Wednesday, January 16, 2013

On being a woman (in a woman’s field)

I try to stay out of the back-and-forth on the biblioblogosphere, but, like everyone else out there, I keep coming back to Julie's salient and through-provoking post.

I commented:
I have been thinking A LOT about the gender side of this. It’s even worse in the school library world, where idolatry of a few high-profile male librarians has reached fever pitch. Not that we don’t need great male role models for our kids, but still… there are lots of women, doing lots of the same sort of things, that never get that attention. Thanks for a great post.
... and went back to a draft post I'd saved here last month:

Back when I was in library school, an eon ago, I remember Dr. Gordy Coleman telling our class that the men in our class would be library directors in two or three years, and that few of the women would reach director, ever. He wasn’t being biased, he was just being frank about what he had observed after watching what hundreds of students had been through over the years. 

A few years ago, an academic library director I knew, with far, far fewer years of experience than I had, try to recruit me for head of public services at the school where he was director. I know that the K12 experience does not directly translate into academia, so in some respects this was a rare opportunity, but I was still a little bit offended. I felt he wanted me to be his lackey. And, when I inquired into an junior college library looking for an electronic resources librarian last year, I was told only two years of academic or public library experience would satisfy the requirements. Frankly, I'm sure they didn’t find a candidate with as much knowledge of ebooks and databases as I have had. It made me sad that our profession could be so small-minded.  

Is it little wonder that school libraries are such havens for women? I can count the men in this specialty I have met on two hands. But more than half of them are “names,” and all of them receive a little more approbation than their practice would warrant, in my opinion.

Part of the reason I chose to move to my new district was the very competent woman superintendent, and the fact that the majority of the school board were women. And the faculty here is more female than my previous high school, even in social studies, which has been male-dominated in my experience.

One of the really cool things about the NationalConversations on Digital Literacy sponsored by ALA’s Washington office has been the number of tech-y women showcased. There are women doing cool things, and they are the same things we usually hear about from men. And I think we, as women, need to be their champions.

I went to library school with every intention of becoming a school librarian, but the derision with which that group and other youth services interested people were treated (and my being very, very impressed by library technology pioneer Professor Michael Malinconico, whose classes I adored) caused me to re-think my initial plan. I ended up working for an automation vendor immediately afterwards because, as my advisor told me, I would be “stuck” if I were to begin in a school library. That experience was terrific, I learned a lot, but it was not librarianship in any real sense. 

I might be "stuck," now but I am happy, and I help people every day. And it's 2013, but sometimes I feel like it's 1913 when it comes to gender politics in the workplace.

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