Magazine article American Libraries

Libraryland: Pseudo-Intellectuals and Semi-Dullards

Magazine article American Libraries

Libraryland: Pseudo-Intellectuals and Semi-Dullards

Article excerpt

"Inspired" by Herb White's recent AL article, a librarian tells us, in no uncertain terms, that professionalism is a dead horse we should stop beating Editor's note: The decision to publish this article became the focus of considerable debate and discussion at AL. Ultimately, it reminded us of just how easy it is to ignore a point of view we don't share.

HERB WHITE, AND THOSE who think like him, never seem to tire of beating a dead horse. The dead horse is "librarians and professionalism."

White asks in "Pseudo-libraries and Semi-teachers" (AL, Feb., p. 103-106; Mar., p. 262-266), "How then do we [librarians] differ from the local supermarket manager, whose job is to stock merchandise that will move off the shelves, and who has no responsibility for nutritional content?" The answer is simple. We don't differ. We merely peddle different merchandise.

I'm constantly amazed at the naivete of you who dwell in libraryland. You are under the delusion that your job is some noble calling, a "profession" that enlightens the mind and broadens the horizons of the populace. You think because you dispense bits of knowledge, you actually possess knowledge. Hence, you starry-eyed souls are forever puzzled why the rest of the world just can't recognize your worth--a worth much greater than that of the local supermarket manager.

Face it, folks. You do know pay is low and why your "profession" gets no respect. Deep down you know any schlemiel can be a librarian. Once you peel away the euphemisms, librarianship boils down to fetching Mrs. Brown that latest best seller, finding Johnny the elusive fact in the Encyclopaedia Britannica for his term paper, or showing Joe Fixit where the latest issue of Popular Mechanics is stashed. Not much brain power needed there, and you know it. In fact, left alone, Mr. Fixit can probably find what he wants anyway.

What is so irritating is your incessant refrain that the "profession" is on par with law, medicine, or engineering. Such harping brings only guffaws to anyone with an ounce of sense. Nuts-and-bolts jobs

"Professional" librarians (those unfortunate enough to have endured the MLS program down at State U) like to lord it over the "non-professionals" (anyone without an MLS who works in a library) by delegating to them the manure tasks. You know what I'm talking about: the nuts-and-bolts jobs like stamping out books, shelving books, reading shelves, and alphabetizing slips; you know, all that stuff you wouldn't be caught dead doing because it would make you look too clerical.

Besides, Herb White told you in library school (another subject entirely; suffice to say that library school is a useless institution designed to give self-important people with exaggerated views about librarianship something to do) that such work was beneath true librarians, purely "unprofessional."

No, you say, I do computer searches or "collection development" bloated term for ordering books) or cataloging, or what have you. So? Anybody with a high school education can do the same. You know it, I know it, and the patrons know it, too. Chances are they can do it better than you-even if they are just your local supermarket managers unacquainted with Theory of Reference Tools 101.

Imagine a hospital without physicians, nurses, pharmacists, or lab personnel. No one there to diagnose or treat what ails you. No one to administer the medicines to heal you. No one to run vital tests. Just the building and the equipment. Now you are brought to this place. Can you heal yourself? …

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