Monday, May 19, 2008

Those Darn Boomers

If you're looking for a reason to feel good about your job, just be grateful you don't work at the Hartford Public Library.

However, today's post is addressed to some of you who don't have jobs, or at least the cushy library jobs you'd like to have.

I think I can claim truthfully that this blog has done a lot to call attention to the lies that the ALA and library schools have propagated about librarian shortages and the ease of getting library jobs. Since I have been drawing attention to this issue for a couple of years, I feel comfortable pointing out some uncomfortable truths to complaining job seekers. The most uncomfortable truth is that nobody owes you a job. If you went to library school because you were told jobs were plentiful, then you were duped. That's too bad, but it wasn't the libraries that aren't hiring you now that duped you. Library schools benefited from your tuition. The ALA probably benefited from some dues money. Libraries seem to benefit by not having to pay much because there are plenty of suckers lined up to take sucky jobs. You're the only one that didn't benefit. Three out of four's not bad.

And so some of you complain and feel entitled to jobs that just aren't there. I've read complaints in the comments that claim academic libraries, for example, are some sort of exclusive fiefdom almost impossible to get jobs in, which isn't true as far as I can tell. There are plenty of academic library jobs, just not many libraries that want to hire someone fresh out of library school when they can just as easily get someone with library experience. Why would they? You wouldn't either if you were making the hiring decision. Some new library school graduates seem to have been under the impression that librarianship was a non-competitive field. I don't know where that impression came from, but it's just not true. It wasn't true back in the day when I was a wee little librarian and got my first library job, either. I know for a fact that dozens of people applied for that job, and understandably so. It was a good job. There might be a conspiracy against you, but probably not. What most people don't want to admit to themselves is that sometimes they don't get jobs because someone else was better for the job. The more people out there applying for the same job, the more chance that someone is better for the job than you.

The most ridiculous complaint I've read came up in comments to last week's post. My faithful reader "Anonymous" left this comment: "Newer library school grads have to take temporary job pool jobs with low pay and no benefits because boomer librarians will not retire." Oh, please. Go file a class action suit against the ALA or your library school for duping you, but stop blaming older librarians. It's not their fault you got a degree in a glutted field. They would probably have told you not to go to library school if you'd asked them.

This comment is obviously motivated by some sort of bitterness, but is problematic in a number of ways. First, the assumption is that if the boomer librarian does retire, the job won't either disappear or change into some other kind of job. That's a bad assumption these days.

But let's take a look at some of the other assumptions. There's the faulty assumption that someone is obligated to retire from a job they're doing just so someone else can fill the job. Are these boomer librarians not people who deserve jobs, too? There's the probably faulty assumption that these boomer librarians that are so mean as to keep doing their jobs can even afford to retire. I think this is probably a faulty assumption because only the boomer librarians in low-level jobs could be replaced by new library school graduates, and they're the ones least likely to be able to afford to retire comfortably.

There's no necessary reason older librarians should retire. Sometimes they're a drain on the library and a barrier to necessary change, but not necessarily. One of the benefits of being a librarian is that one can still do it at an advanced age. Librarians don't do hard physical labor, so as long as they can get around a bit and haven't gone completely insane, they can still work. This benefits the morbidly obese, obviously, but it also benefits older librarians as well as librarians with various physical handicaps.

The commenter is just jealous, of course, but that jealousy is understandable. One of the other perks of a lot of library jobs is their security. A lot of librarians are unionized or tenured, and it's rare for librarians to just be fired without cause. It happens, but it's the exception in public and academic libraries at least. These secure librarians can just keep on working at their physically undemanding jobs for decades, and do.

It's also hard to take the comment seriously as a legitimate complaint because I'd be willing to wager that the commenter wouldn't think like that in reversed circumstances. If the commenter were the one with the job, s/he would be unlikely to be motivated by such an argument. "You need to retire because I need a job" just isn't a much of an argument.

There might be all sorts of legitimate gripes for why people can't find library jobs, but criticizing working librarians for not retiring isn't one of them.


Anonymous said...

This Hartford Public Library situation is news? It is the same situation in every library. I'd say they were lucky-we don't have ANY security guards and are NEVER allowed to call the cops. God forbid the director/board has a leak to the general public about what really goes on in a library. Bad publicity! Not when there's a levy coming up! Bunch of assholes.

soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dances With Books said...

Yikes, but not surprising. Actually, as I was reading your post, AL, this item from the Eclectic Librarian reviewing the _Quiet Please_ caught my eye:

The quote from her review made me think:

"Librarians sometimes need a wake-up call to remind ourselves of what it is that we are supposed to be doing — providing information and resources to all of our users. So often we place roadblocks to prevent that from happening, and many examples of that are in Douglas’ book. As he shows, these roadblocks mainly stem from a rigid adherence to rules versus considerate compassion and an understanding of the user’s needs."

Because that is exactly what we need to do: do away with the rules and "roadblocks" so people feel better when they come to the library. Maybe we can have more libraries like Hartford where drinking and muggings are the norm. You know, after all, we need to be more "compassionate" with the patrons.

I mean, the objections and jokes on that library practically write themselves. I saw, like Anon.@1021 suggests, call the local reporter (preferably from a public phone a few blocks down), let them take it from there.

As for the Boomers, you do have a point. But look at it from the economy view: even if they wanted to retire (and make the whippersnappers happy), they can't afford to. It's either the library or a greeter job at Wal-Mart.

elsie said...

"wee little librarian" - I fell out of my chair laughing!

Guys, this field is just like any other. It's tough to get a job fresh out of school unless you have some experience. The time to get that experience is while you're in school. Nothing has changed on that front. I got my first professional job while I was in library school, based on the experience I already had and the coursework I was doing, but of course that was mumblety-many years ago.

Taupey, the Bush Kangaroo said...

"You know, there are 20 million guys out of work in Manhattan alone just waiting for my job."

(Soylent Green, Charlton Heston's character, the detective).

Maybe we can process old librarians into healthy snacks?

Anonymous said...

Does the entrepreneurial spirit not exist in librarianship? There are lots of problems in libraries with very few available solutions. Why not start a company to solve one of them? What's stopping you? Nothing. Stop whining and get busy.

andrew the a/v guy said...

Your assumption that "if the boomer librarian does retire, the job won't either disappear or change into some other kind of job" is right on. In my public library district, of the 6+ boomer librarians who have retired/relocated over the last year or so only one position was replaced by a degreed librarian with others replaced by parapros, if replaced at all.

There's no librarian shortage, there's a glut. The days of the reference desk are numbered if not already gone and staff is needed to help patrons with email, fixing computers, running library programs, and (apparently) collecting liquor bottles. You don't need a library degree to do that.

Anonymous said...

Boy... why don't those OLD librarians just hurry up on hop on those ice floes!

If you don't have experience, there are MANY tried and true ways to get it. As a brand new medical librarian back when TI Silent 700's were the cool new toy, I was hired because I'd had volunteer experience in hospitals, worked as an xray film file clerk, took courses in medical terminology, etc. If you can't get experience in the exact job you want, you can still get valuable experience... Quit whining and do something about it. And this should NOT be a surprise after graduation, dummy!

Minks said...

First, I want to state that what I am about to talk about is what I have seen. You can tell me what I have seen all you want, but that will not alter what I have seen. Keep that in mind when you all start flaming away. =P

There are a lot of problems with a significant number of old librarians that everybody is afraid to touch on. They fact they they will not retire is just a simple solution, not really the problem. I will explain it all in far more detail in my next blog,, but in summary...

1) They tend to not have relevant skillsets needed to function properly in todays libraries. 70% of our librarians over 50 are pathetically under skilled in technology. Including, but not limited to, computer use (burning CD's for example), internet searching, powerpoint, excel, database usage, online commerce, and online content technology/delivery. In comparison, about 90% of our under 50 crowd have it down just fine (very few support calls from them). Am I bitter? Yes. Why? The same percentage of my "I need help calls" are generated from these two groups. Learn it or Retire is becoming my mantra.

2) They do not want to learn the new skills. Like you said AL, they never get fired (or rarely do). They know full well they can coast for a freaking decade. And do. Boy-howdy they do. Would not happen in the real world. They would get fired or forced to retire. But in the wondrous fantasy world of libraries they just keep on hanging on.... making their support calls.... to me.

3) They can not learn the new skills. They just cant. We had one here, bless her heart, just could not grasp the stuff no matter how much training. She was quite willing to try and train. Just.... well... could not manage. Other staff swore senility was kicking in.

4) They set up a bad example in the marketplace for librarianship. People come into the libraries and see these geriatric technophobes and make little mental notes. The notes have to do with the desirably of librarians. The stereotype if you will. This type of stereotype is not helping the demand for librarians.

Now, we have one librarian here that is almost 70 and actually pretty darn good. I am not saying ALL librarians over 50 are negligent in their skillsets. I am saying 70% are. 3 out of 10 are just fine. No need for you guys over 50 to lecture me on how good you are. Odds are, if you are reading and posting on a blog and you are over 50, you are one of the 3. =)

Pete Puma said...

