A commenter last week caught my eye, mostly because I’m not sure what to make of the comments. Supposedly they are from the non-librarian mother of an underemployed LIS graduate, which is odd enough because you’d think the LIS graduate would be a more likely audience.
The tone of the comments is defensive and very hostile to librarians. I’ve found all sorts of things to criticize about librarians over the years, but the puzzling thing is what she chooses to attack.
For example: “Our local librarian told me they hire the creme de la creme. Well her creme responded to my question about westlaw “How do you most efficiently search this database?” With “I can’t give you legal advise.” Oh really, sounds like the creme does not recognize a question a librarian should know.”
By “local librarian,” one would assume she means a public librarian. At least, without more context that’s what I would assume. I suppose it’s possible that the local public librarian knowingly told a flat out lie that the local public library only hires the “creme de la creme.”
We all know that’s a lie, because most libraries don’t. They can’t afford to. There are plenty of very sharp people working in public libraries, but I’ve never gotten the sense that most public libraries were exclusively or even mostly staffed by the best and the brightest. At least that’s not the sense I get listening to my very smart public librarian friends talk about their colleagues.
But let’s say for argument’s sake the librarian lied about that, and move on to the proof that a librarian in the local library isn’t so great: a lack of knowledge about the best way to search Westlaw.
That’s where I was thrown for a small loop. Who would assume that the average librarian would be familiar with searching Westlaw, especially the average public librarian? Are there any public libraries that even subscribe to Westlaw?
Other than general database searching tips, unless the “local librarian” was a law librarian, no one should expect familiarity with Westlaw, much less expertise.
Ask for the local public librarian’s advice on using Web of Science and you’d probably get the same answer. Ask about Ebsco products and it would be a different story. Even great librarians only know well the tools they use.
Another comment seemed decidedly wrong, at least on average. “Librarians refuse to mentor new grads. they refuse to tell the truth about the profession.” Now, if by “librarians” we mean the folks at library schools and the ALA who have been misleading the public for years about the librarian job market, then it’s true that librarians “refuse to tell the truth about the profession.”
However, most other librarians have been aware of the job shortage for years. They don’t tell people about it, because they don’t have an outlet. That’s one reason I’ve been writing about the problem for the last five years.
Do librarians really refuse to mentor new grads? The anecdotal evidence would suggest that such is not the case, and numerous librarians go on the record about the mentors they’ve had.
There’s another odd criticism, apparently based on almost no evidence: “Librarians are in general self centered arrogant individuals.” Does that really sound like the majority of librarians you’ve met?
Admittedly, I’m a self-centered, arrogant individual, but when you’re the most successful and respected librarian of your generation, millions of people dote on your every word, and your reality TV show “Keeping up with the Annoyed Librarian” is the top-rated show on television, the arrogance is understandable.
There are a few other arrogant librarians. I won’t name them, but sometimes you can spot them speaking at library conferences. But in general that criticism seems wrong.
And if librarians were so self-centered, they wouldn’t take relatively low-paying jobs in a service profession. A lot of librarians actually want to help people. They’re selfless to a fault, which explains why it’s so easy to exploit them.
Naturally enough, the commenter really didn’t like the report from the field implying some new grads don’t really do what it takes to get work.
This is bullying and elitism. There are bright motivated people who cannot find work. I think you all need to be ashamed and annoyed and think you are annoying. She is currently working as a paraprofessional. It is not funny. And you should all look in the mirror and ask yourselves what kind of people you are and what are you…your attitudes mirror your souls and your souls are empty.
One person’s bullying is another person’s mild satire, I guess. I’ll cop to elitism, since I’m part of the elite, but I’m not sure there was anything elitist about that particular post. If anything, it was “employedism,” especially in the comments, as in advice from employed librarians for new grads looking for work.
And of course there are bright, motivated people who can’t find work. I’ve been talking about that for years. On the other hand, since library school is so easy, there are a lot of dim-witted librarians looking for work, too. The bright and motivated ones will probably find decent jobs eventually, but it’s taking an increasingly long time.
Someone underemployed might not be funny, but someone looking for work who has sent out only 15 applications over several months is at least mildly amusing in their naivete.
The line about our attitudes mirroring our souls and our souls being empty made me laugh out loud, and I always appreciate comments like that. If our souls were empty and the comments mirrored them, then wouldn’t the comment section have been empty? Or is that only the kind of thing someone with an empty soul would ask?
Anyway, it’s food for thought for all you empty-souled, self-centered, arrogant librarians out there. Remember, if someone graduates from library school and can’t find a job, it’s your fault.
As I write this I’m dreaming of turkey and cranberry sauce and lazy naps at the ancestral manse. Tomorrow is a day of thanks, but I’ll skip ahead and thank you all right now for reading. Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.