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Inside Annoyed Librarian

You Are Probably Not Underpaid

In my last post, I ended with a question that should be easy to answer. If their library is outsourced to LSSI, and their pay and benefits are going to be cut, what should librarians do?

The easy answer is, quit. Find another job.

Wait, some of you might say! That’s not so easy to do, especially in this economy!

And here we come to the crux of the matter. If librarians threatening to quit, or even quitting, mattered at all, such outsourcing probably wouldn’t happen.

Before discussing that, let’s take a detour through some of the comments about that article from Monday. It’s a discussion of librarian salaries, supply, and demand that illuminates some of the problems librarians have with economics. Here’s a snippet from the comment thread:

mtbr1975

With $35 Million in revenue and 800 employees, this is not a very profitable company, this breaks down to about $43,000 per employee. Makes we wonder what the average wage is…

lawlibber

Shockingly low for people with Master’s degrees.

Ashley Bigham

As someone in grad school currently at an ALA accredited program (although I am not specializing in LIS specifically), that number is actually higher than the current expectations of most of my classmates pursuing librarianship positions at least for entry positions.

I’m not a fan of privitization in this case, but the average salaries are, unfortunately, not “shockingly low.”

lawlibber

Oh, sorry, my response was an answer to “I wonder what the wage is,” as opposed to commentary that $43k would be low. But, as an MLIS making less than 43k right now, I stand by my belief that librarians are underpaid for the level of education that it requires.

Jayk Wiggins

Supply and demand

Alex Duryee Collapse

Wages and positions have been decimated recently while demand is soaring. FT positions are cut to PT, or have more FT duties added on (with no increase in pay). Meanwhile, library use is seeing remarkable growth, esp. as many realign themselves as community centers (job help being a huge service now).

We’re seeing some bizarre inversion of supply and demand, with fewer positions/funding for more use.”

One commenter thinks librarian wages are “shockingly low for people with Master’s degrees” and later reiterates that “librarians are underpaid for the level of education it requires.

This kind of thinking about salaries is much too prevalent in librarianship. It’s similar to the ALA-APA arguments that librarians should be paid more because they have master’s degrees.

The problem is, that’s not the way the economy works. Just as having an MLS doesn’t mean the world owes you a library job, having an MLS doesn’t mean the world owes you a specific salary.

A lot of librarians are tricked into this kind of thinking because the world they know best is the public sector world free from competition, where salaries are awarded for credentials and seniority rather than accomplishment.

Public school teachers provide a perfect example. In many places, they get pay raises for completing an M.Ed., which is possibly even easier than an MLS. They also get paid more and get more job protection based on seniority. It explains why teachers aggressively resist any attempts to link their pay to student performance.

Plenty of library systems work that way as well, either because of union or civil service contracts. It’s a kind of thinking endemic to the public sector.

If librarians are to be competitive, the first thing they have to get out of their mind is that the MLS means they’re owed a job. The second is that a “master’s degree” translates into pay. Where you work, what sort of work you do, and how good you are at it help determine your pay. The most important factor is how much someone will pay you to do the work you do.

Another commenter notes the truth: low librarian salaries are the result of supply and demand. It’s pretty simple economics, which makes it troubling that another commenter, a librarian, gets confused.

Library use is up. Library funding is down. A contradiction? Is this a “bizarre inversion of supply and demand, with fewer positions/funding for more use”?

No, it isn’t. The supply and demand that determines librarian salaries has absolutely nothing to do with how many people use libraries. It has to do with how many librarians are willing to work at a given salary. If libraries can find librarians willing to work for $40,000, or even $30,000, then that’s what the librarians will get paid. If libraries aren’t offering higher salaries, then librarians aren’t in more demand. It’s really that simple.

An increase in library use doesn’t translate into a demand for librarians. Partly, that’s because most librarians are insulated from the market. Librarians don’t get bonuses because of meeting external targets. If more people use the library, that doesn’t mean you get a bonus, though if your changes are responsible for that increased use, you might be able to parlay that into a better job.

Another part of the answer is included in the comment itself. If libraries are transitioning into community centers or job placement centers, then they have less need for degreed librarians. It doesn’t take a master’s degree to be able to help people fill out job applications or get email accounts. If your work is deprofessionalized, so is your salary.

And if full time people get cut to part time, or get duties added with no increase in pay, and they don’t quit, then they’re not underpaid. They’re paid what the supply demands, and maybe a little more.

