Do Senior Librarians Have a Moral Obligation to Retire?

Considering the current economy including the weakening job market, should senior librarians retire to make room for younger librarians? That's the question asked in Law Librarian Blog's poll at that is open to all librarians. Please take a minute to contribute to the poll.


One might as well ask if the young do not have a moral obligation to put their lives on hold and wait until the elderly drop dead. Either is a stupid supposition in a free society. In a free marketplace, everybody competes for what is out there.

There is nothing that cannot be found offensive by someone, somewhere.

I agree with Fang-Face completely.

No one has an obligation to retire, librarians may have a need to maintain currency in the use of new tools - that card catalog will become a quaint piece of retro furniture one day, but if one finds their work fulfilling and it allows them to be productive, they need not step out of the way for some kid to come roaring in to push wikis and blogs.

why don't they ask if the young librarians shouldn't just shut the eff up?
(I think this is secretly a swipe at John McCain. Yeah, he's old.)

But there are a few very vocal ones that for whatever reason, have not broken into the profession. So they blame the "old librarians." I hope that doesn't include me--I'm a newish librarian (2.5 years), but pushing 50 and will likely work to at least 70 being that I'm scared to death of being broke before death. I'd hate to have some youngster encourage me to get out of the way.

I have known a lot of librarians who SHOULD retire. I'm not saying that every librarian over 65 should pack their bags, but... listen, I have seen sweet little blue-haired ladies absolutely refuse to go to a online catalog, because "You just can't trust those computers." I have also worked for a librarian who wouldn't buy movies that were "R" rated, any fiction with racy covers, and bought every christian fiction novel she could get her hands on, simply because "that's what me and my friends like these days."

Come on, grandma. It's time to hang it up. You're not only holding back the career of a new librarian on their way up - you're also holding back our profession.

Should have never considered the profession or should have been encouraged to do something else, other than library work. These librarians also clog the system. But I suppose every profession has those types, young and old.

Fair enough, but I would say that the percentage of librarians >50 who should not be in the profession are greater than the percentage

I am getting a feeling that most of the respondents in favor of getting rid of the ol'geezers are of this conviction because the older librarians don't use the new and shiny technology, and don't want to. Fair enough, however think of the administration point - the administration is not pushing these people to learn and apply what they learn!

I live in a state where to be a public librarian (or most academics) where all you need to get a job is an MLS (or in my case alternative MS/MBA combination + lots of library experience). There is no requirement in my state to keep up with professional development. This is flawed! I think that the hiring bodies (towns, cities, universities, whatever) need to make pay increases, or retention of a certain certification (that requires professional development units each year) as a condition of employment. This way there are is no 'anger' (for lack of a better word) toward older librarians that remain in their positions and 'do nothing'

I assume by 'old' you mean over 65 (general retirement age).
I am in my late 20s. I don't have an MLS. I have gainful employment in a library. I REALLY don't get the mentality of complaining that the ol'geezers aren't retiring to make way for fresh blood. If the library (public or academic) field does not have opportunities GO FIND SOMETHING ELSE!

I know most people with an MLS like working as a librarian, otherwise they would have not gone to grad school for an MLS (quality of the MLS not taken into account) so they don't want to do something else. Well tough! Artists can't (generally) make enough money from their art, so they take up other jobs to support what they like doing. That's the nature of the profession these days, and you just have to roll with the punches until you get your chance. No need to push people out just because life isn't fair and you can't get a librarian job.

Isn't it a problem that we're not certified professionals? If we required regular testing and certification to maintain our status as information professionals, then the senior librarians who keep up with the changing standards of the job could stay as long as they liked, and those who've let themselves slide into obsolescence would have to leave.

Then, we get to keep the senior librarians who remember how things used to be and are up on the latest technologies and service philosophies. Which can also assist with transition--the seasoned professionals can mentor the young Turks until the former inevitably retire. Too often you see veterans just pitched off the shelf after their expiration date.

[Speaking as 5 1/2-year MLS-holding public librarian in his early 30s.]

I'm not young nor am I old, however, I do believe that people should retire by age 70, and that this will ultimately help the economy. I believe this to be true no matter what type of job someone has. A retired individual can always take a part time job to remain active and supplement his or her income. The City I work for has guy in a top position who is in his 90s... He says that he intends to die in his chair in City Hall. At this point, all he is doing is taking a full-time job away from someone who needs it, be they young, old, or in between. As someone who probably won't see a red cent of Social Security when I retire, it really pisses me off to have this kind of attitude coming from someone who is able to collect the money I'm paying into the Social Security System.

