Why Do I Have To Be A Manager?

I was nominated for an award through my organization for excellence in librarianship; I didn’t win, and the person who did is a motivated and inspirational woman very excited about her work. Being good at what I do, however, isn’t enough for my administrators. They keep pushing me to become management, something I don’t want to do.

The raise for stepping up is only $200 extra a month. Yeah. Big bucks, there. It’s not enough to tempt me into a management position–even if I wanted one, which I don’t. There’s a couple of reasons for this.

Reason 1: I have a Library and Information Science degree. I don’t mind working as a librarian (though the aspects of my system have made that a slog through hell most of the time). I value helping people find information and teach information literacy. I value providing materials, computers, wifi, to individuals who may not have access to them on their own. It’s really too bad that what librarian’s are supposed to do is not what I end up actually doing in my job (programming is not librarianship).

Reason 2: I spoke recently to a manager who said it was the worst mistake she had ever made. She is not the only person I’ve spoken to with the same sentiment. Our system is unforgiving when it comes to petty grievances, mistakes, you name it. Managers get the brunt of the payback for complaints and whatnot and are expected to transfer the same to their workers. It makes for very hostile work environments where trust is an expensive luxury that usually ends up biting the hand that felt it. Trust tends to lead to disciplinary action.

Reason 3: Harassment and abuse. When upper management decides to go for the throat, they expect the on-site manager to be their first line of punishment, whether that manager agrees with their assessment or not. It’s hard to punish someone you work with when they haven’t done anything wrong, but an administrator has decided they don’t like said person so they are intent on hounding them out of the system. If you refuse to carry out the punishment, you get in trouble for not doing your job. You carry out the punishment, you lose all respect of those under you because they see you as upholding the unfair biases of administrators.

Reason 4: A personal tale that illustrates how my system works. A racism complaint was lodged against a co-worker by a customer, and administrators saw this as an opportunity to take down said co-worker (active in union? Down you go!). There was an HR investigation, and the investigator decided to speak to every employee at our library, whether they were involved in said incident or not. I sat down for this interview, and the first thing that popped out of her mouth was, “You’re in big trouble.”

What?

Apparently the complaint said someone with strawberry-blonde hair did something offensive. I don’t have strawberry-blonde hair–it’s red. But close enough, I guess. So the interviewer went on and on about me getting punished for this offense that she refused to specify before she even asked me a question. When she did get around to asking me what I knew of the events that led to the complaint, I told her that I was scheduled off on the days in question. I was not present, so there was no way I could answer the question. She stared at me, realizing that her “big catch” had just slipped through her fingers. She had no idea what to do, and half-heartedly asked me about co-worker’s character before telling me I could go. Apparently she did not find out until interviewing others who actually worked that day that said customer had threatened to kill our co-worker, and a security report had been filled out because of it, putting the customer’s complaint in a very different light. How nice.

That is how my system works. No effort is made to find out what truly happened in any matter. Assumptions are made and those are acted upon, whether true or not. No effort is made to actually seek the truth. Punishment is dished out based on those assumptions, not what actually happened. Many times punishment is simply petty revenge, but it all coalesces into a work environment that is hostile and unforgiving–and local managers are required to carry out most of the punishments even if those punishments are chosen and instituted by other administrators.

Funny, I keep telling myself that this work environment is a product of a head librarian who saw punishment as the obvious way to keep workers in line. I keep telling myself that other library systems are different, that the soul-crushing micro-management with harassment and punishment as incentives to keep your head down and mouth shut is unique. I just can’t actually convince myself of that.

So why would I want to be a manager in this system? I don’t. Of course, I was told that my not wanting to be a manager is not a good enough reason to not get promoted. I have to come up with a better argument. And yes, my system does tend to move librarians around, against their will, to other libraries, filling positions that administrators have decided need to be filled by that particular person. Something to look forward to.

Yep, Nominated for an Award…

It’s strange. but yesterday I found out I have been nominated for an award given out by my employer. Yes, it’s an honor, but I don’t feel very honored.

