Last week, Nina McHale told us why she’s breaking up with libraries. Nina is currently the Assistant Systems Administrator for the Arapahoe Library District but will soon be moving into non-library work with Aten Design Group. While my interactions with Nina have been predominantly through online professional groups, I’ve come to know her as a highly talented, creative web designer. The loss to our community is significant and one we shouldn’t be too quick to write off.

Nina notes two major reasons for her decision to leave LibraryLand: finances and a general frustration with technology.

Like Nina, I live in a two-income family. We just had our first child. While we could probably live on my wife’s income alone (though not without sacrifice), we certainly could not live off what I make as a paraprofessional at a private university. Well, perhaps if we sold the house and moved into a 2-bedroom apartment in the Valley. Maybe.

As Nina points out, salaries for librarians often go for much less than the median pay for positions in other fields that require similar skills.

I knew going into my MSLS that I wasn’t going to get rich working in libraries, but accepting less than I’m worth puts undue strain on our family finances. I’m not willing to be a martyr for my profession if it means compromising what I want out of life for myself, my husband, and our kids.

If we want to keep talented, creative people on staff, we don’t have to pay them exorbitantly, but we have to pay them enough so that they don’t have to worry about it.

Nina also points out the lack of technological innovation. We spend millions of dollars on products that fail to provide decent user experiences and rather than demanding changes or working together to collectively build a better product, we acquiesce and continue to pay for substandard ones. As one commenter on Nina’s post put it, why didn’t librarians invent Yahoo in the 90s? We could have. We should have.

We sacrifice instead of create. We compromise instead of improvise. We undersell our worth and consequently are underpaid for it.

It’s been a year since I finished my MLIS degree. I am still working in the same position for the same pay (adjusted for inflation). As I see it, until I’m able to move into a position that makes full use of my degree, every day worked is a loss of potential earnings.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love the work I do, but as Nina points out, “we are so eager to please that we kill ourselves helping people for compensation that’s all too often below the country’s median salary.” Eventually, the need to provide for our own will catch up with us and at that time if there is a shiny job in a different market, can you blame us for leaving?

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