Tag Archives: Librarians

Librarianship and semi-Professionals: De-professionalization or middle management promotion?

So over the last two years I have seen increased discussion online at conferences and in classes (when I was still in school) about semi-professionals in libraries. Many librarians or people who are in the process of becoming MLIS/MLS accredited argue that semi-professionals are stealing jobs and cheapening our degree; at the same time they argue employers are looking for cheaper labour as budgets become tighter and funding is drying up. The other side of that coin is semi-professionals are arguing that MLIS grads are applying for semi-professional work that is making it hard for them to find work…blaming librarians for crowding in on their jobs. The problem is not that simple, but I would like to open up a discussion about it in 1000 words or less.

Focusing more on the librarian side of the coin. Over the years what used to be work done by librarians is now becoming (or has become) the area of work given to college Library Technician graduates. Many positions posted for cataloguing, reference work, circulation, etc. does not require a Master’s degree. This work was once the realm of master’s (or previously Bachelor’s) degree in Library Sciences. So because Library techs are now the “cheaper” option for many libraries they have taken on the grunt work of librarianship in the past, and are being trained to do it.

In Library School I had 1 semester class on reference services, and one semester class on cataloguing. That was it. I got one day (maybe 2 in a week) on each type of cataloguing: MArc 21, AACR2, Dewey, Library of Congress, etc. This compared to a friend of mine who went through the Library technician course whom recieved a class devoted to dewey, a class devoted to Library or Congress, etc. Full 8 week courses devoted to types of cataloguing. This is just one example of where the Library technician program was given ground work duties, compared to my MLIS.

So what do they teach in an MLIS? It really varies dependant on the program. My own program focused more on Technology, and management based skills. I took a reference class, I had a cataloguing class, I took some technology classes. The core classes focused on giving you the basics. So I learned how to generally do AACR2, Dewey, and Library of Congress. This was taught so that one day I would be able to oversee someone else doing it, and know what they were doing/offer assistance/training/guidance.

Probably the best courses I took were my Management course, which at the time I thought was a waste of time, issues in librarianship, and my Special Libraries course. All three focused on project management, team building, types of volunteers/employees and issues in real world librarianship. They were all basically priming us for middle management issues: how to deal with different demographics involving employees/volunteers, how to make a proposal to refresh/build a new library, are libraries neautral, etc.

It wasn’t just the way things were taught in school, but a few professors argued it was the future of librarianship. There was a meeting between faculty and students, this annual meeting allowed students to voice concerns or opinions on the program. Student concern was pretty central on the topic of practical skills. The response we got was one that we didn’t want to here. We basically got told that the landscape of librarianship was changing. The librarians of the past who stamped books, catalogued the magazines, and answered reference questions had gone the way of the card catalogue. We were told that the skills librarians needed were to act as middle managers for those people who chose to go the library technician route. Next question…

We weren’t too thrilled about that answer but it got me thinking. This allows librarians to move up in the theoretical corporate ladder in libraries. So instead of having a long chain that starts at Library Page and goes up to Library CEO, we start at middle management. This may be a dreamy eyed approach, as many others see it as cutthroat and driving wages down by allowing cheaper, less professionalized people do the work, but as I see it the wages were gonna go down regardless, as it has in all other professions as well. This allows Librarians to try to maintain some form of medium waged salary in a professional field that we love. Regardless of what you think of all this, the professors were right about one thing. It is the future of librarianship, whether you like it or not. You have just got to make the best of a not so great situation.

Genealogy at the Library

Libraries are so much more than books these days. Libraries are culture centers and one group of culture seekers that frequent libraries (particularly public libraries) are family genealogists. These people are often seeking help and information in both digital and personal forms. This is how a library can help a amateur genealogist or family historian.

The Librarian

So Librarians are professionally trained to help you find all kinds of information. This goes beyond finding the latest Faye Kellerman novel. Librarians are usually specialists who hold a bachelors degree in something. The most common bachelor’s degrees I have come across are  English, History and other social sciences majors. The background in a social science (regardless of type) allows us to help conduct research and find relevant information. I myself have a degree in History from Western University.

