Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Credentials and Experience and Jobs and Stuff

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.


IL Library Student said...

Not only did the elementary school librarian job require a doctorate, it required that you have made significant progress towards a doctorate in library science!

And the head of reference position? That salary is a joke, right? Maybe they are hoping a retired librarian would come out of retirement to take the position?

Zillah said...

"Could this be the case with some of the director jobs that go unfilled as well?"

Yes. Not that it needed an answer, but just in case someone missed the point.

Also, maybe the head of reference position has an internal candidate? Otherwise, I think that they are in trouble.

Anonymous said...

Yes, did you see the salary on that Head of Reference position!

Sweet Mary Jane! You'd have to be a drooling moron to take that job at that salary...even the high end.

miriam said...

Those requirements are more like wish lists, such as my wish list at Are they going to get someone with those qualifications? Keep dreaming.

From the other, hiring, side. I asked for candidates with the MLS, as they could not be appointed as civil service librarians without it. I got resumes from all kinds of people: college grads, teachers, and not one but two lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Good point Miriam, but a wish list should be called a "Preferred Qualification", not a "Requirement" or a "Qualification"

We really need to shake things up at libraries who do stuff like this. As a job seeker, I have seen way too much unacceptable behavior by hiring committees trying to get away with murder.

The Hag said...

Right after the internet bubble burst and corporate/special and public librarians were selling used pens (or more profitable parts of their anatomy) on the street, I was told by an academic librarian: "We just can't find any librarians who are looking for work."

What she meant, of course, was "We can't find any librarians who have been doing the same academic job at another library who want to move over to our library."

Not only is the MLS an intellectual joke, librarians further divide and conquer with extreme specialization by type of employer. As if we were brain surgeons attempting to be dentists, or probate attorneys defending OJ. Considering the salaries, I'd say a clerk is a clerk.

Anonymous said...

As a Shippensburg University alumnus, I take great offense at your snide comment about Ship being a "third tier" university.

Just this academic year, U.S. News & World Report again ranks Ship among the top universities in the North in its book "America's Best Colleges 2007" and Ship is also one of 222 outstanding colleges and universities in the Northeast that The Princeton Review recommends to college applicants in the new 2007 edition of its book, "The Best Northeastern Colleges."

I guess research isn't a strong point of yours.

janitorx said...

I am an aluma from a college located not too far from Ship. Ship does not have a lousy reputation among the private college set in the region. I knew two classmates who obtained masters degrees from Ship. Also, many of my classmates from PA had friends who went to Ship. In general, PA has quite a few excellent colleges--public and private. I still think the doctorate requirement is absurd. I'd love to know why an M.Ed. is not sufficient. Maybe the position description was specifically tailored for someone in house.

NCCentral is a historically black public college located in the Research Triangle. Its location alone will attract applicants.

What she meant, of course, was "We can't find any librarians who have been doing the same academic job at another library who want to move over to our library."

Hag has a really good point! These jobs are mostly clerical and it seems that once somebody has several years of professional experience and a solid skill set in one area, it wouldn't be that difficult for the librarian to take on new challenges in a different area.

AL said...

"As a Shippensburg University alumnus, I take great offense at your snide comment about Ship being a "third tier" university.
I guess research isn't a strong point of yours."

I try not to be too rude about these things, but since you've taken offense at a mere statement of fact and suggest that my research skills are lacking, I'll just be blunt. Shippensburg is a third tier university, and considering the number of fine colleges just in PA, it's lucky to be that. Let's look at a few facts about PA universities. I'm looking at a list of these colleges. I'll rank my tiers, and you can try miserably to disagree with me.

Top tier: Penn, Swarthmore, Haverford, Bryn Mawr.

Second Tier: Bucknell, Dickinson, Pitt, Penn State, all the better liberal arts colleges, etc.

Third Tier: Temple, Shippensburg, Bloomsburg, all those Penn State branches, all those non Penn State state universities, etc.

Fourth tier: Let's not even go there.

And that's just in Pennsylvania. Do you really expect me to believe that Shippensburg belongs in the same tier with Pitt or Bucknell? Or that it wouldn't be a couple of tiers below Penn or Haverford? Why don't you save you college boosterism for the alumni magazine.

Woeful said...

"the lower you go down the ladder of academic libraries ... the more credentialed you have to be."

The same criteria applies the higher you go up the academic ladder as well. Yale, for instance minimally requires an MLS, another subject specific Masters, and fluency in a foreign language... Preferably an Asian language. And they pay squat.

Privateer6 said...

