Monday, November 19, 2007

The AL Advice Column

Reading back through the comments to last Friday's post, I noticed one from a library school student seeking advice, the query being more or less, is it really as bad as it seems after reading the AL. I have some sympathy for library school students; after all, I was one once myself. To be honest, when I started the AL I didn't consider that any students would be reading. It was more one professional griping to other professionals for fun. This sounds a bit inappropriate considering that a lot of library school students are probably even older than I am now, but when students first started reading and responding to the AL, it felt a little like the children were eavesdropping on the adult's conversation. I don't mean to sound patronizing, it's just that the discussions here usually tend to revolve around issues of relevance only for those who have left the cozy library school world of group work and tedious assignments for the harsh professional world of group work and tedious assignments.

For example, I rarely address the plight of the non-professional library worker, though more through ignorance than negligence. I work with many non-professional staff, but I don't tend to think of them any differently than the professional staff. In the immortal words of Depeche Mode, people are people. I know in some libraries there is a more rigid class structure than I'm used to, and a lot of ill treatment by both the library patrons and the so-called professional librarians, but I'm not the one to address that. There should be a blog called Annoyed Library Worker for that, and I'd be happy to add it to the blogroll.

Once I began addressing library school and folks began commenting one way or another on the experience, I should have expected some library school students to read, and, as you all know, I'm happy to dispense advice as if it were water, murky and bilious water perhaps, but still water. My previous advice still stands: get out now and save yourselves! Despite my advice, people keep entering library school, no doubt attracted by the ALA's Top Ten Reasons to Be a Librarian.

So here's the query, to which I'll respond in parts. Please feel free to advise this student as well. Some of you seem to think I'm too harsh and bitter and not perky or constructive enough. Here's your chance to set the record straight for this student. I'm going try to be perkier and more constructive than usual as well. We have to be gentle with the students, because we need them to graduate and get jobs so they can support us in our dotage at the old librarians' home.

"Over the past week I've been reading the AL's blog and have been horrified of what I've read! I'm currently in the process of wrapping up my first quarter in an MLS program and am feeling very doubtful about my career decision after having read all of your comments."

That's understandable. I've been a librarian for years and am still feeling doubtful about my career decision. Remember, if you're able to get a job, you won't have to work very hard. The expectations are low in every area, from performance to fashion. You won't get paid much, but you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you're saving the world one library card at a time. No amount of money in the world could replace that feeling.

"Of course, I'm not founding my fears on the comments of strangers alone, as I've been working a VERY part-time student assistant position at my local public library and have, on more than one occasion, referred to our fine institution as nothing more than a glorified Blockbuster. The attitude of patrons can only be described as demanding and cruel, as they treat us library workers as if we were sub-human scum."

Your institution probably is a glorified Blockbuster, but in this you are not alone. That's how the librarians of the future prefer it, so get used to it. As for being treated as sub-human scum by the patrons, this should change after you become a genuine professional librarian. Then you'll be treated as ordinary human scum, which is much better. No, I shouldn't say that. It must depend on the library, because I've never been treated as scum by library patrons, only by some of my colleagues.

"I realize that no career is going to be a picnic, and this is, after all, a public service position, but I'm beginning to feel that I am truly squandering my money on a degree that will leave me working for a mere $6 an hour, which is what all non-salaried staff at my library currently makes. It's very discouraging to hear employees that have been with the library for 4-5+ years complain about not even having the money for routine car repairs or clothes. How will I pay back these student loans if I can't even afford an oil change?"

Hmmm, the $6/hour does sound low, but surely the professional librarians get paid much more, perhaps even as much as $12/hour! How will you pay back the student loans? That's a different question. My advice is, don't take out any more loans, because you'll probably still be paying them back out of your Social Security. Don't borrow money for library school. Don't pay any outlandish tuition for library school. If you can't go cheaply in-state or get some sort of assistantship or get your employer to pay for it, think about doing something else. On the plus side, you might not even be able to afford a car, so worrying about an oil change is a sign that you're a hopeful person. Hopefulness goes a long way, except in a car with no oil.

"In my heart I'm clinging to the idea of working in the libraries because of my love for books (I know, I know's stupid) and sharing that love with others. However, even the patrons that DO use the library for reading resources are checking out "light romances" and popular fiction ...basically, GARBAGE."

This warms the cockles of my heart, and there's nothing I like more than hot cockles. If you love books and reading and think most pop fiction is garbage, it definitely sounds like you're in the wrong place. The public library is the place to get pop fiction garbage and DVDs. Add Internet porn and video games, and you have the raison d'etre of the library. You should set your sights on an academic library, where there still are people who love books and reading and where one rarely finds the atmosphere of an Internet arcade cum rec center. It's not all as bad as your library. The grass really can be greener. Not much greener, certainly, but what do you expect.

"Advice ...? :( You're all scaring me!"

I'm all out of advice. It's up to you, kind readers, to share your wisdom.


Anonymous said...

"This warms the cockles of my heart, and there's nothing I like more than hot cockles."

Quote of the day FTW

And spot on advice - if you're going to library school, do it free, or don't do it at all. And for the love of Peter Gabriel, please take the technology track and learn something semi-useful and/or relevant to other occupations.

You may even be able to get a job elsewhere when your library's budget is cut... again.

Alex said...

"You should set your sites on an academic library, where there still are people who love books and reading and where one rarely finds the atmosphere of an Internet arcade cum rec center."

I'll second that. An academic library is the place to be. More money, grateful students, and tenure!

Anonymous said...

Depeche Mode? How old are you, AL? Depeche Mode was big in the '80's.

Librarian in Red said...

I worked in a public library for a time and found it very soul-draining. I helped people find the DVDs the "dinosaur" books and the computers. I didn't feel I was the information guru I went to Library School to be. However, I LOVE my current job! I work for something every bit as important (imho) as public libraries and play an important role in getting critical information to my patrons. I think it is being this critical member of the larger puzzle that gives job satisfaction. In a public library there was nothing critical going on and I felt the patrons could have got the same service from Joe at Blockbuster or Suzie at Borders.

On the other hand my work is entirely non-fiction - something I don't mind. Being a librarian is a calling (it sure as heck isn't for the $) but there is a WIDE array of different libraries and librarian positions. Try out something new - you might love it!

Anonymous said...

When you go to library school, learn skills not lessons. Think of everything in terms of how it will look in a cover letter or resume'. Be open (both location wise and job wise, especially for that first position). Do internships, apply for awards, participate in student groups... anything that will add another line to your vitae.

AL said...

How old am I? I'm 73, but don't look a day over 72. Besides, I have a wide-ranging musical knowledge. When I quote Cole Porter, no one asks how old I am!

Anonymous said...

No one should be in library school now. It's simply a waste of time and money.

Here are links to dozens of people's experiences who have learned this the hard way.

3goodrats said...

"My advice is, don't take out any more loans, because you'll probably still be paying them back out of your Social Security. "

Ha ha! As if there will BE any Social Security by the time this person retires.

Farkas Is Willin' said...

What these elitists don't mention is that they are speaking of public libraries in the sticks. Not all public libraries are arcades, jack-off service centers and romance novel drive-thrus. You may have to stop for a spell in such but most big cities like NY, Chi-town, LA, SF, Atlanta, Detroit and even that intellectual waste-land jock-ville known as Boston have big-time libraries with subject departments and patrons who can spell cat if spotted the c and the t. What a major load to say academic libraries are the only venues offering a challenge. A challenge if your world view is of bitchy lawyeresses, corduroy and old flirty farts wearing goatees and pony tails!

Anonymous said...

AL, you're too "hip" to be 73. I no of no older (or "graying" librarian) who actually writes lengthy library manifestos. By the time they reach 50, they seem to be tired and are already counting down the days to retirement. On top of that, I know of no older librarian who is sarcastic.

Admit it, AL. You are in your 30's or 40's and we have decades more of the AL to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

Goddammit, being a librarian is not a 'calling'. Hearing voices in your head is only necessary if you want to be Joan of Arc with student loans.

It's a job. And like all jobs, it can be a battle to find a good one. If you can't get a job in academia, try corporations. There are still some very well-paid corporate librarians out there and some are new hires.

But it's not a growing job market, true, and if you are worried about money now in your starry-eyed student years, you won't find things much better when you graduate. But I'd stop working in a public library for starters. Library school is depressing enough without being treated as a subhuman at work too.

Anonymous said...

Ditto the advice on tech courses, internships, and anything else that is hands on and/or has SKILLS, not theory, as the basis of the class AND can be used in a job setting. My experience in the library prior to school was as a user and spouse of a lirbarian. The hands-on experience helped me tremendously in getting my current.