@Andrew the A/V guy:

I've found that getting a library degree is directly related to me collecting liquor bottles, just not in the way you're thinking.

I don't need a library degree to drink, but it does come in handy.

Please be quiet! said...

Boomer librarians don't retire because the pay is crap and we can't afford to.

Anonymous said...

Believe me all you, gee what are you called now, the Z generation, I would retire in a heart beat if I could and leave the trash for you to clean up, change, or do whatever you wish with it for the next 30 years. It all comes down to insurance and money. Can't do it. Want to, but can't. YOU quit whining about the "over fifties" and get a job @ McD's, as I did, until YOU pay your dues.

Anonymous said...

AL and the rest of the boomer generation are so easy to provoke.

Just go stand on their lawn and their start yelling at you.

Then they start telling you how great things were back in the good old days.

Have a nice day!

Amanda (the librarian) said...

I think it's important, Minks, to distinguish between "old" librarians in terms of age and "old" librarians in terms of number of years as a librarian. I think the latter can be more the problem.

I'm 51, so I guess I'm "old" (although I keep hearing 50 is the new 30). However, I just graduated from library school two years ago. I can do most all the stuff you listed (and am willing to learn that which I can't presently do).

Now on to a more generic response to AL's post. Our recently-hired acquisition librarian graduated last year. She is 61. The last librarian we hired before that is our youngest (31) - she started out as a student worker here and then was a parapro while earning her masters in library science.

We're a small state university and not in a major city or suburb. We have to "grow our own" librarians in a lot of cases because it's hard to find people who want to live and work in our semi-rural area. It took a long time to fill the position I'm in for that reason (and for the record, I grew up one of the ten largest cities in the USA).

I get aggravated at "new" librarians (usually "young," but not always) who seem to expect a $50K+ job in a prestigious university or large urban library system right out of library school, and then whine about there being "no jobs." There ARE jobs out there, just maybe not where everyone wants to work.

Also, I think there are some misconceptions about "boomers" and retirement. The earliest I can retire is age 62, mostly because that's when I'll be eligible to start collecting a pension from the state (age + years of state service >= 80). That's also the earliest I can collect Social Security, although it would be 30% less than if I waited until my full retirement age, which for me is 66.5 (it ranges from 66 to 67 for "boomers" born 1943-1960, depending on what year you were born).

If I wait until age 70 to retire, I'll get 128% of the monthly Social Security benefit. With people living longer and healthier lives, I need to be sure I'll have enough money to live comfortably until - oh, about 100, based on genetics. And if I don't live that long, I'll probably need the money for big medical bills.

So it's not really surprising that "old" librarians aren't retiring. I do agree with Minks that "experienced" (as opposed to "old") librarians need to be open to learning new skills.

Anonymous said...

I get aggravated at "new" librarians (usually "young," but not always) who seem to expect a $50K+ job in a prestigious university or large urban library system right out of library school, and then whine about there being "no jobs." There ARE jobs out there, just maybe not where everyone wants to work.

Yep, there are jobs, but many of them are in undesirable locations. Personally, I am very glad I moved to the middle of nowhere right out of library school because I ended up getting great experience that has served me well years later.

I would also have to agree that career-changers (regardless of age) are very motivated to learn new things.

Anonymous said...

As much as new librarians might be whiners, I find many established librarians treat newcomers like shit. Wanting a job and the benefits it allows--food, housing, comforts--does not make one entitled, at least in my opinion.

But then it is pretty easy to say just deal with it or "start a company" when protected by a union or tenure. If it is survival of fittest why not let those young "losers" see if they can do your job cheaper and better (and without the attitude)? One of my established co-workers can't even load a CD into a computer.

Oh, and boomers not retiring is going to affect everyone. Working part-time and without benefits (because they have their pension to supplement it) is only going to drive salaries down for everyone. That is as much an economic reality as is the glut of librarians.

Anonymous said...

I find many established librarians treat newcomers like shit.

Yep. I've seen that as well. In fact, I begged my former supervisor to pay the newly hired MLS librarian more than the 29k that was offered to her. She didn't understand my argument at all and went through the hassle of polling regional libraries. When all was said and done, the new hire got a modest increase. The funny part is that this supervisor has poor technical skills and can barely write in complete sentences, but had the nerve to question this person's salary demands.

Anonymous said...

@minks ... yeah, well I'm a boomer librarian who has kept up with, developed, and polished his techie skills.

What fries my grits is when I've applied for jobs recently (in order to move to a region I consider a nicer place to spend the last 10-15 years of my career than the nice place I'm living now), and there is a plethora of newbie MLS graduates clogging up the process. Get outta my way! I was here first!!


Anonymous said...

I get aggravated at "new" librarians (usually "young," but not always) who seem to expect a $50K+ job in a prestigious university or large urban library system right out of library school, and then whine about there being "no jobs." There ARE jobs out there, just maybe not where everyone wants to work.

Maybe in other parts of the world, it is outrageous to expect an MLS to get you a $50K+ job right out of school. However, I don't think it is outrageous to expect to earn a livable wage after earning a master's degree, and in my neck of the woods (New Jersey), $50K is about as low as you can go and still be an independent adult. Think I'm being dramatic? Consider that in this state we have the 5th highest rents and the highest car insurance in the nation. Throw on some serious school loans (even for those of us who studied exclusively at "cheap state schools") and you soon realize that anything less than $50K will find you either living on ramen noodles or living in your mother's basement - or both. And while I understand the concept of and am fully prepared to "pay my dues", I don't think it's too much to want, in my late twenties, to live on my own, in the place where I raised, surrounded by the people and places that I so love. And if I wanted to make a paltry salary with little or no benefits, suffer arrested development, and live home like a teenager for the rest of my life, I would have forgone structured education altogether and gotten a job right out of high school. Might have had a nice 401K started by now if I had. Shame on me for wanting to be educated and, yes, thinking I should be properly compensated for my efforts.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

To anonymous @ 5:30 -

Sorry, I should have qualified my statement - $50K is 25% more than the minimum recommended (by my state association) entry-level salary of $40K for a librarian with the MLS degree and no experience. I started at $37K two years ago (and I had experience), but I am in a more rural area with lower cost of living.

My point was that sometimes to get a job, you have to be willing to relocate. I won't argue with you that $50K is barely enough to live on in most places in New Jersey.

As the AL said in her original post, "The most uncomfortable truth is that nobody owes you a job," not where you want it to be, and not at the pay you want.

Anonymous said...

I normally agree 100% with the AL and have raised my own personal martini glass to her rants many a time...but not today.

I am not a fresh library school graduate, I've been out and working professionally for nearly 10 years. What I find frustrating is the lack of upward mobility within the library world, and this I lay directly at the feet of the boomer librarians.

I'm more than happy to put in my time in the trenches. I've been working hard, keeping up my skills and learning new ones, developing programs, implementing ways to improve library service, all to high accolades of my employers. But I am no closer to a bump up the library ladder than I was on day one.

Instead those peach positions, where people have the power to implement new ideas, are held by the same people who have held them since the late 70s - or early 80s. When those people were the same age as I am now, and they had their own fresh ideas and insights and where up-to-date with current technology and library trends.

I think that it is more than a little arrogant to suggest that boomer librarians have "put in their time" and therefore deserve to stay in the positions that they are in forever, even when that means atrophy and decay in the library. Especially since those that I know didn't work their way up from anywhere. They fell into their current jobs because they were in the right place at the right time.

Personally, I think that baby boomers in general are about the most arrogant, self centered, self absorbed people on the planet. Just because they didn't think to save for and plan for their retirement, doesn't mean the rest of us should have to suffer. Contrary to what they seem to believe, the world does not live to serve them. But since they flatly refuse to budge on new ideas we are stuck in a rut, that does serve only them. And I'm not just talking about library service here either. It affects all areas of society - areas like health care, tax law, environmentalism, you name it, they screwed it up.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Just wanted to point out that most Boomers* aren't even eligible to retire yet, at least if they want to get the full Social Security benefit.

* There's a variety of definitions, but many say those born between 1946 and 1964. That means the oldest Boomers are just turning 62 this year, eligible only for reduced Social Security benefits.

And to anonymous @ 6:39 re Just because they didn't think to save for and plan for their retirement... - let's see what you say when you're closer to 62 (by the definition above of the Boomers you so hate, you can't be more than 43-44). I hope you have plenty of money to retire saved up from your "trench" position. Again, you might have to relocate to get one of those "peach" jobs.

Anonymous churl said...

Blaming the 'boomers' for the lack of jobs is idiotic and rather short sighted about the realities of finding library jobs. Most older librarians know that they will not be hired due to their age, hence they stay on past retirement age.

As any recent MLS grad will tell you, the job market sucks donkey patootis, but what did they expect? Instant experience and big bucks?

If you feel like you're entitled to a free ride, a great job and salary as a new, freshly minted librarian, you're definitely in the wrong profession.

