Other than perhaps being included in a blanket condemnation of “illiterate bloggers,” I never would have thought that I’d be so much as acknowledged by an incoming ALA President. Although she got my name wrong, it’s still nice to see that Leslie Burger is keeping up with the conversations in the blogosphere. And I really do agree with her suggestion that I become the change I want to see. That is a phrase that has always had a lot of meaning in my life too. I have never been one to sit around and grumble about things without trying to change my situation. I’m not 100% sure what kind of involvement in ALA Leslie is suggesting, but I kind of think I’m already “becomming the change I want to see.” I’m using online communications media for networking and sharing good ideas. I created a wiki for an ALA conference last year because I knew the ALA wouldn’t. I am chairing a free online conference. I am trying to bust the myth of the librarian shortage. I designed a usable Web site. All of these things are what I want to see the ALA do, and maybe if enough of their membership start using these tools, ALA will as well. And if there is a place for me to have a voice in changing the ALA, I’ll be happy to do whatever I can to make ALA better. I am one of those people who enjoys being passionately devoted to a cause, but I’m not the sort of person who is going to “get involved” when I don’t feel that I can really make any sort of significant difference. It’s just who I am, and maybe I’d be better off contributing to the profession in a different way. At least I haven’t found a place yet in ALA where I feel that I “fit.”
As to Leslie’s comment that “there is and will continue to be a shortage of entry level librarians” I say “huh?” Maybe by limiting my job search to most of the entire United States I was being too choosy, but I found a surprising lack of full-time entry-level positions in my soul-killing 9-month job search. And I was looking for jobs in every kind of library. The assumption that people are all going to retire at 65 is not the reality anymore. Nor is it the reality that for every librarian who retires there will be a job opening. A friend of mine got her 18 hour a week librarian job when a full-time librarian retired and instead of hiring someone full-time with benefits, it was easier to reshuffle their job descriptions and then hire a part-timer to pick up the slack. This frequently happens these days as the costs of health insurance gets more expensive and library budgets shrink. Some libraries get rid of the position altogether when someone retires. According to the results of the survey at the heart of Retirement, Retention, and Recruitment: The Future of Librarianship in Colorado, “of these retiring librarians, one out of five (19%) expects their job will be reorganized, combined with another position, or eliminated. One out of six (17%) is concerned that their position may be ‘de-professionalized’—that is, refilled after they retire, but by someone meeting lower minimum educational requirements.” (Check out the results of their survey — really fascinating stuff!) Also, these retirees often are in middle or upper-level management, so while the jobs might “trickle down” to the new librarians, there is no gaurantee that they will. I just think that ALA is being irresponsible when they push the idea that we now or will very soon have a shortage of librarians for entry-level positions. Who will pay their rent when these brand new librarians find out this isn’t the case? And how will we keep them in the profession when they can’t even get a first job? I can’t be patient, not for those librarians who have e-mailed me in frustration after looking for a job for a year or more.
I think it’s great that Leslie wants to get feedback from new and/or tech-savvy librarians, and I think it would be a great idea to not only open up the floor at ALA, but also to have some sort of an online discussion (synchronous or if not possible, asynchronous) to get the ball rolling. Since my book is due a week after ALA Annual, I won’t be able to make it this year, but I would love to participate in any sort of online opportunity for sharing ideas about how to make ALA better. I guess I’ve already kind of started doing it here. 🙂
I really do appreciate what Leslie Burger is trying to do, and I’m thrilled that she has become part of this lively grassroots discussion about how to make ALA better. While I don’t agree with all of her ideas, I respect her effort to listen to everyone.
As for me, I’m going to keep on becomming the change I want to see in my own little way… right here.
Well said, Meredith, and congrats on grabbing the attention of in a way that might really make a difference eventually.
Hello…I’ve been reading your blog (and others) for a while now, and finally felt compelled to leave a comment. I just finished my MLS program at Florida State in December (through the distance learning program), and have been involved in the soul-crushing job search for months. I feel like I’m sending resumes and cover letters into the void, like no one’s even seeing my applications. I did all this work to get my degree and now I feel like I’ve been blackballed from using it. I’m open to almost anywhere in the country, in almost any kind of library. My foremost interest is in public libraries, but I’m open to all possibilities.
