Money (That’s What I Want)

In a previous post, I mentioned that so many people say they didn’t become a librarian for the money.  And I said that I did.  Because if the institution I’m working at wasn’t paying me, I wouldn’t be working there any more.   And librarianship is more steady and realistic and lucrative than my “dream jobs.”

That post was almost two years ago, when I had just started off as a professional librarian.  At that point, I didn’t want people to keep saying that I wasn’t working “for the money” because I very certainly was and am.

Now, it’s been two years.  I have more years as a working professional “under my belt,” more years as an administrator, and more years as a supervisor.  And I’ve come to realize that yes, librarians themselves tone down the financial aspects of their jobs.  Their institutions, however, seem completely incapable of understanding what library labor looks like – and how such labor should be compensated.

Let’s start with myself.  When looking at early career librarian salaries, many would say I have little to complain about.  And I do complain very little about my salary.  But if one looks at my job duties…well…I’m not making what other people in similar positions are making.  I am the systems librarian, which means I am in charge of the integrated library system (ILS).  The ILS is an enterprise system.  As the manager of the ILS, I am doing work similar to that of an Enterprise Systems Manager.  According to Glassdoor, the average salary of an Enterprise Systems Manager is $94,668 annually (as of October 2017).  I am making nowhere near that salary, more than $25,000 less.

Then, I have staff members who do IT support as well as significant data analysis.  Their duties fall less neatly into a single category, but here are similar positions.  The lowest-paid equivalent position would be IT Support, which Glassdoor notes has a salary of $52,369 annually.  For the data analysis pieces of their jobs, they could either be considered equivalent to a Data Analyst, which on average makes $65,470 annually, or a Business Intelligence Analyst, which makes a whopping $79,613 annually.  Just as I am making significantly less than my IT equivalent, my staff are not making the same as their IT and corporate counterparts.

Now, I am in no way happy that my staff is making so much less than their labor is worth.  But I am in a particular funk about what our institution expects our circulation staff to do, and for how much money.  When I worked circulation at a public library, my $12.00 an hour made sense: I was one of the least trained, with the least amount of responsibility, and I was seasonal (spending the rest of my time out of state at college).  The circulation staff at my current institution are expected to manage the institution’s electronic course reserves (and perhaps to a standard higher than most of our peer institutions do not hold).  The work they do is very much equivalent to what an Electronic Resources Librarian ($63,506/yr) does, with a healthy smattering of legal understanding (a paralegal gets on average $52,351 per year).  Now, our institution keeps salaries locked down, but we all talk – and I am quite sure that they aren’t close to the paralegal salary.

So, what does this rant mean?

  1. Academia’s administrations and HR Departments do not know what library workers do, and use their ignorance to press down wages and salaries.
  2. Academia as a whole does not pay market rate for their employees.  I understand fully that they aren’t (necessarily) money-makers, but academia needs to understand what can be expected of their workforce (and therefore the whole institution) on the money they have.
  3. Librarians and library staff are in the business of information.  Find and share salary information and job descriptions; and then go to your administration and show the equivalencies between your jobs and corporate jobs: “This is the work I’m doing, and this is what it’s worth in the market.”

Amber by Kevin Seeber

First-year Teaching and Learning Librarian at Auraria University in Denver, Colorado (jealous!), Kevin Seeber wrote a blog post on his own professional site about researchers who seem suspended in time – they think their preferred way of researching is the best, and this never seems to change even as libraries and technologies do.  It’s called “Amber” and you should read it.

I am currently implementing a new ILS, as well as sit on committees concerning the potential for a new library.  And I have to say, for both researchers and workflows, that people truly seem suspended in time when all of a sudden you say “Everything is new.”  (I’m sure this is completely normal, but I’m just so involved with the implementation that I kind of blink and them and go “It’s easy.”)  Hopefully, we can Jurassic Park this thing and bring everyone into the present day and how our library technologies work.

Wish me luck!

ALAMW18 Haul: The Poppy War by RF Kuang

Public services librarians get all the fun.  One of those fun things is reader’s advisory.  As an academic technical services librarian, I don’t get to do reader’s advisory.  But I’ve got this blog, so here I will divulge some good reads.

