Category Archives: Op Ed

Oh Hey, Share Your Salary Info Today!

Oh Hey Everybody!

Remember Hiring Librarians? Let’s all take a moment to think back on our favorite post, be it inspirational or infuriating.

Have you thought of it? Wasn’t that fun!

Did you know that even though there haven’t been any new posts since 2016, people have still been using some of the resources? Most notably the Interview Questions Repository, which now has over 475 responses! Isn’t that cool?

But wait there’s more!

This week my colleague Megan contacted me with an idea. She said that some folks on Twitter had been sharing salary info, and that @paraVestibulum, was hoping to collect the data on a spreadsheet or somesuch.  She thought, why not add it as a new tab in the Interview Questions Repository?

I said, “that’s a great idea!”

So she put together a new form, with some input from me and @paraVestibulum, and I am now proud to share it with you here.

If you’re interested in sharing your salary info, please go to the form

If you’d like to check out what others have shared, the repository is here. It now has a tab for interview questions and a tab for shared salary information.

I hope you’ve all had, and continue to have, excellent experiences in your library careers.

Best Wishes,


PS A recommendation: if you haven’t already, read Vocational Awe and Librarianship: The Lies We Tell Ourselves by Fobazi Ettarh. It is an incredibly useful framing of how we think about our work, and how we value ourselves and others.

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Library Jobs Math

Did you read the recent Wall Street Journal article that said we would soon be experiencing a shortage of librarians and sea captains?

Does that math sound right to you?

Library Journal’s 2012 placements and salary survey shows in that year, 6,184 people graduated. If that number remains constant (more about this later), that’s 61,840 new librarians over the ten years from 2012-2022.

Will this be enough to fulfill the imminent shortage???

The statistical chart entitled Employed persons by detailed occupation and age, 2013 annual averages (data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Current Population Survey) gives the total number of librarians in the US as 194,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts a growth rate for librarian jobs of 7%, from 2012-2022, slower than the total for all occupations, which they predict as 11% (more about this later too). 194,000 times 7% is 13,580. So, the BLS’ numbers mean that approximately 13,580 new librarian jobs will be created over the next ten years.

Let’s subtract that from the 61,840 new graduates. There are still 48,260 graduates who don’t have jobs! How is that a shortage?

Oh wait, those retiring librarians!

That same statistical chart, Employed persons by detailed occupation and age, 2013 annual averages, shows us the ages of librarians!

53,000 librarians are between the ages of 55 and 64, so we would expect those librarians to retire over the next ten years, right?

Well, the chart also shows us that 17,000 are 65 years and older, so it looks like some of them …won’t.

Let’s say that within the next ten years, ALL of the librarians 65 years or older retire. 48,260 (the number of new grads remaining after all those new jobs are filled) – 17,000 (those 65+ year old librarians) leaves…

31,260 new grads still looking for work.

How many of those 55-64 year olds will retire in the next ten years? There are 53,000 of them.

  • 1 possibility: Say they all retire. Then yes, we will be short by (53,000-31,260) 21,620 librarians needed!
  • possibility 2: Say all but 17,000 retire. Then yes, we will be short, but by ((53,000-17,000)-31,260) only 4,740 librarians needed.
  • possibility 3: Say that those librarians are never ever going to retire because they love their jobs/have had their retirement funds decimated by the economy/some other reason. Then we will have a surplus of 31, 260 librarians!

It’s hard to know what this group of librarians aged 55 to 64 years will do.* There are some differences between a librarian of 55 years and a librarian of 64 years. If most of the 53,000 librarians are 55, then maybe they won’t be retiring in ten years. Maybe it’ll be more like 20 years. And do you know any 74 year old librarians who show no signs of slowing down? I know of at least two. I think some librarians will just go on forever and ever and ever and ever and ….

And there are three more kickers.

1. Library school enrollment is increasing, rather than staying stable, so if this trend continues it seems likely that the number of grads (e.g. job hunting librarians) will also increase each year. Meaning more or many more than just 61,840 hungry new librarians are being created.**

2. Although the statistical chart entitled Employed persons by detailed occupation and age, 2013 annual averages gives the number of librarians as 194,000, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook gives the number as 148,400. Granted, the former is 2013 and the latter is 2012, but to me that discrepancy indicates some variance in the counts, rather than an increase of nearly 50,000 librarians. So there may be in reality be even fewer than 194,000 librarians.

3. I am skeptical of the predicted 7% growth in jobs. The AFL-CIO provides statistical support for my skepticism:

From 2007 through 2013, library employment among librarians and library technicians and assistants shrank from 380,000 to 320,000.

Anecdotally, I look around at library workrooms with empty desks. I’ve spoken to veteran librarians who describe a slow attrition of positions, as automation and the economy visit libraries, and those who leave or retire are not replaced (or are replaced by part time or hourly employees).  Are we really growing?  It looks like we’re shrinking.

I’m sorry that this post is such a bummer.

But frankly, I think we need to be very honest with each other, and with the library school students that are going into debt right now in order to reach for the Impossible Librarian Dream.

The future librarian shortage does not exist.Not unless we can stop pumping out grads and start creating new librarian jobs.


