Why my ungracious response to Claire Potter’s “Kiss a Librarian” post on the Chronicle
Tenured Radical Claire Potter wrote a post on the Chronicle of Higher Education blog recognizing librarians, especially radical librarians on the occasion of National Library Workers Day. She encourages her faculty colleagues to kiss us. Yay! I tweeted a request for cake, but consensual kisses are along the same lines.
So why were one other commenter and I a little snarky, correcting Dr. Potter’s incomplete citation and misinterpretation of a children’s book, rather than being grateful for the acknowledgment of our awesomeness and radical politics?
I do appreciate Dr. Potter stating that librarians are “the heartbeat of our universities” and sharing her love for archivists. And yet, it rankled. While librarians are often in a position of privilege in society, making a middle-class wage and getting to do a job we like, within the academy, we generally feel second-class, even librarians with faculty status, even librarians with Ph.Ds. What I really want from faculty is advocacy and solidarity, more than kisses, or even snacks.
Many of us do not have a voice on college and faculty committees, are low on administrative priority lists and generally an “oh aren’t they great (but I actually have no real understanding of what they do)” glint in the eye of those with pull in our institutions. I know many faculty members don’t feel like they have much pull either, but if they look around, they’ll see that they have more than we do.
We are undervalued and misunderstood. Some of that is on us; we’re doing our best to do better outreach to students, professors and staff, but face it, what we’re great at is supporting research, not marketing. That’s why I had a negative reaction to Dr. Potter’s post. I don’t want a pat on the head. I want some semblance of salary and authority parity. At my own institution assistant professors' average pay is higher than mine, and I've been working as a librarian for thirteen years. Yeah, I don't have a Ph.D, but I do have the terminal degree for librarianship and a professional reputation (including having published chapters in two of the books Dr. Potter mentioned) on par with associate and even full professors.
My reaction is not strictly about me or how much money I make, it’s about feeling patronized, even infantilized. While I’m pro-kisses, what I really want is a seat at the table.
If librarians can’t have that, the least we should expect is to have our work cited properly.