Time for Librarians to Fight Dirty

I recently saw a posting on a librarians’ discussion list for a professional position at a public library at a small community near me. It’s a lovely town and I’m sure that is part of the appeal of the job. However, the salary being offered was $16 to $20/hour for a part-time job [in an area where apartments cost at least $1,200/month]. I was horrified – that’s what I pay someone to mow my yard or walk my dogs. This is not the salary for a position that requires a graduate degree; it’s a salary appropriate for a position that requires no more than a high school education.

This job must go unfilled, at least by a professional. We librarians should not forward these kinds of job listings or encourage other library professionals to apply. The head librarian needs to go back to the town council and tell them that the library is unable to fill a professional job at this low salary and will need to either reduce services or obtain additional funding for the position.

Info pros need to learn the Washington Monument Gambit. What does the US Department of the Interior do when its budget is cut? It closes the Washington Monument – a popular tourist destination staffed by National Park Service rangers – and suggests frustrated voters head over to the offices of their Congressional representatives to voice their feelings.

Librarians need to fight as dirty as park rangers. If we are not given the funding we need, we have to ensure that our organization’s stakeholders feel the pain. Instead of absorbing budget cuts by curtailing professional development, paying professional librarians absurdly low salaries, or eliminating essential resources, we need to fight back.

We have to talk about the tangible value libraries and information professionals bring to an organization or community. (See a white paper I recently wrote on the ROI of Digital Content at is.gd/bates_ROI.) We have to identify the people who can most effectively advocate for additional funding and engage them in ongoing conversations about the role of the library.

And we have to make sure that no employer can expect to pay professionals with graduate degrees $16/hour, regardless of the charm of its clientele.


4 thoughts on “Time for Librarians to Fight Dirty

  1. On an intellectual level I can agree with you. But, realistically – when you are unemployed and desperate – you can bet your bottom dollar that you will take whatever job is offered. That is just plain real-world thinking and there is no way of getting around it. There are bills to pay and even if you get to fulfill only some of your responsibilities with minimal pay, it is better then being homeless. The hard truth.

  2. I agree that any job is better than no job. And I would suggest that you’re better off taking any other job that lets you use your brains and expertise and that pays more than $16/hour. Rather than focusing on jobs that are presented as “librarian” jobs, what other opportunities are there that use the unique skill set of an info pro but are stealth librarian jobs?

  3. The sad reality is that the vast majority of librarians, teachers, nurses (my wife), social workers (me), and other helping professions have positions that are often at the mercy of politicians or political appointees. The Washington Monument Gambit would, I’m afraid, get a head librarian fired.

    Here in Kansas we have k-12 classroom teachers who are paid so poorly that turnover is abysmally high. We don’t have “grey” in the classroom; we have “green.” And there aren’t enough experienced teachers to coach and mentor newbies. Their hourly rate is on par with the $16-$20 you cite in your post. As a semi-retired business owner, long-time corporate strategist, and social worker, I’m lucky to get p.r.n. work that pays $20, even with a master’s degree and 30+ years of corporate leadership experience.

    All that said, I think that we’re quickly approaching a time when the “gambit” will turn into “the jig is up” as everyday citizens realize you get what you pay for.

  4. Pingback: Professional librarians have earned the right to appropriate pay | Fortunate Woman

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