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Librarians versus Libraries in Chicago

As in a lot of places, libraries in Chicago have faced budget problems as the cities have faced budget problems, and based on this article it seems the mayor and the local union have been having difficulty finding any agreement.

After all the recent closures and firings, the mayor now has a plan that will reopen Chicago public libraries on Mondays, reinstate some laid off employees, and return some others to full time from part time. Sounds good, right?

According to the head of the union, that’s not good enough “for the people of Chicago.” It’s nice that someone is sticking up “for the people of Chicago”!

Based on comments from the head of the union, I think it would be hard for anyone who wasn’t a librarian wanting a job to sympathize with them.

On a minor note, I wonder if the head of the union had been a woman instead of a man, would she have called some Chicago aldermen “handmaidens of the mayor”? Seems like one angry man trying to emasculate some other men. Maybe he could just tell everyone they have tiny penises and be done with it.

The mayor said, “I expect labor to be a partner in better managing the time because it’s about the people we serve in communities — not about them.” The mayor is a pretty smart guy, so something tells me he didn’t really expect that. That’s just political spin to make the labor union seem selfish and centered only on the concerns of its members rather than the good of the “people of Chicago.”

Naturally, the union is concerned with the well being of its members rather than the people of Chicago. That’s what unions are for, to get the best possible deal for their members.

Supposedly, teacher union leader Albert Shanker once said, “When school children start paying union dues, that’s when I’ll start representing the interests of school children.” Even if he didn’t say it, it perfectly sums up the goal of unions to protect their members above all else. Why else have a union?

So it’s naïve to believe that the unions wouldn’t be fighting for their interests, even when the claim is coming from the head of the union himself, who was quoted in the article as saying,

“Today’s plan seems to leave branch libraries closed most Monday mornings and more than 100 library employees still out of work. We urge the mayor to work with the union to finish the job for the people of Chicago, a world-class city that deserves libraries fully open and fully staffed.”

What would it mean to really have a library “fully open”? Was the library “fully open” when it was open on Monday mornings as well? Wouldn’t “fully open” mean 24/7 access? Otherwise, the phrase is arbitrary and meaningless.

What’s not arbitrary is the “100 library employees still out of work.” From the standpoint of anyone not a librarian or being supported by one, the important thing is keeping the libraries open, not keeping librarians employed.

That’s even the implied stance of the American Librarian Library Association. The goals of the ALA are about promoting libraries, not necessarily librarians.

We have to ask the question, what’s more important, the libraries or the librarians? Most people would say the libraries, but at least one could argue that it takes “fully staffed” libraries to be effective. It may or may not be true, but it’s the best argument in the union arsenal. If the well being of the people of Chicago requires lots of librarians, then darn it the city needs to hire lots of librarians!

After that, the argument devolves. The final quote from the union head is baffling.

“If Emanuel can ask corporate donors to help bankroll the $60 million NATO and G-8 Summits, Bayer said, he can ask those same businesses to cough up $3 million to keep Chicago public libraries open on Mondays.”

If this is an example of the sort of case being made for keeping librarians employed, then they should probably start looking for jobs elsewhere.

I’m sure plenty of businesses in Chicago have been asked to “cough up” money from mayors over the years, but that’s sort of beside the point. Everyone in Chicago has already coughed up plenty of money in the form of taxes.

But how are NATO and G-8 summits analogous to libraries? The former are roving, temporary events and the latter are permanent institutions and structures. What happens next year? More coughing up of money to keep librarians employed?

Besides, “corporate donors” might have an interest in having a G-8 summit in Chicago, but those “corporate” donors probably don’t care if the Chicago public libraries remain open on Monday mornings. Come to think of it, who really does except the librarians?

Is not being able to visit a library on a Monday morning really such a tragedy? It might be for the librarians who don’t get to work on that Monday morning, but for everyone else it’s still a better deal than not having libraries open on Monday at all.

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Comments

  1. Former Chicagoan says:

    I feel like such a traitor for saying this, but I have to agree with Mayor Emanuel on this one. I worked at the Chicago Public Library for about a year (downtown at the main location), and I saw an incredible wastefulness while I was there: people who worked two to four hours a day on the desk, did no programming, had little to no collection development responsibilities, and spent much of the day reading, chatting, playing computer solitaire, or napping in a quiet corner. There were lots of very nice people there, but I doubt few could claim that the library works them hard.

