One of the occasional features on the old AL that hasn’t appeared here is Library Jobs that Suck. It was never a regular feature in the old days, but I was usually willing to point asucky library job. The absence isn’t explained by the changing nature of the blog. I haven’t written about library jobs that suck because there just haven’t been any.
"Wait right there!" you might say. "I work in a library, and my job sucks!" And, probably, it does in some sense suck. Not everyone can have the high job satisfaction of the AL, just like not everyone can get paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for writing this blog while sipping martinis and getting her feet massaged in her big corner office overlooking the park. Such outcomes are rare in librarianship, but that’s just the way it goes. If getting a great job was your goal, then you picked the wrong field.
So, sure, in one sense, many of your jobs do suck, but I reserve my Library Jobs that Suck category for very specific jobs. A Library Job that Sucks must be temporary, part-time, and require an MLS and library experience. These have always seemed to me the most shameful jobs, the ones where libraries were trying to exploit a bad job market to get better librarians than they morally deserve, where they demand professionals but don’t provide professional situations. Jobs like these make all of us worse off, because it shows that there are libraries that don’t take seriously any professional or personal commitment to librarians. The librarians become mere widgets to be exploited at will and disposed of easily. That’s hardly the sort of job that brings glory to the profession.
I haven’t noticed advertisements for Library Jobs that Suck in a long time. Perhaps, I thought, in the poor economy libraries are hiring only necessary positions, and they don’t want to commit in even the limited, shameful way they might have to with a temporary, part-time person. However, I just discovered a Library Job that Sucks, and I wanted to let you all know about it so you can apply if you wish.
Whittier College – Richard Nixon’s alma mater! – "invites qualified resumes and cover letters for two temporary, part-time Librarians." That’s quite an invitation, isn’t it? I’ve never seen a "qualified resume," but any qualified resumes out there should definitely accept this invitation.
By advertising a temporary, part-time job, a library says, "We don’t want to see you around very much, and we certainly don’t want you around here very long."
Notice this advertisement mentions nothing about compensation. Most library job ads don’t mention salaries, and I always assume that if the job ad doesn’t at least have a salary range attached, then the salary will be poor. But at least they often make the dubious claim that the compensation with be commensurate with experience and qualifications. What are we to assume about a job ad that makes no mention of compensation? Perhaps that there’s no compensation at all! Maybe the experienced and skilled librarians that they don’t want around very much or for very long get to eat the leftovers in the staff refrigerator at the end of the week.
And they certainly seem to want a lot considering they’re not willing to give very much. "Required: Master’s degree from an American Library Association accredited library school. At least 2 years experience working in an Academic Library. Availability to work weekdays, weeknights and weekends." So, an MLS, two years of experience in an "Academic Library" (love the capital letters!), and the availability to work any damned inconvenient time their real librarians just don’t feel like working. Nice.
They also want more, but don’t absolutely require it. How open-minded of them. "Desirable: Some supervisory experience specifically with student workers. Experience with digitizing processes, software and hardware. Experience working with a course management system. Experience working with Innovative Interfaces MillenniumILS system." That’s quite a list of desiderata. Some of us librarians have a list as well. "Desirable: a workplace that takes me seriously as a professional and offers a commitment equal to the commitment it expects from me."
They want someone who can do a lot, too. Reference, instruction, collection development, "aid in preparing bibliographies" (how quaint!), supervising students, plus, if they could get the object of their desire, someone who knows about digitization and ILS . And they want all this from temporary, part-time experienced librarians. I wonder if they even feel bad advertising a job like that.
According to the ALA Code of Ethics, "We strive for excellence in the profession by…fostering the aspirations of potential members of the profession," and the ALA has certainly done its best over the years to foster aspirations and stuff library schools to the gills, and the library schools aren’t well known for turning people away. The result of unnecessary recruitment are jobs like this one, though.
Ponder for a moment what a job ad like this says about the way we should treat professional librarians or even human beings, and then ask yourself if that’s the sort of profession we should be. This is also from the ALA Code of Ethics: "We treat co-workers and other colleagues with respect, fairness, and good faith, and advocate conditions of employment that safeguard the rights and welfare of all employees of our institutions." Can jobs like this possibly satisfy that goal?
There are probably librarians who see nothing wrong with this at all. Those who think libraries should be run "like businesses" probably applaud job ads like this. When the only thing that matters is the bottom line, then it’s apparently okay to treat human beings like disposable objects. If actual humans are in the way of profit, so much the worse for the humans. We’re so used to this mindset in commercial society that we don’t even think about how sick and immoral it is. The businessy librarians might want libraries to go that direction and turn their librarians into dependent disposable wage slaves even more then they are now, but those librarians who care about the state of libraries, the state of the profession, and the state of the professionals who make up that profession will resist jobs like this whenever possible.
Library Jobs that Suck aren’t bad just for the poor saps who need them to survive. They’re bad for all of us.