My thoughts on #radlib15 part 4 – Team working and the ‘professional divide’

This session really got me thinking a lot about my own experinces in the field. The session aimed to examine how we define and nurture best practice when working as a team, which was especially interesting in the non-hierarchical context of RLC. It also considered the ‘professional divide’ between those working at a professional level and those at a paraprofessional level.

The discussion about teams made me realise foremost that I have been very lucky in my current workplace. Although a hierarchical structure does exist in the workplace, it doesn’t feel enforced and I feel we work well together without any need for micromanagement. This is really pleasant for me as a graduate trainee because I feel validated in my competency, but also it has encouraged me to develop my own areas of interest and skills within librarianship. Hearing of other people’s experiences of teams showed this wasn’t always the case for people so, how can this be addressed? Values such as openness and transparency are really important, as is communication. I think the reason I found this session really worked as part of the day was because several values associated with RLC can be applied to these things in order to improve them.

I also found it really helpful to hear inshgts into other people’s experiences of the ‘professional divide’. In my workplace, more or less everyone refers to each other as ‘librarians’ although not all of us are qualified, or working in posts with ‘librarian’ in the title. Even at management level, our boss insists on referring to us all as librarians. Personally, I really appreciate that, as I feel like it’s a more inclusive term and I prefer using it myself as it seems unfair to discriminate based on a single qualification – especially when many qualified people I know are still working in paraprofessional roles. I’ve clearly had a very positive experience here which again was not entirely the case with other people, but it got me thinking a great deal about the term ‘librarian’ and its application.

Firstly, I generally tend to think it’s perfectly fine to refer to anyone working in a library as a ‘librarian’ because our users do so. They do not realise that a distinction can exist between a librarian and library worker – to them anyone working in a library is a librarian, and I generally feel as though if it’s only a term that causes issues within those working in the sector itself, then it isn’t worth being too concerned about purely because our users aren’t necessarily interested or don’t necwessarily need to know that ‘actually, no, I’m just a graduate trainee’.

Secondly, however, I understand that those who have completed the qualification may actually like the distinction – they’ve invested a significant amount of time and money into their professional development and they’d like to be recognised for that achievement. I think his is a valid way to feel, but I don’t necessarily agree with it. This is mostly because being able to do the qualification is generally a privilege for many people due to the costs and time involved. I myself struggled greatly trying to save to do my qualification next year, and have thankfully been awarded a full scholarship to do it, which is an incredibly rare position of privilege I find myself in. I am aware that many of my colleagues and friends in this sector do not have this advantage and do not currently have the means to pursue the qualification although they would like to – and I am sure there are many more that I do not know in this position also. Does this make me any better than them? No. It doesn’t prove that they are any less hardwokring, or committed to this than I am, it just shows I have been very lucky, and as such, I don’t think it is fair to make what can be quite a patronising distinction between ‘a librarian’ and ‘a librarian…but not an *actual* librarian, you know?’ Throw things like certification and chartership into the mix and it is no wonder impostor syndrome can be so prevalent in this field. (A session was actually run on impostor syndrome I wasn’t able to attend – notes can be downloaded here).

It would be interesting to hear what other people have to say on this matter – perhaps when I have qualified I may feel differently, although I don’t think I will. I think the main thing I enjoyed about this session though was the feeling of solidarity – people sharing their experiences were listened to and understood. Many are all too aware that this field can be a difficult environment at times, so it was nice to sit in a room and talk with people who had similar ideas and experiences.

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