I haven't brought the librarian shortage up in a while, but an attentive reader alerted me to some ALA job placement statistics that I couldn't pass by without comment.
Before I begin looking at those, though, I should note I've also been alerted to watch out for a study on the Future of Librarians in the Workforce. It's not out yet, but it's being sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which is the group that gave the University of Missouri $600K of our tax money for LIS doctoral students, so I'm not too hopeful about their judgment. But we'll see.
The ALA propaganda I've criticized before is still going strong. I'm expecting that librarian shortage to hit any day now. Really. It's going to be a shortage in the future, though, since apparently there isn't one right now. The great thing about this future forecasting is that it lets you ignore the unemployed library school graduates lured into library school with the promise of librarian shortages, and by the time the future arrives and you're wrong everyone will forget how foolish you were.
Let's take a look at the facts produced by the ALA. Here's the statistical breakdown of job seekers to job postings at ALA. It's the ALA Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment Placement Service Statistics for the 2006 Annual Conference held in New Orleans, LA. They sure know titles there at ALA, that's for sure.
But if we look at this document, what do we find? Well, that the "Total Count of Registered Job Seekers = 361" and that the "Total Count of Registered Job Postings = 181." Looks more like a job shortage, not a librarian shortage, but then I was never very strong on statistics. However, I'm pretty sure that 361 is about two times 181. That's about 180 people who had no chance of a job whatsoever with the placement service in New Orleans. Obviously many factors could explain this, and the Placement Service isn't the only way to find a job, nor even the best place, but I consider it an interesting indicator of the job situation.
Also, obviously, there could be many factors involved here. Perhaps everyone who used the Placement Service is a complete loser who doesn't deserve a job. Maybe ALA could put that in their recruitment literature: If you get an MLS and can't find a job, it's because you're a complete loser, and not because there aren't enough jobs. It could also be that the kinds of jobs available aren't entry level jobs, which Leslie Burger is now admitting.
Buried in the ALA Announcement about their "Diversity" initiative, Burger comments on the retirement of librarians: "Rather than a crisis of attraction to the profession, the research suggests a potential crisis of leadership. We need to provide meaningful professional growth if we are to retain new librarians." That's right, she's realizing that new MLS graduates who've been bombarded with the "librarian shortage" propaganda aren't going to be able to fill those library director jobs. So now she has her new solution: "I hope the first Emerging Leaders Institute in January 2007 will be only one of many efforts on behalf of the ALA and the profession." Apparently getting more new librarians involved with ALA committee work is somehow going to turn them into library directors. I'm sure the intention is good.
But back to the job placement statistics. There are several categories and candidates could register in multiple categories, so the 2 to 1 candidate to job ratio is worse in some areas.
The best category to be in is "Administration (Academic)" or "Administration (Public)" because then the ratio of Job Seekers/Jobs is 75/21 and 68/19 respectively. That means you have a 1 in 3 or so chance to get hired. That's not too bad, actually. Still puts the lie to the candidate shortage for administrative jobs, unless the candidates are all just awful. I suppose that's possible, but then how good do we think these jobs are?
If you're a general reference librarian, forget about it. Reference librarians are a dime a dozen, literally. 208/27 is the ratio. That's about 1 in 8, and still isn't too bad a ratio. I know for a fact my last two jobs had about 50 applicants each. A lot of humanties professor jobs might have 400 applicants or more for a single job, though there they acknowledge the job shortage, or rather the candidate glut. Still, 1 in 8 doesn't seem like a librarian shortage to me. In this instance that's still about 175 people without hope for a job. And I haven't seen the ads, but I doubt many of those reference jobs are much to write home about.
Even less of a chance if your looking for a job in "Subject Reference." 153/14, or less than a 1 in 10 chance. It makes sense that these are sought after jobs, because I can tell you from experience they're the cushiest library jobs around.
School Libraries/Media Centers: 33/2, or a 1 in 16 chance. I had no idea so many people wanted to work in school media centers. I guess the summers off would be a perk, but then you have to be surrounded by all those school children. Some people like that, I suppose.
The worst would have to be Library School programs. 27 applicants, no jobs. I think that works out to a 1 in infinity chance of landing a job.
The statistics work out about the same in most of the job categories. But for these job seekers, the ALA has some good advice. A lot of librarians will be retiring in ten years, and then we'll need plenty of people. So keep coming to ALA, join the Emerging Leaders Institute, and when the time comes you'll be ready for those good jobs! And keep paying your dues!