Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I guess I need to re-name this blog "The Tie Dyed Educational Technician Level III"

Something's got me all riled up today.

Yesterday on the ALA Think Tank Facebook page, a member posted saying that it annoys him when people who do not hold a Masters degree in Library and Information Science refer to themselves as librarians.

I don't know if he thought he was going to get alot of support from a community of librarians, or if maybe he was trying to be incendiary, or maybe he was just having a bad day, but it was like taking the opening shot on a battlefield.

I responded very early in the conversation, and I tried to be diplomatic in my comment by explaining that it's not because non-degreed librarians (if we're even worthy of that title) are trying to diminish someone else's educational achievement, or that we're trying to get away with something, like giving ourselves a title we haven't earned, it's simply how we describe our daily job to most people. People see that we work in a library, so it's simplest to say that we are librarians.

When people ask me what I do, I say "I'm a librarian in a school." My official title is Educational Technician Level II. Most people don't have clue what that means. They might suppose I work with computers because of the 'technician' part. Even if they do know what that position means in regard to working in a school, a lot of people in a school have that same title who do NOT work in the library. Most people in my school who are Ed Tech's work within the Special Education Dept, supporting students in classrooms. In Fact, I am the only Ed Tech in the school who does not work for Special Ed.

When I was hired, I did not represent myself to be anything that I'm not. I didn't apply for a Library Media Specialist position, and lie about my education or qualifications, or my intentions. I applied for a Library Ed Tech position, and that's what I was hired to fulfill. The integrity of the profession/title is one argument that came up repeatedly in that very heated conversation- the reality that some organizations do not understand or value the skills a librarian learns in specialized classes is why some people think only those with a MSLIS should be referred to as librarians.

When I explained my own reasoning for calling myself a librarian, the original poster said that it should be an opportunity to educate the public about titles and positions and why so many libraries rely on paraprofessionals. That's fine, and I don't mind telling an interested party more about the business and politics of libraries, but the community I serve is a middle-school. Are my co-worker and I supposed to conduct a seminar for each incoming 5th grade class and explain to them that she is a certified Library Media Specialist while I am an Ed Tech Level III and even though we have different degrees and experience in the profession, that we are both fully qualified to help them find books on the shelves, print their papers, and hand out the Friday Jolly Ranchers?

That's a pretty unrealistic idea to consider, just for the sake of differentiating our titles. You can imagine how well this little seminar would go over with 10 year olds.

"We don't care what you call yourselves- can you just help us find that book with the blue cover?"

The reason I work in the library? Because I enjoy it! At this point, some people would ask "Well, then why don't you go back to school to get your MLIS?" Because right now, I don't need to. And I don't have time to. And I don't have the money to. I've already gone through graduate school twice, and I love working in a school library, but I'm not sure I want to work in libraries for the rest of my life, so I'm not raring to get myself into a even more debt to pursue a degree which would only guarantee me more work in libraries.

I call myself a librarian because that descriptor is much more familiar to most people than my official title. I also call myself a librarian because I work in a library, and as one member pointed out, the dictionary defines a librarian as "a person who works in a library". That I am! WOO HOO!

I do understand the poster's frustration with some people taking credit for degrees they haven't achieved or giving themselves titles when nothing else indicates that the title is accurate, but our ideas of who deserves what title or description are always so subjective, that it's a moot point to even begin that kind of discussion.

I remember many years ago, I was at a party and I overheard a girl tell someone that she was a dancer. When the person asked her what kind of dance she studies, she replied "Oh, I just kind of make it up myself." That really annoyed me. I considered myself a dancer because I'd been taking dance classes for most of my life, and because I devoted a lot of my time and energy to improving my choreography and technique. Dance is an art, and yes, much of a dancer's success result from her/his own passion and creativity and ingenuity, BUT it's also an incredibly demanding sport that requires training and discipline, and pain. It's not as simple as "making it up" and it irked me that this girl was underestimating something I dearly loved and respected, and therefore mitigating my effort in it.

Now here comes the subjectivity lesson: I was thinking of myself as a dancer, but am I really one? Well, I certainly never made it to the American Ballet Theater or Riverdance or Broadway. Indeed of I'd ever shown up to any audition outside a local production of The Nutcracker, I'd have been laughed out of the room. They would be thinking the same thing about me that I thought about that girl at the party.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what I thought of that girl. She kept dancing around, not caring what anyone thought of her. And I guess in the end it shouldn't really matter what people who have MLIS degrees think of me. I'm just disappointed that the only time I feel bad about my title is when other "people who work in libraries" feel the need to remind me of it.

Maybe I should give up the library game, and go audition for the Juilliard School of Ballet, and finally live out my Save the Last Dance fantasy.

As for this debate about what makes a "real" librarian:

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