Joking about jobs situation painful


AshtabulaGuy writes "This was drafted to be submitted to Library Journal for BackTalk but due to its publication schedule it is submitted with some minor adjustments for the community here to chew upon... April Fool’s Day is traditionally a day of fun. For librarians everywhere it is a day when we watch Wikipedia wondering what may happen (this year saw the introduction of the "vandalize this page" button for a brief time). Over at Blake Carver’s shop, known as LISNews, a story was placed online this year with links to all of the "fun" at LJ’s site.
For "NexGen librarians" like myself, though, one of the jokes hurt. Not every "NexGen" finds work immediately after leaving school. Indeed, many scrape, claw, and have to fight to even get interviews that they will probably not succeed at. Over the many recent months, I have remained proud of graduating from my library school and having been inducted into the my chapter of Beta Phi Mu. Although pride can be a nice thing, pride does not pay the bills and I have had many crop up while I have been seeking work. I must admit I have had a post-master’s job. I wish it had lasted longer. Due to a housing conundrum (not appropriate for a professional cataloger to live out of his car parked outside the library) I had to give up the position after the temporary housing that was arranged ran out. After that I have not dawdled but have attempted diligently and earnestly to seek work (even work as a custodian, if necessary). I have even traveled abroad to seek work and due to interesting immigration problems I wound up turning down an offered contract that would have seen me moving to the other end of North America to work in a foreign land. Those two things have been exceptions. More often than not I have been told I am just too young to work. More times than I care to admit hiring librarians have exercised "good business ethics" in hiring out of work librarians with five to twenty-five years experience who are willing to take entry-level salaries rather than hire new information professionals like myself. With as many rejections as I have received after aggressively marketing myself (doing everything "right" in preparing and sending applications), frankly I have been questioning why I still try.
Not every "NexGen" has an iconoclastic air of superiority about them. Many are humble, quiet, reserved people. Many have personalities of their own who want to add some spice to life but not tear things apart. Many are willing to work hard if you give them the chance.
For many new information professionals thirty years of age and younger, the joke about "NexGens" on April Fool’s Day hurt. To see something like that undoubtedly caused many questions to arise, especially for "NexGens" who are out of work, cannot find work, and are desperately having to seek help from their families until they can get themselves righted. Rather than worrying about torture abroad while libraries close domestically, ALA might appropriately consider two questions that that April Fool’s Day piece probably created for many "NexGens".
"Why did I bother spending part of my life learning about librarianship?"
"Why do I keep seeking jobs that seemingly just do not exist?""


I felt very compelled to reply to this post, even though I might not have had a right to. I hope that the librarians reading this are not offended that a non-librarian has this take.I graduated from college in three years, and I immediately went to library school at the age of 21, having never worked in a a library before then. I would have still been there if, for a variety of reasons, I didn't leave. I decided to rethink my strategy, and I am now gaining more work experience in preparation for another attempt at library school "when the time is right."After making that decision, I needed to support myself, and, like the poster above, I would have taken just about any job just to do that. (You see... being in school was financially supporting me.) Fortunately, I was very lucky to get a full-time job in a library. (This is where some of those young librarians with library degrees and without library jobs might feel offended.) I'm among the youngest in the library, and I never forget that. As more time passes since I made the decision to leave library school, I have felt much less regret, to the point that I feel that I actually helped my career path in a positive way.If I had finished up my MLS this spring, then I likely would have quickly found myself homeless and begging for money on the streets. Seriously... do you think it would be appropriate to hire a 23-year-old with a library degree and very little more to be a librarian - someone who might have supervisory duties, and a share of resposibility and accountability for a library's collections and operations? I would be taking a job away from someone who "really needs it," "really deserves it," or "really earned it." (More on this later.)I got two things out of my first round of library school - a small collection of textbooks, and a clear perspective of the future of the work force in the information profession. The ALA is not catering to the needs of the extremely young aspiring information professionals because within its constituency, the youth movement does not seem to be as prevalent as we are led to believe. (The SAA, on the other hand...)The original post brought up, although not in an explicit manner, the issues of gender and marital status, in relation to the professional work force within the information profession. I am not going to pretend that these issues do not exist. I am also not going to go into them any further here until someone reading this seconds the motion to do so.

