Well the papers this week have been full of horror stories about a SHORTAGE OF LIBRARIANS. My god. Is there a need to scare the general public with stories like this?! I found it quite entertaining to begin with, they have basically realised that by 2010 all the doddery old librarians in public libraries will have carked it and there aren’t enough new librarians to replace them. I have a few problems with this. Firstly, I know at least 2 people who are having huge problems trying to get posts in libraries, and this is mostly because all the jobs are filled by doddery old timers. So are they supposed to temp for a few years till they pop their clogs? No. Most sensible young and hip librarians are getting jobs in the city, working for law firms or big companies – they pay better for starters, have better perks and have far better career opportunities. So then of course they don’t want to go and work for some local lending library in Liverpool or wherever, well not until nearer retirement anyway!
Then this morning on the TV the BBC ran a feature on the shortage. It was absolute rubbish. They based it on a public library in Liverpool and went out on the street to ask the general public what they thought about librarians. It was awful! They all came out with the usual stereotypes that librarians were boring, wore cardigans, had their hair in buns etc etc. Then one evil South African girl said “well it isn’t a career is it? It’s just a job”. Pft! Try telling that to the people who have spent years getting qualifications – librarianship is one of the most qualified professions there is. I’ve got a degree, a postgraduate degree and chartership, A friend of mine went crazy and has 2 degrees! Admittedly, in public libraries there are the remnants of people who got their jobs when they didn’t need to be qualified, but then they have years of experience behind them. And as for boring. Well I would find working as a shop assistant (which the South African clearly was) boring, but do I slag them off?! Any job can be boring, and public library work can be less stressful than in other sectors, but you still have to have the skills to calm down an upset octogenarian as the latest Catherine Cookson is on loan already. Seriously, you need the skills of a hostage negotiator sometimes in this job.
The BBC then drafted in a PR “expert” to tell us librarians what to do to improve our image. His suggestion? Coffee shops. Uh huh. I think Borders have the monopoly on that one already, and you remember what happens to librarians when food and drink are brought into libraries don’t you?! For my part, I would love to have Trinny and Susannah glam up a bunch of nondescript library staff, that would be brilliant! But then I think some of our users here like the stern image librarians get – they get off on being told to be quiet or to go outside with their mobile phones! There’s a fine line between librarianship and S&M sometimes I think :-)