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.