Is librarianship becoming ageist? Has it always been ageist? I’ve always been a library customer, but I’ve been pretty ignorant of what goes in behind the scene. However, I read about a competition in the UK to find bright young librarians under 30 and the ALA’s Emerging Leaders “initiative”*, I begin to wonder what is going on. Maybe if I were in the desired age group, I might not be bothered by the messages these things send. Are there other careers that openly reward people for waiting to be born? I know age discrimination is rampant in Hollywood, but I really haven’t heard of other careers where being young is openly rewarded or sought after. (I’m excluding the military here.)
I’m 34. I’m beginning a second career. I would like to think I have a good 31 years left in me. (I hope I make good enough retirement investments that I can move out gracefully at 65.) Yet librarianship is already trying to make me feel old and dried up and useless. The 16 years of experience I have in another career and in life is not the least bit valuable. I’m not unique in my class, though. Quite a few of us are in our 30s or older.
I detest ageism. I especially detest our society’s obsessive focus on youth. The poisonous 60s ideology of “never trust anyone over 30″ still pervades how we view people. I’m not sure how being born after the magic cut-off year of 1976 makes people brighter and more motivated (unless it’s more of the same Dear Abby nonsense about how Gen X-ers are lazy, unmotivated slackers.) Being old doesn’t keep me from being interested in the same things the “youngsters” are interested in, either. Maybe I don’t have enough tattoos and piercings to be alternative, but I care about the same things they do, when it comes to librarianship.
I’m not the only one who feels this way. I’m also not the only one who is in such a small demographic that we don’t really have any say in this kind of thing. It’s so strange to go from being too young, because everyone important is older than us, to being too old, because everyone important is younger than us.
*I was alerted by a post on Off the Mark that the new requirements for the Emerging Leaders deal are: 2) Young (under 35 years) or new librarians of any age with fewer than 5 years post-MLS experience. So, that’s good. Maybe it was already that way when I last visited. If so, I’m sorry.