ASSOCIATES (2006, July, v. 13, no. 1) - associates.ucr.edu
My View From The Back Room
Library Associate II
Winona Public Library
Winona, MN 55987
Honest reasons why I don’t want to be a Librarian.
We just had someone on staff complete her entire MLS on-line and she was able to do her internships here at our library and at one of the college libraries. She didn’t have to leave home, and now she has been raised to the Librarian pay rate (I think it is $1.81 an hour more than what I make now) and helps fill in on Reference desk. So, it is possible to get my MLS, but I don’t want it.
The money is not worth it.
I figure it would take about six years worth of salary increase above my current rate just to pay off the school loans. And for what? Seriously, I am not going to move anywhere, I plan to stay right here until I retire. I have enough seniority to keep my position in case of cutbacks, the pay is very good, and I don’t do those types of really, really bad things that could get you fired from a city job. In fact, I am reliable, prompt, and get all my work done without supervision.
Location, Location, Location
If I was to get the MLS would my job change? Ha! If I thought it would, I might have to re-think my refusal, just to get to do something a bit more different. But the sad fact is that the Librarians here sit up on public display all day at the reference desk. They are always in the public eye and surrounded by the “regulars” and you all know who I mean. I will never forget a librarian coming down to the break room once (this was years ago) and she said, “Some days I look around and I am the only one who is not manic.” It must have been in the winter when more “regulars” come inside to keep warm and dry.
I need a bit of privacy and I like to listen to the radio. Now there is plenty of staff walking back and forth, and I get questions from the circulation desk off and on, but I can just sit in front of my monitor and kick my shoes off, if I want. Here in my windowless room, I can do internet searches on subjects that have come up, I can look up titles people have asked me about, and I can work on the web page, all without having to stop every time a customer needs help. Yes, that is the point of the library I know, but someone has to be in the background doing all the stuff that makes the place run! I am more that type of person.
One hour of public service a day works well for me and the patrons. For one hour I can be friendly, efficient, and helpful. If there is a break of an hour or so, I can be at the circ desk for another hour and all is well. But I could not be at the circ desk or the reference desk for 6 to 7 hours daily. I would develop tics. In fact I probably already have them, but since I am not on public display all day, the public isn’t aware of them.
My day is spent, as I have said many times, running around pulling, packing, and checking-in books for ILLs. It keeps me moving, I get to do a bit of search and seize, I get to run around with a paper in my hand (very official), and I usually know off the top of my head if a book has come in for a patron or not.
Most of the patrons who come into the library think anyone working here who isn’t a college kid in short pants is a librarian, so I have that mysterious mantle covering me already. If I see a patron outside of work, they usually say things like, “Well, how is my favorite librarian today?” I actually do say, “I am not a librarian, I don’t have an MLS.” They usually say something like, “Oh, you just run the place, right!” So I say, “Yes.” The public thinks if you work in a library you ARE a librarian. It is not like an MLS is tattooed on your forehead, or better yet a golden halo is given to you upon graduation.
The Line is Blurry
Our cataloger once said that in library school they were told over and over again not to do anything that could be considered CLERICAL! Now, I ask you, if you are the librarian in a small library with 1 or 2 staff, how is that possible? Somebody has to type. And depending on hours open, somebody with a high school diploma will probably be doing ready reference and more. In some libraries all cataloging is done by non-MLS (and I bet they type too) and probably the only librarian in the building is the director who has to attend business meetings and herd the staff. So the staff has to service all the patrons’ needs which include reference, circulation, interlibrary loans, patron registrations, planning programs, ordering supplies, materials, and finding a good book that suits the patron! With computers in libraries now we should all be able to search beyond a basic Google, and figure out a reader’s advisory question, or find a report on a good book. So, this gives us freedom, the MLS people freedom, and best of all it gives the patrons' freedom to get the results they want from the “librarian” sitting in front of them. So I say--QUIT APOLOGIZING for not being a LIBRARIAN and embrace the job you have because you are working in a library and that is a very VERY good thing!