Having alot of experience with NCCU, if you can get a job teaching at their SLIS, then yes it's a good deal. SLIS has their act together, and I actually would refer people who are interested in an MLS or MIS to go there.

As for the rest of the school, forget it. The administration is a joke, I had lots of problems with them. Let's just say that it took over a year, and emails to the chancellor and president of the UNC system to get my records somewhat corrected. If that is how they treat their students, I'ld hate to se how they treat their faculty/staff. The salary proves that to me.

As for the tier, NCCU is definatley 4th tier.

AL said...

Interesting comment about Yale. I would expect just those requirements for a subject specialist in Asian studies, but be surprised if a regular reference job made those a required, as opposed to a preferred, qualification. For preferred qualifications, I can see why libraries might ask for the moon and stars, but I think making additional degrees required qualifications for non-subject specialists jobs is unnecessary. And I really can't see how an EdD would make someone a better reference librarian.

janitorx said...

AL, I just want to make it clear that I do agree with you that Ship is probably a third tier school, but in comparision to some schools, say in the south (minus TX and NC), it's pretty good. At the risk of offending some people who read your blog, you couldn't pay me to attend a third tier school in the south (TX and NC parameters still apply), but I would strongly consider one in the north, upper midwest, or west. Because most of these states have fine flagship universities, it sort of has a trickle down effect. Because not everyone can either afford full-tuition nor get enough financial aid to attend Bucknell, Swathmore, etc., schools like Ship, Indiana U of PA, Clarion, etc. play an important role in PA and do attract good students.

I also do not see how a doctorate makes you a better reference librarian. Is the market so flooded with MLS's that administrators have to up the ante. This is getting really tiresome.

Anonymous said...

North Carolina is facing a glut of librarians in the Triangle area right now so I'm sure that NCCU felt just fine about sending out such a lofty list of "requirements" - we've had MLS people apply for tech jobs at our library just to get an entrez - and I have applied seven times to another large university in the Research Triangle area and never even gotten an interview. It's very easy to be picky when you get so many applications.

AL said...

Again, the value of local knowledge. I assume it might have something to do with having two library schools in the area.

Anonymous said...

"I assume it might have something to do with having two library schools in the area."

Three, if you count UNC-Greensboro--not in the Triangle, but only an hour's drive away.

Anonymous said...

AL, stick to your guns. You did not say "Ship sucks eggs" or "Ship admits mental defectives." You are entirely correct--there is a first tier of elite schools, a second tier that includes the Penn State "system" and a third tier that includes "state universities" most of which started the last century as "Normal" schools. Third tier is not "inferior" or defective, it just is what it is.


Anonymous said...

Thanks Taupey. I couldn't agree with you more. It's often more a matter of funding and programs (and fund-raising), not the quality of education that makes them third-tier.

I'm just glad the down-ladder "credentials" problem doesn't seem to extend to my library. I was very lucky to get a subject-specialist job without a second masters in a field that nearly always requires that second masters. I got my foot in the door just enough to a) get experience, and b) get the second masters nearly for free.

Anonymous said...

You know, not all of us consider some university you never heard of as a step down. There are lots of librarians at one regional university I know of that really like working there - they tend to stay for many years.

Likewise, I stepped "down" from from a tier I university into a place that doesn't even award a doctorate. It was a quality of life issue. I could have stayed at my prestigious university library and been miserable along with all the other minions of the library dean. Instead, I chose to go to a library with better management and better pay. And the students here aren't dumb. They're just not pursuing the almighty Ph.D.

Anonymous said...

"and I have applied seven times to another large university in the Research Triangle area and never even gotten an interview. It's very easy to be picky when you get so many applications."

that just made my stomach hurt...we just moved to NC...I guess I'll dust off my waitressing skills. bummer. Where does one go in Research Triangle area to get an MLS job? Sadly, I'm a newbie grad, to boot. Kleenex time...

Bunny Watson said...

Anonymous 4:47, the AL's "top tier" schools in PA included two liberal arts colleges that don't even offer a Master's, let alone a Ph.D.

AL said...

Yes, I deliberately conflated colleges and universities in my tier ranking. I looked down a list of PA colleges and universities, and ranked them as I saw them. So Swarthmore or Haverford, which are liberal arts colleges, I would still consider better schools than many universities, especially since once you get below the doctoral level, a lot of universities just seem offer M.Eds, MBAs, and other professional degrees rather than degrees in traditional academic subjects. The smaller universities also don't necessarily have larger libraries than good liberal arts colleges.

Anonymous said...

actually there are three ALA library schools in NC and one on the way - East Carolina University has always offered a media coordinator program but I have heard they are seeking ALA accreditation.

