Children’s Librarians

Profiles By: Mary Henley

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Part Two Income, Professional Advancement, and Working with Children

 

Berry alludes to fact that males are looking to be promoted quickly, make a higher salary, interact with children and the public as little as possible, and go into administration as the end goal. “Men that start as a librarian usually move up to either management situations or, if they have a teaching background, they go into the colleges” (Berry Interview). It seems that males do not go into the public libraries with the intention to remain a librarian who works with patrons, but instead to be promoted as quickly as possible in order to supervise other librarians.  Berry goes on to describe that a male has a greater likelihood of achieving the position he is applying for than a female who is far less of a rarity. The male librarian is more likely to get the job he wants, which would include a higher salary and possibly less frustration as there is less interaction with the public. Having minimal contact with the public also allows many male librarians to research and publish in their field, thus supporting promotion (Berry Interview).

To understand more fully why female librarians typically remain in such a gendered environment, it is easiest to start with the statistics. “A master’s degree in library science (MLS) is necessary for librarian positions in most public, academic, and special libraries” (BLS, 17 Dec. 2009).  The average pay scale ranges “$47,940 to $55,250 per year,” depending on the state, cost of living, and the type of library work that is being done (BLS, 17 Dec. 2009). The average salary does not sound shockingly low; however, there is another possible explanation for the gendered constraints of the profession.

Berry suggests, “Not a lot of people want to work with children. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of endurance” (Berry Interview). The description of a librarian is very similar to that of a public school teacher— low pay, no room for professional growth, and working with children.  Because of the difficulty of working with children, most male librarians work in the adult section, universities, and high schools. They rarely work with small children (McMenamin Interview). Furthermore, because of the rarity of a male librarian, they are often allowed to choose the subcategory that they would like to work in, instead of being pushed into children’s literature or similar areas.

This practice of assigning women to positions that often stunt their professional growth parallels another profession— nursing. Men are traditionally groomed to become doctors, who make more money, whereas women are encouraged to be nurses, making less money. Nurses interact with the patients because the doctor has far more important business to take care of.  Interacting with patients requires a lack of complaint, a characteristic that men are taught they do not have in abundance.  Women have always been thought of as caretakers, nurturers, and educators, while a man’s job, traditionally, is to be strong and capable. While these stereotyped behaviors may seem like archaic beliefs in the 21st century, it is important to look at how these beliefs are put into practice today.

 

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Part Three A History of Female Advocacy for Children's Literacy

Managerial wisdom in the library system rests on the assumption that there is not a lot of professional advancement for a librarian, and a way to get a male to work for the library is the promise of not having to work with children. For example, in the Omaha Public Library system, there are only five different positions for a librarian.  Verda Bialac, a previous assistant director and acting director for the Omaha Public Library, explains that those positions are “Librarian 1, an entry level position; Librarian 2; Librarian 3, a supervisory position that includes all the categories encompassing all of the library system; Assistant Director; and Director” (Bialac Interview).  Bialac argues another possibility as to why librarians are predominantly female: “It could be because it is an inside job, safe, and working with people and children” (Bialac Interview). Bialac’s