You could work for DCPL. They are always hiring. They even have to import foreign workers because they have a reputation as the worst place in the world to work for. Bar none. I'm glad I escaped after just over a year.

...some library school professors may not be too connected to what is going on out in the field, and the ones who are may be more connected are probably closer to the library administrators and directors. The same directors who *may* get kudos from their higher ups when they keep salary costs down. How better to keep salary costs down than to recruit more librarians than needed? Just a jaded thought.

When I graduated (in the early 90s) they didn't hide the fact that jobs were harder to get. I think the profession really over-recruited recently and continues to do so because they expect all the baby-boomer librarians to retire soon. (NOT, many don't have enough money to retire early!)

So, if you are currently in library school or a recent umemployed graduate I would offer the same advice that was offered to me:
Take as many paying (or non-paying) internships and volunteer positions as you can; Don't worry about your grades at all, as long as they are decent. On academic library search committees, I honestly looked more at undergraduate grades than MSLS grades.

And, be very flexible in where you are willing to live. And, get as much help as you can on your resume/vita and don't have a web site that might freak out potential sensitive employers (you can always put it back up after you get the job :)

The other poster is right--education is a business, so look out for yourself!

This whole thread is just a bunch of sour grapes. It was a joke, get over it. If I could identify your awful attitudes during an interview, I would never hire any of you.

A little reality check: there are ops. in the DC area and things are a bit better, but quite a few are directly or indirectly related to defense, defense contractor and Homeland Security, requiring, in many instances, secret clearance or ability to get one. Keep in mind that in the last 3-5 years *MANY* libraries have closed in the private and association sector here in the DC area - sectors that once were bustling with jobs before 5 years ago - in wake of the bust and have never been nor ever will be restarted. Those of us who suffered from it looked upon as a significant debacle as regarding the job situation not too long ago.

South shore of Lake Erie in Ohio way to close to Kent State University and its SLIS


Although I don't deny that the profession is to some extent in trouble, I'm interested to know where youall are writing from - I'm in D.C., where I and mostof my UMD library school class have sucessfully found work post-graduation. There are opportunitieshere, if relocation is an option.Cheers,Ryan

If memory serves somebody posted it to NEXGENLIB-L to be chewed on there...check their archives...

I couldn't agree more. Was "asked to leave" my previous job because management couldn't deal with my level of enthusiasm (it made them look bad), and I couldn't deal with watching the place going to seed. Have been jobhunting for over a year with only part-time bites, but p-t doesn't allow much of a standard of living, and of course no benefits.

I wish I still had the actual text. They were offering a new award for NextGen librarian of the year and the criteria included a smug attitude of superiority, under 30 and good looking, and a bunch of other common stereotypes about young tech-saavy librarians. It was only up for April 1 I guess. If they want to defend their April fool issue they should post it again.

Perhaps library schools should look for stubbornness in their applicants. It certainly helps get through long periods of unemployment.I have been unemployed for 5 months, and have applied to about 120 jobs. I have had no offers. This is the second time I have been unemployed for 5 months since earning my MLIS in 2001.I feel like I am banging my head against a brick wall in applying for all these positions that I am not getting.But I am so stubborn that I will continue banging my head against a brick wall until I am employed.Your head becomes numb after a while and it doesn't feel so bad.

Your library school professors are actually aware of the situation, but they get to keep their jobs by telling you jobs are out there. This is what the have to say to get students - paying students - into the programs they teach. But don't be demoralized, rather be prepared, as the Boy Scouts say. E.g., get a 2nd master's degree which you can use the MLS with, or take as many computer software and IT courses as you can and develop a specialty in some IT function or process. Deeply research the books and literature about librarians who have used their skills to go into other fields and borrow from it to apply to your own situation. BEAR IN MIND: there is a GLUT of quality, good and experienced librarians - many without jobs - out there who you will be competing with for jobs upon graduation. Think about it - what of their interests do library schools serve in revealing this to you? None! Hence, they won't. Education is a business - that's reality, hence evaluate what they say accordingly, with the same skepticism you bring to buying any big-ticket item. In light of this, you may want to sit back and objectively, ruthlessly evaluate your options, and decide to simply cut your losses and quit the program for something else entirely. Don't get depressed or down about it, just be realistic. When you are disillusioned, that is, stripped of illusions about something important, you are then free to make real choices based on fact and reality, not spin and distortion that serves somebody else's agenda. Being able to make choices based on fact and reality is a great blessing that puts you way ahead. That's something to be glad about.

what was the joke? I must have missed it.

