Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

My Awkward Job Advertisement

Kind Reader sent this advertisement for a “Civic, Social & Cultural Inclusion Librarian of Practice,” which is the kind of job title that would require a very large business card, if people still use those archaic relics of the pre-digital age.

Are there public librarian jobs that involve civic, social, and cultural exclusion? Isn’t inclusiveness sort of built into the public library mission, since they exist for everyone in the community to use?

Kind Reader asked my opinion, and commented thusly: “My main thought: Couldn’t they just have called the job ‘Public Librarian,’ since all of this is just what public librarians do?” Answer: Probably.

The job title is odd and unwieldy, the notion of “practice” is murky, and the job description is written in the first person from the standpoint of the applicant, which is unusual and a bit off putting, at least to me. 

Thus, we learn about the work beginning with this: “I will become actively involved in my area of practice as a curious and learning individual….”

As the candidate, I will also “develop an area of practice, as identified or assigned,” but also “my area of practice will be ever evolving and changing.” Sounds like I’ll be busy.

Are “areas of practice” the same as traditional library functions? Reference, circulation, outreach, that sort of thing? The list of things I might do makes it sound that way.

By being so vague, does the ad mean that it wants a librarian willing to commit to just about any library job? I really would like to know.

Whatever it all means, the job is supposed to take over my life, at least once I’m out of my home, since “I know that to a library user I am the library, whether I am on the job, riding a bus, or checking out at the grocery store.”

It almost sounds as if the librarian in question is joining a cult, one where any individuality is submerged under the role of The Librarian.

For example, just checking out at the grocery store can be an experience fraught with judgment. Certainly, librarians who are known in the community should be polite, but what if potential patrons, or “customers” as the ad puts it, are offended by what I am buying at the grocery store?

Perhaps I, the erstwhile candidate, am stocking up on vegan food and the customer in question eats steak with every meal, voted for Trump, and thinks vegans are all communists who should be shot, or at least ridiculed?

Ditto if I am buying a juicy steak and encounter a progressive vegan customer who is ready to write me, and therefore the library, off as a neoliberal fascist, or whatever it is such people call their perceived enemies these days?

Does my role as The Library extend not just to my behavior towards the “customers,” but to my behavior in general? Should as, as The Library, cease to have a personality, and instead try to please everyone in every way?

This is all part of “my role as the Library, beyond my positional role.” I have a “positional role,” which is my job. I have a role as the Library, which I always have to maintain. So I have a role within a role.

As part of that role, “I have a positive mental attitude and enthusiasm role.” So I have a role within a role within a role. I’m very complicated.

I couldn’t tell from the wording whether I would have a positive mental attitude as well as an “enthusiasm role,” whatever that means, or whether “positive mental attitude and enthusiasm” is an adjectival phrase modifying “role.”

Either way, in addition to always portraying The Library, I apparently also have awkward grammar. I hope that’s not the kind of thing that annoys library customers.

I have many fine qualities, such as honesty and integrity, but I’m prone to statements like this: “I display initiative to delight a customer with prudent but extraordinary customer service.”

“Prudent but extraordinary?” I do wonder why I would combine those adjectives, but, as indicated above, I do like awkward sentences.

Other examples. “I will work collaboratively with Library Experience Supervisors and other colleagues to advance the Library’s mission, vision, strategic priorities and brand through:”, and then I follow this with a long bulleted list.

For example, I’ll advance the Library’s mission, etc. through “Curating, managing and creating content,” or “Coordinating and/or providing professional consultation or instruction.” So far so good.

But I’ll also do it through “Engagement & Experience Team….” Drat, I forgot the gerund.

And through “Actively lead or participate in group or individual projects related to my area of practice.” Darn, I forgot it again. I really should do it through “leading and participating.”

And through “Participate in other duties as assigned.” Again, no leading gerund. Perhaps my “positive mental attitude and enthusiasm” role makes me so giddy I can’t proofread.

While I’m obviously engaged in the many aspects of my job, I just as obviously don’t understand parallel structure in professional writing.

I hope, when applying for the job, I don’t do the same thing with my resume, just as I hope for your sake you don’t do the same with yours.