Any ALA Annual or ALA Midwinter, I raid the exhibit hall for ARCs (advanced readers copies).  I get a bunch of free entertainment, and I get to see what’s going on in the publishing world.

Since I’m coming back home with a big haul of books and I have at least one reader devoted to my reader’s advisory, I figure I should start a new series here on my blog.  An ALAMW18 haul series.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang follows an orphan girl Fang Runin, “Rin,” who tests her 35068705way into an elite military academy; and from there begins learning how to be a shaman – even if everyone else thinks that is not a particularly fruitful path of study.  But when war comes to her home, Rin becomes crucial to ending it.

I read this book (544 pages) in just a few days, though it was on my to-be-read-next pile for a while longer than that.  This quick read means that I did enjoy the book.  The first part is excellent – the parts where Rin masters academics.  (Clearly, I am a bit biased towards academia!)  The war part of the story is equally compelling, but as I mentioned, I’m biased towards academia.

The ending, however, was not as satisfying as it could have been.  Genocide is a theme in this book; and it ends with a genocide.  And not a prolonged one but an instantaneous one…which makes the genocide less poignant and more like a shortcut to end a book that got a bit too long.  It’s not exactly a good look.

Would I recommend this book?  Yes.  But I would expect other readers to also find the ending somewhat lacking.

A Certain Omission, Part I

I was mentioning the 5 Laws of Library Science, stipulated by S.R. Ranganathan, for something (I can’t remember what any more) – when I realized I didn’t really know much at all about a theory I was mentioning.  So, I did a quick Wikipedia search of the Laws and their creator.  I ended up reading the entire of Ranganathan’s Wikipedia page and was excited by the idea of faceted classification schema.

Interlibrary loan to the rescue!

srranganathanAnyway, I started delving a bit deeper into Ranganathan, learning a bit more about his theories and biography.  And I began to think about my first exposure to him.  It was in the two 500-level introductory classes in my LIS program.  Both times, the 5 Laws and Ranganathan’s name were projected on a slide and something to the effect of “These are the 5 Laws of Library Science and they were written by Ranganathan – who’s a big deal – and you should know about them” was said.  And nothing more was said of Ranganathan in the rest of my LIS program.

With the help of inter-library loan and other library searching, I came to find out that the 5 Laws weren’t some short blurb thrown out into the world.  There is an entire monograph on them, The Five Laws of Library Science, with explanation, discussion, and theory.  He had “sequels” (of a sort): Colon Classification and Prolegomena to Library Classification.  And Ranganathan wrote other books about library science, dealing with selection, cataloging, communication, and reference service.

If Ranganathan is such a “big deal” – and I’m agreeing that he is – why did none of my LIS courses delve deeper into it?  My program was much more theoretical than many other LIS programs. (Many programs are more practical.)  Uh…so why wasn’t Ranganathan a bigger highlight?

The first thing that comes to mind would be that in a 2-year program, you can’t get to everything.  (Agreed.)  But classes had the time to read and discuss Foucault at length.  The second thing that comes to mind is that Ranganathan’s Colon Classification ystem was never adopted in North America (where I obtained my MLIS degree).  But one of my classes spent 2 weeks on Paul Otlet whose Universal Decimal Classification system; and U.S. libraries never adopted the UDC.

My next ideas are: 1) our department didn’t think the students “capable” or “interested” in such theory (where Foucault and all sorts of other theories were…), OR 2) a certain racism that exists in LIS reared its head.  I do think some of our professors did not want to teach, and probably then decided we weren’t interested enough to engage with Ranganathan.

And I also strongly suspect that my program decided to name drop but not examine Ranganathan in more depth because he was Indian.

There is a certain understanding that one needs to have when reading a theoretician.  Ranganathan came from a non-Western country, and therefore his influences were not all Western.  (He spent enough time in the UK and reading American and British library scientists to have a plenty of Western influence.)  He was a brahmin, versed in Indian religion; the Ramayana influenced him greatly.  He also worked during times of strong nationalist sentiment, and anti-brahmin sentiment.  It was a whirlwind for me to learn about – and I’m sure Ranganathan’s context influenced his work.  But for the arguably most recent/modern Library Science Theorist, I think the MLIS students could have been expected to get more familiar with Ranganathan.

