There’s been talk of a supposed “librarian shortage” for a long time, even though there have been librarian job shortages going back to at least the 1970s. I’ve been speculating why this over-recruitment drive and the myth of the librarian shortage have been so popular.
For the ALA, I assumed it was just because nobody there had any idea what they were talking about. This isn’t so unusual in large professional organizations. It’s not like the folks at ALA have any investment in library jobs. After all, they don’t work in libraries.
Then I reasoned that they want more librarians so that those who do manage to get jobs will join ALA and give them more money. The amounts are so small that it’s not much of a power grab, but still it’s something.
As for the schools, the motivation has obviously been money. Their incentive is to have the lowest possible curricular standards and the highest possible tuition. With distance “education,” they now have that, plus they’re accessible to anyone in the country who can fork over several thousand dollars a year to attend. It’s perfect!
Now I’m wondering if the best explanation isn’t a conspiracy theory. The ALA and library schools are in a conspiracy to depress salaries so that libraries can get the best librarians for less money than they might otherwise be able to do.
I hate to bring in Marx, but Marx’s analysis of capitalism works here. If there is a pool of available but unused labor, it depresses salaries all around and means that the employer rather than the employee has maximum choice. Is this being done deliberately?
Average librarian salaries and the fact they haven’t gone up dramatically should make it obvious to even the village idiot librarian that there’s no librarian shortage. Surely, the ALA and LIS professors can’t be that stupid. We’re talking LIS profs and not physicists, but still. Anyone with even the slightest familiarity with economics would know that there’s no librarian shortage.
So, I’m suspended on the horns of a dilemma, if dilemmas have horns. We have two possibilities. Either the ALA folks and LIS professors are so stupid that they don’t understand how there can’t possibly be a librarian shortage, or they are conspiring to oversupply librarians so that salaries remain low while lying all the time about a supposed shortage.
It’s possible to excuse the LIS schools from the conspiracy, but only if we conclude that they’re either too stupid to realize there can’t possibly be a librarian shortage, or that they are so greedy they deliberately oversupply librarians because it makes the most economic sense for the library schools rather than the profession.
With the ALA, it’s the same. They escape only if either they’re too stupid to know better, or if somehow having an oversupply of librarians benefits them in some way. However, the economic benefits for ALA are considerably less than for the library schools.
Library schools make their money up front, taking thousands from students who don’t really know what to expect. But if librarians are oversupplied and salaries therefore are kept artificially low, then there’s less money for librarians to give to the ALA.
Thus, I guess we have a trilemma. The people who run library schools are either stupid, in a conspiracy to keep librarians salary low, or boost their own finances at the expense of the profession and the poor dolts fooled by them.
Whereas the ALA is either stupid, in a conspiracy, or stupid in a different way.
There’s probably some better explanation, but I can’t think of it at the moment. Unless it’s the librarians who are stupid enough to fall for this in the first place.