Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Vows for the Greater Glory of the Library

Not everyone was persuaded by my statement that overall librarians are doing pretty well economically, at least compared to other people.

One commenter noted that much of available library work is part time, which would mean that median wages per hour might not be equal to a full time wage. That is a possibility that I barely considered, and when I was focusing on how much such a librarian would make per year I was assuming full time work, which is still pretty common in libraries.

Another brought up the possibility of children, and opined that,

Suddenly this so-called “doable” wage is blown out of the water if you have young children at home. Do you know how much day care costs? We have had a handful of librarians quit working because they had babies and could not afford childcare even on their library income combined with their partner’s. (They were in the bottom 25% as mentioned above). Living on one paycheck was more “doable” than living on two while having to pay for childcare.

Nothing personal to all you child bearers out there, but I hadn’t thought about that either. I assumed that people smart enough to become librarians were smart enough to do the research and decide if they could afford to have children or not.

Unless you’re in the military, wages rarely take children into account, and librarians with children have to compete with the many childless librarians out there.

From the library’s perspective, it doesn’t much matter if librarians quit because they can’t afford to work and pay for childcare, because there are always more librarians waiting in line for the job, and if there aren’t then the library just isn’t paying enough anyway.

But there is a solution to these and all other library wage problems.

For those considering embarking on a career in librarianship, I have some advice that will make it a lot easier for you, at least in the long run.

Treat your profession as a religious vocation, and take the appropriate religious vows: chastity, poverty, obedience, and silence.

If you’re not making enough money to afford children, chastity should be a no-brainer. If you don’t have sex, you won’t have children, no matter what your Catholic mother might have told you when you were little.

If you don’t have children, you don’t have to pay for them, so the problem is solved.

Some childless women complain that other women criticize them for their choice, but so what? If you cared that much about what the world thinks, you wouldn’t have entered your library vocation in the first place.

It also doesn’t matter if you’re an evolutionary dead end. The world has plenty of children in it. Not adding more isn’t going to be a problem. The world will go on just as it has.

As for obedience, this really helps you endure your librarian life. If you’re told to clear a printer jam, clear it. If you’re told to clean up vomit in the men’s room, clean it up.

No matter how lowly or disgusting the activity might seem, it’s done for the greater glory of the Library. Once you’ve accustomed yourself to this, and you no longer think of yourself as a person deserving of dignity, respect, and a liveable wage, you’ll feel better.

Vows of poverty should be the easiest to maintain on your librarian wage. More money just means more stuff, and honestly, how much stuff do you really need?

People in contemporary America believe they need a lot of stuff they don’t really need. Nobody needs to fiddle around on the internet or binge-watch Netflix. They certainly don’t need all the junk food they consume. In both cases they’d be better off putting away the ice cream and going for a walk.

We live in a culture that encourages distraction and unhealthy habits like lying around all day watching TV and eating terrible food. The vow of poverty helps people break those terrible habits.

So really, by paying low wages, libraries are helping librarians to avoid those terrible habits, because lying around all day is a lot less fun if you have no TV or junk food.

If you think of library work as a job, it’s easy to get distracted by the mundane attractions of the world. But if you think of it as a vocation, and of libraries as sacred spaces, or as “sacred stacks,” then that should give your life a purpose and meaning that transcends such trivialities as Netflix, junk food, and having children who also consume Netflix and junk food.

If you think your library work pays too little, the problem isn’t with the pay, it’s with your attitude. You’re approaching the work as something that should support you in a way that isn’t similar to a religious vocation, and that’s why you’re disappointed.

Once you take the vows of chastity, obedience, and poverty, and dedicate your life to the greater glory of serving the Library, your petty problems will fade away. In the words of St. John of the Cross, “Now that I no longer desire all, I have it all without desire.”

Finally, the vow of silence should be easy. It’s a library, after all.


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


  1. I prefer sacred spaces to maker spaces.

  2. I was enjoying the hilarity of reading this when I realized, wait, I’ve been living this as a librarian in a religious school. Low wages, no disobedience, mirrors that reveal nothing below the neck, no funny emails distributed to all, no singing 100 bottles of beer on the wall, during those long school bus trips. I looked up from my gruel, and saw the only librarians making real money are information managers&high tech wizards. Better to move to Canada for those of us who just love books and words.

  3. unemployed librarian says:

    “. . . I was assuming full time work, which is still pretty common in libraries.” You also need to consider that more full-time library jobs are temporary appointments.

  4. Yeah, I like working in a library, but not to the point that I’ll martyr myself for it. I thought it was funny too as I’ve come across those librarians who don’t really seem to like people that much and prefer the library when it’s more like some sort of religious cloister.

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