Being a member of the American Library Association, every month I receive my issue of American Libraries. I even read it most of the time. This month it included thisarticle by Jason Smalley discussing the librarian identity crisis facing many of us with library degrees these days. The fact that I am not alone in the paralyzing fear of being asked my profession is both parsimoniously comforting and horribly depressing.
I am a librarian. I consider myself a librarian and I have the degree to back me up. However, like Smalley, I do not earn my living by working in a library. I work for a database company and I enjoy my job most days. I even get to work with library catalogs and metadata which I absolutely love. None of this changes the fact that my job title does not contain the word “librarian” causing me no small amount of psychological anguish.
I still say that I’m a librarian when people ask what I do and most are satisfied with that. It’s the rest of you out there, the people who need details, who are really lining the money in some future therapist’s pocket. You people that can’t leave well enough alone and just have to ask, “So what library do you work for?” This is the social situation that causes my heart to skip a beat, my lungs to seize, and a deer-in-headlights look to appear in my eyes. Then the shameful truth comes out, “Well I don’t actually work at a library…” I can hear you judging me at this point, “Well why did she say she was a librarian then if she doesn’t work in a library?”
Here is the problem I have with people who think this judgment at me: you probably are one of the 9 out of 10 people who didn’t even know you need a Master’s Degree to be a librarian in the first place. So while you’re over there being Judgy McJudgerson, I am desperately trying to cling to my bookish self-respect and grapple with the fact that there really are no “real” library jobs right now due to the horrible state of the economy (it is a post for another day howmessed up it is that libraries, of all institutions, are having their budgets slashed to pieces in an economic crisis that would actually benefit from more information for the public).
The fact is, when I got my degree (Master of Library and Information Sciences) it says I get “all rights and privileges appertaining” and one of those privileges is to call myself a Librarian even when I do not work in a library. I worked very hard for that degree and I will forever identify myself as a Librarian because I can and because that, at the heart of everything I do in my non-library job, is what I am.
I like to eat and pay my bills as much as the next person, which is why I work at a database company instead of wallowing in psychological anguish. The education required for my chosen profession that I can’t technically claim didn’t come cheap.
So next time you just have to follow up that question either don’t, or don’t judge me for proclaiming “Librarian.” Preferably, just don’t.