I am Not A Librarian, which I often make a point of saying for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that I don’t want to be a librarian: I like working in libraries, but I like the archival approach; I like unique materials; I care a lot about context; I did not require graduate school training to embrace “it depends” as the correct answer to almost any given question. The second reason is that I’m not a librarian: a library degree involves specific training, theory, etc. which I have not studied and therefore do not wish to lay claim to.1 If we’re all calling ourselves professionals, let’s be consistent about the terms we’re using.2
So: I am Not A Librarian, but I am still a GLAM person, and based on the biographical details wafting through my Twitter feed I am super-stoked about the President nominating Carla Hayden as the next Librarian of Congress. First: librarian! While there are certainly times where a non-professional managing professionals can be fine, it is pretty much never going to be a bad idea if someone in the upper echelons has actual professional experience in the field. Second: diversity!3 Like other pink-color fields, librarianship starts purpling at higher ranks and pay grades, so a woman in a leadership role is refreshing. A woman of color just multiplies that to the tune of a few hundred years of institutional racism. Third: diversity! Random awesome people are constantly singing the praises of public libraries. But, like most other institutions geared toward promoting the public good, they get the short end of the stick. Placing someone from public libraries in such a prominent role would be terrific. (A children’s librarian, no less! The lowest rungs of the professional ladder don’t get any pinker than that.) Fourth: I’m not up on Who’s Who in Librarianship, but I’m impressed by the specific Hayden tidbits I know, like opposition to the Patriot Act and keeping Enoch Pratt open during the protests following Freddie Gray’s death.
This is not the nomination that will claim lots of headlines. But it’s a nomination that’s lighting up my Twitter feed, for good reason.
- There are, of course, a couple other reasons why I am Not A Librarian and/or make a point of saying so. It can be fun to joke about wars between archivists and librarians, or the obvious inferiority of the other group. On a pragmatic level—there’s that archival theory shining through—I looked at the cost of a library degree versus the cost of a history degree, and even without factoring in personal preference there was a pretty good incentive to stop looking at library schools, particularly since there were a range of library jobs that simply didn’t interest me and since I was aware of much of the debate about the value (pedagogical and otherwise) of library programs. And there was also the fact that I didn’t want to go on the job market as yet another white female librarian approaching middle age, though one could probably argue that subbing archivist for librarian in that equation is not a sure-fire way to improve my career prospects. ↩
- The professionalization ship sailed in the nineteenth century and we’re all on it. Working out specific degree requirements, certifications, and job listing bullet points is just whittering at the margins. ↩
- And yes, I am aware that “diversity” is a term which is, at best, loaded and, at worst, an actual tool of oppression. I’m not quite ready to give up on the word because I think there is some utility to be wrung from it, but it definitely warrants the interrogation it receives. ↩