Help Me Overthink this Plate of Job Titles
August 4, 2009 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Should I ask for a title change/promotion at my job? Due to the economy, no salary increases are being done, but my review this year was excellent and I don't feel as though my title fits my job. Lots of librarian-y details follow.

I'm the "Assistant Librarian" at a small zoo library with three staff members. We have a half-time Research Specialist, and my supervisor is the Director of Library & Information Services, and has been here for 20 years. I've been here for 2.5 years, and started as Assistant Librarian while I was working on my MLIS, which I finished a few months after starting the job.

The director spends 60% of her time creating original news abstracts for a weekly news list she sends out to interested parties in our organization. The rest of her time is spent buying books (acquisitions) and taking care of various bureaucratic/managerial things like payroll, paperwork, meetings. She's well-known personally to many people here, so also has a lot of email to respond to, but usually forwards requests for articles/books/research/tech help on to me.

My job consists of basically all the rest of the library day-to-day operations. I do all of the cataloging, have input with her on our budget, maintain, update, design our web resources, provide tech support to anyone who comes in to the library (and to the other library staff, who are both older/non-techy). I manage our serials, online databases, do reference, maintain the collection, and basically any other tasks that need doing. I don't really understand the distinction between "Assistant Librarian" and "Librarian", but I feel like "Librarian" is more descriptive of what I actually do, and have a bit of resentment towards the "Assistant" Tacked on there, since I report to a Director, not a Librarian.

My boss likes to introduce herself as The Librarian though, and introduces me as The Assistant Librarian. I think this is her way of asserting seniority, which is fine. I'd still prefer if my resume/business cards/web site that lists her title as Director listed me as Librarian, but I don't know if it would be reasonable to ask for that kind of title change. With regard to pay scale and the bureaucratic/HR side of things, this Assistant Librarian position was somehow already in the system when she hired me, although I took over for a Technical Services Specialist who wasn't a Librarian (assistant, or otherwise). To actually create a new non-assistant Librarian position might be difficult if it's not already in place. Since raises aren't an option, the pay scale is irrelevant at the moment (which is, ugh, a whole different problem).

I wouldn't be opposed to a non-official change in title, without dealing with HR at all, with just acknowledgement of a title change within the library and on our materials. My boss would be a future reference for any job, so if she thought of me/referred to me as a Librarian instead of Assistant Librarian, that would be enough for me to be happier, at this point. Is this a reasonable request? If so, how do I best approach her to ask about this? If not, can you give me some perspective with regards to common job descriptions of Librarians vs. Assistant Librarians to help me feel better about this? Thanks in advance for any advice!
posted by booknerd to Work & Money (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
sorry, I'm not exactly clear if this is a government or private library.

In government work, titles tend to be tied to pay grades- so it might be actually impossible to get the title without the money to go with it.

In the private sector, though, titles tend to be given out just to make people happy, and often in lieu of more money. One thing, though: asking for a new title is often the best time to ask for a raise. The ostensible increase in responsibility makes the additional money easier to justify. So if you "use up" your promotion now on just the title, without getting any more money, it may be harder to get more money in the future.

Not saying you shouldn't ask, if the title really bothers you, but just something to think about.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:06 AM on August 4, 2009

Response by poster: It's a private non-profit.
posted by booknerd at 10:13 AM on August 4, 2009

After a couple of years and good reviews, this seems like a reasonable request, though after 20 years, the director might be opposed to it.

If she doesn't go for Librarian, maybe Associate Librarian? Or perhaps you could come up with something more descriptive.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:23 AM on August 4, 2009

Technical Services Librarian? That fits the description of your job, minus the acquisitions part though.
posted by collocation at 10:40 AM on August 4, 2009

Your request sounds reasonable, but in my experience that isn't always relevant. To me, "associate" is pretty much the same as "assistant." If boss is dead set on your title having an adjective in front of it, what about "senior librarian"?

Be careful of the "future job search" aspect. You don't want your boss to think you're planning to jump ship if she "rewards" you by changing your title.
posted by scratch at 12:12 PM on August 4, 2009

Not sure if you are working in an unionized environment, as that might have an affect on how easy it is to change a title without changing the job description. Also, it sounds like the job did not actually require an MLS so you might want to take care in how hard you want to push.

That said, with the time frame and the lack of pay increase, I don't see it as unreasonable to ask for the title Technical Services Librarian or Associate Librarian.

It is funny that to different people titles sound different. In Canada, an Associate Librarian is usually a fairly high ranking position, one step removed from the University or Head Librarian position.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 1:02 PM on August 4, 2009

Response by poster: Someone without a MeFi account responded via comments on my blog, so I'll copy their comments here, with permission, to add to the discussion (hopefully that's not violating some code of decorum):

"I am responding to your metafilter question (don’t have an account). Assistant Librarian can simply be a rank, doesn’t mean you are not a real librarian. At my library (large academic library) we have Assistant Librarians, Associate Librarians, and Librarians. It is analogous to the ranks for Professors. I am an Assistant Librarian — it doesn’t mean I assist anyone, it’s just that I haven’t made it up the ranks yet. NOT the same thing as being a Library Assistant (not a real librarian). We have job titles too, which are descriptive of the functions we do, such as Cataloguing Librarian or Web Services Librarian."

"P.S. “My job consists of basically all the rest of the library day-to-day operations. I do all of the cataloging, have input with her on our budget, maintain, update, design our web resources, provide tech support to anyone who comes in to the library (and to the other library staff, who are both older/non-techy). I manage our serials, online databases, do reference, maintain the collection, and basically any other tasks that need doing.”

I do all this too, except cataloguing and serials, plus I do bibliographic instruction, supervise students, coordinate projects, etc. Still an Assistant Librarian — no relation to job tasks."

"You have to specifically apply for promotion to the next rank and provide a massive dossier which a committee will examine. Assistant Librarians are normally the least experienced and you are normally not eligible to apply for promotion to Associate Librarian until you have spent 6 years as an Assistant Librarian. (But if you are an experienced external hire you may be hired at a higher rank from the get-go.) Many librarians choose to remain at the rank of Associate Librarian rather than bother applying for promotion to full Librarian.

I think most North American academic librarians have some version of this. Here’s an example of ranks and salary scale: (not my library)

It is not just about job performance and years in position, but also about service on committees, contribution to scholarship and/or to the profession, etc."

"Here are some more examples:

Cornell University

Univ. of Florida


Here’s an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

In other words, your rank will not hurt you when looking for other employment. Employers (particularly academic libraries) would not expect a newish librarian to hold a rank other than Assistant Librarian."
posted by booknerd at 2:19 PM on August 4, 2009

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