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Another Way Not to Defend Libraries

This is another in the impromptu series I seem to have started: How not to defend libraries. Stories like this one about budget cuts affecting the Queens library system are ripe for treatment.

The headline is, “Queens librarians union slams planned $17M budget cuts.” Oh, gee, what a surprise. A public sector union doesn’t like public budget cuts. Shocking, just shocking!

I’ve suggested other things to avoid if you want to persuade the public. Stop it already with hip librarian talk, or DVDs for the poor.  Also, shut the unions up. Public unions are great at negotiating back-room deals where they just have to persuade some politicians into giving them other people’s money, but they’re terrible at propaganda. For example:

“Dozens of representatives from Queens Library Guild Local 1321 gathered outside the Central Library Branch and called on the mayor and City Council to rethink its budget proposal. The library could see nearly $17 million in cuts come July 1 and that would result in 329 employee layoffs, 14 branch closures and reduction in hours at other locations, according to union heads.”

Dozens! The other 2,000,000 people in Queens aren’t upset enough to come to the protest, apparently. Notice, of course, what the “union heads” put first: 329 employee layoffs. That’s bad, of course, especially for the 329 employees. I don’t want to see anyone laid off, but it’s clear that the employees are the most important thing to the union, while the most important thing to library users is the library…and their tax money.

“Union heads” are oblivious to the discrepancy between what they value most and what the public values most. Public employee unions value extracting money from the public, even in bad times. People around the country are out of work or not getting raises, their home values are dropping, and public library unions insist the librarians should still get pay raises. This is the sort of thing that just makes ordinary citizens angry. You know, those citizens who have to pay the taxes.

In addition to being oblivious, “union heads” aren’t averse to ridiculous hyperbole to get their way. Check out this howler: “’Worst case scenario, the library will be going back to the Dark Ages,’ the union’s president, Margalit Susser .”

Well, yes, I suppose that would be the worst case scenario, which could possibly happen if New York City were the victim of an extensive nuclear bombing campaign. Short of that, it’s nonsense, and anyone with any intelligence knows it. I suspect their are Queens residents who have at least enough intelligence to spot the nonsense.

But it’s not just the librarians the union is worried about. “Aside from a smaller staff, the union leader said the cuts would hurt the 2.2 million library users around the borough because it would hinder the services the branches offer.”

Oh, it would hurt the users. That almost sounds like a concern for the library users, until the next sentence. “The union also represents the clerical workers who take care of the equipment, such as the book scanners and computers, and offer guidance to those who are not tech-savvy.” Of course! There are all sorts of employees who would be harmed by cuts! Not just librarians!

After a brief mention of library users who might get affected, we end with more on how bad this is for the librarians. Beware, the following has the potential to make sensible librarians feel ill.

The union has also been making outreach to the elected officials by mailing them post cards and distributing petition slips at branches.Susser said she hopes something can be done to save the future of her members, because the job means a lot to them professionally and personally.

“For many people, the library is like a second home and the staff is family,” she said.

Good grief. She hopes something can be done “to save the future of her members“! Because the library is like their family! Oh, boohoo.

Let’s step back from this for a moment and pretend we don’t know any librarians. We’re just ordinary tax paying citizens who rarely use the library, but probably like the idea of libraries being around, just in case we want a DVD or some vacation reading, or because our neighbor’s kids like storytime , or whatever.

The point is that for us, if we think about it at all, the important thing about the library is the library, not the librarians. What do we ordinary people see when we read stories like this?

Yet another public sector union is fighting to keep their member’s pay and taxes as high as possible even during troubled economic times. Based on reading this, I have to think that the public library union really doesn’t care about me at all, but only about lining their pockets at my expense. Any concern for me or my interests is obviously an afterthought. In fact, once I think about it a little, who are these public unions organizing against? These aren’t coal miners organizing against The Man. Private unions organize against the employers who hire them. Public unions must therefore organize against the public, which means they’re organizing against me! These librarians who prattle on about how the library is their family and they deserve money from me because they need a job can just go f….

Let’s end there. I think you get the idea. It’s bad enough that there are people out to kill libraries without librarians handing them the weapons.

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Comments

  1. Union Label says:

    Get rid of the union.

    Then we can cut salaries, increase hours, and get rid of all those silly restrictions that keep qualified people on the job.

    Genius, pure genius, AL.

    I cower in your presence.

    [AL: Obviously not a careful reader. But keep telling the public the problem with cutting budgets is that the unions get mad. That's a good strategy!]

  2. Leslie Dann says:

    You make a couple of valid points in the article, but your union slamming is a little extreme. I was in full support of the Transit Workers’ Union when they went on strike, although it affected me a great deal. NYC is a very expensive place to live in and many of us live paycheck to paycheck; unions are one way that workers receive fair pay for their work. Also, as library workers, WE pay taxes, too. I pay taxes for roads I don’t use (no car), schools I don’t use (no children), etc. but I think it’s money well spent. The teachers’ union has far more influence than DC 37 (which covers all library workers) but I support them as well.
    You also neglected my quote in the article in which I said that fewer staff members would result in the lack of service to the people of Queens. I went into this profession to help people but I still want to be able to afford the rent!
    Your article is full of misconceptions and the obscenity at the end doesn’t help maintain any professional dignity.
    This ARTICLE is unhelpful to librarians; if you don’t like unions, so be it, but the union and many others, including our very involved public, are only ensuring that these devastating budget cuts don’t take place. So far, we’ve been extremely successful.