*The potentially retiring librarians are explored in a much more sophisticated fashion in Planning for 2015: The Recent History and Future Supply of Librarians, A Report Prepared for the American Library Association Senior Management and Executive Board to inform its 2015 Strategic Planning Activities. Please note though, that this report was written five years ago, using data that is now almost ten years old. So, not totally up to date.

** I learned about this from Liz Lieutenant, who also has some good posts about library jobs numbers on her blog, for example this one, which illustrates library jobs math much more elegantly, by simply juxtaposing two quotes:

“The profession may lose an average of 2,820 librarians each year to retirement.”
ALA Office for Research & Statistics “Planning for 2015: The Recent History and Future Supply of Librarians” (2009) pg. 39

6,451 ALA-accredited degrees were awarded in 2013*
ALA Committee on Accreditation “Trend Data on Program Performance” (2013) *Note: Canadian programs removed.


Filed under Op Ed

I wrote an article!

I just had a piece published based on the Hiring Librarians Job Hunters survey!

Check out Library Leadership & Management (Vol. 38, No. 4). The article is called What Candidates Want: How to Practice Compassionate Hiring. I hope you enjoy it – you readers were the inspiration and you survey takers are the foundation.  Please leave a comment to let me know what you think!

If you want to read more things I’ve written about Hiring Librarians,

there’s a piece on LibFocus called Our Wonderful World: Making Connections Courtesy of Information and Communications (November 2012)

and a piece on LISCareer called Lessons from Hiring Librarians.



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Help Wanted

Hey, I’m back!

You may not have noticed, as I had posts scheduled to run automatically, but I spent most of February ignoring this blog.  It was great!  I did all sorts of cool things like going on long bike rides on weekends, and sitting and watching movies without the presence of my laptop.


The thing that it made clear is that I’m no longer interested in spending such a large chunk of my time on this blog.

I started this blog when I was unemployed and had more time.  I’m not unemployed anymore, I have an interesting, permanent-with-benefits position, and another job as an on-call librarian.  My career is in such a place that I’m less interested in the process of becoming librarians, and more interested in the work of being librarians.  And being able to do non-library things and achieve some sort of, you know, work-life balance, is actually pretty important to my continued enthusiasm for libraries.

However, I’m not quite ready to kill this blog yet.

I’m wondering if there might be a few of you out there who are willing to share the work with me.  What’s primarily needed is people to transcribe the completed surveys.  They are in an Excel spreadsheet, and need to be re-written into blog format.  Are you interested?  If so, please fill out this form:

Oh yeah and

Your Monthly-ish Reminder:

Have you been on a library interview recently?  Or are you prepping for one?

Sounds like you could use The Interview Questions Repository!

If you’ve had a library interview recently, help this resource grow by reporting the questions you were asked:

or by sharing this link widely with your friends and colleagues.

If you are about to go on an interview, use the spreadsheet:

to help you prepare.

Top tip: Switch the spreadsheet to list view, in order to be able to limit by answers – you can choose to only look at the phone interviews at public libraries, for example.

Bottom tip: For respondents, you should be able to edit your answers, if you think of something to add, etc.

You will also always be able to find these links in the sidebar to your right —>

If you’d like to respond to any other surveys, or otherwise participate in this blog,

this page

will give you links and options.

Thanks for reading, readers!  Thanks for contributing, contributors!

If you think a repository of questions  that people have been asked in library interviews is a useful tool, please help keep it dynamic and relevant by sharing this post with at least one person today.  Thanks!



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Filed under News and Administration, Op Ed


Hello Friends and Colleagues,

As part of my Get Fit February, I’m trying rebalance, both in terms of work life/personal life and in virtual life/real life.

So I’m going to unplug from social networks for a while, and from Hiring Librarians.  You may not notice any difference – I have posts scheduled throughout the month, and they will continue to appear and to push through to Twitter, Tumblr, etc. BUT! No one will be home.  If you comment on a post, or have a question, or a request, I won’t see it.

I’ll miss you!  But as much as I love all the connections and ideas I find online, I also miss a lot of the things I used to do and enjoy before I was all up in the interwebs.  I used to like paint and stuff.  I used to just sit and watch a whole movie without doing anything else.  I used to take dance classes, and yoga classes, and piano lessons.  I used to spend a lot more quality time with people in the meat world…  

This might be for the whole month, but will most likely be for a much shorter period of time.  Don’t laugh at me if it’s only a day or two, ok?

Until We Meet Again!

Your Pal,


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How to Read a Blog, and Other General Business

This is a three part post:


1. If you read nothing else today…

I wrote a guest post over at Letters to a Young Librarian!  Please click thru and read it, so Jessica is impressed by the traffic this blog gets! 😀

2. How Stuff Works

So you may have seen that post where the survey respondent said, “Do not go to library school. Librarianship is a dying profession.” Some people on the internet got mad when they saw that, and some got sad.  Some people had some interesting comments.  And some people were frustrated because they wanted more clarification from the respondent.

I just wanted to make a few points about the way the surveys are run and the way this blog is written.

Here’s how it works.

I (and whoever is collaborating with me) write a survey.  This is a Google Docs Form.  I/We post the link on various library listservs, asking for participation.  People respond, most anonymously.  They most likely forget about it.  We transcribe the responses from the spreadsheet onto the blog.  You read it.

