I usually don’t get very far into the libraryland twitter uproars, because those things tend to get real nasty real quick and I don’t have the emotional energy to spare. But the phrase “tattooed spunky hipster librarians” got my attention last night, and I decided to read the most recent Hiring Librarians post at 10:30 at night. Now, since I possess an MLIS plus five-to-seven years of nonprofessional, paraprofessional, and professional experience in libraries and museums*, along with a few tattoos** and I suppose a spunky attitude***, and because I dress in a way that would probably make people classify me as a hipster though really it’s just a pair of Warbys topping off a preppy nerd look****, I know I do not have the right to chime in on the debates of my betters. Buuuuttttt…I also am an instructor of writing and rhetoric, so I thought I might share some of my critiques of this anonymously authored post just as a piece of writing:
- #1. Anonymous Author, is this really how you want to present yourself in public? One of the saddest parts of this century has been viewing a constant stream of evidence that demonstrates how quickly people choose to make enemies rather than friends in digital spaces and to abuse anonymity to vent their spleen. I really might use this post and some of the publicly tweeted responses as an example of how not to reach a discourse community–I started working on the lesson plan in my head last night. I certainly think this post will cause the pool of applicants for jobs in urban areas in the UAE to shrink in the immediate future.
- #2. Anonymous Author, where’s your logic? Leaving out the ad hominem moments, you first say your hires need good people skills at the desk and then say that these interactions aren’t being done by real librarians anymore. Which one is it? And related to this, what kind of ethos are you trying to present? Do you/your institution value this labor and the people who perform it, or do you dismiss it as trivial? And do you have different feelings from your institution on this matter? If this were one of my students, this logical inconsistency would send off little alert bells about patchwork plagiarism in my head. I’d send it through Turnitin if it hadn’t already been done.
- #3. And speaking of using computers to evaluate writing: Anonymous Author, what’s up with your values? You/your institution only reviews applications after they’ve been electronically evaluated for certain keywords, and this made me realize how firmly I believe that using machines to evaluate human writing isn’t a thing we should be doing when some part of the writer’s future is on the line. I didn’t think I felt so strongly about this until I read that blog post, and I’ve even argued that some folks use things like the NCTE Position on Machine Scoring as an excuse to avoid any exploration at all of using quantifiable or algorithm-based exploration of writing and to enable the continuation of an outdated, romanticized idea of writing. But both information science folks and writing studies folks know how hard it is to make a text reflect reality, and how keywords can destroy diversity. And every single job seeker knows that the cover letter is a difficult genre to write in with some degree of mastery and innovation and a minimal amount of repetition. Do you want people who are ready to interact with people, or people who are ready to interact with machines? Because that’s two very different looking cover letters, and two very different sets of skills. If you are hiring for a professional position, you can commit to performing the professional courtesy of reading your applicants’ letters, just as I commit to reading every single journal, draft, and reflection that comes from my students. Or if you/your institution/we as a profession can’t, maybe it’s time to reflect on some values.
Problems like the first two I identified have resulted in grades somewhere along the C-/D range in my required gen ed writing classes. C’mon, dude*****. Do better.
*I do realize, though, that since I’m not currently working in a library, many people might not want me to call myself a librarian.
**I think my possession of these is a fairly indisputable fact, but they do not correlate to or cause my attitudes towards work or the LIS profession, and as another fact the majority of my professional library experience occurred before I obtained them.
***If “spunky” means I can gently and steadfastly hold my own in a meeting and then turn around and help an 8 year old girl research how to become an astronaut and do both with an energetic and genuine smile.
****I am extra hesitant to allow myself to be identified as a hipster because I have watched the city I currently live in become settled by a some of them who do not always have a sensitive historical awareness. There’ve been some painful moments.
*****I’m not assuming the author is male; like many younger people, I routinely use this term to refer to people of any and all genders.