  3. Pauline Fife says:

    Dear AL I am one of those “non-librarian” people who help with computers. I also pay taxes- a good amount as a single person. Our union does care about the library users not only about pay raises and jobs. I help unemployed library users to e-mail their resumes and find job search websites. I teach computer classes. I care about what layoffs and budget cuts will do to the community and library users AL obviously does not use a public library very much and has no clue

  4. Brad Martin says:

    You may be right – maybe the Queens Library union is not very good at propaganda. Maybe Local 1321 should have followed the example of the Queens Library – Library Journal’s Library of the Year for 2009 – (who ARE good at propaganda) and ran full-page ads in Library Journal about how great they are. Maybe then LJ would have awarded them “Library Union of the Year” instead of bashing their efforts one year later with this blog post. Contrary to the stated belief of the “Annoyed Librarian,” the important thing about the library is not the library itself, but the people who make it all happen every day, year in, year out – in good times and bad. And those people include union members, as well as management. To not recognize the very real contributions of all library employees to provide library services is to deny the validity of the Library of the Year Library Journal awarded to the Queens Library. By the way, for reference, Library Journal’s award recognized (in LJ’s words) “the ability of the managers and staff to provide an incredibly diverse set of services and continue the constant modernization of the 62 libraries. Their sustained commitment to library service that truly improves the lives of everyone in the borough is what makes the Queens Library so strong.”

  5. Raynor says:

    Get rid of the union.

    Then we can fairly evaluate the value of an individual staff member, increase service, and get rid of all those silly restrictions that keep unqualified people on the job.

  6. BestLibrarianOutThere says:

    I hate unions. They make it to easy for piss-poor workers to stay on the job. Word has it our university’s union wants to unionize librarians, and if they do come a callin’, well, to quote AL, they “can just go f…”

  7. Michael says:

    Oh don’t worry. They’re not firing the cheaper paraprofessionals

  8. Management says:

    Unions never served a good purpose EVER for the function of any institution or industry.

    They need to be made illegal.

    Great post AL!!!! Keep up the good work!!!

  9. Allen Merry says:

    I’m a librarian and proud union member and think your bashing of unions is ridiculous. It’s the people who work at libraries that make them libraries rather than book warehouses. If you layoff more than 300 people from a system, you may not send the library back to the “Dark Ages,” but it definitely will have a severely negative impact on service. Fighting to preserve library jobs is also fighting to preserve quality library service and is a completely appropriate action by unions. It’s pretty sad that Annoyed “Librarian” doesn’t realize that.

  10. Christian Zabriskie says:

    It must be delightful to be able to hold so many people in such contempt.

    What exactly have YOU done to help users of public libraries Annoyed Librarian? It’s easy and fun to be snarky when other people are working, sweating, and slaving.

    If anyone reading this absurd blog entry is interested in really working to HELP libraries (rather than thier own inflated ego and sense of self-worth) they should look at:

    http://www.savenyclibraries.org

  11. Annoyed Librarian says:

    I find it very amusing that pointing out how a lot of non-librarians view public sector unions is “union bashing.” Apparently, many librarians are utterly oblivious to the prevailing public mood. But keep talking about the importance of your union jobs instead of what the library does for people and see where it gets you.

  12. Raynor says:
  13. Pauline Fife says:

    If we didn’t have unions we would still be working 6 days a week 12 hours a day with no benefits and no proper lunch breaks, not only that, women and minorities would not be allowed to work. If AL wants to go back to stone age sweat shop conditions then he/she can talk against unions and public libraries

  14. Donna says:

    Last year a hiring freeze was implemented and also many on the queens library staff were not replaced after retirement. They are now running a very shoe-string operation. Several non-union menbers of queens library have been laid off already. I understand that you are seeing this from a public relations angle (are customers less important than staff) but without staff they can’t maintain the libraries. Point taken, but there is a very real threat that it will be the public who suffers.

  15. Leslie Dann says:

    When I advocate, I usually talk about what the library does for people but the union is a factor. There are both good and bad things about unions and I can see both sides. Some people view unions in a negative way in this city but others are quite supportive so this may not backfire as you, AL, probably hope it will. Quite frankly, I’m more concerned about my tax dollars bailing out banks and auto companies which screwed themselves up! And don’t get me started on what the BP fiasco will cost us in tax money, environmental damage and ruined lives. The library, union or not, is a positive force in a democracy and deserves support.

  16. Annoyed Librarian says:

    I certainly don’t want my tax dollars going to bail out banks, but it’s too late to do anything about that.

