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Non-profit doesn’t make you exempt from shaming

February 22, 2011

While we have been quiet for awhile, the bad job posts still continue. But this one, oh this one. This one takes the cake. A friend of mine who is still in library school brought it to my attention. It starts off by saying that the incumbent in the position has stepped down to further his education; that’s a statement that could be taken a variety of different ways. But the devil of this job ad is in the details.

The job is a zine librarian at the Independent Publishing Resource Center and, at first look, the job duties look like a fairly standard special collections/special libraries position. They include:

* Approx eight to ten hour commitment per week
* Coordination of other library volunteers
* Zine cataloguing and database upkeep
* Withdrawal of lesser-read titles
* Expanding book arts and prose/poetry collection
* Maintaining New Arrival section
* Creating new section for Certificate Program publications
* Planning for possible library expansion and technology updates/digital archiving

Its qualifications look pretty standard:

* Degree in library science
* Knowledge of library database software (including, but not limited to FileMaker Pro)
* Strong written and verbal communication
* Excellent organization skills
* Strong interest and experience with zines, indie lit and/or comics

At first glance, the preferred qualifications look fairly reasonable as well, if typically wide-ranging:

* Advanced degree in library science
* Strong interest in updating/expanding the IPRC’s book arts, prose/poetry, and/or graphic novel collections
* Experience with grant-writing for libraries
* Experience with digital archiving

Wait a minute. What was the first bullet point under the job duties section?

* Approx eight to ten hour commitment per week

Oh, okey. 8-10 hours per week for all of that? That’s not going to happen, but whatever.

Wait, what was the job title again?

Volunteer Zine Librarian

Now, the job title and the (lack of pay) are insulting. To have an MLS as a preferred qualification for a job that pays NOTHING is ridiculous. But what I find most insulting is in the introduction to this job post. The IPRC says that this position “is a special opportunity to gain hands-on experience, and also to help sustain and develop one of the largest zine libraries in the country.” Not only should you have an MLS to get this job, you should be thankful that the IPRC is giving you the opportunity to improve yourself for no money or benefits while working a second job at the same time. This “job” would be a good field experience, for credit, for a library school student. But requiring this level of education and professional responsibilities, while boxing it into a 10 hour a week volunteer position, reflects poorly on the organization and their commitment to actually having a library.

I have sympathy for non-profit organizations who have to run their on a shoestring, who would never have the money to pay a real librarian. But Portland, Oregon, where the IPRC is based, has a library school! Emporia State University’s School of Library and Information Management has a campus in Portland, Oregon, that is six blocks from IPRC’s office. And that’s not to mention students who live in Portland who are in other online programs. There are staff and volunteers at my library in Williamsburg, Virginia, who are students in online programs; Portland is 42 times larger than Williamsburg. A relationship such as that, with a graduate student in charge who is perhaps under the occasional direction of a consultant or a friend who is a librarian, would be a mutual beneficial relationship that would be encouraging future library professionals instead of insulting them.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2011 3:01 pm

    They also want(ed) applicants to apply by February 31st — so maybe that 8-10 hours a week is as random as their calendar time. Maybe they REALLY mean 8-10 minutes per week? 8-10 hours per month?

  2. Kit permalink
    September 2, 2011 10:19 am

    This is truly indicative of how the insultingly low salary most librarians are paid on whole has collided with the US’s deeply inappropriate and oftentimes illegal practices of using ‘interns’ and ‘volunteers’ (but mostly interns). Considering the state of salaries across the US, I believe it’s pretty clear that the country no longer values work, ESP. young people’s work. They expect us to be *grateful* to shell out for huge student loans “because college is an investment in your future” and then have brainwashed everyone into thinking that unpaid internships are the only way to succeed in a person’s chosen field (which, sometimes it is now, which is sickening), and THEN once we’ve been conditioned to work for free since high school (gotta love those unpaid high school internships that are creeping into common play) they think we’ll be thrilled to earn $14,500 a year at a part-time job (which is all we can find after a year’s search).
    So corporate and educational America somehow believe that our future happiness and the stability of our economy rests on the backs of totally broke, massively in-debt 20-somethings who *literally* cannot afford to put a roof over their own heads or feed themselves and will pay off student loans sometime around age 65, if ever. I know I’m not bitter or anything.
    It’s just when a grown person applying for a *PAID* part-time librarian position gets told “you’ll probably have to pick up a night job at Wal-Mart to actually support yourself and live on a friend’s couch because rents are too high in this area”.

    NOTE TO EMPLOYERS: If you can’t afford to pay someone a living wage in your area? Don’t hire people. It’s insulting. The average librarian isn’t a housewife looking for a super-tiny income to supplement the family coffers. In fact, even if the applicant WAS a housewife looking to supplement the household income, it should STILL BE A LIVING WAGE. Daycare isn’t cheap.

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