    I ended up quitting after asking—begging—to be allowed to do more work and being repeatedly told (to paraphrase) to count my blessings that I had it so easy. I felt guilty for getting a paycheck for doing so little, and I was certainly not able to grow professionally. I wasn’t willing to become one of the lifers who were just biding time until retirement. (One woman told me proudly she only had 12 years to go!)

    The union was great from the perspective of getting us more money, but it really exemplified the negative stereotypes that many have about unions. It ended up hurting the library by saddling it with a bloated workforce when modest, reasonable cuts performed years ago could have saved a wad of money.

    • @Former Chicagoan, I know of stories of that library director Dempsey helping to hide criminal activity in the library from the police, ensuring patrons retain access to pornography, etc. I could list here a number of stories but I bet you know them. That said, can you provide any information about safety issues in Chicago libraries? Thanks.

      Example:

      “How Safe Are Our Kids In Public Libraries? Convicted Sex Offenders Have Free And Legal Access To Pornography At Chicago Libraries,” CBS, 21 Dec 2006:

      “Online pornography is so clear and evident at Chicago libraries that we could actually see a patron looking at porn simply by standing on a city street and looking through the window. …. But what he did was legal because there are no guidelines against viewing pornography at Chicago libraries. Even convicted sex offenders can use those computers to access sexually graphic images. One-third of the offenses involve people masturbating while at computers. …. We repeatedly tried to get an interview with Chicago Public Library officials. Instead, a spokesperson gave us a statement [quoting] library policy.”

    • Joneser says:

      “I know of stories” – that’s right up there with “some people say”.

      But hey, let’s get our library priorities straight. And hurry, because soon libraries won’t have computers, internet access, or open hours. Now THAT will take care of that library porn!!

    • A Chicago Librarian says:

      Former Chicagoan’s description of overstaffing at the main downtown library is probably, for better or worse, a fair and accurate description of things at the main, downtown library up until about 3 years ago. For whatever reasons, under Daley and Dempsey, there was a willingness to overstaff this “showcase” location, perhaps to impress tourists here in a city that’s always striving to be “world class.”

      However, things there have changed since we started patron-placed holds about 3 years back. When circulation and systemwide sharing shot way up, it became necessary to enlist many of those stand-abouts in the paging, sorting, and shipping processes. Some “bored” librarians were also farmed out to the understaffed branches about two years ago, under Daley.

      Moreover, it is not *AT ALL* a fair and accurate description of the situation in the 80-or-so branch and regional libraries which are at issue here. These places have been understaffed for at least the last 7 years, and have only lost more staff to attrition and layoffs ever since, winnowing a once-proud institution down to a mean-and-lean, bare-bones operation. The last round of layoffs was essentially the granite boulder that broke the proverbial camel’s back, where one straw would have sufficed.

      Currently the typical branch library has 4-5 FTE staff, counting both reference and clerical, and maintains 40 hours of operation in a 5 day work week (the mayor is pushing for a six day work week for all branch staff).

      The typical branch probably sees 300-500 patron visits per day, with at least a half dozen branches seeing more than 1000 people, every day. A busy branch circulates more than 500 items per day; a typical branch, about half that – which is still plenty of shelving, believe me!

      Many branches operate without a degree-holding children’s librarian, and some have no children’s svcs staff at all.

      Many of you will recognize these working conditions. Throughout our profession, cutbacks have forced such winnowing, or the closure of systems and the loss of jobs. Believe me, we know we’re lucky just to have them.

      But Chicago is different: the mayor, against all odds, was able to balance the budget with a $23 million surplus. The $8 million he cut from libraries represents less than .75% percent of the city’s total budget. To bring back the pages would cost just over $1 million – in a city that is giving over $700 million in subsidies and tax rebates to corporations and developers this year.

      It is totally fair to say that the AFSCME union is out to preserve library jobs, for better or worse. But I can assure you that, in this case, the union’s goal is fully supported by 100% of professional library staff. The public demand for our services is at an all time high, and we professionals want to do storytime, computer training, book discussions, and all of the great things that we do. We also just want to keep the buildings open, the books and computers accessible.

      But we (quite reasonably, I think) don’t want to work a 6 day week. And we can’t provide the “professional” services, because there are no pages, and not enough clerks. I can’t spend 15 minutes tracing down a nursing student’s journal articles, because I have a line of 5 people at the circ desk all day long, and a wall of books to reshelve!

      The truth is that the pages and PT clerks are our most cost efficient workers. Bringing them back would be pretty cheap. But it seems the mayor would rather look tough on unions. For that the public suffers. Not to mention the remaining staff.

      Thank you.

  2. Baxter says:

    Unions may have had a purpose at some time and in some industries, but most unions nowadays exist solely to eat up as much money as possible. Of course when they finally kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, many of their members will be out of a job and discover that in the real world people have to actually work for their paychecks.

    • spencer says:

      ^^THIS^^

    • meh says:

      The public must agree with you; less than 12% of the American workforce was unionized in 2011 (http://nyti.ms/e9R04J). Even the commies don’t like them anymore – see, Foxconn, where people work very, very hard for their paychecks – and thank goodness, otherwise those tablet computers and e-readers we’re supposedly to so ravenously snap up might cost a little more (http://onforb.es/w6H9ma)…

    • spencer says:

      Yes, let’s not take advantage of of cheap cost of labor due to lower cost of living. Let’s ignore international competetive advantage that has, until now, allowed us to live and unprecedented quality of life ALL AROUND THE WORLD.

      let’s do that.

    • Joneser says:

      It’s not the public – it’s the millions of dollars being spent by super PACs, front organizations, the Koch Brothers, Home Despot, and the like.

      And those great right-to-work states? Lowest wages and highest percentages of child poverty. Correlate much?

      Because having a workforce that can actually afford to buy the products that they sell (we won’t even assume that the workforce has made them) – that’s not important! Just gotta screw over those big bad UNIONS!!

    • thelibrarina says:

      Meh, I’m confused by your bringing Foxconn into things. Is that supposed to be a model for American businesses? If so, maybe you missed this article from yesterday’s Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?_r=1

      But I’m sure unionization wouldn’t be helpful at ALL in that situation…

  3. spencer says:

    Where is the LEADERSHIP in the library rallying the employees to do more with less as a services to their citizens?!

    I almost couldn’t say that with a straight face. Seriously, though, as stewards of taxpayer funds, it’s OUR job to ensure they are getting the best value for that money. That, in my mind, means either spending less money for what you’ve got, or getting more for what you spend. This should be constantly assessed at these libraries- and if you find out that you can do more for less as opposed to building your kingdom on tax dollars, and you DON’T, you should be gone.

    • Joneser says:

      I know what you’re saying. I just love those management types who clawed their way to good secure jobs, cutting positions in half and eliminating benefits packages, then talking about “the profession”.

  4. Overworked Librarian says:

    It’s amazing the different cultures within libraries across the country. I work in an class 6 urban library. The staff has shrunken to 6 employees from 13 just a year ago. There has been a recent change in management and a board which is hellbent on saving money for a lavish building at some point in the future… So staff members are expected to work like slaves and the ordering of books is down to a pitiful low of a dozen or so a month. I am currently doing work that was 3 positions in the past.

    We have many patrons to serve since there are so many out of work or who cannot afford internet access. So there is more work and less staff persons to handle the work.

    The management of this library has perfected doing more with less to a fault. I didn’t mean to ramble. My point is just that its amazing how some librarians have it so cushy while others are struggling to get new books on the shelves.

    • also_overworked says:

      Sounds exactly like what is happening in Chicago, actually. I don’t know where anyone is getting the idea that things are cushy here. Staff is about half what it was 6 years ago, but we are trying to provide the same level of service. The union disagreement is over library staff being required to work 6 days a week, every week. I’m sure I should be grateful that I just have a job, but I also don’t want to work myself into an early grave. Overworked and exhausted library staff are, perhaps better than no staff at all, but for how long?

      Oh, and I haven’t ordered any new books for my branch in a few years now. Budget was cut.

    • Joneser says:

      Well, what the union is asking for now is NEVER the actual story, is it? Like all of the misrepresentation of public employees one state north (Wisconsin). Decent working conditions that won’t kill you. But that doesn’t make for great false umbrage on the news.

