Apparently I “confused” someone last week when I started a post by mentioning a controversy at one university library and ended by discussing criticism of a public library system in a completely different state. There was no secret hidden meaning connecting the two. I was just discussing two different issues regarding libraries that week. I do that sometimes. In fact, I might do it now.
For those of you on the market for temporary library jobs with low pay and no benefits, you’re in luck! Two different kind readers have sent in this job.
Temporary Position, 2012‑13 academic year (September ‑ mid‑May)
Maintenance of library website, database vendor management, reference desk
scheduling, teaching information literacy, liaison and collection development
for several academic departments, backup for interlibrary loan and
Qualifications: Master’s degree in library science from an ALA‑accredited
program, knowledge and skills related to current college library technologies,
ability to deal effectively with library patrons and staff.
Compensation: $ 22,500, no benefits.
I’ll skip the link, but if you’re desperate I’m sure you can use your librarian training to find it.
Both readers were critical of the ad, and it does seem to ask for a lot of skills considering the low pay and no benefits. You’d either have to do or be prepared to do just about everything except cataloging. For that kind of broad knowledge, they really should ask for someone with a PhD!
At least if you got the job, once you left you could complain about it in public, which is more than some former New York Public Library employees can say about all the NYPL brouhaha lately. If you’re not aware of the brouhaha, and you don’t live in NYC, then it doesn’t really matter for you anyway.
If you use the main NYPL location on 5th Avenue at 42nd Street, then you probably care a lot, and judging by what I’ve seen your reaction is, “I don’t like it.”
The employees “signed a nondisparagement agreement when they left, promising not to criticize the library in exchange for the additional pay known as severance.” (Isn’t that just known as “severance pay”? Was this writer being paid by the word? Am I being paid by the word? Is that why my posts are so long?)
That’s the first I’ve heard of something like this from a library. If all librarians were required to sign those, there are various pseudonymous bloggers who would have nothing to write about.
And if the disparagement extended to conversations, half the librarians I know would have nothing to say. That would just be wrong, so I’m assuming it doesn’t extend to casual conversations.
Otherwise, I’m trying to figure out what I think about such “nondisparagement agreements.” My first instinct is to think that any organization requiring them probably has a lot to disparage. Why else would it insist on them?
On the other hand, just about every organization has something to disparage, and even if it didn’t, every organization also has disgruntled employees. Even a library with mostly gruntled librarians will have a few malcontents.
However, considering the reams of criticism leveled at the major changes being proposed for the NYPL, someone up top probably knew this was coming.
From the librarian perspective, it might seem harsh to be bound by such an agreement when you want to criticize something that you might think is a) really stupid, and b) bad for the library. But are any of those librarians regretting their course of action?
I bet it depends on the size of “the additional pay known as severance.” Think about the deal. The library isn’t paying them to say good things about the library. They’re getting paid to not say bad things about it.
Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Though the NYT article does make a good point against them. “Critics say that for an institution with a tradition of championing free speech … the clauses seem inconsistent.”
Yeah, they sort of of do seem inconsistent. So basically they’ve bribed former employees to give up their freedom of speech. Doesn’t really seem like a library kind of thing to do, and a lot of the employees probably agonize about being coerced into signing a document or not getting the additional pay known as severance (formerly known as Prince).
Except that fortunately for us it doesn’t really stop criticism, just outright and specific disparagement. “I’d like to comment, but I can’t,” said a retired curator. If he would like to but can’t, then obviously he would be disparaging the proposed changes since nothing is prohibiting him from saying nice things about the library. Thus he gets to keep his agreement and we get one more public statement against changes to the NYPL from a longtime employee. That’s a win-win scenario!
In the movie (and probably the book) All the President’s Men, Nixon’s henchmen keep issuing what Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee calls “non-denial denials.” Thanks to this shady agreement, librarians have to issue non-disparagement disparagement.
The librarians get paid to put their criticism in veiled terms, but it could be worse. They could be working a temporary job for low pay and no benefits, and then they’d really have something to complain about.