Monday, March 31, 2008

The Professionalism of Librarians

I just read Dorothea Salo's post on whether or not Librarianship is a profession. I was interested enough that I also read these other three posts she linked to from other people with slightly different viewpoints:

For the most part, I agree with Dorothea. The idea of Librarianship being a profession is useful only insomuch as it drives up the worth of librarians. You can make all the arguments you want about librarians needing the theoretical basis gained from an MLS to handle more advanced library work, but mostly that's just a load of bull. There are those with MLSes who are not very good librarians and there are "paraprofessionals" without degrees who are excellent librarians. The main difference between jobs that are "paraprofessional" and "professional" is the pay rate and the prestige (prestige could probably use some sarcasm quotes). I have helped several MLS graduates find work in paraprofessional positions, but I am always a little chagrined that they did not find themselves better jobs. This is not because the jobs are beneath them, but because the compensation for these paraprofessional jobs is kinda awful. Then again, I work in one of those cities where a local library science school is continuously pumping out graduates into an already flooded market.

This is the real problem with de-professionalizing a field of work. If you set the standards for your profession too low, then it becomes increasingly difficult to justify the higher salaries and better benefits that you think your profession deserves. Librarians have had this problem for a long long time. The general public does not understand that librarianship is a profession or requires specialized skills, which is why everyone is always so surprised when you tell them you need a Masters to be a librarian. This is not, by any means, a new perception of the public. What may be new is that public institutions are starting to question whether or not they need a professional librarian to run their library. They figure maybe they can get by with a circulation clerk that gets paid $10.00 an hour. Unfortunately for the "profession," sometimes they can.

I haven't discussed at all the poor treatment of paraprofessionals, just because they don't have an MLS. Let me just flat out say that it is a stupid thing to do. Good work and good ideas are good, no matter what the professional status of the provider is. That will always be the case, even if the professionalism of a librarian ceases to have any practical meaning.

The real problem with a lack of "professional" status for librarians is that when that status is gone it will be much harder to define librarian skills in a way that makes us deserve more pay than the paraprofessionals. If I thought that would mean the paraprofessional pay would increase to the level of professional librarians I might be OK with that, but we sure as hell all know that isn't going to be what happens. It's the librarian pay that's going to sink and it started out at a point that wasn't so great to begin with.

Professionalism isn't all it's cracked up to be, but I'll be happy to use it as a crutch during my next contract negotiation. Wouldn't you do the same?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Beware Epiphanies

Damn you, Dave Foley! Now I too am concerned about unexpected epiphanies:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

As soon as possible is no longer a useful phrase

Despite a fairly straightforward definition the phrase "as soon as possible" is no longer very helpful when used in conversation. According to the definition, ASAP is designed to be used in situations where you should drop everything and run to complete the referenced request AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Unfortunately, in my daily encounters with ASAP requests people are not using it with any of the urgency with which it should be associated. People will often ask me to get them an article ASAP, but when I tell them I can have it in an hour for a cost of $20 (paid by me, not them) or they'll need to wait a couple of days they almost always choose to wait. I've even sometimes had to wait weeks for books on loan, but even though the requester asked for it ASAP they had no problem with a wait of a few weeks. On the other hand, some people will ask me to find them a list of 10 or 20 articles and then be surprised that they take more than a day to round up. Those are never the same people who request things ASAP.

What most people are really asking for when they say ASAP is that I simply don't ignore their requests for days or weeks before getting to it. That's a reasonable expectation, but also an expectation that I would comply with even without the unnecessary use of ASAP in the request. If you have something that needs to be done within a certain amount of time then let me know what that actual time frame is and I can decide whether or not I need to rush, but don't just throw ASAP around willy nilly because by now I've learned not to pay it much heed.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Blue 2.0 Fun Week

I'm just catching up on my Blue 2.0 activities. There were a bunch of options in the Fun Week that I had already played around with so I thought I'd pick a couple of new things to use. I had been meaning to use Rollyo to create a Printing and Imaging search for my job. I finally got around to doing that:

Powered by Rollyo

I also created a weeworld me that now appears as my image in the about me section of this blog. I think it looks a little bit like me, but the scrunched down version that blogger forces for size reasons isn't that great. I should probably create something a bit more simplistic.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Wire

At last night's Blue 2.0 happy hour there was some loose talk about how everyone likes The Wire. Having never seen it before, I was somewhat dubious. However, it turns out that I, like all white people, do indeed, enjoy The Wire:

Apparently, only black members of "gangland" don't like the wire:

Who knew?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Free Online Books

Neil Gaiman recently had a poll to determine which of his books HarperCollins would make available to read online. I was happy to hear that my favorite book of all time, American Gods, won. Yay!!

The Guardian has an article about why HarperCollins is doing this that I found somewhat interesting. This is kind of a nice promotional tool to encourage readers to check out a book and then maybe come back and buy it if they like it. I do think that the reader interface that HarperCollins is using could use some work. The inability to jump to specific pages and the general lack of variable display options makes it uncomfortable to read such a long book on your computer. This may be intentional on HarperCollins' part so that you are basically forced to buy the book to get a comfortable reading experience, but they should really rethink that model. If you're going to give something away for free, then don't also attach uncomfortable shackles to it.

Anyway, here's a link to the book so you can check it out for yourself: