Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Odd Stuff

Odd stuff has been happening lately in libraryland.

This is certainly one of the oddest job posts I’ve seen in a while. “CSU Channel Islands is looking for a not-so-mild-mannered superhero librarian to be our Head of Public Services and Outreach.” It certainly grabs one’s attention. The question is, what does it do to one after one’s attention is grabbed?

For me, there seems to be a disconnection between “superhero librarian” and some of the examples given.

For example, would a superhero librarian who is supposedly an administrator “jump at the chance to teach a library instruction session”? Do any librarians really jump at such a chance? I thought library instruction was one of those things librarians did to look busy, since students don’t pay much attention to it.

And I certainly don’t know any librarians who would “jump at the chance” to clear a printer jam. Nor, I would argue, does clearing a printer jam require superheroic efforts.  If I were the head of public services, I would require that students clear their own printer jams, thus saving me the effort and teaching the little dears some self-reliance.

And, again, who would “jump at the chance” to work a graveyard shift? Surely not superhero librarians. During the graveyard shift, they will have shed their librarian disguises and gone out to fight crime.

“Develop a Halloween theme related to information literacy”? Wouldn’t a superhero librarian have minions that could do that for them?

The last requirement I don’t get at all. Why would a college library be leading tours for kindergartners at all, much less “inspiring” ones? If anything, a superhero librarian would keep kindergartners out of the library so they didn’t smear peanut butter and jelly on the OED or something like that.

I can see a superhero librarian leading people, but I’m not so sure about “fostering crazy ideas that will be tomorrow’s innovation.” Looking for “superhero librarians” who would jump at the chance to clear printer jams is a crazy idea, but I doubt it will be tomorrow’s innovation.

While the job itself is probably no better or worse than most library jobs, something about the ad seemed desperate to me. It tries to say, “We are whimsical and fun,” while describing a reality that, while typical, is far from whimsical or fun.

Despite the desperation, I was intrigued at first. I thought it might be enjoyable to live on the Channel Islands, preferably Jersey because I don’t think I could stand walking up the steep streets of St. Peter Port every day. But then I realized this library was at a different Channel Islands. It did seem strange that a California university opened a branch campus in the English Channel, but plenty of American universities have branch campuses around the world. I don’t think I’d want to move to California, so I guess this isn’t the job for me after all.

Speaking of places I wouldn’t want to live, I’ve been reading about that Nebraska Librarian who resigned from her job as a library director over something having to do with teaching ESL, or not teaching it, or something. I say “or something,” because after reading the news articles I still can’t figure out what happened.

She claims that she was cautioned by a city council member not to teach ESL to immigrants on her own time.

Shafer said she wasn’t able to find a building where she could teach English as a Learned Language lessons, but planned to take her recreational vehicle to a park and teach when the weather was nice.

Then on Sept. 8, Shafer said a council person came to the library and during their discussion said “we don’t like it that you want you to go to Nickerson.”

Shafer said she would go to Nickerson on her day off, with her own vehicle, without being paid by the city.

One thing led to another, and Shafer resigned. She can do what she wants on her own time! It could be the case of a brave librarian standing up against anti-immigrant sentiment. This town is near Fremont, which made national news this past summer with a law preventing renting to or hiring illegal immigrants. (I really don’t understand this anti-immigrant mumbo-jumbo. Without illegal immigrants, who would mow our lawns, clean our houses, and be nannies to our children? Houses don’t just clean themselves, you know.)

However, something smells fishy. The ESL teaching wasn’t “paid by the city,” but if I understand the articles right, it is being funded by an ALA grant, part of the  “American Dream Starts @ your library” project. As I understand it, those grants go to libraries, not individuals. And the grant does say the “American dream starts @ your library.” It doesn’t say the “American dream starts in a motor home in the next town over.” Even the ALA is wise enough to realize few American dreams start that way.

That’s where Shafer’s story starts to sound odd. Why couldn’t she find a building to teach in? What was wrong with the building of the library that received the grant? Was she prevented from teaching there? Why drive an R/V to another town and teach there?

She claimed to be doing something on her day off, with her own vehicle, without being paid by the city. But if the grant was to the Hooper library, and she was using the funds to support the teaching, then she was acting as an agent of Hooper. I can sort of see why someone would expect her to do the teaching in Hooper itself.

The whole thing seems odd. Somebody’s hiding something. On the other hand, it looks like there’s a 28-hour-a-week, $10.64-an-hour library job open in Hooper, NE (pop. 825). That’s good news for some unemployed librarian!



