Thursday, 15 March 2012

And for this I need a Masters degree?

The library where I work (aka "my library", even though I don't own it) was recently the grateful recipient of a Living Libraries grant, which allowed us to make some neccessary refurbishments, renovations and improvements to the building.

A few weeks ago, the Minister for Local Government, plus entourage, came to officially open the new facilities, and thus for two weeks beforehand we were engaged in a great deal of lifting, moving, taking shelves apart, and putting shelves together again.

It was very physical work, and not at all demanding of the sort of skills that are part of the Masters degree in Information Studies than I'm currently working on, one subject at a time, while working full time.  I remember, in fact, when I began working in libraries - after a very office-based profession for the previous four years - noting that librarianship was very definitely NOT a sedentary occupation.  But I'm not sure that I ever really expected it to be quite as unrelentingly physical as all that hammering shelves together (and taking them apart), and shifting books around.  At the end of the day before the opening I went home, arms, legs and back all aching from the work I'd been doing.

I was struck by a line in the textbook I had to get for my marketing class this semester - which only just arrived today - to the idea of having a marketing 'unit' within the library consisting of representatives from the various areas of the library.  We don't have enough people for that sort of thing, and yet our staff are always being reminded by the other library branches within our regional library organisation that we are the only branch with more than a single staff member on duty at any one time.  It's one of the oddities: being bigger than everyone else you deal with, but smaller than all the example libraries talked about in the research.

When you look at what a library staff member does in an average day, I guess I can see why people don't tend to think that we necessarily need a degree.  I mean, who needs a degree to put shelves together, or to refill the paper towel dispenser, or to change the toilet paper from the wrong way around in the dispenser to the right way (something I seem to be doing every day at the moment)?  And so many days are like that in a public library.

I know I'll have the days when I feel like I'm using the skills of my degree (once I've finished it).  I know my degree is giving me skills that will serve me well in the future.  I already have days when I know that I'm using the skills I've been given, that I've developed in my four years so far in libraries.

But when I'm bashing at shelves with a mallet, or putting together display sets with a universal set of Allan keys, I don't think that I can be entirely blamed for asking the question: "And for this I need a Masters degree?"

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