Last night, when I got home from my New Year’s Eve revelry (which consisted of baking cookies with a five-year-old, playing Chutes and Ladders, and drinking sparkling cider), I found a comment on my blog from someone considering entering a library science program:

Hello, I do not know if Iam grateful or scared to have found this site. Is there really that much of a librarian job shortage out there? I am contemplating getting my SLMS degree from SUNY Albany (done in 2007) Now Iam questioning if the trime, effort and cost is worth it. ANY info comments etc is more than appreciated. I am 43 and have 20 years of business experience but no library experience.

I guess some of my posts about the job market have been negative, but I hate to think that I portray librarianship as something people should not pursue. I am absolutely passionate about this field and am just itching to get a library job and really do the best I can for my patrons. I am bursting with ideas for making libraries more welcoming, more connected to technology, more efficient and cost-effective, and better meet the needs of the patrons. I think this is a wonderful field to be in and a truly exciting time to be a part of it, considering how technology is affecting information provision and will in the future. But no, the job market is not great. And for someone like me who doesn’t have much experience, it’s even worse. I wish I could go back in time to before I ever went to library school and do better research on the field and the job prospects. It wouldn’t have changed my mind about becoming a librarian, but it would have changed the way I pursued my MLIS.

This is what I wrote back to my concerned commenter:

I don’t know that you should be scared about the job prospects, but you should certainly be aware of them before you jump into a new career. You should look at job ads and see what skills people are asking for and what experience the jobs require. Then get that experience and those skills. Just having an MLS does not mean you will get a job. Get a lot of actual library experience while you’re in school (and if you don’t know what kind of library work you’re interested, get the experience in a lot of different areas). Become tech-savvy in terms of web programming, searching, etc. Build up the sort of resume that you know people are looking for. I’d recommend not doing an online program, and making sure you make lots of good connections with the faculty and your classmates. Pick everyone’s brains. Find a mentor. Network. My mistake was believing the hype that came out of the ALA (and other outlets) about the librarian shortage and how there would be tons of jobs when I got out of school. My mistake was thinking an online program was comparable to a “bricks and mortar” program. In this economy, there are few professions that are facing real shortages where jobs are guaranteed (nursing is one, I think). But different geographical areas have different employment outlooks for librarians. I see few jobs where I live (Florida), but many in Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota. And by 2007, things could change a great deal in terms of job opportunities. It’s difficult to predict. But I think if you have experience, if you have technology skills, and if you’re willing to relocate, you will have much more luck finding a job than if you come out with just an MLS, little to no experience, and are not willing to move. There are no guarantees, but if you’re really passionate about librarianship and willing to do more than just go to class, you should do just fine.

In spite of my grumblings, I still remain positive about this profession and about my job prospects. I wouldn’t be blogging if I thought librarianship was a waste of time. I hope I portray more hopefulness and passion for the profession than gloom and doom. But I do think people should REALLY know what they’re getting into before entering a library/info studies program.