    Pauline’s statement is another good example of ridiculous hyperbole:

    “If we didn’t have unions we would still be working 6 days a week 12 hours a day with no benefits and no proper lunch breaks, not only that, women and minorities would not be allowed to work. If AL wants to go back to stone age sweat shop conditions then he/she can talk against unions and public libraries”

    She obviously considers all unions equal, but a lot of people don’t. To lump public library or other public sector unions together with private sector unions is absurd. Public libraries have NEVER been like sweatshops or coalmines or railroads. These are government jobs paid for by public tax money, and if people don’t like them they can go work for a business somewhere. Unfortunately, unions have been unsuccessful in the private sector where they’re actually necessary, and are only successful in the public sector because they never have to deal directly with the people paying their employees.

    But based on the response here, this seems to be a pretty common belief. To criticize public library union rhetoric or public library unions is equivalent to bashing all unions and hating public libraries. Only an idiot or a unionized public librarian could believe it.

  17. Union Librarian says:

    I am a union librarian and I work six most times seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours a day, no lunch break, no benefits, no vacation, no membership in any professional organization paid for by employer, no martini fueled trips to conferences.

    When I bring this up with the shop steward she says I should be happy I have a job and not to complain.

    What a country.

  18. Lauren says:

    If the union was the only voice out there, I would say you have a point. BUT, the library is also out there saying they don’t want to lose us and that we are responsible for providing the services residents of Queens have come to rely on.
    And let me tell you something else, the people in Queens really do rely on the public libraries and library workers for information and internet access. The PAL Center in South Hollis closed last year, taking it’s afterschool programs with it. What are those kids going to do afterschool if their library is closed 5 out of 7 days?
    I don’t know anyone who went to library school for the money. We did it to help people, and every once in a while I get lucky enough to really make someone’s life better. That’s why I don’t want to get laid off.

    You should check out our website http://www.savequeenslibrary.org. Put your time where your mouth is and come to the read-in.

  19. Michael says:

    The negative part of having a Union is that they newbies get layed off first–these are often the most hardworking inexpensive employees. Now QBPL will be stuck with employees who are horrible to their fellow employees and patrons alike. Cut the dead weight!

  20. Annoyed Librarian says:

    “I am a union librarian and I work six most times seven days a week, 12 to 15 hours a day, no lunch break, no benefits, no vacation, no membership in any professional organization paid for by employer, no martini fueled trips to conferences.

    When I bring this up with the shop steward she says I should be happy I have a job and not to complain.

    What a country.”

    First, I find this VERY hard to believe. It seems like you’re mocking union librarians, but in case you’re not, then it just sounds like you’re a sucker who has the worst union in the entire world. It reminds me of a line in an Abbot and Costello movie, where Lou tells someone he’s a union man and only works 16 hours a day. The other guy says union men only work 8 hours a day. Lou replies that he’s in two unions.

  21. nouniontopian says:

    I grew up union – factory welder dad on strike twice that I recall, mom was union steward in an assembly factory and an organizer for hotel service workers some years later. My best friend in high school was a union worker who later became the president of his local. I refuse to be part of the union representing our library workers though. It amounts to a self-serving, seniority job protection racket. It limits the ability of people to develop skills, limits the flexibility of the library to meet changing conditions (not just economic) and community needs, and is, above all, so concerned with their own pocketbooks that they recognize to see there is a financial crisis that is going to hit governmental bodies in most places like a tsunami and while they moan and groan and file suits over losing raises, many of our neighbors have lost their jobs and homes. Besides that, the union does protect more than a few coworkers whose work wouldn’t preserve their jobs if they didn’t the big, bad union to protect them. The mood of a lot of people in this country is turning quite vicous toward government, and government unions for a different set of ideological reasons. I suspect many of these government unions are going to lose credibility, political clout, and members.

  22. Christian Zabriskie says:

    Annoyed, you are great with snarking back and the question remains, what is it that YOU have done to help? Your silence is telling.

  23. Leslie Dann says:

    It IS entirely possible to have such a lame union as “Union Librarian” says; I have even heard of worse. The private sector will never accept unionization, whether it is needed there or not. Whether that’s a bad or good thing depends on the point of view. I have worked in the private sector and, while it was good to get a raise for doing your job well, it was also disconcerting to be let go at the drop of a hat. As far as Michael’s comment about the “dead wood”, well, that goes for some new and older employees. There are those people who have worked hard for years, have gained experience, trained others and deserve their jobs, others do not. There are also new people who probably would move on when the economy improves and won’t stay on with QBPL, anyway, so they’re just taking their experience and training elsewhere. There are also some who probably should never have been hired to begin with (new and older) but this doesn’t help the difficulties of the library and only causes dissension. I was unhappy about the non-union workers who were laid off as well. I’m committed to this profession, not just my own job and my own little world. Union or not, if we don’t stand together, we’ll all fall apart.

  24. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Hmmmm … if we had a union here I’m thinking I wouldn’t have all those hours of unpaid overtime. Pretty much required here because we cannot hire the staff we need to get the job done. They increase the library’s hours and think our already thin staff can cover those extra hours. Let me note that I don’t see those administrators putting in extra hours without pay. I say it’s time for more unions – for too long employers have grinned all the way to the bank while invoking the “exempt status” for employees and forcing them to work overtime (hey! they need the benefits, let’s exploit them). When was the last time you saw a highly compensated administrator/manager type given the shaft?

