I am looking forward to attending my first Illinois Library Association Conference!
My Response to ALA Annual 2011: Panel Calls on ALA To Do More To Promote Diversity: Diversity is a huge issue, and we may always need to address it. My personal experience with librarianship has been positive. My race or cultural differences have never stopped my colleagues from embracing me. It has never prevented my supervisors from mentoring, and supporting my library career. I went from an even less diverse field into librarianship. We have a lot of work to do, but we are much farther than other professions. Yes, give scholarships, but when I sat in the classroom last year I was often the only minority student. We need to recruit minorities. I think the issue is teaching minority youth that librarianship is an option. It is not just sitting at the reference desk at your local public library. We work in the corporate sector, federal government, colleges, and universities just to name a few. Some of us are entrepreneurs providing a variety of services. We speak to each other, librarian to librarian, but we need to reach farther. Talk to the minority youth around you and let them know how cool it is to be a librarian.
Last week, a student came to me looking for an article in the New York Times. He needed to use the microfilm. I told him to look at the index and identify the reels he needed. Then, when he found the reels he should come back to me, and I will show him how to load the microfilm reader. Maybe 20 minutes or so went by, and I went to check on the student. He was gone!
Yesterday, he returned to the library. I asked him a series of questions. He said yes to everything I asked him. He was ready to use the reels. He picked the reel, and I helped him load the microfilm reader. I was having some technical problems so I enlisted some help from my kind colleagues. Turns out he never looked at the index, and used Wikipedia. I asked him if he used the index, and he said he did not know he needed to use it. It was amazing. A few people told me I was an “authority figure” and he did not want to tell me he needed help. This left me baffled. You come to a librarian for help. Why not tell me you did not do something or you do not understand? I work very hard at being approachable. He came back a few hours later looking for something else. I learned a little bit about him, and asked my questions differently. Image from: http://www.microfiche-microfilm-scanning.co.uk/microfiche-reader.html
Last Monday, I heard on the radio Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’ presentation on the house floor of how the iPad was eliminating paper related jobs. When he said, “…librarians and all the jobs associated with paper…Well, in not too distant future such jobs will not exist.” (“Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. Says Apple’s iPad Kills American Jobs,” http://tinyurl.com/44uukrv) I said, “What!” People really have no idea what librarians do, and the skills associated with librarianship. A lot of us provide services completely online. We use databases, e-books, and other electronic resources to do research and reference. We change along with technology. If books were no longer available in print we would focus on making them available electronically. Something many librarians are already working on. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. probably just remembers the librarians that helped him when he was a college student.
Several of the skills we have can be applied to other industries and businesses. Librarians work in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. The stereotypical librarian sitting at the reference and standing in the stacks re-shelving books does not apply to all of us. I love the diversity in librarianship, and the creative ways so many librarians use their skills. How do we let lawmakers and those outside the library world know what we do? This is a question we will continue to answer. Image from: http://librarianlistsandletters.blogspot.com/
I have applied for 65-70 jobs at academic, public, and special libraries. I have applied to work at for-profit schools, too. Half of my job interviews have been with for-profit schools like Kaplan University.
It took me some time to warm up to the idea of applying to for-profit schools. They get so much bad press, and you never hear the success stories. I recently watched Frontline’s College, Inc., which does not depict a rosy picture. I personally do not know anyone who has attended a for-profit school. So, I am really relying on what I hear about these schools, and what turns up in my research. I read several comments and postings on blogs from students at for-profit colleges discussing their experiences. I decided the students were having the same experiences as students at public and private universities.
Tuition increases, struggling to pay for school, taking out$100,000 in student loans, struggling to find a job in their chosen field after graduation, and changes in curriculum and requirements in their field. I think higher education is too expensive all around whether you go to a for-profit, private, or public institution. Honestly, when I was a college student some of the people I went to school with were not prepared. They chose to go to a private institution, and did not know how to write a basic essay. Enrolling more students, and making more money is a goal for almost every institution of higher learning.
I think some student grievances with for-profit schools might be valid. For example, getting stuck with loans they did not want, or nursing students suing over lack of accreditation. There was a similar case at Virginia Western Community College. I saw a television special where nursing graduates from a for-profit school never stepped foot in a hospital. Of course, I do not know what was on their mind not questioning why they never went to a hospital as part as part of their training.
Despite all the bad press there are librarians out there that need jobs. You get to a point where you stop being choosy, and need to pay your bills. If you are really willing you can have an impact on students. This goes for all institutions of higher learning. I believe helping students find authoritative information, providing them with the skills to do ethical research, and teaching them to do research on their own is the most important part of my job. Image from: lakelandlocal.com
Yesterday, a student that attended my research workshop insisted I come see her. She offered me coffee and treats on my next visit to the cafeteria. I know the students are relieved to get help. Especially, when I clarify an assignment and they begin to understand how to do research. I like to help them. I don’t know if they realize I get paid too. I have received thank you cards, email, and letters. I wonder if any other librarians have experienced their patrons offering them free services or goods. Image from: http://barterintheboro.com/tag/barter/
This is the first time in years that I have worked with tattle taped books. The textbooks we get from the bookstore cannot leave the library. The sensors go off, and I run over to search the person’s belongings. Of course, some people try to run downstairs to the open computer lab with the textbooks. I ran after one student, but I lost him somewhere on the first floor. A few hours later he returned to the library. The second time I ran after a student down the steps to the open computer lab. I made him come back upstairs to the library. Not only am a librarian, but I am also security.
On Monday, a student came to the reference desk 30 minutes before his class started. He needed information about scorpions. I asked the following questions:
“What class is this for?”
“Is there a scorpion in that container?”
He said the class was Speech, and his mother’s scorpion was in the container. Of course, this led to other librarians and staff getting involved. Everyone wanted to see the scorpion. He explained there were two additional scorpions at home. I looked in the stacks, and my colleague searched Gale Virtual Reference Library. I came back with nothing, but he was happy to see the information in the database. In the end, he got the information he needed and sped off to a computer to create his PowerPoint slides. Librarian’s to the rescue again!
Image from: http://picsicio.us/keyword/scorpions%20killer/