If asked to name the hottest topic in the library world, I’d say “professional stature”. This impression is based on the number of articles in library blogs and professional publications that try to dispel negative stereotypes or forthrightly question librarians’ professional standing.
Andy Woodworth of the Burlington County Library System addressed both quite recently. In a guest post on Will Manley’s blog, he asked his colleagues “How do you feel about the Librarian image?” On his own blog he writes in The Master’s Degree Misperception: “It is a disservice to the education, to the degree, and to the profession when the bulk of a librarian’s daily tasks could be performed by someone with a GED.” Both essays generated a cascade of comments, as these posts always seem to, and reveal how frustrated and beleaguered many public library employees feel.
Kudos to Andy for saying what many observe: the ceiling is low in terms of the services most public libraries provide and professional opportunity they can offer to employees. This is a significant structural problem that will accrue to their demise as much as technological disruption or tight funding. We’ve got to raise the ceiling — not to save libraries, but because there are so many things our citizens and communities need that the marketplace does not provide (and librarians are well-trained and positioned to provide). I’ve offered a number of ideas and have more to share.
The sky is the limit. Digital technology has made so much possible and based on the people I met at the Reference Renaissance conference last month, I believe we have an incredible untapped labor pool in our nation’s librarians. It’s time to tap into it.
It’s unlikely these professionals will be adequately leveraged within the current ecosystem. If our public libraries have remained impervious to substantive change up to this point, what will it take to budge them? I’ve been pushing a National Public Library Corporation to address funding, deliver better content & services and provide increased employment and upward mobility for the library profession. Weigh in. Can you get behind an NPL? If not, can you think of ways to get this stone to roll?
1. A recent blog post on employment outlook from the front lines.
2. ALA, Planning for 2015: The Recent History and Future Supply of Librarians, June 2009