylie_alan: dealing with the digital divide and ever increasing push towards e-government with a lack of ICT resources
@vcmcguire: Having to constantly justify our existence, provide more and better services with fewer hours, smaller budget, etc.
@MrsFridayNext: Also, I’d love to be able to convince an MBA who needs a checked-out reserve book RIGHT NOW that their stress is not mine.
That last one resonated with me a lot. Tony Lee doesn’t really understand what it means to be a librarian. People MAKE their stress your stress. And if you’re a good librarian, it will be your stress anyway. I actually DO care if that teenager finishes his research paper, Tony. Otherwise, what the hell am I here for? If we don’t have the right resources, we cannot help people the way we want to. THAT IS STRESSFUL.
3) BEING SHORT-STAFFED
This comes along with the resources being hacked, but it’s a big one. It’s exhausting being on the desk all day. It’s hard to feel like you’re accomplishing anything when your time is stretched very thinly and you have to juggle various projects and there’s a line of patrons and “MISS! MISS! THE BATHROOM KEY FELL IN THE TOILET!” Public librarians, for the most part, like to be part of a community. When there aren’t enough librarians to get the job done, the job is much more stressful than it should be.
@katerzina: budget! trying to get ahead & plan summer reading but with no idea of a budget sucks. also, really bad under staffing.
@j13rexy: Im head of the teen depart, only part time. Sometimes I have to work alone, help patrons, plan programs, weed, update the…
@LibraryElfReads: sometimes, I’m the only librarian to answer questions and the line is often 3-5 pple long. Last time someone left the line.
@aswatki1: I’m janitor, mom, teacher, IT guy, nurse, cop, shrink, cheerleader, fireman, event planner. I make as much as a waiter.
@small_fox: I’m responsible for EVERYTHING for patrons 0-18 BY MYSELF unless I can find some volunteers to help
(To that point, volunteers are GREAT and extremely helpful, but it’s not the same as having enough full-time librarians on staff.)
4) DEALING WITH PEOPLE
This one is the most obvious to me. I think we can all agree that any job dealing with the public, whether you’re slinging burgers or books, is going to be stressful.
This category in can be broken down into various subcategories. We have sexual harassment, we have mentally ill patrons, we have fights and drunk people and screaming kids. And it’s not just “problem” patrons that make it stressful, either. Librarians often act as a sounding board for people who just need to talk, and sometimes that can be stressful on us. It’s not easy hearing about a woman who has lost her home or how a kid’s father is in jail, etc. We are there for people, as we should be, but we are human too and it all takes an emotional toll.
@SarahNicholas: Most librarians have a story about being called a ‘fucking bitch’ or being spat at because a book was overdue or missing.
@unclassifiable_: Academic libraries aren’t immune either.We had a patron with multiple personalities&a love of feces painting.
@funktious: I once had a student tell me she hoped I got raped, that was nice. Also many, many grown men shouting at me.
@LibraryElfReads: Books don’t critize but people do, unfortunately. (Most are great, but a few really make it tough.)
@MrsFridayNext: Mentally unstable homeless people I deal with alone, no guaranteed quick response police. And I work at a major university.
@popgolibrarians: Students who blame ME for not having the books/articles they need and therefore ruining their academic career and life
@kelly_clever: Someone dropped the f-bomb on me once over a 10-cent fine. Sexual harassment from patrons is no fun, either.
@alextretiak: Patrons who complain to the mayor when your WiFi is a little slower because you have 250 extra patrons in after a hurricane.
People, amiright? Can’t be a librarian with ‘em, can’t be a librarian without ‘em.
5) PERCEPTIONS/LACK OF RESPECT
This category is, perhaps, a little more difficult to explain to non-librarians. Basically, we are swimming upstream in a world that doesn’t really “get” our job. (Even some library administrators don’t seem to understand our jobs, and it’s being reflected in the work that we are being told to do.) I even have friends (well, acquaintances) who don’t really understand or appreciate what I do, and I know they are probably rolling their eyes at this whole post, thinking “GOD, RITA, IT’S NOT LIKE IT’S BRAIN SURGERY.” There’s really not much we can do about this sort of thinking besides rail against it. So, I apologize for whining about this, but if I can get just one person to understand what a librarian really does, I will be satisfied.
@catagator: Librarians are asked to create oxygen everyday, for little pay and with little respect.
@esurientes: Fear of redundancy, budget cuts, tasks that are more administrative without using LIS skills, low morale.& this is Australia!
@coxtl: I constantly have to prove my worth in order to protect the library, budgets are cut but responsibilities are higher
Someone else said: “Librarian’s starting salary is 10K LESS than a professor’s, both positions require the same level degree.”
Although I’m not sure how accurate that is (another Twitter user pointed out that professors need PhDs as well) it’s a good point. Remember, people, you have to get a Master’s Degree to be a librarian. That’s stressful! Then you have to pay back your student loans with your paltry salary. ALSO STRESSFUL. I know, we took it upon ourselves to do a job that we (mostly) love, so we’re not complaining. BUT STOP SAYING IT’S NOT STRESSFUL.