Children and LibrariesHere is one of the scariest stories about the future of libraries and the profession of librarianship that I’ve seen in a long while. Wausau, WI, has demoted several of its Librarian I positions to “Customer Services Librarians,” with a $10,000 cut in pay annually.

It was all part, you may be sure, of that dreaded phenomenon, the “reorganization.” (Have you been through a “reorganization” yet? I’ve been through several over the years. It’s not ever fun.)

Here’s the kernel of the article, which basically lets librarians know that Wausau considers them less valuable in the era of the Internet, since (I guess) they’re no longer being required to work so hard on all those tough reference questions that people can now answer for themselves:

Library director Phyllis Christensen said the former director and county leaders had initiated the reorganization. Money saved by Monday’s decision will pay for increased health insurance costs.

“I would rather keep people on staff at a lower pay than fire somebody,” she said.

The reorganization also aims to meet the ever-changing needs of customers, she said. Librarians today do less complex work, she said — calling for pay adjustments and more technological assistance.

“We’re really becoming a community center,” she said. “Our public has different requirements of us.”

Librarians Sharyn Heili and Diane Peterson, two of the three who face the pay cuts, disagree. They said the need for their expertise remains the same, whatever the changes.

“It’s very disheartening… to be told you’ve been devalued,” Peterson said.

I hope that ALA will get busy and make a stink about this change. Anyone who works with children or YAs in particular knows that being a librarian for these ages is a highly skilled occupation – a youth librarian needs to know what children of a variety of ages need, what their parents and caregivers need, and what their teachers need. And you need to know what’s developmentally appropriate for them (including the adults). You’re not simply meeting and greeting; you’re dealing with a lot of sensitive family, health, and educational issues that need care in handling.

I’m hoping that Wausau has not taken the first step into pulling the profession of librarianship everywhere into a kind of grin-and-bear-it hostessing (and, of course, hosting). But I’m worried that it has.

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