Besides academia, I would strongly recommend working in a medical library. While not all the physicians appreciate the work you do, or the circulation policies for that matter, overall they really appreciate the help you give them. And the nurses and other hospital staff greatly appreciate the work for them.

Dances With Books said...

"What these elitists don't mention is that they are speaking of public libraries in the sticks. Not all public libraries are arcades, jack-off service centers and romance novel drive-thrus."

That is the quote of the day, except you don't have to be elitist to see that a large segment of public libraries fit that description. And it does not have to be in the sticks. I lived in a major metro area where the public library system was pretty much an arcade (Runequest anyone?), and so on. Now, in the sticks, where I am now, you are lucky if they even know what a book is (due to poor selection and funding. My current location has books that were probably there during the Hoover Administration).

Anyhow, I am not sure we can add any more advice to those in library school or considering it. Academia would be my best bet, preferably a place without the tenure line (If I wanted to play the rat race of "perish or publish," I would have gotten a real PH.D. in something else). That's just me though. I am sure the rat race works for others. Anyhow, go academic or special libraries. And to quote another sage here: "And for the love of Peter Gabriel, please take the technology track and learn something semi-useful and/or relevant to other occupations."

AL said...

"What these elitists don't mention is that they are speaking of public libraries in the sticks."

Yes, but as I understand it based on reading the comments here, the big city public library jobs are the hardest to find and don't pay that well when you do find them, making living in New York or Boston even more difficult. However, I could be wrong.

As for my age, I'll never tell, though I'm not sure I could keep up decades of the AL. Frequently, I consider just closing up shop, but then I find something else to annoy me and the show goes on.

skeptical thomas said...

AL et comp. touched on the subject of library school students reading the blog, justifiably so.
Now I will push the envelope even further. I am not even finished with my current degree yet, I am considering MLIS as a next step, and ladies and gents, please hold on to your seats/hats, I am ALSO reading this blog.
I'm a soon-to-be PhD (no, AL, it's not in English, Ed, or SW, sorry to disappoint you), I am mature enough, or at least I think so, and I'm not at all discouraged, or frightened, or terrified of going to library school after/while reading this blog. Oh well, I'm sure there's people out there more weird than I.
Keep it up, gang!!

Jeffrey said...

1. Go to an academic library.
2. If at all possible go to a public library that you know about. As has been mentioned they are not all bad.
3. even the patrons that DO use the library for reading resources are checking out "light romances" and popular fiction ...basically, GARBAGE."

Don't be a snob. What is so horrible about popular fiction?

Anonymous said...

Hello AL

So you’re young and hip, huh? Someone said no old farts write, huh? Well of course I need to pop in and add my 2 cents so I can say I de-lurked here at least once…. and like any posting, it is a meandering snapshot of my opinion at this precise moment.

I presume I am considered old. Fascinating. I am, and always have been, wise and stupid in alternating patterns. Yes, you can be a genius and be stupid, it’s part of life and I am cyclical proof.

I have had other professions in past manifestations. Now I am a student getting an MLIS degree in 27 days…or so. I hated needing to get more damned paperwork - and pay through the nose for it since my current place of employment is too ignorant and abusive to admit what value they have in me and assist financially. I hate the fact that most folks in my classes are a third my age and getting some kind of monetary help while I will be paying on student loans while the rest of my boomer buddies are retired and traveling.

Life isn't fair. Some days I wake up angry. There will always be crap to put up with, self elevated morons to endure and injustices – in every field. When I was a hippie, I marched. Now I conform a little more because I have to. And as for opinions - they're like assholes, everyone has one and none are perfect, even our own.

However, angry doesn’t solve much and life’s too short to waste precious time on extensive profound vacillation and self flagellation so when I wake up angry, I remind myself of just that. There is a great deal in my life that is very good and in-so-far as library-world, I discovered I like some of the people and some of the work. I like the problem solving, the building things, and the brain stretching, and there is a good chance that I will NOT stop wanting 'it all' until I die so if it means occasionally paying for INPUT and tolerating MORONS and INJUSTICE, so be it.

In all actuality, I am too lazy to expend the energy it takes to stay mad and no one comes to check on you when you stomp off to your room to pout anyway.

So, my opinion young library student…. just listen to and be true to yourself; let your heart trump your logic; if here is not as good as there then relocate; stuff is just stuff and comes and goes all your life; when you stumble on a good person, treat them well because their friendship is a privilege not a right; work to live not live to work. And…you change your mind and become someone else, doing something else, and living somewhere else, for as long as you live.

Signed: older, opinionated anonymous

Anonymous said...

Some very good advice for the students, AL.

I’ll issue a strong second to several points. Do not take out a loan to go to library school. Do not pay a lot of money for library school. If you are in library school and are having second thoughts, have a chance to get out and do something else, do so.

All the dark comments about public libraries on this blog are spot on. They have been degraded to DVD lending, NYT Bestseller and Harry Potter lending, and public internet service. Most of the non professionals in public libraries are townies, in some way connected to the local political machine. The professionals–HA!–are mostly former stay at home moms who went back to school to get their degrees mid life. They usually have zero tech ability, and no in depth knowledge in any subject area. Try this, go to your public library reference desk and ask a basic science question such as “what is the speed of light?” See how they do. Another poster described how the sciences are poorly represented in libraries; this is especially true in public libraries where a high school chemistry text is considered by most public librarians to be too technical for their collection.

Most of the public will treat you poorly, like they would a supermarket checkout clerk. They will try to beat fines, they will lie about losing items, they will be belligerent and nasty, and these are the ones of average intelligence and without a mental disability or substance abuse problem. My least favorite of these problem patrons are the local school teachers, who are among the most arrogant and self entitled. One anecdote: a teacher once brought her entire class for a library visit, had each child check out a book on their cards i.e. thirty books on thirty cards, and took charge of all the books. She didn’t return them on time thus triggering over thirty overdue notices and prompting a string of angry calls from parents to the library, not the teacher. Infuriating instances like this will happen every day, and no one will care.

Mentally ill people frequent libraries, and are often abusive to the library staff. This is because libraries are one of the few places their abuse is tolerated, thus giving them a sense of validation they can’t find elsewhere. How long would they last in a retail establishment? People with substance abuse problems also frequent libraries, for the same reasons.

When you complain about these problems, no one in administration will listen. Public library directors are generally bad at their jobs. They are merely people with an MLS who have been around long enough to have been promoted. MLS holders are usually low skilled in every area, and this is especially true of management. They do understand your problems, but will do nothing to help. They are grateful to have an office to hide in, and will spend most of their time doing so.

Your typical shift on a public library reference desk will involve fighting with patrons over late fines and trying to maintain order among the feral teenagers. In a public library, you will use no professional skills.

This is a bleak picture, but it’s the truth. You can make a difference as a public library despite the darkness, though. Reading and literacy are important to a functioning society, and both are in decline. If you really want to champion these causes, then being a public librarian might be right for you. If you don’t, or are only half hearted in your desire, look elsewhere.

Oh, and yes. Librarians do get every holiday–even the day after Thanksgiving!–but make a low salary. I direct a library in a small blue collar town, and make thousands less than some of the rank and file department of public works laborers.

Best of luck.

Anonymous said...

Good advice here! I guess I would add that if you love kiddies become a media specialist. There is actually a true shortage in many states. Also, the pay is decent and you get summers off.

AL said...

"Don't be a snob."

Be a snob.

"What is so horrible about popular fiction?"

If you have to ask, you'll never understand. But one could reverse the question. What's so great about popular fiction?

reformed academic librarian said...

Advice: don't rule out a corporate library - I love it and it actually pays the bills.

Jeffrey said...

If you have to ask, you'll never understand. But one could reverse the question. What's so great about popular fiction?

First off, I would only accept a reversal of the question if you actually bother to answer it.

Secondly, I don't have to ask. There is nothing wrong with popular fiction. There never has been even back when Shakespeare and Dickenson were popular fiction. I read popular fiction; I know many librarians and other individuals who read popular fiction. I read science fiction, graphic novels, chick lit (and I’m a guy) and good young adult fiction. New York Times best sellers, Harry Potter, Terry Pratchatte, Mary Jancie Davidson and all kinds of other trash along with classics, popular science texts, magazines and anything else that strikes my fancy. There is nothing 'wrong' with any of these.

What is so great about popular fiction? It is entertaining, and people enjoy it. People read it. But I suppose such high minded folks as the AL only take there noses out of Aristophanes long enough to deride the choices of the rest of us.

For someone who constantly criticizes libraries as glorified video rental shops one would think you would be in favor of something that people actually read. And maybe, just maybe if they are in there reading they might find something, or ‘gasp’ you could do your job and direct them to something of more substance.

Anonymous said...

