Airing of (Profession-Related) Grievances during #librarianfestivus [Part 1]

As the first part in a two-part series on the #librarianfestivus debate, this post analyzes many of the views shared during the Festivus holiday celebration of the Airing of Grievances.  In the second part of this installment, commentary on the event itself will be discussed, as well as any new developments on the subject.  Stay tuned!

Most people know about Festivus, the now-popular secular holiday introduced by Seinfeld.  Most people also know that Twitter, as is the case with most social media sites, is often used as a forum for complaining.  Members of the greater library science community recently combined the two, using the hashtag #librarianfestivus to create a virtual “airing of grievances,” as per the holiday’s tradition.  The whole timeline can be viewed below.

Quite a few professionals took to the Twittersphere over the last two weeks of December to address their problems with their profession as well as their colleagues collectively.  Although complaints and gripes are often detrimental, a handful of tweets using the hashtag highlight current issues and trends within the world of library science.

Complaining About Your Job

One of the most striking commonalities in the grievances was that some people seem to dislike their jobs, or even their professional career as a whole.  Both Samantha Hines and Michelle commented on this phenomenon, and Michelle went so far as to assert that plenty of professionals would be willing to take a position currently held by a complainer.

In general, I would agree with both Michelle and Samantha that someone should not work at a job they do not like, if they have any choice or say in the matter.  Unfortunately, neither Samantha nor Michelle explore any of the common problems aired by complaining professionals, which may show trends within librarianship that would be worth addressing.

The Profession of the Future

Even more interesting, in my opinion, was the commentary offered by numerous tweeters on the future of the LIS profession.  In particular, the changing role of libraries and issues with diversity in the LIS profession were especially powerful topics of discussion, and show, similar to the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, what the future of LIS is if changes are not made.

Rebecca Snowman’s comment on the lack of diversity in the LIS profession was quite shocking to me at first.  However, in light of the most recent Placements and Salaries data from Library Journal, Recebba’s comment is not unfounded.

In my experiences regarding the search and application processes for internships, it is surprising that the majority of positions are unpaid.  By my most recent count in my current search, only 5 of the 23 repositories which I have investigated offered some sort of payment or stipend with their internships.  It goes without saying, then, that these institutions seek increasingly more competitive applicants, who are attracted to the rarity of some sort of work remuneration.  Especially for those living far away from major cities for archives (read “major cities on the West and East Coasts”), moving for an unpaid position is often impossible, even under the best financial circumstances.

One of the first images under a Google search for

One of the first images under a Google search for “librarian.”

Another point, and one which extends into many sub-fields of LIS such as archival science and records management, was the judgment of those in non-traditional roles.  The stereotype of the strict, old librarian shushing every talking patron still penetrates society’s view of librarians.  However, as Library Journal asserted in their analysis of “databrarianship,” the LIS profession is in the midst of drastic changes, driven by emerging digital and Web 2.0 technologies.

On this point, I believe that the LIS field will have their current social face redesigned over time, as professionals continue to embrace new forms of social media outreach and as educational institutions of the primary, secondary, and post-secondary levels come to rely more and more on the digital side of librarianship.  In many areas, this shift is more clearly defined than in others, due to differences in funding and educational concentration.  This will be rectified over time, I predict, because of the inevitability of the embrace of digital technologies in classrooms across the nation (That, however, is a discussion for another day).

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