Posted by: Emily | March 4, 2009

Do library school enrollments mean we need librarians?

I write from the reference desk, which has received a brand-new chair since last I sat here. It is making a remarkable difference. Firm back, easy to raise and lower, arm rests in the right place, I feel ergonomically-correct for the first time in ages. If you ask around you’ll find that our library requested and received two or three new chairs (the number varies depending on who you ask, which makes me think that phantom third chair has already been snaked). Now, if you’ve got one of these new chairs, all is right and rosy in the chair department. We just got brand new chairs! If you’re one of the rest of us, this library hasn’t gotten new chairs in years.

So, yeah. It all looks good (and at the right height) when you’re the one in the chair. Sort of like if you’re the school enrolling hundreds and hundreds of additional tuition-paying students in your library school, the outlook for librarians looks great. I was glad to read today that so many people want to follow in the vaunted footsteps of Melvil Dewey and E.J. Josey and, well, me. But I worry that while things look great for the accountants at Drexel, things look awful for new librarians on the job market. I mean, I went to library school. It took me a year following graduation to find my first professional gig (and I worked in libraries the entire time and am good at working–they told me I had management potential when I was fourteen and working at mcdonalds, and I haven’t changed much), and I only landed that first gig because of the kinds of connections you make when you never leave the city where you went to college. Can it possibly be that the profession is adding enough jobs to absorb the 30% enrollment jumps at Kutztown? Does evidence of an oversupply tell us anything about the demand? Are library schools diploma mills? How’s the horizon if you’re not sitting in a brand new chair in an office with a view, financed by the next round of underemployed MLS holders?

Or am I just in a sour mood because my office chair is broken?

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Responses

  1. Library school enrollments do not mean that we need librarians. It means that…people want to be librarians. Whether the market really needs that many librarians is another story. It seems to me that library schools are kind of like graduate programs in English: should they really be admitting and churning out PhDs when there are not enough jobs to go around? Or is the state of the job market not the responsibility of the graduate school but of the prospective applicant? Maybe a little of both.

    It is disappointing to see that “OH NOEZ there’s a librarian shortage” myth continue to be trotted out. This is an interesting article–in Library Journal, of all places–that addresses the myth. http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA527965.html

  2. Yes, but. Don’t you think MLS programs have a different kind of relationship with the job part, since they’re vocational degrees? One could argue that the pursuit of the humanities is a pursuit beyond the gig, right? Like, I read therefore I am. You get something in terms of your soul with an english degree, at least ostensibly. Library school? Weeeellll. Not quite. I will say my life was totally changed by that class I took in classification theory, but other than that, there’s not a lot there but the hoop. At least for me.

  3. DUDE. Do you know what’s probably a growth industry? Library school professor! Let’s go get phds!

  4. This is certainly something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Really, I’m in library school to have a job I enjoy in the academic sector, but no one’s hiring. But there doesn’t really seem to be any growth in any industry right now, so I’m not really sure what the right route is.

    So far, at least, library school is definitely fairly soulless.

  5. And as far as *school* libraries go, the industry is shrinking. 😛

    In my own public library job, there is not one task I couldn’t easily have learned without the MLIS. The grand majority of my work is based on skills I had before I went to grad school or that I learned after landing the job. From my (nonacademic) perspective, it often seems that the main point of the MLIS is to narrow the field of prospective librarians — basically, you pay to play.

    Is that cynical enough? And my chair’s not even broken!

  6. I love how WordPress just made my poopy, tongue-sticking out emoticon into a manically joyful face. I guess it will just have to be ironic.


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