I finally got a temporary position in archiving, but it pays so little that I still bartend and wait tables three days a week. I keep sending out resumes. I continue broadening my skills on my own. I guess I expected to get my Master’s and be handed a great job in an intellectually charged work environment. I am not sure what to make of the so-called entry level crisis, because I’ve read contradictory reports. From what I can tell, it’s a common plight among the recently graduated, and the job hunt does not look to get any easier any time soon. I’m confident it will all work out eventually, yet my faith is often shaken and I wonder why I spent so much time, money and effort to feel so dejected and unemployable. At least my current position will give me some professional experience, but even with the new entry on my resume I have a feeling it won’t be much easier to find a job.
Anyway, thank you for your blog, and all your hard work that continues to inspire. And if you know anyone looking for a Librarian I in a public library, send them my way.
I’m still at the beginning of my MLIS, with another two years to go. I’ve read all these contradictory reports and am not sure what to make of it. I went through a soul-crushing entry-level job search in another field before going back to school. Between that experience and having just read Anya Kamenetz’s “Generation Debt,” the shortage of entry-level full-time jobs, whatever the cause may be, is something that people are experiencing in nearly every field.
Anyway, one thing I do keep hearing and reading is that librarians with management skills will be in demand. So, while I’m not sure that I want to be a manager, I’m trying to beef up my skills in that arena. Hopefully that way, in two years when I start my FT job search, I’ll be a good candidate for some of these middle-management jobs that may or may not open up. I am bound and determined to do everything I can to make myself marketable, because that’s exactly what I didn’t do as an undergraduate, and I had very, very few opportunities. At the very least, I want to be able to look at my resume and think “Well, I have the experience. It’s just that the jobs aren’t out there” instead of “Whoops. I don’t have any relevant experience for any of these jobs.”
Keep up the good writing!
Meredith…well the name thing is funny! I guess your “fame” has not spread as widely as it should.
I would like to see real solid proof about the need for more librarians, given all of the problems I see with people (librarians) trying to find good paying jobs. I think the associations would do everyone a great service if they got “on the ground” and did research to show exactly where the jobs are, how jobs are changing, how the industry is changing, etc. Let’s not say that we need X-number of new librarians, if that is not true. And if that is not true, then let’s challenge our library schools (information schools) to re-tool themselves to turn out graduates for the jobs that will be available.
I have to admit: I’ve never understood the difficulty in getting a position. I graduated with my MLS in May 2004, moved to a very limited geographical area, only applied to a single type of library and position (reference/instruction academic), and had a tenure track position in June of 2005.
Over a year, you ask? Well..yeah. I didn’t sit around in the meantime…I got a job at a university, I kept up my reading, and kept my nose in libraries. And the only reason it took that long is that I had, basically, 2 schools within driving distance. If I had the entire country, it would have been very different.
Is it REALLY that hard to find job out there, esp. if you’re willing to move around? There are dozens of jobs every week in the Chronicle….none of those are going to new librarians?
I didn’t say that none of those jobs are going to new librarians. Just that there aren’t enough to go around. But maybe I and all the other people I’ve talked with who applied for 80 or more jobs during their time on the job search were just unqualified candidates. I don’t know. My colleagues here seem to like me a lot, so maybe I’m an ok librarian.
How closely did you look at those jobs? The vast majority of the jobs I saw required a minimum of two years post-grad experience. And in the jobs for which I had in-person interviews and did not get the job, the reason was usually experience. The job, while entry-level, often went to a librarian who had been in the field a while. I’ve heard of some libraries (especially in attractive areas like Chicagoland) receiving 100 resumes for a single entry-level position. Crazy!
Some people find jobs after a few weeks and some don’t for more than a year. The reasons people get jobs can be so random — like you went to the same college as their daughter or you just click with someone there because they see a lot of themselves in you. It’s all about right place, right time, right people, right fit. Keep in mind also, that some libraries do not take seriously resumes they get from people who live far away, especially when they can’t afford to fly candidates in. Being a “local” can have major benefits. None of us should imagine that our experience is typical, but I’ve gotten e-mails from way too many people who have had a lot of trouble finding a job to believe that there is a current librarian shortage.
