I ran into our former regional librarian on the bus the other day. We talked for a little while about the ways in which the library system had changed since he retired, and none of the changes were good. His final thoughts were, “The library is a shell of its former self.” Back when we worked together, he used to refer to me as “one of the young old-timers,” so I definitely knew what he was talking about. I’m sure that if I was new to the system, the changes of recent years wouldn’t have such an impact on me. But because I have over 15 years of history with this place, I know exactly what we’re missing because I remember the way things used to be.
And speaking of the way things used to be …
I was going through the archive of my staff blog last night. I maintained it for a few years, until I was advised by my supervisor’s supervisor to use a “less negative” tone, at which point I stopped updating it altogether. Of course, if I’d realized that our staff blogs would one day be viewable by the public, I probably wouldn’t have started it in the first place. But anyway, I was looking for a specific entry that I had written several years ago, and in the process of looking for that entry I reread several others. One of the ones I reread was about how I (and several other librarians) had protested against the cancellation of our young adult book committee meetings. In the letter I cited in that post, I said heartfelt and idealistic things like:
Cancelling these meetings will have a demoralizing effect, not only on young adult librarians, but on our library system as a whole. The ____________ Library has a reputation to uphold. We are not just bodies who serve to open the branches and cover the information desks. We are educated professionals who use our expertise to put the right book in the hands of the right person.
These meetings are not obsolete or expendable. Being able to actively participate in the process of young adult services is one of the reasons that librarians choose to join our system, and it is also one of the main reasons that many of the current staff haven’t left our system to seek jobs elsewhere. Our education doesn’t stop with an MLS degree. Being a librarian is an ongoing learning process, and attending book committee meetings helps us further our development both mentally and professionally. Please let us continue to enjoy this unique opportunity which makes us better librarians who are better able to serve our public.
And all I can think now is … oh my God. I was so f—ing NAIVE. I had no idea that within a few years, the cancellation of those meetings was just going to be the tip of the iceberg. I had no idea when I said “We are not just bodies who serve to open the branches and cover the information desks,” that that was EXACTLY the way that our future was going to turn out. And FWIW, I still believe that our education doesn’t stop with an MLS degree. The problem is that now that any staff member is authorized to do the kinds of things that used to be the exclusive domain of librarians (like running programs and conducting class visits), our level of education clearly doesn’t matter to our higher-ups anymore. In fact, since staff members with less education will work for less money, finances dictate that the less educated we are, the better it is for the library’s bottom line.
I wrote that post in 2007. Jeez, I was such a kid then.
In other demoralizing news, I’m not going to be podcasting anymore, at least not on a regular basis. Not for a while, anyway. The future may hold something else, but as of this moment I no longer have a regular podcasting gig. Every week more books come in that I ordered back when I thought that I was going to be recording reviews of them for the podcast. Except by the time the books showed up the gig was over. Anyway, what this means is that I might be reviewing more books here for a while, instead. I can’t let that part of my brain shut down, and I don’t want the books to go to waste.
And because this post hasn’t been enough of a downer, I will also add that our new library’s opening has been postponed AGAIN. We’ve gone from “any day now” to “hopefully by the beginning of June.” Which is going to be a big problem for us, because June was the first month that we started scheduling our programs with the understanding that we would DEFINITELY be in the new building, so we could run simultaneous programs for different age groups on different floors. Except if we’re not actually in the new building yet, we’re going to either have to break the laws of physics or start cancelling programs left and right. Either way, it will definitely suck.
Oh yeah, this post was definitely a downer … I’m sorry about that. I’ll pick something cheerier next time. Maybe even a book review!