The more press de-stereotyping the library profession, the better, I suppose. Today’s New York Times article, "A Hipper Crowd of Shushers” compliments the more middle of the road "The Modern Librarian: A Role Worth Checking Out" in last month’s Washington Post. I hate taking issue with everything (ok, I don’t) but I kind of feel like this should’ve been written at least eight years ago and the references to Gen X only reinforce that (the writer is the co-author of the new book How Sassy Changed My Life so it makes perfect sense). On the other hand, I’m glad we’re getting our due (did I just say we?). I would much more expect to see an article focusing exclusively on loft-dwelling Cobrasnaking under-26s but that makes no sense because true hipsters don’t work for a living.
So, what’s my beef? It’s not with the young(ish) librarians. A profession is as cool as you make it (though I’m not sure if memes like LOLlibrarians help or hinder). I would agree with the stable, sane hours, day job appeal characterization but it’s a highly incompatible career with NYC. Library work is only financially appealing if you’re accustomed to waiting tables, bartending, photo assisting, cashiering, museum/gallery helping or work in book publishing (not so much news or magazines—different personality type. And there’s no way Ugly Betty, yes fictional, pulls nearly $38,000 as a pseudo-Vogue assistant, and I’m not the only one who says so). English, Fine Arts, History major jobs. I would be shocked if even 1/3 of the people mentioned in this Times article were making the $51,000 median salary cited (I didn’t crack that figure until this year and I felt very lucky. Though my job title is not librarian, which is often the key). Public libraries and nonprofits in the city are still paying $30s, academia and media maybe mid-$40s (though frequently less).
I’ve become very pragmatic with age. I was never bothered by doing more with less in my 20s. But realistically how do these numbers jibe with the average NYC apartment renting for $2,553? Not to mention the student loans associated with obtaining a master’s degree (in the case of academic librarians: two). It’s a personal choice, I guess. Like people who join the military and are surprised when their legs are blown off, or couples who marry after two dates and hate each other five months later. But then, those drawn to this profession tend not to have mainstream priorities like home owning, children (I know very, very few librarians with kids, and I can only think of one who remained in NYC after having a child but she’s loony and possibly subsidized by family and/or the government) exotic vacations, luxury vehicles, designer clothing and so on. These are sack lunch folks, and food is the one sore spot because dining decadently is very appealing to me. My eating will not be hindered by my career choice, dammit.
Las Vegas strip club photo from my own Flickr set