I’ve only just caught up with the recent controversy over a Slate pictorial article on librarians by Kyle Cassidy. I find myself disappointed at the level of complaints leveled at what seems to me a pretty positive article trying to get at the fact that not all librarians look alike. Reading through the article it reminded me of the This is what a librarian looks like Tumblr project.
I realize that the people pictured did not represent all types of librarians but there were reasons why this so, as explained by Ingrid Abrams aka the Magpie Librarian. I understand that people are tired of articles examining librarian stereotypes. I think PC Sweeney does a good job of explaining why we need to put our tiredness aside as we have a lot of work to do.
But I don’t really want to dwell on the Slate article itself. I’d like to address the tendency of librarians to attack each other. I should have lots of well documented and researched examples to offer, but what I’m offering instead are recollections. If you are dead positive that something I referred to DID NOT happen, call me on it. I’ll then go forth and do the research I should have done first and if I can’t find it, I’ll edit this entry and retract it. If I do find an example that satisfies me but not you, I’ll stand by my comments.
Anyway, on to the library whines and hate:
- The very first library action figure comes out and some librarians (Me included!) complain about the shushing action.
- The announcement of the LJ Movers & Shakers* award often prompts comments of “what a bunch of divas” along with hand wringing blog posts of “I’ll never be a M&S, I’m just really good at [insert field here], so Library Journal will never give ME an award.”
- Favorable writeups of one aspect of librarianship are met with “So _____ doesn’t count? Sheesh!”
- Exhortations to librarians to be lifelong learners are met with “That’s fine for you, you don’t have a life!”
- Librarians who are truly too busy with taking care of families, having second jobs, etc who balk at taking professional development outside of work being told, “You’ve got plenty of time, just get off your lazy butt and turn off the TV.”
- Writeups of makerspaces being greeted with “Yeah, go ahead! Burn the books and turn the library into shop class! But you won’t be a REAL library.”
- Pleas for quiet study spaces based on patron feedback being met with “We don’t need you or your Luddite patrons!”
At a time when so many funders are cutting budgets and questioning the need for libraries DESPITE RECORD USAGE, this is not a time for librarians to be ripping each other apart. There are many ways to be a librarian and many ways to run a library. Let’s honor that. And if you can’t say something nice about another librarian/library, try taking this advice from Ingrid:
There’s another option, though, and something I’d like to keep in mind for myself the next time I see a library-related project that I don’t approve of: If you think you can do better, don’t complain. Don’t bitch. Don’t Tweet. Go do better. Go make something better. Go create something you wished you would have seen. There’s room for all of us here. There are going to be plenty of opportunities for more stories and voices and projects. So let’s just stop verbally beating each other down and let’s get shit done. If you don’t like the way I’m doing me, go do you better. I feel like this is my New Year’s Resolution.
I wouldn’t have used the “s-word” in an exhortation, but then I’m not Ingrid. So lets roll up our sleeves and do our best to support our patrons, our libraries and each other. Let’s not yell every time a positive-leaning library article doesn’t meet our every expectation.
*Disclosure: I’m a 2008 Mover & Shaker. Thankfully I’m rarely criticized as a diva, but other M&S people have been.