Alas, LIS education in North America tries to slide past non-white, non-Western libraries and librarians.  I’ve gone to so many “book history” classes, talks, etc. that only mention book-making in Europe!  I have to go to a qualified “East Asian book history” class, talk, etc. to get to see Japanese, Chinese, or Korean book history.  Vietnam is squarely avoided.  India is avoided.  South America and its book history might as well not exist.  Any sort of text that is not “written” in the most traditional sense (quipu, winter counts, etc.) vanish from library science courses.

In library science and LIS education, we need to stop omitting so much – in order to become a global and modern profession.


I’m reading S.R. Ranganathan: An Intellectual Biography (1992) by Girja Kumar.  That is were I’m getting much of my information about Ranganathan.

What students should know about ethical scholarship

My institution has weekly “lunch-and-learn” type gatherings for the faculty.  Recently, I attended one of these that was on the topic of ethical scholarship.  Much of the preliminary lecture had to do with what sorts of ethical dilemmas faculty have when conducting research.  The second portion of the lunch-and-learn was a discussion.  One of the questions posed was: what should students know about ethical scholarship?

My colleagues had all sorts of interesting responses.  Students should take responsibility for completing the assignments (this implies they aren’t completing the assignments in a satisfactory manner).  Students should discuss and understand the institution’s IRB policies and procedures.  Et cetera.  All these responses were valid and interesting.

But I was starting to form an idea about how this related to what I have seen in the library.  I couldn’t quite articulate it at the lunch-and-learn, but I want to attempt to articulate it here.

In talking to faculty as well as teaching courses on source evaluation, I have begun to notice that students have a hard time articulating why they choose a specific source.  Many just want to fulfill the professor’s expectations; they don’t care why they chose something so long as the professor approves.  Others will cite the title: “the title suggests it’s about the topic I’m researching.”  If my instruction session is going well, they’ll often start talking about the press or journal that put out the resource they found.  This is okay for a 50-minute instruction session; it’s hard to get everything in during that time.  But I started to connect dots.

I have already realized that my trusted sources are not trusted sources in the grander scheme of things: just because I believe the anthropologists, sociologists, and psychologists who argue in peer reviewed texts that gender is a spectrum and a construct (not a biological attribute), does not mean that anyone else buys it when I use those texts as evidence.  I realized that people who aren’t in academia don’t necessarily buy that scholarly peer-reviewed articles are reputable or authoritative.  Though I think there are many, many, many factors at play, I think one significant reason for this disregard for academic sources is because people do not know how they are created.  People outside academia don’t realize how a scholar spends 6+ years in graduate school studying what they’re writing about.  Then, once they’re out of grad school, they keep studying it; they focus their writing and teaching on it.  And then they write an article, which gets reviewed by other people who have spent the majority of their lives studying and understanding the topic.  Only when the reviewers okay the article does it get published.  These scholarly articles take a whole lot of work and expertise to craft!

And people just don’t know it.

So, I think many of these undergraduates don’t know why they have to use specific types of sources.  Or why these scholarly publications are better than a blog post or a Wikipedia article.

Students knowing and understanding the scholarly communications process might help them understand why their professors want them to use scholarly publications.  If students understood that scholarly communications often requires expertise…and not of just one person.  Scholarly communications has an ethical component: that the articles are backed by expertise and research.

Understanding the scholarly communications process is similar to understanding how an IRB works.  Students can start fitting their research into the ethical frameworks upheld by the institution (e.g. IRB) and the scholarly community at large (e.g. scholarly communication).


So, I’m not sure if I really articulated that well.  But it’s a bit farther along.  Writing helps to test out (essay) thoughts and clarify them.  That’s in part what this blog is for.

Things I Didn’t Go to School For, Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about all the things that people expect me to do that I didn’t go to library school for.  Basically, that post was about things people expect librarians to know about – even when it’s not really all that relevant to library science.  (Like why would a librarian be an expert on copyright law?)  This post is still about the stuff I didn’t learn in grad school.  This time, though, I want to talk about the stuff I really ought to have learned.  I just didn’t, for whatever reason.