I hate my job. A lot. I work hard at it despite this, but I still hate what I do. It’s unchallenging, it’s mind-numbing, and the degree I spent two years getting is unused.

I have a masters in library and information science. I thought that librarianship would be more of an intellectual pursuit than it’s turned out to be. Yes, you help the public find the information they need, but there are articles to be written, conferences to attend, talks to give…oh, wait. Not for librarians employed in my system.

We cannot write articles without them being vetted by upper admins–and even attempting to do so ends up in disciplinary action because those upper admins are afraid of their peons embarrassing them in writing. Conferences are for upper management, and even if you say you wish to attend on your own time, library needs come first and your time off is not approved (and they fear you might want reimbursement for the conference). We cannot give talks outside the local system without upper management approval, so those never happen (this came to a head when a local manager unwittingly thought to inform upper management that he was giving a talk at a state conference with other committee members he served with . They threw a fit, told him he could not attend the conference, then said he could but demoted him and moved him to another library site as punishment for daring to give a talk. Afterwards the email went out–no talks).

We cannot attend workshops or professional development classes unless they are specifically approved by upper management. Again, the powers that be say they don’t want to have to pay for those workshops or classes after the fact. They don’t want us to be members of any library committee, whether it is a state or national one, because they don’t want to have to pay for us to go to conferences to attend meetings. If you want to participate in professional development, you have to keep it as hush-hush as possible and hope that management personnel won’t notice your name on a class or committee list.

We’ve been told that any reference question that will take more than 5 minutes needs to be sent to a central reference service, and to tell the customer they’ll be contacted in a day or two with the answer. I guess I should be thankful that customers asking to use the restroom won’t have to wait 2 days to be informed where it’s at. Another typical librarian task, ordering books, is also done centrally. Collection development becomes a joke when you’re told that you can weed but you can’t purchase any books to fill out thin sections in need of a good influx of books.

We cannot create our own promotional materials from scratch.  We have templates, and if there is no template for, say, a newsletter, then we cannot make a newsletter. These templates are used in every library in the system, which yes, makes for a uniform look (branding, you know), but also makes each and every poster and flyer absolutely dull and uninspiring. You aren’t going to attract much attention to an event if the current event poster looks exactly like the previous event poster, just with a different picture in the same frame. People glance at it and assume it’s one and the same as before, and never seem to take time to read the description beneath.

We cannot create programs at our libraries without admin approval. That’s right, we cannot book a magician without asking upper management first. I have a master’s degree and I am not qualified to decide whether my customers want to see a magician or not.

I think about what my system requires from us (there’s so much more wrong than I’ve listed here), and I realize that the reason I was nominated for this award was not because I work hard despite limitation, but because I keep my head down and don’t cause problems. I don’t speak up. I don’t disagree, I seethe in silence or discuss it with a few trusted allies. I go about my business and, after work, keep applying to job after job outside of librarianship, in hopes that someone reading my resume won’t immediately dismiss it because, frankly, no one thinks librarians have skills and talents outside of reading stories to kids.

Shaking it up on FtB

So there’s a few people leaving Freethought Blogs. I’m sorry to see Greta Christina go, though for many of the rest who are following her to The Orbit–don’t let the door hit you on the way out, as they say. I haven’t read the majority of them after they thought dredging up years-old blog and Twitter posts by Ophelia Benson to damn her current beliefs and therefore her reputation was a just thing to do–especially since I had just gone through something similar at my work. The worker knew his time with us was coming to an end–and decided, since he had been able to fire one part-time staff member with lies, he could get me, a full-time, degreed supervisor, in the same way. Take me down with him. Problem? He had no access to my social media, so tried to threaten co-workers into finding out-of-context posts that had nothing to do with work and warping them to fit his narrative. Needless to say, I have little patience for that crap–and the presumptuous assholery that goes with it.

