Reader Response Requested: Is it the Worst Time Ever to be a New Librarian?

For this week’s question, which is something of a downer, I’m going to get you started with a few answers from people who hire librarians, and then I’m hoping you’ll be willing to add your own responses in the comments section.  This week I’d like to know:

Economically speaking, is it the worst time ever to be a newly graduated library job hunter?  If not, when was worse?  
Emilie SmartI think the economy and ever-tightening budgets are affecting our job market overall; however, job seekers looking for entry-level positions should really consider looking nationwide for employment.  My library system is building new branches and adding new services, plus we have folks retiring this year.  All this means that we will have jobs available.  We’ll have a real problem finding people to fill them.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
J. McRee Elrod
I think it is the worst in my memory.  Although I was born in the 1930’s, I don’t really remember the great depression when I am sure it was worse.

In the present economic climate, one must be willing to go where the job is, and not expect to find work where one wishes.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Terry Ann Lawler
Maybe the Great Depression?
– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
What do you think readers?  Are we the generation that has it the toughest?

16 Comments

Filed under Further Questions

16 responses to “Reader Response Requested: Is it the Worst Time Ever to be a New Librarian?

  1. Pingback: Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You? | Hiring Librarians

  2. LisaILJ

    I don’t know if it’s the worst time, but it is pretty bad. I don’t think anyone would be able to do what I did when I graduated from library school, which was to get a job without having any experience working in a library at all. Now that being said, I am kind of stunned that some students that are currently working on their degree aren’t interested in working in a library until 6 months before graduation. The time to start looking for a library job and to work in libraries is from the moment you start graduate school. I know school takes some time to get used to, but having that library experience is going to help you in the long run. I hire paraprofessionals and by time they graduate from school they have the ability to apply for so many more jobs that basic entry level. They are applying what they are learning in the classroom to what they are learning on the job. I won’t hire a library student who has less than a year in school because I know they will leave as soon as they can for a professional position (as they should). I’m fine replacing someone every 1 ½-2 years, but not every six months. Recent grads who can’t find a library job need to take on some of the blame themselves. Often they didn’t make themselves more marketable when they had the chance. While in school they should also be willing to take a library job in a field where they don’t want to end up. For example even if you have your heart set on being an academic librarian, don’t dismiss a special or public library while you’re in school. It’s still valuable library experience.

    • Cana

      I think that’s a little unfair–I looked desperately for a library job when I was in school, and there was none to be had. I eventually had to take a job in a different field so I could keep eating and paying rent. Now I’m a recent grad with only a little volunteer experience, since that was the most I could do. I’m looking nationwide now that I’m out of school, and it’s really disheartening that no one is willing to take a chance!

    • What?

      So it is okay for you, but for no one else? Don’t you see how hypocritical you sound? Not all of us have mentors or people who can offer us such sound advice. Library schools and ALA are only concerned with the bottom line, getting more money. Very few people tell the whole truth. Most people become librarians because they care about librarianship. No one bothers to tell us the truth. Many times we find ourselves in Cana’s position mentioned below. We try and try and search and search, and still find nothing.

      • LisaILJ

        I’m not saying it was O.K for me and not for you. I’m saying that times have changed, and you can’t do what I did anymore. When I was in school 15+ years ago, times were different than they are today. And I never said it was an all or nothing prospect. I very clearly said SOME people have that attitude. This comes from experience as a hiring manager. The library I work in is in a large city with 2 nearby library schools. We had an open position for over month which we heavily advertised. Including posting it on the school’s listservs and we had exactly 3 current library school candidates apply.

    • What?

      I am sorry but your post from this morning is very judgemental. Because this is an employers market, hiring managers like yourself have this attitude. You have no idea what the circumstances are in a candidates life. You have no idea if they have or have not applied for jobs. You have no idea if they are career changers and thus are passed over for more entry level jobs because hiring managers think they are overqualifed to work as a shelver. And so on and so on. This is the problem. You just ASSUME. You of all people should have more understanding as you obtained a library position with no experience. Why not just consider people or don’t, and leave the judgement out of it?

      • No, but seriously, what?

        I’m not sure that either of her comments was deserving of the kind of bitterness you’re displaying in yours, or any, for that matter. Rather, she seemed open and honest. But maybe it’s judgmental of me to make either of those statements.

        Job search got you down? I’d rather hear about *that*, not your angry reaction to a helpful commenter.