I have no idea who the respondent is or how sincerely they are answering, etc.

I believe nearly everyone is answering sincerely, but I also believe that people are essentially good inside, so what do I know?

I have no way of following up to clarify responses, because I don’t know who the respondent is.  The surveys are intended to be easy for busy people to participate in, and the anonymity is necessary to allow people to participate honestly and fully without fear of reprisal.

I post all the responses because I think it’s an interesting way to look at a lot of different opinions in a standardized format.

I think that reading multiple responses is the way to get the most out of this blog.  Each individual opinion is not necessarily worth much, but in the aggregate they provide a sort-of hiring zeitgeist.  The statistics are interesting, but they are not an accurate indication of anything much, because the sampling is not representative, and the survey instruments are imprecise and casual.  It’s the aggregate as you experience by reading each post, that will give you the best idea of what’s going on out there.  And I’m not just saying that because I want you to read my blog early and often.


Have you been on a library interview recently?  Or are you prepping for one?

Sounds like you could use The Interview Questions Repository!

If you’ve had a library interview recently, help this resource grow by reporting the questions you were asked:

or by sharing this link widely with your friends and colleagues.

If you are about to go on an interview, use the spreadsheet:

to help you prepare.

Top tip: Switch the spreadsheet to list view, in order to be able to limit by answers – you can choose to only look at the phone interviews at public libraries, for example.

Bottom tip: For respondents, you should be able to edit your answers, if you think of something to add, etc.

You will also always be able to find these links in the sidebar to your right —>

If you’d like to respond to any other surveys, or otherwise participate in this blog,

this page

will give you links and options.

Thanks for reading, readers!  Thanks for contributing, contributors!

If you think a repository of questions  that people have been asked in library interviews is a useful tool, please help keep it dynamic and relevant by sharing this post with at least one person today.  Thanks!

Photo: Hoboken Cove by Flickr User jvdalton via Creative Commons License

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Counting Readers: Hiring Librarians 2013 Blog Stats

Happy New Year, folks!

If you’re curious about Hiring Librarians blog stats (number of views, top posts, etc.), WordPress creates an annual summary.  Follow the link below to see:

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 180,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 8 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

If you want to help me plan for next year, please use the comments below to let me know what hiring questions you have, or what topics you think I should look into.

One thing you might be wondering, if you saw the Pantyhose post, is if I’m going to keep all the questions on the “What Should Candidates Wear” survey.  I have about 100 survey responses still to run, and what I heard from readers is that the questions are helpful.  Nevertheless, I can see validity in this view:

So here’s the plan. I’m going to continue to run the responses I have already collected.  I’ve removed the option to take the survey from the Participate page, and stopped accepting responses on the Google form.  I still need to talk to Jill, but I’d like to rewrite the survey.  It will most likely still include pantyhose and make-up questions, but hopefully in a more inclusive way.  We will also be able to take the opportunity to refine answer choices and add in questions (so let me know what you’re wondering).

Happy New Year!  All my best wishes to you for good health, happiness, and fulfillment in 2014.


Filed under Op Ed, What Should Candidates Wear?

The Pantyhose Standard, and Related Sunday Ranting

pantyhose junction logoI do think the What Should Candidates Wear survey is the silliest of the Hiring Librarian surveys. For one, the response choices are a bit flippant, “poor attempts at humor.” I am also not someone who thinks very much about clothing, and I don’t particularly notice what others wear unless it’s arty or shiny.

Nevertheless, I’ve been interested in the responses, and the responses to the responses.

People who take this survey invariably feel that candidates should dress “professionally.” But, and I say this knowing that my mother sometimes reads my blog and hates this kind of language, what the fuck does that even mean?

Is it ok for a professional librarian to wear a fedora, even if they are not a YA librarian? Will your choice to get full sleeve tattoos, or dye your hair blue, make you less professional? Can you be a professional librarian without dressing like a certain kind of white lady?

These are some of the less subtle questions, but there are many details to worry about, in deciding if your interview outfit is “professional.”

“Professional” is not a term with a standard definition. It’s more like pornography, in that the eye of the beholder and the “average person, applying contemporary community standards” are integral to defining it.

You get what I’m saying? It’s subjective. It’s not a good instruction to give someone who doesn’t know you very well.

When my mother was my age, a woman’s professional outfit always included pantyhose. Is this still true? That’s why we ask about pantyhose. Not because we’re trying to convince women to wear it, or that it matters to us personally, but because we want to know if it does still matter to other people. People who might have a say in whether or not someone gets a job.

In the survey I just posted, the respondent took issue with three questions. The first was the true/false:

Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer.

The respondent says,

I have always thought this was a very sexist question and wonder why you continue to include it

What does this have to do with sex? Both men and women wear short sleeve or sleeveless shirts sometimes, particularly in the summer.

The second is:

If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?

The response is:

again, why do you ask this kind of question? do you care what kind of socks male candidates wear?

