By Meredith Farkas | November 24, 2004
I came across this article in the Ocala Star-Banner, courtesy of a link from LISNews.com. It states that in Ocala, a city north of Orlando and about 3 hours north of my own home, there are lots of professional library jobs open, but no one to fill them. The article says “the county’s public libraries are having a hard time filling positions, a national trend that experts say is being caused by an aging workforce. ” To be perfectly honest, I don’t really know how true this “national trend” is. If that were the case, wouldn’t I have been inundated with calls for interviews right now (instead of the two I’ve gotten, all from local libraries)? I think with budget cuts, many of these positions that are left vacant by retiring librarians are being cut entirely unless they are essential. In most cases, if they are essential, they are designed for people with lots of experience. I’ve seen many job advertisements for positions for people with three or more years experience or for paraprofessional positions. What I haven’t seen are more than a small handful of jobs for entry-level Master’s degree librarians. The profession is always talking about how they want to recruit young librarians who have computer skills and fresh ideas. But I see little evidence of that when they make experience, not skills, the requirement for even getting an interview. In my opinion, it is this kind of narrow-minded thinking that marks libraries as being non-visionary. Those that are looking for personalities, for skills, and for varied experiences that may enhance one’s practice are visionary libraries. They realize that experience doesn’t necessarily equal “good with people”, “good with computers”, or “innovative thinker”.
I remember when I first thought about becoming a librarian, I read all sorts of articles about how so many librarians were retiring and how there would be jobs galore for young and tech-savvy librarians. But I have seen no evidence of this thus far. Library Journal has found the same thing. “Students report that LIS programs are happy to tout the coming retirement of thousands of working librarians, but few programs mention the current lack of jobs for new graduates. Mentoring and guidance in job seeking and career development is dismal or simply not available in most LIS programs.” I think the library profession either seriously misrepresented the state of the field, or they didn’t consider current economic factors when making these claims. I think I will get a job eventually, but I know I may have to compromise on things I wanted (location, type of library, etc.). I only hope that the next batch of future librarians entering library school have a clear understanding of what the job market is like.