Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Thanks for Your Support!

My goodness, I think one thing we can take from the comments this week is that a lot of academic librarians take themselves very seriously indeed. Obviously this is the highest form of librarianship, or I wouldn’t be doing it (that should go without saying, I know), but let’s just loosen our hair a bit and quit pretending that everything would collapse if we didn’t show up for a few days. Why is this? Well, for the most part it’s because we’re not the ones getting things gone, at least not those daily things that need doing: opening buildings, staffing desks, processing books. This differs by library, certainly, but in a lot of academic libraries, especially somewhat larger ones, we have a group even lower on the academic food chain than we are to do all that work.

I’m never sure what to call these people, since every library seems to have a different name for them. At my library, I just call them by their first names, and I’m not even sure what their official designation is. The names always seem problematic. Some call them "support staff." This term seems insufficiently analytical, though, because we’re all in a sense staff supporting something. "They" are supporting "us," but "we" are off supporting students and the exalted faculty. I’ve heard the term "library workers," which is also vague. I work in a library; am I not a "library worker"? Some call them "paraprofessionals." This sounds a little better, though it’s not always clear in practice who is the professional and who isn’t. There are a lot of moribund, professionally sclerotic librarians out there who are considerably less professional than some of the "paraprofessionals" I know. The major difference is that the moribund professional librarian got an MLS back in 1975 and the paraprofessionals never managed to earn that prestigious degree, though they might have several real graduate degrees.

We professional librarians should be happy about our prestigious MLS and all the good things it has done for us. Because of that, we’re usually not chained to a desk all day processing stuff and checking out books and all the things those poor non-professionals have to do. We get to do more important and exciting things.

For example, we get to go to lots of meetings. Those lowly paraprofessionals don’t have so many meetings, so they don’t know what they’re missing. Then there’s coffee breaks. I know everyone has these, but ours are much less scheduled. We pretty much get up and head to the cafe anytime we like, as long as we’re not in a meeting. The ideal for us is to sit in a coffee shop and call it a meeting. That way we can console ourselves that we’re really working while we sip some java and gossip about our colleagues. Then we can claim it’s library work and deduct the coffee and danish on our taxes. I’ve had plenty of days where my "coffee break" lasts from 10-11:30am, my lunch from noon-1:30pm, and another coffee break from 2-3pm. I manage to squeeze in a committee meeting at 3:00 and then am off for the day. Once I go home I’m awake for hours because of all the caffeine, but at least I’m not in the library.

Speaking of not being in the library, we prestigious, self-important professional librarians also get to travel a lot. ALA can take up a couple weeks a year. Add in an ACRL every couple of years, a state library conference, stuff like the Internet Librarian and Computers and Libraries, a handful of software user groups and maybe an academic conference or two and Bob’s your uncle we’ve been gone for a month at least right there. And that’s not even counting sabbaticals and research trips and other fun diversions. We need to do all this to stay sharp and at the bleeding edge of this bleeding profession, or so we tell ourselves. I guess there are librarians out there who believe this, but I bet the paraprofessionals don’t. If they can’t understand why we’re often gone, that’s just their problem, though. If they want to have two hour coffee breaks and travel around the country for a month or two a year, then they should go to library school!

But that’s just mean, and I don’t want to be. ALA probably has a "library support staff appreciation week" or something like that, but if they do I don’t know when it is. I like to make every week staff appreciation week, which is why I always bring them back coffee after my breaks; that way they can enjoy the coffee without having to leave their desks. I want to thank all those paraprofessionally supportive staff out there who work hard every day to make sure the rest of us don’t have to. On behalf of all of us, thank you! Really, we mean it! Now quit reading this blog and get back to work. It’s time for my afternoon coffee break.



  1. We don’t call them support staff, we call them indentured servants. And they should just be happy they have jobs. Of course, the way the economy is going, we are getting less money from our state, so we are going to have to cut a few of them so that we can still afford to jet all around the country.

    Peel me a grape, Mabel.

  2. Dr. Pepper says:

    The title sounds like a good candidate for a Steven Guest Mockumentary. A Mockumentary about academic librarians (or academia in general?) :-)

  3. Dr. Pepper says:

    Correction: Christopher Guest, not Stephen Guest. I think I conflated Stephen Merchant and Christopher Guest.

  4. You can further reward your student workers with a pizza party once a year and all the leftovers from the weekly meeting snack potluck…and they won’t even think twice about making $5.25 an hour!!!!

  5. milothewise says:

    “Assistant Librarian”, please. Although “Assistant to the Librarian” could probably fit better here.