Anonymous said...

"Some new library school graduates seem to have been under the impression that librarianship was a non-competitive field. I don't know where that impression came from, but it's just not true. It wasn't true back in the day when I was a wee little librarian and got my first library job, either."

It's called a con job, and it was done, in my case by a rather slippery head of library program who bailed out of the program when the school he headed was shut dow. He bailed out and was hired to head of the state library, which was actually run by the Secretary of State's Office. He somehow landed on his feet again when the boss's department was the source of an FBI nvestigation, "Operation Rocky Top". Look it up on Wikipedia and connect the dots. ALA fawned over him too. That's a reference question to keep you busy for now.

Brent said...

May I suggest a depressing meter before each post. I'd give this a 4 out of 5.

So, if I am in a good mood, I can avoid reading your post. K? Thanks!

I'm Kat! said...

You're absolutely right, the world doesn't owe any one of us a living, you know, but you must also keep in perspective a couple of other factors.

This whole Increased Survival rate of Old People coupled with the natural increases in population means we have more people now then we ever did before.

Add in the factor of the ideology that on Earth we are now a global Economy. This is short for "we ship jobs to where they are done for less."

In short, this means that for every one Job that used to have 1 candidate in the US when the US population was 250 million, there are now 12-16 candidates because there are roughly 3-4 billion people in the global economy and another 2 that aren't quite there yet for a number of reasons. Odds are, there are many more over qualified [or more qualified then you] people willing to do the job for less and maybe even better then you ever could yourself.

I think the Demotivators Poster for Motivation sums it up very well too. Motivation: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon. Only those robots can also be human bots in places you have never heard of or will ever see. Maybe this same Demotivator poster could umbrella the ALA Posters.

In short, the competition for every single job is going to get stiff. The competition for every GOOD job is going to become paramont. You want to be CEO? ONLY if you are a family relative or the creme de la creme de la creme of your graduating classes - that means you're PhD, minimum. This may soon go for top librarian jobs as well - because the reference desk is going to be moved to Beijing or Hong Kong or maybe Bangkok if it isn't there already. Some poor sap named "David" or "Joe" o "Sarah" will have to find a bit of research on Library Patron Policy; in Broken english, he or she [or it, if it is a computer telemodule like the banks all have] will tell you that if you go to, you can get millions of results, Thank you call again goodbye!

But that is not the end of YOUR world.

There is opportunity all around us in both the present and in the future, so why do we cling to the way things were in the past when we live right now?

You are smart.

Get up, go find a job, or make one!

Good luck everybody!!

[Janitors, Bus drivers, Garbage Truck Workers, Schoolbus driver - there's four opportunities right now!!!]

bitterly resentful said...

Can we please distinguish between mature students, who are pursuing second or third careers, and the truly young people who do the MLIS right after an undergrad degree? Because my biggest beef with the job market these days revolves around the "experience" which is required. If you have worked for, say, 10 years in a related profession but not actually in a library, I've found that you're treated in the same way as someone who has never worked a day in their life. Libraries are really bad at recognizing non-library experience.

And I find it hard to believe that shelving books as a part-time job through high-school or univesity develops better "library" skills than managing people in a company, teaching, working in the publishing industry, etc. Yet, that seems to be the case.

Entitled to a job in a library just because you have an MLIS? Nah. Not a reasonable expectation. Nor are lofty salary goals or ideal geographic locations.

Expecting that your other education and work experience and life experience should carry some weight when applying to a library job? Well, I'll admit that I was duped on that one. I believed I did have "experience."

And as one poster suggested, it's good to volunteer and do practicum or co-op placements while taking the MLIS. I did both. Which, I'm now learning, are not really considered as valuable either. When jobs require 3-5 years of experience (or even 1 year), a 3 or 4 month "placement" is laughable.

Literally. They laugh at you.

I'm Kat! said...

What's even more fun is when they laugh at you for your real experience in the library shelving books or working in technical services working in their place in any capacity as a student worker. Two years, five years, it's all the same to them - Student Worker aka Not a Real Experience job." If a Job comes up, and not just a job, remember, the job posting is just a Formality - they already have the person picked, they just need to get the proper paperwork filed with HR and that includes a proper job listing and interview process.

They might find someone a little better in the process too, which means now a second position just got opened upstairs that never existed before and there are two new employees, one who has never been down here, and one who has worked an ass off [or is that on, given the librarian stereotype?] to get up there.

You and me, we're supposed to stick it out and wait and in the meanwhile forfeit our lives until we get "accepted."

I have learned that you simply have to watch your opportunities and find a slippery way in without becoming a Toad. Like taking a Class with someone who works in teh library, becoming their group member, and doing the whole group project for them, a project that has them baffled, overwhelmed, and lost due to its modern technological complexity.

Anonymous said...

So, if I understand this correctly, the young and recently-graduated librarians want us older boomer librarians to retire right now so that we can suck the Social Security and pension systems dry all the sooner? Sounds like a plan.

Anonymous said...

We can discuss the Boomers (and I "AM" one and proud of it) all day. The whole problem rests with people in general. Not just the boomers. I was raised to understand that the world owed me nothing. If I wanted something I had to work for it. It is the person that works hard at their profession that "should" get ahead. If an "older" librarian is not keeping up with technology then, they aren't working hard enough at it. As far as not being able or willing to learn goes ...... My dad used to say that the day he quit learning would be the day we buried him.....and it was. I am the Technology Supervisor for a small SE Ohio library and I work hard everyday to keep up with technology trends. It's not the boomers that can't or won't keep up . It's the individual.

soren faust said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colleen said...

*sigh* This topic has come up on the newlib list, and it's no wonder 'new' librarians aren't getting jobs when they're sending idiotic posts to a public list. I mention some of the more recent idiocies here. It's a small world, and when i recognize your name as one of the complainy trolls on the email list who also

Mind you, I'm at my first professional academic position for under a year, and I busted my a$$ during the application process. These new folsk who think posting a resume online and then bitching about how they don't meet requirements is no way to land a job - your search committee reads those messages, you betcha.

And to the Anonymous who said "As much as new librarians might be whiners, I find many established librarians treat newcomers like shit. Wanting a job and the benefits it allows--food, housing, comforts--does not make one entitled, at least in my opinion." I'm not sure where you're working, but you can always check out the institutional culture before you accept the job. (That's one of those pesky things that takes *effort* during the job search.) And I have yet to hear from one of my fellow new-minted MLS grads who has landed a job and is treated poorly - that usually takes years to build up. And while wanting a job isn't 'entitlement,' the way that most of the new MLS folks say, "but hey! I have a degree! Give me a great-paying job that is very close to home even though my only experience is being a GA at a reference desk!" *is*, and it's no wonder with an attitude like that they can't land a decent job.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I never knew there were so many disgruntled "almost" librarian. I was lucky enough to get an academic librarian position with NO library experience except a one-semester reference practicum. My 25 years in public relations must have really taught me how to sell myself well. And being willing to live in the middle of nowhere probably didn't hurt either. I guess I owe God a few favors now.

Anonymous said...

How long did you have to wait to get an answer on your academic jobs?

The only times I have been offered a job in academia, I have moved on to different things. Those academic wheels turn so slowly, I didn't have six months to sit around waiting for the endless committees to come to a decision.

So that begs the question, do academics get the best people are the dregs that can wait out everyone else?

Just wondering.

i'm not leaving my name any more said...

Just want to add my 2 cents worth:
1. I don't think technological ability or the willingness to learn new skills has anything to do with age. It seems to be more to do with a point of view that goes 'this is the way we've always done things'. This isn't about boomers versus new grads, it is about focus. It is about people who think doing a good job means 'doing things the way we've always done them' versus focusing on the needs of the user base, like information. I have only recently met my first batch of lazy stupid librarians, after meeting heaps of committed and vibrant librarians (old and young) who care about providing people with information to meet their needs.
2.I think employers across the board need to figure out that the only way people will ever have the experience you require is if someone gives them the opportunity to prove themselves. If a practicum doesn't count, volunteer work doesn't count, experience in other fields or lower library positions doesn't count, then what does? Someone has to give you your first opportunity to gain experience in the *right* kind of position or how are you to get it? I get the feeling from the post and comments that in the US there is a glut of librarians, but in Australia we have a general issue of a soon to be decreasing workforce in general when the boomer generation do retire. This may mean that if people do not get the opportunity to gain experience now, while the experienced boomers are there to impart their wisdom, they will gain it when they don't have them around to support them. I'm just thinking that it might make sense for the employers to put in that bit of effort giving people experience so that they have someone with the right experience when the time comes.
3.Sometimes you can move, sometimes you can't. There are a LOT of sweeping and 'conclusive' statements being made, it is worth remembering that these are very complex issues.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Anonymous @ 11.01 AM:

I submitted the application for my academic library job the Monday after I graduated in May 2006. They called me the next day for an interview, which was Thursday. They offered the job the same day.

