Thursday, June 28, 2012

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

You may have noticed (or may not have noticed) a recent kerfluffle in the book blogging world regarding ALA and the distribution of ARCs.  This post is not in any way, shape, or form about that issue.  I am unconcerned with who got what ARCs.  In fact, I avoid any public arena (professional or trade or even just interest-driven) where free things are to be given out because I think most people (regardless of job title or media designation) act like complete children when free things are available.

I, for one, have zero interest in cramming into a giant arena and wrestling with other adults for something that I could go online and buy and have delivered to my front door (or to my Nook) for a (relatively) very low price.  I don't like ARC-whores and I don't like the fuss about any of it, as I've already posted (feel free to check it out).  So I don't really care about who posted a ridiculous video or which librarians are greedy grabbers.  Let's go ahead and assume they are, ok?  I am also not addressing anything that happened at ALA because, obviously, I didn't go to ALA (again with the avoidance of swarms of people fighting over cheap free stuff).

But I did read the responses that have flooded the internet in the past few days.  And I got really annoyed by some of the responses.  I can agree with book bloggers that librarians were probably also greedy grabbers.  And I can agree with book bloggers that maybe some of the librarians wanted books to read for their personal pleasure and not for jobs and maybe they are even jealous of book bloggers who came home with huge hauls.  All of those things may be true.

But I have to say that I saw many book blogger responses that I think reflect very negatively on the book blogging community.  Those responses all had one thing in common: they diminished the importance and difficulty of librarianship as a profession.  On this site, I am primarily a blogger.  I rarely refer to my job as a librarian because I'm like every other sensible person who knows better than to discuss his or her employer and profession on the internet.  I don't want to disclose those things because I like being a librarian and I want to keep being a librarian and what you say about your profession can come back to haunt you should you ever be on the lookout for a job.  But for what it's worth, I identify as both book blogger and professional librarian.

And the comments I saw today really stung.  What I'd like to ask book bloggers is this: would you approach a PR executive, a senior editor, or a literature professor and say "my job as a book blogger is the same as your job because we both tell people to like books"?  Because somehow I doubt any sane book blogger would do that.  For one thing, book blogging, for most is not a job.  It's a hobby.  PR execs, editors, and professors are pursuing a career.  They do what they do on a daily basis to make money and to excel in their chosen field of employment.  Those professions are also recognized by most book bloggers are specialized fields that require lots of experience, hard work, long hours, a specialized education, and a lifelong dedication.  Those are not things required of bloggers (although I suppose hard work and long hours could be argued).

Librarians deal with a huge lack of respect from pretty much every angle.  The general public does not know what goes into being a librarian and running a library.  So if you work in a public library, you are seen by the general public as being a glorified cashier.  If you work in an academic library, you are often seen by faculty members and students as some kind of secretary.  You don't get a lot of recognition from most people for being highly educated and for doing a very specialized job that requires a lot of experience and technical skill.

Book bloggers should be the exception to this rule.  After all, we take time to learn how to deal courteously and professionally with publishers, publicists, authors, and all the other people giving us stuff furthering a love of literature among the uneducated masses.  Book bloggers also need to learn how to deal courteously with librarians.  Again, this is not in regard to who grabs what ARCs.  This is in regards to respecting that librarians aren't just hobbyists who hang out in the library enough to learn the Dewey Decimal System.  And I haven't seen that from bloggers today.

I'll close with one last analogy for how the "we all just love books, right?" comments make me feel.  At my job, I have (until last month) been the only library staff member.  I do it all.  So when I'm covering the reference desk, monitoring student activity on computers, planning a major student programming event, preparing for an evening information literacy class, and contemplating a particularly difficult cataloging task, I find it extremely discouraging for a student or member of the non-academic administration to walk in and say "Wow, it must be nice to have a job where you can just read all day."

And that is the level of respect that I think some book bloggers are currently giving librarians - "It must be nice to have a job where you get paid to go to conferences and get free books and sit around reading all day".


13 comments:

  1. YES YES YES!!!! As a future MLS student and a current library intern, I understand what you mean! My boss is an AWESOME librarian who can walk circles around anything related to patents, and the scientists she researches for reeeally don't get it. It's really *frickin* annoying to have some chemist walk in and say, "so, where are the smutty novels?" when you work hard to provide them with the resources needed to make the company run smoothly.

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    1. From what I have seen and read, this is a huge problem in librarianship. It's really discouraging when librarians are providing such necessary services.

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  2. This is a great post Julie! I haven't followed anything from ALA, but honestly, I think most big events like that are more for the free stuff than anything (same for BlogHer). But I don't understand why bloggers would think they are more important that librarians. That's baffling.

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    1. And it's not that I think librarians are "more important" than bloggers either. It's not an issue of who is more important but of recognizing a profession for what it is, not just assuming that because you like books, you know how a library works and what goes into running one.

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  3. Amen with those that use internet to positive negative opinions about their employer or colleagues. I'm a HR Specialist and we fire staff for inappropriate behaviour that can be proven.

    I think it is an entitlement issue, some will always be like that unfortunately but to feel like they are a professional in the same category of a librarian, publishers etc, wow.

    I stay away from negative posts, I advise on bad behaviour in my career, don't need it online.

    I wonder what our Physicians think of our Librarians, omg, I couldn't imagine them making comments like that.

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  4. I'm glad to read this post. I didn't actually know about the ARC drama at ALA... I follow significantly less blogs than in the past so I fortunately miss out on a lot of the drama. I get really frustrated at the way book bloggers act. And I wish there was actually more information out there about what all librarians do because I, personally, know very little and have wondered about it. But the lack of information out there is still no excuse to be ignorant! And that's one of the things that I feel I can usually depend on in readers is not to be ignorant about things. I would love to read a blog about behind the scenes as a librarian... ;)

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    1. Jenny - there are some AMAZING library blogs around that do just that! I'll have to do a roundup post in the next week or so to feature some of them. One that immediately comes to mind is Super Librarian (http://www.superlibrarianblog.com). She's a YA librarian who frequently posts about what goes into running a YA department.

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  5. Ugh, I hadn't heard about the drama at ALA and I'm glad for that. Librarians do an amazing job for very little recognition, which is just really, really sad to me. They provide an amazing service!

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    1. Thanks Meg! I hope this will open up doors for more people to understand what librarians do as well.

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  6. Nice post. I've seen a few posts on ALA and lack of professionalism and common courtesy. I have not gone to ALA or any place where ARCS are being handed out. I don't want to feel diminished by who I am by being lumped with those with bad manners.

    I am a mother. I am a book blogger. I am a school counselor. I am a neighbor. I am a family member. I can not separate myself from these distinctions. Last week I went to a high school graduation for my adopted nephew. The graduation was also for the school where I work. After the ceremony, I walked into the hordes of people outside, crushing each other and made a beeline for my family. Inadvertently, I had walked between a camera and a posed graduate. The grandmother screamed at me. She was livid. My knee jerk reaction was to point to a grassy knoll and suggest they pose over there where the crowds were thinner. Say something snarky and insulting that the world does not revolve around her. Eye for an eye and all that stuff. I stopped myself because I am representing more than just myself. I am representing my school, my profession, my family, and community. Also, my actions are not controlled by others' poor manners. Just because I was treated with indignity does not justify my doing the same.

    Bravo to you and your pride in your work and ethical character. "Free Stuff" comes with a price. I'd hate to think the price is integrity.

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    1. I think "Knee jerk reaction" sums up a lot of the controversy that goes on online. I totally know how you feel about the difficulty with treating people with dignity when they aren't treating you that way. It's a hard balance to find.

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