April 23, 2017

Academic Library Jobs Increase, Specialize

If you do the math, academic librarianship is a growing field. Therese Triumph, Reference Librarian at Rutgers University, and Penny Beile, Associate Director of Information Services at University of Central Florida, did just that, analyzing positions advertised in 2011 on the ALA JobList, ARL Job Announcements, and in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Triumph and Beile considered only four-year institutions and removed duplicate and part time positions. The result? Some 957 unique jobs, an increase of 6.4 percent compared to 1996. (And Beile can be pretty sure it’s an apples-to-apples comparison, because she co-authored the 1996 study as well.) The number is, however, down 15.5 percent since 1988.

Other common perceptions are that more jobs require advanced degrees, experience, or both, but again, these are not borne out by the numbers. About three quarters (74 percent) of jobs required or preferred prior work experience, down from approximately 80 percent in 1996 and 82 percent in 1988. Meanwhile, approximately 90 percent of jobs required an ALA accredited MLS, the same percentage as 1996 and down from 98 percent in 1988. Some 23 percent preferred or required additional advanced degrees (subject master’s, law, or doctoral), compared to 26 percent in 1996 and 23.7 percent in 1988. However, this study only addresses what is asked for in the initial advertisement—it remains to be seen whether those who possess such additional degrees are increasingly selected to fill positions.

About a quarter (26 percent) of positions included administrative responsibilities, flat to 1996 but down significantly from 39 percent in 1988. The regional breakout, and division breakdown were largely unchanged; the latter includes over half (57 percent) of the ads in public services, 27 percent in technical services, and 15 percent for electronic services.

The biggest change Triumph and Beile found since 1996, and what they called “possibly the most interesting trend,” is the increase in the number of job titles. 2011 saw 30, compared to 22 in 1996 and only 12 in 1988 (a trend also highlighted in LJ’s 2012 Placements & Salaries Survey, likewise inspiring its title, “A Job By Any Other Name”).

“Some of the job titles that appeared in the 2011 study include digital, electronic resources, emerging technologies, metadata, scholarly communication, and web services librarians,” the authors said, “indicating that the primary drivers of this trend are new technologies and digital materials.”


Meredith Schwartz About Meredith Schwartz

Meredith Schwartz (mschwartz@mediasourceinc.com) is Executive Editor of Library Journal.

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