I also had another offer on the table from another academic library (the process on that one ran a little longer; I applied in February). I had a face-to-face interview at yet ANOTHER academic library the Tuesday I got called in for the interview for the job I accepted. And, I'd made it through the phone interview stage for a fourth academic library position. For the latter two jobs, the process had started the month before, with interviews at my state library association's annual conference placement center.

What all these jobs had in common was that they were lower-profile academic institutions in smaller towns.

I would definitely agree that higher-profile schools and those in larger or more popular cities tend to take much longer to hire. They can afford to. I think those schools are much less likely to hire someone just out of school; they're more likely to hire someone who is already working as a librarian (i.e., has a job and can afford to wait for the right new one to come along). So no, I don't think they're getting the "dregs who can afford to wait out everyone else."

Oddly enough, it was the public library systems I applied with that tended to take forever. At that same state conference (in April), I interviewed with a couple library systems in or near my hometown. I didn't get called for interviews until July.

Anonymous said...

I guess I just suck, so I won't bother anyone anymore.

Sorry to have wasted all of your valuable time.

Carry on.

Anonymous said...

Has any newbie librarian ever thought of using their MLS towards another career path? I couldn't find a job after I graduated for about 7 months due to a variety of factors. One of the reasons was that I was fairly stuck on staying in the same state. Due to the technological skills and positions I had before and that were expanded on during library school, I was able to apply for many jobs that were indirectly related to libraries.

I ended up at a vendor and made fairly good money for a starting salary. I worked there for almost 5 years, and gained a ton of valuable technology skills (unix system administration, oracle, programming in various languages, system integration, etc.). I am back in the library game now and make a pretty good salary.

If my opinion is worth anything (which is debatable), I would suggest to newbies to learn skills (particularly technical skills besides knowing how to use dreamweaver)that translate into other environments. I have found that many newer librarians are too idealistic to let go of their expectations, and work for a vendor or some other private entity. My ex-company posted a job position to a list serv for new librarians for a technical support position, and much of the response on the list-serv was largely negative (i.e., "tech support! blah! what a peon position! i want to work at an ARL making 60k cataloging MARC all day!")

Anonymous said...

Amen, sister! (Or brother, as the case may be.) I already replied to this "get the hell out of my way, I need a job" attitude over on the publib listserv. I'll quit, but I'm gonna have to move in with one of these young whippersnappers, 'cause I won't be able to afford my house, car or food. Maybe they'll start an Old Librarian's Retirement Home for us?

Anonymous said...

Thanks AL for prompting me to another look at Strauss and Howe's view of the "Boomers." As a member of the "Silent Generation" who recently retired to make way for a "Boomer," I'm bemused by the apparently post-Boomer comment you shared.

"The 13th Generation" librarians might benefit from reading "The Fourth Turning" which Howe and Strauss start with a quote from Ecclesiastes "That which hath been is now ..."

For the analysts/critics of the "Boomers," there is a thought provoking article by Joshua Zeitz in American Heritage from October 2005. You can get there by googling "Boomer Century" I liked the following quotes:

"They inherited a nation flush with resources and will bequeath their children a country mired in debt."

"In the end the boomers may be less culpable, less praiseworthy, and less remarkable than they, and everyone else, think. Their cohort was so big, arrived so suddenly, and has grown up so closely alongside the modern broadcast media that they have always struck us as standing apart from larger historical forces that drive the normal workings of states and societies. Yet much about this seeming exceptionalism just isn't new."

The signature song of the "Boomers" ... "I can't get no satisfaction."

The Crook Librarian

mh said...

I don't think its so much older librarians as poor management in libraries that lets people sit around for years barely contributing. That person could be 35 or 55 or 68 - and there are no repurcussions for just being a warm body and little else. Librarians aren't taught how to become managers like maybe they are in the business world where you can hold people accountable and set expectations and expect them to be me. Sometimes newer librarians (like me) notice that it's older people that are the warm bodies, but I think it's because they've been allowed to become that, not simply because of their age.

mh said...

woops - thats supposed to be
"set expectations and expect them to be met" not "be me" changes things, a bit.

Anonymous said...

I'm at the tail end of the baby boom and got my MLIS a couple of years ago after 18+ years as a paraprofessional. The large academic library where I'd worked my entire paraprofessional career wanted nothing to do with me; to them paraprofessional experience is a black mark on your record written in indelible ink. A large academic library halfway across the country hired me specifically because of my years of experience in an academic library; after a year on the job they promoted me to department head. Not bad for someone 2 years out of library school.

Truth be told, experience and how it is valued depends on the organization. My current place of employment does a lot of hiring from within and as a result morale at all levels of the organization is pretty high - everyone is valued regardless of their status. My previous employer was adament about not hiring from within, going so far as to hire less qualified candidates to prove their point. Not surprisingly, morale is nonexistent there and many of their so-called professionals are anything but.

I should point out that my years of experience include a substantial amount of technology experience, plus I'm currently working on a second technology-related masters and am considering a third (at the moment I'm a bit enamoured with the idea of earning 3 masters degrees in my 40s). I'm still surprised at the number of people from my MLIS program - one of the top such programs in the country, no less - who disregarded and/or discounted the need to stay technologically current regardless of they type of librarianship they chose to pursue. For better or worse I won't be retiring any time soon and I intend to keep moving forward in my chosen profession - no one has to remind me to stay current.

Anonymous said...

How long did you have to wait to get an answer on your academic jobs?

Current position:
Applied in Feb.; called for interview in March; interviewed in April; offered job 4 days later.

I also applied at another institution that never sent me a rejection letter. Another institution claimed to have received my transcript, but not my application (I figured the fact they had 3 openings was not a good sign, so I never re-sent my vita, etc.)

I'm not sure where you're working, but you can always check out the institutional culture before you accept the job.

This advice is not failsafe. Some search committees are pretty adept at covering flaws, and unless you have contacts in that region, it is nearly impossible to find out what you are getting into. On the other hand, some search committees lack complete self-awareness that they make their dysfunction painfully obvious during the phone interview! In general, I would recommend googling the position to see if you can trace how many times it has been vacant, etc. To get a broader institutional perspective, search the Chronicle of Higher Education forum. That is where I had some suspicions confirmed.

Anonymous said...

You think librarianship is bad? Try securing a tenure-track position as a humanities PhD. I've seen people with half a dozen articles, the possibility of a book deal, several years of teaching experience, and a willingness to relocate anywhere STILL not make it past a first round of interviews at third-tier schools. I know one unfortunate who's contemplating librarianship because so many Instruction/Information Literacy Librarian positions demand exactly the kind of teaching experience she has in spades. Her current adjunct position, incidentally, only pays $35,000 a year in a town with a high cost of living.

The library job market could be a lot worse.

AL said...

Yes, the humanities PhD market is much worse, and has been very bad for a LONG time. I know many people who have jumped that ship over the past 20 years or so and become librarians because they didn't want to work at Northeastern Dunheap State U. in Squirrel Nut, Arkansas teaching 4/4 for a pittance.

AL said...

IF they could even get that job.

\bvb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
\bvb said...

I have over a year of library school left. I worked as a student in my college library. I applied for and received an internship at said college. When I graduated, they hired me 16 hrs/wk. Then I applied (via a library placement agency) for a medical library technician (librarian in practice actually) and go tit because I knew that despite being "inexperienced" I could bring everything I knew together to figure the job out in time to do it.


I always heard "If they like you, they'll find a place for you." That may not always be true, but I know damn well that I will use every bit of charm and discuss every bit of experience I have to get a job, whether or not I've worked in the field before.

Doesn't everyone do this?

Anonymous said...

Great technical skills = job

Poor technical skills = complain in AL's blog about the unfairness of it all.

Crumbly said...

'tis true that as the BBs leave they are not replaced. I am about to leave the second job because of early retirement/redundancy. Personally I am very happy about it but can't help feeling that there are now two more missing jobs in Libraryworld and (possibly I delude myself) a gap in the service the public should be getting.

Leslie said...

Personally, I think that baby boomers in general are about the most arrogant, self centered, self absorbed people on the planet.

Golly ... I'm a boomer and I don't see it that way. I've not run across a deep abiding sense of entitlement in my generation. I see it frequently in the younger generations. I owe you nothing just because your parents think you hang the moon. I took a sucky job for $16,000 when I finished my MLIS degree in the mid-80s - I moved to a place I had no interest in to do work that wasn't exactly what I wanted. Guess what? I learned a lot at that sucky job. So much I landed a nice cushy corporate job with a big salary ... and eventually had that job outsourced. Took all that experience and now I'm where I always wanted to be - an academic library. Took almost 20 years - sometimes you have to hold your nose and take that which looks so God-awful ...

Anonymous said...

I took a sucky job for $16,000 when I finished my MLIS degree in the mid-80s - I moved to a place I had no interest in to do work that wasn't exactly what I wanted.

My story in a nutshell:
I took a sucky job for $26,000 when I finished my MLIS degree in the mid-90s - I moved to a place I had no interest in to do work that wasn't exactly what I wanted.

