Alright. So I guess it’s high time I stop neglecting this pitiful, fledgling blog and test out these writing wings once again. Many updates to be reported on the disaffected, alienated information professional front: your Shy Girl is now gainfully employed in a library. Haaaaaaaaaaaalllelujah! Mind you, I still don’t have the official ‘librarian title,’ but for now I am more than happy as a mere ‘Library Assistant III.’
Being back on campus in the academic environment has been a very edifying experience, and I expect it will continue to be so. I find I am enjoying campus life as a staff member far more than I ever did as a student, and this time I am not wasting any opportunities to further my career. I must and will turn this six month contract into a career — I have found my place at long last, my niche, and will do everything in my power to hold on to it.
A big part of my enthusiasm about campus life comes from my recent discovery of the newly formed London chapter (only the second in Canada) of the Progressive Librarians Guild. I first heard about the PLG only a few weeks ago, perhaps a week or two into my new position at the main campus library. Professor Sam Trosow from the Faculty of Information and Media Studies (see his blog here), whom I was familiar with from my time as a student at FIMs but had never heard speak, was giving a lunchtime talk on the history of the PLG. I, accompanied by two of my coworkers also new to the library, decided to attend. I really did not know what to expect, perhaps I had no expectations at all, but the more I listened the more I felt at home. I’d found my librarian equivalent to the Island of Misfit Toys. A heavily left-leaning group who just want to work in their field but struggle for any public recognition of their skill set, stuck with a professional organization who refuses, largely, to advocate for its professionals. This leaves a large and ever increasing group of new graduates finding themselves in exactly the same position I found myself after graduating: underemployed, underrepresented, and feeling ostracized — could we even call ourselves librarians without the institutional backup provided by gainful employment in the field?
Suddenly, I felt compelled to share my experiences with the group, and, overcoming my inherent shyness, I spoke up. I talked about my feelings of alienation after leaving library school, unable to find employment even remotely related to my field. About my agreement with a poster on CLA’s listserv about the intrinsic worth of a CLA membership (check out what he wrote here) — is it worth the $100 for a non-library-employed membership, double that for those who are employed in the field? I paid these dues once, and got so little out of it that I have never found it worthwhile to squeeze that not-insignificant sum out of my meagre budget again.
I found myself surprised by the discussion this generated, at general understanding of this predicament in which I thought I had been alone. I was even more surprised by those who stopped to thank me for sharing my experiences after the meeting concluded, stating that they themselves or friends of theirs were in the same situation after graduation. A call centre is a bad, bad place for an information professional, and I’m not the only one who had to endure it, there are others out there still enduring it, in that or other completely unrelated, non-respected, and completely underpaid jobs. There is such a need for outreach and networking for new grads, and until now there has really been nowhere for them to express their disaffection. I see the need for this relatively small academic group to move beyond campus, to include a broader range of information professionals, and to reach out to those cut off from campus life after graduation. From the draw generated by Sam Trosow’s lunchtime talk alone, and from what I’ve seen and experienced myself, I can see the PLG appealing to a lot of people. I can see it easily turning into a large, mobilized, and influential group of information professionals — not just librarians employed in the field, but students, unemployed graduates, and support staff — we are all on the same team, after all.
This might be a little crass, but I’m just going to come right out and say it anyway:
Suck it, CLA.
Shy quiet girl.