  25. Annoyed Librarian says:

    My silence is telling, indeed. Four years of silence encapsulated in hundreds of blog posts. Oh dear, if it’s not obvious what I do, then it won’t do any good for me to explain it to you. I’m always gently amused when critics who can’t get around the arguments claim that a writer should be more than a writer.

  26. Morse says:

    I think I’m missing something here. Is the union being bashed, or the union’s rhetoric to the public? And if unions are so great, why are people talking about how bad their unions are?

  27. Lauren says:

    You based your whole argument on one article about a union rally.
    Have you read the rest of the articles on the issue? The one’s that talk about the estimated 40 library closures around the city? Or the slashed book budgets? Or cutting ESL classes?
    People in NYC pay taxes for their library services and they deserve to keep them. The union is one voice in this fight, the library is another, and the private citizens that came out to the 400 strong rally on the steps of city hall on May 25th are another. Just because the union has a typically union viewpoint doesn’t render the whole argument for library services invalid.

  28. Susan says:

    If they can save some jobs, all the more power to them.

  29. Annoyed Librarian says:

    “You based your whole argument on one article about a union rally.” No, my whole argument is ABOUT one article about a union rally.

  30. Liblarva says:

    Or we can get rid of the unions and actually be able to fire incompetent dolts for a change. Wonder why so many inept librarians find one job and stay with it until their literal dying day? Unions.

    Sure, when the labor riots where going on, what 50 years ago unions were champions of worker rights. Now what do they do? Line their own pockets and keep people employed who couldn’t find their own ass with both hands.

  31. Argumentative says:

    When librarians, much like teachers, claim they are professionals and get treated like real professionals they go off crying saying they are union and need to be treated accordingly.

    Face it folks, you can’t have it both ways.

  32. Helen Azar says:

    I am a librarian who gave up my job in the private sector and took a huge pay cut in order to do what I love – as well as become part of a union. My first encounter with private industry’s treatment of non-unionized workers was when I got my very first job after college at a Jenny Craig weight loss center about 15 years ago. One of many things management did to the staff was basically FORCE us to work overtime without any compensation, and then we had to forge our time sheets to make it look like we worked less than 40 hours. However, if we went for a training during a given week and put in less than 40 hours, which was often the case, we were docked our pay for that amount of time. At first I could not believe that no one ever said anything or complained about this and perplexed by it. Which was when I made a call to the NY Dept of Labor, who promptly investigated Rose Enterprises (Jenny Craig) and decided in our favor. We were all compensated, the company was fined, and I was still getting checks from them months after I left for another job. This is how much I was cheated out of, and I was just one person! Many many people were in the same boat, but guess what: most people were so scared of losing their jobs at will, that they would not say a word about this, and this went on for god only knows how many years. Apparently I was the first one to report this to the Dept of Labor. There was a lot of other stuff that went on, that I don’t even have time to go into. This was when I decided that one day I am going to get a unionized job, and not have to deal with things like this, and this is when I became strongly pro-union. And guess what, I don’t have to deal with things like this now. AL, obviously if it were up to people like you, not getting paid for overtime wouldn’t even be the worst thing for the workers to fear… We would probably still have to worry about working in fire traps, and having to jump out of windows – New York City sweat shop style – if a fire hit our building Perhaps you need to read up some more on the history of unions and the reason they got started in the first place… But I am pretty sure it will mean nothing to you.

  33. Argumentative says:

    waaaaaa

    go cry to yer shop steward

    can’t take care of yourself

    you big baby

  34. Brad Martin says:

    The title, “Another Way Not to Defend Libraries” says it all. AL offers one brief suggestion of what people can do and it this: “These librarians who prattle on about how the library is their family and they deserve money from me because they need a job can just go f….”

    Now there’s a bright idea – and AL had to cut it off mid-sentence so as to stay within the bounds of propriety.
    And when asked by Christian Zabriskie about what AL has done to help, the answer is that it is “encapsulated in hundreds of blog posts.” (see below).

    Well, if AL’s arguments in the other posts are anything like this barely-researched – and I agree snarky – piece, then it is understandable that they resort to such suggestions at the end as “just go f…” – which of course does absolutely nothing to foster a worthwhile dialogue about anything.

    Christian Zabriskie says:
    June 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm
    Annoyed, you are great with snarking back and the question remains, what is it that YOU have done to help? Your silence is telling.

    Annoyed Librarian says:
    June 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm
    My silence is telling, indeed. Four years of silence encapsulated in hundreds of blog posts. Oh dear, if it’s not obvious what I do, then it won’t do any good for me to explain it to you. I’m always gently amused when critics who can’t get around the arguments claim that a writer should be more than a writer.

  35. mel says:

    Thanks for saying this so clearly. Libraries are not about us, they are about service to our public.