In many ways, the disappointment I felt about their behavior was typical. There was a time when I thought about getting more into the atheist community–and then Elevator-gate happened and I realized how sexist and irrational those who claimed to speak for this group were. They cared far more for keeping the status quo of white male athiest thought-police than they were in growing an inclusive movement. Dawkins, Harris, and their ilk were far more into justifying their hatred of whoever pissed them off that day than they were in any sort of community–at least a community that didn’t bow down to their superior (cough cough) intellectual white man grumblings. So be it. Not my thing.

I hope the new set of bloggers will restore a bit of my faith in blogging in general. I guess we’ll see. I got pretty excited to see so many new blogs. They are new voices to read (one mentioned being a long-time commenter. I don’t read comments, so I have no idea who they are. Guess I’ll find out). It’ll give me something to peruse until “NO, REALLY, BERNIE HAS TO WIN” dies.

STEM Workshops Need Some Work

I was recently signed up for an online workshop about STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programming in libraries. I felt, and still feel, that the space should have went to someone who has little to no understanding of science and math, but oh well. I took it anyway.

Out of the gate I was dismayed. The first week of instruction indicated that it would be a good idea to bring cultural ideas into the mix, like propping up Chinese medicine in a program. I gritted my teeth when I read that. STEM fields rely on critical thinking and real world observations to function. Nothing is taken on faith because down that path lies fallen building and broken bridges and unworkable code. Literally. For instance, there has been study after study on acupuncture that has shown it doesn’t work the way it is billed, that the practitioners rely on the faith of their clients who want to believe it does work. Into Chinese herbal supplements? Scientists at the Institute for Biomedical and Pharmacutical Research in Nuremburg, Germany, took herbal samples and sequenced the DNA inside. What they found was hardly shocking if you’ve followed news about herbal supplements; ingredients, including allergens, are not listed, and some include cancer-causing agents. Basically, the people who create these supplements fill them with whatever is at hand, including endangered animal parts and poisonous plants. Pretending that this is somehow sciency so you can include it in a science program is disingenuous at best, and leaves children with the impression that faith is just as good as real science when it comes to health.

Hint hint it’s not.

A good STEM program should teach children to question everything–then try and figure out how to answer those questions. Which leads into another problem with the workshop–math. Of course, math. Building a diorama of the interior of a library, concentrating on relative size, is not math. There’s no questioning or critical thinking–there’s measuring. The reaction of mathematicians to the diorama has been quite funny; the look of shock and dismay, followed by “that isn’t math.” Neither is counting fake money to purchase art supplies, thought that is an important skill for kids to learn. Math is a glorious world of ideas and critical thinking that you can apply to the “real world” (why is it math isn’t the real world when it underpins everything?). There are mathematics that can be transformed into more easily digestible explanations for K-6, even some recent research in areas like aperiodic tiling. Unfortunately, I think too many Americans are so frightened of the word “math” it would never occur to them to even ask whether mathematical concepts can be digested by kids. Most don’t even realize you can do research in math because math, to them, is a series of numbers, letters, and scary symbols that says who knows what? That leads to acceptance of math illiteracy, which is a shame. There are many, many elegant concepts the non-mathematician can enjoy.

Unfortunately, most people don’t even bother to find out what math is. Math illiteracy leads to idiots proudly proclaiming their ignorance while trying to mock common core math ideas. Yes, the check-written in common core method went viral because other idiots were relieved their ignorance was shared. Congratulations. You’ve succeeded in proving that America is so far behind other nations when it comes to math education you weren’t able to look at ten-frames and figure it out. Yep. You can’t figure out 3rd grade math and you’re proud of it! If it were me, I would have been too shamed to even voice a sentiment.

Let’s liken math to literacy. So learning numbers, adding, all that. That’s like learning your alphabet and spelling. Algebra and it’s equations is equivalent to putting together a sentence. Calculus is learning to create paragraphs, but you haven’t written an entire essay, let alone a book, yet. You usually don’t get into anything interesting until Calc 3. How many Americans make it that far? Considering only 16% take calculus in high school, and since college students avoid it when they can, the numbers are very, very low. How can the average American make any decisions about math education when they don’t even know what math is?

