Will the puff pieces about how the world needs more librarians never cease? This one from Philadelphia has got to be one of the silliest in a while, because it’s not even very puffy. It claims that library school enrollment in the Philadelphia region is increasing. That might be true, but its definition of a library school is suspect, at least by ALA standards.
It has some of the ingredients of the standard ALA-inspired propaganda effort. Why has the enrollment increased? According to the article, it’s "at least partly the result of a report in Library Journal magazine, which suggested in May 2000 that two in five library directors were planning to retire by 2009." That Library Journal magazine is always up to something! There have to be some steps in between, though, because I don’t how a librarian manque can is going to read a nine year old magazine article and say, "Hey, 40% of library directors will be retiring by 2009. I should go be a library director! That sounds a like a lot of fun! Hmm, it looks like one goes to library school, and then gets a job as a library director. How hard can it be? After all, I love to read." If that’s the thought pattern, we don’t need those folks in the profession. Fortunately, if that’s what they’re thinking they’ll never get jobs anyway. Even if they weren’t thinking that, they might not get jobs. Besides, LJ just "suggested" it. What sort of fool bases a career on that?
Next comes more of the sordid story of the librarian shortage myth. "In June 2005, the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington responded by announcing $21 million in additional grants dedicated to recruiting and educating a new generation of librarians." Yes, it certainly did. You might remember that several hundred thousand dollars of that went to the University of Missouri to pay for the graduate education of several LIS PhD students, as if any of them will ever be librarians. But what the heck, it’s only our tax dollars wasted. They’ve been wasted on much worse things, I guess. At least nobody died.
Consider the library schools that have increasing enrollments: Drexel, Rutgers, and…wait for it…Kutztown University! Huh? Apparently they have both a "traditional undergraduate program" and an "online graduate program" in library science. That’s news to me, not that I live in Kutztown. They might have a graduate program, but it isn’t ALA-accredited. Where do the librarians with degrees from non-ALA-accredited programs get jobs? Does anyone hire them? Let’s not even think about that undergraduate program. What "librarian" niches is that supposed to fill?
As a propagandistic puff piece, it seems a bit confused. The title is upbeat: "Booked: The happy state of courses for librarians." That sounds good, right? A happy state? But what about the bad news?
"You might think librarians are going the way of card catalogs. After all, 11 of Philadelphia’s Free Library branches nearly closed late last year, and the number of public school librarians has dropped by half in the last 15 years. Yet local colleges tell a different story." What!? It’s as if someone tried the standard propaganda and failed. Librarian shortage. IMLS grant. Library school enrollment finally increasing because of these deceptions. Then the author wised up and realized that libraries are in trouble and they don’t really need librarians, without even knowing there were already too many librarians even before the recession. Philadelphia libraries might close. The Pennsylvania State Library will probably be firing half its staff. Even the school librarians around there are being fired.
"Despite Philadelphia’s being the birthplace of the modern public library, these future librarians likely will have to go elsewhere to work." Good thing those Philadelphia library school enrollments are up, though, because the graduates of these programs will be in demand all over the country. "That means regional librarian students are being tapped to work elsewhere. [Drexel library school dean] Fenske recalls being contacted by a suburban municipality outside of Los Angeles. It wanted to send a recruiter to Drexel to find a suitable information specialist." That seems very economical for California, because it’s not like they have a library school in Los Angeles or anything. I hope those Drexel students weren’t hoping to become California school librarians, though, because those poor folks are getting fired.
The current and probably future recession just makes the years of lies about the non-existent librarian shortage even more annoying. This article is an example of of the confusions inherent when ideology meets reality. For years, the ALA and library schools have been actively recruiting students with the claim that there will be a librarian shortage or that librarians will be retiring. For years, graduation rates outstripped employment rates for new graduates. We can ignore those old graduates, though, because they’ve already been fleeced for their year or two of library school. What about the ones coming through now?
The logic of the ALA shifted for a while, and the problem was a lack of library directors. I pointed out long ago that those library school students graduating weren’t going to be getting all those empty directorships, and the small number of directorships compared to the large number of middle managers and lower level staff meant that few openings would occur, and that was assuming the directors even retired. What are the chances of that retirement by 2009 now? I know of some librarians already in their 60s and making no plans for retirement because they can’t afford to. Were I a library director, I wouldn’t retire. I’d work until I dropped and tell that newbie library school studentpanting for my job to bugger off.
Yet again, we’re left with increasing library school enrollments and shrinking job prospects. This isn’t good for anyone. It just drives down already low salaries and makes us all more vulnerable to the lurking mobs of unemployed librarians who want our jobs.
This was going somewhere, but I lost track of the argument. It’s because I’m so annoyed over the whole thing I can’t think straight.