Hey CNBC! I bet that you didn’t know that if you uttered the words librarian and stress in the same sentence that such a giant shit-storm would arise out of the internet. Well, it did. And I hate your face so hard right now, CNBC. I hate your dumb face.
I wrote a little silly something about it, and it was kind of amusing, but I had no idea what was a-brewin’ with the Twitterbrarians…
There was a Twitter explosion involving the hashtag #librarianstress, which apparently started out as a joke or a mockery and then people (librarian and otherwise) just ran with it. I missed what happened there exactly and I have no desire to dive to the bottom of that tweety tornado to figure it all out. All I know is, one minute it was Miley Cyrus’s dog trending on Twitter, and then it was #librarianstress. Something with the word “librarian” in it was trending! And then the librarians? Well, they didn’t know karate. But they knew ca-ray-zay. It was a lot of smugness and sarcasm and high-horsey-ness (which isn’t all that bad or out of the norm), but then the admonishing “you’re a bad librarian” finger of doom started wagging. “If you’re stressed, you’re a crappy librarian”. “If you’re not stressed, you’re not doing your job.” Blah, blah, blah. Judge, judge, judge.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the library world’s very own version of Ann Coulter, Annoyed Librarian, weighed in on the matter. Annoyed Librarian (AL), like Coulter, is an expert in doling out the troll-bait and jockeying for attention. She’s a professional contrarian and she starts trouble just for trouble’s sake. I know that’s way harsh, Tai, but I don’t know how to categorize her otherwise. Every time I click on one of her posts, I immediately regret it. Her latest installment is a hot mess. She starts out by condemning the CNBC article but then suddenly argues herself into a corner by siding with it. It is so bizarre. Maybe if she were deliciously evil or hilariously funny or cranky or biting she’d be worth the read. But she’s none of these things. AL is not insightful or entertaining. She just gets people all needlessly riled up. She’s actually really, really good at that.
But then, oh honey. THEN, she messed with my girl Rita, aka Screwy Decimal.
Annoyed Librarian didn’t specifically name Rita (which showed a nice amount of restraint, I suppose), but she did link to and quote from Rita’s blog post. Rita stated that the five main reasons for librarian stress are “depleting resources, being short staffed, dealing with people, and perceptions/lack of respect.” AL countered that those reasons can “be stressors if you let them be.”
If you let them be? Oh yeah. We’re just “letting” that happen. Job loss and hostile patrons shouldn’t bother you unless you’re weak-willed enough to let them, right?
What a bunch of condescending nonsense from someone who describes themself as “annoyed”. It’s OK or cute or clever to be annoyed but somehow weak or unprofessional to state that you’re stressed out? Preposterous. Stones, glass houses, etc., etc.
AL goes on to say that while some librarians may have to deal with death threats, violence, and harassment, most don’t. I have no numbers to back up how many librarians deal with being cursed at or threatened, but I will tell you that I’ve been a member of Urban Librarians Unite for three or so years. Oooh, girl. When we stop fighting budget cuts, library closures, and lay-offs for half a second, we have a big old bar outing and kiki. And Annoyed Librarian? We could tell you some stories. Cops, guns, knives, assault, bomb-threats, puke, blood, sexual harassment. I’ll buy you the beverage of your choice, AL, and we’ll tell you all about it. We may not be most librarians, but there are a lot of us. We’re good librarians. We work hard. And some of us are total stress-machines.
Annoyed Librarian makes constant comparisons between librarians and fire fighters and cops: “Seriously, when you start to feel stressed as a librarian and are tempted to whine about it, think about what it would take to run into a burning building or respond to a violent domestic disturbance and consider how good you really have it.” I would never say that my job was more stressful than that of a police officer. Believe me, when the library drunks get drinking, I’d be lost without the police. I need them. They’re often the only thing standing in between me and a good ass-kicking. As I mentioned in my other post, my grandfather and father served in the Army and both my parents currently work in hospitals. I have no over-dramatic notions of my job being harder or more important than theirs. That’s where AL’s argument fails. No one was lamenting “OMG, UGUISE! My job is SO much more difficult than a cop’s/fire-fighter’s/EMT!” AL concocted that ridiculous statement on her own, apropos of absolutely nothing. Just because my life isn’t on the line doesn’t mean I don’t get a little worked up or overwhelmed from time to time. Just because I don’t fight fires doesn’t mean that my job is devoid of its stresses. When someone is stressed, it is implied that they are putting forth hard work and diligence. Saying that librarians never get stressed is implying that we don’t work hard. It invalidates our worth.
But then, this is where Annoyed Librarian went from Annoyed to Annoying: Says she, “All the complaining about stress says a lot more about the sort of people who become librarians than the sort of jobs librarians have.” That’s just incredibly nasty. I didn’t appreciate that comment being associated with Rita’s post, nor with people who need to have a good kvetch about their jobs and patrons. AL is implying that it’s not the librarianship, it’s us. If we were somehow fortified with a better moral constitution, we would simply let all the nonsense roll off our backs. We’d have the zen-like persona of one super-mellow Annoyed Librarian.
Rita responded to AL’s post with something pretty darn classy and put-together. She’s articulate and bordering on apologetic. She is one lady-like librarian.
I just don’t roll like she does. Instead, I spat out this angry, ranty, winding post, kind of like Annoyed Librarian’s. But here’s the difference between me and AL (besides me never being allowed on Library Journal ever and having 1/16 of her readers): I attach my name to my online presence. When I throw insults and jabs, they get thrown right back at me, one Ingrid Abrams. I’ve got a big old dumb mouth and I say a bunch of pretty rindonks stuff. Unlike AL, I remain accountable for it. The flame-war-y things I say come right back at me. My comments get attached to my name and my career. If you hate the things I say, you can come up to me at ALA Annual and tell me what a sloppy broad I am. I accept the consequences of my actions. AL just mouths off into the ether. Is she a good librarian who just likes a good angry rant to keep her sane? Is she as stress-free as she claims to be? Is she a good advocate? Or is she just the kind of whiner that she claims to hate?
We don’t know because she’s hiding behind a pseudonym that provides her with a certain amount of protection. That’s pretty cowardly. If you’re going to be a jerk, own it. I do.
I’ve officially beaten this topic to death. I’m pretty sick of it. And I know you are, too, but I believe we all have to feed the trolls from time to time. It keeps us vigilant.
~Love and Libraries, Ingrid
P.S. Library Journal didn’t approve the comments I posted in regards to Angry Librarian’s post, but that’s cool. I managed to say what I needed to, anyway.