If no one will pay you more to provide the service you provide, then you’re not underpaid. If you don’t like your pay, but can’t quit or find another job that will pay more, then you’re not underpaid.

It’s the way the world works. If it makes you feel any better, I don’t like it, either.

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Comments

  1. Librarian comparisons and conjecture vis-a-vis the private sector are common. In addition to compensation, I’ve seen countless claims by librarians that they are qualified for a range of jobs in the private sector: technology, project management, etc. Methinks these folks would be mightily surprised if they tried to find, or actually secured private sector positions.

    I’ve worked in both sectors – since 1977 as employee and consultant for numerous private sector firms and in an academic library from 2002-2005. The environments and requirements are very different based on my experience.

    • Andrew says:

      Jean, I couldn’t agree with you more. My biggest pet peeve is librarians who think that the Information Science part of MLIS makes them as qualified to work in IT or software development as someone with a real IT or computer science degree.

      Sure there are some people who tinker with that sort of thing on their own time and know what they’re doing, but the classes provided at most library schools are woefully inadequate for providing even a basic grounding that an MLS candidate would need for a job in the tech sector. Though I think this is more the fault of the library schools misleading people regarding the content of courses than the students who buy that lie hook, line, and sinker.

    • Andrew – yeah, the spin comes from all institutions of higher learning … and it’s really hard to identify it as spin if you’re young’n'inexperienced or a member of a marginalized population.

      I earned my bachelor’s degree from a good college in the Northeast in my mid-forties. I graduated with a number of other “non-traditional aged” students who, like me, did not have the opportunity to attend college after high school. For many, going to college was a lifetime aspiration and they believed the spin about how an undergraduate liberal arts degree was going to open up the job market for them.

      Many are now bitter & disappointed that the only employment they’ve been able to get with their fancy degree is entry-level work in the private sector or low-paying work in the public sector.

    • me says:

      @ Andrew
      If there is anything more useless than an MLS it is getting ANY type of degree to work in IT. Networking, web design, and troubleshooting are some of the easiest things to teach yourself. I find myself being extremely savvy in all of these areas and my undergraduate degree is in History. The same can be said for the IT coordinator at my previous job who had an undergraduate degree in English and an MLS.

      Software development can be self taught but that is a profession that actually warrants a degree.

    • Me – Over 25 years, I’ve come up through the ranks in IT. I’ve been in technical management since 1998.

      What you’ve said may apply to simple digital environments but is not true (and increasingly less true) for anything but mom’n'pop commercial establishments and unsophisticated non-profits. Employment in the tech ecosystem has become very specialized whether you’re talking about network management, programming, database or content management, IA & design, analytics, project management, etc. The disciplines are each complex and they all interact which makes things even more complex.

      Each of these areas has become professionalized over the past 15 years and a specialized degree is most always required to gain entry. As the pace of new development is quite rapid, once employed, it’s necessary to continually keep your saw sharp to remain successful. Employers subsidize some of this professional development, however the expectation is that you do a lot of the work on your own time thru surveillance & research, participation in tech communities (real and virtual) and hands-on dabbling with new technologies.

    • me says:

      @Jean
      My former roommate in graduate school (2009-2011) was the Network Administrator for an Ivy League university. He dropped out of college during his sophomore year and never went back. He runs his own IT business on the side and has never had trouble finding employment. I maintain that continuous self instruction is the only thing necessary to be successful in this field and that a college degree is unnecessary. IT is one field where they care a whole lot more about what you know rather than what degrees you have.

    • Andrew says:

      Me, I was referring more to the computer science/programming/software development side of things. And I’ll even concede the point that a lot of that tech stuff can be learned on the side if you have the dedication.

      But that’s not really germaine to the discussion. The problem is that library schools are trying to pass it off to students that an MLS will give them the skills to succeed in those fields when that’s just not the case. Taking an HTML course in libschool will not prepare a librarian for any web development or programming job but people are pretending that’s the case. Saying that they could learn those skills on their own is a non sequitur.

    • me says:

      Andrew-
      You made this statement: “My biggest pet peeve is librarians who think that the Information Science part of MLIS makes them as qualified to work in IT or software development as someone with a real IT or computer science degree.”

      My point was that some librarians ARE as qualified to work in IT and software development as someone with a computer science degree because it is a discipline that is best taught by doing and not the classroom.

      I also made the point because I think you’re making a blanket statement regarding library schools. The place I attended graduate school made it quite clear that you wouldn’t be a programming or web design wizard unless you went out of your way to take the independent studies that would get you those skills.

