The Social Order Of Libraries


Lee Hadden has written an interesting look at class rules and the social order in libraries. Since he put Systems Librarians near the top, I can\'t help but agree with him ;-)

\"It doesn\'t surprise me that there are problems of going from one
aspect of librarianship to another. It violates class rules in libraries,
and upsets the social order.
Actually, there is an unnamed but very strongly identified pecking
order in the class of librarians. Why are people getting so upset over this
problem? Passions are heated because the stakes are so small. Actually,
social settings are set up rather like a water fountain, with a number of
different library jobs floating at the top, but fewer identified ones at
the bottom. \"

Much More...\"While few people can agree about who all should be at the top,
everyone agrees about who should be in the bilge on the bottom. Like the
definition of a lady, which few people can define but everyone knows who
isn\'t one, librarians are set into a social hierarchy of class and station.
So here is my definition of the library pecking order based on my own
limited library experiences. Individuals may disagree somewhat, but those
who disagree the most probably are either set at the top of the list, or
haven\'t had to look for a new job recently.
Within this hierarchy, there is some slack. Library technicians who go
on to get an accredited degree are held blameless from their earlier
heresy. Like appeals to like, and if you have been misplaced your station
you might have a chance of clawing back into the group of your like minded
fellows, if you don\'t stay away for long and become contaminated.

At the very bottom of the library totem pole are media specialists
without a master\'s degree
Only slightly above them are librarians with a master\'s degree but one
not blessed by the ALA.
Then are the elementary school librarians with a master\'s degree
Legal secretaries working in law offices who claim to be law
librarians but don\'t really have a clue
High school librarians
Circulation librarians
Contractor/contract librarians
Children\'s librarians in public libraries
Ref/Cataloging librarian in public libraries
Community college/vocational school librarians
Professional indexers/abstractors/database massagers
Hospital librarians
Library directors of public libraries, except for those in really big
Library consultants
Systems technicians without library degrees (well, if they ain\'t
higher on the class scale, they\'re sure paid better than many library
directors are, and are often treated with more respect)
Corporate and business librarians
Ref/Cataloging librarians in larger colleges or universities
Library school professors
Specialist librarians (SuDocs, humanities, physical sciences, art,
music, etc)
Specialized Specialist Librarians (archivists, medical, rare books)
Systems librarians
University library directors, directors of really big city public
libraries, deans of library schools, consortia heads, directors of well
known federal libraries

Now, anyone can go up or down a rung or two on this ladder. After all,
we don\'t _really_ believe this ladder even exists. However, try to climb
more than two ranks at one go, and you might be surprised at your response
from the powers that be. It is slightly similar to those who guard the
sides of rich merchantman sailing ships against boarding parties of
fearsome pirates.
A children\'s librarian with an ALA accredited master\'s in an
elementary school might have no problem applying for a job as a children\'s
librarian in a nearby public library. However, if the same person tried to
apply for a job as a reference librarian in the same public library, there
might be some objections from the ref folks. It would be odd to climb out
of your nice round hole and do something different, and that pulls up
alarms and red flags among the other staff.
Just to mix this up some more, there are directors who believe in
promoting from within the library, and those who want every new job opening
to be filled by someone from outside the library, so they are willing to
haul up someone from several rungs down from the outside, rather than
promote from within their own staff. The \"Incompetence by Affiliation
Artificial methods of establishing class are readily accepted by many
librarians. Publications, speaking engagements, awards from non-library
organizations all help establish credentials. This leads to the trap of
\"overqualified applicants,\" which is also a good excuse to deny a job to
someone who might raise their class within the library field.
Foreign accents are a tremendous help. A posh English accent can get a
homeless person a job as patron advisor in a public library or in a
humanities section of a college library. A German or Russian accent (not
too heavy) helps in chemical, pharmaceutical and physical science
libraries, unless there is already one of those there. (Once in and the
door is shut)
The wife of a junior officer in the American military could torpedo
and sink his career by dressing better than the colonel\'s wife does, or by
displaying more couth and confidence, or by not knowing and remaining in
her assigned social place. (Of course this isn\'t true anymore. Everything
is fair and equal with no class differences. Can\'t happen in today\'s
military- right?) The same is true in libraries- outshine your future
boss, and you won\'t get in. Where else is there so much uncertaincy about
how to dress correctly for the job interview at different libraries?
Groups of librarians (BTW, is a group of librarians \"a shelf of
librarians\" or \"a catalog of librarians?\") in a single department tend to
want to make sure any new applicants act and look just like themselves, so
they won\'t hire \"outsiders\" or people who are radically different. No
upward mobility among people already treading water! So if you are to be
examined by a team of library staff, watch out if you are NOKD (Not Our
Kind, Darling).

Anyway, these are my personal observations. Present company is always
excepted, this does not refer to you personally, and if you disagree with
me completely on class in libraries, I won\'t mind.
Your Grace. ;-)\"

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