I’d like for this blog to not only be a source of very successful shaming (thanks for your post, Ben!) but also of success stories of employers who do it right.
And I’d like to start by talking about my own employer.
I’m currently a project manager for a digital archives/libraries project at George Washington University. While, generally speaking, I think that temporary jobs are the scourge of the profession for both the worker and the institution (a person with expertise enters the organization, gains skills, and then takes them with her, leaving the institution without that added value), this has been everything a temporary employee has ever wanted.
The real reason that this is such a success is because I work with folks who are invested in me, in collaboration, in accountability and in professional development. They budgeted for professional development and training in the grant because everyone should have professional development and training. They give me the opportunity to sit on committees because they understand that even though I’m a young professional, I have a unique skill set and perspective to contribute. This is a library that truly invests in its people, provides continued development, and does everything it can (even — especially — in tight financial circumstances) to make sure that they have the resources they need to do a good job.
A lot of thanks can also go to the IMLS — our program officer explicitly encourages me to sit on committees (institutional and cross-institutional) that allow me to apply the lessons learned from the grant to other digital projects. After all, grants are a two-way street, and the idea is for this knowledge to be disseminated within my community and beyond.
So, what makes for a good, fair position? A living wage, decent benefits, mentoring, institutional investment, an interest in developing skills, a culture that understands that we all learn most when we learn from each other, accountability, and respect for the fact that being an archivist or librarian is professional, highly-skilled work.
Not every job has been like this. And to be honest, the elements that make for a high quality of life are the ones that cost no money — respect, concern, and mentoring. There’s been some push-back from commenters about the very idea of this blog. I would hope, though, that the blog raises awareness for the idea that we deserve more. Every young professional should be given encouragement to grow into her job, provided with models of the kind of professional she could be, time to go to local professional group meetings, encouragement to expand her skills, opportunities for new responsibilities and new rewards, and an underlying current of mutual courtesy, care, and professional respect.
And if you as an employer can’t afford these things, then you can’t afford an archivist.