Well, I'm another young librarian in training, 22 and graduate in August. Suddenly feeling demoralized...

It would be nice if MLIS professors were aware of this situation instead of mentioning at every opportunity that jobs are plentiful and easy to come by.

"The profession is in deep trouble."

Oh indeed, it is. I've been in this occupation for nearly 20 years, and I first recognized it's in deep do-do about 5 years ago. Lots of reasons why I sensed it: library school backwardness (the schools are about 2-5 years behind in teaching what's happening in technology)and total lack of vision and foresight in preparing students for work reality, plus allowing too low of a bar in class requirements; reactive, timid, and technologically ignorant or shallow library management who prefer to hire people like themselves and fire staff who are pioneers and talented and trail-blazers and technologically savvy and who advance the profession in meaningful ways; hot-shot librarian managers implementing solutions that make themselves look good to their bosses in the short term and look even technically cool on the surface but at the cost of reducing the need for professionals on staff while not really solving problems or creating new ones that require other and perhaps inappropriate professions to handle them; gross public misconceptions about the need for supporting libraries in an Internet world, not to mention unbelieveably bad PR and/or marketing or just as bad, good marketing *neglected* by library managements and professional associations (e.g., ALA) and library journals (e.g. LJ) everywhere; and finally, economic globalization. In short, visionless, lazy library school instruction, clueless short-term thinking library management (along with boring, uninspired library literature which managers read), a deluded, misguided public, and global economic forces have all colluded to provoke a crisis in the occupation that is getting much worse. Every library management person and library school instructor and administrator should be tied to a chair and forced, Clockwork-Orange style, to read Tom Peter's book Reimagine! (though it's not about libraries per se, it applies to all organizations)to drench them with buckets of urgency and fear and some inspiration so they have the motivation to begin efforts at turning the profession upside down in order to have any chance of saving it. Unless the latter happens, all those considering library school should find another graduate school program to get into, one which trains you for a job that has a future, with more forward-looking people at the top, if they want to eat after graduating. Don't expect an apology from LJ. They're too blanking arrogant, because their management have cushy, secure jobs. They have *no idea* what it is like to be your situation, none at all, but they want to hold onto their own jobs just a little longer, because retirement age is almost upon them, and they don't want to intefere with that - with their imminent nice pensions and retirement benefits - through *rocking the boat* by *seriously taking up* your petty little concerns, like finding a job. When it comes to their own jobs, they don't have much of a sense of humor either: you can bank on it. And if truth be told, their real attitude and motives as expressed in this incident - and especially as analysed above - occurs in various formats among their counterparts in library school and libraries. Ain't too much hope, is there?

I saw the LJ April Fools joke and thought they were serious. Partially because I saw it on March 31 so the whole April Fool thing wasn't actually there. I thought this wonderful journal had slipped to a new low for the profession, and wrote to tell them as much. What I got back was a "Oh gosh, we're sorry you don't have a sense of humor" reply.The profession is in deep trouble. We have no need to make it worse for ourselves my making fun of what are real serious problems for new librarians. This is from a librarian who has been lucky enough to always have a job from achievement of the MLS, though I worked 39 or 40 hours a week completely unbenefitted for a time. LJ owes the profession an apology, and I don't say that about my favorite journal lightly.

Actually, in my recent job search I applied for about 10 positions and got call backs on 3, none of which were "homeland security" or defense related or required clearances (most *were* federal, though). What you say about associations does seem to be true, but I still think the job market is solid (if not explosive) for librarians in D.C.

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