Yesterday I received the ALDirect (from American Libraries) Special Issue on the Tough Economy in my Inbox. It contained great information about library advocacy during tough times. What I found glaringly missing from this email was any discussion about or tips for librarians who’ve been laid off or about-to-graduate LIS students. Obviously, if we advocate for funding and get it, fewer people will need to be laid off, but what about those who are already in this awful position or those who are just getting out of library school to news of budget cuts and hiring freezes? I’ve seen a definite decrease in the number of librarian jobs advertised on LISJobs and ALA Joblist and have certainly been hearing a lot about layoffs and hiring freezes at colleges and universities and big budget cuts at public libraries. This is going to be a tough year for many job hunter and I feel for them.
At nearly the same time, I noticed on the LISJobs Forums that Rachel Singer Gordon was looking for “Career disruption resources.” She specifically cited this Career Disruption Assistance Program from SLA (which looks like it’s just for DC Chapter members). The program offers mentoring and reduced dues for people who’ve been laid off. It made me wonder how many organizations in our profession are doing the same thing.
I don’t want to pick on ALA (especially since I don’t think they’re the only organization ignoring this), but I do pay dues to them and all I’ve heard from them with regards to the fiscal crisis is about their own finances and the finances of libraries. The ALA-APA has always seemed to me to be undersupported and underpromoted, to the point where I don’t even feel like I understand their role vis à vis ALA. The simple fact is, if a dues-paying member is out of a job, the chances are good that they will not continue to be members for long if they don’t feel supported by their professional organization. Were I unemployed, I’d be pretty offended to be asked to pay the same amount that fully-employed library support staff do. At least students only have to pay a student rate, but for how long will they be willing to do that much if they can’t find a job after six months, a year, two years? I hope that we’ll see the ALA addressing this crisis in terms of not only libraries, but librarians and library workers, and what we can do as individuals to protect our jobs, cope with layoffs and find new jobs in this tough economy.