Personally, I don’t care about men’s socks, but neither do I care about pantyhose. I don’t wear skirts to interviews, so this isn’t even something I care about when dressing as a job hunter. But I don’t hire so my opinions don’t really matter in this context. I’m curious if others are still measuring “professional dress” by the same pantyhose standard of previous decades. And in fact, 34% of people who answered this didn’t consider pantyhose a dealbreaker. (We didn’t provide an “I don’t care” option for this one, unfortunately. Hindsight.) Isn’t it nice to know that’s it not particularly a requirement for a “professional” women’s outfit?

And the final question and issue is:

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

likewise on the sexist side

13 respondents (5%) think that women should “always” wear make-up to interviews, and I inevitably hear from disgusted job hunters when those surveys are posted (usually via Tumblr. There are a lot of gender activist types on Tumblr). Is it sexist to think women should always wear make-up? I don’t know. Is the question itself sexist? I don’t think so. Even if you think “women should always wear make-up to interviews” is a sexist statement, why would it be sexist to ask whether or not people think that?  Is it sexist to ask, “are you sexist?”

These last two questions, the pantyhose question and the make-up question, get the most flak.

Here are some thoughts. Many, perhaps even most, people would hold men and women to different standards when deciding if an outfit is professional. There are a lot of different kinds of women who are or want to be librarians, and some (many?) of them might be waffling about pantyhose, or makeup. That’s why we asked the question. Women who want to dress on the feminine side for an interview might be interested. In case that’s you, I hope this helps.

But women, and men, and people who don’t particularly identify as either, I hope you will feel free to ignore those answers and dress by your own standard of professional. Just as I hope you will feel free to ignore any answers you find on Hiring Librarians that won’t work for you. It might help to look through the Stats post here and look out for all the people that choose “I don’t care” as an answer. Getting hired isn’t about doing a majority rules thing. It’s about finding the people who run the kind of show you want to be a part of, and giving them your best.

Here is what I’m thinking about now. I run vanity searches for the term “hiring librarians” on Twitter, and I ran into the post “On Privilege, Intersectionality, and the Librarian Image” and some tweeting by Cecily Walker, the woman who wrote it. On Twitter, she talks about how some of the Hiring Librarians posts make her feel “squirrelly.”

Now, I’m a white lady librarian, and it’s only a matter of ticking minutes before I become a white lady librarian of a certain age. I’m pretty sure Jill, who co-wrote the survey, is also a white lady librarian (although I don’t know, as we’ve never talked about her race and never met in person – I’ve only ever seen a photo of her).

So while I say and mean very strongly “women, and men, and people who don’t particularly identify as either, I hope you will feel free to ignore those answers and dress by your own standard of professional,” I am who I am and I know that there’s at least a soupçon of white lady privilege inherent in my own perspective, and in this survey (white middle class lady, no less).

I would like very much if librarianship was less of a white lady profession and more of a all-kinds-of-people profession. I think the work we do is too important for homogeneity.

Here’s another point – I generally know very little about the identity of the respondents – nothing about biological sex parts, or gender-identification, or race, or class, etc. etc.

The most recent respondent said,

honestly I think you need to drop the questions about makeup and pantyhose.

So I’m considering – should things be rewritten? I have about 100 unpublished responses, should I still put those up? Are the responses harmful, or hurtful? Or merely occasionally annoying?

I’m interested in your thoughts.


Filed under Op Ed

A Brief and Mild Rant from your Blogger

someone is wrong

I ran across a couple people last week whose opinions made me a little mad.

One of my personal rules for internet professionalism is to not post angry. Fighting on the internet is an endeavor in which no one wins. But that doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, and that doesn’t mean I’m 100% successful in following my own rules.

Now, I know that not everyone has to like Hiring Librarians, or to find it useful. And I know that there are a lot of people who do find it useful. In fact, last week two people told me that they’d just found jobs, and that Hiring Librarians helped make that happen. I can’t even describe how awesome that is. Getting a job is life changing, and life shaping, and means even more than the difference between ramen or pork chops for dinner.

The two people that bothered me basically said, “Hiring Librarians is just forwarding opinions, and the responses aren’t relevant past what that one person thinks.”

Well, yes, I guess, kind of. But also no.

Here’s the difference between opinion and good advice: good advice is something you agree with, an opinion is something you don’t.

Any internet blog that’s talking about hiring is presenting someone’s opinion. When someone tells you, “here is what you should do to get a job,” they are sharing their opinion. And its generally based solely on their personal experience or experiences.

The point, or a point, of Hiring Librarians is to show you a number of opinions, all in the same format, so you can stop taking any one person’s opinion as gospel. Including the individual surveys.

I try to give you the aggregate in two forms – mashed together into graphs and numbers, and slowly doled out as individual responses. That way you can read the summary and the detail. I’d love to be able to give you more stats and graphs posts, but I’d also love to stop being consumed by work and have more fun. So.

The individual surveys are each just one person’s opinion, yes.  But that doesn’t mean that they’re not relevant to you and your search.  They are the real opinions of real people that really hire. Really.  You may find yourself across the table from one of these people some day.

The “opinion-ness” doesn’t invalidate the possibility of learning something from the individual surveys. It’s ok for one person’s opinion to affect the way you hunt for a job. Or not. I think you should weigh the opinion with what you know and feel and want, and decide for yourself if it resonates with you. If you don’t like it, oh well, opinions. Everyone’s got one.