When combining the social sciences background with a Library sciences background we begin to compound our knowledge. Librarians are specialists in navigating the internet. Some of the classes I took in Library school can be of great assistance when looking for family history or genealogical files. I have taken classes on Government Information, Database Searching, and Archival studies. What all this means is a librarian is very well equipped to help guide you in your search. This does not only apply to me but all librarians.

The Library – Physical

Many libraries have genealogical sections in their library. This will sometimes include archival records, books and guides on the how to of genealogy or local history books. At the Point Alexander branch of the Laurentian Hills Library I have taken it upon myself to rebuild our genealogical section of books. Most the titles we had had been neglected for a few years and I am in the process of restoring that section of the library. Currently there are 3 titles in the genealogical section. One is a Beginner’s Guide to Online Genealogy. This is a great resource for those just delving into online resources and whom are unsure what is available and where to find good information. Another resource is Family Photo Detective by Maureen Taylor. This is a newer book that also looks at how to find genealogical clues in old photographs. The third book is an older book from 2004 that has been kept for its staying relevance – “Digitizing your Family History” a guide to maintaining family heirlooms and other relevant documents so that future genealogists may enjoy them.

We also carry a good selection of local history books. These local history books can be a general guide to finding more about the places your family has been and can sometimes give insight into the person you are looking at in  your family tree. We carry several local history books/series and magazines including: Carol Bennett’s series of books about the Ottawa Valley which includes Peter Robinson’s Settlers, The Lanark Society Settler’s, and Eganville. We also have Renfrew County People and Places, as well as Tamarack Magazine: a history of the Valley and Your Genealogy magazine a monthly publication that is a great guide for genealogists.

These are just current offerings. On back order for the new year I plan on expanding the Genealogical offering’s including: Online Genealogy for Dummies, Genealogy Ontario: Searching the Records and Who Do You Think You Are: The Genealogy Handbook.

The Library – Digital:

So now for the good stuff. Most of the offerings in the library are the how, I’m going to talk about resources. Many people are under the assumption that everything is online now. This is an incorrect assumption. Only %2 of human knowledge is available online. In the case of genealogy it may be slightly higher. Online genealogy makes it easier for the family genealogist to just sit at home in front of a computer and do genealogical research. Like everything online there are good places and bad places to look…I’m going to focus on the good resources.

Ancestry.com/.ca/library edition – The Laurentian Hills public Library subscribes to Ancestry.com library edition. It is a collection of most of the best parts of Ancestry.com/.ca without you having to shell out money to use it. All you need is a library card. Ancestry.com as off June 2014, reported having access to approximately 16 billion historical records. User-submissions included more than 70 million family trees and subscribers have added more than 200 million photographs, scanned documents and written stories.

Family Search – Family Search.org is a free to use genealogical resource. Familysearch.org is the genealogical arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons). It is the largest genealogy organization in the world. FamilySearch maintains a collection of records, resources, and services designed to help people learn more about their family history.

Library & Archives Canada – Library & Archives Canada is Canada’s Archive. It has many records recently uploaded online and freely available including Birth records, death records, immigration and military records. All of this is available through the Genealogy and Family history section of the site. You can also peruse the site by type of record your looking for such as Home Children and Old Census Records.

Canadagenweb.org – this is a volunteer database of Cemeteries across Canada. You can find records for over 18,000 cemeteries. It is a great resource if you are looking for a family plot. It includes gravestone pictures, and markings.

Torontopubliclibrary.com – The Toronto Public Library has a great resource of information on genealogy and local history. They have a section called digital archive. In here you can find a vast resource of documents under the genealogy and family history link. In this section you can find a guide to Census records, as well as local Toronto Local history collection as well as guides to Aboriginal genealogy, Irish and British Genealogy, Jewish Genealogy, Immigration Records, Adoption Records, Land Records and more. This is not just for Toronto many of these records are Canada wide inclusive.

Libraries are places of knowledge and community and can serve the genealogical community quite well. There is so much that can be done with this aspect of librarianship that I believe every library should have something ready for when the local family historian steps into the library. be it a small up to date physical collection or large databases and knowledge for the family historian to access. We are guardians of history and knowledge, we should be prepared not only to preserve it, but distribute it to our respected communities.

