It’s 4:30am. I’ve been awake for about a half an hour. I got 2 hours sleep before that. I’m sick and I’m tired and I’m full of asthma and cold medication. I don’t know if it’s the sleep deprivation or the medication or just some visceral reaction to the posts I’ve been reading but I have jumped up out of bed and run to my office to post this. (Probably should apologise in advance for potential drivel, just in case.)
Time and time again I see blog posts, tweets, facebook updates and even <gasp> emails about friends and colleagues being disenchanted with their library careers. I have lost count of the times I have read the sentence, “I’m not sure I want to be a librarian anymore”. I’ve even said it myself.
What has gone wrong? We were were all so on fire for our profession! We loved it! We used to eat, sleep and breathe for it! These were people I have known for years and years. Most of the folks I’m talking about weren’t working in the same organisation as me. We met at conferences. We met at workshops. We met through ALIA groups and events. These aren’t people who clock on and clock off. Being a librarian wasn’t a job. It was a vocation. A calling. A passion!
We rose through the ranks. We did our time in the mines. We did the hard slog. We got to positions of responsibility. We were bosses. Managers. We set the pace in our organisations. We innovated. We moved. We shook.
Now we want to turn our backs on our love? Why?
I don’t want to cast shadows on specific workplaces because we all come from different organisations, different sectors. The ill-feeling is too widespread for it to be the fault of any particular employer. It must be more than just bad bosses. (Disclaimer: I believe I had a good relationship with my boss.)
Bad bosses might be one explanation. I suspect organisational culture might play a bigger part. Societal changes are another potential source.
Budget cuts. Staffing cuts. Do more with less. Do everything with nothing.
The constant pressure to perform. Show your worth. Provide evidence of your usefulness. Generate income!!!
I mean, really! What a blow it is to morale to say to librarians “show how you add value”. As if the worth of a library was not known. As if the librarian who watches the desks emptying around her didn’t think that perhaps she’d be the next to go. As if the librarian hadn’t spent his life trying to explain to those with the chequebooks why he was more valuable than a computer with a mainline to Wikipedia or Google. That has to take a toll on a person. Who would want to work in that environment?
We are people of skill, knowledge, expertise. We inspire. We innovate. We educate.
I’m not sure I want to be a librarian anymore.
Yes I do.
I just don’t want to be undervalued anymore. I don’t want to be given a job, do it well and then constantly questioned about my very existence. I know I have worth. I know my clients are more informed, more skilled, more capable, more confident, more competent all for having used my service. Can I put a price on that? No. Someone probably can. I’m too busy serving these clients who need this service. (…is what I might have said when I was still working in a library.)
It might be the same for my friends and colleagues who are having a career crisis. They just want to feel valued. They want to do their jobs and excel as they always have. They want to feel supported to do that. They don’t want to keep looking over their shoulders for the grim reaper.