More on the mythical librarian shortage


Up there with WMDs and the Social Security "crisis", it would seem, is the librarian shortage - another pernicious fib that resists debunking. Library Dust's Michael McGrorty weighs in:

A common complaint among current and former students is that they entered library school with the expectation that jobs would be not merely available, but plentiful. This information did not rise into the consciousness of thousands of people independently, but came for the most part from the schools themselves, and if not, was certainly not contradicted by them. Now, when the market is shrunken, the members of that loose cartel continue to accept students and produce graduates at a pace which ignores the reality of the market—because there has never been a penalty for encouraging the dreams of library students, and because, after all, that is their business.

Complete entry via


Up there with WMDs and the Social Security "crisis", it would seem, is the librarian shortage - another pernicious fib that resists debunking.

You know if you're going to start packing the troll stuff right into the article listings then don't be too surprised by the responses you start getting.

"--The tech bust drained 401k accounts so this group couldn't retire.
--9-11 attacks and the subsequent "war on terror."

What happened to several of my colleagues at OSUL who had planned to retire was the change in medical benefits. The retirement plan could cover spouses, but it wasn't the law, so the price became prohibitive for many with younger spouses who would be covered if the librarian continued to work. The medical benefits deduction increased about 30% during my first calendar year of retirement (about 3 months), and most of it was for my husband.

And yes, some state retirement managers were enamored of tech stocks. But well managed ones, like TIAA-CREF rebounded quickly.

Chicagoland area - a small number (10-15) of positions are reported regularly. I have noticed as the smaller libraries are getting behind the curve of their population's growth via tax caps, that a number of positions are being downgraded: tech services as well as circ - supervisors as well as well as staff.
"Don't fix the blame, fix the problem" - also don't invest $20K+ in education without doing the checking yourself...

That's my experience as well. What with major reorganizations (and layoffs) that have been occuring on the order of twice a year at my company, I've been applying for library jobs in the past several months. It was my original intent to actually work in a library upon graduating from library school, but IT jobs were easy to come by when I entered the work force and, well, I badly needed a paycheck.The jobs I am overwhelmingly seeing tend to be of the director and head of library sort.

There may well be a disconnect between library schools and the "real" world, but I don't necessarily think it is one of purposeful intent. It seems more to be one of "conventional wisdom" being slow to die.

From my very small window on the world, It seems to me there was indeed a crew of library folks who hoped to retire about now. However, we are now trying to survive a perfect storm.

--The tech bust drained 401k accounts so this group couldn't retire.
--9-11 attacks and the subsequent "war on terror."

This combo obviously cascaded the economy into a recession that killed the tax base that supports public libraries and universities. Places like my hometown of Buffalo, NY, and the state of Ohio in turn take out (or threaten to take out) their budget frustrations on the libraries.

When the large crew of librarians were planning to retire in the late 1990s I don't think anyone could have predicted the specific combination of events (though individually all were predicted).

So reality outpaces CW. I could see library schools dropping references to abundant jobs, but I can't see ramping down the programs either lest we could lose the capacity to create librarians.

Thus is the view from a small rural city, as small as that view may be.

Personally, I see many, many job openings advertised. However, these are usually not entry level positions. So, IS, MLS, MLIS, departments keep churning out the new grads, but unless your willing to travel the country in search of a job that doesn't keep pace with the cost of living practically anywhere, then you're stuck waiting around to apply and compete for a job locally that doesn't keep pace with the cost of living.

One of the finer points you've missed: WMD and SS crisis were also big issues we were warned about in the previous administration. Particularly WMD and the Kedwards team. As far as SS, I can't remember when it wasn't a "crisis."

But you nailed it with "few conservatives."

I can't help but bait the few LISnews conservatives ;) If they want to debate the finer points of Bushadmin. lies, I'm more than happy to indulge 'em.


The mythical mass retirement is always 5 years from.... now. They don't mention that these librarians will retire their libraries with them.

There is no librarian shortage, except in the sense that a few libraries sometimes experience a shortage of childrens' librarians and, less often, young adult librarians. The librarian shortage nonsense is a product of the library schools desire to stay in business (despite the fact that they are regarded with contempt and are often a laughing stock at every university where they exist) and library directors' desire to have an unlimited reserve army of unemployed librarians(as Karl Marx would say) so that they can pay low wages, keep making working condtions worse, and tell any librarians who don't like it that someone else is waiting to take their place.
        Forget about working as a reference librarian in a university library - even if you have two advanced degrees in a subject (read legitimate) area. For every opening they get hundreds of applications and often limit consideration to those candidates who have five years of full time experience in an academic library. Once in a blue moon public libraries will hire a librarian out of library school - but that is an almost sure sign that the job isn't worth taking - it will have some or all of the following features: it will be located in Redneckville, USA, the library director of your department head will be a psychopath, most of the patrons will be drunken, drug-addicted thugs, the pay will be miserable, you will be expected to do your own work and laid-off or retired clerks' work as well, and the library will be near some refinery or manufacturing plant that will cause a cancer rate many times the national average.
        From someone who has been a librarian for 20 years, take this advice: avoid library school (which will kill many of your brain cells) unless you have wanted for decades to be a librarian at all costs. Why anyone would want this is beyond me.I went to library school during the Reagan depression of the early '80's as an alternative to unemployment and homelessness.

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