The other thing that happened last week is that people started noting their schools pop up in the “Are there any schools whose candidates you would be reluctant to hire?” question.  And that made some people angry.  Or hurt.  Or hurt and angry.

This is not the intention for this question.  I’m sorry that people have been upset by seeing their school pop up.  I’ve thought about if it’s an irresponsible question to ask, or to post individual responses to, especially when there is often no reason given for why they would be reluctant to hire someone from a particular school.

I stand behind asking it.

Here’s my reasoning: This is the type of question that everybody asks and no one answers. We all want to know if there’s a secret ranking of schools that everybody knows but us.  We want to know if our school is the “best” or if the school we’re choosing is really awful.  And negative opinions especially, are not often expressed in public.  No one wants to offend.

Personally, I want to know what I’m up against.  I want to know if people have preconceived notions about my school, so I can be prepared to shine anyway.  Because they don’t know me, and they don’t know what my education was like.  It was great!  I learned a lot!

I don’t get angry when I see my school come up, because I know that this person is wrong.

I also remember that the question asks about a reluctance, rather than a refusal.  The respondent is expressing a reservation, rather than an absolute decision.

So in conclusion, my darlings, if you find that you hate what’s being said, if the answers make you angry, well, those two people I talked about earlier, those two people that made me mad, are actually right. It’s just one person’s opinion. And if you don’t see a single person that you want to work for, well, not everybody in the world took the surveys. Only a few hundred. I’m sure there’s some hiring manager out there that’s to your taste. 




Filed under Op Ed

Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You?

This is a long post, but hopefully you’ll be as fascinated as I am.

I graduated in May of 2011, for a while I felt like I’d landed in the worst possible job market for a new librarian. Entry level positions are scarce, and there seems to be a ravening horde of experienced librarians so desperate for work that they’re taking these precious few spots.

Things could never have been this tough, right?

Then I started working in substitute pools for three different public library systems. Librarians are generally nice, and I began to hear, in each system, sympathetic stories from those who empathized with new grads, because they’d been through the aftermath of Prop 13.

In 1978, Californians engaged in taxpayer revolt. More than 60% of the state voted for Proposition 13, which decreased property taxes. This legislation made it so property value (the amount used to calculate property tax) is assessed at time of purchase, and can not increase more than 2% each year. For both personal and commercial property. It also requires a two-thirds vote for increases in both state and local taxes. I read a lot about it on the librarian’s dirty little secret, but there have been recent murmurings about reform, so you can find some good news articles about it right now as well.

It has had some pretty disastrous ramifications for schools and libraries. Before Prop 13, California was one of top school systems in the country. Now we are ranked 48th. I don’t have a neat statistical fact to describe its affect on libraries (and really, correlation is not causation, so theoretically our school ranking could be the result of other factors). What I do have, are some stories collected from librarians affected by Prop 13. I asked them:

Can you describe how you were affected by Prop 13? Were you laid off or did you have hours reduced? How long did it take to return to work? Did you return to the same level and hours as before you left? Can you see any similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today?

I couldn’t resist sending my experience. I applied to library school in 1980, I think. I wish I still had the letter I received from UC Berkeley’s School of Library and Information Studies. As I remember it, the letter implied ‘if you are even accepted to this graduate program, you will be even more lucky to get a job due to Prop 13.’ I was accepted to the MLIS program and graduated. My first job in records management was followed a year later by my first librarian job as a children’s librarian. I did have to move to southern California for the public library position. I remember that Oakland Public Library was recruiting substitute/temporary librarians around the same time but I didn’t qualify for their list.

– Julia Reardon, Branch Manager, La Palma Branch, OC Public Libraries

blairProp 13 caused a bump down effect at the library I worked at.

I began working in the library field in 1959 at a Los Angeles County branch as a page. Moved to another branch as a library aid. From there to the Pomona Public Library as a circulation clerk. During those times I was going to college part time and doing a lot of the work as a professional librarian without the benefits. Finally got my bachelor’s degree & enrolled in library school at USC while working at San Bernardino County branch as a librarian trainee. Finally got my MSLS from USC & went to work at the Indio Branch of the Riverside City/County Library System. That is where I was when Prop 13 hit. I as a children’s librarian filling the last created Librarian position. When Prop 13 came, my position was the first to be eliminated. As I stated earlier, this caused the bump down affect. I finally moved on to the Colton Public Library where I retired from in 2000.

I loved working in the library field. The one regret I have is not having gotten my MSLS earlier.

The only similarity is the loss of staff due to the loss of revenue. I had to move in order to keep my job.

People today don’t realize the tremendous affect Prop 13 has had over the years to library services.

– Blair Holm, Children’s Librarian

The effects of Prop 13 on me were several.

During all this I worked as a Library Assistant II for the Alameda County Library. LA II’s then were more like librarians than clerks, except we were paid less than genuine, certificate-bearing librarians.

Lots of anxiety before passage of Prop 13. After passage, feelings of resignation and then registering for unemployment benefits. Some relief when rehired (only about one month after being rehired). Resentment, directed (only in my feelings) at the public and those who fought for passage of Prop 13.

I worked half-time for a few months after being rehired, at the Castro Valley branch of the Alameda County Library. More staff (most of those laid off) came back to work and I then worked full-time, as a Branch Manager (Library Assistant III) at a small branch of the Alameda County Library.

