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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Unemployed Librarians

The economic turmoil has touched every household in some way and in varying degrees, from the price of oil affecting gas, heating costs, food prices, and other commodities to the job situation. I'm talking about employment figures.

I've been without a paycheck for almost two months now. Although I can still afford to feed my family and take martial arts classes and get my hair done, I have pared back in other ways. As most of us have done, based upon the "shopping stats" and the effect of a cooling consumerism trend.

I am a librarian, and although I am out of work I still qualify to keep that title. I've earned it and I'm proud of it (no matter what E. says). A librarian without a library is not a comfortable picture, though. I've been trained and have dedicated years to helping patrons in many ways, and I'm out of that mainstream, up the dry creek to search for a new position. Jobs are scarce, especially where I live. (Moving is not an option.)

Experience the jobless world sometime. It can make people crazy, I'm sure. I am fortunate to have a way to comfortably get by, but my family is now without health/medical insurance. I've been used to this padding and when it is shed it makes me feel exposed. If I was dependent upon my salary to feed my family and pay the bills, I think I would do like a half-sister of mine did - that is, give up library work and find something. She works in retail.

Lucky me.

There is a strange tang when I meet someone and am asked, "What do you do?" When I say, "I am a librarian and a mother," I am usually met with, "Oh? Where do you work?" Then it gets awkward. "Well, up until recently..." But what happens is the behind the scenes judgment -
unemployed
becomes the label. And our culture values employment like a piece of our identity in society. It is a standing, a statement to our credibility and how much we are respected (or should be). If I state I am a VP of a bank, I would get seven stars, I believe. If I said, "Teacher," I'd get three or four, depending on the school. "Unemployed," and I get maybe one because I am a degreed librarian.

I'm sure you understand this rating system. In America, we use it everyday to qualify and set us apart, as well as to establish the cliques and memberships.
"I belong"
is a powerful feeling. Being outside that circle is a difficult place.

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