I’ve spent the better part of the last hour reading entries from the staff blog that I maintained from 2007 – 2009. It all started because I was rereading my blog post about Mary, which you will probably remember if you were one of my Dear Readers from way back when. Yes, she still comes to my library, and she was asking us to clear her fines again just last week. So she came up in conversation, she was on my mind, and the ache in my heart that recurs whenever I think of her started throbbing like an old bruise.
But anyway, I started reading more and more entries, and before long I had fallen into a vortex of nostalgia and sadness. My “What’s Your Specialty?” post, in which I described my training and experiences in young adult and children’s services, opened up into a dilaogue between different librarians who commented on how many years they spent working as a Children’s / Young Adult / Adult / Reference librarian. Some of my commenters discussed how frustrated they were by the level of training you would have to complete in order to be “officially” approved to work in a particular area. Now it’s five years later, and there’s very little specialty training left anymore. Now information assistants and clerks are being asked to do stuff that librarians who didn’t take the right kind of training would have been considered “unqualified” to do just a few years ago. The pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that it’s simply mind-blowing.
We have lost, and we continue to lose, some of the best specialists that have ever worked in our library system.
It’s times like this that I start to feel like a frigging dinosaur. Or more specifically, a dinosaur staring in bewilderment at the still-smoking crater that signals the end of my species. Except my walnut-sized brain is too small to process these far-reaching implications, so instead I’m spending my remaining days foraging for food and wondering why it feels so warm lately.
Okay, before we all start getting too depressed (Hey, settle down in the peanut gallery! It’s NOT too late!) I’d like to add that I’ve been part of an ongoing committee / focus group that has been working on designing new training manuals for programming and outreach for children and teens. Now, while we’ve been making suggestions all along for how we think our library should change its hiring practices and how and why our system needs to train, support, and reward its staff, there is no guarantee that our suggestions will be turned into reality. Because turning those suggestions into reality would cost money, after all.
But at the very least, the manuals we’re developing should provide valuable support to library staff members who work with children and teens. They should give them guidance whether they are dedicated specialists, or information assistants, or even clerks who are told that they HAVE TO work with kids and teens. At least, that’s what we’re hoping.
Good thoughts, good thoughts …