    That’s what needs to be said and defended. How we talk among ourselves is another matter. I am extremely troubled when I read about how unions are presenting issues. Unions could sell the same bottom line in a different way, by defending the public’s right to service and information.

  36. Lauren says:

    To all the public employee haters, I don’t want a raise this year and I thought the one we got last year was ill timed considering the economy. I’d be happy to accept a pay cut. I just want to feed my family and think I’d be more useful to my city working than I would sitting at home on unemployment. And my family has suffered, my husband lost his job in March. Let’s see how long we can make it on two unemployment checks when cobra costs over 1000 a month.

  37. Lauren says:

    Maybe when you write snarky posts like this you could try to think about how terrified some of us are and show some damn compassion. Some of us are sitting up at 2am staring at the ceiling worrying about how to find a job in an already saturated job market when 800 new librarians are about to enter it.

  38. Christian Zabriskie says:

    This blog is obviously the outpouring of your own overinflated ego. Good luck with that, I’ll be getting back to the work of real librarianship.

  39. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    In reading these comments its amazing how many people miss the point. AL is looking at the statement not unions. Its been shown that unions are much more effective in times of prosperity then in lean times. The rhetoric to support a minority 300+ people against 2.2. million is the issue not the skills or unionization of Queen’s librarians. Even worse out of the 300 only a dozen could be rallied.

    If the union could have gotten their members(librarians)to bring out the public to deliver the message about how the tax payers felt about libraries and their librarians I would have great thing to say about the union.

    Oh and umm has anyone actually looked at the numbers 300 librarians to 2.2 million people? Thats a librarian for every 7334. Here in non unionized fly over city we have 2 librarians for 65,000 people or 35,000 registered users or about 1 to 30,000 or 15,000 hmmm I think there is some unionized fat that can be trimmed.

  40. Morse says:

    “Well, if AL’s arguments in the other posts are anything like this barely-researched – and I agree snarky – piece, then it is understandable that they resort to such suggestions at the end as “just go f…” – which of course does absolutely nothing to foster a worthwhile dialogue about anything.”

    That crack last week about being a genius because she was misunderstood might be right on target. The debate today is just bizarre. The AL is snarky, period, as she has been all along. People who want home-baked comfort can read the other gazillion library blogs out there. Some people pointed out she might get more flies with honey, but I don’t think she cares. And the AL was obviously not the person telling librarians to go F… themselves. This piece was spot on, but many of the commenters seems to have missed the point of the whole post.

  41. Aliqae Geraci says:

    Why was that rally sparsely attended? Because it was held in front of the library during regular open hours. Most of us library workers were inside, WORKING. Patrons were stopping at the rally, listening to speakers, signing the petition, and going inside. And then they came to my reference desk and asked what they could do to help.

    Queens Library is lucky in that we don’t have to make some big, long-winded case to our patrons to prove our relevancy. We show them, every day, with the quality of services we provide. We have the largest circulation in the nation. 50,000 people walk through the doors of our 63 branches on a daily basis. Many of our patrons are on first-name basis with the staff – the librarians, clerks, and maintainers that make the library accessible to them.

    When we tell our patrons how badly the budget has been slashed, and that 1/3 of the staff received layoff notices last month, they don’t need it spelled out for them. They know that NO STAFF=NO SERVICE. Patrons have been our most loyal and fierce advocates, bringing petitions to their jobs, schools, and churches and attending our rallies in droves.

    Our patrons get it. QL management gets it. Our elected officials get it. Why don’t you, AL?

  42. Ingrid A. says:

    “We’re just ordinary tax paying citizens who rarely use the library, but probably like the idea of libraries being around, just in case we want a DVD or some vacation reading, or because our neighbor’s kids like storytime , or whatever”.
    I don’t know what library you’ve been to, but where I am in Brooklyn, our libraries are heavily used. And yes, our patrons do take out DVDs. They also fill up our free ESOL classes, computer assistance session, and early childhood classes until they are BRIMMING. Community children stay in our library after school because they have absolutely nowhere else to go. Senior citizens use our libraries are social centers. People who have lost their jobs recently (and they are a LOT of them now) use the library to restore some sense of order and consistency in their lives.
    In this less than stellar economy, library workers are constantly helping with job search/resume writing/help filing for unemployment/assistance in finding homeless shelters and low cost housing. I see it with my own eyes every day. “Or whatever”.
    “Good grief. She hopes something can be done “to save the future of her members“! Because the library is like their family! Oh, boohoo”.
    AL, I don’t know if you’ve been lucky enough to work in an amazing library like I do. If you haven’t, I’m sorry for that. A good library is a community builder. When you see your community falling apart, it is a bit heartbreaking. Boo freaking hoo indeed.
    Is it not enough that librarians and library workers want to save our jobs? Does it matter whether we are librarians or clerical workers? After testifying at City Hall today, I saw so many New Yorkers (day care workers, nurses, library workers, and other public servants) fighting for their jobs. Being unemployed in this economy is not funny. It’s terrifying. I see it happen to my patrons all the time and knowing that I am next is gut wrenching.
    I’ve had it with the annoyed librarians, the bitter librarians, the jaded and so-over-it librarians. Move the hell out of the way if you hate everything so much, then. If you care nothing for your fellow professionals, nothing for the soon to be laid off workers (that’s 350 Brooklyn, 400 Queens, and possibly as much as 736 NYPL), nothing for the communities that may lose their libraries and therefore their free programming, then what the hell do you have compassion for at all?
    I’m sick of snark masquerading as intelligence or practicality.
    Oh, and by the way, snark is usually at least a little funny.
    Honey, you are just bitter and out of touch.