Having good library programs in math can combat this. Librarians can show how interesting math can be, how it really isn’t about numbers, letters and symbols, and how critical thinking skills can apply to areas outside math–like whether you’re getting scammed or not. Dioramas aren’t going to teach this. So talk to a mathematician! Get some ideas! Really, they aren’t that scary.

All in all, this experience made me realize how much further we have to go to adequately promote STEM ideas in youth.

**As an aside: I found it interesting to read some of the articles that popped up in my search for references. People argued about what math students need, based, apparently, solely on whether you’re going to use algebra equations in your everyday life. If that’s your focus, you’ve completely and utterly missed what math is about. This is hardly surprising, especially at the high school level. Several years ago my husband read a study (where? either on American Mathematical Society website or an article in the Journal of Higher Education, I think) on how only 30% of high school math teachers even had a minor in the subject, and that coaches and others who needed a class where thrown into math without preparation. People don’t teach what they don’t know very well, and when they do teach, they teach equations because there is no way they understand the subject well enough to actually teach what goes on behind those equations. I know this firsthand, having been told by the basketball coach who was thrust into teaching algebra at my high school, that girls couldn’t understand math and he wasn’t about to waste time on me–meaning he had no clue, don’t bother him. I don’t see this improving anytime soon, considering the state of education in America.

Cyberstalking and Trust

Ever been cyberstalked?

I have. It ain’t fun.

A part-time employee where I work was facing termination. He had never been a strong worker, rebuffing his supervisor and other full-time staff efforts to get him to do his job. He lazed about and passed his work onto the next shift. He complained about how he could not do what needed to be done in the time allotted him, even though others managed to do his work and their own in the same amount of time. He blamed co-worker after co-worker for his lack of work ethic, for talking to him too much, for this and that, and, by spreading a myriad of lies about what they supposedly told him in private, he managed to get one fired.

That was the beginning of the end, since, after getting that person fired, he no longer had a convenient scapegoat to blame. He managed to get even less work done than before, and his feeble attempts to go after yet another co-worker for his own failings fell flat. He took disability for psychological problems, but that only extended the inevitable.

He knew he was on his way out. When he came back, he decided he had to take someone with him—and that someone was me.

He told tales. He made stuff up about my behavior and how poorly I treated him and complained to the manager about it. When those tactics didn’t get me in trouble (funny, he never had witnesses to these events), he tried to access my Facebook, searching for dirt, and found out that he could not. Friends only. So he nosed about and tried to conscript others to spy on me through social media for him. He needed to prove what a terrible person I was, and he figured there must be plenty of evidence lying around in old posts, old writings, things that would get me written up and fired. I was unfriended and deleted by those who did not want to get involved and by those who did not want to give him access to me through their accounts. He harassed them, trying to get to me. He even texted one employee to tell her he had checked her friend’s list and knew I was on it, and that if she asked him to dig up dirt on someone, he wouldn’t hesitate to do so. That’s what friends were for. What was her problem?

The employee, troubled by what she considered unethical behavior, showed this text conversation to our manager, who promptly ignored it. I told the manager this behavior was unprofessional and creepy and I did not feel safe around the employee—I was chastised for feeling that way. My stalker wouldn’t hurt anyone—other than the fact he had already gotten a co-worker fired, bullied another (that we had proof for. He was actually very nasty to most of the women employees, but they, because they knew the manager would do nothing about it, remained silent) and bragged constantly about getting an ex deported. Yeah, he was harmless.

All those feelings of helplessness and unease returned in force during the (semi-recent) uproar over Ophelia Benson claiming gender was more difficult than “man” and “woman” when a transperson asked her if a transwoman was a woman. People stalked her, reading past posts, past writings, past everything, trying to find something to nail her as a TERF with. Don’t like her answer? Let’s do our best to destroy her reputation by digging for dirt and slinging what we find, however vague, into the wide open fields of “I don’t have to prove anything if I’m pissed, as long as I get to hurt the person who upset me in return.”