      At a certain point, there is no more “more” that can be done. We’re so busy working harder, we can’t be smart. At some point it’s less with less.

  5. Amy says:

    “If Emanuel can ask corporate donors to help bankroll the $60 million NATO and G-8 Summits, Bayer said, he can ask those same businesses to cough up $3 million to keep Chicago public libraries open on Mondays.”

    This is a perfect example of why unions drive me crazy. What in the heck does that have to do with LIBRARIES?! I guess if my library in Michigan has to close on Monday mornings, I’ll blame NATO instead of the unions that helped get us into this giant mess.

    • aljohnson says:

      This May, Chicago is hosting both the NATO and G8 summits. Emanuel had no problem finding $60mil for this “project” (most, I imagine, to pay for security). Yet there’s no money for the Library. We’re talking about a couple million dollars, in a city with a budget of $8.2bil. That was the point the union was trying to make.

      Yes, everyone has had to sacrifice. And we have, especially the cuts that took place in 2009. But why did he originally target the Library with 363 of the 625 citywide layoffs, and slash the budget by $11mil? The blow has softened somewhat now, thanks in part to actions by AFSCME.

    • spencer says:

      It’s NOT A ZERO SUM GAME!

      The money isn’t all in one big pot. These things are not even related excepting location.

      Why did he target the library? Because it’s probably overstaffed with overpaid people who are doing what people at barnes and noble do for next to minimum wage. (that’s how it’s viewed anyway).

  6. Former Chicagoan says:

    @Overworked Librarian it sounds like we’re now in similar boats. I relocated to Ohio, whose libraries took a hammering about 2.5 years ago and has seen a continuing erosion of its tax base. We’ve laid off staff and left positions vacant after retirement, rolled back staff salaries, and have cut back on other staff benefits. The impact to the public has been minimized as much as possible: we cut Sunday hours at our branches (which Chicago doesn’t have, anyway) and frozen materials spending one of the last three budget years. My coworkers and I grumble about the workload, to be sure, but we all love our jobs and I can sleep well at night knowing I WORKED for my paycheck. I’m grateful to have a job: there are a lot of un- or underemployed librarians in Ohio right now.

    @Dan Kleinman. I didn’t witness anything like that: quite actually the reverse. The downtown library had a very strong security presence with guards on each floor and guards that did rounds. Did illegal thing happen on the library premesis? Possibly.

  7. Katie J. says:

    Wow. This has got to be one of the most poorly written and researched things I have ever seen on LJ. Shame on you for publishing it. Especially the offensive, pointless, sexist commentary about the various genetalia of people involved. I thought this was a professional publication, but am beginning to have my doubts.

    That being said, there is one thing that I’d like to correct about what was said. Firstly, the staff laid off (and not recalled) at the Chicago Public Library aren’t librarians–they’re pages. That is, people who make in the region of $11 an hour to put books back on the shelves and otherwise do the essential labor that is required to keep the libraries running. It isn’t about ‘librarians wanting to have librarian jobs so they can be paid.’ It’s about being able to provide the essential services that the library has been tasked with–and which are heavily in demand by the public who pays for them. The people who care if the libraries are open on Monday mornings are the ones who are standing outside in the snow before each branch opens every morning so they can get in and look for a job, find a book to read with their child, answer emails for their small business, or grab something to read on their day off. You know, the public.

    • spencer says:

      Why can’t librarians and clerks shelve books? Just curious…

    • spencer says:

      Sorry, this really gets me. How many less librarians, then, could they have and keep all the “esential” pages? at $11/hr, that’s about 2.5fte librarians for every fte page.

      If pages can do something that librarians can’t, couldn’t they have fired 2.5 times less people if they went with librarians and kept the pages and their vital duties?!?!

    • LH says:

      I generally don’t have a problem with unions, but unionizing library pages seems a little extreme. These should be high school and college kids–I mean, they do little more than shelve books.

    • Stressed says:

      Spencer– librarians can, and do shelve books. But when we’re shelving books we can’t do programming, we can’t answer patron questions, and we can’t do everything else we’re asked to do. I’ve been doing “more with less” for 5 years. I can’t add anything else into my day.