  43. Leslie Dann says:

    Great response, Aliqae. Yes, AL, our Central Library and Flushing Community Library are open until 9 PM and the rally was at 6:30 PM. Also, given the fact that Queens is the largest borough, area-wise, it is very difficult to get somewhere in a half hour (and find parking near the Central Library, if you have a car) if you work until 6. The only reason I was able to attend was because it was my day off. Yes, we union members are real slackers, spending time at rallies on our days off and getting people to sign petitions at street fairs on weekend days off when we could be at the beach. As far as our customers go, one of our customers collected twenty signed petitions in a little over an hour and many others are joining us in union and non-union events to help save the libraries they love. It’s called community.

    And, hey, how can I get a job as a blogger at LJ? It sure seems to beat working. But,sadly, like Christian, I really enjoy serving and being with the public and, basically, being a librarian, union or not. So I’ll leave you to your angry little blogging world.

  44. Brooklyn Librarian says:

    I am a Brooklyn librarian. I went to the Queens Library rally – I was on vacation. I also went to the Brooklyn rally as well as the Bay Ridge street fair. I did these on my own and will not get paid for doing so. The issue is not unions or no unions. My branch circulation is way up over last year. My program attendance has doubled. My reference desks are non-stop busy. I have people who have never used a computer coming in for resume help. Poeple come in daily begging for English classes. It is like this all over NYC. The NYC employment rate is over 10%. The number of homeless families in shelters is increasing. These people come to the library for help and entertainment. All 3 NYC systems are grossly understaffed.

    However, NYC has spent millions and million of dollars on new stadiums. Half of Queens was given predatory mortgages by corrupt banks that were bailed out by my tax dollars.. Greedly landlords are raising rents so that storefronts are vacant and tax revenue drops. I won’t even begin with corruption in the city council and the NY state senate. But of course, this is all the fault of the libraries.

    Sorry AL – at this point I don’t really since the difference between you and the ALA people who have their heads in the sand.

  45. Brooklyn Librarian says:

    Incidentally, duing the many hours that I have spent advocating at my branch, at rallies, and in the street, what I have emphasized is how the cuts will affect the public, not how they will affect my staff. Contrary to popular belief in the AL blog world, not all public librarians are lazy morons.I’ve helped to improve lives and people have come back to tell me so.

  46. Public Librarian says:

    Man, if you work in a public library and are not a goldbrick you are a chump.

  47. Allen Merry says:

    AL appears to be Library Journal’s answer to cable news and talk radio. Have a blowhard like Sean Hannity or Keith Olberman take an extreme position on some issue so you can get more people to tune in because of the controversy.

  48. I'm with post-modern librarian says:

    There are just so many people who just seem to misunderstand the point. AL wasn’t questioning the value that librarians (or paraprofessional) bring to libraries… nor the impact *you* might have on your users… but only how putting union reps out there to make arguments about that value may not persuade people to back budget increases.

    Do you honestly read a blog with a title of “annoyed librarian” and think it might not be crabby/snarky?

    Having read most of the comments, I think the venom and attacks in this discussion are good examples of how not to convince your colleagues in other states/cities to support you.

  49. I Like Books says:

    I’m thinking of Greece. The government is heading towards insolvency– a simple lack of money to pay their obligations. And so the government instituted their austerity measures, such as cuts to pay and pensions, partly at the demand of other EU nations that are ponying up a bailout package.

    And there were violent protests by workers that apparently don’t give a damn if their government goes broke, don’t give a damn if everyone else loses their jobs, just as long as they don’t lose anything. They don’t seem to realize that the alternative to the austerity measures and bailout package is to have no money left to pay anyone!

    A library union trying to preserve all in the midst of the worst recession in decades is on a smaller scale, but is essentially the same thing. There’s not enough money as there used to be, which means that not everyone is going to be able to get as much money as they used to get. But that doesn’t matter, as long as I get mine.

    Unions in general seem to be like that. Even when the company is struggling financially, unions are going to fight to keep everything they have. They don’t mind making compromises as long as the compromise results in them getting more. Or at least in the old-timers– they’ll let the dues-paying new guys go if the senior members can keep their pay and benefits.

