Stats and Graphs: Who are the Job Hunters?

The 2023 Job Hunter’s Survey collects information from LIS workers who are currently looking for work, crossing multiple experience levels, specializations, and library types. There are 37 questions, including a special section that asks for information about the length of time taken to find the first post-grad school position (which for some respondents was quite a few years ago). The survey opened on February 2nd, 2023. It will remain open indefinitely, but as of March 16, there were 420 responses. Most chose to fill it out anonymously, but 30 people did leave contact information. I am posting both individual responses and statistics, as I can get them written up. Given the number of responses, it will most likely take more than a year for me to share them all. 

This is the fourth 2023 Job Hunter’s Survey statistics post! Please note I don’t use representative sampling, so it would be inappropriate to draw conclusions about the larger population of LIS Workers as a whole.

In this post, I’m looking at some general characteristics of who has responded to the survey. The questions are:

  • How long have you been job hunting?
  • What position level are you looking for? (check all that apply)
  • What type(s) of organization are you looking in? (check all that apply)
  • How many jobs have you applied to during your current search? (Please indicate if it’s an estimate or exact)

The first three questions were closed ended, the last was open. At this point (as of March 30, 2023), 427 people have responded to the survey.

How long have you been job hunting?

The largest group of respondents had been job hunting for the shortest amount of time. 158 chose less than six months. Several of these revealed in responding to another question that they’d just started looking. That being said, a significant portion were long-haul job hunters, 18.74% had been looking for more than 18 months, and additional other answers revealed some respondents had been searching for five or six years.

Pie chart of how long people have been looking, percents in table below
Less than six months15837.00%
Six months to a year9622.48%
A year to 18 months6214.52%
More than 18 months8018.74%
no reply20.47%

29 people chose the Other option. Some indicated they were long term job hunters, or used this option to characterize an “off and on” search. Some used this option to indicate precarity in their current employment, a desire for better pay or promotion, or just described themselves as “always on the look-out.” Other answers included:

  • 5 Years
  • 6 years
  • 6 years
  • 6 years (had temp positions for 3 o
  • About five years
  • always on the lookout
  • Casually for a few years
  • currently employed in the LIS field, but have been applying to jobs sporadically if they interest me.
  • I am always looking at what opportunities are available even if I am gainfully employed.
  • I am employed, but always look at other opportunities.
  • I have been consistently reviewing postings for about two years, however I have FTE currently so it has been on a more casual basis
  • I have four library jobs but I need full time work.
  • I would say I am not actively searching, but I have been applying to promotion/more pay opportunities off and on for about a year
  • I’m always looking because every position I’ve had since 2016 when I entered the field has been contract
  • I’ve been underemployed throughout my LIS career
  • I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities
  • Job hunted for 2 years, took position outside LIS fields and now looking to return
  • Just finished job hunting- total time was around 6 months
  • looking continually but applying selectively since fall semester 2019
  • Not really looking
  • off and on for several years
  • Off and on since 2019
  • Off and on, over four years.
  • on and off for a year, picking up easy manual labour when I need to earn money
  • on and off for several years
  • ongoing while working a library job
  • Over 2.5 years
  • Since 2013- almost 10 years.
  • Since December 2019

What position level are you looking for? (check all that apply)

People could choose more than one answer for this question. Four people chose seven different options, the rest chose fewer. 108 chose only one option. The most frequently picked answer (62.3%) was “Requiring at least two years of experience.” In the first iteration of running Hiring Librarians, I had a (perhaps erroneous) sense that my job hunting audience were all new librarians. This time around it is not the case.

bar chart of choices for position level, numbers are in the table below
Requiring at least two years of experience26662.30%
Entry level21149.41%
Senior Librarian8720.37%
Department Head7718.03%
Other/no reply7517.56%
Clerk/Library Assistant6114.29%
Branch Manager255.85%

For other answers, 28 out of 75 (just over 33%) wrote in “Archivist” or something to do with archives. Seven wrote “Anything” or anything plus a parameter such as “not customer facing” or “FT.” Five wrote “Librarian,” three wrote “intern,” and four wanted something that was not supervisory but still used their sometimes substantial experience. Other answers include:

