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Are There Still Librarian Jobs Out There?

The visitors who came to the library where I was working as a substitute seemed pretty sure of themselves. Of course, they would: they were library school recruiters. To hear them tell it, not only are there still librarian jobs out there, but they can’t find anyone to fill them. It’s a nice thought, but is not accurate. There are jobs, and if you’re reading this, you probably have looked at some of them.

The trouble can be that they are in different cities or states, or that they don’t pay well. I used to work as a job coach and monitoring electronic job boards was my duty. At any given time in my area there were at least 10,000 job openings. So when people said “There aren’t any jobs!” I knew that wasn’t true. But if they had said “There aren’t any jobs that will support me that I will actually enjoy working at!” I would have been more sympathetic.

I was one of the lucky ones out of library school. I had already worked as a librarian assistant for a year when I graduated. Then I had that fancy shmancy degree and was suddenly promoted to Associate Librarian, then to librarian, then to Assistant manager, then to manager of a branch. I did not have to wait. In fact I was promoted so quickly that I was a terrible manager: I wasn’t ready.

There were many people in my graduating class who either never found jobs or are still looking for the right one. They all went to school for many of the same reasons I did:

1. The prospect of a satisfying career

2. Love of books and libraries

3. The library school recruiters told them there were tons of jobs

All of those old librarians suddenly can’t afford to retire in this economy. Or they love their jobs and don’t want to retire, for which I say more power to them.

But there are still jobs! There are. If you are considering enrolling in library school (getting a librarian degree), there are only a couple of questions I would ask yourself:

  • Am I willing to move?
  • What is my minimum salary requirement?

You might find that job descriptions vary with pay levels as well. I know people in other systems who aren’t officially classified as librarians that make more than many librarians I know in less economically rich counties and cities. If money is an issue–and why wouldn’t it be?–and you are willing to relocate, you will probably be able to find various library jobs to apply for.

Whether you can get them is another post. Please contact me if you have any questions. I’d be happy to talk!


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  • narlyn umali March 26, 2011, 10:48 pm

    i want to be a librarian,could it be possible?How?

    • Josh Hanagarne March 27, 2011, 8:18 am

      Go to school, apply to libraries until you get hired. It’s that simple.

  • Roger Hawcroft June 9, 2011, 4:46 am

    I’ve been a librarian for 30 years – I’m one of those old ones for whom the youngsters are waiting to retire.
    If you’re thinking about becoming one, my advice is: don’t.
    There are good librarians who are socially aware, hard-working, keep currency with changes in publishing and their subject specialties and who’s prime motivation is to satisfy their clients by exceeding expectations. Unfortunately, there aren’t many of them and they aren’t the ones that are rewarded or who reach the top of what’s inappropriately referred to as a profession.

    Over the last 20 years its become worse with an ever increasing belief on the part of organisational executives and others that we no longer need librarians because we have the Internet. Then again, for years we have been our own worst enemies because of slogans like, ” the best things in life are free” used during library week. In our World, people equate value with dollar values – if it’s free, then it can’t be worth much. The irony being, of course, that libraries are far from free and very resource hungry.

    Yet we’ve encouraged self-interested, ‘network savvy’ graduates who think that libraries are about books and reading and who value containers rather than information. There are two types of employees – those that put time and effort and intellect into servicing clients and those that spend their time cultivating those who can give them a leg up. It’s about who you know, not what you know.

    If you really value books, literature, reading, information – and you are young and seeking a worthwhile career, get yourself into an oversees aid organisation that delivers services to the developing world – teach English, teach literacy, dig latrines, dig wells.

    Forget the developed world library – it’s a sick, sad, joke with little, if any future.

  • Roger Hawcroft November 17, 2011, 3:58 am

    Hello Biff – although your abusive comment is attributed to this web-site, I can’t find it here so I can’t respond directly to it or to you. However, if you really want to understand, you might care to read my comments again … I am far from ‘a disgruntled old codger’, indeed my library won a National Informatics Innovation Award this year after coming 2nd last year – and I have always been an early adopter of technology and generally way ahead of my much younger staff in creating, deploying and utilising it.

    However, my comments related to a question about becoming a librarian and, in the generally accepted understanding of the word, yes, I think it would be bad advice to encourage anyone to do it.

    As Josh says – yes, there are plenty of jobs but whether in North America or in Australia (which is also vast, in case you’re not aware), taking those jobs generally involves moving, accepting low pay, or adapting to an alternatively labelled position which happens to value you’re (supposed) library skills.

    The situation today is vastly affected by the massive change in access to resources and information brought about by digital communication and storage. Yet, the major questions raised by the holus bolus rush to adopt or convert to such technology are not being raised, or on those few occasions that they are, certainly not being solved before the technology is adopted.

    Questions such as archiving; of interactive document versioning and tracking; of verifying authenticity; of putting information in the hands of fewer and fewer vendors and publishers; of catering to those who cannot or *don’t want* to use a computer or view material on a screen – all these and many more are issues yet to be solved.

