Academic Librarians and Rank

An "Anonymous Patron" provided a link to a piece Yale University's Todd Gilman <A HREF="">wrote</A> for the Chronicle of Higher Education explaining to non-librarians how academic librarians proceed with rank and tenure processes.


I think librarians should grab all the rank and power that they can for salary and administrative reasons. We are way too underpaid.
However, when it comes to rank for librarians and the world, it is best to have none at all. For example, the "Fool" in the Tarot fortune telling deck, is one of 21 Major Arcana cards. All the other cards have Roman numerals to indicate their placement in relation to each other, except the Fool, which has the Zero. This does not imply that the Fool comes before the numeral I, but that the Fool has no number at all, and thus dances among all the other cards, and pays no attention to the rank or hierarchy or power of the other cards.
So it is with librarians. The reference librarians and other staff deal with important, high-ranked people every day. But they also deal with low ranked people, or children, or homeless, and need to be as approachable to them as to the mayor of the town or the president of the university or the corporate CEO. Without a rank, librarians are the equal of all.
With a rank, they no longer are a colleague looking for information with the patron, but are an authority who may be too important to be bothered with a humble request. Thus librarians must be approachable to both a king and a peon, and when answering a question or helping with research, must be a colleague, not a baron.
The correct answer is not to treat the president differently, but to treat the humblest the same way you would treat a president. They may have different ranks, but when they deal with you, you take on their rank, and leave your own to the side until the transaction is finished.

R. Lee Hadden (These are my own opinions!)

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