It may be a strange question to ask and many won’t see too much of a difference among the three, but I find there is a different mindset for each. Your true answer to the question defines how you are as a librarian in your school, district, and the world at large.
What are the differences? What does each make you think of?
Job – In some contexts, a job is a specific task sometimes as part of a larger one. Merriam-Webster gives one definition as “a piece of work <doing odd jobs around the house> <Repairing the roof was a big job.>; especially : a small miscellaneous piece of work undertaken on order at a stated rate <a car that needs a brake job>.” Another one it gives is, “a regular remunerative position <got a part-time job as a waiter> <she quit her job>.”
I have known people who have “jobs” they have worked at for many years. They work at these jobs solely for the paycheck. While they may enjoy the social connection with those they work with, for the most part, they take no pleasure in what they are doing. Just putting in their time.
While some librarians have become disheartened by budget cuts and changes to their “jobs”, such as working 2 or 3 schools, and feeling they aren’t valued by teachers or administrators, I hope they haven’t succumbed to the job mentality. I can understand the frustration, but it’s important not to let it get the best of you.
If you do find yourself slipping into that on the bad days, focus on your students. Think of them individually. Recall some of the connections you have made with them. Remember how their faces lighted up, the changes in their approach to reading, or their new belief in their ability to succeed. You made a difference in their lives. Don’t stop now. Also, refer back to your vision. Your connection to that can keep you energized during difficult times.
Career – Auburn University’s Career Center provides this definition: “an occupation or profession, especially one requiring special training, followed as one’s lifework.” Certainly librarianship qualifies under this definition. I think a good percentage of you would think of yourself as having a career.
Pediaa uses that definition but goes on to state that it is, “An occupation undertaken for a major period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” The first half of that explanation certainly applies to librarianship, but the second half doesn’t seem to part of what is possible for school librarians.
For me, this is really where career and job have a real demarcation. Note that it didn’t say “promotion” but rather “progress.” What does that mean in your daily practice? It implies that you keep growing. The special training you had is not the ending but the true beginning of you mastering your career.
Every librarian I know accepts the realization that what they learned in library school needs to be constantly upgraded. So many of you connect through your state association’s listserv or social media to get help in dealing with a current challenge or difficult question from a teacher. You use this as your PLN and discover new tech resources on the web or as an app. Your learning, and therefore your progress, never stops.
Profession– What then is a profession? This is where I hope most of you are and the rest of you aspire to be. When I think of professions, like medicine and law, I think of canons of ethics that are core values and standards they uphold.
Librarians have this. The Code of Ethics of the American Library Association succinctly puts forth the basic values we hold as a profession. All librarians should be familiar with it. The Library Bill of Rights is another brief document but of equal importance in stating who we are and what we stand for as a profession. You should be aware of this document as well. As librarians, we have many roles but whatever we are doing these two documents form the core of how we approach them.
I have some personal views of what a professional is that I didn’t find in any definition. Professionals don’t define themselves by their current position. Their focus is not on the district or school but rather in the larger world any more than a doctor defines him/herself by the hospital they are in. Professionals recognize that to have the impact and make the changes they want to see, they need to be connected to their professional organizations.
If you’ve read any of these blogs or my books, you know I believe in taking responsibility for your own professional development. If your district doesn’t give you time off to attend your state conference and one of the days is on a weekend, go then. If not, take a personal day to attend at least one day of the conference. Then prepare a brief report for your principal on what you learned that will benefit your students and teachers. Show this in action after six months.
ALA is holding its annual conference in Chicago from June 22-27. It’s a great city to visit and most of you will be finished with school. Register now and start saving for it. AASL has its biennial conference November 9-11, 2017 in Phoenix. I will be at both. I get no reimbursement and I, too, watch my expenses. But I am a professional and this part of the cost of being one. It’s no different than having to have an appropriate wardrobe for work or gas for your commute.
I hope you join me at either or both.
So do you have a job? A career? A profession?