Today, we are going to talk about technology and representation. But more than that we’re going to talk about what technology represents and who our profession seems to value. To start: I’m an Access Services Librarian and before then I was a Museum Librarian and an IT intern. I really feel like technology is a key to enhance how we access library resources, circulation of materials, outreach, programming and several other facets of the library. Unfortunately, our professional organizations seem to forget that technology is only one tool in our library arsenal and it’s often held on a pedestal over “traditional” services like youth services, reference and programming.
When Miss Julie wrote her blog post “ego, thy name is librarianship” a lot of the points really resonated with me. She illustrated why I often felt frustrated at our professional organizations, why they decided to give awards and accolades to people who wrote about libraries without real practical applications. Or worse yet, people who don’t seem to do anything besides develop marketing gimmicks to other librarians. She also points out Youth Services is not seen as a progressive field if it’s acknowledged at all, unless tech is somehow tied into it. And so Youth Services librarians are confined to their YS Ghettos, doing it for themselves while our professional orgs ignore them for the razzle dazzle.
Which brings me to Bobbi Newman’s reaction post. I think it really misses the mark on what Julie was talking about and trying to say about how our profession values different segments of the field. Bobbi’s post was predicated on the idea that Julie was saying “HOW DO I GET ASKED TO BE A SPEAKER?” which is incorrect. Julie’s frustrations (along with many other librarians) are rooted in the idea that traditional services are seen as “less than” compared to tech services and those who do traditional services are less deserving of the innovator title. The fact that Youth Services librarians are rarely put on the same level as librarians touting tech is not because YS librarians don’t present at enough conferences or they don’t write enough blog posts, it’s because our profession has decided they’re a relic when they’re actually the heart of public library services.
Julie also brings up the point that librarianship tends to put more value on the opinions and antics of male librarians, over the work of female librarians. I would certainly agree and I would add that our professional obsession with everything tech has a good deal with that. Technology has long been seen as a “Man’s World” while conversely, the librarian role has been “female dominated”. Technology and tech services are automatically given greater value over the traditional library services, i.e. working with children, helping people on a one-on-one basis and other nurturing and feminine coded services. Even though librarianship is “female dominated” we are no stranger to the patriarchy. Men are over represented in administration roles across the board and their voice is louder in professional development roles. How many times have male librarians spoken over female librarians on subjects they have no practical experience in? How many of those men are considered to be “The Experts” on subjects in the profession when there are hundreds of female librarians who have the same experience or more? And how many of those men are given awards & speaking engagements while the people doing the hard work on the ground are expected to consider them leaders in the field?
This isn’t about “WAH! I WANT ATTENTION TOO!” it’s about a particular element of our profession being over-represented and others being under valued because of some misguided notion of relevance. This is a systemic issue within librarianship and unlike what Bobbi says, it can’t be solved by paying your own way to conferences. We have to really take stock and take a good hard look at what kinds of things we are putting value on and which things we are tossing to the side. People are out there writing about their experiences and we need to be shining the spotlight on them. Personally, I refuse to attend any workshop or keynote by someone who doesn’t do any of the things they’re going to talk about. I will no longer read blogs by people who have no practical experience in what they write about, opting instead to seek out those who do. And I plan on celebrating hard working women in the profession and trying to support them whenever I can, Leslie Knope-style. I invite you to do the same.