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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Underpaid and overworked

How many public librarians feel satisfied with the pay they receive? Out of those, how many justify the low pay with statements like, "I didn't get into library work to get rich," and "Well, we're in a recession..."

True, on both accounts, but self-sacrificing can certainly backfire. I've commonly taken on part-time work, through another library or as a tutor (or similar) to help supplement my income. Flat-lining salaries creates a lowering of annual take-home pay since prices continue to rise. Unfortunately, it also creates a mind-set in those who have the authority to accept or reject a budget request.

In public libraries, this is often the board of directors (also called the board of commissioners). Frequently, the overseeing board members are well meaning volunteers who take up the banner of their community library through serving, but their overseeing and managing can actually decrease the effectiveness of the library's administration when decisions are based upon limited information and/or assumptions. For example, a commonly held belief is that a female library staff member is supplementing her family's income through her part-time job at the local library. Women have taken on librarianship as a profession, but the image remains and it's not easy to break out of a stereotype. It takes generations, sometimes.

You may be reading this, disbelieving that particular view. It wasn't until I stepped back into a rural setting that I was reminded about how slow change can be. People may want change, but when it comes to questioning one's own personal views...well, that's hard. Very hard. Like sleeping on a rock.

I love library work. But I also love having the support of my supervisors and staff, colleagues and administrators, to take my work as far as it can go. My quest has been to be the most effective I can be, to enhance library work for patrons and communities, and to make the daily tasks as pleasant for staff as possible.

But in the meantime, I need more income. Perhaps I'll try for a couple of tutoring jobs. Maybe I'll search for another academic library job for a night or two a week. Or stretch outside the box of literacy and try my hand at buying and selling. I recently read about eBay and see that there are other options (see: "Skeptical Shopper: Tired of eBay? Consider these alternatives" October 1, 2010). But November is coming up and so I'll hunker down to indulge in my favorite work; writing. It's time to get ready for my next novel.

Maybe I'll come into a load of funds someday, somehow. I read enough stories to understand that there are some things I just don't know, so I might as well believe something good might occur. And a huge pile of money certainly sounds good right now!

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