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Loans for Library School?

For some reason I can’t quite understand, this blog gets under a lot of people’s skin, and subcutaneous blogging can be messy sometimes.

All the anti-AL fanatics should get the twist out of their knickers and realize this blog is a public service. I guess I’ll have to be more specific for some of those people.

AL Public Service Announcement #1: If you can’t afford it without loans, don’t do it.

That advice is good for a lot of activities, and if more people had followed it the housing bubble that destroyed so much of the economy would never have happened. But in this case I’m talking about library school.

I’ve been giving this advice for years, but not enough people are listening and then they regret it, like the commenter last week who wrote: “I’m $50k in the hole for a degree, graduating in December, with no jobs to be had.”

Ouch.

If you take out big loans for library school, you’ll graduate owing more in loans than you’ll make in a couple of years even if you get a job, and those loans can take a long time to pay back, and by the time you’ve paid them back with interest, you’ll have paid more than you’ll make in four or five years. Do the math, people.

Back when the ALA was still foolishly touting a librarian shortage, I was warning wannabe librarians that the market was actually quite tight, and that was before the latest recession.

And when the market is tight, what you don’t want to do is spend a lot of money you don’t have getting a degree that’s not going to get you a job. This isn’t a degree in comparative literature, after all. If you get an MLS, you expect to get a job. Why else put up with the tedium of library school?

There are jobs that are worth taking out loans to get. If you’re going to be a surgeon, it might be worth it, but not a librarian.

Even if the ALA hadn’t been promoting a librarian shortage that never was or will be, it was never a good idea to take out a lot of loans to pay for library school, because librarians on average don’t make a lot.

There was also never much of a market as such, because most libraries, through choice or necessity, will take the cheap candidate over the best candidate if there’s a conflict, so salaries stay low for most jobs. Look around at most of your colleagues. Do you really think your library is paying top dollar for talent?

Librarians know this; they just don’t want anyone else to know it.

Am I suggesting people not go to library school? Not necessarily, though if you’re thinking about it disregard every positive statement about the job market uttered by the ALA or your prospective library school. And there are things you can do to improve your chances, but that’s a topic for another post.

But if you can’t afford to pay for library school upfront, don’t go. A couple of years later, you might end up tens of thousands of dollars in debt with no good job prospects, and you’ll regret it.

Sure, right now you think you won’t. You think it’ll be worth it in the end, when you’re finally basking in the warm glow you’ll get every day from doing nice, helpful library things for people.

It doesn’t help that the sort of people who end up in library school are often naive and idealistic, with the exception of the career changers later in life who just know that anything would have to be better than what they have been doing. A lot of people want to be librarians because they genuinely want to help people.

That explains why librarians in general tend to be nice people. It also explains why they sometimes end up heavily in debt and without good paying jobs. Idealism often shatters on the hard rock of practicality, like when you have to choose between paying rent and paying student loans.

If you don’t take out loans, how can you pay for library school?

The cheapest way is to go to a school that will give you a tuition waiver and a stipend for an assistantship of some sort working in the library. That way you get library experience while getting paid to go to school. You won’t make much, but if you live frugally for a year or two, you’ll be better off in the end.

Next best, work in a library somewhere and use your meager earnings to pay for library school, the absolutely cheapest library school you can find. That will also give you valuable work experience, plus the important lesson in frugality that will serve you well as a professional librarian.

After that, the next best is having someone else pay for it, like parents or a spouse or a sugar daddy or sugar momma. Basically, anyone but you. That’ll free you up to spend time doing library work no real librarians want to do, but without actually getting paid for it. Welcome to the exploitative world of internships!

That’s the end of the list. Others might say, work at any job and pay for school yourself, but if you’ve never worked in a library, I suggest not going to library school. You really have no idea what you’re in for. I won’t make that a hard, fast rule, but it’s a good rule of thumb, and it’s another PSA.

There, you’ve had two public service announcements in just one blog post. If you’ve never worked in a library, don’t go to library school; and if you go to library school, don’t take out loans to pay for it.

