By Meredith Farkas | December 9, 2004
I’ve been applying for jobs now, primarily in academic and public libraries, since late September. I had professors and students alike tell me that if I’m geographically flexible and have a second masters degree I should have no problem getting a job. So why is it that the only institutions that have been interested in me have been public libraries in my area? I’m certainly not complaining, since one of them looks like it may just be the visionary library I’ve been looking for, but it makes me wonder if libraries give preference to people who live in the geographic area. With the position I interviewed for last week, I can understand why they would. It was a position that requires frequently going out into the community to make connections with schools and determine the needs and wants of the community. The fact that I worked as a social worker in many schools in the area is definitely an asset, because I know the communities and I know how to network in the schools. But it seems silly to think that one can’t quickly learn about the community if they’re motivated and have experience working with other schools (not that I’d mind if it gave me a leg-up over other candidates!).
The other thing I’ve noticed is the dearth of entry-level academic library positions. I’ve seen many paraprofessional positions and many positions that require years of experience, but only one or two that require only an MLS. It really belies the profession’s committment to recruiting new librarians. Public libraries seem to be quite open to hiring newly-minted MLS’s, but I have not seen that in academia. It is encouraging to see a few fellowship programs designed to groom new librarians for academic librarianship, but those programs are scarce, and only a few schools seem to be committed to this. I think what we’re going to see is people entering public librarianship just to get a few years of experience so that they can become academic librarians. Is that really the way academic libraries want to “groom” future academic librarians and is that fair to public libraries? I hope in the future, academic libraries realize the error of not reaching out to new librarians and begin to see the value grooming new librarians to be great 21st century academic librarians.