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Last Friday, August 22nd, the California State Senate voted unanimously to confirm Governor Brown’s nomination of Greg Lucas as California State Librarian.

When Lucas was nominated I had some things to say. I wrote letters to senators, reached out to CLA leadership, and talked extensively with other California librarians about the nomination.

Now that Lucas has been confirmed I have some more things to say.

I cannot overemphasize that I have no negative feelings toward Greg Lucas whatsoever. Although his lack of education and experience in libraries (or anything library-related, or large-organization-related) bothers me tremendously, ignorance is not a personal flaw. Libraries’ core mission is to help people learn more and combat ignorance. I have met Lucas twice and am convinced he is trying to learn.

That being said, as I pointed out in my original blog post, the California State Education Code clearly states:

19302. The division shall be in charge of a chief who shall be a technically trained librarian and shall be known as the “State Librarian.”

In his confirmation hearing with the Senate Rules Committee, Lucas stated that he had just begun, this month, taking a class (yes, that’s “a class” singular) from San Jose State University’s controversially newly renamed School of Information. A few weeks of one class does not a librarian make. Can you imagine a state attorney or physician being appointed with as little training? “Well, I’ve taken ‘Intro to Human Biology’ for a few weeks so I think I’m good to go leading up the State’s efforts on healthcare reform.” Never. That would never, ever happen.

Again, this isn’t Lucas’s fault–he’s trying. It’s the Governor’s and the Senate’s fault for not doing their job and appointing an actual librarian to be the State Librarian.

Let’s take a few facts from the hearings and look at what they tell us.

1) Senate President pro tem Darrell Steinberg said to Mr. Lucas, “We have all known you for a long time.”

Because knowing someone for a long time in your inner circles qualifies him for a trained, professional post. Oh no, that’s right–that’s cronyism.

2) Current President of the California Library Association, Deborah Doyle, said in the same breath that she’s impressed by Lucas’s performance and also that “It is a political appointment. He seems to have lots of connections that sometimes people who have been born and raised in the library system don’t normally have.” Following Doyle’s lead, CLA’s President-Elect, Robert Karatsu, said much the same thing.

Wow. So, yes, you’re right Ms. Doyle. It’s a political appointment. So why bother stand up for librarians’ professional values, your responsibility to communities across the state, and say what’s on the minds of the state’s librarians? Oh yeah, politics. Politics infiltrate the library world as much as anyplace else. That doesn’t mean that it’s moral or acceptable to not speak up and advocate for those you are tasked to represent.

3) Lobbyists from the California School Library Association, the California SEIU, and the California Student Aid Commission also testified in support of the nomination.

Really? These groups, especially the California SEIU who represents degree-holding librarians across the state, did not have a problem with this? Or is it again, at the risk of being cliche, politics as usual?

I am convinced that the State Senate did not question Lucas’s qualifications because of two factors: 1) They assumed that librarians, quiet little meek mice that we are, would not raise objections about the technical lack of qualifications of the nominee; and 2) They were right, at least in regard to the organizations tasked with advocating for libraries in California.

I will echo what I said in my first post: I sincerely hope Greg Lucas turns out to be a truly kick-ass State Librarian.

And yet I am hugely disappointed by the actions of the California Library Association’s leadership, by the actions of people who supported these actions, actively or implicitly, and by those who stood silently by as this unfolded.  Shame on all of you. You failed. You let a bad thing happen without fighting it.

I’m a librarian, I’m proud of being a librarian, and I’m not going to stand idly by while our profession and the services we provide to our communities get stomped into the ground and devalued by politicians in Sacramento.

“California Library Leadership Failed”

  1. Colleen Harris-Keith Says:

    I’m a new-to-CA librarian (CSUCI), and am just getting about joining all the state library organizations, but I couldn’t agree more, and I appreciate you standing up and speaking out.

  2. PC Sweeney Says:

    Well.. Here’s the thing… MEH…

    That being said, I think I have a different perspective on this and I think that maybe this could be amazing for libraries. It SOUNDS like the position of state librarian is changing from someone who is doing library work to someone who is standing up for libraries. I think it might turn out that Lucas, with his connections in Sacramento, might be able to get the work done that our “lobbyists” have not been able to do at all. He has the potential and the ability to make some big shifts in the politician’s perceptions of libraries and what we are doing in CA and maybe get some of that legislation on the ballot that the Dillans have been “promising.” I really hope that is the case.

    TBH, I really think we need to rally against the Dillans complete lack of library training/expertise/lobbying ability and not worry Lucas as much.

    But really, I have no idea what our state librarian does in their day-to-day work so I say again… MEH.

  3. David Dodd Says:

    cro·ny·ism noun \-nē-ˌi-zəm\
    : the unfair practice by a powerful person (such as a politician) of giving jobs and other favors to friends

    Full Definition of CRONYISM

    : partiality to cronies especially as evidenced in the appointment of political hangers-on to office without regard to their qualifications

  4. David Dodd Says:

    Interesting to look at other recent appointments in California in this light.

  5. Gary Price Says:

    I think a very important point you share is not only one for those of you in California but just about everywhere else and in all types of libraries.

