Some of the respondents of the original post have gotten hung up on two things.
The “Boredom” Part
Some have taken offense to this particular word and interpreted it to mean that I am insensitive, uncaring, or otherwise flippant regarding librarian unemployment. That’s not the way I meant it. To me, the math behind the unemployment (supply versus demand) is, well, the math. I’m not going to sit here and polish a turd, spin the numbers, and say, “Oh, it’s going to be alright.” I’m going to treat my readers like they are adults and offer them an honest opinion. Too many applicants, too few jobs. That’s what it is.
As much as the survey ten years ago is cited as a contributing factor to the “greying profession” myth, the survey itself is provides an vastly incomplete picture. It doesn’t forecast one of the largest economic downturns in the last eighty years. It doesn’t predict state and local governments squeezing their budgets and make spending cuts that include libraries and their staff. It doesn’t account for the actual rise of communication and computer innovations, the genesis of ebooks, or the expansion of the internet to its current incarnation. Quite frankly, it is not a complete predictive model for anything other than saying that this percentage of librarians will be near retirement age in ten years. That’s it.
Every week, I help unemployed people look for work. I work with them to make resumes, cover letters, help refine old strategies, and find new places to look for employment. I show them the compassion and service they need during a very anxious part of their life. Everyone leaves with something in their hands, even if it is just my business card and a “call me if you need anything” offer. I’ve been unemployed a couple of times in my life. I know the feeling. I don’t take what I have for granted in the slightest. And I truly feel for librarians both old and young who are looking for work; I wish I could help find jobs for everyone.
The “Entrepreneurial” Part
Within this objection, there are two parts. One half is a snarky “Why don’t YOU become a librarian entrepreneur?” reply that reminds me more of a playground taunt than a serious counterargument. As if my suggestion to start a business is completely invalidated because I have not started my own. It’s a weak shot at saying that since I have never started a business that I don’t know what I’m talking about… from other people who have never started a business either. (With the exception of one commenter who has a non-librarian business.) It’s a position that is so baseless and unimaginative as to be completely illogical.
Then there is the "the degree has not prepared me for this” statement. That leads me to this question: if you were able to go to college, get a four year degree, then pass the GREs, successfully apply to the graduate program, and then get an MLS, how are you not intelligent enough to start a business? I want to know where the intellectual capability line is between “smart enough to get an MLS” and “smart enough to start a business”. I’ll give you a hint: such a comparison is nonsense. There are less academically endowed people that start businesses everyday. It’s a complete excuse masquerading around as a retort.
The other half is asking for examples or ideas for librarian entrepreneurship. That’s a fair question, certainly; what kinds of businesses could an MLS degree develop? But I think it misses the point. It doesn’t matter whether there are a million businesses or none; it does not preclude someone from starting one. If there are a million, then there is a market for such things. If there is none, then it means there is an untapped market. (The cynical can say that there are none because they have all failed, but that’s a lame excuse not to even try.) Mine is a call to innovate, to look at the market, to find a niche, and to exploit it. Also, examples are meaningless to individuals without the impetus or dedication to make it happen.
If you think I’m copping out of answering the question, that’s your opinion. You’re a librarian; you should be fully capable of doing the research. Prove me wrong. I have no qualms about admitting when I’ve made a mistake.
As for ideas, I would be happy to provide ideas if you are alright with cutting me a royalty check every month. I’ve given away enough ideas as it is (perhaps you’ve seen the ALA endangered species shirt?) that I might as well get paid for ones that I give away for someone to start a business. As I’m working to capitalize on my own ideas in bringing them to market, I’m a bit out of those kinds of ideas. (I would daresay that it would be akin to starting my own business, but I digress.)
Some might object to the tone of the last half of this post but, quite frankly, the time for handholding and kumbaya in libraryland is at a close. There is a very serious and very real need to “show up or get out” in terms of advocating worth, demonstrating value, and engaging our communities as well as our funding bodies to ensure the continued life of the institution. It’s not the time for people to sit on the sidelines and lament, but to get off the bench and into the game.
I’m in it to win it, as they say. “Can’t” or “won’t” is not in my vocabulary when it comes to libraries. And if you want to works towards keeping libraries vital and open, you’ll do the same.