The truth is it has always been difficult to get established in this field. That said, I think LIS programs and the ALA have been overly aggressive in recruiting students and using job availability as part of their marketing campaign. Never before has higher ed had such a vocational focus, so it is logical that telling them jobs are available is often what fills seats.

a nonny-like moose said...

Personally, I cringe at the thought of the boomers moving on, when I think who are in amongst those boomers.

Coming from this next-gen "up and comer," with some pedigree to boot, we're not ready. Especially if we're espousing something as ludicrous as "2.0" Not to mention, I seem to recall many of the pioneers for some very great collections not having an MLIS, but rather specializing in other backgrounds and then picking up the MLIS along the way.

Those priding themselves on this accomplishment...don't wait for that shoe to drop. You're likely soon to be outdone anyway.

Anonymous said...

I'll take my assistant job that pays more than some librarian positions, (especially those that you have accurately described as sucky) over going back to school and being duped out of my time and money.

Anonymous said...

Finally, a nice succinct definition of Library 2.0:

"Library 2.0 is a new model of service in libraries that embraces change and technology and engages users to create a customer-driven library."


Leslie said...

That said, I think LIS programs and the ALA have been overly aggressive in recruiting students and using job availability as part of their marketing campaign.

I agree completely - I had a talk this morning with one of our employees who is working on an MLIS through a virtual program. One of several employees at that - so you've got your degree, but where are you going to work? Most of these people are getting their degrees online because the can't/won't relocate to get the degree. And there are just a couple jobs available every year in this market and they want experience ... so what are these poor souls going to do? I believe they've been sold a worthless bill of goods by schools that have moved online and ALA. But that's my $.02 worth ...

Anonymous said...

Back in the late 80's, perhaps 1989 (I think was the exact year), a publication regarding an imminent faculty shortage compelled a lot people to enroll in humanities graduate programs. I was one of those rubes, but by the time I enrolled in graduate school, the truth started leaking out at MLA conferences and I cut my losses, leaving with a terminal MA (It didn't hurt because I hated my program and I really did want to become a librarian). I think the situation facing librarians is analogous to that of humanities PhDs. You know, if supposedly authoritative organizations and professionals are telling you there is a critical need for librarians, professors, etc., who would question that when statistical data was used to back up their claims? This is why I refuse to point fingers at anyone who has the MLS and is having a tough time finding a job. What we need is widespread change.

Now, as far as previous non-library experience goes, I value it highly (especially if the experience has to do with collaboration and/or project management), but I know I am in the minority.

i want to work at an ARL making 60k cataloging MARC all day!

Now, that's funny. Working at an ARL is not for everyone. Besides, there a quite a few ARL's that start librarians at slightly more than 1/2 of 60k. Also, I fail to understand the prestige of the ARL environment. Granted, some of those schools are very strong academically, but not all of them. Some of them are pretty much 4th tier academically. I used to work at one of those. There was a tremendous disconnect between the library and the reality of the quality of many of the students.

Anonymous said...

I know several people who wish to get an MLIS because they see what I do. Some are enrolled in a program others are just starting college.

I have had a long talk with the enrolled one and even pointed him to this blog. They need to know the truth before they take up the mantle. I told them to drink their cool aid, figure out what he wanted to do, and then start developing a reputation. I told him all this because it is everything I didn’t do.

I learned two things from the last two blogs. I am not as good as I think I am, but its my fault. Two, I am probably going to have to relocate, to some place other then a cool city, with great job, and great pay, if I want to break into the academic field. I can also move out of the library field all together which I am working on now too.

Stop complaining about the boomers. Get focused, get a reputation and work hard. Find out what you want to be in the field and do it. This does not mean you have to be 2.0er or a 1.0 it just means to be good at what ever it is you do and toot your horn loudly because those bosses can be hard of hearing.

Anonymous said...

I just want to point out that even with 8 years of parapro experience and a freshly-minted MLS, it took me over a year to find a job. Not everyone has the luxury of moving to a rural backwater to take a full-time job; my spouse would not have considered leaving a good job to watch corn and my career grow, even if I would have.

Getting an MLS should enhance your qualifications, not erase eight years of your parapro experience.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Anonymous @ 1:58 PM wrote: ...even with 8 years of parapro experience and a freshly-minted MLS, it took me over a year to find a job. Not everyone has the luxury of moving to a rural backwater to take a full-time job; my spouse would not have considered leaving a good job...

That's true. People just need to realize up front, before they start the MLS, that the job hunt will likely take longer if they're not able to move, and not whine about there being "no jobs."

By the way, we just posted a brand new outreach/reference librarian position at our "rural backwater"...and at the moment we don't have any home-grown librarians to fill it.

Candice said...

When I decided to go into librarianship, I knew I'd have to move to get that first job. It boggles my mind that anyone would go to grad school- especially library school- without FIRST doing research into what the job market is like. If you look at the job ads, you can see how few openings there are. If you look at how many libraries are in your area, you can see how few positions for professional librarians there are. Why is it surprising that jobs in librarianship are difficult to come by? Very strange.

Anonymous said...

I'm always a little embarrassed responding on this topic because I was one of those rare people who had a job after MLIS school within a month of graduating and the only "experience" I had was a one semester practicum (along with years of retail, clerical and paralegal experience). Also I'm a baby boomer BTW.

Anyway, I think the reasons for someone not getting hired are widely varied. I've known plenty of people who were whizzes in library school, held parapro jobs and came across to me anyway as people I would want to hire as a librarian if given the chance. But they could not get hired. I don't know what their resume looks like or how they handle themselves in an interview. I do know from my clerical experience that it is amazing how poorly written some candidates cover letters are, not to mention the resumes themselves.

I can say that for myself, I had my cover letter & resume reviewed by people working in the field that actually hire librarians for their organization. Just people I knew and others I had met at conferences. At the interview I just acted like myself (I realize this in itself could be dangerous for some people). And although I did not have to re-locate, I do commute about 65 miles each way, 5 days a week. Hard with a family, but right now, that's the way it is. The jobs in my own hometown are few and far between and frankly, I'm glad I'm where I'm at.

a nonny-like moose said...

Don't fault academic collections for reclassifying positions once a "fossil" leaves. You CAN'T fill those shoes, kids.

jlr said...

re: "I think this is probably a faulty assumption because only the boomer librarians in low-level jobs could be replaced by new library school graduates, and they're the ones least likely to be able to afford to retire comfortably."

I'm a new library school graduate, an d am getting some experience in a paraprofessional job in order to make myself more marketable when I apply for that first professional librarian job. I'm not mad at anyone for not retiring, but if they did, I wouldn't expect to take their jobs. I would expect that a librarian with experience would get promoted, and I would apply for the entry level job.

I'm not sure what that commenter meant, but I sure don't expect to take the jobs of those retiring - I expect to start at the bottom and work my way up, just like everyone else.

Opposed to typos said...

Go you JLR! and others who found or surely will find their niche.

I'm a baby "buster" apparently, and when I graduated in '83 with an MS in Chemistry, there weren't any Chem jobs left, except maybe with the CIA. PhD Chem grads were lucky to get a part-time job making $6K. (not a typo)

I moved to Los Angeles, where they are more willing to take a chance on you, got a ground floor job with no benefits, worked hard, got a better job, yadda yadda.

Today I'm making 102K and have a fairly secure job, nice house, and decent retirement prospects. In chemistry? Nope. I'm a web developer, a career that did not exist when I was in college. My master's, however, has been invaluable as it has proven to each employer along the line that I am not an idiot and can finish something once started.

Just work hard, keep your eyes open, and be open and eager to learn, grow, and change. You'll do fine.

Anonymous said...

Hartford Public Library Update:

Librarian Defends Viewing Porn At Library: Chief Librarian Cites First Amendment Rights

Also: Illicit Activities At Library? Police Chief Reacts

Anonymous said...

And remember, when we talk Hartford's Louise Blalock, we're talking Library Journal's Librarian of the Year (2001)

Anonymous said...

Hey, anon 10:35/10:40...

Learn the [a href...] html tag.

Sheesh, it's no wonder librarians can't find jobs these days. With technical and communication skills no better than you are demonstrating, it's a wonder the profession is still going.

tech skills = jobs
no tech skills = complain and whine in AL's blog.

Anonymous said...

Great technical skills = job

Poor technical skills = complain in AL's blog about the unfairness of it all.

This just isn't true! I know two tech savvy genius librarians who were loved by 99% of staff in the school, who were kicked out because of internal library politics (read a poisonous and surprisingly powerful library officer) and replaced by a "why do we have these computer things, aren't they evil?" librarian and an unsuspecting english teacher, so there is not necessarily a connection between tech skills and jobs.

Another point: you can be great at your job and suck at interview and the only people who will ever know what you are really capable of are those who will take a chance on you for some reason (relief work etc). For me interviews have always been like exams - mind numbingly terrifying - and the real job has been more like an assignment, where you can take your time and do a really good job (i know, any job has to be done to a deadline like an assignment, but you get what I mean). How you appear at interview is a big part of getting the job, and if you don't come across well at interview, you are pretty much stuffed.

mdoneil said...

