September 23, 2009

Thanks to Libraries, Librarians

You sit down to write a novel and soon the characters are crowding around demanding attention with the urgency and self obsession of a 3-year old. Nothing shuts them up until the manuscript is ripped from your hands at deadline, and even then, they squawk until they've gone to print.

Over the years you send off many characters, all of whom you love and wish well- even the bullies and brats. The first word you receive that they've arrived safely in the outside world are the reviews and reported sightings of your baby snug and comfy on bookstore shelves.

But you don't really hear from your characters until readers write to tell you they've spent time with them, and that they are still alive on the page.

Fan mail is your "Hi Ma! We're OK!" And it is wonderful! Then the sad day comes when you get the R letter. The one saying, "We're sorry to inform you that sales stink and we have to REMAINDER your baby"–informing you of the publisher's intention to stand your characters at the edge of a ditch, blindfold them, and have a firing squad of sales execs, bookkeepers, and risk assessment managers gun them down.

The horror of the R letter is mitigated by only one thought: Your babies are safe in the library! Were it not for libraries there would be nowhere for your characters and stories to hide. Nowhere for them to wait out disasters and economic storms, or continue to meet new readers.

Were it not for librarians there would be no one to introduce your characters to new children, as the older ones grow and move on, and fashions change.

And so I want to thank you, librarians, for the work you do, and for the many lives you save.

Amy Goldman Koss Glendale, California

Josey Tribute in Verse

It is with much sorrow that I write to give acknowledgement of the passing of Dr. E. J. Josey (Aug./Sept., p. 29-30).
He was always a source of encouragement and advice–a leader's leader:

Dr. Josey
Man of Letters
You were the very words we read
You laid the path and walked each step
You reached out in your journey and
recruited an army
Oh, to be read like a book
Oh, that we can continue the journey, continue your walk
Creating opportunities, fighting for
justice-making who we are a light for others to follow
Oh, to be the one of well read letters The very characters that spell hope and end in Yes, We Can Dr. Josey Man of letters . . . you made a difference
Rest in Peace

Greg Sidberry Nova Southeastern University Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Kudos for Luann Comic Strip

As a retired public services librarian and former ALA member, I have been enjoying the daily comic strip Luann, as she is a teenage volunteer and worker in a public library.

The comic strips during which she has taught the Australian student about American libraries have been especially fun to read-and right on the mark.

I think ALA should acknowledge this cartoonist in some way for bringing the benefits of American public libraries to the comics page of daily newspapers.

Joyce Gunn Pittsburg, California

"Monopoly" Responses

Regarding Patrick Moloney's statement about school librarians being paid at the same rate as teachers (May, p. 11), most California school districts have a pay scale that values education beyond the initial degree and credential.

As a high school library media teacher (or teacher-librarian) with a BS, MLS, and two credentials, I am paid at the highest step level because I have the college credits or degree for that level. With 11 years in my district, that difference is between $5,000 and $7,000. Teachers and teacherlibrarians are also required to continue their education-six units every three years with a bachelor's, or six units every five years with a master's.

Perhaps Mr. Moloney was looking at the differences in pay for public versus school library professionals. If I were to work in a public, academic, or special library, I would be taking a pay and vacation cut: In my unscientific research into other areas of librarianship, it's the public libraries that are at the lowest pay levels for an MLS, along with a greatertime commitment (less vacation).

I also respectfully disagree that an MLS prepares an individual for working with teachers, students, administrators, and district staff. Having taught in the classroom gives one a perspective and understanding that is impossible to acquire through public library service or an MLS program.

Teacher-librarians are dedicated to the education of their students through collaboration with their teacher colleagues;
they just have the largest classroom on campus.

Marcie Mitchell South San Francisco High School


Patrick Moloney argues that his MLS and not "the precious teaching credential" should be required to be a school librarian. He says having two credentials but being paid the same as a teacher with one implies the library credential is less important to schools.

As a junior high librarian for over 30 years, I've taught library skills classes, speech/ newspaper, and debate/ drama classes, among others (with all other teaching duties).

This meant 25 to 30 adolescents a class with all the grades, paperwork, angst, and parent conferences as any other teacher.

Having only library courses as a basis for my position would have left me unprepared for a school environment.
I'm not clear why California is so different, but Illinois teachers must have a specialty along with education courses.
Seems to me teachers are required to have dual credentials. We're also required to have continuing education to renew our certificates. Master's degrees aren't required, but most teachers do earn one for this purpose. I've a master's in instructional media.

My program wasn't around long enough to be ALA certificated. According to many librarians, I am not qualified for professional library work. With only the graduate library work needed for my teaching certificate it seems I'd not even be considered for a public library.

With my years as a junior high librarian I'd like to know whether Mr. Moloney would consider me for a young adult librarian. I could wonder if he could handle a class of uncooperative adolescents who would rather play games on a computer than do research.

Reality isn't students who obey every command, small groups, and a school district where an MLS somehow makes a person a better teacher than any other teacher or a better person than anyone else.

Janice Weiner Aptakisic Junior High School Buffalo Grove, Illinois

Aiding the Underemployed

I have seen plenty of words in American Libraries and AL Direct devoted to the jobless, namely how libraries are helping out the unemployed. However, I have seen absolutely nothing about jobless or underemployed librarians: those of us who have graduated with an MLS and have been unable to find jobs as librarians due to the failing economy.

I obtained my MLS last December and work as a librarian technician and bookseller; the libraries in my area are either not consistently hiring librarians or are under a hiring freeze. We may either be not working, or may be employed in non-librarian positions.

The ALA term for us is "non-salaried" librarians. There are so many of us in the Seattle area that I am starting a support group to share our stories and to continue working on our skills.

It is frustrating and depressing to be unable to do what we have spent the past few years devoting so much time and passion to training for. Do you have any plans in any of your publications to cover those of us adrift in our own field?

Season Hughes King County Library System Bellevue, Washington