Magazine article American Libraries

All the Basic Issues Come Back to ... Money

Magazine article American Libraries

All the Basic Issues Come Back to ... Money

Article excerpt

On one level, this issue of American Libraries is the Oliver Twist issue for this year. We have four great articles that talk about very basic bread-and-butter issues--and throughout these practical discussions we can hear the authors say, "Please, sir: We want some more."

It Was the Best of Times...

Jamie LaRue starts this issue with a wonderful, musing article about women, librarianship, and money--three intertwined topics dear to my heart.

There is a story in our parts about the librarian who after 40 years retired and was given...a teapot. It's the story directors tell when they explain the local retirement system (which is a good one). Whether or not it's apocryphal, this story, like all fables, has an element of global truth: We don't get paid enough--and in too many communities, trustees and other stakeholders are surprised by our requests, as if, to quote Dickens again, we would be encumbered by the "inconvenience of too much food or too much clothing."

There really isn't any rational reason for how badly we are paid, other than what we do is women's work--traditionally undervalued. If Melvil Dewey had found recruiting male librarians as stimulating as recruiting females, our pay scales would probably compare favorably with those of, say, engineers and architects. On the other hand, librarianship would then be a very different profession than the one we know.

Industrial Revolution

Joyce Latham has been involved in library technology since the 1970s. Her message to the current crop of librarians is loud and clear: If you want to survive, you must have basic computer competencies--and you must understand how these competencies relate to providing quality library service. It goes beyond mere skills. Latham makes frequent reference to the willingness to learn; at heart, she and the other authors in this issue are talking about values--the moral compass that will guide us through this post-industrial revolution.

We do not have an official set of core values in the American Library Association; in fact, a task force is at this very moment working toward a first definition of same. No statement, however beautifully worded, will be meaningful and useful unless it can guide us toward becoming the librarians we need to be, on behalf of the communities we serve.

Great Expectations

Thomas Hennen issues another salvo in the tough-love war with a bluntly worded argument for national library standards. He points out that peer-based comparisons are standard in the rest of the business world, and he recommends target standards for measuring quality. …

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