So, here comes another list of things I did not go to library school for.

  • Project Management.
    • In all my pre-professional positions, I was doing tasks.  I was inventorying graphic novels, lending DVDs, mending books, making posters (for outreach), cleaning out the defunct card catalog, shelving, running pick lists.  Little did I know that these pre-professional and para-professional tasks aren’t librarianship.
    • In library school, I learned about reference, pedagogy, metadata, digital preservation, architecture, preservation, and advertising.
    • Little did I know, when I started my professional job, that I would be leading projects of every size.  I’m fortunate I’m naturally a planner and am comfortable delegating tasks…because I sure didn’t go to library school for that.  (But I really should have.)
  • Meetings, meetings, meetings.
    • Again, nothing in my pre-professional or library school life quite prepared me for library administration.  Our library staff is so small that all of the faculty librarians are large power players in the administration and decision-making in the library.  And administration requires a ton of meetings.
    • There was a library administration course at grad school…that I didn’t take.  I really wonder if it would have given me some insight into how many meetings and decisions I would have to make.
  • Managing People.
    • Same points as above.
  • Managing Power.
    • Same points as above.
  • Linux, HTML, CSS, PHP, Javascript, Java.
    • If I had gone into grad school knowing I would be a systems librarian, maybe I would have found my way into a few more courses with more web development and more server maintenance.  I didn’t think I would be a systems librarian, however, so I didn’t go to library school for enough of this.
    • Also, though, I doubt that my grad school offered much in the way of Linux system administration, or working with Java or PHP.  (We did have stuff with HTML and CSS as well as Python, instead of Java.  Again, I should have taken those courses…perhaps a bit more seriously.)
  • Cataloging.
    • Thank goodness I took a metadata course because that has helped tremendously.  And thank goodness that I weaseled an hour of training on copy cataloging.
    • Still, I didn’t take the actual cataloging class, focused on MaRC.  I was discouraged from taking it by mentors and by the way the cataloging course was offered.
    • Now that I am always working with knowledgeable and experienced catalogers on all sorts of projects, I wish I had spent more time in grad school learning more about cataloging (and the structure of MaRC records).  I wouldn’t have nearly as steep a learning curve.
  • Original Research-ing.
    • My library school had opportunities for research, but it didn’t make it easily accessible to all students.  And mentorship opportunities for research were few and far between.
    • Now, I am in a faculty position which pushes for me to produce “original research,” I’m finding that’s easier said than done.  My writing (not learned at grad school either) is fine…but finding something no one else has done, all the while doing 40 hours per week of library work, is quite a challenge.  I wish I had gone to library school to help me think up and execute original research.

Things I Didn’t Go to School For

As I librarian, I start to wonder what the rest of the world thinks I do.

Yes, there are the people who say, “Ah, you must like books a lot!”  To whom I say, with a dead look in my eye, “I don’t work with books.  I don’t even touch books.”  There are others who marvel that I need a Masters degree to “help people find books.”  Others swear I must really like the quiet, and that I will like to shush people.

Those comments come from only understanding media-presented stereotypes about librarians.  We’re just (matronly) ladies (because men aren’t librarians) that sit around with books.  At most, many people only sometimes go through the public library and see someone sitting at a desk.  (At the public library I worked, it wasn’t even librarians at those desks but clerks.)  The “book-loving” and “shushing” stereotype comes from people with perhaps the shallowest knowledge of libraries.

And then there are people who I swear should know a bit more about libraries.  Namely, academic faculty, staff, and students.  These constituents are around the libraries all the time (particularly the faculty) and yet I have many a time marveled at their requests for the libraries.  Many times, I sit with the question (most often in email format) and wonder what my colleagues think I went to grad school for.

So, what are things I didn’t go to school for?