I stopped reading the exchanges. I couldn’t read them and not burn in fury. What I saw were people who, just like my co-worker, were bound and determined to take someone down, no matter the tactics. No matter the bullying. No matter anything. Any legitimate conversation and disagreement was lost in the flood of shit. And several bloggers, many of whom I enjoyed reading in the past, jumped into the fray, supporting those hell-bent on causing emotional damage to someone they decided they didn’t like anymore because of one sentence.

Getting stalked sucks. It triggers depression and anger and the sense of helplessness that you can’t do anything about what’s happening to you. It makes you not trust others. It makes you want to log off—at the bare minimum. Of course, that’s the point. The bullies are hoping the harassment is severe enough that the person they want to punish will do what they want them to do—get off the Internet, get off of life, sit in a dark corner and cower and hope no one comes near enough to harm them. There’s no excuse for it. There’s no excuse in promoting and supporting it. If you have a disagreement, fine. Write about it. Don’t support an Internet mob.

But, as we all know, supporting the mob is so much easier. Needless to say, I now have a long list of bloggers I no longer read–and many of them I had read in the past with delight. I valued their judgments. I valued their insights. It made me sad to realize I can’t trust their opinions anymore. Not, I suppose, that it matters much in the long run–I’m an unknown who is a passive blogger, hardly someone anyone would care about having as a fan. Offend me? Why care? Bloggers offend all the time. Comes with the territory. That’s OK, though. Sometimes it’s more important to uphold your own morality, even if it’s just a personal thing no one else will know about.

Your Sexism Doesn’t Matter If You Have A Nobel Award, And We’ll Uphold The Status Quo To Prove It

Reading about the response to Nobel Laureate Tim Hunt’s sexist remarks at a conference lunch hosted by a women in science group from the sad sticks that call themselves athiest and scientific leaders, is enlightening in a few ways. One that struck me was how easy it is for them to support women when there is pretty much nothing they can do to help them, but when they have an actual opportunity to make a difference by supporting women in a tangible way, they shudder and scream “Women are the Inquisition!”.

Richard Dawkins, amongst many others, decried the reaction to Tim Hunt’s sexist remarks as harmful, hurtful, the Inquisition. Any response to the “joke” that wasn’t full-throated support of Hunt was only meant to completely destroy the man and his career and those offended were just mean, cruel, and heartless.

He believes that no one should have spoken up. No one should have said a word. No one should have dared attack an old, white, Nobel-winning scientist because old, white Nobel-winning scientists are above reproach.

Frankly, the defenders of Hunt could have said “I support women in science and the stereotypical description Hunt expressed is one of the obstacles women in scientific fields needlessly face. It’s harmful and untrue and we can do better.”

But no. It’s so much easier to whine about Hunt’s unfair treatment because they don’t actually have to do anything. Just like when Dawkins supports women’s rights in Muslim countries. He gets to tell the world that it’s a travesty how women are treated in these far-off places but he doesn’t have to come up with any action plan, get physically involved, or put his life in the line, when doing so. It’s a safe sentiment. It’s an easy sentiment. Who would disagree that forced marriage and slaying women for religious faults a bad thing? And…done. Now it’s someone else’s problem.

That seems to be why so many other academics are getting behind Hunt and doing their best to trash his retractors–because it’s simpler to do and doesn’t really require much work on their part (they have the Sun and the Daily Mail to do that). Status quo kept. Comfort kept. All you have to do is shout very loud that a woman may have exaggerated her CV and she suddenly becomes untrustworthy for the rest of her life, then give undying support to a man who can lie through his teeth about how what he said was really, really a joke, and you’ve pretty much helped keep everything the way it’s always been–man hates on women and gets applauded for it. BTW, there were 3 people who first complained; Connie St Louis agreed to tweet the sexist comments and Deborah Blum and Ivan Oransky retweeted it. What are those fine, upstanding Hunt-supporting scientists going to tar Blum and Oransky with? Should be interesting to see.

