Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

The LIS Profs Strike Back

Wow, the response from my imaginary library school professors to my last post was pretty harsh. They thought it was unfair to characterize them as unable to handle the hustle and bustle of modern libraries, and they had a few not-so-kind things to say about public libraries and the sort of people who want to work in them. I’ve compiled some answers and edited out the profanity, but this is the gist:

You say we can’t handle working in public libraries? Let us tell you, buddy, working in public libraries sucks.

The pay is terrible. There are homeless people everywhere. And nobody knows what they heck they’re supposed to be doing.

In our course, “Library 101: the Library and You,” we teach a nice, pristine vision of what public libraries are supposed to be doing. They’re the bedrock of democracy, because an informed public is a necessity when any bonehead who manages to make it to 18 and stay out prison can vote.

If public libraries followed that vision, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are now. If you don’t like Donald Trump as President, thank public libraries for failing to implement the vision of libraries in a democracy that we’ve been teaching for years. I hope everyone is enjoying their videogames and makerspaces as the world ends.

And the kind of money people get paid is ridiculous! It’s not ridiculous as such, just ridiculous that public libraries expect people to spend a lot of money getting a master’s degree and then pay them less per year than they paid for the degree.

But the libraries keep on coming! Why is that? They’re suckers, that’s why.

Oh, god, you should see the sorts of people who come to library school. They’re so idealistic, and they’re getting younger all the time.

They want to talk about social justice and helping the poor and the needy and the immigrants and everybody else. That’s great in a way, because they lap up the stuff we teach in “Library 101” like cats with milk.

Then they go out and realize that the public doesn’t want them and mostly doesn’t use public libraries, and librarians will do anything to try to make themselves seem relevant to this uncaring public.

There are librarians who go into debt so they can respond to the library equivalent of “Cleanup on aisle 4!” Suckers.

On the other hand, it’s not like they have a lot of options. These library school students are very nice people. They’re kind, generous, and loyal. They’re perfect cannon fodder for the modern public library.

Some of them are even school smart. They’ve done okay in college getting their degrees in English, history, and psychology. But they’re not exactly competitive in the modern marketplace, if you know what I mean.

“I have a bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies, and nobody wants to hire me,” they whine to themselves. So what do they do? They come to library school because we’ll accept anybody.

“Can’t pass the LSAT? Too flaky and progressive for that MBA program? Don’t have any marketable skills anyway? Want to save the world one library card at a time? Come to library school!”

That’s actually on the brochure of one library school, and it works every time.

Do all the students who come to library school get jobs? Of course not! Nobody would be surprised if they met all these students.

Don’t us wrong. About 80% are great. They’ll work hard. They’re reasonably quick learners. They have a high tolerance for working with annoying idiots, i.e., “the public.” They’re willing to move. And they’ll get jobs.

The rest will graduate and complain about how they can’t find work.

Should we be weeding them out? Should we make acceptance to library school harder? Should we make the classes harder?

We could do that, but it would hardly be fair to the students. Where else are these people going to go? Library school gives them a sense of purpose!

It also delays the day of reckoning when the little dears will have to face the cold, hard logic of the market.

We bring in the kind of idealistic young people who think markets are bad, who are so uncompetitive that they believe capitalism is the root of all their problems, and we give them a smaller market to compete in.

Instead of competing against tens of thousands of other college graduates with their worthless degrees for crappy jobs, they’re only competing with tens of hundreds of library school graduates for crappy jobs.

Say what you will, we’ve improved their odds, and they need all the improving they can get.

We’re helping them! Without library school they’d still be just as poorly paid, but they’d have less purpose and a much harder time getting a job.

And what do we get in return? Better pay, better job prospects, more time off, private offices, and no having to associate with riffraff. It’s what we deserve for helping people like we do.

The only problem is dealing with all the library school students. But it could be a lot worse.


Please note that new comments for all posts on this blog have been closed.


  1. politically incorrect librarian says:

    Wow, those are awful comments. I’m not a public librarian, but I have been in and used many different public libraries. I get the cynicism about dealing with some rifraff, but it seems to me that it can be very rewarding if you are committed to good programming and community outreach. I’m surprised at the lack of this in the city I live in. When I had to attend the unemployment office workshops before collecting unemployment, I wondered why the library didn’t reach out to that agency with library resources on job hunting, free online courses, and the ability to research companies/industries using various other online resources that they could share with recipients. It seemed to me like a big missed opportunity.

    It seems to me that there are also opportunity for public libraries to get more involved with local government, cultural, educational, and public interest agencies in innovative grant programs.

    So it seems to me that public librarians need to quit whining, recapture a sense of agency/initiative, and focus on the good/unproblematic patrons who don’t call much attention to themselves because they constitute the “silent majority”

  2. Midwest SciTech Librarian says:

    Wow, Sounds like Dr. Library School Professor needs to find a new career as well. If your work makes you that bitter to write such a screed, it’s time to pack your framed degree up and move on.

  3. Libertarian Librarian says:

    A friend and library director was publicly taken to task for not offering $25 an hour for a starting position. In the south. LIS Profs really have no clue.

  4. Oh my goodness that’s ridiculous. At my job a starting position is $13, or for the Assistant Librarian, it was $17. Even in Dallas I haven’t seen any starting positions for $25 an hour. Your friend was in the right not offering that. And if somewhere is, I’d hate to work there because the rent is probably horrid.

  5. Good Lord, I don’t think I have enough tissues for them to handle their issues. And they say that we state workers whine a lot.

  6. sciencereader says:

    This is the funniest blog post I’ve read in a long time. Trenchant, biting, and hilarious!

  7. Loved GSLIS@U of W says:

    My library prof gave the same test each year – open book. She openly wondered why some many did so well. I had an interesting chat with the school dean about that – lazy, well-paid profs combined with unethical librarian students painted a dim image of my future profession. The image was correct. Years later, I saw the prof at a retirement party, she asked what firm I was with. I told her, I am a REAL librarian who works in a public library. Her reply, “How quaint.” Quaint is her collecting a retirement check at tax-payer expense. Library profs – a few were epic intellects,, but most, just like the students, mediocre on their best days.

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