The first article, focuses on the CIPFA library stats for the last year and although there is a decrease in visits, loans, etc, the most startling thing to me was the decrease in library staff. The number of library staff fell by 3.4%, whilst the number of volunteers rose by 7.7%. There are now 17,111 library volunteers and 24, 765 library staff. Okay, there are still nearly 8,000 more library staff than volunteers, but the gap is evidently becoming smaller and smaller. This is worrying for any library staff, but even more so for new graduates from library degrees. It really resonated with me because I know many of my classmates have found it difficult to find library jobs and one of my classmates has decided to volunteer in an Italian library for 3 months. Others are working on temporary contracts, part time or as library assistants. I myself am on a temporary contract, but in this climate library graduates will take almost anything to get experience in their desired field. It seems that work in public libraries is very hard to get, with volunteers slowly replacing staff.
Andy’s post is about lack of prospects and jobs for library graduates in America, but it made me think about the job expectations I had when I began my library course. I had graduated with an English degree and so had my friend above who is now in Italy. We joked about how an English degree made us unemployable and we wanted to do this course because it would give us a professional qualification, thus making us more employable. We were told wonderful stories by our tutors about how people even find jobs before the course is finished and how great a library career is for prospects. Now, a year on, I am feeling quite different about this. In a similar way to some American LIS graduates, we were mis-sold a dream. The ALA encouraged people to do LIS degrees because of the ‘greying profession’, and whilst I can say that CILIP has done the same, we were certainly given an impression of the career through rose-tinted glasses by our course tutors.
However, when I look at the details, they didn’t hide anything from me but just tried to be positive for me I guess. We had a presentation by the careers advisor who said that 100% of graduates from my course were in employment a year later and that the average salary was £17,400. However, when I looked over the slide from the presentation only 5 people gave information. If this was a beauty advert claiming that 100% of 5 people were spot free after using your product, they would be sued by Ofcom!
Still, £17,400 is not a large salary. When I graduated from my first degree, I was told that the average graduate salary was £18,000. Why would doing a MA give you a smaller average salary? I didn’t understand it. I thought it would give you a larger salary. I am lucky enough to be earning slightly above this average, but I know from some jobs I did look at, they are not all.
n.b. Lately I have been a bit obssessed with photos of dogs in halloween outfits…thought this was appropriate! (And would slightly lighten the mood)
This quote from the library journal research re: library graduates, salaries and job prospects also really resonated with me:
‘Disappointment and disillusionment were words that the 2009 graduates used frequently when describing their postgraduate expectations. Some even expressed the wish that they had selected different areas for their graduate studies, such as health-care administration or nursing. Yet others felt great satisfaction with their new jobs but tempered it with comments that they considered themselves “very, very lucky” to have found a full-time, permanent position with an adequate salary in a bad economy.‘
Especially that final line. I am ‘very, very lucky’ to have landed myself a full time job in this climate. It is still temporary, but it looks like I might *fingers crossed* be getting an extension on my contract and I count my blessings nearly everyday when I come into work because I know that so many of my class mates haven’t been as fortunate.
Finally, I was wondering what you tell people who express an interest in a library career? Of course the ALA aren’t going to say ‘don’t bother, there are no jobs’. I had a colleague who expressed a desire to do his library degree. He had many years of experience as a library assistant and I do think that he would make a good librarian, but I was honest with him and said if you work hard and are lucky you will find a job, but there is a lot of uncertainty around at the moment.
I think this is why networks for new professionals are necessary now – the LISNPN offers a valuable networks to anyone from any sector of library & information work and careers guidance also. Networking is also a great way to share and gain information, because when you’re out of a job, you can feel separated from the career. Online networking helps people keep up to date no matter what their employment status.
I could probably go on for a lot longer about my concerns over the librarian career progression & prospects, especially in public libraries, but sometimes I just need to tell myself I am lucky to have a job and great experiences along the way.