Librarian jobs among 'hardest to fill'

WCVB television in Boston brings us <a href="">this</a> article that says librarian jobs are hard to fill. <blockquote>Eisenbrey says EPI data shows labor shortages in a number of white-collar niches, from healthcare workers to librarians, farm managers, engineering managers and environmental scientists.</blockquote> Where do they come up with these things?


Nicholas Fein

So what exactly does hard to fill mean? Generally it means either the length of time between posting and hiring or is a number based on a survey of how long hiring managers thought it was and how difficult it was to find a qualified candidate. Regardless, such numbers are meaningless out of context. Library positions are likely "hard to fill" because of the bureaucracy which makes the hiring process take months at most libraries, the lousy pay (it is hard to find say a fully qualified engineering librarian when they could make 50% more *without* their masters), and the large number of poorly qualified candidates. So again, statistics are meaningless out of context.

Library positions are hard to fill simply because young people are not choosing "librarian" as a profession. They see no long term career-path in it, no payback, no money, no future... They choose another career.

Why are library posts hard to fill?
Someone else mentioned the low pay for the high degree of education required. That is certainly a huge factor.

To me, the bureaucracy involved at many libraries is the primary culprit.

One thing which I have seen (no joke) is a situation where 'x' number of highly qualified candidates must be interviewed, 'x' number must be invited to a second interview, until finally an offer is given to the 'top' candidate. I've seen positions go unfilled for over a full year because they 'needed' to interview 6 people. 4 wonderful people applied. Any of them would have been a fine choice. There was only 1 opening. None of the applicants were hired. Their applications 'expired' before HR could find two more people to apply. Ridiculous.

I interviewed at a local community college. They had a panel interview, on the panel was a sandal wearing long haired guy who claimed to be a professor and 'vice-chair' of the English department. Professor at a community college, if you say so chief.

There were a few inital questions, and then the panel started its questions. One of the librarians asked my career aspirations, one asked where I saw myself in 10 years ( I lied through my teeth - it was certainly not stuck in some crappy JC library on weekends.)

Then the professor asked if I were any kind of cereal what would I be. I had to ask if he meant what type of journal, or what Journal or what did he mean. He was talking about breakfast cereal. I asked if he was kidding, he insisted he was not.

I said "I put on a tie for this crap?" and walked out. Odd they never followed up.

What type of cereal?

He's obviously a fruit loop!


I've gotten assinine questions like this before too. Amazing.

Many interviewers ask stupid questions or at best, badly worded questions. I love this profession as a whole, but really, there are some folks in our profession who should not go anywhere near interviewing potential candidates.

I cannot believe that people ask things like "what are your strengths?" "what are your weaknesses?" "where do you see yourself in 10 years?" I was asked these types of questions too, thankfully, not for my current position.

For heaven's sake, think about the information you need to know and ask the question accordingly. You should be able to conduct a conversation with a candidate that draws out strengths, weaknesses and future aspirations, without being so blunt about it. Those questions also invite lies, as Mr. O'Neil has kindly pointed out. :-)

Too bad you didn't say bran and when he asked why then you could have said "Because I like to get the shit out."

Job ad gets posted initially, with all sorts of minute qualifications...second masters degree, knowledge of a second language, willingness to work ridiculous hours for low pay and do everything, including waxing the dean's car. Applications trickle in, but initial batch of applicants is rejected because none meet the exacting specifications. Open position languishes till someone rewrites ad and reposts. Second round of folks apply -- less qualified than initial batch...and the downward spiral continues.


And the exact opposite is also true. An initial posting contains inexact qualifications, with the only requirement being an MLS. Then they get a lot of applications (following the same process you've outlined) and decide that none of the applicants are qualified enough to meet the vague expectations that they can't even define themselves.

I'm told that a recent opening at a public library around here attracted 200+ applicants. Of course, we have a good-size library school here...and the number of professional jobs is declining as special libraries keep going away and public libraries suffer budget cuts/reduced hours.

Since I live in Massachusetts and I've applied to librarian jobs I can tell you what the problem is.

For jobs in the Boston public library system (or for boston public schools) you NEED to live in boston to be hired. Not a surrounding community. Boston. Boston is REALLY expensive, unless you want to live in a 300 square yard studio because that's all that you can afford as a librarian. The pay isn't great, and boston is expensive.

