According to this infographic, you don't matter.
You are replaceable.
You are overpriced.
You are overpriced.
You are irrelevant in a world embracing Wikipedia.
You are obsolete.
Encyclopedia Britanica announced sometime around March 14th plans to discontinue their 32-volume encyclopedia after remaining in print for 244 years. Instead, the company will focus primarily on delivering digital content in addition to its other educational endeavors. You've no doubt heard about this.
On March 19th I received an email referring me to the infographic above, suggesting that I may like to share it with all of you.
Actually, I believe her exact comment was "I think your readers will enjoy it, so feel free to share it and let me know if you do! I’d love to get your thoughts as well."
I responded with my thoughts. A short time later my friend and colleague Joyce Valenza posted a response to her Neverending Search blog. She debunked much of the flaws in the way the information is presented and, rightfully, questioned the sources to which the infographic refers. Yet here I am nearly three weeks later and I'm still thinking about the Wikipedia: Redefining Research infographic.
The case for Wikipedia takes a turn against libraries and librarians with the statement. "Students use Wikipedia more than libraries."
For starters, this is bad grammar. This statement implies that students use Wikipedia more than libraries use Wikipedia. But let's assume what they meant to say was students use Wikipedia more than they use libraries. I wonder how many actually use Wikipedia in a library?
But let's get down to brass tacks. Do you think your job is important? Do you think you can be replaced? Do you think libraries are overfunded? Prove it.
What really rubs me the wrong way with this infographic is that somebody actually believes the information they're presenting. They feel it's relevant and important enough to not only share it with others, but to, in fact, seek out teacher librarians to promote this infographic among their PLNs.
We can say to one another that we think our profession is important. We can say we think we're underpaid. We're under-appreciated. We're overlooked. But if this is the message we're sending out to our patrons there is something very wrong.
This is a tireless job and one not unlike Sisyphus, sentenced to roll the boulder uphill for the remainder of his life. We are constantly fighting. Constantly advocating. Constantly working to change the world's perception of our profession.
Wikipedia spends $20.1 million on operating costs annually. By comparison, operating costs in US libraries total $10.9 billion each year. Isn't this the same as when a principal questions why a school needs a teacher librarian when, in fact, the books are where all the information is stored? The logic doesn't make any sense to someone in the profession, but we're not the ones making the budget calls.
This is School Library Month. It's an opportunity for us to bring the community into our libraries and show them what we're doing within the building that makes us indispensable. It's not a time to be shy. We must be confident in our roles in the building. We must invite the community in and invite others to explore their investments, check out the collections, see what we're doing with the resources provided by those tax dollars at work.
I hope that this infographic disturbs you as it did me. And I hope it fuels you to challenge and to change the perceptions those around you hold of teacher librarians.
May your work have meaning, be relevant, and be visible. And may you stand as an example of what this profession can be and not affirm how it has been portrayed by the media.
You're worth more than Wikipedia.