If you ignore my advice, you’ll probably regret it, but you won’t be able to blame me for that one.

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Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    This is what I tell anyone who asks me about going to library school. I also think that your post “Come to Library School! Just Don’t Expect a Job!” should be required reading for anyone considering library school.

    I took out some loans to go to library school, though not anything as ridiculous as $50k. I was lucky enough to have undergrad paid for, parents who gave me some tuition money, and a spouse with a job capable of supporting us while I was in school.

    I have a good job now with a great salary for the area I live in, but I didn’t get that job until two years after graduating. The first year out I had to work retail and volunteer and intern to get experience The second year out I worked a part time job that paid peanuts.

    I had a support network that let me work for less than the market rate for two years, but if I didn’t have that support then I wouldn’t still be working in a library now. I know there’s no way the bills would have gotten paid. People I’ve stayed in touch with from library school are in the same boat either working other jobs and volunteering when and where they can or working a part-time job that doesn’t pay nearly what it should.

    I love the job, don’t get me wrong. I just think that people considering library school should be more aware of the underemployment and unemployment that’s par for the course after graduation unless you already have a job in a library and are getting a degree so that you can move up within your organization.

  2. John Farrier says:

    I never considered taking out loans while I went (98-01). If I didn’t have enough money during a semester, I just took fewer classes. Of course, the price was only $250 a credit hour back then.

    Given the financial return, it’s probably a bad idea to go to library school full time. If possible, work and take classes in your spare time.

    Sleep is optional.

  3. Nerdy Librarian says:

    I’m one of those weirdos who knew from a young age that library school was in her future and was able to get through it without debt through a combination of generous grandparents and frugal living.

    I agree that you shouldn’t do it (however you pay for it) unless you truly have a passion for it and are willing to weather the long job hunt and temporary survival jobs that make you want to scream “I did a Masters for this???!!”.

    Because there’s nothing glamourous about being a librarian, it is easy to be surprised to discover a job hunt that feels much like trying to get your big break in Hollywood. Morbid jokes are made about waiting for someone to die so you can apply for a job. You can feel like a vulture.

    As Andrew describes above, I too had a support system that allowed me to (after a six month search) take a job that paid less than it was worth but gave me experience. That job, luckily, led to other opportunities.

    It is possible, but an MLIS isn’t really a fast track anywhere. You really have to want it.

  4. Walt Lessun says:

    I took out a student loan as a supplement to my assistantship. Landed my first professional job 90 days after I received my MSLS. Luckily, this was 1977. Shortly thereafter we were hit by massive inflation and I ended up paying off the loan with the change I collected on my dresser. [I kept the change jar right next to my "Whip Inflation Now" button.]

    • Andrew says:

      I’ve noticed a definite difference between older librarians and recent graduates. Before going into the field I talked with friends and family who went into the field ~30-40 years ago and their impression was that you would make a livable wage at best, but that you would be able to get a job easily enough.

      Needless to say that’s changed quite a bit since.

  5. Suzy says:

    Unfortunately, I think you are wrong about the following “if you’ve never worked in a library, I suggest not going to library school.” I made the choice to pack up my life in Chicago move to Pittsburgh to go to library school without any previous experience in a library.

    While in school I took a paid assistant job at the university library and a unpaid internship at the public library to gain experience. Once I graduated I moved back to Chicago which is a very difficult place to find a library job. I applied to numerous jobs and was able to land a part time position 2 months out and got a full time position at a wonderful library in less than a year.

    Although I regret choosing to attend Pitt over the less prestigious college in the Chicago area I am happy with my decision (library school is joke no matter where you go). I would never advise someone against following their dream but I would encourage them to be realistic about it. I worked hard to land a job tirelessly sending out resumes and following up on interviews. I would encourage those considering library school to talk to a librarian about their options, but don’t let those jaded by the profession stand in your way.

