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Monday, August 21, 2006

Money vs. Influence

Google's Search for Volunteers receives a Thumbs Down from the Google Scholar Weblog. The debate centres around the issue of whether Google, admittedly a very rich company, should expect professional librarians to volunteer an hour or so of their time per week, gratis, to help build its Google Health links. The MLA has endorsed it much to the consternation of the author and several commentators.

I think sometimes we as librarians (who after war with our instinct to serve and our desire to be recognised for it) get into a tizzy if we think any of our work is undervalued. HELLO! Most of our work is undervalued, especially by our employers and the general public, many of whom cannot begin to understand why anyone would would go to school (especially graduate school) to become a librarian. After all, librarians spend the day reading and putting books on shelves, didn't you know?

Oh, yes, it would be nice if Google were to hire a few more librarians to get this done. But...

By working with the various agencies and not relying on their own staff (they do, after all, already have librarians on staff), a certain amount of credibility is obtained. Would you trust a study produced solely by a pharmaceutical company or say, the tobacco or beef industry? By inviting librarians with the expertise but who have many different affiliations--none of whom are being paid by Google--there is probably hope that the finished product will be less biased.

One of the commentators also mentions that without such participation, that leaves the National Library of Medicine alone to represent our profession. While there's nothing inherently wrong with NLM's representation, it's a large government agency, whereas there are a whole host of academic, hospital, and specialised medical libraries out there to be represented as well. I think that commenter, who is volunteering, maybe has thought about it beyond the knee-jerk whign of 'why don't they pay me?'

If you have read this blog for any time, you know that I only work 20 hours a week as a librarian, and only recently have I reached a relatively acceptable pay rate (I make about $19 an hour, as opposed to the $9 I made when I started). I've had peope insinuate that I was denigrating the entire profession because I dared to accept a job that paid so little, when in fact it was the only job I'd been able to get beyond an interview despite my credentials in fourteen years of looking in our very tight market (sometimes it sucks to live near a library school, but I continue looking for a full-time job anyway). I could certainly use a little money from Google. But I would volunteer anyway, and not just to help my resume. I think an hour out of my week is worth it to ensure that a variety of points of view are represented in such an important project. And for the uptight people who think they should get $50 an hour for doing relatively easy work...well, then they don't have to participate, do they?

Just my opinion, anyway.

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