Librarian: Jack of all trades, master of none. (A life in the day of a librarian/library tech)

Most people are under the impression that all librarians do is stack books, read stories to children, and check books in and out of the library. In most libraries this is not true, mainly because much of that work is done by library assistants. Here at my school I am the only librarian (library technician) in the school (for two libraries senior and elementary) so I do perform all those tasks. Even then, those activities are only a part of my job. Below will follow a typical day in my job as the Library Technician at Ignace School. I will outline activities and time frame from arrival at 8:30am to my departure at 4:00pm. I will mark where I am in the case of senior and elementary library, along with a few other place I also perform duties.

8:30 – 9:00am – In Senior library – Check email – This may seem mundane, but I do get many emails in my work email pertaining to my daily activities. These include requests for library usage, updates to the check in/check out system, school board emails, and tech questions from staff and students. I’m not just checking gmail or hotmail here.

9:00am – 10:00am – In Senior Library – Restack any returned books in Senior Library. I also reload and maintain the 3 printers and computers in the senior library.

10:00am – 10:15am – In Empty classroom – Music at Recess – I run a music at recess program where kids can come in strum on some guitars or play on one of 4 keyboards. This is primarily a supervision role, but gives kids something to do during recess if weather is bad or if they just don`t feel like going outside. Morning recess is for JK to 3rd grade.

10:15am – 11:00am – In Elementary Library – Restack any returned books in Elementary Library. I also reload and maintain the printer and laminate machine in the elementary library.

11:00am – 11:30am – Lunch break

11:30am – 12:30am – In Senior Library – Lunch supervision. I also use this time to repair books, put book covers on new books, enter work ticket for student laptops and troubleshoot any student laptops that may have been reported or turned in to me (before putting in a work ticket for the repair) Check board email if there is times. Depends on the day. I spent one lunch playing Risk with a 10th grade student because he asked if I would.

12:30pm – 1:30pm – In Elementary Library – Library time for various grades. This is flexible throughout the afternoon depending on what day of the week it is. I have 1-3 classes, 3 days a week, each with 30 minutes of library time. I read to grades K-2 and do reader advisory for them all when asked “Where are the drawing or cat books?” What is a good/Do we have any ghost story/ies?” “Whats new in the library?” I also check in and out library books

1:30pm – 1:40pm – Afternoon break (If there is time for such non-sense)

1:45pm – 1:55pm – In Empty classroom – Music at Recess – I run a music at recess program this one is for grade 4-8. Kids can come in strum on some guitars or play on one of 4 keyboards. This is primarily a supervision role, but gives kids something to do during recess if weather is bad or if they just don`t feel like going outside.

1:55pm – 2:00pm – In main office – I Check my cubby hole/Mailbox in the office for newsletters, fixed laptops, new book orders or anything else that may have come in for me. Also use the office for printing.scanning, etc if needed.

2:00pm – 3:30pm – Elementary Library – Re-shelving books in Elementary Library, doing administrative stuff. I use the end of the day to get other stuff done. In the first few weeks it was weeding and reorganizing the library (which both are ongoing projects). I also use the time to re-check my email again and do any activity prep for kids. On Thursdays I run a young readers program (Bookworm club) for grade 2-3. It basically is a half hour for them to read and them come together and share their thoughts on the book (an extra library/reading time. I go around and help anyone who needs help with their reading comprehension skills.

3:30pm – 4:00pm – In the Senior Library – Administrative stuff/End of day stuff – I use this final half hour to check my email (if I havn’t had time in the previous block). Go through final check of any new tech/laptop problems that may have come up and finish any other  stuff that may have come into my office or I did not complete earlier in the day.

This is just a sample of stuff that I do. I also control inventory for the AV room in the Senior Library. The av room includes: TV’s, VCR’s, VHS, DVD player, DVD’s, Cameras, E-readers, Overhead projectors, Teacher resource binders and Family studies electronic babies. I am more than just a giver and taker of books. I am the first line tech guy, library administrator, program planner, supervisor, literacy teacher, and yes….a book shelver.