"Good advice here! I guess I would add that if you love kiddies become a media specialist. There is actually a true shortage in many states. Also, the pay is decent and you get summers off"

I would not recommend this as you are many times the "babysitter" and just break time for the teacher. My brief experience was that all I did was check in check out books and shelve. I did not have time to do much teaching in a half hour. Don't become the media specialist unless you really feel like it is your calling. Teachers did not treat me as a professional either and I had more professional education than many of them.

HarperLibrarian said...

There are so many things you can do with your degree. But I agree get some hands on experience in an internship. I have been in public libraries and have thought of changing to medical. Everything job posted says I need all this experience I do not have. How to get? An internship would be great, but I need money to survive. Yes, skip the loans if at all possible I will be paying forever...
Although I did find this information recently:

AL said...


Aristophanes is for hoi polloi.

Anonymous said...

When was "Dickenson" ever popular?

Jeffrey said...

AL, that is a snarky response, not an answer.

Anonymous, I beg forgiveness for my hasty work place typing as I attempt to keep up with my feed reader while actually doing my job. Charles Dickens, who’s writing was published in a serialized format and was quite popular with readers of the day.

Anonymous said...

Kids, more careful with that grammar. Don't insult Dickens, please.

Anonymous said...

Dickens, who's, or rather whose writing was popular.
Dickens, who was paid a penny a word.

I don't see any problem with popular fiction, though I never read it. It keeps people's eyes moving over printed words, which is good, I guess.

Most of the best sellers seem to be the same old thing over and over.

Of course I can only tell this from the reviews I direct knowledge.

Anonymous said...

The Anonymous Student here ...

I thank you all for the advice, which I've enjoyed reading, and I thank AL for addressing my cries for help.

Aside from the insane patrons that make me seriously question the fate of humanity, if it weren't for the obscene amount of tuition money for the MLS, I would probably be more comfortable with my educational decisions. Even though I was awarded a generous scholarship, I'm still estimating that my loans for the graduate degree alone will come to the grand total of $25-30 grand before it's all over (and that's not adding in my loans -and my husband's- for undergrad.).

And while I know that finding a decent library job after graduation will be difficult, if I were to quit the program today and apply for other jobs, I know it would take just as long to find employment elsewhere.

Yes, the classes I'm taking seem pointless and lack any academic credibility, but ...

I've heard that if one wants to be successful in the search for a job he or she must be willing to move where their career takes them; however, I'm one of those stubborn people that's not looking to move. I've already done my time in the city (lived in Boston for my undergrad. education), and the thought of going back to paying $1,250 a month to live in some crumbling shack in a concrete jungle isn't my idea of a bright future.

Corporate librarianship, special libraries, medical libraries ...yes, they all sound wonderful, but I know these positions are probably very limited in my "in-the-sticks" area of my "in-the-sticks" state.

In the end, it's all about personal decisions and choices, which are, unfortunately, hard to make! :) I certainly don't mean to whine or be a pain, so I once again want to thank you all for allowing my grumblings.

I was -just as many other young MLS students- under the impression that the field of librarianship was full of promise, but I'm now learning that those were more than likely empty promises. Maybe the job outlook is just bleak for everyone these days ...

The.Effing.Librarian said...

Get involved with technology. Let your bosses and potential bosses know you're not afraid. My first library paid a crapload of money to train me to write batch files in Unix because no one else wanted to learn it. Volunteer to teach a computer class, word processing or resumes, or basic Windows (or assist someone who does). At least you'll get feedback for your work. If your library subscribes to downloadable anything, be prepared to teach classes on that. Pick up a few relevant phrases in a second language. And when they ask during the interview, "why do you want to work in a library?" make sure you say, "people" not "books." Talk about how you want to serve all kinds of people: you love people, you love their hacking wet coughs, their filthy hands, and their pungent smells. And you'll fit right in.

Anonymous said...

This might be intersting to some library school students:

Anonymous said...

"You should set your sites on an academic library, where there still are people who love books and reading and where one rarely finds the atmosphere of an Internet arcade cum rec center."

I am a "para-professional" library worker in a large academic school, and we unfortuneatly have a daily posse of porn afficionados who show up every day, camp on computers and grody up the place. Additionally we have a bevy of internet gamers and non-university affiliated people who use our computer stations as personal office space. While most private colleges and universities are able to limit computer use to college/university affiliates, our status as a land grant university means we're open to the public. Our Internet arcade / rec center status is known to every homeless, jobless and miscreant in the area. The joy is all ours, I assure you.

waltc said...

Anonymous 12:05...

Re your ageist comment: Give me a break. I'm 62, and I've been known to write fairly lengthy opinion pieces--even if I'm not keen on manifestos.

And I'll sign my name, or close enough for jazz. (I'm pretty sure only Walt Crawford gets to use "waltc" as a Blogger display name)

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:13 had it spot on. I'm attending online classes while working at a library, and so far I've learned absolutely nothing applicable.

mdoneil said...

If someone talked you into paying $25K for library school you should sue them.

Unless of course you were told that your annual pay will be remarkably close to your student loan debt for that fine MLS.

Library school is so utterly useless that you can get any MLS and employers will treat you the same way.

My State school was about 7K, now a few years later is is about 9K. If you spend much more than that you are nuts. Heck if you spend that you are nuts, find some employer to pay for it. Library school can most possibly be completed while you sleep, so it should really add no burden to your workday.

While debatable, the UI-CU library school is said to be the top school in the nation. I'd tell you how much that costs but their web site is not responding, and has not been for half an hour or so (I had several people in different parts of the country on different networks check it). That is not a good sign for a library school.

Be that as it may if you are going to spend 30K on a graduate degree, get one in something that pays a good salary. Persoanlly I would choose Chemistry or Engineering. They of course had one thing that library school does not, rigor.

Get out while you can. Don't throw good money after bad.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this will seem like too personal a question, but, for those of you who are MLS holders and currently work full-time in a library, what is your annual salary?

-Anonymous Student

Anonymous said...

41k public library

Publicus said...


Be truthful, the last time you actually entered a public library was to pick up your copy of Gail Sheehy's "Passages" in which you underlined entire paragraphs.

Of course, compared to the excreta "In a public library, you will use no professional skills."
you are lady wisdom herself.

Anonymous said...

Please enlighten me. What skills beyond those possessed by a bright high school graduate are needed to run a modern public library? Running a supermarket is quite likely much more complex. Do supermarket managers need an advanced degree?

Most of the time the so called professional work is made to look harder than it is, to support this MLS holder/library school industrial complex.

Every year my consortia offers scholarships to library school students currently working in para professional jobs, within the consortia. It’s always a festive affair with lots of cheering and good will.

One year, one of the directors stood up to talk about this “gentle profession” as he called it. When he tried to list the important things librarians do, he gasped like a gaffed salmon. Very funny to watch

AL said...

Okay, publica, you've got me. I don't often visit public libraries, since I work in a library that has a lot of what I want, and ILL is just a click a way. I just know what I read on the blogs and in the comments, both from those who love and hate their public library.

$25-30K in loans for library school--knowing that you are in a tight market and won't be able to relocate, and knowing your best bet is probably a relatively low paying public library job--borders on the insane, if I may be so blunt. I wish we could discuss details, because there are definitely cheaper ways to do it.

Publicus said...

...and what more did the consortia accomplish on that day of watercress sandwiches and talk of the dingy hoi polloi outside the gates? A bridge tournament, plans for a fundraiser to paint the boathouse? Scholarships for the mud races in inner (shudder) cities?
Maybe the question ought to be put about how a public library could best serve all segments of society, not just a gaggle of insufferably arrogant snobs looking down from their ivory towers at the rabble and laughing as they struggle.

AL said...

Exactly, publicus. You want to help the rabble in their struggle? Give them Dance Dance Revolution! You want to raise up the downtrodden? Give them romance novels! You want to help the poor? Give them more DVDs!

I read what the public librarians are saying about what they want libraries to do, and helping people make better lives isn't part of it. The public library credo these days seems to be to entertain ourselves to death.

Snobs are always insufferably arrogant to people with no standards. So you don't like snobs and you act as if everything popular is therefore good and good for you. So be it. But your lack of standards isn't going to help anyone.

There was a time when the mission of public libraries was to help people educate and better themselves. Some of that still exists. Some books are available. Librarians do help people fill out job applications. The ALA does still have some rhetoric about an educated society. But the current mission of librarians is to get people into the library anyway they can, and we all know people prefer candy to healthy food.

