Saving Libraries from the Inside Out
As I sit here and watch my Tween read it occurs to me, she sometimes says she wants to be a librarian when she grows up. It also occurs to me that I am not sure I can encourage her to follow that path because we are destroying the very things we love. As librarians retire and resign, more and more libraries are choosing not to hire full-time qualified librarians because of money. I know, it’s not just happening in libraries, but it IS happening in libraries. And that can be a bad thing.
Out of one side of our mouths we are saying libraries matter to our communities, but out of the other we are saying that they don’t matter enough to have qualified, experienced professionals in the right positions to make sure our libraries are actually being successful. A library isn’t just a warehouse for books, it is a living, breathing, organic entity that ebbs and flows to meet the needs of the people it serves – and it does this with staff. Programming, collection development – everything that happens inside the library happens because dedicated, hard working people make it happen.
Our libraries are just empty shells without the people inside making sure that every aspect of library service happens. Sometimes I think the very people who love libraries are slowly killing them from within by the staffing decisions they make. We don’t need ereaders and the Internet to kill libraries, we are doing it ourselves by minimizing the importance of a well educated, trained and passionate staff. We are doing it by underpaying and under employing our staff and making the profession less desirable.
I love being a librarian. I have served my community. I have seen the lives that I have changed for good. I understand the need for libraries and preach that message daily. I feel lucky to be fulfilling my life calling every day. But would I want my daughter to follow my path? I can honestly say I’m not sure, not until we can find a way to value our staff once again.
So before we begin looking at outside factors that are negatively impacting the libraries we love, maybe we should begin by looking at the inside factors. Do you have the right staff in place? Are you adequately compensating them for their time and experience so that you can retain them? Are you giving them an environment in which they can successfully complete the goals that you have set out for them? Do you want to help save libraries? Let’s start from the inside out.
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
SLJ Blog Network