  • Extensive and authoritative knowledge of citation style and format.
    • First, I come from a generation who simply uses citation generators to create my citations, rather than knowing how to do it.
    • And where in “library and information science” does it suggest that we study APA, MLA, Chicago/Turabian, AMA, ASA, etc. citation styles?  These are scholarly publication/communication schematics.  So…maybe ask someone who works for those style guide creators.
    • Does anyone else in academia spend their time memorizing style guides?  Why would your colleagues in another department do it?
  • Knowledge of citation management software.  (I think this is somewhat related to the above.)
    • I know that oftentimes libraries will subscribe to citation management software.  Probably because everyone expects us to.  And we are one of the few departments actually considering how difficult it is to create and manage all these resources.
    • But librarians have integrated library systems (ILS) and a variety of other databases to organize information.  We don’t have any real desire to organize one individual’s collection of resources that they found pertinent.  (Unless we’re in an archive, but that still would have nothing to do with citation management software.)
    • I definitely did not go to school to learn how to “demonstrate” Mendeley, Refworks, Zotero, etc.  I did not go to school to even know how the things work.  So, when I am asked to give an instruction session on it, I don’t really know if I am all that knowledgeable about the topic.
  • Copyright law.
    • Librarians have to deal with copyright law all the time – from buying or licensing resources to digitizing for preservation or accessibility to circulating materials.  So, our work is very much influenced by the law.
    • No matter that our work is influenced by copyright law, we are not copyright lawyers.  And yet librarians get asked all the time to clarify what violates copyright, etc.  I oftentimes want to say, “Ask a JD.”
  • Teaching databases.
    • This is probably the closest one on the list to something I ought to have learned at library school.  Some library school classes go over database construction and whatnot.  And many of us would prefer less dreadful course topics.  But I have some training in databases.
    • Still, teaching databases is not something I went to school for.  I learned about acquiring databases and managing electronic resources in school.  And I took a pedagogy course, with a focus on information literacy standards (like the ACRL Framework).  But never did the pedagogy and databases meet.  So, asking me to teach databases is a little odd.  I didn’t go to school for that.

Link: “Fear of the End of Reference”

Normally, I prefer to write my own content for my site.  But I came across John Hubbard’s blog post “Fear of the End of Reference” and knew I had to share it.

In Hubbard’s piece, he discusses how librarians (and patrons and faculty and a slew of other stakeholders) cling firmly to outdated information-seeking practices.  Like the professor who requires (physical) print sources when more and more and more information is electronic.  Or a patron who refuses to learn the new discovery interface.  Or the slew of librarians who would prefer to search in individual databases, rather than the more comprehensive vendor-provided search tool – which all the students use.

I loved reading this piece, so my advice is go and read it here.

Pesky Interview Questions

Interviewing for a job is, at the very least, weird. It’s like dating but professional instead of romantic. You meet people with very different expectations that you; and you hear some very strange things. You might even say some of those weird things as nerves and sheer exhaustion addle your brain.

Some of those weird things are questions (and the answers).

I remember a Skype interview I was on where one of the interviewers asked me, “Do you consider yourself a team player?” There was only one way to answer that particular question. Yes. My one word answer elicited an awkward pause, before the interviewer asked me to elaborate (which I did).

Like the question I was posed, people get strange or strangely worded questions posed to them.

One that I see popping up time and again in interviewing advice is some variation of: “What is your greatest weakness?” On forums and in blog posts (including this one), people puzzle out how to answer this question.

I have decided that this question and others like it are non-questions. People ask them to put you on the spot. And you quickly find that any answer you give 1) sounds dumb or 2) doesn’t really fully answer the question. I’ve decided: THAT’S OKAY. In your interview, you do not want to lie or falsely represent yourself, but you’re also showing your best side. You do not need to self-sabotage.

Plus, it would take a very introspective and perceptive individual to truly know the answers to some of these questions.

So, here are how to respond to these pesky non-questions.

  • “What is your greatest weakness?”
    “I am very hardworking and sometimes it’s exhausting to put so much effort into your work. But I always get the job done – with time to take care of myself and my apartment too.”
  • “What will be your biggest challenge in this position?”
    “[Something entirely innocuous.]”
  • “Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a supervisor, and how you resolved the issue.”
    “I can’t recall a time I had a conflict with your supervisor.”
  • “Tell us about a time you had a conflict with a coworker. How did you handle that situation?”
    “I don’t think I’ve ever had a conflict with a coworker.”