  50. Leslie Dann says:

    I was going to stop responding to this nonsense but I just couldn’t resist. This whole country is greedy and everybody is out to “get mine”. Look at the corporate CEOs who take pay raises when their companies are going broke and people on the bottom rungs are getting laid off. “Golden Parachutes”, anyone? And the little guy/gal is out on the street. Our union (and many others) HAVE made compromises, not all do, but many do. I don’t disagree that other public services are more important than the libraries– such as the fire department. A four-alarm fire was recently put out in my neighborhood thanks to the FDNY. I don’t want the schools and the parks to be underfunded but I think libraries are important as well and I think that, in some cases, unions can protect library workers from abusive management practices. Our union rally was NOT about protecting “our own” but about ensuring that the library is able to provide quality service to the people of Queens. So far as selfishness goes, how many of you would give up your SUVs or two/three car families, large homes, etc. to give the environment and the rest of the planet a chance? It’s the “American Dream” that is killing us, literally, not a few unions who are asking for a few dollars. Look at Greece, indeed! Look at BP and our own “right” to have home heating oil, “cheap” gas (look at what they pay in Europe), etc. Most of the world does not live as Americans do, if they did, there would not be much of a planet left.

    Annoyed Environmentalist

  51. thejon says:

    AL, again, you rawk. This is a most challenging scenario because we all know when left to their devices, people are greedy and unfair almost naturally. On the other hand, my public library is all union save for the inept manager and all I can do is vomit every time.

    When you’re a union worker it simply gives you the right to not fear for your job and be paid fairly. If there was a structured combination I’d be for it, but seeing as how most of us have always had to fight not only for our job but also to keep it, unions – especially established ones – have to go.

    This is what people mean when they scream about their coworkers needing to be “institutionalized” – because they ironically are.

    If anyone wants to start a library overhaul company I would be very interested. Libraries, thanks to technology can be very simple indeed and yeah most librarians should fear or just plain get booted.

  52. Ms. Free Thinker says:

    I have worked for both unionized and non-unionized library systems. The unionized systems had much higher salaries but had filthy, unsafe working conditions, no organizational culture whatsoever, lots of back-stabbing and staff undermining of each other, cronyism & favoritism within union, union leaders lacked political savvy or any marketing or promotional skills or long range vision regarding promoting the benefits of library services to the community, stakeholders or politicians at large, maintained and promoted stultifying, rigid, work within-the-box job restrictiveness that rewarded mediocrioty, discouraged or punished initiative takers, leadership, creativity, futurism and Big Picture thinkers. Change was dreaded, the old-ways glorified. Stewards never knew the answers to basic questions or who to refer me to. If I was referred out to the Big union office, my phone calls were never returned, my basic questions left unanswered. Mistakes were often made. Paperwork was lost, wrong amount of dues were taken from my check and then never compensated.

    The non-unionized libraries paid less, although the benefits were comparable. The staff were happier, more trustworthy, more relaxed and more team oriented. The library facilities were cleaner and safer. Management was more transparent, open, available and amenable with staff. Change was supported and readily accepted and practiced. Initiative was encouraged. Creative thinkers were rewarded. Organizational culture was heavily emphasized and very positive. Staff were more empowered, happier and far more professional and happy with their jobs. Hierarchy was flattened.

    Thanks for having the guts to speak up about this. I always wanted to, but was afraid I’d be professionally assaulted and publicly humiliated by a union member. BTW: I am a far to the left progressive who will never work for a unionized library again. Give me freedom and happiness over a bigger check any day.

  53. Ariel Yang says:

    I like what AL has to say, not because I agree with it, but because there is a real perception by many New Yorkers that libraries are cold-storage repositories of useless old books and Barnes and Noble are doing a fine job of replacing us. Quite frankly, if that’s what we were, I’d agree with AL. The big point here is that we as libraries and our unions are not doing a good job at advertising our true purpose in this new age of information. The fact that AL thinks librarians are non-essential to libraries, that the two are not connected, shows the problem itself. It’s all about advertising ourselves. Why else would KGB be making a dollar for every questions answered when a librarian could do it for free. AL, I may not agree with all you say, but I’ll fight to the death your right to say it, ignorance and all. That’s what libraries are about and that’s why librarians are crucial. We make sure information is available to one and all so that our society can be informed. Nothing stands between our patrons and their quest for knowledge. Perhaps you may have done well to seek out your local librarian to find out what we do and what our union does before writing this article. Libraries are only as good as the community they work for. In my community, Arverne, the need is for a library that helps patrons navigate social welfare information. Also, our users most likely cannot afford computers. Therefore, we give them access to the wider world by providing the Internet. They can get help writing resumes and job hunting, or use their hour for social networking. The point is that we are here to serve our neighborhood and make their lifes better by providing peer-reviewed information and resources.
    Thank you for your blog AL. We need to pay attention to what people are saying because it helps us to better understand our purpose. It also helps us to realize where we are failing, in this instance we are not getting word out about what it is we actually do. 3 of five staff members will lose their job in Arverne if the budget does not come through – these are people who live in the neighborhood, and understand the social norms and are intimately involved in their community. They bring more than good information to the desk, they bring an understanding of people that cannot be taught through training. Please visit your local library and ask them what their purpose is. Or go in and sit down to watch what’s going on around you for an afternoon. See the impact, or non-impact, staff have on their community. I hope this will inform you for better or worse because we are nothing without our beliefs, and our democracy is defined by the accuracy of the sources that shape our beliefs.

