I was going to post this as a comment in response to a comment from a reader, but it became lengthy enough to be a post of its own. The question is, is there a pecking order of librarians based on their area of specialization: academic, school, public, etc.?
It depends on what criteria we’re going for here. Like anything else, each has its perks and its pains, and each serves an important function. Special librarians normally get more bling since they work for corporations, or for lawyers or doctors. They do stuff like patent, scientific, and legal research, or work in special environments like prisons or museums. Most of these librarians are also susceptible to cyclical corporate downsizing trends as well. Academic librarians keep the wheels of colleges research spinning by pandering to whiny students, and needy professors. Both special and academic librarians generally have two Masters Degrees, a Master of Library Science (MLS or MLIS), and a subject specific advanced degree in an area of expertise (i.e., MBA, JD, or a literature degree, etc…) Both of these types of librarians deal with their own particular types of dumbasses (corporate or academic) and all the challenges that go with that.
School librarians (K-12) are called Library Media Specialists. These librarians have a MLS or MLIS and a teaching certification. They deal with spoiled brats all day long. I couldn’t do their job for long without harming either myself or a brat. They are municipal employees like public librarians. However, in most municipalities the Board of Education gets the lions share of the loot and the media specialists get their share of this (although the administration is the true lion). They get a bit more pay than public librarians, and also have a much better union (the teacher’s union) than public librarians do, so they get all the subsequent perks, not the least of which is summer vacation, and phenomenal health care. That said, I know what they deal with and I can honestly say, better them than me.
Public librarians are required to have a MLS, or an MLIS but no other advanced degrees (although some do). Generally, we get paid the least, but we do have decent benefits including good health insurance, pensions, and about as much job security as possible in today’s day and age. We are the meat and potatoes of equitable information access. We keep information flowing freely by providing services and access to all. Like most librarians, we fight censorship. We also maintain our patrons right to privacy. We answer a wide variety of reference questions, from genealogical research, to literary criticism and beyond, for both the haves and the have-nots of our society. We also keep the maw of the digital divide from swallowing certain segments of the population by providing free access to the Internet, as well as electronic periodicals databases. As time goes by, this divide is widening and information poverty is becoming more prevalent.
Sadly, this is also why our client base consists of many homeless, unsavory, and mentally unstable individuals. The good news, is that it provides lots of fodder for this blog. By reading my posts you might get the idea that I despise my job, and our patrons. This isn’t the case. I love my job, and I truly enjoy helping people find the information they seek. Providing information to a person who can’t find it anywhere else is a very satisfying feeling. I like to help people, it’s just that dealing with the public takes its toll… That’s where this blog comes in, its my way of parsing my days, so I can go back and do it again tomorrow.
So, which librarians are at the top of the heap? The Federal librarians are. The librarians working for the Library of Congress, The Smithsonian Institution, and similar government agencies. These are the most enviable positions in Library Science as they are paid on the GS pay scale, and have room for mobility. They have unheard of medical benefits, and stupendous pensions, and some even have bragging rights to cool security clearances!