  • 1 Year Experience
  • a position that wouldn’t require years of experience if I already have the master’s degree
  • also looking for LIS program teaching positions
  • anything mid-level or slightly above
  • anything not customer-facing
  • Assistant Director
  • communications/marketing/adult education
  • Customer “Experience” Librarian without MLS yet spent almost 18 years in a Special Collection department of a Public Library.
  • Digital Archivist
  • Digitization Librarian
  • Electronic Records Archivist
  • expert in grant writing
  • faculty (Associate Professor range)
  • fellowship
  • I currently work as support staff but really want to move into a faculty role.
  • I’m currently a dept. head and I hate it… I want higher pay, but more contained projects.
  • I’m switching careers so although I am very educated (PhD), I do not have a MLIS
  • Independent contributor
  • maybe something like project manager? feeling necessary to look outside libraries
  • Middle School librarian
  • museum assistant/registrar
  • museum curator
  • Outreach Archivist
  • Part time archivist
  • prefer not to manage a department, but seems like that is what is available, given my qualifications
  • Prior to leaving my role due to the pandemic, I managed a technical services department and was the cataloger/metadata librarian for a law library. There are so few truly remote listings, so I am fine with any library-adjacent role.
  • Processing Archivist
  • records manager
  • returning librarian
  • School librarian since I’m getting the certification.
  • Something that pays better than librarianship
  • Special Collections Librarian with tenure
  • Subject Specialist
  • Technical services: cataloging
  • Senior technician

What type(s) of organization are you looking in? (check all that apply)

A surprising number of archivists (or aspiring archivists) answered this survey! They were second only to people interested in working in Academic libraries.

bar chart of organization types. See chart for numbers.
Academic library31273.07%
Special library23154.10%
Public library17240.28%
Library vendor/service provider8620.14%
School library286.56%

The Other answers could again be grouped into several categories. The most number of people (24) wrote in “Museum.” Others wrote in Government (12), Corporate (7), some version of Outside of libraries/GLAM (5), Historical societies (5), Non-profits (5), Special collections (5), and Cultural Heritage Organizations (3). Other answers included:

  • Any — I am curious about outside of the library but using the librarian skills.
  • apple
  • Artist Studios
  • arts orgs
  • community archives
  • community college (but not other academic)
  • digital archives
  • Digital asset management
  • external organizations related to technology/equity
  • Federal Agencies
  • Film Studios
  • Galleries
  • gaming industry
  • general metadata/data management
  • It doesn’t even have to be a library, just somewhere/something I can use my skills for that I don’t hate.
  • Law firms
  • Manuscript archives
  • Maybe higher ed (but not a library) or an organization or company or work from home
  • media companies
  • microsoft
  • National Park Service
  • Nonprofit (Public Service Loan Forgiveness)
  • online archives…
  • Orchestras
  • Other higher education roles
  • Public Radio
  • rare books departments at museums or historical societies
  • Rare Books/Special Collections in Cultural Heritage Institutions eg museums
  • Record Labels
  • Records management
  • religious orgs
  • Remote work positions requiring an MLIS
  • science collections
  • SLIS programs
  • State Archives
  • state park service
  • Tech
  • Wherever I can work remote
  • Would take special collections

How many jobs have you applied to during your current search? (Please indicate if it’s an estimate or exact)

This was an open response question. I analyzed replies to come up with some appropriate groupings.

chart of how many jobs respondents have applied to. numbers in table.
Less than 1017440.75%
10 or more7517.56%
20 or more4510.54%
30 or more235.39%
40 or more184.22%
50 or more225.15%
60 or more20.47%
70 or more71.64%
100 or more194.45%
200 or more102.34%
300 or more20.47%
450 or more30.70%
2000 or more10.23%
no reply225.15%
unknown/lost count40.94%

I also did some analyzing comparing the number of applications with how long the respondent had been looking. No matter the length of search, the most frequently occurring number of applications was less than ten. However, it was only a majority choice for people who had been job hunting for six months or less (63.29%). In the other categories (six months to a year, a year to 18 months, more than 18 months) responses were spread more evenly across the groupings. The person who said they had applied to more than 2000 jobs also said they had been job hunting for more than 18 months.

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