Who Has the Best Page in Libraryland?
Manley, Will, American Libraries
If you attended this year's Annual Conference in San Francisco and managed to fight your way through the phalanx of panhandlers clogging the sidewalks from Union Square to the Moscone Convention Center, you probably noticed that a lot of awards were given out to librarians, trustees, Friends groups, and vendors (see p. 70-77, this issue). Such recognition is great because our profession is blessed with many dedicated people who deserve to be singled out for their exceptional records of service.
My only gripe is that some of our most outstanding people will never have the opportunity to enjoy this level of recognition - not because they're not deserving, but simply because of who they are. I am talking about some of the most important people in our profession - janitors, security guards, maintenance staff, secretaries, and pages. Good luck trying to run a library of any type or any size without good, solid people in those positions.
This is especially true of pages. No one on staff gets paid less and no one does more than the library page. Imagine the bibliographic chaos that would reign nationwide if all our library pages decided to go on strike all at once. Our libraries would be reduced to the disorder of, God forbid, the Internet. Finding a book would be like doing a search on WebCrawler.
But who could blame our pages for going on strike? Working at or near the minimum wage level, they're the ones we send out in the freezing cold and searing heat to empty the book drops. We also expect them to shelve books, read shelves, clean shelves, empty the pencil sharpeners, water the plants, dust the globe, fill in at the circ desk, and, for good measure, clean out the staff refrigerator.
Being lowest on the library pecking order also means that pages get blamed first when anything goes wrong. The large rubber plant that Mrs. Hopkins presented to the library on behalf of the Friends has died? Blame it on the pages. The coffee cake that Bessie from cataloging baked for the staff breakfast has suddenly disappeared? Blame it on the pages. You can't find those books on black magic that the computer says are "available"? Blame it on the pages. That overdue video that the mayor claims he put in the bookdrop is nowhere to be found? Blame it on the pages.
Pages are not just underpaid and misunderstood, they also get no respect. Last year I keynoted the National Conference of Library Assistants and found myself, by chance, eating lunch with a group of pages. …