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.


Emily said...

Barbara, you're a ray of sunshine!

As a library student, I am painfully aware of this trend, especially here in the Twin Cities.

Many of my fellow students are taking their time getting through the program, perhaps only one class at a time. I also often hear of people who are dropping out because library school "wasn't what they expected".

I'm on the two-year track and constantly scanning job Web sites. Like several of my peers, I need to work full time while going to school. Some people are already working as subs, clerks or media specialists. Those who can afford it take the few available part time positions as clerks or in administrative positions. Many of us also volunteer.

It's frustrating to know that there's not much waiting for us after graduation. While people sometimes joke about it, as graduation draws near, it's not as funny.

We're passionate about libraries and have really good ideas, but there aren't many outlets for all that creative energy. As reluctant as I am to give up on my dream of being a cool, hip academic librarian, I’m forced to consider how I might be able to use my library skills in the corporate world or as a bolster for getting a non-librarian library position like marketing manager or communications specialist.

Now for something more positive – THANK YOU for recognizing that we need the help of current librarians if we’re to be successful. Blogs like this one give us a chance to communicate with other librarians and learn more about the field. Knowing the librarians who inspired us care about our future really is a little ray of sunshine.

Barbara said...

Thanks, Emily - I hope you get a chance to be an academic librarian because we could use some hip and cool :o) - no, seriously, we need the energy of new folks entering the field, but sometimes forget that when we're doing a job search and weigh experience heavily in our screening.

What you also point out is that there are many kinds of experience that might factor into a decision to say "this person could contribute something special" - other than full-time post LIS employment.

Much to think about.