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.
I’ve…certainly been hearing a lot about layoffs and hiring freezes at colleges and universities.
It’s not just colleges & universities. The public library system I work for has a hiring freeze right now (in fact, our whole county does), and the news reported this morning that the Kansas City Public Library may have to consider closing some of its branches (although I really hope it doesn’t come to that).
Oh, definitely. It can’t only happen in one sector and not the rest (I edited my sentence to reflect that). I just hear a lot about academia because that’s where I’m at, but I think public libraries have been feeling the pinch even longer than academics have in many areas.
I only just noticed that MLA has a $100 membership for those who are unemployed or earn <$30,000. If I were unemployed, though, I’m not sure I’d decide that membership was worth my $100. I like getting the journal and such, but I like eating food and having electricity much, much more.
We are hiring here, but it is only because we have the accreditation agency breathing down our necks. They were “concerned” we did not have enough staff given our campus and library sizes. However, we are already getting the messages about no travel, limited training funding, if any, and so on. Heck, cutting the hot water in buildings has been done, and it is on the table. Sorry for staying pseudonymous, but I would like to keep my job a bit longer; you know, bad economy and all.
I don’t read NEWLIB, so I hope this doesn’t represent the style and/or content of its usual contributors. If it does, feel free to delete or ignore.
It’s no secret that librarianship is far from being a lucrative career choice for most. If things continue to get worse, the only people who will be able to afford to be employed as professional librarians (or even in non-professional roles) will be a) the absolute best of the best, cream of the crop; or b) those for whom the compensation is not required for absolute personal sustainability. (I’ll just say it, since I never read it anywhere, and it’s not a total fabrication — the latter has not only existed for a while, but also keeps compensation lower, for better or for worse.) Personally, if I’m not employed, I’m homeless or dead. Seems to be closer to an exception than the rule. Therefore, for some of us to get by, we must have the attitude of “I’m better than you (and you, and you, too),” and have the game to back it up; or have another significant source of income to support a love of library service.
Competition will be more brutal than ever for the new professionals. I feel for those who are in this profession and have no margin for error when it comes to providing financial support for themselves. I feel even more for those who don’t/didn’t have a game plan upon professional certification, or shortly thereafter. Overall, though, it’s time for the library workers (not just the libraries) to make themselves more valuable, so that others might feel the same.
And don’t forget about the librarians that are undeeremployed in part-time librarian positions.
Julian, I don’t think you should ever feel the need to apologize for stating the problem that you see in a professional and even-handed manner.
It’s been noted before (I’m thinking Cynthia at Library Garden last winter/spring) that this is a field that assumes that its workers have an alternate source of funding, namely spouses, that allows them to accept lower wages, a lack of benefits, and part-time hours. That’s unsustainable, especially as libraries claim they want a diverse workforce with top notch skills. Job love doesn’t pay the rent, especially when you work weird shifts and can’t rely on a 2nd job..
But it goes beyond not being “lucrative” for most into an honest question of “why bother” when there’s a lack of jobs, particularly full-time jobs with benefits, followed by a never ending stream of new graduates. To me, it’s like playing slots at the casino–the house always wins.
This article has a lot of good points. and I agree with you Meredith about ALA needing to either voice what they are doing (if anything) and/or to just do it.
My full-time job is as a para-professional, even though I graduated in May with my MLS. Since I work at an academic library, I get tuition assistance. Being that I am in no hurry to go into a job market that is unreliable, I’m going back to school and staying on as a librarian-in-a-non-librarian-role. Even though I work part-time as a Reference Librarian, I still do want to eventually get a full-time gig as a librarian. I think people shouldn’t stress about not being a librarian as soon as they graduate. Now is not the time to worry about your title. Besides, there are plenty of other places you can work as a librarian without being in a library, but you have to be creative.
I noticed the comment about MLA’s unemployed/lower income rate. SLA has just begun offering a membership dues rate for those making $18,000 or less (that includes anyone unemployed!). The rate is just $35.
I saw the comment about MLA’s unemployer/lower income dues. SLA just established a $35 dues category for those making less than $18,000 (includes anyone unemployed, too).
ALA does have a reduced rate for librarians earning less than $25,000 or unempolyed. The membership type is Non-salaried members. Currently, it’s $46/year. Still might not be doable if you unemployed, but it sure beats the employed full-time rate. Also, it’s just the basic membership, no roundtables or divisions.
Hi Alexis. I did see that rate and noticed that it was the exact same amount that fully-employed non-degreed library staff pay. That just seems off to me.
Yes, indeed, ALA does have reduced rates for unemployed members or those earning less than $25,000. If anyone has questions about the dues or membership in general they can email John Chrastka at firstname.lastname@example.org .