    • SIIS says:

      me, I think it is you who are missing Andrew’s point. He is speaking about some librarians. You are responding as if he is speaking about all librarians.

    • me says:

      I guess its a foreign concept to me because I’ve never met a librarian who thought they were qualified to work in IT or programming simply because they have an MLIS. The only ones I’ve met that think that actually have the skills…

    • Andrew says:

      Me – They exist. Oh do they exist. I think we’re mostly in agreement here, just with different experiences. We both agree that there are people with the skills to code, and that you don’t necessarily have to get a degree to learn those skills.

      The problem is with the overlap of librarians who think (or at least talk as though) they have those skills because of one class on HTML they took in libschool. Schools sending graduates out into the world with that impression is doing no favors to the profession or to the school’s reputation.

  2. Andrew says:

    This idea that librarians deserve a higher salary based solely on having a Master’s degree is as ludicrous as it is widespread. I went into the degree with eyes wide open knowing that I’d never get rich, but I met more than a few people in libschool who felt that they would be living the high life with their public sector jobs after graduating.

    Once upon a time Library Journal had a column written by a student making her way through library school. I believe she ended up disillusioned with the profession after not being able to find the perfect job and ended up in the private sector which is a whole story in and of itself, but one post in particular caught my attention. She was talking about friends who went to law school and med school and complaining, with a straight face, that she didn’t get the same amount of compensation for having her MLS.

    If we have people that deluded about what sort of income can be expected from an MLS then the profession has far more serious issues than a tight job market and wage decreases.

    • Melissa says:

      I agree with everything AL said, and your comment too. But I would like to point out that for one group of people, the MLS can mean a massive, and I would say deserved, increase in salary. The degree can more than double the salary of a library staff person who earns the degree and is hired as a librarian–as it did in my case.

      imho, staff who shoulder librarian-level responsibilities are already underpaid…and the demand for MLS graduates *with experience* is significantly higher than for those without.

    • Andrew says:

      Melissa, I couldn’t agree with you more. Staff with years of experience trying to get a leg up with a degree is an admirable pursuit.

      Of course then you get into problems of staff getting let go from their jobs because their institution can’t afford to pay them MLS rates or staff who remain chronically underemployed because the librarians in their institution can’t shift their thinking and acknowledge them as an equal once they have their piece of paper.

  3. Jennifer says:

    My original salary, fresh out of library school, but with about five years of experience, was less than $30,000. I did not negotiate. I was just desperately pleased to have a job -any job. When we hired a new adult srvs librarian the following year (also straight out of school but with no library experience), she successfully negotiated with our board and director for a higher salary – which automatically raised mine. Now we get paid about $38,000 (before taxes, pay cuts, etc.) Yay for being able to afford to turn my heater on in the winter AND pay my student loans…maybe I’ll even pay them off in another 20 years. It’s not really a supply and demand job – the city gives us a budget. They don’t care if I’ve raised attendance and circulation every year (last year I doubled attendance to 8800 and children’s circ increased by 7,000 in our town of 10,000). We get the budget we get. If I want more money, an assistant, part-time teen librarian, I have to find another job since we’ve negotiated as high as we’re going to negotiate. Why, yes, I am casually job hunting. Whether or not you’re good at your job as a librarian is pretty irrelevant. It depends how much money your city is willing to give you (at least it does here) and how your director divides it up. Patrons do not pay directly for services (although I did get $15 donated at my $200 program, partially funded by my own money, with 80+ people that took several months to pull together.)

    • Jennifer – your comment highlights one of the differences I’ve observed between private/public sector. In the private sector there is a much more direct relationship between performance and compensation, and it’s gotten even more direct in the past 10 years. The verifiable accomplishments you noted would (generally) be acknowledged in the private sector via a bonus, a higher salary increase at review time, a promotion … and an expectation that you were going to deliver even more in the future. So the performance bar is usually raised and the compensation can follow. (In the private sector we’re also doing more with less and are required to work longer hours or produce more product with no increase in compensation.)

      In the library world, you probably get your COLA – same as the person who sits alongside you all day doing nothing. In a library, the person who does nothing generally keeps her/his job. In the for-profit world (again, much moreso in the past 10 years) poor performers are managed out of the organization thru firing, layoffs or being made so miserable they leave.

