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 🙂