And to anon. who asked about job hunting in RTP - it's not so bad unless you only want to work in a university setting - the state library has a good site for jobs at:

Anonymous said...

"And to anon. who asked about job hunting in RTP - it's not so bad unless you only want to work in a university setting - the state library has a good site for jobs at:"

thanks other-anon. (i'm the sad NC implant anon.) this is the place for good reads *and* good leads!

Anonymous said...

Another trend I see in ads: positions hiring at entry level with no experience required, but where the job itself seems to require at least some level of experience, e.g., in systems, coordinating electronic resources, developing university-wide library programs, etc. I think it's a way to get someone in the job without having to hire (i.e., pay) someone who has experience.

Dances with Books said...

That is something I have wondered about: that Catch-22 of you can't get management experience unless you get a management job, but you can't get the management job without experience. While I hold no interest in management, I know someday I may have to pursue it, if for no other reason than to get better pay. It does not seem like the rocket science that some of those rinky dink schools make it out to be. They can certainly hire someone new who has a lot of potential, and maybe "grow them" into it. As you point out, if people have been a manager at a higher tier campus, what makes them think they will bring their experience over to the smaller campus?

As for working in an unheard of place, I may have mixed feelings. I would look as well at the quality of life. I would rather be in a job I love with good decent people in little Rinky Dink College than be in a job I hate because it is Creme de la Creme U. But that's me. I see this attracted a lot of comments. Interesting to see what others think.

Lisa Guidarini said...

This is fascinating stuff. I work for my local public library district, but I don't have an MLIS degree. I have a BA in English literature. I'm the adult program coordinator for the district, so my path is different than that of the average librarian.

It's a fantastic job for someone as into all aspects of the arts as I am. I've done all sorts of interesting programs on everything from music to writing workshops and beyond. It's opened up so many doors for me it's incredible.

But the pay, and the advancement potential. Now those are things I'm not so sure about. Well, I know what I'm making, but I don't know how high that can eventually go or how far I can advance without the graduate degree. I suspect not very high at all.

For now I'm very happy with my job. I couldn't live on the salary if I were forced to, though. I'm fortunate to have a spouse who brings in the "real" bacon, but it's hard to imagine a job in which I'd be more content. It's definitely different for those making a living based on a library salary. I don't have any answers for you, but I empathize!

Privateer6 said...

NC State Library website is very good. I strongly recommend it. BUT you may need to go to each individual institition's website b/c sometime's they don't post on the state website.

ECU does have an archivist position available. I can tell you first hand that the people there are excellent to work for, the environment is wonderful, and If I didn't have the job that I'll start Monday on, I'ld be applying for the position.

Finally the community colleges in NC can be very good places to start. Trust me, my wife freaked out when she became director and saw the salaries for the new hires. Much better than public librarians, and almost as good as NCSU's starting salary. But they don't always advertise onthe NC Library site. for those positions you need to go to each individual institution. The link I'm providing is a map that provides links to each school by county.

Good luck with the job search.

blicero said...

This post and the comments here touch on one of my pet peeves. I look at job ads daily and am never short of astonished to read the list of qualifications required. But I sincerely doubt these places are getting people who have these skills and experiences. I work at an Ivy League university library and we would have serious difficulty attracting someone of that caliber. I can't imagine how a Shippensburg could find one.

AL is completely correct in pointing out the shortage of good library jobs, not librarians. Many boomers are holding on dearly to their relatively high-paying positions despite their cluelessness about contemporary librarians and users. When they finally go, those jobs may well go with them. Even at my comparatively wealthy institution, many jobs have been eliminated once vacated. The shortage of librarians is, and I'm afraid will remain, a cruel myth. Would-be librarians should take heed.

janitorx said...

I look at job ads daily and am never short of astonished to read the list of qualifications required. But I sincerely doubt these places are getting people who have these skills and experiences.

Oh man, the list of qualifications for some tech. services jobs are astounding. These positions often require knowledge of several metadata standards, programming languages, etc. You would think these jobs would have great salaries, but I saw one that was 40k DOE and in a major metropolitan area!

Anonymous said...

I worked as a librarian at NCCU for a few months. The salary is a joke for everyone. The building had such a mold/filtration problem that one of the previous librarians died of Legionnaires disease. No lie.

The staff is nice, but when I was there, no one really had the same ambition levels that UNC and NCSU had. Some of the students were outstanding and it was very frustrating to have to tell them to go over to Duke to do research since we didn't have the items needed.

The Triangle has to be the worst place to find a job for a recent MLS grad (esp if you didn't go to a local school) - I had 2 masters degrees and it took me 4 months to get that crappy job. I left it to go work in the private/corporate library route and have never looked back.

