Two articles that are making the rounds this morning are from the NY Times ("Lock the Library! Rowdy Students are Taking Over") and the Wall Street Journal ("The Changing Role of Librarians".)
I’ve put the Journal article behind the cut. I think it’s worth reading if only because it validates something I’ve observed in the years since I got my MLS: librarians are leaving the public sector for the private sector. That makes sense to me. In the private sector the money is better, the work might be better tailored to an individual’s interests, and talent and exprience generally find rewards. That’s not always true in the public or non-profit sector. But the article doesn’t say much about the 60+work weeks private enterprise sometimes demands of its employees, nor what kinds of benefits those fancy higher-tech jobs have to offer prospects. (In a few cases, only the truly ambitious or masochistic need apply.) Still, the WSJ is still an 800-pound gorilla in the business world, and maybe library directors will read it and think of ways to lure and keep talented librarians on staff.
I’m less sure of what to think of the Times article.
It’s easy to see it as a rant about how the nasty librarians can’t control the kids in the library–or, if you’re a librarian, as a rant about how the nasty kids won’t just shut the f&%k up in the library–but if you dig down a couple of layers, the writer does point out (near the end) that this happening in a well-to-do suburb and these kids have literally nothing else to do in their area except hanging out at the library. Are there no parents in suburbia? Youth centers? Anything? Hello?
Maybe growing up in the city spoiled me as a kid (I don’t know) but library visits were a big deal in my family. We were taught to revere the places–heck, libraries were much holier than Shabbat services at the synagogue. Raising your voice was something we just did not do. Ditto talking back to librarians, running around, etc. Clearly I’m part of an older generation. Maybe we were too polite for our own good. We had good libraries, though. And parents who taught us to care about them.
Well, what do I know? Read the article. Let me know.
The Changing Role of Librarians
As New Technologies Revolutionize Job,
Low Pay Could Hinder Growth
January 2, 2007
; Page B8
The librarian with cat’s-eye glasses, a faded cardigan
and gray hair twisted into a bun is getting a makeover.
Romina Gutierrez, 30 years old, is a part-time
librarian at the Princeton Public Library in
She has a master’s degree in art history, and is
studying for a second master’s in library and information science from
. While Ms. Gutierrez plans book fairs and author
discussions and helps patrons at the
find research materials, her work also runs to scheduling film screenings and
Librarians still work the reference desks and run story time, but
today they may also research a director’s filmography on the Web for a loyal
fan, convert microfilmed images of newspapers to digital format, or teach a
seminar on the history of fashion. "No one could have dreamed 50 years ago
at the wealth of information that can be accessed," says Ms. Gutierrez.
Internet access, search engines and other new technologies have
revolutionized the field of library science. That, in turn, is changing the way
libraries reach out to communities. Many public libraries have cafes, shops,
space for business meetings and continuing-education classes, and even areas
where patrons can watch sporting events.
library, the librarians
are casually dressed. It isn’t unusual to see an adult studying a few feet from
children singing nursery rhymes. The $18 million, three-story building has
become an after-school hangout for students from nearby middle and high
While well-funded suburban libraries can afford these new tools
— and hire people trained to use them — industry groups warn that urban and
rural public libraries are struggling to finance equipment and hire qualified
staff. They also worry the aging librarian population won’t be replaced fast
enough. The American Library Association in October released a study that
predicts a 5% increase in the number of librarian posts and library-technician
jobs — which don’t require a master’s — by 2014. But nearly half the more
than 105,000 [RS–??]
Although library-school enrollment is healthy, low
salaries and limited opportunities for advancement as baby boomers put off
retirement have helped push 44% of librarians with master’s degrees under age
45 — who make up just a third of the library work force in the U.S. — to
leave for more lucrative jobs in finance, academia and the government,
according to an ALA study and a report from Library Journal, part of Reed
Elsevier Inc. Public-library salaries are low, and the private sector or more
specialized jobs may be more lucrative. "The Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Google and engineering firms all hire librarians," notes
Jennifer Inglis, 33, a children’s librarian at Marlborough Public Library in
"Until we can get some of the people who are
eligible for retirement out of those jobs it will be hard to move up people to
replace them," admits ALA President Leslie Burger, the director of the
Princeton Public Library. "Since most people are looking to locate to
highly desirable areas, it’s become difficult to attract candidates to rural
areas and really poor urban areas as well," she adds.
Talk of a shortage doesn’t worry many veteran
librarians, who remember similar predictions in the late 1960s and early 1970s
— followed by a glut of job candidates a few years later. As new
information-retrieval systems simplify tasks and government budgets tighten,
growth in the profession may be slower, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Quarterly.
"I think people are exaggerating the
shortage," says Ms. Inglis. A summer stint as a library clerk inspired her
to trade in her job as a social-studies teacher for a second graduate degree,
this time in library science. "Competition is tough" for jobs, she
notes. A number of her classmates struggled to find jobs, while others had to
piece together two part-time posts.
To widen the recruiting pool and better reflect the
population, library groups want to expand the hiring
base. Of the more than 45,000 public librarians in the
, 80% are women and 89% are white, according to a 2006
and Library Studies,
, are establishing leadership programs and using
mentors to help build managerial skills. Some local libraries sponsor their own
programs; the New York Public Library funds scholarships to encourage clerks
and library assistants to further their education.
But as long as salaries remain low, public libraries
may have a hard time recruiting. Salaries start at around $39,000 a year,
according to the
, while library-science degree holders in other fields
— such as law librarians, digital librarians and librarians for research firms
— start at around $47,600. And education is expensive. Annual tuition for the
two-year library and information-science master’s program at the
at Urbana-Champaign is $19,260 for out-of-state residents and $8,864
Write to Aja
Carmichael at firstname.lastname@example.org
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