So as long as public libraries seem set on becoming the candy of the information world, then I will avoid them. I don't laugh at the rabble from my ivory tower, but neither do I think giving them videogames and Internet porn is doing anything at all to help them.

publicus said...

while I fully understand that AL is really a place for broad satire and general whining about crappy direction of libraries I feel compelled to get serious for one or two paragraphs.
Despite what is believed by the Ivory Towerites and perceived from the publicans comments the public library is not ALL silliness and stupidity.
Just as it has been for a hundred years young people, old folks and in-between still come in and get conncected with great literature, science, art, cooking, music, economics and history. Every day immigrants learn to read and begin to take steps toward living in the new land. Girls discover they were not born to be American Idols and maybe by mistake discover feminist heroes. Waiters who want to be writers blunder onto an idea that might become something worth keeping. The public library is the university of the people and academic, legal, medical, corporate, studio, and "the consortium" libraries will never come close to touching that legacy.
Your mistake AL, is that you confuse administrators with librarians. Just as you would not make your martini with lighter fluid instead of gin you should not assume that nimrods putting DDR into reading rooms are the same folks fighting the real fight at reference desks. As a veteran librarian with thousands of frustrating setbacks and the brain-numbing experience of defeat after defeat on collection development I always have a balance by seeing the few, the proud, the great unwashed public take wisdom and dvds away from my library.
ps- I agree with everything you say about the waste of resources on porn machines, teen pandering and the ten copies of Harry Potter. I just answer the questions, I don't make the policy.

skeptical thomas said...

Although skepticism is a second nature to me, I have to say both of you, AL and publicus, are right. At least that's how I see it from where I stand.

Anonymous said...

Anon Student.
The Medical Library Association published the results of it's 2001 salary survey here:

I was unable to find anything more recent than 1997 on ALA's website.

Also here is the government's information on Librarian salaries as of Aug. 2006:

"Salaries of librarians vary according to the individual�s qualifications and the type, size, and location of the library. Librarians with primarily administrative duties often have greater earnings. Median annual earnings of librarians in May 2004 were $45,900. The middle 50 percent earned between $36,980 and $56,960. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,930, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,200. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of librarians in May 2004 were as follows:
Colleges, universities, and professional schools $47,830
Elementary and secondary schools 47,580
Local government 42,500
Other information services 40,000

The average annual salary for all librarians in the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and managerial positions was $74,630 in 2005.

About three in ten librarians are a member of a union or are covered under a union contract."


Anonymous said...

I make $62K per year after twenty years at my library, only 14 as a librarian.

And I'm not very good at my job. (ha!)

skeptical thomas said...

When you're a library student 1/4 into your program and come in here asking about library salaries, I think you're a bit late. Not only that, but one has to wonder how inefficient the reference course should be at the library school attended by the anon. student.

morse said...

$77k/year, academic library, non-supervisory, but I started out at a different library a few years ago for $36. I think I might be on the high end, though.

Anonymous said...

I'm a current library school student and also work at a public library. Some days I question why I'm doing this, but this also makes me happy that I got a library job when I started library school! I'd be so depressed if I came out of library school and started working in a public library, because the truth is, my library school (and others too, I'm sure) make public libraries seem like such enlightening places. They are not, unfortunately.

Yes, I'm "insane" enough to take out student loans for school. But I do get tuition assistance which covers about half of my tuition. And since I work for a large city public library system, I get great benefits, a state pension if I stay with this organization for 10 years, union membership, and more goodies. The bad part includes my day-to-day tasks, which don't seem to use my skills. And the fartheads who come in here are bad too.

Truth is, I'm halfway done with library school, and dropping out now wouldn't be smart. I'd get demoted and lost tuition assistance. I also can't convince myself to pay back loans for a degree I never finished, so I have no choice but to finish. Some days I don't mind my job, and other days (like today), it's a challenge to stay upbeat.

Academic libraries, corporate libraries, medical libraries, etc. all sound lovely. I'd love to work in a corporate library, but aren't corporate librarians being outsourced in droves? And don't you need a second masters to work in academic libraries? In any case, my public library experience wouldn't get my foot in the door, I'm sure. And again, with the benefits I get here (despite a not-so-great salary), I'm torn about whether to leave this place.

I'm not really seeking advice, just venting because this entry hits close to home for me. It really makes me angry how the ALA continues to promote all these myths about job shortages, great work environments, etc.

Anonymous said...

70 g's, non-supervisory in a very big city PL.

"One dollar for eternal happiness? I'd be happier with the dollar."
Montgomery Burns

Anonymous said...

Skeptical Thomas,

While I could have easily looked up the salaries of librarians myself, I much prefer to ask individuals to get a good sense of what's really going on ...perhaps that seems silly to you, but whatever (I'm sorry to have ruffled your feathers and made you feel all snarky).

And yes, maybe I am a bit late in worrying over salaries since I've already started a program, but of course I considered these things beforehand ...I guess I was just being overly optimistic. I must say, though, that those of you who responded seem to be doing fairly well salary-wise!

-Anon. Student

il library student said...

$41k, no MLIS (yet), but I have bachelors degree in communications and a LTA, and I'm currently working on my MLIS. I also have about 10 years of combined experience in public and academic libraries.

If you can, try putting your bachelors degree to work for you. I'm currently doing public relations, marketing and community development for the library I work for, based more on my public relations background than my library experience.

It still blows my mind how many people in my MLIS classes have gone straight from undergrad to grad school, with their only experience in a library being a student worker while they got their bachelors degree.

Thankfully, the instructors I've had stress the need for experience and don't talk too much about the "librarian shortage."

Although, depending on what occurs in the future, it may happen, just based on the experience I've had at my current library. However, I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...

I usually use my full id in comments but I'll be anonymous this time for the sake of answering the salary question : $36,000, in my second year out of library school, with no paraprofessional experience. Also, in a town where you get a huge one-bedroom apt with hardwood floors for $400/month. Since everyone likes Boston as a comparison, CNNMoney's calculator says it's the equivalent of $52,000 in that city.

A few more pieces of advice:

- Also consider govt agencies. More of them hire librarians than people realize.

- Keep an eye on the job list for your state library assn. A lot of entry level jobs are only posted there. And, again, it shows you places hiring that you never realized had librarians.

- If dealing directly with the public is losing its appeal, consider cataloging. You're still helping people, but you don't have to smell them.

skeptical thomas said...

Mixing hard figure facts with opinions in cyberspace where anybody can be anybody doesn't make for much of a valid and credible source, with all due respect for everyone posting here. I would say more, but my skepticism blurs my mind whenever an argument ends in "whatever".

Gilbert Bland said...

“ They have been degraded to DVD lending, NYT Bestseller and Harry Potter lending, and public internet service.”

“ Most of the non professionals in public libraries are townies, in some way connected to the local political machine.”

“ The professionals–HA!–are mostly former stay at home moms who went back to school to get their degrees mid life. They usually have zero tech ability, and no in depth knowledge in any subject area.”

“Try this, go to your public library reference desk and ask a basic science question such as “what is the speed of light?”

“Most of the public will treat you poorly, “

“Mentally ill people frequent libraries, and are often abusive to the library staff. This is because libraries are one of the few places their abuse is tolerated, thus giving them a sense of validation they can’t find elsewhere. How long would they last in a retail establishment? People with substance abuse problems also frequent libraries, for the same reasons.”

“When you complain about these problems, no one in administration will listen.”

“Public library directors are generally bad at their jobs.”

“Your typical shift on a public library reference desk will involve fighting with patrons over late fines and trying to maintain order among the feral teenagers. In a public library, you will use no professional skills.”

“This is a bleak picture, but it’s the truth.”

“ I direct a library in a small blue collar town, and make thousands less than some of the rank and file department of public works laborers.”


I know the name of this library, it is Pottersville from the world that would have been if Harry Bailey had never lived in “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Boy, am I glad I don’t work for this guy!

librarianfoo said...

"- If dealing directly with the public is losing its appeal, consider cataloging. You're still helping people, but you don't have to smell them."

I laughed and spilled yogurt on my PJs. Drats...

Anyway, being a systems librarian is fun too, except when the reference librarians gave me that "just do it just because we want it and you don't know a damn thing about our users" attitude.


But that only happens two or three times a year. So work is still fun. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Skeptical Thomas,

You're certainly out for blood, aren't you? I once again apologize for having stepped on your toes. I didn't mean any harm ... I'm just young and looking for advice/input from people in the field. I'm waving a white flag here ...sorry(?).

merciless, but still skeptical Thomas said...

... and at night I turn into a bloodthirsty vampire. Actually, I just came back from my Transylvanian rounds.

hey, no worries. no harm taken, no harm intended.

DearReader said...

Before I went to library school (which was in my town, so it didn't cost much), I worked at Waldenbooks for a year or so. I recommend this to anyone who thinks they might want to be a public librarian. Some of my work requires the skills I learned in library school (and yes, I really did learn some), but I'm also well-served by the patience I learned working in retail.

