By Meredith Farkas | January 21, 2005
From the PLA Blog, I learned that the ALA is planning to launch a recruitment website to attract more future librarians to the profession.
I’ve written a whole bunch about the so-called librarian shortage and have made no bones about the fact that I think it’s a major bunch of hooey. Sure, I believe in the “graying of the profession”, but the economic situation will certainly have an impact on when librarians will retire and whether or not the job market will grow. Just because librarians retire doesn’t mean that jobs won’t be reduced due to budget cuts. Perhaps I’m a little biased since I’m currently looking for a job and have sent out many resumes over the past few months. Yes, I am a little biased. Looking at job ads, I certainly don’t see a glut of entry level librarian openings, making it extremely difficult to get started in the profession. And what I hear from potential employers about the large number of applications they receive only strengthens my suspicions. Perhaps there is or will be a shortage of more experienced or specialized librarians (like library directors, school librarians, or special librarians), but aggressive library recruitment is only going to create a glut of entry-level librarians who will find that they were sorely mislead about their career opportunities.
So I decided to do some online research for articles and blog posts about the librarian shortage. I know it’s just anecdotal evidence, but it’s better than simply relying on my own observations. I searched Technorati and Google and found a large number of posts on the subject. Most of the newspaper and journal articles were from 2002, when Laura Bush announced the federal initiative to train librarians to avoid a national shortage, or from 2003 when the IMLS gave out grant money to support this initiative. The articles sounded pretty convincing and were based on research from the year 2000:
Mrs. Bush explained why more librarians are needed in America.
“In May, 2000, Library Journal magazine reported 40 percent of America’s library directors plan to retire in nine years or less. And, according to the July 2000 Monthly Labor Review, in 1998, 57 percent of professional librarians were age 45 or older,” Mrs. Bush said.
Ok, so five year later, where are we? Librarians don’t seem to be in high demand. Library budgets are being cut – severely in some areas – and some libraries have had to cut positions or not add positions commensurate with population growth. Day in and day out I hear stories about librarians who are looking for jobs for six months or more, who have to take jobs in loosely related fields, or who are working two jobs because all they can find are part time library jobs. The librarian shortage posts are fewer now, but every once in a while we still see articles insisting that there is a desperate need to recruit new librarians.
Most of the stories I’ve seen over the past two years about the librarian shortage are blog entries that doubt its existence and blog entries by intelligent, tech-savvy librarians who are having trouble finding work. So I thought I’d collect the posts I’ve seen that dispute the shortage. Since this is getting long, I’ll put them in my next post. Needless to say though, I’m not the only person who doubts the librarian shortage, biased as I may be.