Sunday, October 22, 2006

What Do New Librarians Earn?

Library Journal has published its latest salary survey - and found we've broken a barrier. The average starting salary has topped $40K for the first time. Other findings - 25% of LIS grads found a job before graduation and over 90% of grads had jobs in some sort of library agency. The average job search, however, was four months.

Who's earning the most? "Positions in database management, for solo librarians, and in usability testing helped drive the rise in overall average earnings." But tech services and serials positions actually earn less than previously.

Not everyone's broken the 40K barrier. One of the disturbing findings of the annual report:

Women still eclipse the LIS professions, comprising 85% of the graduate pool reporting employment status. In 2005, the gender gap persisted and even widened. Average starting salaries for women have yet to reach $40,000. They reported an average of $39,587 for 2005 (2.28% increase—less than $1000—from 2004), and this increase was significantly less than that experienced by their male counterparts. Men garnered an average starting salary of $42,143 (a 4.49% increase from 2004), which is 6.46% higher than women’s starting salaries.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

They didn't teach me about this one in library school...

Last night the circulation supervisor walked up to the reference desk and told me in a low voice about something disturbing she had seen outside. Someone had placed a dead raccoon right outside the entrance to the library! The raccoon was dressed with a scarf and a pair of sunglasses, and a cigarette was hanging out of its mouth. To its left was a cardboard sign that read, "Will work for food." The whole situation sounds funny, I suppose, but it was also a bit disturbing and I was really not in the mood to deal with it. I called the library director at home for her advice. She told me to call campus security. An officer arrived 15 minutes later and called it an act of vandalism, so he alerted the cops. A city police officer arrived soon after to photograph the scene. One of the two men removed the animal from the premises.

What is your craziest library story?

Public libraryland

As many of you know, I am an academic librarian. However, I recently stepped into the public library world. Last week I was hired as the Sunday Library Supervisor at my local public library. I will work 12:30-5PM every other Sunday at this library serving as the librarian-in-charge and reference librarian.

It's been a fascinating experience so far. The reference and circulation desks are combined, so there's a lot of traffic. I check out books and check them in, too. I sign people up for computer use. I had my first fiction readers' advisory questions ever, as one elderly woman asked me to help her find read-alikes for the author Lauraine Snelling and one girl wanted stories about Halloween. And I have to get comfortable with the Dewey Decimal System!

I'll keep you informed about more of the differences that I notice as I work more. I also hope to comment on how this experience will improve the service I provide in the academic setting.


I'm on a committee at work that is developing a plan to weed our library's collection of about 300,000 or so volumes. We need a systematic weeding program because we're running out of space. But besides opening up shelf space for new and more relevant library resources, a well weeded collection also can increase circulation. After all, with all the older, unusable things removed from the mix, it's easier to find the good stuff.

It goes without saying, but librarians don't like to throw books away. However, if a librarian takes a reasonable 20 minutes evaluating each volume (checking core lists, bibliographies, total copies in WorldCat, etc.), he or she will need at least 11.5 years. There must be a faster way.

There is! As a undergraduate liberal arts college, our primary weeding criterion can be use. Since my college is not a major research library, there isn't an expectation that we'll keep everything. As such, we librarians simply need to determine what books are being used, and withdraw the rest. And there will be evidence of such use on the date due slip or in the library system.

Also, using use as the primary criterion, we librarians avoid the problem that is encountered when using publication date to evaluate books: accidentally weeding those classics in a discipline published years ago. If a work is truly a classic, one would hope that faculty and students are using it!

We knew that we want to weed at least 10% of our collection, but we needed to determine a definition of "use" for our collection so removal at the shelves can be fast and efficient. So, we selected a statistically significant sample of 500 books (+/- 4.3% error, 95% confidence level). We recorded each book's last checkout date. We discovered that the bottom 10% of our collection last circulated before 1983. If the committee settles on the 10% figure, we'll be able to use this date as our test for each volume.

Yes, the system is not perfect: What about those books that were purchased 5 years ago but have not circulated? What about books in series, where one book was loaned, but none of the others? Or what about books that are used in-house and are never stamped with a due date? What about the books everyone is checking out, but are simply out of date?

Weeding is not perfect; accidents will be made. But a vast majority of things removed are never needed again. And more shelf space and an increase in general circulation are definite benefits.

We haven't started withdrawing anything yet. We just finished our sample and are trying to decide if we want to weed 5%, 10%, 15%, or all the way up to 30% of our collection. Whatever we decide, we have data to let us know when that bottom 5 or 20% last circulated, and at the same time have a convenient rule that staff can apply at the shelf to decrease the time agonizing over individual titles and increase the time we spend providing service at the reference desk, teaching in the classroom, or selecting new relevant information resources. Needless to say, we are excited to begin!

NOTE: For those of you who know where I work, our committee's work is in progress and our plan has yet to be approved by our library's faculty. Thus, the details described here are unofficial and are subject to change!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

ALA Report on Diversity

There's a report out on the diversity (or lack) in the profession, reported in today's via Library Journal's Academic Newswire. It has some interesting and sobering implications for folks entering the profession.

Though there are a lot of librarians nearing retirement, we aren't doing a great job of making room at the table for newcomers. The report says

. . . it is clear we are not integrating our MLIS graduates into library employment. With few staff of retirement age leaving the profession, entry-level positions that should be available to graduates are not. Upper and mid-level staff are not moving up or out, thereby stifl ing vacancies at many levels of library employment.

Looking at the numbers of graduates in years 1999–2000 and 2000–2001, it is clear that individuals under age 35 reporting employment in the Libraries and Archives industry is lower than it should be . . . not only are ALA accredited degrees on the decline, but enrollment is rising steadily. The profession hasn’t seen such low ALA accredited graduation rates since the early 1980s.

So if I'm reading this correctly, people who start LIS education are not finishing at the rate one would expect, and people who become librarians often leave the field. Clearly, if we want to have a healthy profession, we need to work on having have better entry points and stronger career ladders. We worry that technology is going to render us irrelevant - but I'm more concerned that we aren't thinking hard enough about how to support new members of the profession.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Bad Blogger!

I've been neglecting this blog for the past month, but not because anything's wrong - it's just so right that we've been really busy in our library.

We started the year with a new Website design (that we're still tinkering with - thanks, Alec, for your help this week!), a cool new toolbar, a database-driven program for our electronic resources, and a crash course for faculty in some of the new things we've added to the collection.

Instruction's hopping, too, with quite a few faculty scheduling multiple sessions. It's great to have more than a fifty-minute slot to try and cover what is a truly complicated process. And I'm teaching a new first term seminar - challenging, but a chance to get more insight into students' lives and challenges.

All of which is great, but time consuming. I'll try to check in more regularly, now that the first beginning-of-term rush has settled down.

Monday, October 02, 2006

New peer-review concept

Wired has printed an AP story on new peer-reviewing publishing systems in the science community. In a way, I am surprised that these ideas haven't been tried before. There are many social networking sites that work in a similar way (I am thinking about Digg). But I wonder, do scientists have lots of free time to be doing free-lance review work?