BTDT said...

Get! Out! Now!

Various points in no particular order.

The only scholarships available when I went to library school were for minorities. And no, white women were not considered minorities. If you were a white male, straight or not, well, let’s just say that you would be laughed at if you applied for any financial assistance.

Being non-PC here, many of the minorities couldn’t hack the very low level of work expected of them. They went on to good paying jobs because the companies that hired them needed minorities to fill slots. If you don’t like the truth, then tough cookies. If you get a masters degree and are a minority, why would you want to deal with all the crap we read about on this blog when you can make more money in better surroundings?

The fellow students that were educators were dumb. Just down right stupid. Most of them couldn’t balance a checkbook and hadn’t read a book in ages.

Jobs are not available in our town. Oh, sure, they advertise them, but forget it. Only the favored few actually get the jobs.

Library experience before you got your MLS? Doesn’t count. Especially if it had anything to do with the military.

Our academic library is the pits. The science library is a shambles, the reference librarians can’t find anything unless it's on Google and the budget is spent on computers for the homeless and male students to use for porn. The girls use IM and surf YouTube. There is no hot water in the bathrooms.

Money? A person with a JD and an MLS working as a reference librarian in the law school makes $51K after 7 years. This is with 17 years as a lawyer and 7 years experience as a librarian before they were hired.

Fellow MLS students – Pah! Everyone else has commented on them.

My advice? If you are intelligent enough to use a computer and find this blog, get the hell out of Dodge. You are smart enough to find another field of endeavor.

Hell, prostitutes make more money and most of the time their customers treat them better than library patrons treat librarians.

Anonymous said...

$50K - ten years, supervisory position, big city PL. And yes, big city PL are glorified Blockbusters - at least in the branches.

Anonymous said...

If you really want the lo-down on being a librarian please watch this training video as quickly as possible.


Anonymous said...

BTDT snap out of it. Your comments about the abilities of minorities means what exactly? They were dumber than you yet they got a free ride because they were minorities and so what? Life has never been fair so get over yourself.

Anonymous said...

Some libraries may be glorified Blockbusters, but mine is also a crappy Kinkos.

refchef said...

OK. I'VE HAD IT!! I'm so damn tired of the public library/librarian bashing that goes on in this blog. You people really piss me off.

The academic library does not serve all the needs of all the people by any stretch of the imagination. While it might serve the needs of faculty, it comes nowhere near serving the needs of the students -- students who want more than the dusty tomes that support their curricula. Students and faculty are no different from the general population. They want popular fiction; they want DVDs; they want FREE stuff. And sometimes they REALLY want assistance -- something that can be very hard to find in an academic library where service desks are populated with student workers who may know how to work the 7 million computers in the "Information Commons" but have NO CLUE where to find actual information for that research paper that is due tomorrow.

You academe-opians can opine all you want about DDR and Harry Potter, but teen service is just one aspect of the public library. We publicans offer large and comprehensive non-fiction collections and we do as good a job as the academics in developing collections that reflect the needs of our communities. AND our communities have MORE needs than academic communities because our communities are more diverse. We have rich and poor, educated and uneducated; English speaker and non-English speaker, sane and insane, young and old and in between. We provide homework help, term paper help, and doctoral dissertation help. We can provide data for a business plan or (yes we really can) we can tell you the speed of light. We can provide the formula to calculate the volume of a cylinder that has a cone on one end and a hemisphere on the other -- and we won't just give you a call number and tell you to find the formula book yourself. So put that in your mortar board and SMOKE IT!!!!

We may be jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none, but our jobs are FAR more challenging than that of the average academic librarian – and I would know, having been an academic librarian. We actually have to WORK for our paychecks. We don't just point some hapless student to a computer and tell them to look up info in one of the myriad databases provided to keep us from having to move our fat asses away from the desk. We get up and TEACH the hapless student or information seeking adult how to decide what database to use and how to actually USE it.

And guess what? Those students we assist are YOUR students! They come to us because the academic librarians at their universities are a bunch of lazy farts who think their primary jobs are as bibliographers, not librarians. They come to us because we will actually HELP them. Imagine...

You academic librarians can sip your effete martinis and whine about the intellectual vacuum of librarianship and continue to look down upon us public librarians. Go ahead. You can complain ad nauseum about the "twopointopians" (who, BTW, are almost exclusively academic librarians). Just make sure that you pull your funky caps down over your eyes when you come in to MY public library to pick up the latest NYT bestseller. And try not to mumble when you ask me to help you find the latest issue of Threads.

Anonymous said...

"Do not take out a loan to go to library school. Do not pay a lot of money for library school. "

I wish I had known this before I started Library School. Now I'm pretty much stuck.
I haven't heard anything in my library school classes that can't be learned from on-the-job experience and I can safely say that in two years of part time classes, I probably have only payed attention for the first 15 minutes of each class.
Of course, I haven't had my class in Cataloging yet...
I'm hoping I can work in a nice tech department or an academic or special library and I never ever want to work a reference desk again . I'll indebt myself to the federal government for a medical degree (which I should have gone for in the first place) or a Master of Science in Mycology before I let myself put up with public reference again.

Anonymous said...

To refchef.

I've worked in public libraries, four different ones, for fifteen years now.

All the negative comments people make here regarding librarians and public libraries hold true in my observation.

Much of what you describe public librarians doing was done pre web. Now, most of the functions you describe are gone, again this is from my direct observation.

Oh, and the speed of light is about 186,000 miles per second.

Talking Books Librarian said...

Are you trying to give clues about your age, mentioning that most library students are older than you are now, and also about Depeche Mode? Doesn't this put you right about the age of Meredith? Or are you trying to steer us all on the wrong track again? :) Gotta love how you keep us guessing AL! :)

Anonymous said...


Right on! Your experience matches mine. I had the library director of the academic library I worked for tell me straight out: if you want to do front line reference where you can really test your skills then go an work in an urban public library. And here I am...

She was right.


Farkas Is Willin' said...


"If you really want the lo-down on being a librarian please watch this training video as quickly as possible.>>"

Very edifying and certainly some useful hints for future interviews.

Anonymous said...

I work full time at a PL (and make $46K after being a Librarian for two years) and also work adjunct as an academic librarian. There are benefits and drawbacks to both types of institutions but I have to say I find working in the PL more rewarding. In academia, the sense of entitlement of students and faculty can be a bit much. In public libraries, I love that I have patrons who know me by name and trust me to help them get the answers they need. Sure, youth services may have DDR nights (mostly for our teen volunteers as a reward for all the time they dedicate in homework help for younger patrons) but we also have well-attended author visits and computer classes (which our seniors love). Just like in any field, there are some companies (libraries) that are good to work for and some that are not. Make it your business when you finish school to find those libraries and get in the door.

Brent said...

I notice AL is using exclamation marks a lot in these comments. I thought you said people overuse them in a previous post.

Maybe AL has interns writing her posts when she is too busy with her martinis.

Anonymous said...

We get up and TEACH the hapless student or information seeking adult how to decide what database to use and how to actually USE it.

I think it really depends on the type and size of the academic library. At my regional state U. we do all those things. We also deal with heaps of snobbery from the flagship U. librarians. We are all avid PL users and have plenty of respect for the librarians who work there.

In my case, I turned down an offer to work at one of those snob mills. You know, the type of place that aspires to ARL status and resents the research 1 that is about an hour away!

I also know of one ARL library that readily accepted discards from the local public library and several regional state colleges to increase their volume total!

John Berry said...

Hey kid. It's a joke. AL is the last p[lace to look for advice. This junk is for entertainment.

Anonymous said...

AL blog provides better advice than what you will get from the ALA.

I can't use my real name because my library director worships the ALA, and all I can say is that there is a lot of truth in this blog.

Maybe if the ALA higher-ups would deal with the real world now and again instead of worrying about politics, things in library land might change.

Library school student said...

I am a library school student and have been a paraprofesional in a special library for almost 4 years. Here are some key points from my vantage, approximately 1/3 of the students in my program are thouroughly convinced they will get a high paying and exciting position as an academic librarian right out of library school with their only expeirence being a clerk as an undergrad. There is a significant portion of these who believe that they will be more valuable because they another advanced degree off one sort or another. I hate to burst your bubble but there are not enough academic librarian jobs to satisfy the need if my library school is at all typical.

As far as borrowing money goes if you don't know what you are in for, then don't do it. This is aimed at those who are going directly form undergrad to grad school with no real expeirence in the field. Also before you sign your soul away for student loans, use those research skills to look for more money. If you beyond the obvious there is a lot of money out there for those willing to put in a little effort. One thing that will help considerably is if you are currently a paraprofessional try and get your employer to pay for your school, you will need to convince them that it is a good investment and show your employer how they will benefit from furhtering your education. This expierement will be valuable because even if you get turned down it will give you a chance to evaluate what you will get out of the program. Selling yourself is one of the hardest skills to learn and is vital in any type of interview, so start early.