    • me says:

      This is absolutely true with librarianship Jean. You could win tons of professional awards, present at every conference, develop innovative services and programs, etc. What does it mean? Nothing really. The only way this helps your professional career as a librarian is that you may land a job as a director. Unfortunately in librarianship the only way to raise your salary is through changing positions…

  4. Jennifer says:

    I should say that I’m not as bitter as that sounds! I do really like my job – with a lot of previous experience, I went into this field with my eyes open. Yeah, I hate that I was required to pay a massive amount for a degree that’s pretty useless, but them’s the breaks. Now that I’ve gotten more experience in this job, I can try for something that pays better – if I don’t get it, that’s ok too. I didn’t expect a high salary – although it would be awfully nice to have additional staff, especially when we have less than the smaller libraries around us. Also, it’s not just arbitrary how the director divides the money – we have to meet the requirements of county standards, insane though they often are, about how much we spend on materials etc.

  5. Suzanne says:

    In my 20+ years of being a librarian, I’ve still not grasped why a Master’s is even a requirement. Most of what I learned was pretty useless, and I could easily have grasped most of it as a college minor.

    That said, I’ve worked both as a librarian in a public library and at a for-profit college. I’ve also worked a few jobs completely out of the public arena in the so-called “real world”. Trust me on this — accomplishment and results don’t get you much in the real world either. Unless you are at the top of an organization, they generally will pay you as little as they can in order to maximize profits. Who all that profit money goes to, I never could figure because it sure does not trickle down to the average or above average employee. With the lousy economy, profit driven entities don’t care if you are doing a good job and want to be rewarded for it because they well know that when you leave, 10 people will be at the door within the hour to take your job.

    • Andy says:

      “In my 20+ years of being a librarian, I’ve still not grasped why a Master’s is even a requirement. ” Amen to that. Thank the ALA!

    • SIIS says:

      I agree with your first paragraph 100%. I went to a very prestigious college for undergraduate, and when I was in graduate school, laughed long & hard when a professor told us this was the most rigorous work any of us would undertake in our academic careers (fortunately, it was an online class, so no one knew but me!).

      Sometimes I wonder though if the requirement is supposed to be a safeguard against the completely inept. I once worked for a supervisor who did not have the MLIS, yet was head of her department. She had no concept at all of the purpose or methods of collection development, although that was a large part of her job, and she had been doing it for many years. While she was completely unqualified, she almost “had” to be advanced to that position because of her number of years at the library. Many times I wished that her promotion had been contingent on going back to get her MLIS… she was a nightmare to work for.

    • me says:

      “I went to a very prestigious college for undergraduate, and when I was in graduate school, laughed long & hard when a professor told us this was the most rigorous work any of us would undertake in our academic careers (fortunately, it was an online class, so no one knew but me!).”

      Pretentious much?

    • SIIS says:

      Originally, Suzanne wrote:
      “Most of what I learned was pretty useless, and I could easily have grasped most of it as a college minor.”

      My point is that I agree with this statement. The AL has been saying in this post, and others, that many librarians (and, I add, SLIS professors), have the attitude that the MLIS is a rigorous degree that automatically warrants a high pay grade. I was agreeing with Suzanne that this is patently, laughably untrue.

    • Bibliotecher says:

      “Sometimes I wonder though if the requirement is supposed to be a safeguard against the completely inept.”

      Silly SIIS, like getting an MLIS would/could stop idiots from getting library management positions.

    • SIIS says:

      There was a reason I added the “supposed” :)

    • KidLib says:

      I think that’s the crux of it, and why a lot of librarians are bitter. They’ve been required to get an expensive degree whose educational benefits could have been better obtained on the job. And for what? The salary of a good secretary?

      The degree is oversold, and the salary sites like to list the median salary as about $50K, so when you’re initially doing the research, wow, it looks purty darned good. But those salary surveys turn out to be very inflated, and must include a good number of highly specialized jobs pulling that median up, because it’s certainly not indicative of the typical public librarian salary.

  6. Sarah says:

    “The supply and demand that determines librarian salaries has absolutely nothing to do with how many people use libraries. It has to do with how many librarians are willing to work at a given salary.” Right now, there are too many librarians willing to work for low salaries. With Library Schools pumping out so many people who are “qualified” (ie. have that magic MLS) it’s easy to find someone to fill a position – and since new graduates are so desperate to start paying off those student loans, that $30000 salary looks mighty good – hey, it’s better then nothing. If there were less people who were qualified for a librarian position, salaries would increase. It would be harder to find someone who was qualified, and salaries would reflect that – libraries would want to entice applicants to work at their library versus another one. That isn’t going to happen with the number of MLS’s that are given out. The market is flooded, and that magic MLS degree is devalued. Librarians are easy to find, positions are easy to fill, so there isn’t a demand for librarians and current salaries reflect that.