Don't go to library school. There are few library jobs that pay a wage commensurate with the academic expense required.

Academic rigor is absent from library school; employers know this and they pay accordingly. There is an overabundance of librarians and few available positions that provide adequate remuneration.

The only people who should consider library school are those who wish to make $30K after six years of college, and little more after a decade of experience in the profession.

The profession of librarianship (that which is practiced by Masters degreed librarians) is remarkably suitable for well to do ladies and gentlemen who have a significant other with a substantial income. It is a delightful vocation to be pursued on a part time basis while attending to other familial duties.

While I do indeed have an MLS, and I do something tangentially related to librarianship, perhaps more correctly referred to as knowledge management; I do not work in the public sector. Nor would I accept a position that started at $30K, in fact I would be hard pressed to accept one that paid double that. However I have other education and skills that make me exceptionally suited for my position. There are few others that perform a job similar to mine. In fact I just returned from their annual meeting in New York where I was able to speak with many of the approximately 220 other persons in the world who do work similar to mine. It is estimated that fifteen percent of them are qualified by degree as librarians. Many of the others, if not most have Computer Science, or Information Technology degrees, and most possess additional degrees in business and law (as do I)

An MLS is an asset if and only if you have additional marketable skills. The MLS by itself is of little value in securing a position that allows for little more than subsistence. If one is disposed to graduate education – or more specifically graduate education expense- one would be best served by obtaining a degree in business, the physical sciences, engineering, or law; at that point the MLS may prove interesting and perchance offer value to prospective employers.

I hold that there are no library jobs that pay more than $50K that do not require additional degrees, or more than 10 years of experience in the profession. If you have such a degree, I’ll make your next student loan payment.

Summarily, I strongly suggest you do not go to library school as your initial foray into graduate education. If you insist on ignoring that advice, you must know that it will be almost impossible to find a job in a location of your choosing that pays more than a local fast food shop assistant manager.

Anonymous said...

Something else I think ought to be mentioned - a lot of us aren't in it for the money. We love what we do and think it is important (no, really, I do. Really.) Like Teaching it is a profession which is valuable and rewarding ideologically but which is scant on renumeration. This is generally ok, as long as you can be free to do a good job in areas that you think are genuinely important. If you feel that you are put in a position where you aren't able to do a good job and the pay sucks then you start to feel ripped off.

I'm Kat! said...

If you're in a field where they aren't paying you what you're worth because you should think it is a privelege to be able to do that service for the people...I'm sorry, I really am.

People work harder and feel better about their work when they are paid properly. This translates into higher quality service/instruction, a higher level of patron satisfaction/student achievement, and a better overall organization.

This truly is the debate between Socialism versus Capitalism. In the first, we do something to better others first and foremost. In the second, we better others by doing something for ourselves first and foremost.

The debate is, which is more effective? If you look at the public schools in my state [my local city has a Local failure rate of 50% of the Highschool class; 25% can't pass, the other 25% are showing scores on the AIMS Much lower then the actual grades they are getting in their clasees: Social Promotion at work!] you see a social system in dire need of an overhaul!

Do it for the Love?

Anonymous said...

re: This just isn't true! I know two tech savvy genius librarians who were loved by 99% of staff in the school, who were kicked out because of internal library politics<<

If they really have tech skills (as opposed to the tech skills some people fool themselves into thinking they have), they won't have any trouble at all finding a better job than they left.

the library girl said...

I recently finished my MLIS thesis. I also am about to begin a position at a rural library in Canada. Before I accepted this position I applied for over 30 jobs all over the US and Canada, which from talking to colleagues in the field and student colleagues is pretty normal. Although I would one day like to live in an urban area, I see incredible benefits from working in a rural community. However, many of the students I have spent the past two years with have limited themselves geographically to urban locations, which makes the job hunt even more challenging.

In order to gain experience in the field a little sacrifice has to be made. Sure we were told jobs ran a muck, which wasn't entirely true. They exist, but they might not pay what you think you "deserve" and may be located in the middle of nowhere.

Get over it. I laugh any time I meet someone who tells me they got into this profession for the money. What happened to going into a field that inspired you or that you were passionate enough about to commit to it for a few years?

I recently met a librarian who spent her career in rural libraries and is about to retire. We discussed my decision to work in a rural location, which was prompted by the opportunity to gain quality experience in a small location.

Here are a few of the reasons I gave her:

1. The position I was offered is something I would most likely not be offered if I took a job in Chicago, Seattle, Vancouver, other cities I adore. It's a step above the generic Librarian I position, and I'm optimistic I'll gain some quality experience.

2. I will be one of five librarians and work closely with the head of the region. The food chain is shorter, and I'm tired of being a number (university taught me that!).

3. In rural communities the library is often one of the only remaining institutions for the people. This particular system has an incredible relationship with its community.

4. The pay wasn't terrible, and the cost of living in my community is low. So, technically, I'm still making some money.

New librarians will still complain about the lack of jobs. The ALA, CLA, and library schools will continue to market a field that is flooded...but what professional program doesn't do that? (MBA anyone?)...

I agree with many of the comments: stop the complaints. Most people have to cut their teeth in a profession, and only a select few really get lucky. Thems the breaks!

Anonymous said...

AMANDA [The Librarian] said;
" By the way, we just posted a brand new outreach/reference librarian position at our "rural backwater"...and at the moment we don't have any home-grown librarians to fill it."

Just out of grim curiousity, what state/ general area is this in, if you don't mind? I did the exact same work for nearly three years, but had to look after elderly parents for years after the job folded [with the budget tanking]. When I go out from under this the field tanked in recession and I was burned-out, financially and otherwise. Had folks ask me to come to interviews where it was a Broadway casting call, unbeknownst to me, and I paid the way. A lot of money went down the tube. Was either left with the impression I was "overqualified" or had "been away too long". Finally moved on to other things, which I've been fairly successful with.

Anonymous said...

The profession of librarianship (that which is practiced by Masters degreed librarians) is remarkably suitable for well to do ladies and gentlemen who have a significant other with a substantial income.
You hear that? Mr. Mdoneil believes most librarians work in a job that's best suited to bored housewives with wealthy husbands or lonely houseboys with rich wives or sugar daddies. Maybe I should quit and let my grand ma-ma take the position--perhaps I should surrender to the authorities on fraud charges—the nerve of me thinking that my MLS was anything but a fraudulent document worthless—unless, of course—you’re one of only 220 rarified individuals in this whole big world with ultra-specialized special skills in “knowledge management,” or is it, Knowledge Infocentric Qualifier Facilitator? I hear there are only around 15 of those in the world.

Anonymous said...

I hold that there are no library jobs that pay more than $50K that do not require additional degrees, or more than 10 years of experience in the profession. If you have such a degree, I’ll make your next student loan payment.

What is your reference point? The South? That assertion is simply not true at many universities that allow faculty to collectively bargain.

You would be hard-pressed to find these type of jobs in the South. You can view SC and GA public employee salaries and that's always good for a laugh--or cry. Yes, you too can blog yourself into a stupor, present at national conferences, etc., for a whopping salary less than 45k. Sign me up!

Anonymous said...

I'm not even close to Medicare age yet. I would gladly (oh, you have no idea how gladly) retire in a minute if someone would offer to pay my health insurance.

Anonymous said...

AL, I am disturbed at your links to SHUSH and other radically conservative library bullshit. (And their links to you.) I didn't take you for one of THEM!

Norma said...

I don't now how many of you check in with "Rate your Students" blog, but it is informative. Check out Jerry the Job Seeker, a newly minted PhD who is just finding out there are no jobs and is mad as hell.

Then there's a follow-up by someone who's paid his dues a few days later.

This site is always entertaining, and has pretty much closed for the summer, but well worth reading.

Thanks, AL, for the link to Hartford PL. Amazing story--and the comments--Oh my.

WDL said...

omg. i hate old people. retire already, so i can get a job.

blah blah blah.

why not just get a job and shut up? so sorry that you can't live at home and work at your local library. you might actually have to move to another state where the "good jobs" are.

i have no patience for people who say "i've been applying for months, years...and can't get in..." Get in WHERE?

Librarians will always be whiners...this is why I went private.

WDL - who adores AL even more lately.

AL said...

Us and Them, Them and Us. If my links disturb you, then you're a wee, timorous anonymous person indeed.

Logical Operator said...

Something else I think ought to be mentioned - a lot of us aren't in it for the money.

Ain't that the truth.

I landed an academic library job about 6 months after finishing library school (where they repeatedly told us that half of the library workforce would retire simultaneously with the conferring of our degrees, and a magic unicorn would carry us to our new jobs). The pay was marginally more than I made as an executive assistant, but I took it because I wanted to be a librarian.

I wouldn't say that I was treated like shit, either, as a new librarian. I was treated in some ways as "suspect" or "unproven," but that beats getting poked in the eye with a stick any day.

