Monday, November 06, 2006

Recruting Minority Librarians, huh?

I came across this article from the San Antonio Express-News for October 25, 2006 entitled "Minority Librarians Needed." Some people out there have made a fuss over this statement from the article:

"'Coming into a library for the very first time can be a daunting experience,' said Keith M. Fiels, executive director of the American Library Association (ALA) out of Chicago. 'If someone looks familiar it certainly creates a more comfortable atmosphere, particularly if foreign language is an issue.'"

It can be a daunting experience to go into any library. In a diverse community, it helps a little if you see a friendly face that looks like you. If you don't embrace diversity because your community is becoming more diverse over time, maybe you should do it out of a sense of compassion for someone who may need a friendly face. Sure, every librarian should be that friendly person who welcomes people and their queries. The color of their skin or the fact they speak a foreign language should not be an issue. But if we can add people who are more reflective of their communities as well to the profession, that should be seen as an asset. Anyhow, don't ask me where I saw the fuss, as I am not giving it a link.

However, what struck me in the article was the last statement from ALA's executive director:

The average starting salary in the nation just barely hit $40,000 this year, according to Fiels. In San Antonio, the entry-level salary is $28,752.

Librarians are being lured to corporate jobs where they can make double their salary, Fiels said.

"It's a tough, competitive market out there," Fiels said. "But I think people who come in to librarianship do it because they want to make the world a better place. So money isn't always an issue."

Hey, Mr. Fiels, you may want to get a clue. True, we go into librarianship for reasons other than money, but it does not mean we want to work at low wages and below our actual value. I will go on and say it: you want to hire good librarians, you have to pay them what they are worth. Sure, there are a lot of intangibles in our profession. In my case, there are some of those intangibles that make the job a bit more rewarding. But after a while, you have got to stop using the excuse of "it's competitive, the corporate world takes them away." How about ALA actually starts working on promoting better salaries instead of trying to lure old librarians back from retirement or other less than great ideas? Nothing against the retirees, but if they are working (and I don't mean the basic volunteering), they should be paid. I don't know about other librarians out there, but after a while I get tired of hearing the recruiters bemoaning they can't get good people because there isn't enough money to compete. I say to libraries out there that if you want good people, you should put your money where your mouth is. Goodwill and altruism on the part of librarians (and other people in education fields) only goes so far. And there's my two cents.

Update note (11/07/2006): For another take, and a well written one at that, The Annoyed Librarian has delivered her point here. Go take a look. Please, try not to sing along.


Lisa said...

Oh for fucks sake. The ALA guy really has no clue how much whether "money is an issue" is a matter of privilege, does he? ::bangs head against wall::

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Lisa: Only thing to say to that. . . *joins in banging head on wall*

Best, and keep on blogging.

Martina said...

I knew there was a shortage of librarians in the San Diego area but I was not aware of the lack of minority librarians around the country. Know that I think of it when I was growing it was rare to see a librarian that spoke Spanish, it was even more rare to see them at schools. Hopefully as time passes

Dan said...

And, as a former public but now corporate librarian who can finally start paying off my years of accrued "altruistic" debt, where does Fiels get off saying that these corporate positions aren't library jobs?? Why do they always push the public/academic side of this when there are other options to use your MLS and STILL be a librarian?

Angel, librarian and educator said...

Martina: We can only hope.

Dan: Now that you mention it, corporate librarianship does not seem an area that is much promoted in library school, and sure as heck not a whole lot, if at all, by ALA. I don't remember seeing a lot about it in my day in L-school, other than classmates who mentioned it was their goal. Glad you can be on your way to pay your "debt." The powers that be know I still have a long way to go on mine.

Best, and keep on blogging.