It first became evident to me in “library school”, and now it is ever-present in my professional life. I must admit I feel like somewhat of a traitor and whistleblower in telling everyone about this, but here it goes.
Who can name what the number one duty of a librarian is? I can. I bet mine is different than yours. I should warn you: If you don’t want to know the real answer and be forced to face the truth that you have buried deep down so you won’t have to think about it, then you should not continue reading this blog.
The real, honest, and truthful number one duty of a librarian is to ensure that there are librarians and jobs to pay them. Ask any librarian and they are filled with excuses and reasons why their profession is vital to society. Hell, they can probably even regurgitate an argument for why we need to provide “Snakes on a Plane” to our patrons. We protect free speech and access to information. We facilitate education and societal enrichment. We preserve culture for reference and future study. All of these might be true, but it seems more and more to me that they are benevolent side effects to the real aim of the profession.
If all of these were the true reasons, it would be enough and we would also be responsible enough to understand that sacrifices must be made to ensure that we reach our aims. But it’s not. Instead we keep statistics, find ways to inflate them, and get rid of items that don’t facilitate their growth. Programs are held simply to increase the number of bodies that enter the library. Drives are held with marketing campaigns to increase membership whether or not the people actually ever come in the doors at all. All of this so we can show how much people like us and use us. All of this to justify our budgets and make sure the money will be there for us next year. All of this to make sure that we can keep on doing these same things in order to keep in getting more numbers in order to keep on requesting more money. Why else is funding and legislation a higher priority of the ALA than intellectual freedom?
Now, the argument can be made that these things are necessary to make sure that money is there enough to allow us to fulfill those “real reasons” I mentioned above. I don’t buy it. If that were the case then the reasons themselves would be argument enough. Why the constantly increasing need for positions and financing? Why all the money spent telling people how great we are? I’ve told you why: Because we want to keep getting paid.
Feel free to tell me how wrong I am; but limit the swearing in your personal insults please.