As far as schools go, pick the cheapest because it really doesn't matter. When you are in school realize that it is like a kidney stone, painful but it will pass. Since you are investing a lot of time and money don't cheat yourself, take classes that will teach you concrete skills that can be applied in other fields. Do not avoid the "hard" classes in case you have not noticed yet it is damn near impossible to get a grade lower than a B in the majority of library grad school courses. There is a strange version of grade inflation that runs rampant in library school where you do the minimum and get a B a B+ is reserved for spectacular work and an A is reserved for Jesus himself. On the other hand you really have to screw up to get lower than B. I guess I should state the obvious at this point in case it was missed. Your GPA in library school is not relevant to anything so don't protect it, by taking the "easy" classes this a chance for you to grow and explore facets of the field so lets not put the blinders on.

Be willing and able to move, take advantage of the fact that many library schools are online. Move to where the job is and take care of education online. Oh yeah if you are looking at the average salaries remember that they are geographically biased. Want higher salaries come out here to California, of course those higher salaries may not be enough to offset the cost of living increases.

My advice to anyone thinking about library school. Think about your motivations, your abilities, whether or not you can relocate and finally be realistic and then do it, or not but don't gripe if it doesn't work out as well you hoped. Grad school and careers are a lot like every bad relationship you have ever been in. You are the only constant.

Brent said...

I was always amazed at the amount of people that didn't have experience working in a library before graduate school. I know it isn't required, but seriously, you should be looking at the job market before signing up for graduate loans.

Darwin always has a way of weeding people out. Get it: weeding!

AL said...

I can't believe the real John Berry would deign to comment on this little blog, but it seems like it could be because he makes a very simple mistake, thinking advice can't also be entertaining. I suppose he could leave some advice of his own, except of course he's not a librarian and hasn't been (if he ever was one) for about 40 years.

retchef, have you noticed that a lot of people complaining about public libraries are people working in them? Have you noticed that a lot of the anonymous blogs where people vent their spleens about their poor working conditions are written by public librarians? If you haven't noticed it, then you've been missing something. Regardless, your rant does point out the essential services that public libraries provide and the good job they can do. If there was more like this, I wouldn't be so critical.

But I read of lot of twopointopian rhetoric, and I don't think the twopointopians are mostly academic librarians. I can think of several prominent ones who are definitely public librarians, or at least work for public library groups.

You do sound awfully resentful about the academic librarians near you. Resentment is such an unpleasant emotion. Perhaps your local academic librarians don't do anything and all the students come running to you. If that's really the case (which I doubt), then it's very nice of you to help them out. But just because your local academic library doesn't teach people how to do research doesn't mean that's typical. Most of the universities and colleges I'm familiar with have instruction librarians and reference librarians, many of whom are focused entirely on public services. Large universities often have undergraduate libraries focused on helping undergraduates rather than collection development. Liberal arts colleges rarely have many bibliographers as such. I don't know what crappy academic library you worked for, but maybe you need to get out more.

One statement I found very amusing in your otherwise thoughtful rant: "The academic library does not serve all the needs of all the people by any stretch of the imagination. While it might serve the needs of faculty, it comes nowhere near serving the needs of the students -- students who want more than the dusty tomes that support their curricula."

Here you're confusing needs with wants. Most academic libraries do support the needs of the students. What the students need are scholarly resources to support their academic work. That's what academic libraries are for. They don't have to be playgrounds because they have a mission to support scholarship. If students WANT more popular stuff, it doesn't really matter. Besides, most academic libraries I'm familiar with also have DVDs and NYT bestsellers and other popular items. Collecting the cultural record is part of the mission of the academic library.

Your crack about martinis shows your obvious ignorance of cocktails and a distinct lack of breeding, but I'll let that pass. I don't understand the rest of the comment since I don't have a funky cap, I rarely read bestsellers, and I don't know what "Threads" is, though I'm assuming it's a knitting or sewing magazine. I don't knit or sew because I discovered that if I need clothes there are these places called stores where I can just buy them. Saves me a lot of effort.

The Zero Gravity Janitor said...

Thoughts on the original question from the MLS student wanting advice:

-After working dead-end jobs for 10 years, I wanted an advanced degree;

-Most degree programs require years of prerequisites, MLS didn't require ANY

-Most academic library jobs will require a second master's

-MLS is good if you want to relocate (worked for me)

-MLS can be leveraged into other fields (ie gets you in the door)

-Special libraries will usually require specialized experience or skills in addition to the MLS

I used my MLS for about 3 years as a librarian, moved into computer field with the experience I'd gained running the library network, and now am working as a technical writer and editor which I like.

I don't think the MLS was a waste of time or money, because it met my goals: getting an advanced degree quickly, fairly easily, and then being qualified for a job.

I think you can use the MLS either to move up or get in the door. If you're stuck in a library job and don't like it, you need to get out. The MLS can help you do that if you're willing to move around, learn something new, maybe take a temporary pay cut (I did) to get into a different field.

lifeisnotahandout said...

38k = 57k in Boston
Academic library < 1 year
I busted my ass working as a para and going to school then had to move to the middle of nowhere to find a full time position. I'm sick of bigots that assume my life is some sort of handout because I'm a minority. Care to compare GRE scores?

AL said...

There is something strange and amusing in a twisted way in thinking that minorities have a cushy ride because they're minorities. I haven't seen any evidence of that, and considering that librarians are overwelmingly white women I can only imagine the alienation some minorities must feel. I've been at meetings or conference talks where I'm in the tiny minority, and I know how awkward it can feel. I'm glad I don't have to feel like that every day showing up to work.

I've seen libraries bending over backward to hire qualified minorities, but the emphasis in my experience has been on "qualified." Being non-white or non-male might get you an initial advantage, but it seems to me that eventually quality will out. Even the black or hispanic librarians I know don't want black or hispanic idiots to be hired as librarians. They want intelligent and competent librarians who are ALSO black or hispanic. Maybe I don't get out enough.

Despite their apparent disadvantages, white males somehow do manage to make it through library school and get jobs. Some of them even start library blogs. Amazing how that works.

skeptical thomas said...

While a white male myself, I'm a minority from several additional perspectives. Thinking of minorities only in terms of race and/or gender, sometimes sexual orientation, only adds to the minority stereotype. More inclusion, openness and tolerance I don't think would hurt the librarians (some of them anyways) and the society at large. End of rant.

Anonymous said...

If that was the honest to goodness John Berry posting, I'll submit that while satirical, this blog is the most honest and revealing I've read regarding the library field.

Al strikes the heart of the dark truth about this business. The large number of comments her posts elicit are a testament to the reality she reveals. Clearly there’s a lot of discontent out there, fueled by lies and propaganda fed to us by our ridiculous professional organization.

This blog should be read by anyone considering this field, as very big lies, the biggest being the shortage myth, are exposed.

Nonanon said...

One brief question: does anyone else find it interesting that among librarian types, supposedly freedom of information types and communication is great believers, so many people post anonymously? This is not a rip on the anonymous posters...I just think it says something interesting. Maybe that we're afraid our library higher-ups will track and punish us for honestly expressing opinions? Or what?

That aside, I say RIGHT ON to whoever said this site, the AL, is way more helpful with advice than the ALA. It's a lot cheaper too.

I don't have much to add, except to note that, in all fairness, this is a tough time to accrue school debt for ANY profession--just read Generation Debt by Anya Kamenetz or Strapped by Tamara Draut if you are in your 20s or 30s and are still thinking it'll be easy to pay off your school loans...just a word of warning.

publicus said...

"Despite their apparent disadvantages, white males somehow do manage to make it through library school and get jobs. Some of them even start library blogs. Amazing how that works."

But why should we do that when we can ride on your coattails.

re: John B. I would rather give and take advise from AL anyday than yawn over the ink-stained hot air in Liberry Journal. They haven't said anything worth hearing since Hector was bar-coded.

AL said...

As for the anon comments, it seems pretty clear to me that librarians as a whole are not particularly open minded. Sure, they might think they are, but make fun of stupid trends, take an unapproved political position, point out problems with the profession, and sometimes just fail to exhibit enough enthusiasm, and plenty of librarians are ready to blackball you from the profession. Thus, the anon comments. Think of the way the regressive librarians sputter and fume when anyone opposes their ALA political aims, or the way the twopointopians portray as evil anyone who disagrees with them, or administrators who want "enthusiastic" librarians to work in an "exciting field" but don't really want to make the field exciting or interesting. These people are the enemy of critical thought, but they have a lot of control in a lot of libraries. You don't want them to Google your name when you apply for a job and have it known that you've dared to make fun of the ALA or dared to tell the unpleasant truth about your library job.