I was also studying at San Jose State for my library degree (MLS), which I received in 1980.

I see little difference in the library job market today and before Prop 13. It’s still hard to get a job as a librarian. ( I believe the 1990’s was an easier time to get a library job.) I got my first full-time job as a librarian (with San Mateo County Library) in 1985 after five years of searching. I worked
as a part-time librarian before that (starting in the early 1980s) at the Weekend Library Line (Late-night telephone reference service for the Bay Area, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I worked one night a week. A story for another survey.)

-Jay Smith, Reference Librarian, San Carlos Library 

I worked in a rural county library in northern California when Prop 13 passed in June, 1978.

Our main library (in the county seat) had been open 6 days a week, and was immediately reduced to 4 days a week.

Our county library (main library, three branches, and a bookmobile) was funded by a dedicated tax rate. Before the June election, we did an analysis with the County Auditor and estimated that we would lose more than 20% of our funding, if the measure passed.

Later that summer/early fall, after the State Legislature released additional state funds to the counties, we were able to re-open the main library to 5 days a week.

All the staff took a 20% pay cut during this time (I recall it lasted a few months), except for me. I was the County Librarian and, apparently, there was some section of the state law that prevented the county from reducing my salary, since I was a County officer.

So I would come to work on Fridays, when the library was closed, and do the regular morning tasks (clear the book drop, process the mail and magazines, search for books which had been requested by patrons in other libraries in our 6-county system–these requests came to us every morning on a TWX machine–etc.)

I would also do whatever administrative paperwork (paying claims, reconciling expenditures, etc.) that had piled up during the week, and would walk up to the court house (which was open on Fridays) to make the cash deposit, file the claims, etc. And chat and listen to those county officials who were closer to the powers-that-be to find out what was being discussed and considered as options for all the county departments.

The cuts of Prop 13 were very demoralizing. They were demoralizing to our staff, some of whom left library employment altogether (the bookmobile driver was laid off, because the bookmobile service was eliminated when Prop 13 passed. When the bookmobile service was restored, he declined to return to his former position.)

They were demoralizing to the public, because the county library system was a recently created service, and they appreciated the resources of a system, the access to books outside of their library, the helpful staff, the decent hours of service, etc.

It was demoralizing statewide in a variety of ways. Prop 13 de-stablized funding for a number of the rural county libraries, many of which were funded from their County’s general fund. (Remember: we had a dedicated library tax rate. Not every county library was funded in this way.) One county library–Lassen–later closed down completely. Another county was so pruned back that they later turned to a private operator to offer a modicum of better service.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: In 1978, with the passage of Proposition 13, almost every library in California was facing a cut in revenue, and the uncertainty was spread throughout the state. As background, you have to understand the differences in how libraries were governed and funded. California law provided for county libraries, city libraries, city-county libraries, special district libraries, school district library districts, and joint powers agencies that provided library services. Some county libraries were considered special districts for funding purposes and had a separate library tax. Some county and city libraries were funded from their jurisdiction’s general fund, which meant that they were in competition with many other programs, including law enforcement and fire services, for a share of that money.

In today’s environment, we have some jurisdictions that are doing better than others in terms of recovery from the recession. A jurisdiction with a lot of high-priced homes, an auto mall, and a regional shopping center with a Nordstrom’s as an anchor store is probably doing better than a jurisdiction with a lot of 99-cent stores and store-front churches on their Main Street.

In addition, the number of library school graduates in California in the class of 1978 is different from today’s picture. In 1978, there were ALA-accredited library schools at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Southern California. The program at San Jose State was focused on training school librarians. At that point, they were not engaged in the distance-education programs and large enrollments that are the hallmarks of their operation today.

There are hopeful signs for library service (and for hiring new librarians) in my opinion.

Librarians are doing a better job in their communities demonstrating the value of what they offer. We are using social media to our advantage in reaching those who are informed by those methods. The move to electronic books is an opportunity to promote our collections to new users who may rarely set foot in the library building. The renewed emphasis on services to children is a good hook to lure in the next generation of adults who may not have been regular library users in many years. Robust services to immigrant populations are showing parents about the importance of reading and libraries for their children, especially if they are from countries without a tradition of public library services.

The two library bond issues that passed in California raised the bar on what a modern library building should look like, and the application process introduced a number of best practices to any community that is looking at new construction or remodeling projects.

That said, I am concerned about the library school graduates who are still looking for work. I hope that they remain involved in the profession, even if their employment takes them to something other than a library-based career. I hope that they are flexible and are willing to gain experience in a community that is not on their radar screen at the moment, or take a position where they will be challenged in ways that are different from their “ideal” job.

Brian ReynoldsI was working as a Reference/Catalog Librarian at the Shasta County Library in 1978. Pretty soon after the passage of Prop. 13 my work week and pay was reduced by 20%…a five-day week became a four-day week. This reduction lasted for only a few months, fortunately. I retained my rank and salary throughout. To maintain my income, I went back to waiting tables at a local restaurant…a job I had done in college.