    • tarma says:

      There are no jobs to apply for!! In many parts of the country the state has been cutting and cutting higher ed. Municipalities are laying off teachers and are barely held together by string and gum. Show me the jobs (and not some director level position somewhere – nobody is going to hire me as a director this early in my career). I’m splitting my time between two different libraries and I’m barely getting the hours I need. Both directors want to give me more hours, but there budgets have been cut again. This is the reality in libland right now. When people do retire they are not replaced. It’s a downward spiral.

  6. Amy says:

    I would suggest considering attending library school in Canada. The schools are still ALA-accredited and the tuition is much lower — especially if you live somewhere that there is no state school program (e.g. Massachusetts).
    Between savings from teaching abroad for a year, my earnings the summer between years of school, and a part-time job the second year, I not only came out debt-free, but with a little bit of savings to cushion the transition into a job.

  7. Spencer says:

    I went to grad school to be in charge. I took management classes- thinking at the time that this was the library equal to an MBA. that’s what I treated it as- only a little more so because you can’t even get your foot in the door without one.

    All I can do is keep my head in the game and do what I until I can make that opportunity happen.

  8. Lola says:

    Totally agree with you here. I am constantly being emailed by friends and friends of friends asking me about going to library school. None of them have ever worked in a library and my advice is always the same: don’t do it. I still owe $12,000 in grad school loans and I graduated in 2005. Since then I’ve moved quickly into management and actually have a great job that pays well, but that was a mixture of good luck and the fact that I am not a stereotypical librarian. Still, the money I pay monthly on my student loan would be much better spent elsewhere!

  9. Livlife says:

    Where was this column in 2006 when I was headed to library school?

    I had A) never worked in a library and B) to take out substantial loans.

    It took me three years to find a job in the field and it pays peanuts. It’s FT work, sure, but the pay is a joke.

    I was also taken in by the ALA’s “tons of jobs” “librarians retiring soon” song and dance. If I knew then what I know now (and, of course, if AL had written the dratted column sooner) I wouldn’t have done it.

    The job is fine, it’s better than waitressing, but there are many jobs I could have gotten and many paths I could have taken that would have left me equally or more fulfilled.

    Full stamp of approval on this post. Nice work, AL!

    • muppetzinspace says:

      I got similar advice when I told a friend who’s a public librarian that I was going to library school. She said, “you’ll be poor but happy.” I actually got paid more in my previous work as a secretary than as a librarian. It boogles the mind that people would pay me $40k a year plus full benefits to do their xeroxing and draft form letters but no benefits and less than half the pay for staffing their library. I love what I do know, and would never go back to being a secretary, but it’s much harder to do what you love and barely get by versus doing a job I absolutely hate and doing reasonably well financially.

  10. Mr. West says:

    Has anyone ever investigated where and how the myth of the great coming “librarian shortage” came to be?? Who inside ALA was promoting this?? Was there documentation of any sort to back up this coming shortage?

    …in short, whoever was responsible, should be made accountable today for the thousands of library school grads who spent thousands of dollars on a non-existent future!

  11. Mr. West: I’m not sure where the myth started, but I know that it was perpetuated based on data from the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The OOL stated, accurately, that many would turn 65 in a certain timeframe…what the data didn’t take into account was that people may not retire at 65. When the economy tanked, it necessitated more librarians to work past their retirement and…here we are.

    I don’t blame the librarians that can’t retire–a lot of them would probably like to, but are financially unable to do so. The whole thing is a big mess.

    • joneser says:

      Not just that, but the same tanking economy meant that, even if librarians did retire, their jobs were cut up or just plain eliminated. So it has been a double whammy.

  12. Andy says:

    My response to Suzy (#5) is that I’m glad it worked out for you, but your experience is an anomaly. I will swear up & down until they bury me that you should not get the MLS unless you’ve already worked in a library for a few years prior to library school. Even then, you’d do well to find some other way to channel your career interests besides the MLS. End of story. The profession is effectively closed for business.

  13. Mr. West says:

    I would agree Andy, unless you are planning to move to some remote location in Canada or the US where there are still some vacancies in hard to fill senior management positions. Other than that, take my advice and do as I did when faced with no jobs, enter an MBA program! While we are admittedly in a recession, an MBA is well worth pursuing based on a dollar/value ratio. The amount of time and effort that you will put into an MLS, you could easily do an MBA, and be better off for it!

