By: Rachel Esguerra
November 2, 2014
What does that number represent? Is it the population of some place? Maybe it’s the number of miles between different galaxies. Perhaps it’s the amount of seconds in thousands upon thousands of years. Sure, it could be any of those things, but in this case it is the amount of student loan debt in America. Some contributors to this debt are folks just like us – Master in Library and Information Science students and graduates. It has to be paid back somehow, right? Yet, will there even be a job for us to make the money to pay back the loans?
I’m sure many of you experienced the puzzled looks from friends and family when you told them about the degree you were pursuing. You probably got some off-the-cuff remark about how you must love to read. Or how libraries are archaic because of the internet. I’m also sure many of you are familiar with the article from Forbes back in 2012 stating “The low pay rank and estimated growth rank make library and information science the worst master’s degree for jobs right now.” (Smith, 2012)
Of course seeing as I myself am an MLIS student this comment makes me bristle. However, there certainly are some numbers out there that would indicate to some that pursuing an MLIS will not be a fruitful endeavor. According to ALA’s 2014 State of America’s Libraries Report, the job outlook is sluggish.
The overall job outlook for librarians remains slower than average, with a projected growth of 7% over the next decade. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ reports that the 148,400 librarians in various types of libraries in 2012 earned a median annual salary of $55,370. The bureau projects that there will be an increase of 10,800 library jobs by 2020, but that the new total might include 40,600 jobs that open due to retirements, career changes, etc. (2014)
A 2005 article by Rachel Holt and Adrienne L. Strock discuss the entry level gap. “The number of full-time, professional positions in libraries is dwindling, salaries continue to be depressed, more entry-level positions are being liquidated or “deprofessionalized,” and qualified job seekers are having trouble securing work.” (2005) They found that entry-level jobs are very few and that new librarians were almost always passed over for those with experience and/or upper-management or faculty-level credentials. The authors also mentioned a trend that both academic and public libraries have been practicing which is filling positions with people who do not even have an MLIS degree. Academic libraries would advertise for specialist positions, usually technology based, while public libraries were “cutting professional librarian positions into part-time jobs and giving them to paraprofessionals.” (Holt, 2005)
A 2004 article by Robert R. Newlen and Teri Switzer addresses this very issue. They listed pros and cons of accepting a paraprofessional job with an MLIS degree. One of the pros was that paraprofessionals are doing a lot of tasks which were once exclusively for librarians only such as reference, circulation and cataloging to name a few. Also, “a key advantage of starting in a support position is learning the nuts and bolts of the organization’s operations as well as becoming familiar with the people, politics and inner workings of the organization.” (Newlen, 2004) However, they also listed some cons of doing this mainly that management may only see them as support staff and hence be overlooked when librarian positions become available.
While this all seems bleak these articles were written ten years ago and the profession and libraries themselves have evolved considerably as was indicated in previous blog posts. In fact, there are many jobs out there that don’t even have the word “librarian” in them and jobs that use “librarian” in a very non-traditional way. Here are some examples found from a 2011 article so imagine what other jobs have come up since then!
- Web Analytics Manager
- Geographic Information System Map Specialist
- Curator, Media Resource Center
- Archival Consultant
- Head of Information and Research Services
- University Archivist/Professor
- Teaching and Services Learning Coordinator
- Associate Director, Technical Services
- Metadata Analyst
- Data Officer
- Web Project Manager
- Records and Information Manager for the Federal Trade Commission
- Information Management Officer
- Senior Business Intelligence/Technical Analyst
- Intelligence Associate
- Data Management Analyst
- Department Head, Music, Film and Audio
- Electronic Resourcing Specialist
- Digital Manuscripts Project Manager
- Librarian Relations Manager for Thompson Reuters
- Wine Librarian
- Clinical Informatics Librarian
- International Librarian
- Assistant Visual Resource Manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Sound FX Librarian for Lucas Films (!!!)
Just as we’ll always have a need for dentists to look at our teeth and accountants to look at our taxes, people are never going to stop seeking information in all its forms. Acclaimed author Neil Gaiman said it best – “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers, a librarian can bring you back the right one.”
Hang in there!