    • Just FYI there’s already one comment in response to this particular comment that I’m not going to approve. Please disagree with each other respectfully. Thanks/sorry.

  3. I can’t say that I have any historical perspective, as a recent graduate, but I can share my experience. I live in Syracuse, NY and attended Syracuse University’s iSchool for my MLIS. I graduated last May. Some of my classmates were hired into full-time positions before finishing school. Library experience, specialization and teaching experience seemed to be the biggest factors for those that found jobs quickly. In our area, last year seemed to be a great year for school media graduates – there were probably at least 20 positions within a 90-minute radius. Grads who were looking for a general public librarian position really struggled to find anything full time.

  4. littlemisslibraryjenn

    I’m a MLS student graduating in May, and I’m definitely having a difficult time finding employment. Preferably I’d like to do children’s services at a public library although I have applied for other positions. One library e-mailed me back saying there were over 250 applicants for one open position! It’s especially hard for those looking in a specific area. I’m looking in the Chicago area which, even though it’s a large area with many libraries, is very limiting. There are too many people searching for jobs and not enough places hiring.

    • Michael

      I applied for a children’s position here in Canada and it’s the only interview I’ve had in the four years since I graduated with my MLIS. They, likewise, made a point of stating in the interview that they had vastly more applicants than they were expecting. Didn’t give a number and I doubt it was that high, but it’s certainly distressing to think that that volume is what we’re competing against. I’ve applied for other other children’s positions since then. My Web statistics show when they visit my site, but then I still don’t get an interview. I don’t understand why one library would want to interview me but another wouldn’t for what is essentially the same job.

  5. Bob

    Perhaps library schools should take some responsibility for producing a glut of job applicants, especially with the wide reach of online programs. There is simply not the market for the number of people graduating with library degrees.

    • So true. I think this is one of the major factors contributing to the problem right now. There are just not enough jobs for all those graduates yet you keep hearing about all these librarians that are supposedly going to retire any day now…

  6. NS

    On the one hand, the job market is a jungle out there. I guess I expected to be able to find a job in my chosen specialization area as well as geographical area, but it looks like one of those have to give.

    On the other hand, it seems like LIS graduates have more opportunities outside libraries than they used to. Companies are seeing that LIS skills are important to incorporate.

    I too tried to get a job all through graduate school. I was working full-time, but not in libraries, and attending school so I was unable to really volunteer. But I didn’t get the degree to get a high paying job. I keep going because this is what I want to do.

  7. JL

    I graduated in May 2011, and had what was probably a job-search of average length these days- about seven months by the time I found a position. The main reason I’m sure it didn’t go on longer was my willingness to look out of state (even out of country) for a position. I was lucky to start a full-time paid internship three months before I graduated, which led to a full-time temporary position, and now a permanent, professional position with the same organization- the first two temporary positions were of course capped by lengthy job-searches at their ends, as I had no idea at the time that either would turn into anything more.
    I agree with the first commenter on at least one point- in this climate students cannot expect to graduate and find a professional level position with no more than a few months of library experience under their belts. The main piece of advice I always give friends who are considering pursuing an MLS is to seek out as much experience as possible- don’t rely solely on your schooling, or on the program to be the best guide in this. Most MLS programs require very little (if any) practical experience, and I think that’s a major failing. Like some of those who replied to that first comment, I searched fruitlessly for an actual library job while I was still in school, but that wasn’t the end of my efforts. I dedicated as much time as possible to volunteering in local libraries and archives, and was also able to find some excellent internships while still in school (some paid, some not). I made financial sacrifices to be able to pursue those opportunities, but in the end it paid off- I’ve been told several times by prospective employers (including my current one) that the only reason they even gave my resume a second glance was because of my experiences with certain institutions.
    But, again, I mainly credit my relatively short job-search to my willingness to look outside my immediate community- while also realizing that this is not an option for everyone. Many of those who graduated in my cohort and are tied to one area are still searching for jobs two years later. I live 1800 miles from my immediate family, which is a trial of its own, and a story for a different day, but I have a job that I absolutely love (despite the low pay 🙂 in a city I’ve come to adore, and I’m incredibly grateful for that. I guess the end point of this incredibly long comment is that yes, the market is terrible, but it is not impossible, and there is hope!

    I hate that this got so long. Sorry!

  8. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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