AL said...

Which reminds me, publicus, I forgot to comment on your last comment yesterday. I'm not sure we have as many disagreements as it might seem. I'm not criticizing that sort of justification for public libraries or the good work they do. I'm criticizing the rhetoric that would like to make public libraries into malls and arcades and trying to argue that trying to be popular with everyone is a betrayal of the serious mission of public libraries. Dance music and video games might bring in teens, but that doesn't mean they'll stay, and it doesn't mean anyone is really helped. And the more resources that go into games and fluff the fewer resources available to help people who really need help.

HenNV said...

I posted anonymously because I am lazy. And also because I disclosed my salary. When I tried just now to log in to my blogger account, it said my password was wrong...

skeptical thomas said...

Sic transit gloria mundi.

Anonymous said...

"You should set your sites on an academic library, where there still are people who love books and reading and where one rarely finds the atmosphere of an Internet arcade cum rec center."

It looks like someone needs to research the difference between site and sight. Maybe if AL weren't so busy bashing library school and public libraries, she would have time for proofreading.

AL said...

That's true, I should proofread more. But then again, it's only a blog, written in haste, rarely proofread or revised, etc. You must have heard of these blog things and how they work. Maybe if you weren't being so anal about my grammar, you'd have time to write a blog of your own worth reading instead of trying to nitpick tiny mistakes of mine. Doesn't seem very likely, does it?

The Eeyore Librarian said...

Sometimes I feel that this blog and the comments are always putting down public libraries as 'blockbusters cum rec centers'. As someone who works and will probably work professionally in public libraries I'm starting to feel that people are missing the forest for the trees. OK, maybe we don't need to ensure people's access to Jackass 2 (for the record, not in my system). But the reality is that at the end of the day I do not want my community to be without a 'place' for test prep, job retraining, tech skill upgrading (come in and learn how to use a mouse!), literacy advocating (young and old - which yes, will include popular fiction in part to engage reluctant, troubled readers) and other basic skills or skill building devices that can enable people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. [Whether they choose to or not is a whole 'nother issue]. We are a PUBLIC building, that means everyone has a basic right to be there, including the homeless and mentally unstable individuals. As much as I would love to create a sterile vortex where inattentive parents, irresponsible teens, and other riff raff aren't tolerated so patiently, the reality is that they are still out there and have information needs too. Yes, we just had a screaming illogical narcissistic patron yesterday, it happens, we had to ask her to leave because she was demanding special treatment and disturbing the other patrons. We handled it. I realise going into Library School that many of my co-students will have no idea what to 'really' expect when they pledge to be information advocates or whatever it is we end up doing in grad school. They will go out into the workforce and be disillusioned, hopefully not to the point where they toss their Nancy Pearl dolls, and for the record, I love groups like the live journal librarian mofo that has rants in it. Let's hear the rants - we can't fix what we don't acknowledge. Maybe when or if I work in a true academic library and can look down my nose at the work that the public libraries in underfunded districts have to do and lament the purchase of 'popular' materials or the installation of more 'porn viewing booths' as an indication of the decline and fall of librarianship.

Anonymous said...

So many posters seem to dislike being a librarian and advise newbie's to do something else. I'd like to see a blog about what that something else would be...

Bunny Watson said...

Oh for Pete's sake, refchef, talk about cliches.

academic library where service desks are populated with student workers who may know how to work the 7 million computers in the "Information Commons" but have NO CLUE where to find actual information for that research paper that is due tomorrow.

I work in a small, liberal arts college library as a bibliographer and reference librarian. When I started, I was actually thrilled (and slightly scared) at the idea of answering reference questions in a wide range of subjects. After two years of spending one night a week adding paper to the printers, fixing Blackboard printing problems, and putting staples in the staples, the bloom is off the rose. One serious reference question a night (if that) does not justify a professional salary at the desk.

Academic libraries in liberal arts colleges try very hard to balance the needs of faculty and undergraduates, and as AL said, universities often have undergraduate libraries that specifically cater to students' needs.

Shanna said...

I'm a library assistant, and I make less than $20,000 a year. I have worked at my current library system for 11 years. I have a total of 18 years experience working in public libraries. I do the same work day in and day out that the 'professional' librarians do, plus the grunt work that having an MLS guarantees they will never have to do. My favorite saying? 'I hate people'. I struggle with the question every day of whether serving the public means giving them what they want or what I think they should have. Well, not really what 'I' think they should have, because I can't think without an MLS. I used to love my job so much that I would have paid the library for the opportunity to work there. After tangling with administration and an uncaring public for so long, well, all I can say is life's a bitch. CHOOSE ANOTHER PROFESSION.

Dances With Books said...

Hey AL, thank goodness something always comes along to annoy you so the show goes on. Otherwise, I would miss you. Your blog is one of my definite stops in the blogosphere (or whatever the heck the label du jour for the blog's place is).

Interestingly enough, in that city, the local branch I went to was hiring for a reference librarian for a while as well as branch manager. Pay was pretty comparable to the pay I had when I was at Bootstrap Metro U. (my old MPOW), which is really a sad comment on how badly BMU paid. I guess if city life appealed to you, such a position as branch mgr. might be for you. Now, the city system (the one I mentioned was the county), that was a separate can of worms, and to be avoided like the plague.

I have to second effing's advice. Learn tech and be prepared to teach it. If your library offers it (e-books, etc.), be ready to have people needing training on it. Guess who will do that training? You, or someone else ready and willing if you are not. That is part of why I became an instruction librarian: I like teaching, but I also know as long as people need training, assistance, and some education, my job is pretty secure. Knowing another language, especially Spanish, in this nation also helps (certainly can't hurt). And true, this is a people job (even if the people in public libraries resemble less than human beings), so emphasize that when you apply, that you want to work with people.

Have a good turkey holiday people, however you may choose to celebrate it.

The Topiary Cow said...

Nobody is barring the door to prevent you from either going to get your MLS so you can stop resenting the degreed librarians, or moving to a job you like better.

You have one life, if you hate your job so much, why stay?

Anonymous said...

"You should set your sites on an academic library, where there still are people who love books and reading and where one rarely finds the atmosphere of an Internet arcade cum rec center."

I'll forgive the typo. Anyhoo, I've noticed that some academic librarians are trying so see how the rec center model can fit into library services.

I spent sometime working in a state library and it was a great place to get experience.

In my meager attempt to shift the conversation from type of library, to type of work, I would strongly advise LIS students that if they are wedded to working in a library, to focus on e-resource management.

Everyone have a happy turkey/days off, or whatever you call it!

And, yes, I am anon for professional reasons.

RS said...

Apparently I'm a minority here: a white non American male (I'm dutch). Years ago I have been to library school, but then I got cought up in the first IT bubble. I have actually worked as a librarian, but doing other things is more fun and better for your career.

Jack Black said...

I went to library school after seeing the movie "Deskset". How upsetting it was to discover that I wasn't allowed to either smoke cigarettes or drink champagne in the stacks (ala Miss Hepburn). *sigh* Much less afford a nice apartment in an expensive neighborhood or glamorous clothes.

I make do. I work in a hospital library. The docs love me, and send me boxes of chocolate on a regular basis. I have reconciled myself to taking nips from the vodka bottle stashed in my desk rather than drinking champagne. My knowledge of Tagalog has improved considerably since I spend so much time out smoking with the Phillipina nurses. It gets me through the day.

Alas, one must make do in this dreary (health and safety obsessed) age in which we all live.

Crumbly said...

Are we seeing glimpses of the real AL here? Doesn't like criticism of her grammar or reasoned arguments that her wholesale condemnation of Public Libraries might be wrong.

Academic libraries seem to have a policy of not giving students as much help as they would receive in a good Public Library. From my own experience this is true as I found dealing with students of all ages.

And, how little help the independent scholar gets from Academia and how much they can get from Public Libraries.

Anonymous said...

For me, academic and special libraries have bent over backwards to help me do research. When one librarian learned what I was researching, not only did she give me the information I needed, but also gave me the contact information of a local author on the topic, and gave me additional contact information to assist me in the research.

As for special libraries and archives, I must give a great praise to the US Marine Corps Historical center. Those folks not only gave me the specific information I requested, but also gave me additional information in the forms of a DVD and MA thesis that were gold mines of information that I did not know exist.


Anonymous said...

And, how little help the independent scholar gets from Academia and how much they can get from Public Libraries.

What an odd assertion. As an academic librarian, I have never asked, or considered asking, to see a patron's credentials before providing service.