As for the "entitled library grad" being talked about, I've never met one - at least, not yet. Perhaps they will come along. Mostly, I meet librarians who have discovered that, as AL says, the library market is most decidedly competitive.

Fabulist said...

"It's not the years, it's the mileage" - Indiana Jones

I am one of those "young" students (30+) who choose an MLIS as a "first" graduate degree and I resent those the think your extra degrees make you better. The WORST prof. I ever took a class from had three graduate degrees and NO social/ teaching skills.

I have worked in a museum for 3+ years (after spending about 10 years in both academic and public libraries) and am GLAD I have taken my organizational and research skills elsewhere. I have moderate pay- yes, but AMAZING benefits, and a lovely work environment. Paintings and artists are much nicer to work with and my co-workers a the best. Oh, and did I mention that the University I work for will pay for me to take classes or go to DC for training at the Smithsonian.

I proved myself to the Director with hard work and it wasn't my age or my degrees that did that. . . It was my work ethic!

Anonymous said...

"Wee timorous anonymous?" Is that the best you can do, AL? Insult my anonymity when you, too, are anonymous? Kudos, genius.

AL said...

But I'm not anonymous, I'm pseudonymous. Also, I don't quiver with disturbation when someone links to a website I don't like. If you get disturbed over something so trivial, you're obviously afraid of something.

Andrew said...

You know what? I couldn't care less about salary or location. That's not why we got into this industry, right?

Many new graduate librarians got into the industry, because they're passionate about providing innovative information services, and / or have a passion for reading and the book industry.

However, many of us find ourselves working with "longer-serving" library staff who either got into the industry for completely different reasons, or have become jaded/pragmatic with time, and fail to provide intelligent information services that match this generation.

Now, I'm not saying that they should necessarily shape up or ship out - every library is different, and has different needs.

BUT one thing is for sure - new librarians would rather quit their current job and find one that's more stimulating, even if it means taking a huge paycut, than sit it out for 10 years in a frustrating stagnant work environment.

And that's something that library managers *need* to address, if they want to attract the best and brightest employees to their workplace.

Sgt M said...

I think one of the main problems that fuels the stance of the embittered NewGrad is the difference in the way Babyboomers (and those who came before) view jobs to those views of the newgraduate.

Babyboomers maintain the mentality of the "job for life" so far as you get a job and stay with it till you retire, whereas those of my generation and later have a more "mobile career" view whereby people are more happy to move around in their career therefore opening up positions at a higher rate than is seen currently.

Andrew said...

Yes, that's one major difference.

The other major difference is that in the past, you got a job, then went into training, like a traineeship or apprenticeship. You went into a job without skills, and the employer would train you up to do the job.

On the other hand, these days people are "trained" or "educated" on how to do a job *before* they actually get the job.

This means that, once they enter the workforce, they already often have a skills surplus they've already been given huge expectations of what the job *should* be. They've been trained up on skills that might never be utilised, and then given tasks that "anybody could do", thus creating frustration on the part of the employee who wants to deliver in-depth reference research, and instead gets lumped with storytime sessions or being the token young-person-who-fixes-the-computer.

I think I'm deviating from the point, though. Basically, we're told one thing by the education system, and something completely different by the industry, and frankly, that's annoying.

Anonymous said...

Part of the problem may be that many public libraries, at least, no longer get indepth reference questions. Most patrons work on these outside of the library and often not with library databases. People also tend to come in with their own book request lists courtesy of Amazon or the NY Times and don't want any reading recommendations. Programming and collection maintenance thus have become more important because reference is less in demand. People who really want to do reference must go to corporate or academic libraries, so there are more people competing for fewer positions.

I'm Kat! said...

Andrew, Sgt. M and Anonymouse 7:53 are all saying it without actually saying it.

Ready for a Paradigm Shift, Everybody?

A note about moving around to a lot of different jobs: while this is the reality that many of us younger people are faced with, there's also the common held notion that employers view a long Job Portfolio in a short amount of time as the sign of an undesireable employee.

For Sociologists, it's a potential sign of a bigger psychological/sociological problem. Why on earth can a person NOT hold down one single good job? Clearly, this person isn't "Normal" like everybody else drudging it out in empty, meaningless careers that will hopefully end with a retirement check and not a pink slip. No, this person is Bad at making Employment decisions, so why on earth would this person be a good investment for the firm?

The firm already knows if this employee doesn't like how things go here, they will put up [their resume] and shut up - what a stark contrast to their old workers who put up [with the same BS, different day crap] and shut up [because they haven't got a new job in 10-20 years and probably fear the very process]. This ocupationally adaptive employee can lateral out of a bad job near as easily as a greasemonkey can change a flat tire - No employer wants to lose their old skool Authoritative control like this!

And yet the Pink Slip Reality is the era we live in.

An era where Marketing and Management are excited about new synergetic ideas that package our perfect jobs into soundbytes that fit into little crates. These little crates can then be shipped anywhere in the world to the lowest bidder - Hurrah for a global Capitalist economy!

How can we the common worker owe any sort of dedicated allegience to any one labor entity - when those very labor entities are pointed at pitting us against our fellow peers in competition for the privelege to do their work?

The Paradigm Shift has already happened - Now how long do we have to live in a Hypocratic Universe where what we do and what we provide are contrary to what is needed and the service in demand?

Anonymous said...

You know what? I couldn't care less about salary or location. That's not why we got into this industry, right?

Many new graduate librarians got into the industry, because they're passionate about providing innovative information services, and / or have a passion for reading and the book industry.

In the US, location is very important. States with lower librarian salaries usually have legislatures that do not value information services, etc. Being paid a low salary compounded with very little institutional support has deleterious affects on one's morale in the workplace. I am sure there are outliers to this correlation, but not many.

However, many of us find ourselves working with "longer-serving" library staff who either got into the industry for completely different reasons, or have become jaded/pragmatic with time, and fail to provide intelligent information services that match this generation.

And I've worked with narcissistic NextGens who think they know everything, are unfamiliar with the concept of paying dues, and do not understand workplace boundaries. For the record, I am not a Boomer and was passed up for a promotion in favor of a Boomer because because he/she had more seniority than me. Was he/she more qualified? Hardly. He/she was probably one of the most incompetent people I've ever had the pleasure of working with. It sucks, but there wasn't much I could do besides move on. Last I heard, the NextGen librarian they hired is already looking to leave.

Kristen said...

Just received in a newsletter:

"Boomers are invading Facebook and Second Life, blogging frantically, creating wikis, editing Wikipedia entries, and relying on RSS feeds for current awareness. I sometimes see these actions as the digital equivalent of men using comb-overs or women shopping in the preteen department." Marydee Ojala, Online, Mar/Apr 2008 p.5.

a nonny-like moose said...

Let's not paint the boomers as career squatters. If you met a seasoned chief officer of any public company, you'll see that "lifing" is more of a bourgeois thing.

Anonymous said...

re: Boomers are invading Facebook ...<<

Hmm, I guess while I'm at it, I can hunt down my old slide rule and rotary phone. Would that make her feel better?

Anonymous said...

re: boomers as career squatters<<

If what I read in the local papers is true, it's the illegal aliens who are taking all the good jobs, not the boomers.

Anonymous said...

The best decision I ever made was to take my MLIS and get the hell out of librarianship in the traditional sense. Not only do I make more money, but my work environment is infinitely better. I would never go back to making computer reservations for ingrates, which is the true reality of public librarianship. Library schools love to feed you bullshit about all of the great research and reader's advisory questions you'll be answering. It's all lies. You'll spend your days arguing with patrons over computer policies, items in the collection, and, if you're lucky enough to be a PIC, their fines. Working with the public is hell. Get out while you still can.

Anonymous said...

As a very brand new MLS student, can everyone give me some authoritative sources for researching local job markets? I know how to look for national trends, but I want to know how the library job market is in maybe certain cities or areas (Phoenix, Denver, Chicago, St. Louis, backwater MO, etc.) What are good sources for this? Just looking at the jobs available there doesn't tell me much, since I have no idea about population-job ratio, competition, etc.

Evensong said...

Calling all newbies - how badly do you want a job? Academic library, beautiful campus, lovely town, all around great place to work. Here's the catch - you get to work until midnight and you've got to work weekends. And switch to days in between semesters. Ready to pay some dues?????

Puzzled said...

100 comments here re. the original post, and only one (Thank you, Candace!) mentions the question that keeps occurring to me as I read through them: "How come the conditions of the professional librarian job market are such a surprise to the whiners?" Did they seriously invest one or two years of their lives and big bunches of money in a career degree program without researching the job market ahead of time? And if they're truly unable (not just unwilling) to relocate, that would include the local job market--even fewer opportunities there in most cases, I'd think.

The librarian job market has been a tight one for as long as I've been in the field, and that is a VERY long time. In most of the colleges where I've worked, students in our career guidance classes actually research the fields in which they're interested, using ref books, online sources, trade journals and newspapers, interviews with people already in the field, etc. It's kind of amazing to think that prospective librarians wouldn't do the same kinds of research before committing to a program of study or a career field. I mean we're LIBRARIANS.

