Vocational awe is not awesome

[image of fire, coronavirus, MAGA hat wearing tikitorch wielder] Fire, virus, violence: seems like a good time to talk about...
[image of people worshiping the words] vocational awe, coined by Fobazi Ettarh, an academic librarian.
"Vocational awe describes the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that result in notions that libraries as institutions are inherently good, sacred notions, and therefore beyond critique. "
[image of people holding up pillars, which are supporting a triangular structure with democracy, education, overdoses, literacy, homelessness, public space, voting written on it. The people are saying "Ow my body and soul!" "more budget cuts?" "I'm working 3 jobs and getting paid so little" "this is heavy, but I must sacrifice" "I won't take a lunch!"
" If the language around being a good librarian is directly tied to struggle, sacrifice, and obedience, then the more one struggles for their work, the “holier” that work (and institution) becomes. Thus, it will become less likely that people will feel empowered, or even able, to fight for a healthier workspace."
As youth librarians, we get the message we should do it all. [words in blocks] homework help+tutoring, partner with everyone, make up for gaps/inequality in education, early literacy, be nice, parent education, shelter from climate and violence, all literacies, feed them, make up for all the social service gaps"
These additional plagues are making it clearer - we can't do it all [image of speech bubbles saying NO]. Not without more support. Money. TRANSFORMATION

I highly recommend reading the full article, “Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves” from 2018. And then reading a recent iteration about the election by Anne Helen Peterson.

Lisa Nowlain is a former youth librarian and currently works as a community college librarian in the California foothills. Please excuse her drawings and handwriting this month, everything is on fire.

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