    You write:

    “They assumed that librarians, quiet little meek mice that we are, would not raise objections about the technical lack of qualifications of the nominee; and”

    I think the issue begins here but continues with the fact that many (most?) people (including politicians) have NO clue about what librarians do and are also capable of. This was much the case pre-Internet, pre-Google, pre-Wikipedia but now, in the past 20 years or so, even more the case.

    It has been my experience that those who believe they know what librarians do:

    1. Are using old and incorrect beliefs for 2014 and beyond (some of what you mention)
    2. Almost always associate librarianship and libraries for that matter with books. Books are still key but so are other services and info types.
    3. Have no clue about what we do and can do behind the scenes (cataloging/metadata/systems, etc).

    With a few exceptions I have seen these issues get worse over the past few years.

    The way to get the respect and attention we deserve is multi-dimensional. Here are two things that are a must.

    1. Yes, yes, yes. Speak up. Talk to everyone. hare a practical example. Think about what we do (even better what YOU can do) and work them into conversations.

    2. Of course, talking is just talking. Let our skills and abilities speak for us. Share a practical example. An advanced Google search tip to save people time is a great way to get the ball rolling. Digital literacy offers many opportunities.

    Btw, the Pew study has shown for the past two years that while many support libraries at the local level many have no idea about the services and programs offered at the library.

    If WE don’t market ourselves (or you market and promote yourself) no else is going to do it.

    Actions speak louder than words.

    Remember too that we all represent each other. The walls or silos that we place between each other in terms of library are not understood by many. For example, just because you work in an academic library doesn’t mean you can talk about what a public library and public librarian can do. Finding out the services a library offers in the town where you nephew lives is just a click away.

    Gary Price

  6. PC Sweeney Says:

    Wait.. Gary, are you asking me to hype the Great Librarian Write-Out here? Ok, I’ll do it. 🙂

    The Great Librarian Write-Out is your chance to win money for writing about libraries in a non-library forum and educate the public about what it is that librarians and libraries do. Check out all the details here-

  7. Dale Says:

    Maybe I’m just too much a rules-follower. I don’t see a problem with a state agency headed by someone with no technical expertise. Or a federal one, for that matter. (See “Librarian of Congress”.)

    But if an advocate is what’s needed, then change the statutory requirements for the post.

  8. Stephen Michael Kellat Says:

    My hands remained tied in certain ways so the most I can openly say to what you wrote is this: AMEN.

  9. Rosa Says:

    I am a Canadian librarian (though I currently work in the US) and sadly, in Canada, we have not had an actual librarian or archivist in charge of the National Library & Archives of Canada in over 20 years. It has been a political appointment for a long time now, and while it is sometimes well done, by and large, this has been disastrous for Canada. The budget has been decimated. The current Prime Minister doesn’t much like it when records unflattering to his administration are kept, and the Documentary Heritage Program has suffered incredibly. I am sorry to see the US going down the same path.

  10. Rosa Says:

    Regarding the need to market ourselves – i’m an academic librarian who uses the public libraries a lot. I was pretty appalled when at a community business event at my large local library recently, someone said to me that it would never occur to him to call the local library for information about anything, because he just “didn’t think of libraries” when it came to being providers of or sources for information. Sigh. We have a long way to go.

  11. Margaret Says:

    Thank you for standing up for librarians. At the university I am employed with, the library management positions do not require that someone holds a degree in libraries. Yet these people make decisions based on what they think they know. So frustrating. I believe that we have done ourselves a disservice, we need to educate, advocate and market. Otherwise we will continue to be sidelined.

  12. HIlary R Says:

    I’ve personally seen the devastation caused by well-meaning but utterly uneducated “library boosters” – untrained in what libraries are, and what they do. I’ve seen them gut library systems and insist on expensive fad ideas that eventually crash. If employees (even professionals) object – they lose their jobs – and the unions won’t stand up for them. You REALLY don’t want a faux librarian at the head of anything. Quite frankly, the public (which includes the boosters) have no idea what a library is supposed to do, and don’t usually even know that librarians have professional degrees… to 99% of people, you’re a “librarian” if you work at a library… Any administrator too long & too far from the front lines is a liability in the first place, professional or not.

  13. Judith Says:

    An earlier California governor disliked the universities and attempted to force them to sell off items in special collections until it was pointed out that many of these items had been donated, with restrictions. Instead, Reagan insisted that libraries be open to Californians with the result that when I was in library school at UCLA, a large portion of the collection was checked out to folks outside the university. One of my library school profs suggested always going to the shelf and browsing as there was so little relationship between what was in the catalog and what was on the shelf due to so many items checked out–particularly true for film and theater and law collections if I remember correctly..

    I no longer live in California but would have expected better from Governor Brown.

  14. Lisa Says:

    Shoot, if one class at SJSU makes me a “technically qualified librarian,” then why did I waste a few years and several thousands dollars on my MLIS there?

    Could’ve saved me a lot of money and time…

  15. Greg Lucas Says:

    Looking forward to your help in becoming a kick-ass State Librarian. xoxox

  16. Sarah Says:

    Thank you for your enthusiasm, Greg. I wish you luck on this journey.

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