There’s an article in the March 2006 issue of Fast Company — a business-oriented mag with a “wired”-like difference — that may be interesting: “The Population Hourglass” by Andrew Zolli (listed, among other things, as the “curator of the annual PopTech conference). He has an interesting discussion about the “tri-furcation” of boomers — some retiring, some happily continuing work in companies/organizations that want them to stay, some in a “nether retirement” (which I believe means underfunded) where they “serve as a object lesson for their children.” He goes on to discuss the new “glass ceiling” (his word is “ass ceiling” actually) created by older employers who are either “all-too-healthy or all-too-indebted” to retire. It’s an interesting article — though not focused strictly on employment issues.
This is an interesting, if painful, discussion. Useful. I’m not sure where it goes — and don’t have any easy answers. The discussion is beneficial, though.
On the same subject, an article by Jonathan Clements in the March 8 Wall Street Journal points up several national macro trends that, while not specific to any one field of employment, feed into the whole “Why aren’t more librarians retiring” question.
They are: (1) Life expectancy is on the rise in the United States and the trend is only going to continue. (2) Health care costs and pension costs are escalating at astronomical rates and if workers have solid benefits, they are unwilling to surrender them, even if it means not retiring. (3) Interest rates are lower and retirement investment returns are smaller as a result.
When you consider those macro trends, along with the fact that librarians who don’t retire may just love their jobs and want to continue to do them as long as they possibly can, as is the case with many librarians I know, the librarian shortage meme seems more than somewhat out of step with the situation on the ground.
Re: experience. Yeah, we’ve all had that chicken and egg problem before. And certainly there are a LOT of people applying for jobs. I know that the job I’m currently in had a pool of 120 or so applications. For some of the more sought after areas of the country, yeah..I have no doubt that some will get 400-500 applications sometimes.
I would LOVE to see a good study done, with qualitative questions that ask and examine the reasons for job acceptance/rejection. Is anyone out there doing something like this now?
I’ve been employed as a “professional” for almost 10 years at a medium-sized academic library. I’ve been on numerous search committees for entry-level positions in our organization. A couple of words of advice for those in library school: work in a library as much as you can while you’re in school (even if it’s not in a professional position); become active in the student chapter of ALA, SLA, or other professional organizations; attend conferences, workshops. Include these things on your vita! You will stand out among the applicants.
My advice would be apply for the jobs requiring two years experience. We just finished a search (re-opened at that) for a reference librarian and the staff insisted on putting in a year’s experience (it was before I came, couldn’t do anything about it.) We hired someone right out of school (so it can happen!)
I would echo Alex’s advice to work, internships always stand out and they give you references who can talk about you in a professional setting. The other thing that gave our new librarian a leg up was his presentation skills. For academic public services these days it’s a must. Having a great power point won’t overcome the fact that you can’t speak in public! It’s a skill, it can be developed!
I got out of school in 1978 and didn’t find a professional job until the fall of 1980. It was one of the more depressing experiences of my life (although it did lead me to my husband) so I do have a great deal of sympathy for everyone who’s in this position now. One thing that helped me was my paraprofessional position in a local university library. The experience was helpful on the ole resume, I got a lot of support and mentoring from my bosses and it helped pay off the student loans.
And I agree with the person who said that people aren’t retiring like they should. I have 3 people over 60 working for me now. One is going to retire next year at age 70, the other two say they can’t afford to retire at 65.
I’m going to try and get out of the way when the time comes, but you’ve got another decade and a half to wait!
Best of luck to everyone searching for a job!
[…] Then (ok – seriously – scroll on down past the hamburger ads…) you’re greeted with four posts: two discussing her work on the Katrina Project, one titled “ALA to see changes,” and one titled “On Becoming the Change You Want to See.” […]
Thank goodness someone is talking about the difficulty of finding a job as a new librarian! My search took about 9 months as well, and I took the first job I was offered (which has luckily turned out to be a wonderful place to work). Meanwhile, all my professors at the University of Pittsburgh kept talking about all the soon-to-be retirements. What they don’t tell you is that people are always retiring, so that bit of information cannot be sanely classified as news.