One more reminder–please answer my poll question. So far, I have only received 13 responses–not nearly as many as for my first poll. Could be the question just doesn’t generate enough interest. So be it.
Speaking of interest, there’s been a lot generated by the recent internet blurb listing librarian as one of the least stressful jobs. Annoyed Librarian has written about it; Agnostic Maybe. Screwy Decimal has written a rebuttal of sorts. There was a trending topic on Twitter at #librarianstress, which caused a lot of librarian stress.
Whether you feel stressed or not, if you read the comments at these various venues, you will see that much of the concern stems from the worry about how such a dubious designation will affect the public’s perception of our profession and somehow diminish our value.
While it’s true that “public” is part of public funding, which is what helps sustain libraries, does the public’s perception of what a day in the life of a librarian is really like matter? Should we be deriving our self-worth as a profession from public opinion? I understand that libraries and librarians are often undervalued by those who don’t use them and even by those that do. But if we are truly serving a higher purpose, and we understand what we are doing and why, do we have to continually prove our value to anyone?
I’m not talking about value as in why libraries and librarians are needed–we do have to continually prove that it seems. I’m talking about value as in the depth and breadth and scope and weight of our jobs as library workers. Or the difference between a library staff member and a librarian. Or a volunteer and a librarian. I think not. I think we can explain and explain until we have no more words that what we do is more than read books and tell people to keep quiet. We can explain over and over that being a “real” librarian requires an advanced degree. We can talk about technology and funding and all of that.
The truth is that many (most?) are never going to listen, believe us, or care. Why should we care what they think? If we are doing what we love and want to do and believe in its purpose and value, why do we need the external validation of anyone to hold our heads up high?
We don’t have to be victims or held hostage by public opinion. We don’t have to defend the nature of our jobs or our profession to anyone. If we choose to do that–to cry foul when someone “insults” us, well, that is our choice. But all that does is fuel the fire rather than douse the flame.
I’ve learned this principle myself right here in this blog and in life. A while back, I got into a respectful flame war of sorts with Will Manley and others who I perceived were discrediting an online education (My library degree is better than your library degree, or is it? and The rest of the story: My library degree is better than your library degree, or is it, part 2). I became defensive (going so far as to draw some of my former classmates into the discussion) and afterward I wondered why. By defending my education, I was giving credibility to the arguments against it. I know what I learned and the value of my experience. It’s up to me to prove my worth as best I can by working hard and trying to make a difference in this profession. I don’t need recognition, praise or congratulations, although all are appreciated.
I often find that when I am the most vocal in attempting to prove a point, I am usually trying to prove it to myself.
I have met librarians who chose this profession because of the low stress level. I have met librarians who chose this profession because they thrive on stress. And almost everyone I’ve met working in this profession truly believes that what they are doing matters.
But I have never met a librarian who said they were in this profession because of public opinion. Even if we manage to convince the world that both libraries and librarians are essential to the survival of humanity, we will succeed in convincing few that the profession of librarianship itself is particularly challenging. That doesn’t mean it’s not. Maybe it just means that we’re doing such a good job that we make it look easy.