Tiramisu

It's getting to be Western New Year.

Traditionally, folks make resolutions that they break later on in the year.

We know we're going to break em, but we make em anyway. This is good. This is much better than not bothering to try and be better.

So, as I am given to preach, here I go.

If you get the chance this year to pull someone up to you, please do so.

I was having a conversation with my Maths Doctor Friend Donna. Donna is great. Our relationship has really morphed and grown and done extraordinary things over the years.

I spoke with her about Library junk, which she gets by proxy, as pretty much all of my very tolerant friends do. I honestly think the whole lot deserves honorary MLS degrees. I also spoke about my career and studies.

In the process, she expounded on a depressing epiphany we've both shared.

This epiphany is nothing new, but the metaphor has only been applied to one or two things and not really in the right combination.

Basically, we both think there's a glass ceiling.

Feminists will say that there's a glass ceiling there since we're women. But that doesn't feel quite right. There are very real barriers, but I've seen some women break through with my own beady little eyes.

Social justice folks will say that it's an oligarchy. But that doesn't feel quite right, either. There are folks up there that started humble.

Minorities will say that there are barriers that are racially charged. I am certain there's an electric dog fence for people like myself. Yet there are a couple of fighters out there that disregard the pain of crossing that line to get to the other side.

Films like Idiocracy and random episodes of the Simpsons tell me that I really don't want a true system of governance by the intelligentia.

Donna's take is to just settle if you can't make it up there. Try, but lower your expectations if you don't make it, since mathematically, most folks won't end up where they want to be. More importantly, that awful gap between expectations and actuality leads to Horrible Stuff.

There's just one problem, and it's an old one with me.

I don't want to.

If striving for a meritocracy makes me naïve, fine. Should we sell our dreams because they're hard to attain? Isn't it better to work hard and fail than to never attempt something?

I'm not looking to get my equestrian's stripes and then on to progress through the cursus just for myself. We've done that before. We've rejected the damned and the elect only to replace each political and social iteration with a new inner circle. But I like to think things get a little better each time one of those great advances rolls around.

This _is_ a Library Science issue. When I look around at the folks making the decisions and the ratio is still all wrong, we aren't doing a good enough job yet. When there are many more men in our best Directorships than there are at many of the lower ranks, it's off. When I look around at gatherings outside of the many good multicultural roundtables and for the most part see a very homogenous crowd, it's off.

There shouldn't be any shame in saying these things and there shouldn't be any offense taken in hearing them said. Our response as a field shouldn't be to ignore the problem because it's impolite. It should be to roll up our collective sleeves and help. Now. Not later.

Do I want universal change overnight? Where that would be nice, I know it's not possible. I just want things better at the end of my lifetime than they are now. I don't think that's asking too much. But it won't happen if we don't continue what was started before us. We've moved overt isms to covert isms. This is some progress, but it's still not enough. When you sweep dirt under the carpet long enough, you either get a lump or it comes out the other end. Let's work on erasing the covert altogether.

It's not just a minority issue or a women's issue, either. One of the largest reasons I strive as hard as I do was that I witnessed one of the nicest white guys in the world languish for no reason at the lower levels. Here was a good employee who reported to work, did his job, didn't clamor for credit, was morally great, pulled his part of the team share and really put his all into things. But he got nowhere. He was human, so he had flaws, but those were miniscule compared to his potential. I watched as he got passed over for promotion after promotion. I tried desperately to get him to believe in himself so he could get a much better post some place else where he would be appreciated.

What do we lose when we let this happen?

Is it worth it?

When you make a conscious decision to pass someone by because it might mean hurting your own progress, does it bother you at night?

Have you ever tried it to make sure that it does in fact hurt you?

I think we need to interfere more often. This is not just about what employee X can do for the Library. It's about what the Library can do for employee X from time to time.

We don't live in a golden age for employment where candidates spring up fully qualified from the ground with no effort on our parts. We're asking people to make a commitment to the field to the tune of $150,000 or more for those two diplomas. We're giving back $30-$40k a year for an entry level post. There are great Librarians out there really helping out. I know that the Director at Dedham takes people from square one and pays for college. Sure, some people take it and leave. Doesn't that help the field, though? What about the ones that stay? Are you going to get that kind of gratitude from a candidate that met the posting?

We aren't all Directors or HR folks. But we can drop a compliment here and there or serve as a reference when it will help.

Put your foot in the door for someone that needs a hand. I have a folder of thank yous from folks I've decided to interfere with. Believe me, that folder is worth its weight in platinum and more.