Job tip - contact placement firms for Legal staffing - they usually are in need for those with any research skills. And you don't need to have taken legal reference - you can pick it up on the job. Good luck!

Norma said...

Not to panic anyone, but the story about librarians retiring was out there when I started in 1966. But on the other side of the desk, when interviewing, we always found the people whose skills we most coveted, were gone before we could even schedule an interview. I retired in 2000, but I suspect it might still be the same.

Anonymous said...

I got my first library job without "prior" library experience. I did work in my college library (undergrad) for 3 years, including full-time in the summers, and had a wide range of experience from that, but it was so old I didn't even put it on the resume.

While a lot of positions have a lot of preferreds, many are not library specific, i.e. management skills. Many librarians are coming to this field with previous work experience, which combined with the degree, make them more than capable of doing the positions, especially at the entry level. Not every university or public library sees this though, which is why I think many recent grads with prior work experience are having a hard time finding work as well.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was just me being astounded at the "lofty" expectations. Seems an indicator that they do not have a real job, but get to keep their budget for advertising for one. I am so glad I have found some librarians who can tell it like it is...

Anonymous said...

Here is another long description with "competitive salary" which means a low salary:

Web Services Coordinator and Reference/Instruction Librarian
Columbia College Chicago,
Chicago, Illinois

Salary: Not Specified
Status: Full-time
Posted: 06/10/08

Web Services Coordinator and Reference/Instruction Librarian
Web Services Coordinator and Reference/Instruction Librarian
Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

Columbia College Chicago Library seeks an energetic and motivated individual to manage electronic resources and digital reference services, to develop and maintain the web presence of the Library, and to provide student-centered reference and instructional services. Responsibilities include providing in-person, phone, e-mail and chat reference service to the Columbia College community; identifying and evaluating electronic databases; managing the electronic resources budget and licensing agreements; working with Library technical staff and vendors on database implementation and technical troubleshooting; tracking development of new, changing, and emerging electronic services and resources; working with Library service departments to implement new web-based services and products; acting as liaison with the college webmaster; and conducting library instruction for undergraduate and graduate students. Additional duties include serving as selector/liaison for one or more college departments and participating in library committees.

Required: ALA-accredited MLS degree with a minimum of three years professional experience in an academic library; thorough understanding of academic user needs; demonstrated knowledge of electronic resources; enthusiastic public service orientation and commitment to providing user-centered services; knowledge of instruction methodologies and information literacy principles; group instruction experience; strong communication and presentation skills; and ability to use initiative to further departmental and library-wide goals.

Strongly preferred: Web authoring proficiency with Dreamweaver: experience with open URL and federated search engines: experience with selection and management of electronic resources, vendor relations and licensing agreements: Familiarity with collection development principles or experience with faculty liaison programs: and active participation in state or national professional organizations.

Applications received by July 10th will be given priority consideration.

Anticipated start date: September 2008.

Salary: Commensurate with experience.

We offer a competitive salary and excellent benefits package. Minority and women applicants are especially encouraged to apply.

Candidates should submit a letter of application, resume, and names and addresses, postal and email, of three current references, electronically at:

Columbia College Chicago encourages qualified female, GLBT, disabled and minority classified individuals to apply for all positions.
Apply for this job

Anonymous said...

Look at this interview Process and I don't even know the salary range...

Thank you for your application for the position of Librarian at our Aurora campus. After reviewing your resume, we have determined that you have the qualifications necessary to move forward in our candidacy process.

To further explore your professional library and writing skills, we have listed several essay questions below. Please respond to each of the essay questions in a Microsoft Word document and attach it to a response e-mail no later than Friday, July 25th. No preference will be given to early submissions, so please take the time that you need to complete your responses.

1. What qualities do you think we should look for in a prospective Campus Librarian?

2. How do you see Reference service changing in the next five years?

3. The following question is from a student sent via e-mail. Assuming that this is your only transaction with the student, respond to the question:

I have to write a 3-5 page paper on a topic in business, and I don't know where to begin. Do you know of any good resources?

4. What are your strengths and weaknesses as a librarian?

5. How do you feel that your education & experience have prepared you for this job?

Please let me know if you have questions. Thank you for your continued interest in becoming a member of our team.

Sincerely, Emily

Emily O'Connor / Library Director

Rasmussen College

T: 352.291.8586

C: 352.615.8059

F: 352.629.0926

Anonymous said...

A doctorate for a reference job! Just to sit at a reference desk (and hope you get some questions)and do a few "bib" classes and buy some books.