Dear Internet,

Yesterday I discussed the ridiculousness of job titles and their descriptions. For empirical proof, I’m going to dissect my last position, where I worked for nearly four years as a Systems & Web Librarian, and what those responsibilities really meant.

Let’s look at the requirements for that job directly from the horse’s mouth:

  • Information Literacy: In collaboration with colleagues, classroom instructors, and the Information Literacy Librarian, design, teach, and promote general and subject-focused instruction sessions that support the academic curriculum; develop a personal teaching philosophy; contextualize instruction based on course learning outcomes; teach database and web searching and evaluation; understand and apply Institutional Learner Outcomes (ILOs); participate in the development and delivery of library instruction to online and distance learners; create and maintain SubjectGuides and other instructional materials using web, presentation, and course management software; and participate continuously in the development and administration of learning assessments. (You’ll note this is one sentence. Cut/pasted for its absurdness in length.)
  • Reference Services
  • Collection Development
  • Liaison Service
  • College Service: Participate in faculty responsibilities as described in the Faculty Performance Evaluation system, including student advising and campus-wide committee work; cultivate collegial working relationships within the LLC; collaborate with colleagues in local, regional, and national libraries to cooperatively develop and manage print and digital resources; promote awareness of the LLC’s mission, resources and services; collaborate with LLC staff in long and short term planning; and support the mission, vision, values and strategic priorities of the LLC and the College. (You’ll note this is one sentence. Cut/pasted for its absurdness in length.)
  • Professional Development

(Pretty standard stuff you’ll see on most academic librarian job responsibilities.)

Now on to the real meat of the job:

  1. Coordinate and trouble-shoot daily operation of the ILS
  2. Serve as liaison to  IT Department for the integrated library system, web page server, and setup of library PCs
  3. Serve on campus-wide teams relevant to web page services and other information technology tools and resources
  4. Manage, design, and develop library website for optimum exposure and ease of use. Lead library team responsible for the content and presentation of the web site, including the use of existing and emerging social media
  5. Compile statistics on use of library system and library web page
  6. Maintain library’s  collaboration with statewide collaborative resource-sharing initiative
  7. Use technical expertise to assist with implementing and maintaining digital library services, including OCLC ILLiad and instructional support materials
  8. Provide library staff support and training in ILS and virtual services
  9. Demonstrated experience maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences through intentional instructional effort
  10. Portfolio of web page design and implementation projects
  11. Knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for evaluating and integrating emerging library technologies (They mean social media.)
  12. Ability to demonstrate the mental health necessary to safely engage in the librarian discipline as determined by professional standards of practice.

Now the job description is much longer, but I’ve weeded out the humdrum stuff. Let me now break down how I spent my 37.5 hour work week.

  • Reference desk: 10 hours
  • Instruction and prep for said instruction: 10 hours
  • Department and college wide meetings, including liaison departments: 10 hours
  • Fixing library computers, scanners, and related items: 5 hours a week

Number of hours to fulfill the listing of what I was hired, web and systems, to do: 2.75 hours.

A week.

Am I exaggerating?  Sadly no.

Let me break down what those job duties really meant:

  1. This was handled between myself and cataloging person, but mainly by me. I used lunch time and reference desk time to fix, update, and maintain the ILS
  2. The previous two librarians in the position burned bridges with the IT department and the library was on the lowest rung of the ladder for any kind of support. Because of that poor relationship, it took me six+ months to get into having weeklyish meetings with the various heads of the department and to get respect from those heads. The library has zero control over desktop environments, software updates and fixes, and so on. No one other than IT, including the Systems & Web Librarian had/has admin access. The best I could do is fix software issues (“I don’t know how to do headers.”), reboot machines, and fix student laptops because the library, aka me, was faster than the college’s open student lab. I doubt that has changed.
  3. The college’s website was handed over to the communications team, there is one person, in IT, handling/maintaining the college’s site and they have get “suggestions” from said communications team before doing any kind of work on the site. The systems and web librarian has zero administrative access.
  4. Library website is controlled by the college. Everyone in the library, per the library’s director, has access to update/manage/etc. It took me a year to get the staff to okay all changes I made for better navigation, usability, and other refinements before someone else in the library effed up my hard work, which I had to fix. In the nearly two years I’ve been gone, the site has remained identical to how I left it.
  5. As described for ILS and social media. Stats on the library’s website is controlled by the college and I had to make a formal request to get the analytics.
  6. As described
  7. More or less as described. The ILS is not hosted at the college, it’s managed by the ILS company. I could update and control the front end of the ILS for patron viewing but that’s about it.
  8. No one did this until I came along. So, as described.
  9. Buzz words
  10. I was the only person, confirmed by IT and the library director, who presented a web portfolio for tenure. Since the college runs the website, no idea why this was added since the person in this position would not have any control.
  11. They killed off half of my social media initiatives, the social media is rarely updated.
  12. About 12. YES, that was on the job description. YES, it was reference to me as I’m bipolar. YES, the college was bombarded with phone calls, emails, and so on to get that removed. YES, I was in process with talking to the college’s legal team on suing the college. Good times.

