Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Librarian

This is my goal.  I want to be a librarian.  In a professional sense it requires a Master's Degree.  I have 12 undergrad credits in Library Science and  a certification as a Library Assistant.  They are steps in the right direction but not the final destination.

My job title is Library Paraprofessional.  In a technical sense it means I am required to have an Associate's degree in anything, anything at all.  It also means I am hired to be the assistant of the person holding the job title and professional credentials of Librarian.  In a financial sense it means my starting salary is roughly a third of the starting salary of the Librarian.

My actual job, since my school district furloughed the librarians, now includes running not one but two libraries all by myself.  I am not assisting a librarian and no one is assisting me.  I do much of the work a librarian would do, though in a school setting I do not give formal lessons to students.  I love my students.  I care about serving my faculty well.  I do not doubt the importance of what I do, in spite of having it communicated to me a hundred different ways that the powers-that-be do not value what I do in the least.

On a daily basis students call me the Librarian or the Library Teacher.  From the kids I accept this title because they associate me with the library and that's good enough.  They don't care about degrees and pay scales.  They care that I am there and that I help them find books.  It's the title they associate with the person who does that and I am fine with their level of understanding.

On occasion coworkers refer to me as the Librarian.  With someone new I quickly let them know I am the Para.  Everyone in my district needs to be reminded that the district has done away with librarians.  My coworkers need to know there is a difference between what I do and what the librarian does.  I let them know I am there to serve their needs to the best of my ability but they need to know the difference.

Over the holiday vacation I got together socially with several teachers at one of my buildings, at the building where I feel like I am regarded as a member of a team and where I feel appreciated by much of the staff and where they know I will go above and beyond for them yet they do not hold unrealistic expectations.  As we were taking time venting frustrations about our respective situations a couple of them offered some helpful suggestions for solving some issues I have.  I thanked them greatly at which point one said, "We want to take care of our librarian because you take care of us."  As is my habit, I corrected them by reminding them I am only the para.  One responded gently, "No, you're our librarian in spirit and in our hearts."  The others agreed and I knew it was meant sincerely. It touched me.

In my other school, the one where I had to send out a begging letter promising baked goods to get bookshelves moved so I could put books away, I do not feel regarded as a member of any team.  The library and anyone associated with it is merely a resource to be plundered at the slightest whim as opposed to a resource to be used and cared for by all.  I am merely one of the resources to be exploited.  Though I will say there are some teachers in that building who I do feel value the service I provide them and their students.

It was in this context that a particular staff member who makes at least four or five times what I make, recently tried to convince me I should take over running the RIF program she is responsible for.  She didn't think I had any idea what was involved.  I ran this program as a volunteer for seven years when my kids were younger.  It's a program which receives federal funds, in other words, it requires an obnoxious degree of documentation.  I know damn well what is involved, to say nothing of the logistical considerations of dealing with moving thousands of books (been there, done that), scheduling classes (I do enough of that), maintaining inventory, and organizing volunteers.  I politely declined.  She persisted.  I let her know I travel an hour in one direction to get to work every day and was not going to commit to extracurricular activities.  She brightened when she told me it occurred during the school day.  I reminded her that when I am at her school I am running book selection for classes in the library.  She needed me to explain carefully that when I don't have classes in the library I am repairing and shelving books (because, ya know, the elves who used to do that went on strike).

Then she pulled out what she thought were the magic words, "But you're The Librarian and this is about Books.  Don't you think you should be doing this?  It's a natural fit."

No, the district furloughed The Librarian.  I am The Para.

"Oh, it's all the same."

Not according to my paycheck it isn't.

"Well, I think it's perfect for you."

I think I have enough to do unless you'd like to have book selection canceled.

"I think I'll talk to The Principal about that."

Ok, feel free.

I'm not The Librarian yet.  I will be one day.  I respect the work it takes to earn that title.  I will accept the mistaken designation of children who love the library.  I will humbly thank coworkers who refer to me as such because they respect the work I am doing under adverse conditions.  I will not be manipulated when it is thrown around like some unctuous ego stroke.


joeh said...

Hold your ground!

I hate when someone tries to pawn off their work on someone else and makes it sound as if they are doing you a favor!

As an aside, how have computers changed the library? Easier? More complicated?

Bijoux said...

That's all sorts of crazy with the person trying to pass off the RIF program to you!

Anvilcloud said...

You are gaining valuable experience, which should serve you well in future. Even the "bad" school is good for that. Keep on plugging.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

The only thing that comes to mind is, "Illegitimi non carborundum."

Stephen Hayes said...

It's sad that someone is failing to notice how overworked you are while trying to hand over their own work for you to do.

Kat said...

Good for you! Some people think they can manipulate and intimidate people into doing what they want. Glad you didn't let her get away with it.
Grrfph. Makes me mad.

Suldog said...

If I ever have another band "Unctuous Ego Stroke" will be on the short list of names to be considered.

By the way, bass players occupy about the same level in bands as you do in your schools. From all indications, though, you are the John Entwhistle of libra... paras.

Secret Agent Woman said...

I suspect people mean well, but haven't really thought it through. Good for you, though - both in continuing to remind them about the school district's de-funding of the library program (God, how short-sighted is that?) and for moving down the path toward becoming a librarian. It really does sound like a great fit.

Jocelyn said...

I'm so damn glad you held firm. Unctuous ego stroke, indeed.


Hilary said...

Ugh.. I hope she doesn't have much pull with the principal. I know that woman.. or at least someone very much like her, and she happened to be the only lousy librarian during my kids' time at their elementary school. Stand strong. And I truly believe you will indeed be the librarian, one day. I hope it's at the "good" school.. or one very much like it.

Craig said...

Nice set of folks you work with there at School B. What Skip said. . .

But School A. . . now those folks are worth giving just a bit of yourself to, 'twould seem. . .