  14. canlib says:

    It made me crazy when I was in library school that 50% of the class had no library experience whatsoever. Not only did these well-meaning, but ultimately befuddled people contribute exactly zero to class discussions and group assignments but I think only a handful ever found work in the field. One of my profs who’d actually worked in a library in the past put it best: no one on a hiring committee gives a rats about what’s on your transcript – it’s what’s on your resume that counts. Without any library experience none of those classmates got a student library position or co-op and without those student experiences they were basically unemployable in the field.

    So, go to library school with no prior library experience and take a seat from someone with half a percent lower gpa who might have made a great librarian, get passed over for all the student jobs and graduate with no prospects and no means to work in the field.

    • muppetzinspace says:

      The main reason I didn’t have library experience while getting my MLIS was because I wasn’t taking out loans. I needed a job that would help me make ends meet while paying for my tuition, a library gig wasn’t going to pay me nearly enough as a job as a secretary would. Now I’ve got a library job that I’m over qualified for, but atleast I don’t have loans to pay off.

  15. Randall says:

    Hey, I worked in a library before I went to library school; and I went cheap, paying my way through, with no loans. But I still regret going–big time. Help! Somebody help me out of this BORING job!

  16. Austen says:

    I’m a sophomore in college and becoming a librarian is my career goal. I know from the research I’ve done about this position, that previous work experience in a library setting is *key*. I’m 8 months in my job research (PT) and both academic and public have barely anything. I live on the east coast, and we have one county that is continuously hiring for PT work. Put in applications for different branches over the spring, summer, and even to this week. They send an e-mail out every business day thanking us for our interest. Me and the 50 other applicants for that day. Most positions are open for 2 weeks, so I can only imagine the sheer volume.
    I feel like I’m a few steps ahead figuratively because I know where I need to be, but getting there is like running into a brickwall. Trying to even volunteer, I’m coming up with the same problem.
    I’m not giving up because I know this is what I want to do, but it’s becoming more like a test of wills.

  17. Josie says:

    I worked in the library field for 8 years before deciding to take the plunge and get my degree. Thankfully, mine wasn’t real expensive, although I do have loans to deal with. I graduated in December and found a position in June close to home that is full time and pays pretty good. I’m very thankful that I have this position. I realize that it is not the norm. I do believe that while the degree was a requirment for the job, the job experience I had sealed the deal. I chuckled to myself when hearing the other students in my class that had no library experience citing “loving books” as the reason for getting the MLS. They were in for a large surprise I fear.

  18. Annoyed Troll Bridge Librarian says:

    AL has been posting this information for quite some time, but unfortunately, she is correct: about student loans and the lack of jobs, leading to debt and defaulting on said student loans.

    As a librarian for nearly 15 years, I have had to seriously talk to two friends about not going to library school and wasting their time. They both now are happily ensconsced in other careers.

    The job market in the last ten years for librarianship has pretty much dried out if one is not willing to relocate and get paid less for doing more, or become an administrator.

    Let’s face it: new MLS grads are screwed. An MBA sounds much more practical in this dull, corporate world.

    • muppetzinspace says:

      Even people with MBAs and JDs are having trouble getting employment with the kinds of salaries they were promised before they started school. Most grads across the board are screwed. The only fields that aren’t are IT and health care.

  19. Newbie says:

    Getting an MLIS was a good investment for me. With a liberal arts-related Bachelor’s degree, one’s options are fairly limited. I graduated last year and had a year’s experience as an intern and library assistant. A position in my institution opened up right as I was graduating, and I got the job. Yes, I do have substantial student loan payments I need to make each month, but I make enough to live comfortably, and I get to do work that fulfills and challenges me. What’s more, now I’m on a career path where my prospects will (hopefully) continue to open up as I gain more and more experience and meet more people in my network.