Librarians vs Library Techs: The epic struggle

While in Library school in my management course the conflict between professionals and para-professionals was brought up, in fact I had to be part of a group presentation on the conflict for a good portion of my mark. The back story goes something like this. In the good ole days many librarians toiled with cataloging, reference services, and other services. Today many librarians feel that employers and colleges are sourcing out their jobs to library techs, thereby flooding the market with para professionals and stealing all the library jobs that once were prevalent in our society. What people fail to notice is that things change…it is a fact of life.

Today Librarians and library techs are competing for many of the same jobs. This is true, but what librarians and library students tend to forget is that there has been a shift in the way librarians are used in the library. Today librarians act as managers of the library. Most management jobs in the library and information sector require an MLIS/MLS. This means that many jobs not for Librarians 20-35, 50 years ago are now exclusively accessible to MLIS/MLS graduates.

This is a bonus for us librarians. We can attain jobs that library technicians cannot and we can also vie for the same jobs that they can. We as librarians have an advantage in the library market, in that we are qualified for all jobs in a library; from library assistant to library CEO. Can a library technician say that?

In some cases Librarian and Library techs are one in the same. It is simply a title put forward by an employer. Some job postings I have seen say library tech, but what they really want is someone with an MLIS/MLS and vice versa. At the school board I work for the only difference between a librarian and library tech is elementary school (called a library tech) and high school (called a librarian). They offer the same services for different patrons, at least as far as I can see. Not to downplay library technicians, they serve a vital role. They are the core workforce in a library with many practical skills, not offered in a master’s program. We as librarians can learn quite a bit from them and they from us. This can only be achieved if we work together to create a harmonious library environment.

Neutrality of Librarians?: Why they shouldn’t get involved!

A debate over whether or not librarians should become activists in society has been quietly brewing for many years. In many Masters of Library Sciences classes, it is argued throughout the readings that librarians are the center of democracy or that librarians have a responsibility to police the distribution and access of information. This notion of policing information and being the center of democracy seems to be a self-promoting view, as many of the people suggesting such actions are librarians or graduates of library sciences programs. It may seem logical at the time, but also seems short sighted. There are those who advocate for freedom of speech and intellectual freedom, as well as those who support protectionist views. These are just two sides of the argument. There are also those who advocate for neutrality, and those who argue against it. It is the purpose of this paper to look at all sides of the argument, and show how neutrality in the classic sense is not possible, but is something to strive for in the library profession none the less.

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The first question to be asked is what is meant by neutrality? Neutrality is not a political statement or lack of political statement, as much as it is a willingness to listen. If someone is politically charged and openly presents themselves as such people of other views, who do not agree with a persons convictions will not approach that person(Haennel). As librarians this is a problem, if someone takes a stance only patrons of a matching political view will approach a librarian. How is a librarian suppose to be effective if he or she only serves a portion of society?

Taking a look at the literature that is prominent on the debate of neutrality will show the line of thinking over the past forty years. The argument begins with a paper by David Berninghausen, Antithesis in Librarianship: Social responsibility vs. The Library Bill of Rights written in 1972. He argued that the American Library Association (ALA) was undermining the Library Bill of Rights by trying to take a stance on various political issues. He argues neutrality or non-partisanship was required of librarians to function as professionals and serve all of society, especially intellectual freedom (Berninghausen, 3675). He continues by stating that “[I]t is essential that librarians, in their professional activities, shall view such issues as subordinate to the principal of intellectual freedom, for, unless men have access to all varieties of expression as to the facts, theories and the alternate solutions to these problems, they will be unable to apply their powers of reason toward their resolution”(Berninghausen, 3675). His belief is intellectual freedom is more important than social responsibility, Henry T. Blanke and Robert Hauptman would beg to differ.

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In a 1989 edition of the Library Journal , Henry Blanke wrote & political Values: Neutrality or Commitment?. The paper essentially argues that if librarians want to be considered professionals they must become involved in politics or let corporations and governments fill the void left politically by librarians in action (Blanke, 39- 43). Though this is an anti-thesis to Berninghausen, it also considers inaction as a non political choice. In-action may not be political but what right does a librarian have to become guardians of knowledge. Knowledge should flow freely, and all views, regardless of current thought, should be made available for consideration by the populace, regardless of a librarians political ideas. For example, Machiavelli and Marx both wrote interesting political manifestos. Both are sometimes considers somewhat anti-democratic or irrelevant in our democratic society. If a librarian views democracy as the end all and be all of politics, does he or she burn those books or deny access to this knowledge? No, but if a librarian allows advocacy and politics to rule their profession, as Berninghausen illustrated in 1972, it might well be a problem for librarians. Blanke also uses a scare tactic to argue that if librarians don’t do something they will become irrelevant and lead to the demise of society as we know it. (Blanke, 39-43) This seems extreme, as librarians have been around for centuries and society has not fallen due to the actions or inaction of the library community.