  8. Overworked Librarian says:

    @also_overworked I totally understand where you are coming from. I work 6 days a week, I have 9 and 10 hour shifts, no benefits (not even sick or holiday pay). The management has taken a job I loved and made it gruelling. And at the same time ‘consultants’ are paid 4,000 a MONTH to write a few reports and attend meetings. It’s insane!

    OH goodness I hope I haven’t said too much… but it’s true.

    • spencer says:

      You should quit and become a consultant. 56-60 hours a week no benefits? I’m not saying I don’t believe you, but I can’t believe a city let’s it happen. (also, $4k a month is only $48k per year, so it’s not like their banking hardcore). I would speak with city (or county, or whoever) HR.

    • thelibrarina says:

      “only $48K a year”

      Which damn near twice what I make as a full-time youth services librarian with an MLIS. Just saying.

  9. Katie J. says:

    Um, clearly the librarians are doing that work now. They’re just being paid more to do so. And it reduces the amount of time they can spend doing more highly skilled work. You can’t have a library full of pages because they can’t perform the more skilled tasks, but without the pages the librarians are overworked (see comments above). Also, fewer people on staff means fewer hours open, since you have to have some time off.

  10. Former Chicagoan says:

    If I remember correctly, pages were initially cut in Chicago a couple of years ago when the City approached the union with an ultimatum: x number of furlough days throughout the year OR all pages (non-union positions) would be cut. Guess which one AFSCME chose?

    Seattle Public library turned its budget woes into a PR campaign, shuttering the whole system for a week and changing their website in order to draw attention to the temporary lack of services. High-handed, to be sure, but it seems more honest than having employees who pull down some serious money acting the part of library page. (Last time I visited Chicago’s HWLC, the deputy-commissioner was doing her weekly hour of shelving. Salaries are public record: that woman makes somewhere around $60 per hr.)

    • Joneser says:

      I totally agree with you. Gestures are meaningless and hide the real pain.

      If you’re not going to pay for it, then you’ll have to do without it.

    • spencer says:

      Joneser,

      Then what happens when they say, “OK. We’ll do without it.”?

      That’s what would happen. What happens when the library stays closed for a month and people aren’t really all that impacted by it? Sure, some will be. some won’t get their movies. Some will have to go a mile out of their way to the workforce office to get on a computer. Some will have to figure out what else to do with their kids during the day. But what, as libraries, are we doing that would make the majority stand up and truthfully say, “We can’t lose the library for a month!”

  11. blah blah says:

    this is really, really infuriating. Please dig a little deeper before you spout off information that is not even accurate. This Union VS the mayor drama is exactly what he wants you to focus on and not the real reason we are in this mess to begin with. By not fully funding our library system (with such a small amount of money) we were basically forced to close on mondays. The mayor really wanted us to actually work 6 days a week, splitting our day off into two half days. Would you want to do that? The closure on Monday was due to the staff that was let go and our inability to provide a level of serice that is expected from us with the loss of those staff members. We do (and have been for some time now) shelve books and other duties that aren’t typically done by “librarians” so a big ol eff you to that dude who commented on that. This all is so sad. Myself, along with many of my colleagues would be more than willing to give up our 3.5 % raise in order to have our staff back and to go back to a normal 48 hour work week (yes we already have been forced to reduce hours 2 years ago). Simply stated…we do not want to be closed on Mondays, we love our system and the work we do for the city of chicago. This is a tough time, we are losing one of our biggest champions and it’s a bummer to fight to provide the services that are so essential to the community.

    • spencer says:

      Maybe there were just too many branches in the system to start with. Maybe the solutions being thought up are the wrong ones. Maybe the union should have asked if you’d rather get paid less to accommodate more staff and more hours. Maybe There are a lot of different things that should have been put on the table but weren’t. Maybe the mayor saw them on the table and didn’t take them.

      I’m saying this- library jobs aren’t hard jobs. We do what the public sees as similar to bookstore employees. As for job seekers- we do what workforce and employment offices do. It’s a competition for the citizens’ time. They are customers. Happy customers, good customers, don’t let the businesses they patronize go under. They don’t let libraries get slashed.

      You need patron help here. Donations, friends groups kicking it into overdrive, public rallies, etc. You need these en mass. Otherwise, the truth is the public doesn’t love you enough to keep you open.