    Did I get lucky? Yes, no doubt. I would hesitate before recommending the MLIS program to someone, but everyone’s circumstances are different. My friend graduated right before me (with experience as a public library assistant, as well as fieldwork) and also got a professional job right when I did. There are jobs out there, but yes, they are scarce and the competition for them is fierce. I’ve gotten rejection letters where the committee told me that they were dealing with 80-100 applications. Even with a solid resume it’s difficult to make yours stand out.

  20. Far North Librarian says:

    I tell people not to go to library school. There are no jobs, and I can’t believe the debt load recent grads have.

    I worked in libraries from grade school on, and after college (BA in English, silly me), was still working in libraries as a clerk. I decided to go to grad school, and managed to do it without going into debt even though I went out of state (savings, GRA, tiny income courtesy of my grandfather). I had $300 to my name when I graduated, but I also had a job offer and could live in my parents’ basement. (This was 1984.)

    It’s worked out for me, but my GRA in grad school was in the computer lab. I got that because I had started an AAS in computer systems — and there’s the path I could have taken. (I finished that AAS degree, which helped a lot.)

    Still, I like the library field, and I have had definite feedback that what I have done has been a help to people. I haven’t starved in the process, or stressed on a day-to-day basis over the job (there’s always something to stress over at some point, and I’ve seen the budget cuts hit hard). I’m a special librarian in a one-person library — for me, this is ideal.

    But I tell people not to do it. Well, I also say that if they want a chance to change the world, go be a children’s librarian. If there’s a job to be had, it’s the place to be in encouraging literacy, learning, reading, and all the stuff that saves civilization.

    But maybe civilization doesn’t want to be saved. There’s a thought to keep you up at night.

  21. J says:

    You have a better chance getting a job in a library than in a museum (art or otherwise), trust me, I’ve worked in both. The key (for both) is to be able to move.

  22. Ivor Engine Driver says:

    For those of you employed as public librarians with loan burdens, I highly recommend looking into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program offered through the Department of Education. If you consolidate your loans with the government, and apply for the Income-Based Repayment plan (IBR), you can cap your loan payments at 15% of your household income, adjusted by the number of dependents you have. Make 120 on-time payments over a ten-year period, and the balance will be forgiven! You will have to declare that forgiven balance as income on your following year’s taxes, but still, it’s a good deal.

  23. While I agree that this is sage advice, I am one of those who took out an outrageous $60K in student loans going to library school, I do have a job that I love and I wouldn’t have been able to get my degree without borrowing a large portion of the money. I am a resident of a state that does not have a library science program and I had to pay out of state tuition thus the reason why it was so expensive. That said, I am stuck with a debt that I will probably be paying on until retirement and that does stink. Looking back on it, I would still have loans but I wish I had found a way to borrow a lot less.

  24. JFo says:

    I always say that if you came to library school to:
    a) get a job
    b) get paid well
    then you’d probably wouldn’t be a very good librarian because you don’t know how to do basic research. Though if you knew the sad prospects and came anyway, I admire your passion!

  25. Mr. West says:

    ….and so where are all the library schools in this dilemma?? Accepting an intake of students with no career prospects is both an abomination and irresponsible!! Not to mention leaving the students with a HUGE student loan with no hope of repaying….I hope all the library school faculty are sleeping well at night!!

    • Sarah K says:

      It’s absurd to think that a university should stop accepting students because there are no job prospects. That doesn’t stop people from studying Art History or Latin,* where the job prospects aren’t necessarily tops. Higher education is a business, not a service–the university doesn’t give a damn, as long as they get your money.

      *Yeah, I minored in Latin. De gustibus non est disputandum and all that.

  26. Jan H. says:

    I’ve had my MLIS for two years, and love my job as an academic librarian. My salary is just “OK”, but loving what I do is priceless. I resent the remark that library school is a “joke”. I had great professors and learned a great deal, which helps me every day at work. If you think graduate programs are a “joke”, you’re only kidding yourself!