Another thing that pisses me off is when I see celebrities like the billionaire Olsen twins taking up space at a primo university like NYU. All this does it take spots away from some poor saps who needs to get into college in order to earn a living. Case in point, these kids have more money than God, they went there to party and when that got boring they dropped out... Because of this two kids who would have otherwise got in either went to their secondary choices, or were saying, "You want fries with that?" until a spot actually opened.

The 90 year old at city hall has made his living. The Olsen twins have money. They need to make room for those who need the job, or need the spot at NYU.

The old guy gets social security checks, and the Olsen twins as you say have more money than God. They need to give back they have the ability to help others less fortunate.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

It takes a village!

Are you out of your mind?

What is to say that the old guy doesn't need the money, perhaps his prescriptions are a grand a month? Who is to say the Olsen twins did not intent - and do not intend- to complete a college education. Did you go to college and never blow off a class?
By the way God has no money, he does not need it.
These people are just as entitled to their jobs, or places in college as you are. The old man has skills and abilities that you can only dream of, the college students obviously met the requirements for matriculation.

If you think people should step out of your way because you want something they have, then you are a self-important spoiled brat.

It's exactly this sense of entitlement that is eroding contemporary society. I don't need the old man, or the spoiled brats to get out of my way. I'm skilled enough, and fortunate enough to have just the job I want, where I want it so this has little relevance to me personally. I do however, see that this attitude perpetuates the haves getting more and the have nots getting screwed like they always do just so that people with money and a huge ego can get their kicks. It does take a village... I would just prefer it if every village didn't have an idiot.

Yes, just what I said, you are opposed to the haves getting more. You know those people who through hard work - even if that hard work involved bad acting as a child- are getting more while those who sit on the arses all day, didn't work for the city for five decades, and who didn't study hard enough to get into NYU are left out in the cold.

Again I implore you, listen to the wisdom of the ages.
From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

We don't want people who have honestly, legally earned their money to be able to just spend it as they see fit. We don't want them to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Make them quit their jobs, make them drop out of school - they have enough money.

Yeah, self-absorbed I'd say the label fit fairly well.

I don't think senior librarians have any obligation to retire. And this is coming from a new MLS grad considering fast food work (despite the lack of benefits) because I'm having trouble getting a library job.

I don't think that anyone (no matter their age) should be forced to retire just because of their age. I *do* think that people have a moral obligation to retire when they stop learning or become an obstacle in the work place - but I've seen that happen in people at age 35. One of the best librarians I know is 102 and has more energy than me on some days.

No one has a "moral" obligation to retire.. Deciding someone is an obstacle is very subjective and that's treading on dangerous territory.

There are people who "check out" of their jobs (library pun intended) in every field at any age. You think that only happens in the library field and not in the business world too?

I have seen people just out of Library School at 26 years old who have no clue what they are doing and those in their 60's who are up on the "latest technology".

Personally, I left the public sector and now work in the private sector but who knows I might return one day to the public sector. I am still a Librarian and work in a Librarian related capacity. I am nowhere near retirement age but when that time comes no one is going to force me to retire because they think I am too old. I became a Librarian because I wanted to and knew damn well it paid squat. Yes it is hard to get a job in the field and it will continue to be that way. The economy is in the tank and it appears it is hard to find work right now in any field except maybe health care. That said why would anyone with a good job who is in their 60's who still feels able to work and who wants to work give up their job because someone new to the field wants the job? The benefits alone in the public sector are reason enough for some to keep working, some of my friends still in public libraries have told me as such.

As for the Olsen twins and "favoritism and school" well hey maybe that is the case maybe not. That is life but you make your own way in life and can choose what you want to do about it. Sometimes life just isn't fair.

...then regardless of your age, you should either shape up or get out. However, I have found the laziest pieces of crap to be old, entitled librarians. They don't have to retire, they should just stop being an embarassment to the profession and poison to their respective workrooms.

The old (ove 65) should go. If we were in a profession where ability determined your position then it would be diffrent. However, many of us are in Unions who protect are job at all cost. This applies to all jobs, it's a moral obligation!!!

If the "old" can spell any better than you, then they deserve to keep their job!

Achieving librarian ship being dyslexic is no small feat, sorry my spelling isn't up to par. But you chose not to attack my argument so I presume you agree with it. Thanks.

I work at a public library (with a union) where increases in salary and other benefits are based primarily on longevity versus performance. I think it should be the reverse. If an employee's performance is lackluster, his annual pay raise should reflect this. As it stands now, most employees advance to the next pay grade unless their performance is noticeably subpar. It's my belief that rewarding longevity over all else has contributed to a generation of "vest and rest" librarians who have little or no incentive to enhance their performance, especially in the area of customer service. That said, it is the library administrator's obligation to dismiss those who are not performing at a level that meets the institution's (hopefully) high standards.