  1. needs a 'nym says:

    Wouldn’t a superhero librarian have minions that could do that for them?

    That’s ridiculous, AL. Supervillains have minions; superheroes have sidekicks and companions to do the grunt work.

    Some librarians really are excited about teaching instruction sessions, which baffled me until I sat in on a few of my colleagues’ presentations. After seeing the rooms full of students with glassy eyes or heads on desks, with maybe one or two at least pretending to pay attention, I’d ask my colleagues how they thought it had gone. To a one, they were convinced that the students had been largely interested and engaged. There’s a lot of self-delusion among our peers, it seems.

  2. I love when someone is told to “engage” some other person or persons. Because many people don’t want to be engaged; they want to be left alone. So the only real tool of engagement that works 100% of the time is violence. When I was in school and in my own little dream world, the teacher would engage me by throwing a chalk board eraser at my head. And poof! that tiny yellow cloud of chalk dust meant success. I immediately became engaged. It’s like in those war movies where the sniper looks for the red cloud to confirm the kill. Poof! It gives new meaning to saying the future is in the cloud. But alas, I see no mention of eraser-flinging in that job description. Besides, that’s a lame superpower, eraser-flinging: “I can hit any target, at any speed and any distance, but only with a dirty eraser.”

  3. needs a 'nym says:

    Effing, does that mean dry-erase boards are Super Librarian’s kryptonite?

  4. effing–yeah, I never wanted to be harassed “engaged” by library staff, either. If I wanted help, I knew I could go to the reference desk and get it. If I didn’t, it was likely because I didn’t want to interact. Either way, a librarian pushing a cart around the stacks asking if people have reference questions (a nutty idea that got floated a few times) was not going to be useful.

  5. Bruce Campbell says:

    The subtext/meta-message I received from this posting is that they want an extrovert. Or an introvert who can be extroverted, engaging. Maybe they’ve had a bad run of hires.

    I enjoyed reading this ad. It’s nice to see a posting that does not use all the stock phrases.

  6. Most librarians at my branch wouldn’t “jump” to fix a paper jam because they are all Luddites. Whenever they “encounter” aka cause a paper jam, they:
    a.) try to use a different printer aka jam another printer b.) call me to fix it
    c.) call it a day and go home because they can’t print up their weeding lists.

  7. the.effing.librarian says:

    re: bibliotecher… I don’t want to criticize my coworkers, but yes, at least once a week, all 5 printers at the reference desk are blinking because of a jam or no toner or no paper… and then I look and see 20 prints jobs in the queue (!!!!!) which means they wanted to print something, but it wasn’t important enough to print if it meant adding paper (?????). and then whatever print job was left in the buffer comes out and it’s always southwestern pottery or pashminas or a coupon for a free frozen yogurt….

  8. Does this person need to be a superhero to make up for troubled organization? It sounds as if the problems are daunting to administrators who hope this one person is the silver bullet for a number unresolved issues.

  9. Humm,

    And it’s a tenured position as well and no mention of a salery. I’m guessing there is none. after all most superheros are independantly wealthy and don’t need to draw a salery. They are immune to the deepest budget cuts. They do fantastic things all by themselves or at the most with the close help of one or two people. Who manage the foundation and/or corporation. I’m also sure that our hero is writing oodles of articles while unjamming printers and engaging students, the community and kinders during the graveyard shift. Well this is California after all and the yutz who wrote the add no doubt has an Oscar for fantasy screen play writing.

    Sounds to me like this is a job for Bill Gates

  10. PlainsLibrarian says:

    Cal State Channel Islands is actually in Camarillo, California, on the site of the former Camarillo State Hospital, where Charlie Parker once dried out. The (Santa Barbara) Channel Islands are not really within view of CSUCI, even when the Santa Ana winds are blowing the schmutz out of the sky. Salaries are not mentioned because, unless you already live in California, you couldn’t afford a suitable residence on the salary that they do pay (though I think that CSUCI did, at one time, offer subsidized housing close to campus). Rental units are few and far between in this part of southern California, but the rents for the ones that are suitable for human habitation are way beyond the means of most.

  11. Elena1980 says:

    wouldn’t it be nice though to have a professional librarian actually take care of a jammed printer when a user is having the problem rather than referring the user to a para-professional staff member located 1/2 way across the library? oh, wait, they are not a superhero librarian!

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