A rose by any other name

I recently wrote an article for our school newsletter and in doing so, struggled with how best to refer to myself (job title: librarian) and my colleagues (job titles: library assistants).  I ultimately went with “library team” as it acknowledged how I view us collectively, while allowing me to conveniently sidestep the issue.

Which apparently is something to do with the fact that I am very proud of being a librarian; graduate school was tough and I feel that I earned the title – plus it is my official job title. In the same vein, my two colleagues hold the official title of “library assistant”.  Why do I worry that this somehow implies something negative? That the definition of them being people “who rank below a senior person” (OED), while technically accurate, is demeaning? Or that someone might think they’re my assistants? I too rank below a senior person (and had a short but satisfying stint as an assistant in my former corporate life), so what’s my problem? 

This issue came up in a workshop discussion at a recent library conference. I learned that there had been a big dustup about an association-level document referring to anyone working in a school library as “library workers”.  Some people were upset about not being referred to as librarians; others were upset about teacher librarians and ‘non-professionals’ being lumped in with professional librarians. “Library workers” seemed to be a good example of a compromise that satisfied no one.

So when does a title matter within our school community? I guess when putting the staff directory together. Certainly when the buck stops with me regarding a sticky issue. And absolutely in terms of compensation and being viewed as a stakeholder. But when it comes to our students, most do not distinguish us by job title; to them, we are all librarians. At my school, they focus on the interaction rather than the title of person with whom they are interacting – is this the same for your schools?

I like the slightly facetious wording suggested by one person at the workshop: “all beating hearts who work in a school library in support of students”.  This doesn’t address my weirdness, but it does in some way reflect how I feel. Roses all 🙂

3 thoughts on “A rose by any other name

  1. This is fascinating! I certainly know there are titles that I prefer more than others, but I never would have thought anything odd about “library worker.” Thanks for the thoughts this Friday morning.

  2. I have many thoughts on this topic – too many to include here because it varies based on who the audience is and what the purpose is. I agree with what you’ve said, and feel the same. To answer your question, yes, the students, and most of the adults in the building, think that anyone who works in the library is a librarian, despite the differences in title and responsibility. What we library workers/staff know is that the way we treat people and the impression we leave will always be more important than our titles.

  3. Thank you for sharing this article. I agree with you that a Masters in Librarianship should maintain the title Librarian. I also know many librarians hold teaching credentials in private or public schools, so this title seems fine to me. For some reason, you I do not like library workers. It does not sound professional or academic to me. Librarians are educators, and I think of plant managers, janitors, etc as workers.

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