I have a bone to pick with Frank A. Pezzanie, CEO of Library Systems and Services (LSS). The Shelf Awareness edition from Monday, September 27 talked about how LSS, a private company, is preparing to take over the Santa Clara public library system. This means that the public library system would now be run by a private entity. Although I feel a little trepidation about running a public library as a profitable business, I am not prepared to weigh in on the consequences of such a move at this time. We'll have to wait and see how it pans out.
I have worked in public and private libraries for ten years. I am especially passionate about public libraries. In many ways, these institutions are our nation's agoras. Everyone is welcome and the materials are free for everyone. They are truly equal-opportunity institutions with something for everyone from children's programming to ESL education.
Here is Frank A Pezzanie's take on people who work in public libraries:
Pezzanie told [the New York Times]: "A lot of libraries are atrocious. Their policies are all about job security. That's why the profession is nervous about us. You can go to a library for 35 years and never have to do anything and then have your retirement. We're not running our company that way. You come to us, you're going to have to work."
This is both ridiculous and offensive. No one is banking a lot of money as a library worker (except maybe the library director). And we work HARD! As more and more budget cuts hit public libraries, library workers are faced to take on many more roles at the same pay. When I was still at the public library, I worked circulation, ran children's programming, did shifts at the Reference desk, processed magazines, covered all the displays, handled security issues and provided general back-up. I do not hold a MLS and I never received any raise in pay for any additional duties I took on as a result of budget cuts. I worked non-stop every day, sometimes past closing, to the job done and to do it well. I didn't simply sit on my bum at the circ desk reading a book all day. And I never felt any sense of job security as I watched jobs disappearing left and right.
Pezzanie comes off as both arrogant and uninformed.
Working at a public library can often be like working at the DMV. I loved getting to know my patrons, doing storytimes, providing reader advisory....but I was also beaten down by a lot of abuse from patrons, arguments about fines and the destruction of library property, handling inappropriate behavior and security risks....this was hardly "never having to do anything."
Next time you go to your local library, give your librarian or circulation clerk a smile and a "thank you." You may be the only one to do that the entire day and they will appreciate it.
And as for Pezzanie.....we'll see how much HE has to work.