      That sounds harsh, but what other real answer is there?

      This is not specifically about Chicago, it’s bout all libraries everywhere. To be essential, the public has to think you’re essential too. if they don’t, then you aren’t. A lot of people in a lot of places have dropped the ball for it to get to this point.

    • me says:

      Maybe your patrons see you as a bookstore employee. But myself and my fellow librarians are out in the community serving on county and city wide committees. I know for a fact that our patrons don’t see us in this light from the feedback we’ve received. Maybe you need to step it up.

  12. chi_type says:

    Add me to the chorus of those politely requesting that you STFU about things you do not understand. I know you don’t really care about this particular situation but just found a nice cherry you could pick for your ongoing union-bashing campaign, but still.
    Do you think Rahm Emmanuel has the best interests of the citizens of Chicago in mind? I’ll give you a hint: not particulary unless they happen to be traders with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange or other possible donors for an eventual run for the Whitehouse.
    Of course the union is advocating for the workers, that’s what it’s for. And as someone else said, those that were laid off were not librarians but low-wage pages and some clerks. People who I guarantee are closer to your average Chicago citizen than Rahm or anyone he’s looking out for will ever be.
    Librarians are now doing their best to keep up with the work of all those laid off in addition to regular duties but things WILL slide, which will drive down demand, which will be used to justify further cuts, which will lead to lower usage, etc, etc.
    I don’t think it’s really THAT tough to figure out what the union head was getting at. You cherry-picked just one of a long list of examples of things the city somehow miraculously finds millions and millions of dollars for while destroying an institution integral to the live of needy Chicagoans.
    And library jobs are supposedly so cushy? Compared to what? Road constuction crews? Yeah, I guess. But compared to the cubicle farm jobs of a lot of other degreed professionals? Not so much.
    And don’t even get me started on the supposed industrousness of said cubicle workers compared to municipal employees…Oy I better go lie down. This is bad for my blood pressure.

  13. spencer says:

    cubicle workers can show value for money paid in terms of money earned for employers, we have no such luxury.. What do we do that isn’t done by another agency already? Now, is that integral? Does that require top pay and masters degrees?

    me- the comment about road construction… This is from the person who said patrons don’t see us as more than book clerks.

    no. No they don’t. 15% of the citizens might see you as more, but the 85% that never use you or do so. Less than once a month do not. Quit fooling yourself.

    This type of self delusion is one of the top problems facing the profession and keeping it from the real change that’s needed.

    As far as the mayor-. Voters get who they vote for! I can’t believe he got in anyway, and I wish you up there the best. However, until we understand how other people ACTUALLY see us and what our ACTUAL value is, we aren’t going to do anything but see budgets cut and have to do more with less.

    sorry, been rambling about this, but I can’t understand how people look into the face of reality and still do t get the truth.

    • chi_type says:

      > What do we do that isn’t done by another agency already? Now, is that integral?

      In all sincerity and without any snark whatsoever, if you honestly do not know the answer to that question please leave the profession as soon as possible so that someone who believes in the importance of equal access to information for all members of a democratic society can take your place.
      And if you think profits and productivity are the only values by which an institution can be measured I suggest you try the financial services industry instead. I hear they’re still doing pretty well despite the downturn.
      Ok that last part was a LITTLE snarky.

    • spencer says:

      EXACTLY. Access to information is what we do best. LETS FOCUS on it and shed the other stuff! Lets be the best at it.

    • me says:

      We already are the best at it. That isn’t the issue. The issue is showing the population that doesn’t know this what we can do for them.

    • spencer says:

      because we’re bogged down with murkey missions and poor leadership.1

  14. me says:

    Spencer,
    All cubicle workers can show value for their work? Clearly, you’ve never worked in a non-profit outside of libraries or you would quickly see the holes in that statement. All your comments seem to simply belittle the profession without offering anything in terms of tangible solutions or ideas.

    Every comment you make states that other institutions and agencies can provide everything that we can. Why are you a librarian than? Why don’t you go and work for one of these other agencies if you don’t feel like libraries are adding any value to your community.

    • spencer says:

      even at nonprofits savings and relative values can be calculated for each staff member- unless they are as poorly run and nebulous.

      Complaining that one only complains is to deflect from the validity of the complaints. They ARE valid complaints.