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Robert Hauptman more recently in 1998, made a similar argument against the Berninghausen thesis. He argued that “[T]he danger of confusing censorship with ethical responsibility is too obvious to require further elucidation. To abjure an ethical commitment in favor of anything, is to abjure one’s individual responsibility”(Hauptman, 293). He argues that librarians forsake their duty, and that a librarian has an ethical responsibility as a conveyor of knowledge to safeguard society from potential threats. He also claims that ethical commitment is the end all and be all of librarianship. In his study he went undercover and interviewed over a dozen librarians asking for information on how to build a bomb. All the librarians gave him the information, to his astonishment (Hauptman, 292). Even after opening his argument with “The scholars of librarianship do not concern themselves with ethical problems. At least a survey of the literature indicates only a minimal number of articles or books dealing with ethics of librarians in relation to library users”(Hauptman, 291). So if the literature claims this, why is he surprised when his study confirms the literature? As well in the next paragraph he wrote that the academic community who have written about the topic agree that “personal beliefs must be subservient to the needs of the patron” (Hauptman, 291). It appears that his political ambition to believe that librarians should serve society as informants is shaping his analysis. Instead of taking into account the literature, and the working community, as well as his own brief study, he has chosen to believe that his own political and ethical compass is correct, and not the hard evidence that is presented in front of him.

 

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In the spring of 2013, Thomas Haennel, an M.L.I.S student, wrote a blog for the University of Western Ontario chapter of the Canadian Library Association. In his brief blog post Haennel wrote that political advocacy could very well lead to driving people away rather than the patron seeing librarians as a champion of change. (Haennel) He also argues the progress is subjective, stating that “what one considers progressive others may think is regressive” (Haennel). He goes further and suggests that what is progressive and just now, may not be progressive and just in the future. An example he gives is “had libraries advocated for common societal beliefs a few decades ago, they would have likely been one of the most vocal opponents of same-sex marriage for generations. Therefore many of us in the present would denounce the library for its role in opposing what many Canadians now consider just” (Haennel). This blog makes some interesting points, and shows some of the potential consequences of becoming politically charged.

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Becoming politically charged, makes it difficult for those who do not agree with those ideas to approach librarians for help. By remaining unaligned, and open to all ideas, at least on a professional level, will allow librarians to serve the most people for the greatest good. Though Blanke does point out that “the idea that any enterprise […] can extricate itself from the political culture in which it is embedded is dubious. Often such enterprises that strive for an ideal of neutrality will unconsciously adopt a dominant value orientation” (Blanke, 39). This paper is not without its political slant. Earlier in the paragraph the paper stated that the objective of librarians was to ‘serve the most people for the greatest good.’ This is not a new idea, nor is it a non-political idea. Jeremy Bentham, the founder of utilitarianism, is very well known for such an idea. Even someone advocating against partisanship, cannot escape politics, but can try their hardest to serve the patron and not their own ideals.

Bibliography

Berninghausen, David. ‘Antithesis in Librarianship: Social responsibility vs. The Library Bill of Rights’. Library Journal. Nov 15, 1972.

Blanke, Henry, T. ‘& political Values: Neutrality or Commitment?’ Library Journal. p 39-43. July, 1989

Haennel, Thomas. ‘On Neutrality‘ CLA – UWO blogspot. http://uwo-cla.blogspot.ca/2013/05/on-neutrality-tomas-haennel.html. May, 2013.

Hauptman, Robert. “Professionalism or Culpability? An experiment in Ethics”. https://owl.uwo.ca/access/lessonbuilder/item/14362766/group/3209eae1-af34-4de1-8545-7a9826e76cb7/August%201%20Intellectual%20Freedom%20_%20Social%20Responsibility/Hauptman%201998.pdf 1998.