Saturday, February 18, 2006

Library Rant

So while I offer you some laughs with the one hand, here is a serious big stick with the other! Jim's Podcast opens with that snippet "It's quiet here... Nobody bothers a librarian." That's the good AND the bad of librarianship. It is very pleasant in many ways to be left to our own devices. We can experiment with new ideas, research to our hearts' content, and usually run the library the way we see fit.

The downside is that hardly anybody has any idea what we really do! And that goes double for the Human Resources folks who have to make decisions about pay scales! They tend to look at what all the other schools are paying their librarians, and go according to that. And I think it must all be set by a combination of somebody's memory of their third grade school librarian (card catalog, shelving and stamping books), and what they believe we will put up with. And dammit, they seem to be right!

The problem is that the salary is basically set when you accept the darned job! Ever after that, it's just a matter of small percentage increases to the original salary you negotiate. Once you accept, that original salary is IT, guys! And the problem is that, like, me, most folks are just giddy with delight that, Golly, gee, they WANT me, they like me! Librarians are helpful folks; we are not by nature tough negotiators. (A fact the vendors and publishers have figured out and are often using to their advantage, I might add! See if you have tougher-minded people on your staff who can negotiate the contract for you and you sign it!)

So, once you take that job, you are stuck with percentages on the original salary until and unless you are willing to jump ship and go to another position. This is tough news. It is possible that if you move within the same library to another position, you can raise your salary considerably, so that's some consolation. But be aware, that the salary you negotiate going in, it so going to be IT.

Unless and until librarians either

1. challenge the HR people sharing information as a form of collusion along the lines of anti-trust violations (WOW! I think this might actually be more of a violation than sharing how much I pay student workers!); or

2. unionize across the country (gee, as a manager, I can't believe I said that! I might totally regret that),

I do not believe that librarian salaries will significantly improve. I am royally pissed off. I do not see any significant or effective action from AALL. They are piddling around making tiny tempests in tiny teapots lest WE violate antitrust talking to each other about student worker pay levels (the student workers are not competing with each other for the positions, how can this be anti-trust?), while the salary survey shows year after year, clear evidence that university pay levels are within pennies in the same region. Isn't that how the baseball players' union busted the owners' chops for collusion? I'd like to see some action here!

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