Are There Too Many Librarians?


COLLIB had an interesting discussion recently that was set off by a simple job announcement. Someone was having a bad day and responded to the announcement with a rather spirited series of questions that set off the usual \"librarians are underpaid\" thread that we\'ve all seen about a million times now, but this one was interesting because people started to discuss not the lack of pay, but the lack of candidates for job openings. With articles like Where have all the Librarians gone shedding some light into the new world of the MLS, it seems obvious we are in the midst of a change in our profession, or at the very least, we are faced with an increase in career options. I started to think, are library schools spitting out too many librarians? With fewer graduates wouldn\'t salaries go up?

Librarians are underpaid, we all know that, is this causing graduates to move into other areas of work with an MLS?

More...Bowker’s says there were 4,529 MLS’s granted in 1998, Of that number, 240 were Unemployed and 2,229 had a status for those who got jobs:
Public - 435
Elementary & Secondary - 330
College and University - 267
Special - 204
Government - 206
Other - 108

Seems like a decent unemployment rate, but what is the other half doing? Can we assume they are in libraries, or have they made the jump to something else.
Several people on the COLLIB thread mentioned a smaller number of applications/resumes for an open position, some receiving as few as 5 resumes for an open position. Are positions that require a masters degree, and 3 years of experience really worth $25 grand a year? Someone can go work at a or maybe in the private sector business world and make double that. Is it realistic to believe that someone who has spent at least 5 years of their life in college and another three cutting their teeth in any entry level job will jump at a chance to make $25 grand a year? I made that much when I was waiting tables at Chi-Chi’s!
In the current issue of American Libraries Job Ads, there are more than a few jobs with starting salaries in the 20’s. A look at the \"Regional Salary Guide\" makes me want to cry.

You may have noticed that many positions are posted and re-posted to various lists. I see the “search re-opened” tag added to more than a few job openings now. Is it just the salaries? Or could it be the lack of qualified applicants? Why, go into a job that pays $25K -- or even $35K -- in a library when the private sector pays more? Are the re-postings maybe due to qualified applicants dropping out of the library world and moving to the or business world?

One man on COLLIB said:
“Is it a coincidence that the lowest paying, hardest working, longest honored faculty positions on the entire campus are in an academic specialty still dominated by women?”

Are the low librarian salaries in fact “a holdover from the bad old pink-ghetto days”? This is a profession dominated by women, and historically they have been under paid. As more men move into the field will salaries automatically improve? Will the “glass escalator” raise salaries for the entire profession?

How can libraries hope to compete with a starting salary that is $10 or $20,000 more than an opening that requires 3 years experience?
None of this takes into account the amount of time it takes for the typical academic “search committee” to find a person for a job. Apply in May and get hired in October? Why wait for months, go through several grueling interviews, and then make $10 or 20,000 less in a library? Add to that a second masters degree and you have an easily passed on job opening.

One of the best parts of this thread was the “Favorite Excuses for a low job salary”. While the excuses where funny in themselves, it’s just sad that librarians need to hear excuses as to why they are not making any money.
So, are library schools turning out too many graduates? Would a sharp decrease in graduates drive up the starting salaries, or would libraries be forced to hire fewer librarians and cut back on services to make up for the increase in salaries?
Is job hunting that much easier for new librarians, was it easy for you to find a job last year?
Will the results of this shakeup be fewer and fewer competent librarians being educated, and hired by libraries?

I have no answers, only questions (it’s much easier that way). Maybe someone else can supply some answers.

Keep one thing in mind, my questions do not imply any crazy ideas on my part, they are simply questions, things I wonder about.

-Special thanks to Steve Cohen for some help on this one.

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