  27. Maria Kramer says:

    I would say, if you want to be a librarian because you majored in English and you don’t really know what else to do — don’t get the loans. But if being a librarian is your dream and you want to do whatever it takes to get there, then go for it and don’t be discouraged! Just make sure to:

    1. Go to a school with a lot of internship and publication opportunities, and a high post-graduation employment rate.

    2. When considering schools, weigh heavily any schools that offer you scholarships and/or paying internships.

    3. After school, look for jobs all over the country, not just in one state.

    4. Be excellent. In this economy, you can’t coast. Take advantage of every opportunity to improve and promote yourself.

    This is the advice I followed, and I ended up getting a full-time job two months after my internship ended. I should be able to pay off my student loans in 2-4 years (God willing). It can be done. Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams…but remember, you might have to make sacrifices for them. Good luck to all prospective librarians out there!

  28. Tom Bruno says:

    “There are jobs that are worth taking out loans to get. If you’re going to be a surgeon, it might be worth it, but not a librarian.”

    This is nonsense. If taking out loans to become a doctor is acceptable, then the same should be true for any other profession- provided that the amount of loan debt you incur is proportionate to your anticipated starting salary.

    For Federally subsidized student loans (25 years at 6.8%), it roughly works out to:

    Maximum Loan Debt= Average Starting Salary

    So yes, $50k is a bit high, but depending on the region it’s not that far off. Also, with Federal student loans it is possible to ask for a deferment or forbearance on repayment until you’ve finally landed that job.

    So if you’re going to borrow, borrow intelligently and avoid private loans like the plague.

  29. Steve says:

    Hey there,

    This post has left me feeling conflicted. I took out loans for school, paid for my Masters myself mostly, but still ended up with around 50 k debt. HOWEVER, I have a good job, which I would otherwise not have gotten without an undergrad, I’m in line for another, better job, one that requires my Masters degree. This will allow me to pay off my debts pretty quickly (not THAT quickly, but manageable). Without getting loans, some people just will never be able to get an education that will give them these kinds of opportunities… Sure, you can work for 7 years, save up, pay for it yourself, but, taking the hit and then getting 7 years of professional experience is way more valuable. Having said all that, I live in Canada and I feel like the job market here is better, and librarians can easily make really good cash depending on what system they’re working in.

    I would suggest, to anyone thinking about Library school, to get a Masters in a more iSchool type of facility. Still ALA accredited, but it gives you a lot more room to market yourself for pretty much any job out there (Records Manager, Information Specialist, etc etc etc). You degree isn’t blatently limited to LIS, and your prospective employer won’t knwo that based on your education listed on the ol resume.

    Ultimately, I can’t say don’t go to school if you can’t afford it. A lot of my friends would not have the lives they have now if not for student loans… Really, it boils down to you as a person. You are either someone who people want to hire after grad school, or not… Scary, but your personality in the end is what matters most.

    Good post though!

    • Joyce says:

      Well Mr. Canadian, you live in a country that is still doing well and protects itself from scary Americans stealing jobs. Not so easy for those of us south to take your jobs. It is supposedly all the rage to hear you in some states. First you attribute your job to your degree than it is your personality. Which is it? Try being an American librarian looking for work and we’ll see what happens. It may help that gender wise you are a male in a primarily female profession. Take a pin to your ego.

    • Joyce says:

      Well Mr. Canadian, you live in a country that is still doing well and protects itself from scary Americans stealing jobs. Not so easy for those of us south to take your jobs. It is supposedly all the rage I hear for Libraries to hire Canadians in some states. First you attribute your job to your degree than it is your personality. Which is it? Try being an American librarian looking for work and we’ll see what happens. It may help that gender wise you are a male in a primarily female profession. Take a pin to your ego.