For jobs in the surrounding area, the pay isn't great. I almost took an AWESOME job in a public library in the North Shore but as a person with 2 master's degrees I would be taking a substantial pay cut to take that job. Now...if I didn't need the money I would take it regardless, but I am barely able to keep up with my expenses as it is and I don't live an extravangant life. I don't drive, I don't go out, I don't buy stuff I don't need.

As for the interview upon interview upon interview. I had a few of those. They *are* stupid.

300 square foot - not square yard!

I worked at an academic library in the midwest, and if we did manage to attract a suitable candidate, we spent MONTHS dilly-dallying around. As a result, our top picks almost always went somewhere else because they got tired of waiting. Our hiring process took about 1-2 years JUST TO GET PEOPLE INTO AN INTERVIEW. After the interviews, it could be another 6 months to a year before we made an offer. So by then, all the candidates had pulled out, except for the ones who were incompetent/socially dysfunctional/inexperienced.

All I can say is "WTF?!?!?!" seriously?
Evem though most academic librarians are faculty and are required to publish and have academic credentials - it's still a 9-5 job! No one in the right might would wait 1-2 years UNLESS they already had a job and could afford to wait, OR they really wanted to work at that institution and had alternative income streams.

It's true...took two years. In fact they haven't filled my job yet, and I've been gone since May of 2006. That was only one of the problems we had with attracting good candidates. A lot of people don't want to move to the midwest because it's cold, and the pay we offered wasn't competitive either.

Don't forget that some in our profession (and others I suspect) practice some form of discrimination--I've seen it first hand. Some people have an idea of the person for the job--example: A children's librarian should be female and fairly conforming to dress standards. If an actual candidate is interviewed who is, let's say, male with a large tattoo on his arm and a pony tail, but is truly dedicated as a children's librarian, he may be overlooked in lieu of the 30ish lady who dresses nicely and "fits" the image of a children's librarian. My example may be a little extreme but I've seen such hiring practices in other areas. There was a strong anti-male bias at the public library I used to work at--I don't think it's there any longer, thankfully since there has been a changing of the guard so to speak. I think some of those in charge at the time would be shocked at my allegations.

I also wanted to add here that non-MLS/MLIS candidates are often overlooked.
There are MANY qualified candidates that could be awesome librarians, but they don't have an MLS. They probably have a MA/MS in something else, but because of work experience (or personal experience as grad students) they know everything that a public librarian needs to know - it's just that they lack the 'union card' called the MLS

If you don't have an MLS (or its equivalent MS LIS, MSLS, something like that) then you are not a librarian.

I think the MLS is too easy, and overrated, but I don't make the rules. The MLS is the de facto terminal professional degree for librarians, just like the MFA for fine arts or MSW for social work.

If they want someone who has subject matter expertise and some skills that librarians posess, they should advertise for subject matter experts, and frankly I think many academic libraries require more SME than librarians for specific collections .... there should perhaps be a Judicia SME rather than a Juducua Librarian (like this position)
This advert seems more inclusive and probably would not overlook non-MLS degree holders.

The MLS is too easy if you went to a crummy school. It's like any other degree.

And saying it's a "union card" is like saying I couldn't be a cop because of that "stupid camping trip at the academy I didn't go on."

The training provided with an MLS degree is the training needed to be a librarian. If you don't have one then you aren't trained and you can't get in.

And the argument that goes like "I got my MLS and all I had to do was make collages file stuff" doesn't mean that people without MLSs should be librarians. It means that some people WITH then should be librarians either.

Unless you want to be a cataloguer or a hard-core paper based reference person, then you shouldn't need an MLS. I personally don't buy the "no-MLS=not a librarian". Some of the most noteworthy librarians didn't/don't have an MLS ;-)

That would be because the minimum job requirement is a MLS/MLIS. Why would you apply for a job when you don't meet the minimum requirements?

I got my MLIS because I wanted to a be a teen librarian and those jobs required it. Simple as that.

"Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds"

-Candide by Voltaire

And if it comes out that you are a republican you might as well be Hitler.

If you are asked your political affiliation or views then your interviewer has broken the law and you don't want to work there.

If you mentioned it you're a schmuck.

>If you mentioned it you're a schmuck.

And if you have a political blog and the employer Google's you then what are you?

And I am not talking about a controversial political blog but some run of the mill political commentary with a solid statement that you are republican. The free thinking, open to all points of view, library world will not hire you.