What all of this leads to is not only the silencing of women and the men who support their cause, but the acceptance of the degradation of women scientists. If the upper crust doesn’t get nailed for their horrendous behavior, others will take that to heart and follow suit–or continue on as the always have. It emphasizes that well known, important scientists can get away with treating women like shit and be hailed a hero for it.

Let me tell you a little story (maybe 2) about the effects of “important scientists can do no wrong”. The first concerns a scientist who is well established in my husband’s field. A couple of years ago he gave a presentation where he claimed at least 3 other people’s work as his own, and did not recognize their work or their names at any point. 2 women, 1 man. The man had previously contacted this scientist to see if he wished to be a co-author; the scientist declined. Then, shockingly, the scientist used those discussions about the research to claim the ideas as his own. The man worked all night to get his paper up on a pre-print server so his research could not be completely stolen. The women?  They asked for advice from senior researchers and were told to offer the scientist co-authorship on their papers–because you can’t prove he stole the ideas. Accuse him of it and it’s your reputation that is ruined, not his.

Must be nice, being a respected, important researcher that can steal others’ work and still get credit for it.

The second story stars a woman just a few months from defending her thesis. She went to a talk by a man whose research she had extended in her own. He knew her advisor, but her advisor, a prestigious Fields medalist, refused to introduce them. Speaker gave his talk to an audience of 3 (2 men and her), and the men vacated as soon as the talk was over–no time was given for questions or conversation. As she exited the room, she heard them say that if she hadn’t have been there,  they all could have gone to a bar and discussed research instead of sitting through a talk.

That was the last straw–the final slight. She went into business instead of academia because the sexism was just too thick and she felt like she was fighting the fight alone. In some ways she was right. Same department only accepted one female grad student out of 15 the previous fall. Can’t blame her for feeling a little alone–and believing her department had little respect for women in general.

Well, at least her response wasn’t “disproportionate“, was it, Brian Cox? In fact, she told no one in her department about the incident because she knew where it would lead–yes that’s right, she was afraid the powers that be might interfere with her getting her PhD. Mathematics lost a great mind but at least she didn’t try to ruin a Fields Medalist’s reputation. As Hunt supporters know, THAT would have been the real tragedy.

Seems like Hunt and his defenders have a lot of company out in academia. When men like him get away with insulting women, it tells all other Important Person Scientists that their sexism is A-OK, that it is shared and condoned and treasured. The more people who jump on that bandwagon, the more women who are going to be told their hardships don’t matter. Their work, their careers, don’t matter. They don’t matter. Academia is for men. Screw them.

Cannes-ntcha Wear Those Heels, Lady?

Apparently Cannes isn’t even trying to hide their sexism. If you’re a woman and you’re not in heels, you aren’t going to go to any red carpet screenings–even if you have medical issues that prevent you from wearing those atrocities.

I can’t wear heels without pain. I’ve had injuries that make wearing them hell, and it upsets me greatly that I still feel required to wear them for job interview and such, no matter the pain–because I have to look “professional” (as in, if you apply for our job and you aren’t experiencing pain duirng the interview, you don’t want it bad enough). Ophelia Benson likens wearing them to a mild form of foot bindind, and I can’t say I disagree, considerig how they make me feel.

So, what items of clothing are they going to decide men have to wear? Or are they only going to target the ladies because screw them?

Footwear is not only a fashion statement, it can be a medical necessity. I have a co-worker who needs to wear prescribed tennis shoes due to arthritic knees. Our place of work harrasses him constantly because he “doesn’t meet the dress code”, despite the fact he can’t afford the dress shoe prescription (couple hundred vs thousands of dollars). He doesn’t meet standards, prescription be damned. And that’s what Cannes said to older women in the same predicament. Our requirements are set in stone and there is no way you, with your prescription shoes, are going to be allowed to thwart them. If you aren’t sobbing in pain by the time you sit down, we aren’t doing our job right.

Sounds like Cannes is just as awful as the movies they show.