Apparently, there is an organization out there in the world called “CareerCast” which recently made a point of putting together a list of the “least stressful” jobs. Setting aside the colossal stupidity of trying to create an ultimate ranking of this type (and that’s a fairly big boulder made of stupid to try to shift), the article was chock-full of misconceptions, myths, and outright falsehoods about a variety of professions. Two of the professions that made the list were “university professor” and “librarian.” This list was picked up and run uncritically by at least two news organizations, CNBC and Forbes.
Cue the extensive debunking on Facebook, blogs such as Screwy Decimal, and Twitter. The last spawned the hashtag #librarianstress. All well and good – this is a conversation that should be taking place, in my view. I believe misconceptions about any professions should be debunked in the name of understanding our fellow humans better.
Then cue the small, primly smug chorus of, “Well, [some of] my patrons have it worse, so I will go and do my job and ignore this kerfuffle.” I find this almost as stupid as the original article.* The fact that someone has it “worse” doesn’t mean you don’t have any problems. As I once said to a friend of mine, “The fact that someone else has a migraine doesn’t make my garden-variety headache go away.” Of COURSE we have patrons who are more stressed, by virtue of the fact that we have “job stress” and they may have no job at all. And in point of fact, one of the reasons I decided to take this career path is that it is less stressful than my former one.
But the point of this conversation is not to play the victim or define who has it the worst (I would gladly have the “least stressful” job – if I could figure out what that looked like – I suspect it involves slapping together idiotic lists without any research or considered thought to be republished by big media organizations), the point is to address the aforementioned misconceptions, myths, and outright falsehoods that frequently lead to the devaluation of our profession. That devaluation, by the way, is a pretty nifty stressor right there, for those trying to map this Ouroboros of stupid: one of the major stress factors of our profession is the dismissive reactions we get from people who think that “Google has solved all information-finding problems” and other forehead-smackingly inane sentiments. We have a PR problem, and most librarians know this – and it’s not a situation that just hurts our feelings. It impacts budgets, which lead to everything from hard collection decisions to outright closures. And how did we get here? Well, at least partly because we kept our heads down and expected the work to speak for itself, for our value to be self-evident.
So fine, just “ignore”* this systemic devaluing and dismissing of our profession. Just recognize that you’re part of the problem.
*The fact that you’re Twittering about ignoring something, by the way? Ignoring: you’re doing it wrong.
The Forbes author added an addendum to address the huge outpouring of aggrieved comments from university faculty who outlined their stressors. She noted the criteria that the original list used to adjudicate who is stressed and who isn’t (things like physical labor). She fatuously stated, “I think there is value in CareerCast’s list,” without quantifying what exactly that value is supposed to be. She basically missed the point entirely. It’s not about the stress levels: it’s about the misconceptions behind the assumption that the stress is low. It’s about repeating the same old myths and idiocies that equate working among books with not having to deal with or live in the real world.