  6. Instead of Assistant Librarian, I like “Library Ass,” which I saw someone use on a blog once.

  7. Anyone who works in my library and does not have an MLS or is not considered amongst the elite, are peons and they only exist to do my bidding.

    But sire, the peons only make $5.25 an hour?

    Who cares, let them eat pizza.

  8. Dr. Pepper says:

    peons eh? A little double-entendre going on there?

    I was really starting to wonder WHY there are so many pizza parties at my library (at least 4 a year!) Well now I know LOL

  9. Sterling Crispinus says:

    Where I work there are more different job classification titles for the ‘support staff’ than for the ‘real librarians.’

    I don’t know what it means, but there’s something about having extra job titles to toss around. Maybe it keeps the support staff from revolting (because they’re revolting enough as it is, nyuk! nyuk!)

  10. Average Library Joe says:

    We let our paraprofessionals go to conferences. One of the guys I work with who is a paraprofessional (in my opinion he does professional work) went to ALA on the library’s dime. He investigated all the dorky, patronizing ALA-APA meetings but decided they were dorking and patronizing. Instead he went to one of the rare but substantive sessions on some cataloging deal.

  11. BricksMortar says:

    I got an MLIS because I got tired of being a Pee-on. A little more prestige, a lot more money and it didn’t take all that long or cost too many brain cells to get the master’s. Good decision on my part – at 50 I love holding down a job some 30-year-old wants. Bwahahaha!

  12. Sally Equality says:

    At my library, there’s virtually no difference between the good paraprofessionals and the professionals-who-give-a-damn. Likewise, little difference between the professionals-who-merely-show-up and the paraprofessionals who do their job well. We all work the same amount of desk hours, the difference being what we do with our off-desk time. Through a grant, we pay our paraprofessionals who to go to Library School if they want. Thusly, we’re growing a good batch of librarians who will eventually outnumber those lazy “professionals” who’re all merely grandfathered in.

  13. Stephen Denney says:

    I am one of those “paraprofessionals”, library support staff or whatever. My job title is library assistant and I catalog books (some librarians do that too, by the way). People in my unit come from many backgrounds, educational and otherwise. In any case, having come to the library world relatively late in life, the distinctions some draw between librarian and paraprofessional or library assistant would only matter to me if I wanted higher pay or more status. I don’t see any qualitative difference between the two categories.

  14. not a professional says:

    How about this: if you work in a library, you’re a librarian. You might be a reference librarian, a cataloging librarian, a circulation librarian, whatever: if you work in a librarian, that is your title. Slap on a modifier to indicate what specific function you fulfill and there you go. Oh, and the MLS isn’t a golden ticket to a bigger salary. Hard work and achievement–even without a degree–can get you there as well, though the degree might get you there faster. Now THAT is some 2.0 thinking right there.

  15. Very progressive – unfortunately for you, the grandfathers will never let that happen in THEIR academic library! and if it DOES happen, they can sit in their chairs for another 20 or 30 years until each one of them is 60 or 75 before they retire. By that time our society will be so far ahead of even the progressives there simply won’t be librarians at all anymore!!! [or, so broke because everything crashes here so there is no longer money left for frivolous things like “librarins.”]

  16. 2.0 thinking? Most librarians I know aren’t even at the 0.9 marker ;-) I work for an academic library. Everyone younger than 50 tells me that their MLIS was a joke…OK well, their words are “a union card”. It’s sad that liberrians feel the need to belittle others in order to make themselves feel good. I’ll keep my hard sciences education thank you very much AND call myself a librarian ;-)

  17. “It’s sad that liberrians feel the need to belittle others in order to make themselves feel good. “

    That comment stinks and you stink too, Cynic.


    I feel much better now.


  18. It feels good to clear the air, don’t it :)~

  19. You know, if any support staff is posting on here, they need to stop.

    They need to be available to fetch me a coffee when I need it!

  20. Sterling Crispinus says:

    “How about this: if you work in a library, you’re a librarian…” Sure, and if you work in a hospital, you’re a physician. If you work in the Air Force, you’re a jet pilot. If you work in state government, you’re an elected official. If you work at a bank, you’re a loan officer. If you work in a restaurant, you’re a French pastry chef. If you work at a college, you’re a tenured professor. . . . . yeah, I see it: people who work in libraries are librarian!

  21. Dr. Pepper says:

    Sterling Crispinus – your sense of what a librarian is/does is hyper-inflated :-)

  22. Vegans For Meat says:

    Librarians fulfill a critical professional role that far out-measures the eartly class of professionals, including rehab counselors and pharmacists. They fulfill a critical bridge between this world and the Other World, really immanant in the workings of the the cosmos, nay, the [U]niverse. I don’t think paraprofessionls can live up to this profound level of responsibility.

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