At Least We Are Not Lawyers

Does this sound familiar?

[…] a number of recent or current law students are saying—or screaming—that they made a mistake. They went to law school, they say, and now they’re underemployed or jobless, in debt, and three years older. And statistics show that the evidence is more than anecdotal.

Replace the word “law” with “library” and it resembles some of the talks, blog posts, and other articles I’ve seen or heard about. In reading the whole article, there are parallels that I think you will find a bit familiar. Promises of employment (the whole ‘greying profession’ myth), salaries falling short of debt (the most recent Library Journal issue feature article), and institutions churning out a higher number of professionals versus the market need (5,192 graduates per year vs estimated average 2,820 retirements per year [pg39]).

Anyone else a bit perturbed by that?

20 thoughts on “At Least We Are Not Lawyers

  1. Andy:

    Yes, I am perturbed by it. I was perturbed by it when I was looking for a job and I still am. I have a job I like and one that is good for me professionally, but i had to move to Taiwan to get it.

    Having said that, 5 years ago, yes the profession was “greying” but when the housing bubble burst and peoples 401(k)’s took a hit, they stopped working and all those 50% of librarians that Mary Jo Lynch talked about years ago suddenly couldn’t afford retirement. So now there has to be a shift.

    But it has to start with the ALA Accredited Library Programs and with ALA itself. Yes, Libraries are great places to work, but stop recruiting and turning out graduates who are waiting as long as a year after graduation to still find a job.

    • I won’t skirt around it. I was *shocked* when I saw the amount of people that graduate in school that offer online programs. I mean, bully for them for having a program that allows adults to work, have a family, and still attend school: that’s the sort of remote educational access that librarians are ironically pushing for. But it doesn’t help one tiny bit when it comes to matching up jobs to brand new graduates.

      If anything, just like with the lawyers in the article, it exacerbates the issue, lowers pay, and diminishes the profession as a whole.

      • Do you mind expanding on the online program issue? Are you saying that you were just surprised by the number of people that are coming out of online programs, or are you saying that online programs are allowing the market to flood and, therefore, is a problem?

      • My alma matter says if you are an on campus student and expect to finish the program in 5 quarters full-time you are expected to take online courses. Its just how they have structured the course offerings. That also meant that as an on-campus student I had to be creative to ensure that the majority of the classes I took were actually on campus (not because there was a requirement, but because I wanted the on campus classes).

        Despite this, my college seemed to do little in terms of job placement for graduates. Sure they had job postings and resume critiques, but aside from that you were pretty much on your own.

  2. wow. Those are some strong numbers. As someone who works with women mostly 20 to 30 years older than me, I can vouch that librarians do not retire, they stay until you pry the book carts from their hands. Part of that is economic–it’s not a great time to retire if your retirement fund isn’t cushy.

    And wow, had no idea that there were that many more graduates than retirements. GAH. Thanks for the info, Andy.

    • Yeah, that was a last minute discovery. I remembered that the LJ article had the graduate number and there was a recent post on Librarian.net that had the report in a comment. When I put the numbers in the same sentence, my jaw dropped.

      Of course, this doesn’t mean can’t leave the field in other ways, but man, that’s some steady ground to make up.

  3. Right on. I spoke to a new class of MLS students last week and one of the questions was “Does someone have to retire so I can get a job?”

    • It’s been in the back of my mind, but I would say no. With the amount of information that is created daily/weekly/monthly/yearly, I believe there will be a demand for people who can deal with information as a commodity. I believe there is a future for those who can look at a multitude of data sources and unriddle it for their employers or themselves as entrepreneurs. The amount of data is not decreasing by any short estimate.

      • I also said no. There is always movement aside from retirement and as we add new services, new types of positions become available. Also, grant funded projects seem to be happening quite often. Not to mention “non-traditional” positions outside of libraries.

        I just thought it was an interesting response to the “graying of the profession” that the student must have heard about.

    • Even retirement doesn’t help at my library, at least if you want to be a reference librarian. Since 2003, nearly every reference librarian position vacated by a retiring librarian has not been filled and has either gone vacant (eventually being eliminated) or been transferred to a position in another unit/branch in our library system.

      rcn in san francisco bay area

      • Same here. There may be fewer librarians retiring overall, but even when they DO retire, they’re not being replaced. In my library system we had a hiring freeze for years. So for a long time now, every time a librarian quit or retired, whomever was left just had to pick up the slack and do more work. Which, ironically, is making those of us who remain in the branches turn prematurely gray.

  4. Sounds horribly familiar, and yes, am very perturbed. It is a huge pet peeve of mine that library schools continue to actively recruit students with that old pick up line about the “graying of the profession” — but I suppose I should have been smart enough not to fall for it. I don’t fall for “Hey, baby, come here often?”, why should this be any different?

  5. I was, and still am, perturbed by the situation that we are in, and to be honest, it doesn’t help all that much to know we are not alone. But do we really have anyone else to blame? I guess we can throw stones at ALA for promoting skewed statistics and antiquated data (actually…yeah I think we are allowed to be pretty pissed off about that), but at the same time they are doing what they believe the need to. They believe they need to increase the numbers, to get new blood flowing through the profession. How is it their fault if we fall for their recruitment?

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  7. I am and I’m not. I’m not perturbed that people aren’t retiring — the economy is bad and lots of people need to keep working as long as possible. I’m a little perturbed that the profession keeps lying to us about upcoming retirements, but I never really believed them to begin with. And I am annoyed that library schools keep recruiting and pumping out grads when there aren’t enough jobs, but I understand that they’re a business too. The problem is with the education system at large, not just library schools.

    I was perturbed when I started library school, but I think now I’m just too tired to be perturbed. I just want a job.

  8. It’s funny, because I often hear librarians, both employed and unemployed, saying “I’m tired of this – I’m going to law school!”

    When I speak to students and potential students, I’m really up-front with the information about the job market. I hate seeing it in black and white, but it’s the reality. Yes, I’m worried that I’ll never be promoted because all those baby boomers are hanging on to their management jobs (and for those jobs that do open, the competition is so fierce). So I just have to tell myself I’m lucky to have a job in a library, and a job at all.

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  10. The numbers are not going to align perfectly. Is it a concern that graduate numbers are higher than jobs at this time? Sure, but education does not guarantee employment.

    We all take different paths to find that dream job or first professional job. Maybe we need to start an It Gets Better video campaign for underemployed librarians? Who knows? Maybe it will generate ideas for non-traditional library paths??

  11. Pingback: Reader Mail: Unemployment in Libraryland « Agnostic, Maybe

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