Mike McGrorty, APA, and the State of the Paycheck

Mike McGrorty, over at LibraryDust and on NewLib-L has managed to stir up the dust for this week. He wrote an appeal for support for ALA-APA and sent it out to be chewed on, chewed up, spit out and on, etc etc etc.

I think Mike is incredibly brave–I think it takes a lot of guts to ask people who are making low salaries, facing difficult job markets and who are struggling to make their ways in their jobs to donate to a new organization. While I agree with him that these are the change makers who have the potential to make things better, part of me can’t help but feel a little annoyed at his tone.

Mike begins condescendingly telling how a library clerk’s salary is barely enough to cover immediate financial needs. I know of a public library whose starting salary for a library clerk is in the $7 range, so I have to agree with this. However, I don’t think that most of those said library clerks have 20K of graduate loans to pay off and he fails to address that many of the graduates of library school are ALSO stuck with what some may consider as dreadfully deprived social lives as they try to conserve funds to meet the student loan payments as well as the rest of the financial needs.

Mike also fails to address a barrier that I think faces many young librarians. We are told not to expect money, that we don’t deserve money and that if we want money–we shouldn’t be doing library work.

As an example, I will recall a job ad that I saw about a year ago on a listserv. The job, in the midwest, had secondary language and experience as mandatory requirements and was listed with a salary around $23K. A number of participants on the listserv were outraged at the high expectations and low salary. Said participants were promptly told that they shouldn’t speak badly of the employer and that it was a “fair salary” for the region. The participants were advised that they should shut up and put up rather than making names as ones appealing for a higher salary. These new-ish librarians were advised that “someone would be able/grateful” for the job at that salary and that if we weren’t similarly so…then shame on us.

That’s a daunting barrier to overcome–especially when people who have jobs and hiring authority are saying it. When one is coming out of library school and trying to make a good online name for oneself, arguing for more money seems to get results of “you’re greedy” rather than an understanding that the profession is being undervalued monetarily. It’s a fine line to walk.

I would also advise that Mike consider that as we advocate for those library clerks, that perhaps they could advocate for us too? If we underpaid librarians are able to put down the peanut butter and pick up our checkbooks to argue for higher salaries for them, might they not also consider donating to our professional future too? Mike’s post doesn’t seem to apply to them.

I haven’t decided yet if I will give money to APA. I’m still doing some research on the site. I imagine once I get a professional position, it will be something that I consider. In the interim I hope to feel like the profession is embracing the proposed change.