Category Archives: Op Ed

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.

Notes:

*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.

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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.

Writing

 

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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.

bicycling

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:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ipbkNNJjUd-EgwMbnK5Buks82vYoUNlivV2iy0_GYZU/viewform

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:

http://tinyurl.com/interviewquestionsform

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

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

http://tinyurl.com/InterviewQuestionsRepository

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!

YOUR PAL,

EMILY

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Unplugging

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,

Emily

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How to Read a Blog, and Other General Business

This is a three part post:

hoboken

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.

3. IT’S YOUR MONTHLY-ISH REMINDER: THE INTERVIEW QUESTIONS REPOSITORY

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:

http://tinyurl.com/interviewquestionsform

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

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

http://tinyurl.com/InterviewQuestionsRepository

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.

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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.

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