October 10, 2015

The View from the Schools

In 2009, there appeared to be an overall decrease in the number of students graduating, with an average reduction of approximately 7% reported by the LIS programs. This suggests that students may be taking longer to complete their studies given the current economic environment; there may be a decrease in overall enrollment in the LIS programs; or students might not be completing programs owing to a lack of available financial assistance through employer tuition reimbursement or student loans.

The reduced graduation rate affected large and smaller programs alike. (From the graduates’ point of view this could be seen as a positive, with fewer new graduates entering an already stressed job market.)

Fourteen of the LIS programs reported a decrease in the number of job announcements they received. The decreases ranged from a high of 74% fewer openings received over the previous year to a low of 5% fewer (on average, 22% fewer job announcements were received). This is the second year in a row of programs reporting fewer job announcements (there was a decrease of 22.5% in 2008). Among those programs that reported a decrease, the most significant reductions appeared to be in the Midwest; yet, this is a contraindication of the modest growth in placement and salaries that the graduates reported. However, graduates in the Midwest also noted much higher numbers of placements in jobs outside of libraries and information agencies, supporting the notion that there were fewer library jobs available. Along with fewer job vacancies, the LIS programs also reported that it was more difficult to place students in 2009 than in previous years. Even the few programs that reported a slight increase in the number of job announcements concurred that it was more difficult and took longer to place graduates than in 2008.

Thirteen of the programs reported that it was more difficult to place graduates in public libraries during 2009. This was reflected in the graduates’ own reports of finding public library jobs, with an overall decrease of 8.4% in placements. The other type of library in which LIS programs commonly reported difficulty with placements was school library media centers. Much like public libraries, the number of school library placements that graduates reported was down from 2008 (just over 5%). Many of the their comments also reflected the experiences of the LIS programs when they detailed that elementary and secondary schools were not hiring library media specialists and it was difficult, if not impossible, to make the transition from the classroom to the media center under current budgetary constraints.

Despite difficulties in finding public library jobs, a large percentage of grads from Clarion University, Kent State, University of South Florida (USF), and Texas Woman’s University (TWU) landed in a public library job (averaging over 40% of the reporting grads for each institution). Interestingly, both Clarion and TWU reported public libraries as one of the areas where placements were difficult for their grads. Most of these programs reported that students have several options to take general public library courses and children’s and youth services and to specialize in public library services. Not surprisingly, the percentage of public librarian jobs contributed to the salary levels achieved by the graduates.

This year’s “hot” specializations included archives and digital libraries/digital archives. Sixteen of the participating LIS programs reported archives and digital libraries as either a specialization, a transcript designation (certificates and concentrations), or as a new area of study. While it bears further watching, there was an increase in the number of graduates finding jobs as archivists (steadily increasing from 4.4% of the placements in 2007 to 5.7% in 2009). Of the programs indicating archives and digital libraries as a specialization, University of Michigan (12.4%), Simmons (12%), and University of Texas at Austin (10.7%) showed the strongest level of placements.

For many graduates and programs, it’s not just about libraries and information agencies. Courses are being cross-posted with other units within the university, such as book arts, instructional technology, history, Asian studies, etc. Students are able, and often encouraged, to take two or three courses in other departments to complement their LIS studies and career goals. In addition, some of the schools are requiring graduates to complete a cognate of study outside of the LIS program in areas of business administration, computer science, or psychology, among other disciplines. Three of the programs, including SUNY at Albany, University of Texas at Austin, and University of Washington, indicated that students frequently take coursework in public affairs and public policy to enhance their knowledge of nonprofit organization management and information policy. University of Washington noted that some of its students pursue Master’s in public affairs in conjunction with the MLIS degree.

Author Information
Stephanie L. Maatta, Ph.D. (slmaatta@gmail.com), has been on faculty at the University of South Florida School of Library and Information Science, Tampa
Stephanie L. Maatta About Stephanie L. Maatta

Stephanie Maatta, Ph.D. (es7746@wayne.edu), is an Assistant Professor at Wayne State University School of Library Information Science, Detroit

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