Children and LibrariesThe Wausau, WI, Daily Herald published on Feb. 23 a follow up to its Feb. 22 story that mentioned the Marathon County Public Library’s demotion of four Librarian I positions to new “customer services librarian” positions. The customer services librarian positions offer salaries of only $36,000 a year, while the Librarian I salaries were $46,000.

Sure enough, the demotions came – at least indirectly – because the MCPL administration believes that the Internet has removed the need for librarians to possess a lot of their former abilities to answer reference questions and perform research (which, of course, many folks believe the citizens of Everywhere, USA can now accomplish themselves online). Library director Phyllis Christensen told the paper:

“Some of it is budget constraints, some is just a need to become increasingly relevant to our communities,” Christensen said, explaining that librarians are doing less “complex” work, such as providing reference and research assistance.

And you know what that means.

I haven’t yet been able to learn how the demotions are affecting librarians who work specifically with children, teens, and their teachers and caregivers. As I noted in my previous post, I feel strongly that the skills a children’s or YA librarian needs are, of all the varieties of librarian, least likely to be changed by technology – because young people and their caregivers and teachers need services that can only be provided effectively face to face.

The next question, of course, is, “Are those who fill these ‘customer service’ positions actually doing the work of ‘librarians’?” Are they exercising professional skills, or the skills that clerical staff people perform in many libraries (or the kind of greeting, and hosting, and circulation/checkout work a clerk performs in a Target or a Sears)?

One doesn’t need an MLS to do the job of someone in retail. If, indeed, ‘customer services librarians’ aren’t providing professional skills, their job titles should be changed.

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