Anonymous said...

re: puzzled

I can think of two answers to your question.

One, some of the so-called whiners are, admittedly, young and not just in age. I went to graduate school full-time straight from college and had several classmates in the same boat. And I'll tell you honestly that quite a few were just plain naive. What do young adults fresh out of the utopian world of college life know about job markets? It wouldn't occur to them to research the market, necessarily - and not all schools have great career advisory programs. Maybe it was the career services department that gave them an article talking about the supposed "librarian shortage" and why should those young adults think to look any further than that? They believe their trusted local career adviser!

On top of that, I can tell you that for those who DO research the job market, many severely underestimate the competition. The market may seem healthy by job postings; how could any fresh-faced college grad know the sheer volume of librarians looking for work out there? And how that competition would have scads more experience and education?

On top of that is a swiftly morphing economy that may make all the jobs disappear while you're in school, no matter how much research you do.

And for the record, no, not everyone CAN relocate, at least not to the degree that some people around here indicate they should. It's not that simple for everyone, even the young.

But what puzzles ME is two things:

One, how can Boomers not admit to being part of the job market problem, in ALL fields? I'm not saying Boomers should 'get out of the way' - and I'll say more on that in a second - but the fact of the matter is that if they DON'T retire, how are jobs supposed to open up for the X/Y crowd? It seems like simple numbers. Then again, I'm no economist, so maybe I'm missing something.

The second thing that puzzles me is that obviously the young adults out there are frustrated that everything they were told as kids (by their Boomer parents) - do all the 'right' things, study hard, work hard, etc. and you'll get a good job - turned out not to be true, in a sense. It takes a lot more than that. But how come Boomers aren't frustrated by the same thing? Certainly no one told any of them that they wouldn't be able to afford to retire at retirement age. I'm sure many of the ones still working thought they'd be sipping drinks on a beach in Florida by now. Why aren't they angrier about their situations? Perhaps there's a wisdom there that comes with age that the frustrated and 'whiny' young adults just don't get?

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Anonymous @ 8:05 PM (post #102!) wrote, Perhaps there's a wisdom there that comes with age that the frustrated and 'whiny' young adults just don't get?


Bea said...

But how come Boomers aren't frustrated by the same thing? Certainly no one told any of them that they wouldn't be able to afford to retire at retirement age. I'm sure many of the ones still working thought they'd be sipping drinks on a beach in Florida by now. Why aren't they angrier about their situations?

All you have to do is go to CNN or watch any news report about the economy and you will see many frustrated Boomers who are unable to retire because of high prices, falling stock markets and falling home values.

Anonymous said...

"One of the other perks of a lot of library jobs is their security."
Boy did you hit a nerve with that comment. In special libraries there IS no security. Hospital librarians are downsized, not because they aren't good at their job, respected and heavily published professionals, well-liked and well-used by hospital staff and doctors, oh, no. They are downsized because a know-nothing consultant thinks they can save money but making all the staff part-time (librarians are all doing this for pin money, of course, and that single mother doesn't really need to support her child on a fulltime job) and firing the head librarian. Probably because she was a boomer and made too much money (HA! have you seen librarians salaries).

Just saw it happen to a colleague a few weeks ago. Why or why didn't I stay safely in the academic world where librarians can have a blog and go safely home to a martini or two. Sigh.

Bea said...

the token young-person-who-fixes-the-computer

that used to be my official job title

RLK said...

as a former 32 hour a week permanent part time temp in a corporate library where we were micromanaged and under constant threat of termination nothing beats academia

Evensong said...

We're taking bets that we get no viable applicants for our late night/weekend job I wrote about earlier. Boomers, X or Y generation - we're thinking no one wants to break into the academic library field that badly. Laughing up our sleeves and an administrator type is just positive there are folks dying to work crappy hours ... for minimal pay (approx. $38K)

Anonymous said...

minimal pay (approx. $38K)

that is pretty good for the midwest

Anonymous said...

if we were to all make a million dollars - because we all think we are worth it no matter what profession, that amount would cease to be significant. You spend what you make - when I started as a journalist, I GROSSED $12,000 per year AND paid my own health insurance (1986). I had a brand new car and a nice apartment with new furniture. Now I make more than three times that and guess what, I have a nice apartment and a fairly new car. My wise old mother (married to my wise old dad)advised me as I was growing up that just because it's parked in the driveway doesn't mean it's paid for. Get over it already - if you wanted to make big money, you should have been a brain surgeon.

Amanda (the librarian) said...

anonymous at 12:24 said, "minimal pay (approx. $38K)

that is pretty good for the midwest"

Ditto here in the south/southwest. We have a brand new academic reference/outreach librarian position open, no experience required, that starts at $35K. Cost of living is low around here. All the librarians take turns covering/in charge on the weekends.

Anonymous said...

I'd jusy like to add that though I am a young librarian (24, i'm not sure what gen that makes me at the moment, it seems to keep changing according to the papers) I am not really bitter, despite only being able to get a paraprofessional position with my librarian qualification. I actually love my job because the people I work with are really great. My manager is really supportive and lets me do the kind of work she knows I am capable of, which really makes a difference to me (despite the sucky pay) and so I am happy at my job. In fact, the great internal culture of the library outweighs the less nice culture of the organisation we work within. I expect that eventually if I want to apply for proper 'librarian' positions the work that I have been able to to (and will be able to do in the future) within my current position will help display my skills to prospective employers, despite the paraprofessional nature of my job title.

The Wary Librarian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Here is another example of low pay-jobs for librarians:
Network Administrator at Lemont Public Library 30-35K + Web Development skills. Yikkes!

Anonymous said...

I do look forward to the day when the Boomers finally die off if only because I am tired of hearing how awesome they are. I am also tired of watching commercials featuring Dennis Hopper and those for Flomax and Boniva. Sally Field "has this one body and this one life" that I wish would end.

Anonymous said...

Look at this Low Salary...

Head of Technical Services

Posted: 16 Jul 2008 11:40 AM CDT

(Full time) The La Grange Public Library is looking for a creative, enthusiastic person to manage the Technical Services Department. The successful candidate will be customer-oriented and interested in working with the management team to develop innovative new ways to serve the public. The Head of Technical Services supervises a staff of 2.5 full time equivalents, and is responsible for selecting, ordering, cataloging, and processing library materials. Candidates should possess strong interpersonal and technological skills.

The La Grange Public Library serves a community of 15,000 in the suburban Chicago community of La Grange, Illinois. The position is full time, including occasional evenings. The complete position description for this job is available on the website at:

Requirements: The successful candidate must be independent, analytical, and show good judgment. Qualifications include an MLIS or MLS degree from an ALA accredited library school and three years of library work experience, including at least two years of cataloging experience.

Minimum Salary: $38,661 per year.

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to:
Jeannie Dilger-Hill, Library Director
La Grange Public Library
10 West Cossitt Avenue
La Grange, IL 60525

Anonymous said...

I don't think the job shortage has anything to do with librarians not retiring.

The shortage derives from the restructuring of libraries-hiring para-professionals and part-time librarians. A lot of departments including academic as well as public are hiring paraprofessionals in circulation, technical services, graduate assistants, reference assistants.

The shortage has nothing to do with librarians not retiring. Look at you job openings from your state. I am sure there will be more paraprofessionals or part-time librarians.

Pat T. said...

I'm just reading these comments in 2009, and can relate to what is being said. The economy has taken a big downturn since the original posts in 2008, and those of us working on our MLIS degrees are hoping things will turn around before our degrees are completed.

Shutterspeed said...

Why isn't there more talk about employment as a secondary-school librarian/media specialist here? As a teacher, I have never found a shortage of jobs in education. Is it a lack of openings, or is the K-12 environment considered beneath the average MLIS grad?

Amanda (the librarian) said...

Shutterspeed, I think it's because many states also require K-12 librarians to have a teaching certificate and/or classroom experience.

By the way, this thread is really old - AL is now blogging over on LJ.

Shutterspeed said...

The local university here offers a AA license route for MLIS students. I just assumed it would be the same at most schools.

What is everyone's opinion regarding the outlook for school media specialists positions?

Amanda (the librarian) said...

In my state it's the opposite, Shutterspeed - you actually don't need the MLS/MLIS to be a library media specialist, but many people go ahead and take the additional four courses to get the master's degree.

It seems like there are a good number of openings for school library media specialists in this state, particularly if (as for most librarian jobs) you are flexible about where you can/will work.

Shutterspeed said...

Thanks, Amanda. I made my way over to the LJ blog, as well.

AA (master's-level) certification is not mandatory in my state, either (only 21 hours worth of undergrad courses). However, it just makes sense to take the extra hours for endorsement in order to draw master's-level pay if pursuing the MLIS.

Good to hear at least one aspect of the field is healthy (at least, until the AL chimes in). Can anyone else share their take?