Thursday, January 7, 2010

A librarian by any other name would still smell as. . . do librarians have a distinctive smell?

I've been attempting to catch up on my listserv messages and feed reader this week (a potentially futile effort--we are quickly approaching the point where I simply mark all as read and move on with my life). Shortly before Christmas there was a flurry of messages on LM_Net with the subject "slap in the face", and despite the knowledge that the messages were probably not crucial to my professional development and that it might be better to instead focus my limited time on other messages, I am helpless to resist when it comes to slappin'.

The upshot of the original message was that a student (elementary-aged if I remember correctly) came into the library and told the librarian that her (the student's) mom said she wasn't going to get the librarian a Christmas gift, as she was doing for other teachers, because she wasn't a "real teacher." Which sucks, yes. The discussion from there went in several directions: people who had been similarly insulted, to people who had gotten nice gifts, to other types of teachers in schools who are often neglected, to people who recognized that this was not actually about getting a gift but more about feeling unrecognized as an important part of a student's education.

The thread I found most interesting/annoying was about the things we could do to "make" people recognize that librarians are also teachers. Several people suggested that librarians should display all degrees and credentials, which just strikes me as not the ideal way to make people understand what you do and why you do it. The ideal way, in my opinion, is to actually be good at your job. People will notice that far more than they'll notice that you have a bunch of degrees hanging in your office. And I say this as someone who was publicly thanked in a faculty meeting this morning, yet has only a vague idea as to where one of my diplomas is (I think it's in a box. Probably under some other things. The other one might be on top of a bookshelf? Maybe?).

I know which degrees many of my colleagues have, but there are also several whose educational backgrounds I am unfamiliar with. I could easily find out all of them, as they're available on our website. But I don't look, and I don't care. Because I have much more crucial information about all of them--I work with them. And if I can't get the information I need about them as educators from seeing them in action, I'm not going to get a lot of useful information from a piece of paper on their office wall.

The other thread I found interesting was about what we ("we" being school librarians) should be called. I've been giving some thought to titles lately, as mine is about to change significantly (more on that later). I like school librarian or even just plain ol' librarian, and I know people who insist on library media specialist, and many who prefer teacher librarian, and I think they're all fine. Though, ideally, I just want the teachers and students I work with to simply know me as "Ms. K-M." My title should be strictly secondary. I get that a job title--and my credentials--can be a useful shorthand when communicating with people who don't work with me regularly, but I don't see the point of being insistent about it when dealing with people I work with on a daily basis.

Since I'm trying to cultivate a reputation for bizarre analogies, I'm going to go ahead and use one here. Every once in a while I'll come across a discussion about last names--specifically, whether or not women should change theirs when they get married. Without fail, some troglodyte will argue that a woman needs to change her name because otherwise how will people know that she's his wife. And the children. Won't someone think of the children? Because if everyone's last names don't match, people won't know that the kids are his. Whenever I come across this argument, I can't help but think that if the only way people will know you're a family is if everyone's last name is identitical you have larger issues than mis-matched monograms.

I don't care if my colleagues know what degrees I have. I don't care what they think my job title is--if they even think about it at all. I just care that they think of me as knowledgeable, effective, and passionate about what I do.

1 comment:

  1. Comment + Question-
    Comment - agree w/ regards to name changing - I say only do it if you have an awful name, and your partner (male or female) has a nicer name -- for example, last names that are aka parts of anatomy and/or names that have to be pronounced differently in order to not sound awful (We both know how "Cockburn" should be pronounced, and it's not "coh/burn")
    Question - I'll bite -- title change? I'm interested. Send me an e-mail. If you don't know who this is, it'll be a fun annoyance for you to try to figure it out.

    Bonus: I can't believe someone suggested putting degrees up on a wall... I really don't get what that's about either -- I also don't get when people sign e-mails / letters with BA, or MS, or whatever. While I would like to know that my doctor actually has a medical degree of some sort, we both know how easy it is to get a BA or a masters (I didn't say MLS - calm down just "some sort of masters") The degree means a lot less than what is actually being done. (Our former president had a degree from Yale...)