Think Librarians Are Hot? Not So Fast
'Librarian' may not really deserve a place on the top 50 career choices of 2011. Our nation's geek love is driving people to love books and love libraries. It even coerces people to don glasses, wear buns, and become librarians.
All of this has some supposedly economic basis. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics declares that librarians are a hot commodity: "job prospects are expected to be favorable", with many opportunities due to retirement. Is this hype? Probably. Unemployment, part-time work, being forced to work shelving books, and a limited career path face the would-be professional librarian.
Think of library science as technology meets liberal arts, with a healthy dose of SQL, databases, and human-computer interaction coursework. The education can be challenging, as library science is really a soft computer science degree.
There are 57 Master's level programs accredited by the American Library Association, churning out a total of 6,500 new Master's of Library Science (MLIS) graduates per year. Libraries require this Master's degree for almost every public and school library position. Even more astounding, academic libraries typically require two Master's degrees, the MLIS and another Master's in a subject specialty.
These 6,000 new librarians then run into the reality of finding positions actually within libraries. Part time work, work below the educational level, an informal apprenticeship program, and other issues face would-be librarians. Many positions prefer to hire candidates who have library experience, a Catch-22 that permeates the system. Often "non-professional" work is required before cinching down a part-time position, often without benefits. Note: the broad term "non-professional" means anything from archivist to book-shelving. Another key element is that the majority of job openings are going to be due to retirement, which means that applicants are waiting for senior staff to retire in a heavy recession.Continued on the next page