After reading pcsweeney’s post on Librarian Haters, I am left with a weird feeling. On the one hand, I feel like he makes some excellent, excellent points. We are a small profession no matter how many tens of thousands of people attend ALA. Librarians are information channels. They know how to spread that information like wild fire. And if you piss off the wrong people, well… You better watch out.
Also, smack talking isn’t nice.
On the other hand, we are all professionals and we are all adults. As a professional complainer, I have to admit that I have said and complained about a lot of things that I’m probably not proud of. But I have to wonder about the intent. I am of the mind that if you have malicious intent, that is smack talking. If you know you shouldn’t be repeating or saying what you’re saying, that is smack talking (or gossip). If you’re venting because you’re frustrated, then that is something that, while, maybe not great or appropriate, is human nature and for someone like me who has to talk everything out, a necessary part of life.
So, I guess I am curious as to the definition of what pcsweeney is talking about.
And I’m curious because I spent much of the weekend, and I usually spend good amounts of time at conferences, thinking that I need to be nicer. I am a very critical person and, as one of my awesome librarian friends told me, I am sassy. And I feel like that sassy-ness can come off poorly in a number of ways. When I attend panels and leave early, I worry what the panelists will think. Because I know I wouldn’t like to see someone walk out on my panel – even though I understand that there are a million reasons people walk out – including time contstraints, them having a misunderstanding of the panel and it not really applying to them, and that they just aren’t interested. Which is why I usually sit in the back and remain anonymous.
My anonymity within ALA is becoming more and more difficult to maintain, however. As I become more active, my face becomes more familiar and what I do, say and how I act becomes an issue. As an ALA Councilor-at-Large, I want to be a rebel-rouser, not a mean person or someone who talks smack. I want to be someone who people feel represent them. Including the haters. Because they are upset for a number of reasons whether they be personal or professional, many of the people who I think might be construed as haters are really just tired. Tired of fighting for recognition and tired of fighting for their jobs and to keep their libraries open. And they feel like they don’t have support.
So I have to wonder. Are we talking about haters on individuals or haters on the profession? Haters on specific library districts or programs? I hate the ultimatum of: If you don’t like it, then get out. Because that’s not always an option. And, often times its not the right option. For example, I was discussing the plight of Native Hawaiians with someone and all of the issues minorities have in our country in general. The individual I was discussing it with basically said: If you don’t like it, then move to a different country.
That’s not the solution. The solution is to figure out the root of the problems and the roots of the complaints and go from there. As a councilor, I hope that I’m taking this approach in all matters. And when people complain or talk smack, I hope that rather than dismiss them, I can try to figure out the root of the problem.
Re-reading pcsweeney’s blog, I don’t think he was discussing what I was just discussing. I think that he was discussing something more malicious and something less productive. Like mocking an individual or making un-substantiated remarks, like “she thinks she’s better than everyone so I don’t like her” types of things. And to that end, while I admit I have made some snarky, unnecessary comments, I agree. It is unnecessary and unprofessional and usually unwarranted. But, as I do whenever I find myself being extra snarky for whatever reason, I remind myself that I need to be nicer, and that karma is a bitch. And that everyone has relapses and its how you present yourself afterward that will make the difference in whether or not you succeed.
Even though this blog took a turn I didn’t think it would and didn’t really respond to pcsweeney’s post, I appreciate the brainstorming it got me to do as I assess my role as a librarian and my role as an active ALA member and what I want to do with those roles in the future. Thank You, pcsweeney!