  30. Gary says:

    Here in the Denver area, I know of a public library which has three shelvers with MLS’s. If that doesn’t show what the job market is like, I don’t know what will. Getting a graduate degree (whether you take out loans or not) to get in line to take an entry-level position which pays only a bit over minimum wage makes no difference. As a previous poster stated: the profession is effectively closed for business indeed,

  31. Joyce says:

    My daughter got her library degree 2 yours ago and started working on an archives certificate which she gave up doing as it was costing too much. She works part time in a paraprofessional job and is now considering another profession. She is not dumb, niave, and plodding. She graduated with honors from college. It was just something she always wanted to do. She was the archive assistant in college for three years and had library jobs even in high school. But no plum job has come her way. I wish she had gone in a different direction. No one believes this can happen to them, but get an MLS and you may be like her. THERE IS NO NEED FOR ONE MORE MLS GRADUATE…

  32. Cindy says:

    Your sugar momma/daddy could be scholarships…that’s how I’m doing it! :)

  33. Kayla says:

    I understand not taking out large loans for graduate school. My undergrad profs all told me the same thing. However, I’m uncertain if a MLIS would be truly useless. I’m thinking about going the academic librarianship route, hoping to get a MLIS and a subject masters, then work digitizing primary sources or building/maintaining subject collections. A way to stay in my undergrad field without going the ph.d/teaching path.
    Some state schools are taking hard cuts, but most educational institutions seem fine. Are there any academic librarians out there who can be more specific?

  34. Techserving You says:

    Meh. I agree in general, but people need to make decisions based on their own circumstances. I had worked in top academic libraries for about a decade before going to library school. I was working at an Ivy League university and could have gone to school locally on a part-time basis, and had it entirely paid for. But I wanted to go full-time, to a real university, to move to a new city, to meet friends from other (real) programs, etc.. And so I did. Ignoring the “opportunity costs” for a moment, in two years after library school, I had made back – in increased pay – what I had to borrow to go to school. Soon I will also have paid back those opportunity costs. (I don’t really care about those, though… there are intangibles… I lived in an awesome city, met great people (mostly not in the LIS program) and generally considered it a wonderful experience (NOT for the library school part, but everything else.) And I would have had those opportunity costs not matter what I went back to school for.

    Some people have a better chance of getting a good job after library school than other people do. If you’ve never worked in a library, or you’ve been a page somewhere or something, you probably have little chance of getting a job anytime around graduation. But that is not the case for everyone. I graduated right before the economic collapse, got a great job, and then in the midst of this recession, switched to an even better job.

    Kayla – I can assure you, though, that if you don’t already have a lot of experience, with your plan, you’re going to have a hard time getting a good job. YES academic libraries – even at wealthy schools – have laid people off or forced people into early retirement. Harvard did it a year or two ago. At the same time, many of them have also not filled vacant positions. Yes, there are SOME jobs. You’ll search and say, “oh, there are plenty of jobs!” But I’ve been monitoring the academic library job market for years, and it’s never been worse than it is now. For every job posted, there will be a bunch of people like you wanting it, as well as a bunch of people who actually have experience doing the exact tasks of the job. If you do secure a position, even at a top Ivy League university, you’ll likely start in the $40,000Ks.

    Your description of what you imagine you’ll be doing also shows an utter lack of understanding of the jobs available. I mean, what do you want to do? Scan things all day? Work as a bibliographer? At some top libararies, they have PhDs working as bibliographers. At other top libraries, they have librarians without so much as a second masters or even an undergraduate degree in the field for which they select… and that’s fine with them. You’re not going to be sought after.

  35. Techserving You says:

    Hey Joyce – you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    I’m American, but I went to library school in Canada. On the one hand… the government there seemed to employ half of my classmates… they have a huge bureaucracy.

    But I must point out… librarian, specifically, is one profession for which NAFTA is beneficial. Canada does NOT undertake the labor market assessment for librarian jobs to make sure there aren’t enough Canadian librarians before employing an American. I actually had several fellow American graduates who got jobs in Canada. Librarians can cross the border freely to take jobs in Canada.

  36. Kim says:

    Missed out on this one — need to pop in more often! Listen to TechServing You who is spot on. I also graduated right before the crunch, had lots of “pre professional” experience, and with a lot of effort, some luck and the ability to move anywhere, landed a great mid level job several months out of school. I’m now in a supervisory position and will likely move on in another year. I didn’t have to pay for my schooling — an assistantship did that so loans were paid off in four years since they never got very big. Taking on loans makes sense when it means moving up in a profession, but going into student loans for an MLS with no experience beyond page work, is generally not a good plan. Unless, apparently, you plan to move to Canada.

