Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Support Staff, Naming

The perception of a librarian/staff divide can be a sensitive issue for many who work in libraries. Library adminstrators should be aware of this, and thus name their staff something that says, "We value you and the work you do." Some examples:
  • Nonprofessionals (or similarly: Unprofessionals)
  • Library Helpers
  • Information Custodians
  • The Others
  • "Librarians"

31 comments:

janet said...

I prefer 'lower case Ls.' It's so much easier to say than 'reference staff who do not have MLS degrees but can run circles around the Librarians.'

teabird17 said...

I agree with Janet that upper case Ls can be far less effective when they do so-called "professional" duties : reference, cataloging, human-to-human communications... Nothing about the MLS guarantees anything except that the graduate can do classwork.

Incidentally, I am a capital-L, cataloger, webmistress, and assistant director of a public library. I've been in this field for 28 years, and I am a realist. Whomever does a job best, regardless of academic level, should do the job. I've had pages and computer technicians help weed and suggest purchases for the computer section. Likewise, I've had a circulation clerk for the poetry section, musicians on staff for the CD collection, tech clerks and a children's assistant for various crafts that they do, and fine art. All of these staff members do their own work, and look forward to the additional tasks because they are being honored for their knowledge.

Am I a bad administrator for encouraging staff - regardless of title - to better the library? I don't think so. Would some criticize me for having them do things that are "out of title?"

Bah. Humbug!

unstricken said...

Anyone who works in a library for more than a week should know that having an MLS is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for high-quality work.

Anonymous said...

Remember the paraprofessional as well!

Julie said...

Paraprofessional! That's what I am! 1/2 of a professional. And fellow employees wonder which one is my non-professional half :>)

Seriously, I like Others much better. That goes right along with the mysterious "they" people that we blame all the time.

If you labeled staff Others, then you could blame them for all the bad stuff that goes on in the library all the time.

And you could fit the trouble making caused by the Others under that other mysterious phrase, "other duties as assigned."

hmmmmmmmmmmm

duda said...

The Others are the bad guys! ...or are they? Don't you watch Lost?

Somebody has to be the big dog... and somebody has to plan the Christmas party. God help us if it's the same person!

tiny robot said...

Don't forget "faculty."

Anonymous said...

Teabird:
I believe that since "does" is not a form of the verb "to be," the correct usage would be "whoever," not "whomever" - "whom" being the objective case.

Anonymous said...

teabird17, yes, you are a bad administrator.

Gus and Fer said...

How about "the people who work the lousy hours, do the crappy tasks, and basically carry our ass for about 40% of the salary that capital-L Librarians make"...?

I know I know, it should be more pithy than that. One needs either a great handle or a catchy acronym to live, thrive, and survive on the grid of information professionalism.

Anonymous said...

How about Librarian-light?

Anonymous said...

Our director prefers the simple term "staff." Said in the same tone one would use to describe pond scum.

Mike said...

So sensitive. Let's see, do we call everyone who works in a law office a lawyer? No, there are paralegals who do a lot of the work. How about Doctor offices? Is everyone there called Dr? No. So everyone in a library is a Librarian whether they earned the degree, went through trouble of getting the correct civil service paperwork, of dept. of ed requirements? No. sorry, stop whining. It's not a high paying position, at least let me get something out of all the time spent going through this process.

Anonymous said...

Right on, Mike!
How does this acronym sound =
"T.L.T.G.T.D.'s" =
Too Lazy To Get The Degree.

cathy said...

I'm Canadian. We're Library Technicians up here. (I'm actually a Library and Information Technician myself.)

And no. I wasn't too lazy to get my masters and I'm not secretly jealous of librarians. (BTW, your obvious contempt for your co-workers is probably felt and being returned - it's not because they really want to be you.)

I was in University getting a BA so I could get my MLS and figured out while working in the university library that I was on the wrong path. Why? The two librarians I had contact with were a director who in three years said not one word to the student assistants (not even a hello when walking by if you can believe it) and who would occasionally pass on impractical orders that we'd follow for a week then ignore, and a librarian who sat at the ref desk scowling at people who would wander by then veer away when they saw her expression. Students used to flood the desk for help when the serials technician came on for her shift. The techs were the people who actually ran the library and had contact with people. The librarians were to be avoided.

If I had had contact with a librarian like teabird17 I might have stayed on my original career path, but to be honest, I don't regret my choice at all. I like being a library tech.

Anonymous said...

cathy, I am also Canadian and I am married to a Library Technician. However, not all non-librarians working in a library are Library Technicians. Some are clerks of some sort, or have other job titles (Library Assistant, etc.) because they are not qualified Library Technicians with a Library Technician diploma. Most circ staff are not Library Technicians, for example. (At least not in the libraries I've worked in.)

cathy said...

Hmm, yes I did know that. I was thinking more along the lines of library technician = paraprofessional, which is a term I hadn't even heard of until I came across it on the internet a couple of years after I started working.

Personally I never assume anything about employees I encounter in a public library (I work in a medical library myself). I tend to label everyone as "Library staff." :)

Kevin Musgrove said...

I've no problem with Librarians being Librarians and the rest of us being library staff, or human beings, depending on the audience.

What really gets up my nose is "Librarian" = "Professional," especially as some of the ones who cling hardest to that and boast loudest of it are some of the biggest amateurs in Christendom. Professional is what you are, not what you call yourself, and most of our non-library-school-educated staff are extremely professional (and some have more paper qualifications than the librarians!)