    The ISO standards for statistical interchange to allow comparison between libraries and libraries and different countries are appallingly written and way out of touch with modern trends. And this last echoes the sad fact that so many librarians are of a pedestrian bent, are barely competent and are absent of creativity, innovation or a real sense of client focus.

    Yes, I too can point to exceptions. There are many librarians of the past and present whom I admire – Ida Gleeson and Alison Crook, for just two. However it is an unfortunate fact that most libraries are dependent on host organisations that do not really understand what they do or why – and certainly very rarely challenge them to do any better.

    The library schools are also far too slow to react to, let alone anticipate change and the role that the ‘library’ will play in the future. If anyone is really serious about librarianship – and if you have the belief that it is about books and reading – then you’re not – the best thing they could do would be to take an interest in, obtain qualifications in, experiment with, and investigate such concepts as fuzzy logic; robotics; the ‘cloud’; social networking; mobile computing; philosophy; good business practice; remote collaboration, protection of privacy, censorhsip; litigation …. and I could go on, but little of it has a place in current library education or discussion – and yet, it all has to do with where information and its ownership, transmission and availability will be governed in the future … very much to do with what, traditionally, has been the province of the librarian.

    The ‘World’s strongest librarian will not be the individual whose only response to reasonable and rational comment and opinion is personal abuse – it will be someone such as Josh – who has the energy, creativity, enthusiasm and courage to set up a blog such as this and encourage robust discussion of significant issues.


    • Josh Hanagarne November 17, 2011, 7:32 am

      Roger, i took the abusive comment down. I accidentally approved it when i meant to hit delete, so it was obviously there long enough for you to see it. I am sorry about that. Thanks for the good discussion.

  • Colleen Nederlof September 9, 2012, 12:29 pm

    I’m thinking of taking my MLIS degree and am getting scared off of it. I live in Canada. I want to work in an academic library and think I’ve been wearing Rose Colored Glasses. What is the fate of academic libraries? Does anyone know? Are we all being replaced?

    • Josh Hanagarne September 9, 2012, 12:57 pm

      Colleen, where are you at in Canada?

      • Colleen Nederlof September 9, 2012, 1:36 pm

        I live in Red Deer, Alberta

    • Nancy October 15, 2012, 12:11 pm

      The MLIS degree is an old out dated degree mainly there for people who are bored with their lives, think they are literary snobs, think that they shouldn’t have to work and don’t want to actually work. This degree I believe is for those who want to hide behind a book. They want society to feel sorry for them and put up a front that they aren’t mentally strong enough for a real job and expect others to support them whether it’s an individual or government funding. Just my thoughts.

    • Nancy October 15, 2012, 12:26 pm

      Each to their own opinion hey Roger? I have had limited connections to people who are thinking of obtaining or have the MLIS. Those that I do know however have a “mental illness” or are socially inapt and turn to these degrees for some reason or another. The limited amount of people I have knowledge of that are looking at getting their MLF or have earned this degree, still are not “ready “ to actually work. So off they go looking for another degree while thinking other individuals , and or government agencies should fund their schooling and lifestyle while they contemplate their life choice and hide behind their excuses of mental illness for lack of working. Different thoughts and opinions. Isn’t that what makes this a wonderful place.

      • Roger Hawcroft October 15, 2012, 3:10 pm

        Yes, Nancy, difference is to be welcomed for its value, not derided. Robust discussion is also valuable for the light it can throw on a topic and the differences in perspective that it highlights. However, rational argument and opinionated comment are not the same thing and don’t have equal merit.

        By your own admission, you know and have known few who hold or are contemplating taking up a library qualification – what then is your basis for the derisive labels you put on *all* who are of that bent?

        You appear to acknowledge that some of that “limited amount of people” to whom you refer have “earned” that degree – which implies worth and yet you go on to deride them for seeking further education. I wonder what evidence you have that they do so because they “still are not ‘ready’ to actually work. I doubt that you have any. These statements also appear to contradict one another for ‘earned’ suggests effort or work and yet you then use the term ‘still’ which suggests that they are continuing the opposite – not being ready for it.

        I wonder, too, why you implicitly negate the value of education and seem, even in your conflicted way, to suggest that ‘work’ (clearly, only as you choose to define it) is valuable and learning is not. If you were to read an earlier post of mine to this blog you would see that I made strong criticisms of library education and actually advised against following that path and type of work. I did so, however, not to deride the occupation or those within it, but because I feel that many things are not right and need to change, and because I know that there are few jobs out there for graduates and those that are usually attract low pay. Indeed, that is precisely one reason why many library graduates actually pursue alternative studies – their aim being to get work, not to avoid it.

        As for the, self-admitted, few individuals that you know who have or are looking towards an MLIS all having a “mental illness”, being “socially inapt” (sic) and “thinking (that) other individuals, and or government agencies should fund their schooling and lifestyle (!) while they contemplate their life choices and hide behind their excuses of mental illness for lack of working.”

