Someone opined to me recently that libraries seem to have very exalted standards for their job candidates, especially considering what they sometimes pay, I might add. I do notice the occasional job ad that seems to ask for a lot, considering who's asking.
I've noticed many times, for example, that the lower you go down the ladder of academic libraries (which I'm addressing because that's what I know most about), the more credentialed you have to be. I can't even remember all the job ads I've seen from crappy universities around the country that require a second master's degree for librarian tenure, which is even more amusing considering they'll count a master's degree in something like education from their own crappy university. I don't often see that requirement in ads for top universities public or private. It's like entering some bizarre employment twilight zone where the worse the school the more irrelevant credentials they want just to show they're not bottom-feeders.
Some schools improve even on this. Take a look at this ad for what seems to be an elementary school librarian job at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. This job requires a doctorate for tenure. A doctorate for tenure at a third-tier state university! Seems a bit much to me.
I've also noticed over the years lots of jobs that make it a required qualification that you've done exactly the same job for several years someplace else. Crappy College Library requires that you've been the director at Hellhole University for 10 years before they'll hire you as their director. That sort of thing.
Here's one example, an ad for a head of reference at North Carolina Central University in Durham. If I were on the market for this sort of job, I couldn't apply for this because it would violate my longstanding rule never to apply at any place I've never heard of before I saw the ad. It could be a fine place, and we know they must have high educational standards because they have an ALA-accredited library school, but look at the qualifications.
"The successful candidate should have credentials of the highest quality." Credentials of the highest quality? Are people with credentials of the highest quality going to apply here? Or do they interpret "highest quality" differently than I do? It might be a perfectly lovely place, but it's obviously a second or third tier regional state university. You can tell that just by the name of the school. Let's just be frank on what constitutes "highest quality." There is a high quality, well respected, nationally ranked research university in Durham, and this ain't it.
"Five years of reference experience in an academic library" seems reasonable to me, but then they want a "minimum of three years of supervisory experience as Head of Reference." Maybe I'm just naive, but who do they think is going to apply for this? Why on earth would anyone with three years experience as a head of reference want to do the same job at a small, regional university like this? If you've been a head of reference for a minimum of three years, wouldn't you want to move up? Either to a higher position or to a better library? Do they really expect someone who had been a reference head for three years AND has "credentials of the highest quality" to apply for this job?
I've heard many people remark about the Catch-22 of not being eligible for managerial jobs until you've been a manager. Management's overrated, as far as I'm concerned, but I would think the smaller universities like this would be the places where people would get that experience and move on, not move to after they've gotten the experience.
Could this be the case with some of the director jobs that go unfilled as well? I don't know. I'm just curious. But it seems to me that there may be director and department head jobs that go unfilled because no one who is already doing the job wants to make a lateral move and the libraries are too timid to take a chance on someone who shows potential. I understand the timidity, because neophyte managers can make life hell for people. But then, I'm sure you will agree, so can experienced managers.