Did you know there are roughly 5000 MLS/MLIS graduates per year? And if the 2-month sample of job openings discussed in this article in Library Journal is representative, there are roughly 400 full-time entry-level jobs being offered per year (this was circa 2005–imagine what it is now).
Yet, Pitt’s iSchool is hiring five new faculty members (to replace others–no new positions that I’m aware of) and making no noises about decreasing admissions. I have no reason to believe the other 61 ALA-accredited library programs are much different.
How is this ethical? How do the deans of these schools sleep at night? Also, why are people still applying? (It might be that story that keeps going around about all of the librarians who are going to retire any moment now. Magically, despite the losses everyone’s sustained in retirement funds. And of course people retiring from a lifetime of library work will leave entry-level positions open in their wake.)
My concern a few months ago, upon hearing that the acceptance rate in our program exceeds 90%, was that it was “watering down” the profession (I’m not trying to demean myself or my classmates, but even if we were a truly exceptional bunch of applicants, numbers like that shouldn’t happen). Given Pitt’s high ranking, I assume we aren’t some crazy outlier; there must be other programs with comparable numbers. And that is a serious problem.
But then to learn that the bulk of the graduates in our school and others will not be finding full-time professional positions, on top of that? It frustrates and angers me. (Full disclosure: I’m one of the lucky ones; I can go back to my previous field if no library offers me a position before my loans come due. But I no longer see the MLIS I’m earning as the valuable asset–the clear gateway to a profession in which I could really improve the world–that I thought it would be. I am disenchanted, I guess, on top of my frustration and anger.)
Am I the only one? No, you know what? I know I’m not the only one. But why aren’t we doing something? Why aren’t library students picketing in the streets–or at least our deans’ offices? Why aren’t we writing to our schools’ chancellors/presidents, to the ALA Council, to local and regional newspapers, to anyone who will listen, to prevent yet another crop of students from making the same mistakes we did–such as believing the ALA’s over-optimistic job predictions? (Maybe we just don’t know where to send our correspondence. Who listens to library students? I mean, there are 5000 of us graduating each year; individually, we’re expendable.) Why aren’t we demanding answers from our professors? Why do we let advice seeker after advice seeker on blogs and forums and listservs wander happily off, thinking their BA in history and semester of shelving books will be sufficient background to get a job in the library profession, if they just get that MLIS?
What’s wrong with us?