        Please explain by what magic you are able to know what these individuals think. Please explain why, contemplating life choices is, as you imply, a negative rather than a positive action. Please explain what you mean by “hiding behind their excuses of mental illness”. It is you who claim that they have a “mental illness” and yet then you claim that they “hide behind” it. Do you believe them to have it or not? Have you some evidence of it? Are you a psychiatrist or psychologist who has treated them?

        And finally, to associate mental illness with an “excuse” is very, very sad indeed and shows a significant lack of understanding of what it means – something I sincerely hope that you never have to experience. It indicates considerable ignorance on your part, as indeed do all. of the opinions you have expressed, as well as a lack of compassion for others and a failure to realise that useful difference in discussion requires informed debate, not just prejudiced judgement and abuse. That is the stock in trade of the worst of the ‘shock jock’ talk shows which thrive on sensationalism, prejudice and the worst of human nature.

        It is my experience the vast majority of those practising in librarianship are compassionate, caring and considerate human beings. Also, working as I do with the mentally ill and those who diagnose, treat and care for them, I know that most are as capable as any non-sufferer of productive and worthwhile contributions to society, including work.

        I sincerely hope, Nancy, that I have simply been taken in and that you are making these comments as an Internet ‘troll’ or at best, as an ‘agent provocateur’ in order to raise ire and get a discussion going. If that is not the case and you really believe the appalling prejudiced nonsense that you express, then I would suggest that perhaps you impose on some others and seek further education to learn about the difference between hurling abuse and creative discussion.

  • Nancy October 10, 2012, 12:18 pm

    The MLIS degree is an old out dated degree mainly there for people who are bored with their lives, think they are literary snobs, think that they shouldn’t have to work and don’t want to actually work. This degree I believe is for those who want to hide behind a book. They want society to feel sorry for them and put up a front that they aren’t mentally strong enough for a real job and expect others to support them whether it’s an individual or government funding. Just my thoughts.

    • Josh Hanagarne October 10, 2012, 12:40 pm

      Thanks for the comment Nancy. I love my job and love to work. That said, I think the MLIS degree is pretty worthless.

    • Roger Hawcroft October 10, 2012, 3:25 pm

      Oh dear, Nancy – how offensive! – and what a terribly false impression you have of why most librarians take up such an occupation.
      I have never yet a librarian who ‘wants society to feel sorry for them’ or is a ‘literary snob’ or ‘wants toI hide behind a book’ – and anyway, wouldn’t that have to be ‘many books?’
      I have worked for the last 50 years. I have undertaken roles including bar cleaner, process worker, milkman, bus conductor, dog-trainer (security and obedience), door to door sales, retail audiovisual and photograph sales, service in the Air Force, Teaching from infant through to Univesity level, and librarianship in a rural and metropolitan areas, in schools and public libraries, in a national library, and in specialist libraries – among other things. I have qualifications in training, in education, in library and information management, in advanced driving, in strategic management, in sales, ethical behaviour, teaching English as a second-language, mulitcultural studies, research, conducting systematic reviewsand myriad other minor areas.
      Despite being a ‘baby boomer’ I also introduced the first GUI based ALIMS into an Australian library, am proficient with both Apple & Windows operating systems, have built web-sites since before the World Wide Web was introduced in 1992 and used the Internet when it was text based only, have created databases for survey and research, for museums, for public display and interaction and for libray management and statistical purposes, as well as many for friends, business and for interest.

      In over 30 years in libraries I have met a diverse range of coleagues with wide interests and dedication, a willingness to give of their time (usually for nothing) over and above what is required in order to assist clients, many with strong social consciences and an active approach to helping improve society. I have found them also to have a diverse range of interests and skills and a willingness to share them in providing essential support to other professionals and community members in all walks of life.

      I reject your comments almost entirely. If the MLIS degree has failings then those can and should be addressed. However, having taught in, worked in, and studied in, a variety of tertiary institutions I know that no course is perfect nor will it suit everyone. I also accept that many have failings. However, it is well to remember that a basic qualification is an entry point from which you can start to acquire additional knowledge and expertise that will enhance your worth as a professional. It is not an end point- nor was it ever meant to be.
      Your comments do a dis-service to an admirable occupation which has served and continues to serve communities all over the world and without which many individuals and societies not have would not have progressed.
      May I suggest that you investigate the role of librarianship and its practitioners and the contribution it has made to society over many years before you mount such an objectionable and scurrilous attack on those who practice it.

      Yes, there are poor librarians, just as there are the less worthy in every occupation. That is not justification for a denigration of the whole occupational group and its worth.

      If you really ‘believe’ this and wish to discuss it further, please feel welcome to contact me directly at roger@hawcroft.net – I will be happy to provide evidence of the speciousness of your claim.

      • Josh Hanagarne October 10, 2012, 3:52 pm

        Well said, Roger. Much better than I could have.

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