      The solution? In my view it is to cutback, streamline and get rid of bloat and dead weight. Get away from the everything to everyone model and do what we do best. Quality over quantity every time. Do BETTER with less.

      I’m a librarian because I saw a profession that had lost its way with nebulous and soft leadership that I could really make a difference in. What I found was a bunch of Jonah, self important complainers who I have to wait out and hope there are still ruins to rebuild from. (that’s only half a joke.)

  15. youthservices says:

    @spencer, do you work? Because you seem to have an awful lot of time to leave repetitious comments.

  16. McFinney says:

    Sorry, but did YOU, Spencer, just complain about “a bunch of Jonah, self important[sic] complainers”? You, who are waiting for public library systems to implode so that you can rebuild from their ruins? You, the self-loathing librarian?

    I’m assuming that you work in some form of private library setting. I’m not sure why someone with such free-market, libertarian leanings would get into this profession to begin with. But if you’re hoping that aging professional ranks means that there will be a new wave of young blood incoming that shares your views, you are sadly mistaken.

    Most young librarians and library students that I’ve come across understand share the progressive values that drive this profession. They understand that what we do best is not something that is in line with top-down economic interests. We are information professionals not because people are willing to pay top-dollar for what we do but because equal access to information is one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society and economy.

    You say that we need to do better with less, that we need to focus increasing the quality of our work product and not the quantity. But the fact is that reducing our work to a monetary figure of profit per hour is to blatantly misunderstand or maliciously misconstrue the nature and purpose of our work.

    The answer to most of the problems facing libraries today is not to dismantle libraries. It is to continue to connect with people and to help them understand what we’re here for.

    • spencer says:

      I apologize for the auto-correct.. However, to equate libraries with “progressives” or progressive ideals is just downright insulting and silly. I don’t think there will be many sharing my ideas, there never are. If they already shared my ideas we wouldn’t be in this situation- as a profession.. In fact, I think its this idea of the nature and purpose of our work is something we agree on. I think we just disagree on the quality of the job- on average, not personally- we’re doing and what we need to do to make it better.

      the stats don’t lie. Most people don’t use us. That’s a fact. Most people don’t value us as we value ourselves. We are barely competitive on cost per user with for profit companies, and they actually still have to make money when we have the advantage of not having to.

      These are problems. I don’t think doing more of what we’ve been doing is going to fix them.

      I think the leaders and impact players will understand and share the solutions that will work to make libraries better.

    • spencer says:

      sorry, but also, if you could get anything at a better quality for less money, wouldn’t you? Everything is reduced to cost vs quality.

  17. McFinney says:

    Sorry, but did YOU, Spencer, just complain about “a bunch of Jonah, self important[sic] complainers”? You, who are waiting for public library systems to implode so that you can rebuild from their ruins? You, the self-loathing librarian?

    I’m assuming that you work in some form of private library setting. I’m not sure why someone with such free-market, libertarian leanings would get into this profession to begin with. But if you’re hoping that aging professional ranks means that there will be a new wave of young blood incoming that shares your views, you are sadly mistaken.

    Most young librarians and library students that I’ve come across understand share the progressive values that drive this profession. They understand that what we do best is not something that is in line with top-down economic interests. We are information professionals not because people are willing to pay top-dollar for what we do but because equal access to information is one of the fundamental principles of a democratic society and economy.

    You say that we need to do better with less, that we need to focus increasing the quality of our work product and not the quantity. But the fact is that reducing our work to a monetary figure of profit per hour is to blatantly misunderstand or maliciously misconstrue the nature and purpose of our work.

    The answer to most of the problems facing libraries today is not to dismantle libraries. It is to continue to connect with people and to help them understand what we’re here for.

  18. Amy says:

    “The progressive values that drive this profession”? As a conservative who happens to be a public librarian, I find that interesting and so typical. I so wish that the ALA wasn’t a mouthpiece for a political party but alas they are. The problems that I’ve encountered working in the profession seem to stem from a union mentality of not understanding that there are budgets and a limit to what the taxpayers are willing to pay for. I’m in Michigan and had no choice but to join the union if I wanted to work for a public library. That’s democracy at work? I think not.
    I agree with Spencer and find it refreshing to hear a different take on this mess.