You may be asking yourself the following questions:

  • “Lisa, you do know while you’ve stripped this post of your previous employer’s name, it’s in your portfolio?”
    • Yes, yes I do. I figured since the college tried to eff me in a variety of ways, it was open season.
  • “Lisa, but future employers…”
    • Look, let’s be honest. Future employers love my interviews/resume/skills but once they do a Google search and see the #teamharpy case, I’m persona non grata. My skill set is highly desirable, I am, however, not.
  • “Lisa, everyone in nearly every librarian position is expected to handle multiple jobs. You’re not a special snowflake.”
    • I know this. I’m not so smug to think this was only me. But you know what? People who are ladled with this much responsibility are burned out. They work unpaid overtime from home or stay after scheduled hours. Self-care is a joke. They then cut ties and take their skills to other fields, mainly pure IT, to get the money they deserve. About 75% of my librarian friends who are IT nerds do exactly that.

How do we fix this problem? Here are my suggestions:

  • Stop requiring all positions to have “blended” relationships. You’re attempting to get more bang for your buck while your employee is getting burned out. Should they do some of these things? Sure. Have said employees work reference once or twice a week, or maybe be a liaison to a department that fits their background. But for the effing love of god, stop forcing them to do ALL THE THINGS and then start grabbing at your pearls when projects are not getting done.
  • Stop being cheap and break up the unicorn position (which I’ll discuss in another post) into multiple positions. Don’t give me the tap dance your budget cannot allow for it. If the college can pay the president and upper echelon management zillions of dollars, you can find the cash.
    • At a position I interviewed with recently, I was told by the director I could have any kind of computer system I wanted, two if desired; head to any kind of conference I wanted and the college would pay, and continued listing all these great, and costly, perks. But the college was absolutely adamant they couldn’t pay more than extremely low $40Ks. Extremely low. It’s bullshit. If you want me to stay, you want to me do my job and enjoy my job, pay me what I deserve.
    • Speaking of which, use money normally paid to adjuncts (and I’ve seen departments have up to a dozen adjuncts who did full time library work on part-time pay/hours) and funnel that into a second position. You’re wasting money.
  • Be realistic. Ask yourself what is it you really want from the position and the person. Don’t listen to bruhaha from college colleagues, not every library needs a goddamned 3D printer, or from other libraries what you should have as opposed to what you need. Not every library needs the same things. All libraries want to be forward thinking and relevant, which is also totally okay and encouraged. It’s totally okay to have wants, but while it would be great to have someone do geospatial work for your stacks, if you’re a tiny ass library, is that a bit ridiculous? (Yes, yes it is.)
  • Appreciate your employees. True facts: I loved working at my few bucks above minimum wage bookstore job rather than the $62K a year library job because I felt appreciated. I was encouraged to expand my horizons. I was told what a great job I was doing. At the library job? Not so much. I’m not alone in this thinking. Many will accept reasonable pay cuts or work that much harder for their upper management if they feel appreciated. And it doesn’t have to be big! A card, a lunch, a or cheap gift card somewhere, doesn’t matter — as long as the employee is feeling like they are doing a good job, they will stay. (This should be taught in management classes. It would do wonders for moral.)

This is getting ridiculous long so I’ll end here. Let’s give the lowdown on what I covered: Empirical proof of what job descriptions really mean, including examples. Suggestions to make changes in this system.

Tomorrow I’m going to dip my toes into franken jobs, what I mean by unicorn job positions, more thoughts on responsibilities, and pay wage/gap. Well, I hope to at least cover some of it. 🙂