Librarians have -- or should have -- important skills that need to be acknowledged. That doesn't have to be done by discounting the people they need to work with.

Teabird17: you may be an abomination in the eyes of some librarians but you're a good manager.

Anonymous said...

Another Canadian Library Technician here. In my library (public), I'm a "Tech", the Librarians are all Department Heads (and all quite lovely people. We're very lucky.) and all others fall under the category of "library assistants".

We all plan the Christmas party aaaand the library board even buys us pizza every Christmas. Sadly, they eat with us but it's once a year and frankly, we'll do anything for free food.

Anonymous said...

Cathy's post struck at chord with me. I am also a Library Technician from Canada (maybe can start our own humourous blog?? I think we have lots of similar stories we could share!)

I earned a B.A. but, after a brief foray into teaching (and realizing it wasn't for me), I chose a diploma program and it has proved to be more useful and valuable to me than an MLS.

There is nothing stopping me from going down that path eventually, but I like the work I am doing, there is room for growth, and I feel very comfortable in a university library, (without having to 'pretend' to be a Manager, simply because I have a higher level of education).

Choosing not to do an MLS isn't about laziness. In a more perfect world, I just wish that L-Librarians would have a bit more respect for their counterparts. We're very competent individuals, but unappreciated at times.

Anonymous said...

I think this discussion is ultimately about the value of the MLS degree itself, which, to me, as it stands now, isn't much. Most of what I've know I learned on the job. The "theory" of my work could be covered in a weekend.

Anonymous said...

I work as a library technology assistant in a public library. I have a BA in English and decided during my senior year I would rather work in a library than be a teacher. I thought about getting an MLS, but one of the things I do from time to time is take care of payroll and I've seen how much the director makes. At only $2,000 a year more than I do it's not worth it to me. Plus I would not have to deal with the board and all that!

Anonymous said...

Oops, that last sentence should have read that I would Not like to have to deal with the board and all that. I live in an area where the closest school that will let me get an accredited MLS is 4 hours away and at 31 with other responsibilities besides work I just don't have time for all that! It's not being lazy-it's being realistic. Actually it turns out that in my state there are lots of directors (especially in the more rural areas) who do not have anthing above a BA! I was told they do that so they don't have to pay them as much.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Canadian L-Librarian. I've been fortunate enough to teach at courses in the Library Technician program, and work with some of my graduated students.
Some Library technicians could run circles around the MLS grads. Truthfully, the ones I taught took almost identical courses, and have very similar skills.
I'm glad I did the MLIS, because I feel it gives me more career options - such as teaching in the Lib Tech program - but I don't see it as a case of 'us' and 'them'.

Anonymous said...

I'm a capital L and I have a lot of respect for my "non-cap" co-workers. There was an assistant-level woman at one of my old jobs who had 20 years of ILL experience, and I was neither stupid nor arrogant enough to think that my then-recent degree trumped that. I did however feel a bit bad a times knowing that I would always make more money than her (and others like her) despite the difference in experience. That's the problem with academic fields - no matter how much experience you get (and no matter how useless the degree may be), not having the degree will put an eternal glass-ceiling on your career.

And yes, like many I feel I learned more in the first week of my first real library job than I did in library school, but there are classes that were an exception to this. I wouldn't trade my electronic searching classes or web design classes for more experience, but most of the rest I would.

Anonymous said...

Here's some I made up for my library. My boss is constantly talking with two phones attached to his ear, so I call him by his Indian name, "John Two Phones". My less than punctual coworker I call her by her Indian name of "Dragging Ass". The matriarch of the group, an older lady that hushes people constantly- well, I call her "Mary Big Hush".

Anonymous said...

I am a Librarian in Canada who works as a Library Technician in a school for a variety of reasons. There is a common attitude that anyone can run a library which seriously devalues my work and training. I have seen too many libraries operated by untrained people that are left in a dreadful mess because of lack of training. Who remembers "Librarianship: The Erosion of a Woman's Profession" by
Roma Harris? We can all be as snarky and witty as we like but the reality is that all our jobs are seen by many (perhaps not in academia) as essentially unskilled.

Library Blogger said...

Roma Harris. There is a blast from the past. You must be UWO SLIS :)

3dotsforme said...

Call us what you will (I prefer Information Staff) but I believe all MLIS students should learn to shelve and check out books so they know how the library functions at ALL levels. The best Libs I've worked with have been Lib Assistants or pages at one point. The worst come out of grad school never having worked one shift in a library and don't understand the importance of customer service. The theory and history of library science doesn't bring patrons in through the door. Just my 2 cents!

Anonymous said...

Many of these comments seem to suggest that those of us capital L's are sitting around while other staffers do all the work. To which I would say two words: budget cuts. Budget cuts mean for me that I get to do whatever needs to be done. That includes the ten minutes I spent yesterday scraping chewing gum out of the carpet in the YA area. We are all in the boat, at least in my library. When it's your turn to bail, you'd better be scooping water out of the boat!!

Anonymous said...

Librarianship is not a licensed profession. You can be punished by law for calling yourself an doctor, lawyer, architect, or engineer unless you are licensed to practice. In California you can't charge money for cutting hair if you don't have a license. So, why hasn't the so-called profession of librarianship demanded licensing standards? Anyone who works in the library field can call themselves a librarian and they would not be doing anything wrong. Until the so-called professionals subject themselves to the same type of standards of other true professions, they should stop trying to make their co-workers feel inferior by giving them insulting working titles.