Friday, March 7, 2008

Dumbing down?

I'm probably the last blogger around to comment on John Berry's Feb. 15 Library Journal column "The Vanishing Librarians", but it's become timely because of this week's controversies here in Wisconsin about staffing changes at the Marathon County Public Library and in a job opening at the Mequon/Thiensville Public Library.

In the case of Marathon County, four professional positions were recently reclassified/demoted with a $10,000 annual salary reduction.

Berry writes:
It looks like the “transformation” we seek for libraries and librarianship may turn out to be more of a “deskilling” of library jobs than an enhancement of the profession. More and more working librarians are “managed” by a new breed of library leader. Their model for the new public library is that dehumanized supermarket or the chaotic disorganization of the largest Barnes & Noble.
While the Marathon County Library Board President says:

the reduced amount of work requiring a master's degree is a direct result of increased electronic access to information they previously provided. ... This seems to be a trend based on increasing access to the Internet. This movement is taking place all over the country, causing many libraries to re-examine and restructure how information services are being provided by library staff.
Which would have been more palatable had she not tarred us all with the same Internet brush: Marathon County may have seen a significant drop in the number and complexity of reference questions, but not all of us have. Had she only said: "the money was gone and we had to make difficult choices", there would be more sympathy.

For my part, I consider this to be completely separate question from the value of the MLS degree. There are people at all levels, with and without degrees, in libraries large and small, doing good professional work. But we are increasingly challenged to demonstrate the value of that work to decision makers.

The Annoyed Librarian has posted about this in some detail. For my part, I don't know feel I enough about Marathon County to join the new Facebook group: Marathon County Public Libraries Demotion of Librarians Stinks OH SO BAD!, but I understand where they're coming from.

In the case of Mequon/Thiensville, state librarians and library educators are warning that in a high income community, the librarian salary is well below standards that are several years old. Clearly another case where library professionalism is under-valued.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

She couldn't say that the money was gone because Marathon County public Library received its budget for the year. And reference questions and their complexity have not decreased. From what I understand these are remarks from a director with a hidden agenda and one who does not speak to her staff!