I see similar conditions today where many public libraries have had their budgets cut…due to shortfalls in local funding and reductions in State funding. Our own Library has lost about a dozen positions via attrition but has been fortunate not to have to lay off any staff. Many other public libraries in California have not been so fortunate.

There is a strong perception that public libraries are obsolete, nice but not necessary. I believe this falsehood affects staff morale, staff recruitment, and customer attitudes…especially for people who use a public library only rarely. Why support an agency that is, or will soon become, obsolete? Of course, none of this is accurate but the perception is widespread nonetheless. Many people with whom I have spoken who are interested in librarianship as a profession wonder if it’s a good choice. I assure them that it is, but sometimes it’s an uphill battle.
-Brian A. Reynolds, Library Director

In 1978, I was working half time at Santa Clara County (Los Altos), 18 hours a week (so they didn’t have to pay benefits) at Sunnyvale, and on-call at Mountain View Public. Election Day was June 10th and Proposition 13 passed by a wide margin as I recall. I was one of six librarians laid off at Sunnyvale (case of “last in, first out”). Since I needed a full time job to support myself and my daughter, I had to resign my half time position at the County. Prop 13 went into effect on July 1st so I needed to find ANY job fast. From 1978 to 1992, when I became full time at Mountain View, I worked as a Secretary, at a Sales Order Administration position for a laser company ( Coherent), and as a Technical Documents Librarian at an aerospace company (Lockheed) while continuing as an hourly librarian at Mountain View.

I graduated from SJSU in 1975 and through a personal connection, got the hourly job at Mountain View, which was very lucky. It took another 3 years to find the other positions. It was the old story – without experience, you couldn’t get a job and without a job, you couldn’t get experience. Santa Clara County at that time was giving THE test and you got on a list. They finally got to me 3 years later. Once I had that job, the Sunnyvale job came almost at once. These days, I gather, things are much the same, in that openings are few and far between. Public libraries have had to cut hours and positions and salaries, and cutting staff by attrition and not filling vacancies because of the economy.
-Betsy Carlson, Adult Services Librarian, Mountain View Public Library

In 1993, after a series of annual false alarms, a change in statewide funding protocols called the “ERAF shift” led to funding shortfalls at a number of county libraries in California. This was basically a delayed reaction to Proposition 13. I was laid off from Contra Costa County Library after having worked there full-time as a Library Specialist (roughly equivalent to a Librarian II) for over four years.

On returning to work: I was fortunate and was able to return to full-time work (at Oakland Public Library) after just a couple of weeks of unemployment. It was a very competitive hiring environment, since I was competing against other laid-off experienced librarians from other county systems. I was hired into a comparable classification (Librarian II at Oakland, Library Specialist at Contra Costa) but I took a significant pay cut because I was back at Step 1 pay. Some time later, Contra Costa offered to hire me back from their layoff list, but I decided to stay at Oakland and I’m still here.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: I’ve been in the field long enough now to see the job market go up and down several times. I’m not following it as closely as I might be these days, but my sense is that things are a bit better for applicants now than a couple of years ago, though it’s still a better market for employers than for applicants.

– Daniel Hersh, Supervising Librarian for Support Services, Oakland Public Library

I can tell you that Prop 13 meant that my first job was a very low paying private school part-time gig, and that when Prop 13 hit city library budgets (a year or two after it passed), I was laid off from a city library. I was rehired a few months later when someone left.

In general, because of Prop 13 and strained state budgets, cuts came to libraries in bad times. My next layoff was from a county system in 1993. Incredible numbers of branch managers like myself were laid off and then competed for the few jobs left. (I was rehired within a month by a CITY library, as were several other former experienced librarians from affected counties.) I’d have hated to be a newly-minted librarian at that time!

Cindy MediavillaWhen I graduated from library school in 1977, I was immediately hired by the Glendale Public Library, where I had interned as a student. My job, which was funded by the Comprehensive Employment & Training Act (CETA), consisted of working part-time as the “services to shut-ins” librarian, where I took books to homebound community members. The rest of my 40 hours a week were spent working on the various branch and central library reference desks.

Prop 13 passed at the end of my first year working as a professional librarian. Since I was in a grant-funded position, I was the first person in the library to be laid-off. Another entry-level (non-grant-funded) librarian was also laid-off.

On returning to work: After maybe 3-4 months of being unemployed, I finally got a job in downtown L.A. at Price Waterhouse, where I worked part-time as a cataloger. I had interned at Glendale as a cataloger, so was familiar with the process. At that time (1978), Price Waterhouse had a one-room special library filled with monographs all classified according to Dewey (mostly in the 600s). I was hired to reclassify the books according to a customized system created by Price Waterhouse. I was not enamored of the work, but it was a job, so I didn’t complain. The worst part was commuting to downtown L.A. from Long Beach, where I was living at the time.

In late spring 1979, I applied for a full-time Librarian I job at the Alhambra Public Library. The head of reference there knew my former boss at Glendale and so I was hired roughly a year after being laid-off. I no longer remember, but believe the pay was about the same, but I had much more responsibility at Alhambra. I stayed there for three years.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: I see lots of similarities between the job situation in the late 1970s and the situation today. I was also laid-off in 1993 during our last economic recession. Personally, that was a lot more devastating in that I had a lot of family obligations, plus we lost our house. Still, professionally, I was able to find temporary employment right away and was back to full time within 6 months.