I have also never been in a public library whose collections contained adequate scholarly resources on a wide variety of subjects. (To be fair, I've never used the public library in a large city; their collections may be broader and deeper than those I've visited.) In my experience, their non-fiction collections tend to be mostly popularizations and surveys written for a general audience. Great stuff for anyone wishing to familiarize themselves on a topic, but not so useful for actual scholarship.

The above is by no means intended as a slight against public librarians, as it would be a poor use of resources to stock up on expensive books that would at best be consulted once before they became dated.

Anonymous said...

Library school student:

I agree with the others: no loans (take classes part-time if you have to), take technology classes (you'll be more valuable that way), get internships and visit librarians outside the public library field (see your school's career service office), join state/regional/special library associations where you can go to local meetings/conferences and talk to librarians about what they do. Lurk on library email lists in fields that interest you.

But if you're already unhappy as a "VERY part time" public library worker, PLEASE don't stay there. I love working as a public librarian--I like the variety of work and of people, and that's challenging in its own way. But it's true we aren't challenged with lots of difficult reference class-type questions, and a public library career is part social work. If you're up for that, you can help a lot of people, and many of them will be grateful.

But remember, America is a country filled with people more eager to wait in line for Thanksgiving-Friday sales than to get their butts to the polls to vote. If you are expecting them to come to the public library and discuss great literature with you on a regular basis you will be constantly frustrated and unhappy. That attitude won't help your patrons, and it won't be very fun for your coworkers either. I can deal with the public, but harder to deal with are the other staff members who hate people, whine all the time, and are only there for the benefits. We don't need any more of those folks.

webbygrl said...

Ah, you underestimate me AL. I'm graduating in Dec and can't wait to enter the career. Of course, when anyone hears that you have to have a Masters degree to be a librarian they all shake their heads in amazement. But I tell them it is like a secret handshake to get into a club. If you don't know it, you don't get to play. While I'm new to the field, I'm not new to the world.

In the mere two years it has taken me to obtain my degree, I've learned an enormous amount that I never saw or heard in a classroom. Like the ALA is a huge political machine. One that I detest. They will not get ONE DIME of my $6 an hour...which it won't be because I will be a special librarian.

I chose to be a special librarian because I realize that if anyone wants to research how to make bombs or surf kiddy porn I will not only not stand in the way, but willingly hand over their internet and surfing traffic to the FBI. GASP! Say it isn't so! Um...yes. The safety of my country and my children are more important than somebody's twisted idea of freedom. So to become a special librarian sort of insulates me from those individuals that would frequent my library that would like to do my country and our children harm. Nothing is 100%, but I hope I have removed myself from that situation.

I'm not real sure what I'm expecting from the new career - but it sure is better than the one I'm leaving. Your blog has intrigued and enlightened me. Yes, I'm glad I won't be a PL, but I'm not much for running a day care center anyway.

And for those of you who don't like MF? Sour grapes. She's on to something and anyone who thinks otherwise will be left behind.

Sgt M said...

I tried my hand at getting a job in the States using the professional qualifications that have gained me many Librarian positions in Australia, only to find a certain backwards opinion about overseas qualifications (My qualification is not a MAsters because our degrees are more intensive than the American models).

So after looking at the pay rates and professional snobbery I headed back to Australia and a lively and entertaining academic Libraian career with excellent pay and excellent clientelle.

Go figure.

Anonymous said...

As said before, the reason to get this Masters is because it is the masters without resume that you can actually apply for and get into and then even graduate in a short amount of time.

My time in theis program is primairly being used for entworking and for taking classes I would not be taking if I was just another peon.

A very interesting note, when I exited with my BS, I had no clue where to go for a job in my BS field, especially since my training in that field was so very weak due to my own course progression, but no more then a week into a LS class and BAM, I get a job in my field tossed in my lap by a professional in my BS field taking technical LS classes to further his own experience. in otherwords, if there is ONE place you want to go for Information, the IS/LS field has the kernal!

Otherwise, there are mroe nice features to my program. I am on a listserv that sends me daily updates of 'Jobs that suck" though some of them don't suck so much. I took one of these jobs for a local group putting together a new library. I am a master cataloger and I am also a mercenary, which means I do things for money but I am kind of like the Chinese - I will do things for less money then you do them! Mind you, I do this because I want the position and the experience, and of course, because when I leave that organization I will leave a nice big hole where I used to be. I relish this. Anyhow, I got hired after the older white female declined the job [not enough pay] and the old guy determeined he had all teh qualities he needed in me, so he really should stop trying to trade up. Mind you, after 9 weeks I moved my pay status to purely volunteer becasue he was paying my salary out of his own pocket as the library doesn't have a funding structure, and that just plain sucks for my concience, especially as I work alongside many other [older, retired] volunteers. So no I work for them as a volunteer.

Mind you, I am gifted at repitious tasks like cataloging, I was doing about 200 pieces [records, spine lables, book pockets, library cards] in a 10 hr week and I know I was only working about half as hard as I am truely capable of working. It might not seem like mcuh, but I got a rock rolling,a dn that seems to be tha hardest part for many organizations..g.etting the ball rolling.

I might just start up my own Consulting business. Basically, have organizations pay me to work with their company as a worker for a couple weeks to help them get their machine rolling because that is my greatest talent, gettign things rolling! Mind you, as a consultant I would be slapping that fee on the endproduct as well!!

So why am I in MS school? Well, consider this: I can get student loans for %6 APR, Credit cards range between 14-28% APR. Further, my student loan payments don't start until 6 months after i grauate. I am using this time right now to refinance my current debts while improving my educational experience and most importantly placing myself into a career path - whatever that may be - in a more convienient model, School. Its like taking a break from "the real world."

I'm working in my BS field part time now, about 20 hours a week makes me $500...yeah, I know, why am I not full time? I will be this summer, but summers here are 120+. Winters aren't much better, they go below the 40s starting last week or so and that lasts until may. Outdoor work here kind fo sucks, but I'm happy with my paycheck!!

And mind you, I would not have my BS field job if I did NOT go to my first MS classes. One Opportunity realized now begrets further untold opportunites elsewhere realized!!! This job will pay off my Undergraduate debts and leave me clear of all debts by 2010, quite the accomplishment for a white male who came from a family household that makes less then 10,000 a year [yes you read that right], and who really didn't want to work that hard as a scholar.

The LS degree has many small luxuries that you really don't consider until you have been in the real world. In the mean time, learn daytrading if its really that bad!!!

mercenary kat!

Crumbly said...

"As for special libraries and archives, I must give a great praise to the US Marine Corps Historical center."

But that is a public institution whose purpose includes assistance to researchers. I know that many Special Libraries do assist researchers far more than they really have to. Unfortunately many Universities do not.

Anonymous said...

I'm a public librarian. I run a library out in the sticks, thank you very much, and we have dedicated intelligent users who demand pretty sophisticated service. I also have a few users rolling joints in the bathroom. The first group is my bread and butter. The second group is entertainment.

I've had my degree about 5 years, and I think I do pretty good salary wise. I don't make as much as my husband, who's in the business world, but I have my own office while he's still in a cube. Oh, and to top it all off, I even read the romance novels I buy for my library. I usually enjoy them, too (a shock, but there it is).

If you really feel that way about public service, and can't see any value at all in the bad movies/crappy books/internet gaming access your public library is providing to the people who're paying for it, then you're right -- library school is not for you.

Neither are academic libraries. Even there you have to deal with people and all their opinions and foibles, and from what I hear from my academic friends, it's sometimes a whole lot less fun to sit on numerous committees and argue with colleagues about how things should be cataloged than it is to work with my Board.

If that doesn't scare you off, then follow AL's advice and keep your $$$ investment in the degree as minimal as possible while getting as much out of it as you can.

Oh, and FYI - during grad school I worked in a gov't agency library, a university library, and a public library. I am where I am today by choice, and I like it. I hope, whatever you end up doing, that you can say the same.

Anonymous said...


I don't agree. Now a days in the Academic library that I see is an empty library trying to think about what projects to coem up with for the library. Remote access has taken away the traffic. If it weren't for a computer lab in the library the traffic would really be low.

As far as the salary-it is true that public universities will pay more than private. But, then some require 2 master's degrees, they are union-that is why the pay is more and your schedule is not the same as a "real" faculty member.Librarians work 12 months unless you can get into a community college. Librarians are not teaching credit classes. They are more facilitators. It seems the librarian is at the mercy of faculty when it comes to the Bib. classes. I think down the road and it is happening already, you will not see too many librarians in the academic field. The technical area in the academic library I see more and more "support positions". Cataloging is not copy and outsourcing.

Sad, But a reality.