I’m fortunate enough to work in a library that has a pretty active new-, future-, and experienced-but-interested-in-new-librarians’ issues group (was that a parallelism win or fail? who can say?), Future Librarians and Information science Professionals, or FLIP, which was definitely one of the things that I found attractive about the job, when I interviewed. I just attended my first meeting today, where we talked about one member’s move into a new job on campus—it sounds like a great opportunity—and how that relates to our library and the campus at large. People also asked how I was settling in, which was nice. And we talked at some length about various library schools’ approaches to distance education, the shortage of cataloging professors, and the recent LJ Placements & Salaries Survey results (more analysis and discussion here and, to go ahead and expose my feelings on the matter, here). It was definitely good to have that dedicated time to sit with a group of coworkers I don’t necessarily see every day (some I do, some I don’t) and discuss issues, both close to home and about the profession at large.
As far as the Salaries & Placements thing goes, I really feel like I’ve beaten the subject to death, already, though that was based on pre-economic-crash data, which may or may not have been all that compelling. Given LJ’s recent findings, I feel validated in my anger (if not in my wording)—though I would honestly rather have been wrong, in this case. My point: the ethical argument for keeping so many library schools open, accepting absurdly high numbers of applicants, and pumping out graduates, when there are so few jobs, continues to elude me. There’s the argument that this is just a pendulum swing, that it’ll be fine in a few years, but that argument is rarely backed up with any data; meanwhile, libraries are closing and laying off people left and right, filling the marketplace with a bunch of experienced librarians, on top of all the new graduates (and we’re supposed to believe they’ll be reopening as soon as the economy starts an upswing?); retirement funds aren’t exactly up (30 percent losses take a while to fix, even in a great economy); there’s a frightening trend toward part-time, rather than full-time, positions; and there continue to be vague potential future threats to the field (which, if one is to believe Tim Spalding, are dire—see his discussion of ebooks today). (Not sure I agree with Mr. Spalding, but there are plenty of very real threats out there, in addition to the possible threat ebooks might pose.) Even if everything does right itself in a few years, what are this year’s and next year’s and the following year’s graduates supposed to do? Why is the survival of 60+ library schools considered more important than the survival of the profession and its newest members? How, I ask again, do the faculty and leadership of these schools live with themselves?
I don’t understand the lack of anger. Are we all just so consumed by the business of keeping our libraries running that we don’t have time to worry about the 5000+ kids being duped into $30k of debt for, essentially, nothing? (That’s assuming 2000 or so do find jobs that pay some portion of their debts—not a wild assumption, but not a given, either.) I get the lack of action—none of these schools will be shutting down or shrinking their program any time soon. That would cut into their bottom line, and schools were hit hard by the economic downturn, too. Library programs are a great source of cash. So, no action, sure—upsetting, but understandable. But why so little outcry?
I got sidetracked. That was going to be half a paragraph. But it turns out the degree-in-hand (or, well, in-the-mail) and the job don’t suddenly make me comfortable with my own library school experience, with the general employment rate for new librarians, or with the continuation of the cycle for current and future library students. Who knew.
I feel sort of guilty talking about it, now that I’ve ranted about the joblessness problem, but my own job really is going well. I’ve had a cold all week, which kind of set back my learning schedule a bit, but even through the haze of cold medicine, I feel like I’m getting a grip on a lot of the things I need to know, both technically and interpersonally (?). I’ve got the bulk of the committee I’m supposed to put together, I went to the first meeting of a committee I’m supposed to join (and, truth be told, it’s a pretty cool committee—all about eLearning), I have a list of tasks for the next year, I have a huge to-do list (both things given to me and things I came up with and have to run by that first committee I mentioned), I have a plant in my office, and I haven’t been stopped when trying to leave through the back door, behind the circulation desk, in over a week. :) In short, this is starting to feel like “my job,” rather than, say, someone else’s job that I’m just trying to cover.