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Comments

  1. KindReader says:

    Thank you for writing about this job posting! You illuminated many of the same oddities I noticed with it, but in a much more humorous and enjoyable fashion than I would have done.

  2. sciencereader says:

    Most library position ads these days contain a lot of nice sounding but completely meaningless phrases, but I think this one is the champion.
    “I am honest and act with integrity and respect.”
    “I strive to be innovative and work toward continuous improvement.”
    “I am self-motivated and intuitive about the work I do.”
    And on and on and on.
    Do these lofty sentences really do anything other than make the ad longer? Who would read this and say, “Oh, gee, I’m not honest and don’t act with integrity and respect, so I guess I’m not qualified.” As for being self-motivated, is there a librarian ad anywhere that doesn’t say something like this?

    And that part about “I know that to a library user I am the library, whether I am on the job, riding a bus, or checking out at the grocery store” is downright scary.

    • anonymous coward says:

      If you’ve ever sat in on meeting where someone says “no one ever told me I needed to be self motivated”, it leads to an understanding of such things so they can be pointed at while replying “it’s right here in your job description.” It’s silly, but a CYA tactic, imo.

      As for the cult part- I would estimate this comes from a “they fired me for something I did while not at work” cya segment. If you go on a racists/ageist/sexist rant on the bus, or get caught cutting off someone in traffic and giving them the finger as they follow you into the library parking lot and complain to your boss… now they can point at your job description when they fire/punish you.

  3. Lynn Schlatter says:

    Just out of curiosity, do you supposed the writer(s) of this ad have any idea how many qualified candidates they turned off by writing this way? “You never get a second chance to make a first impression” applies to institutions as well as job seekers.

  4. dan cawley says:

    conspicuously absent is any mention of the celebration of diversity.

  5. I’m tired of being a “librarian of practice”. I want to be a “librarian of theory”.

  6. Marian the Librarian says:

    This priceless gem of adminispeak-ish gobbledygook reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from “Bellwether,” by Connie WIllis:

    “1. Optimize potential.
    2. Facilitate empowerment.
    3. Implement visioning.
    4. Strategize priorities.
    5. Augment core structures.”

  7. The Luidaeg says:

    I think this ad is more than a little weird. Written the way it is, it sounds like The Stepford Wives, Librarian Edition. Some of the language struck me as creepy, like “After all it is just part of a day designed to delight. ” Is that what my day at the library is designed to do? Am I supposed to feel delighted, or only if I have, indeed, delighted someone else?
    I do agree with AL about “Whatever it all means, the job is supposed to take over my life, at least once I’m out of my home, since “I know that to a library user I am the library, whether I am on the job, riding a bus, or checking out at the grocery store.”” Apparently, this is an expectation for many of us in public libraries and the feeling that one must always be “on and in library mode” in all situations. Which is why I have mastered the art of swearing without moving my lips when I’m in the car (because you never know if that person who cut you off will then go in to the library parking lot in front of you).

    Personally, I find this job posting to be exhausting and would never think I was up to the task of being this energetic, energized and ready to delight at all times.

  8. Libertarian Librarian says:

    And this is how we get the wokest of the woke librarians that make international news. It’s the library equivalent of the DNC job announcement with the request not to share it with cisgendered, straight, white men. We’re going to show our inclusion by excluding people.

  9. Can anyone identify the flash-in-the-pan management “guru” who came up with the idea to write job descriptions in the first person? I’m coming up blank.

  10. I just spit-laughed my morning Kona all over my patron statistics. Looks to me like some new hire in HR or some other “motivated” administrator who saw someone else jump off a cliff. The add really is pedantic and somewhat insulting to any adult whose serious about working. It reads like my kindergarten report card sans the stick figure pictures that really made the points pop. It might help as this add is about as clear as GOP tax reform. I probably would not apply for this job either unless I lived in the location and desperate. Imagine the 20 plus page cover letter that anyone applicant would have to write. My guess is that the person who is closet to explaining what the job is to the employer (who has no clue) gets an interview.

    It seems to me that this is endemic of how librarian job titles and descriptions are becoming more bazar particularly for positions that are supposedly entry level for either PL or academics. I tend to shake my head and wonder just who gets trained for any of this in graduate school.

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