Today, the employment picture is lot more bleak. Many of my students end up being unemployed for one or two years after graduation. This is the worst it’s been since Proposition 13. In fact, it may even be worse today: lots of competition for so few library jobs. It breaks my heart that my students–many of whom are stellar–can’t find jobs.
– Cindy Mediavilla, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library, and Lecturer, UCLA Department of Information Studies

Maybe this way; I watched it happen, and it was gradual as the state slowly contracted; first nothing then on and on with cuts. The unfinished highway projects, like in front of SFO the freeway to nowhere for years. The state robbing the counties and the cities for property tax money and the different impound accounts…sigh.

The school librarians were the hardest hit, but it was not overnight. So the statue law says the schools have to have a library, not that they have to staff it. If you live in Chappaqua, New York you pay $ 12,000 property tax on a $200,000 house in the 80’s and a further $18,000 in school taxes(no I didn’t make a mistake). Property owners don’t want to pay for things they don’t decide on, or they don’t perceive as value for money. I was the last generation where fiction was put around non-fiction on the shelving because it was worth less, and the librarians told you what you could take out-literally the public librarians told an older teen that book is not for you.

Whole generations were alienated at the library and then by Pat Brown’s then Regan then Jerry Brown’s public policies and wanted spending to stop so then you had Prop.13. By the way I am very liberal, but I saw how it went down. I heard people complain; people who spent $55,000 on a house and all of sudden after 6 years were paying $4,000 a year taxes a percentage lower than New York, but still high compared with the value of the house, and salaries here were lower on the left coast.

Joni BodartI was a YA librarian in the Bay Area when Prop 13 was passed. I had been fortunate to change jobs just six months before, going from Alameda County Library to Stanislaus County Free Library, and as a result, did not lose my job when ACL closed all its branches. The director in Modesto was determined not to lay off any full time professional staff, so did other cuts. But I can still remember how devastating it was for my friends still at ACL, and how they struggled to support themselves.
-Joni Richards Bodart, Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University

In February 1977 I started graduate school to become a librarian. In March 1977 I was hired as a librarian for the Buena Park Library District. At the time they did not require a library degree for librarian but they were looking to upgrade the standards. I was very fortunate to be able to work as a librarian during library school and being able to apply what I learned. I was also very fortunate working for BPLD. As and entry librarian, they had me working in every department giving me well-rounded experience to go with the degree. After Prop 13 passed, I was one of the first to be laid off. I still had a year of library school to finish, but need to work full-time.

I had a friend in library school that had already graduated and was running a small business setting up libraries for business. She also maintained these libraries. She hired me as a cataloguer. This was part time work that I did at home and I was able to speed up my graduation by taking more classes a semester. Later that year I was able to get a part-time reference librarian job at Santa Ana Public Library. I worked both part-time jobs until I graduated in 1980, the last graduating class from the Cal State Fullerton Library School.

It was a difficult time to start this career, there were hundreds of applications for new jobs. So I count myself very lucky to have gained the experience I did while going to library school.

After graduation I moved out of state and worked in a small community college library for about 5 years before moving back to California. I worked for the same library company. This time actually going to the libraries to maintain them. Later I taught at a small Christian school in San Clemente, setting up a library for the school that help get the school accredited. In 1994, someone took a chance on me, once a again, and I started work for OC Public Libraries as an extra help librarian and then as a children’s librarian. In 2004 I promoted to senior branch manager. In 2008 started my current position at the El Toro Library.

My advice to students working on a library degree is to get library experience, even if you have to volunteer. This gives you the edge when you send in an application and/or resume and go to the interview. It will show you if you will like this work. The more experience you have, the easier it is to find a job.

I have been a librarian for 38 years now and have never ever regretted it. I became a librarian because is knew I would be challenged, learn something every day, and provide an essential service to people. It has never been boring and to this day I never know what the day will hold.
– Grace M. Barnes, Senior Branch Librarian,El Toro Library, Laguna Woods Library

If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure we could be twinsies, politics generally put you straight to sleep. But here’s the thing: our work, even if we are academic, or special librarians, is so dependent on the political system. Not just for funding, which is our life blood, but in order to fulfill our missions of promoting things like intellectual freedom, and literacy. I’m trying real hard to keep my eyes open.

I want to take this opportunity to share a few pertinent links with you:

  • Everylibrary is a Political Action Committee (PAC) for libraries. They are running a summer internship, in partnership with Hack Library School. Deadline to apply is March 15.
  • National Library Legislative Day is an ALA event in Washington D.C. that seeks to drum up federal money for libraries. If you know a non-librarian library supporter, they can win an award to attend on a travel stipend.
  • Finally, March 15 is also the deadline to apply for ALA’s Google Policy Fellowship. The Fellow will spend 10 weeks in Washington D.C. researching library and information policy.

If you were affected by the passing of Prop 13, or the ERAF shift, please feel free to join the discussion in the comment section.

If your state has had a similar experience with crippling legislation, please contact me – let me know if you’d like to put together a post about it.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Today’s other post is a discussion of “Is it the worst time ever to be a new library grad?” so if you’ve got opinions about that, please click through and comment there.

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