Index Librorum Prohibitorum

It’s Banned Books Week here in the United States. So we librarians across the country are doing cool outreach activities with challenged books. It’s always fun, too, to see what books have been banned or challenged in the past year. (Why is it always a Sherman Alexie book?)

In celebration of Banned Books Week, I’m going to debrief on one of the most prominent lists of banned books in the West – the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

Back in the 9th century, the Catholic Church developed the Decretem Glasianum, which was a list of literature that “good” Catholics should not read.  The Decretem Glasianum was never authorized though.  In 1559, the Pauline Index officially started banning books. There were 20 editions from 1559 to 1948.  But it wasn’t until 1966 that Pope Paul VI abolished the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

The Index was meant to protect the faithful from heretical and immoral texts.  Still, canon law recommends that local ordinaries okay books, though no books are prohibited in the generalized and sweeping manner as when the Index Librorum Prohibitorum existed.

It’s kind of cool to look at what got banned.  Most recently, it was Simone de Beauvoir. I see a few more “favorites” on the list too – Jean-Paul Satre, Emile Zola, Gustave Flaubert, Voltaire (doesn’t surprise me a whit), and John Milton.

The Index is a cool historical artifact, that I geek out over every time Banned Books Week comes around.  For example, look at this title page!

Index Librorum Prohibitorum
By Papal printing – “Panorama de la Renaissance” Margaret Aston, Public Domain.
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Make Work, Not Love

The National Labor Relations Board ruled that graduate students at private universities are employees, just last month.  Now, graduate students – teaching assistants, research assistants, graduate assistants, etc. – have the ability to collectively bargain with their institutions.  The NLRB recognized higher education institutions as a place of labor.  Sara Matthiesen, writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education, notes that this idea of universities as workplaces is rare in most discourses.  Higher education is often seen as a “labor of love,” and not just plain old labor.

I’m in academia, as a librarian-professor; and I must say that I hear the “labor of love” statement all the time.  Librarians are notorious for saying “You don’t become a librarian for the money.”

Every time I hear this, though, I want to say, But I did.

If I didn’t care about money, if I didn’t care about job security, if I didn’t care about (relative) career stability, if I didn’t care about healthcare and dental, if I didn’t care about a career that would support having a car and a nice apartment and a horse – then why the hell would I be working in a library?  Why the hell would I be working anywhere? If I didn’t care about those things, well, life might be a lot simpler – and I would take way more naps than I do currently.

The most recent time a fellow librarian said “You don’t become a librarian for the money,” I said:

“I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t paying me.”

And though I did not say it, I fully endorse saying “I wouldn’t be here if they weren’t paying me enough.

I love academia.  I love researching.  I love having access to all sorts of information, that my institution is paying for (not me).  I like the free gym membership.  I love knowing my colleagues are working on highly intellectual endeavors.  I love working with students (particularly undergraduates) as they stretch their fledgling intellectual wings and try to find themselves and scholarly resources.

But just because I love (or like) many aspects of my job doesn’t mean it’s not a job.  Just because I like my job doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be compensated fairly.  It’s nearly ridiculous to think that liking or disliking your job should affect your pay.  Do you pay someone more because they hate their job?  No.  If that was so, we should just find a cohort of really nasty and poor academics – then academia will pay better. (See, ridiculous.)  Whether or not we like our job should not be the criteria for how much we get paid.

(I’ve found put that even if the IT people like their jobs, a bigger pot of money can pretty easily lure them away.)

So, when someone tells you “You don’t become a librarian (a professor, an academic, etc) for the money,” perhaps think about telling them that since you are working, since you have a job – you are a librarian (or whatever) because it pays you.  Don’t let people devalue your career because it might be fun.

For today, I say make work, not love.

Dual Careers

Job-hunting in academia is tough. Perhaps, job-hunting in general is tough.  When you have a partner and they need a job too, things get even more complicated.

Both myself and my partner graduated from university at the same time, in different fields. I had already secured employment in a rural area, so I packed up and moved.  My partner, still searching, followed after me.

As people in the community started welcoming me – inviting me to what felt like hundreds of potlucks and barbecues – I realized quite the pattern.  The community surrounding the university was filled with tag-along spouses.  What I noticed almost immediately was most tag-along spouses were husbands. Yes, there were definitely tag-along wives, but the majority of the couples I met were PhD women with a self-employed or telecommuting male partner. (Strangely, I did not meet many homosexual couples – or any polyamorous people – early on.)

The town seemed like a pocket of highly educated women, with their supportive families.

(Whether or not this was actually the case is the topic for another blog post.)

While I am glad my male, female, and non-binary colleagues have the opportunity for advancement and a fulfilling career, I wonder about those tag-along spouses.  I am grateful for my partner’s companionship while I’m pursuing my career – as I’m sure all my colleagues are.

But I cannot say that I would be happy if the circumstances were reversed: I want a job that I like, and I enjoy being at the library (it’s just so quick and convenient to pop over to another office and ask a question).  I wouldn’t know until I was in that situation – but I don’t know if I would want to telecommute, and self-employment is not the traditional track that librarians take.  So, I understand that relegating our partners to self-employment or telecommuting or being househusbands/housewives might not be ideal.

From reading Inside Higher Ed, I found that many women seem to think the same way.  Researchers Julie Kmec and Hong Zhang from Washington State University conducted a study which found that female academics sought job offers that offered opportunities for their spouses. Basically, female academics prefer job offers where their spouses are also offered employment by the university.  (Male academics seem to find dual employment less crucial.)

Considering dual careers looks like an opportunity for universities and colleges to attract talent – especially talented women.