Monday, May 01, 2006

Boomer Librarians: Get Outa Here!

Will you pleez leave?

John Berry of Library Journal somehow managed to write something that I not only agree with, but agree with en toto.

His commentary in the May 1 Library Journal ("Start a Corps, Not a Corpse") discusses the recent ALA request for proposals for a new Library Corps that would recruit retired librarians to help libraries in need. Berry thinks it's a bad idea and the Baby Boomer librarians need to get out of the way and make room for young library graduates. The Library Corps should support new librarians, not find another way for old ones to continue their roadblocking.

Berry wrote:

I believe there would be fewer libraries that "need assistance" if the boomer librarians had been better at what they do.


Exactamundo! What can the boomers help with anyway? I decided to make a list of all the things boomer librarians do best:

1. Make catalog cards
2. Outsit everyone else until they fall into a top library management position
3. Scoff at new ideas
4. Create a librarian-centric rather than user-centric library
5. Display poor interpersonal communication skills
6. Display poor customer service skills
7. Remain blissfully uninterested in new technology trends
8. Repeatedly declare that "things would fall apart if I left."

And I came up with a good working definition of "a library that needs help": One that has few young professional employees.

I've seen too much dead wood in libraries and I'm sure anyone reading this has as well. I think nothing much was ever expected of boomer librarians. They came reluctantly to this profession and never embraced it. Rather, they maintained a death grip on their telephone receivers and yakked with their friends and relatives all day long instead of doing anything productive. Now they are overstaying their welcome and are damaging the development of libraries. As Berry wrote:

So far, the old folks have held on to those jobs, the attrition has been very slow.

This refers to the supposed "labor shortage" that has been expected for quite some time now but hasn't arrived because the boomers refuse to leave. I think of the young library grads I meet and imagine that these eager kids full of new ideas may not get a career in librarianship because of all the motionless flesh ahead of them.

ALA's Library Corps, as Berry notes, would exacerbate the problem. Once again, ALA's ideas are like a work of art in reverse: they get everything backwards.

As Berry wrote, the role of retirees should be:

[to] volunteer to work on raising the funds to augment the salaries of those young people as we place them in the empty spots in small libraries.

As for Berry, I take back anything I may have said about him in the past. After this commentary, all is forgiven.

Boomers of retirement age: Go to Florida. Go to Arizona. Go somewhere, just get outa libraries already.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

yay! I cannot tell you how many of my friends and I have the same sorts of discussions...