    Blatant Barry’s page in Library Journal declared we needed to bring on the young librarians. Here’s a portion of what I wrote in response:

    There are very few jobs once these tech savvy MLIS graduates have finished the degree. What does that matter? Let them volunteer to shelve books, or let them work for next to nothing in “assistant jobs” year after year, jobs for which no degree beyond a high school diploma and maybe a little college is required. Yes, let’s please let’s tell these hopeful students to keep coming, that the profession needs them and that the jobs will be there for them when they graduate with non dischargeable student loan debt. Some day there will be a whole bunch of librarians retiring! How many years have we been saying that as a profession?

  37. Drew says:

    A major problem is that most library students, like gamblers, think they can beat the odds in finding a job. It’s like the over production process of PhDs that also cannot find teaching jobs. The schools, however, propagating the job shortage theory, do manage to stay in business. The next economic bubble to burst is the potential student loan default crisis, and that will further drive down the economy. When my father went to school in the 1960s, school loans were practically unheard of, most students worked part-time night jobs to pay for school, and where debt free upon graduation. Now some private school tuition-board fees run 50K per year? When students graduate, they owe hundreds and thousands, but can’t get jobs and become indentured to paying those school loans back that can never be discharged. It is a big racked. When I went to library school, I worked at an engineering firm in data management, had my employer pay 100% for my MLIS and then got them to pay for an MBA too.

  38. Cindy M. says:

    I will graduate in May 2012. My Academic Library class has us studying job postings an an assignment. It seems like all the library jobs require years of experience, lots of advanced computer skills, teaching experience, an MLIS, more graduate work in a specialized field, and usually proof of professional advancement (such as publications), etc. How on earth is a new graduate going to meet those kinds of requirements if they are switching careers, not to mention the bias against older job applicants who may not be “energetic” like the postings require. (I am energetic obviously if I am running a home, doing graduate work and working part-time at a college as a tutor). After we were enrolled and half way through the basic core classes, some of the professors starting telling us that our degree was more than just for libraries, that we had to be “creative” in looking for employment and that we were information specialists. All right, I looked at government jobs for information specialists: gee, I “might” qualify for a clerk job if I am lucky. The problem is that once you take out the student loans, you cannot quit school until you find a job because you cannot pay the student loans that will come due in six months without the job in the first place. It is a vicious cycle that I am now facing. I have to stay in school beyond May because an MLIS just doesn’t translate to many types of jobs. Even though I have tutored at the college level for years, I was never a bonafide instructor. My credit rating is perfect and I cannot face the thought of student loan default. However, as a career change, this misinformation/hogwash by the OOL and the ALA about job prospects has lead to, most likely, a really bad decision on my part. As a Displaced Homemaker with no backup social network due to no parents to fall back on (both deceased), a spouse who moved to greener pastures, and with the lack of 21 years of job experience due to raising this nation’s next generation, I find myself in the same boat as the 20-something year olds who cannot find a job. The only difference is that my age group is “invisible” and discriminated because of the assumption that we cannot learn computer skills. Ask the students that I tutored in C Progamming and Statistics if I have computer skills or a brain, lol. However, it is impossible to even get my foot in the door for an interview when the Human Resource personnel see my year of high school graduation, calculate my age, add that to my 21 years out of the work force, and start making assumptions. I wish I could just say I was part of a protected ethnic/diversity group, but I think that would be exposed the moment I set foot in the door. lol. OMG, there is no solution.

    • Randal Powell says:

      Yeah, it’s completely stupid and ridiculous. But you know what? If you already know how to program in C, then you’re intelligent enough to build a database-backed website.

      I would check out the free resources online to fill in any gaps you have in your technical ability. You can use the Google Keyword tool to look for areas ripe for profitable websites. Look at the competition: Can you provide better quality information or more sophisticated interactive capabilities?

  39. publicservice says:

    public service announcement:

    don’t go to library school. that is all.