  54. Fancy Nancy says:

    AL, I really, really rue the day you sold out to LJ. These comments prove you have lost your original audience.
    I still enjoy your posts, but I also used to enjoy the comments by like-minded librarians who see the folly of our ways. Where have they all gone?

  55. John says:

    I have to laugh when people write that they think the library is working hard to save their job. If they are, why are they making the CSS exempt and firing librarians? They are basically saying that a non-degree holding staff member can do the job as a librarian for less money.

  56. Mr. Kat says:

    Helen Azar,
    In your past life you had to take personal responsibility when things weren’t right; you did and you won! And yet somehow that means the system doesn’t work?? These people you fought are in every walk of life, including unions. But now you have traded your personal vigilance for the complacent carefree attitude that there is someone else taking care of you – freedom for a nanny state. And you’re paying for it. Meanwhile, before you had EVERYTHING you ever needed to protect yourself and your economic welfare – the state labor department and your moral responsibility to do right. We don’t need unions to keep employers honest – we just need people like who you were to keep the rules enforced!

    Annoyed Environmentalist,
    If we gave up our capitalist pursuits and gave the rest of the planet “a chance,” the rest of the planet would become like us. It is not Capitalism that is killing us; is it the Utopian Paradise that believes we are all entitled by the mere presence of our life. Greece is getting killed by entitlements. And we’re not very far behind. “Too big to fail” is a very socialist slogan – and our capitalists embraced a socialist approach to the markets, thus entangling everything together like it is. Free medicine, free healthcare, free retirement, free educaiton, free housing and free food – but we’ll never see a paycheck because all of our wages go the only true “equality based redistributor of wealth,” the government, does not work either. For starters, people stop working!

    Bottom line: Personal responsibility. If more people had it, we might not be in the mess we’re in now. If you don’t defend what you have when times are good, then it will fail when times go bad.

  57. Rebecca says:

    For once I completely agree with AL. This almost made me re-think my existence since as a children’s librarian I seem to frequently be belittled by AL.

    Librarian’s really do need to get over themselves during this economic slump, a lot of people are losing their jobs not just us. When a library is facing budget cuts one of our first priorities should be how we will best be able to serve the public with reductions in our budget.

    If we think the cuts are to extreme and that we will not be able to serve our patron’s needs than that is the argument that we need to bring to city administrators, the press and the public. We should not be talking about how sad it is that we are losing our jobs (a lot of people are losing jobs), instead we should be talking about drastic cuts in hours will affect the public. Job seekers need the resources we have, such as books on resume writing, computers to apply for jobs, and programs that we should all be offering on interview skills and resume writing. We should be talking about what programs are being cut; such as here where story times will be cut. You may not think that is important but when you have 80 people showing up for each one before cuts imagine how upset those parents will be to learn that there will be fewer story times, maybe then you will have a bit of public outrage, because this is something a group of people care about.

    I am currently a non-union librarian, I once worked in a library with a strong union presence and can’t say I miss it. Administrators had to be much more closed mouthed with their union employees, I couldn’t work outside my job description even though we were facing a drastic staff shortage, and frankly I was paid half as much as I am now because of the union pay scale. So do I really want the union representing me to the public, no thanks! I would rather do that myself even if that means I have to justify to them why they should be paying me!

  58. sharon says:

    Yes, let’s get rid of those pesky public employee unions so we can go back to paying librarians, teachers, and other female employees the mere pittance they deserve. If they’re smart enough, they will be able to get decent jobs at the local university, like AL.

  59. Wai Tam says:

    Annoyed librarian is obviously interested in the self service model. Maybe we can have a self service dental office where you can pull your own teeth without the dentist. Good luck with trying to get your billings straight without the office help there. Union is not the problem. Workers just want fair wages and decent working conditions. Sometimes they can only get this throught the unions. If the unions overstep their bounds, I’ll be the first to condemn them. By the way, I was a manager.

  60. TeenLibrarian says:

    I am Union and am still waiting for a fair wage

  61. Mr. Kat says:

    Sharon, Rebecca just stated that she is now making a double pittance versus the single pittance she made while working under the union. I’m confused…

    Wai Tam, Unions are good at one thing: breeding malcontent by imagining a greener pasture and then making those ideals the are minimum acceptable condition. Unions like top demand Higher wages and Better conditions – regardless of current conditions – or otherwise they appear to be useless to labor – which they are. But unions DO keep people employed – in particular, those people who are GREAT at politics and little else as union representitives! I encourage you to pick up the book “I can get it for You Wholesale.” It’s well worth the reading!

    Nice try comparing pulling books off shelves to pulling teeth out of mouths. Rebecca’s words ringing ever more true…”Librarians really do need to get over themselves…” The job can be tough, but it’s not THAT difficult. If you don’t accomplish your task at the end of the day – you can come back and finish it the next day, or tell the patron you were unable to find THAT particular piece, but the library has all these other lovely items for them to use instead. Try doing that in a dental clinic!