  7. gatoloco says:

    The private sector is getting librarians on the cheap now too. I know some firms are just happy to have someone they can pay less than an executive admin, while requiring higher performance. There are still great corporate jobs out there, but I think they require a greater degree of specialization and industry knowledge than many candidates have. Those with a medical background are in pretty good shape, just look at the position available at Takeda. I agree with you almost all of the time Jean, but I think with such an oversupply of librarians, corporate types are getting wise to the issue and picking up those trained as librarians to do many different things for not a lot of dough.

    • me says:

      They may be getting them on the cheap to start but they still award performance. The point is that no matter how well you perform as a public or academic librarian the money simply isn’t there to reward you. On the other hand, the slacker librarian continues to get paid the same as the innovating hardworking librarian.

  8. will manley says:

    Why do librarians love to trash library work?

    • Michelle Sellars says:

      I’ve noticed this among some older librarians as well–perhaps they feel burned out. I recieved my MLIS about a year ago, and had a tough time finding work at first, then got two part-time jobs in the types of libraries and archives where I always wanted to work. I don’t make much per year, though one of my jobs pays quite well per hour. And I did pay a lot of money for a graduate degree that was pretty easy to obtain. But I’d do it again, because I love what I do and I can’t imagine what else I’d want to do. If you’re looking for lots of money, librarianiship may not be the best choice, though most of my friends from library school have done well already, even the ones working in public libraries. And one of them even specializes in tech, something that commenters seem to think no librarian can do.
      I see people saying that grad degrees aren’t necessary for the work, but, like the pay scale, it’s a part of the job market. Maybe younger librarians will end up changing the system somewhat. We’ll see.

    • Will – could it be tied to what Joan Bechtel wrote in 1986:

      Perhaps it is an overstatement to say that academic librarians are drifting in a vast sea of information and technological advances, searching for an appropriate course of action. Nevertheless, we appear to have lost the stabilizing rudder of confidence in who we are and what we are to do.

      Bechtel, J. M. (1986). Conversation, a new paradigm for librarianship? College & Research Libraries, 47(3), 219–224.

    • Andy says:

      Care to be a bit more specific? “Library work” is a pretty big umbrella.

    • will manley says:

      Andy, I think Jean Costello nailed it perfectly.

  9. sfran says:

    For me the biggest issue the MLS requirement in the first place. I have made this point on other blogs about education, pay etc. This profession pays what it pays and one has to go in accepting that. What I have trouble with is that HR and IT professionals often get paid the same as librarians – sometimes up to 1.5 times more. Very few of them have Master’s Degrees. Note I referred to them as professionals. We are not de-professionalizing (is that even a word, here I have an MLIS and I don’t even know that much) librarianship if the skills of collection development, user services and cataloging are placed in a Bachelor’s program. Have a library emphasis in a Masters of Public Administration program for people on a director, dean or management track. Steer systems folks to applicable Computer Science degrees or certifications if it’s needed.

    My only real problem with my argument is that if this change occurs in my lifetime, I will resent the youngens who will enter the profession with WAY less student loan debt.

    • Andrew says:

      The change already happened, only it was in the other direction. A couple of my mentors who got me into the profession got a BA in Library Science. All of those programs dried up and disappeared in the mid to late ’80s. My understanding is that the programs just weren’t bringing in much money or prestige and the ALA was making a push to make the MLS into the industry standard.

  10. Overworked Librarian says:

    @will manley because it is a thankless job.

  11. D says:

    It’s a shame that so many people are willing to heap scorn upon teachers, librarians, and other government workers in recent years. Many of us have worked so hard for so long to serve the public. We do it because we love books and reading and children and learning. We come in early and stay late. Mosts of are driving Hyundais, not Porsches. Nobody cared about us in the 90s, when it seemed like everyone in the private sector was striking it rich. We just kept plugging away. Many of us would work for less money, but why resent the little we’ve achieved?

    As usual, the AL wants to shame the profession of librarianship “where salaries are awarded for credentials and seniority rather than accomplishment.” That’s wrong now and I don’t think that it has ever been true.

    I don’t see male profession eat their own like I see from nurses, teachers, and librarians. Physicians and university professors may have similar educational attainment, but Physicians stick together and continue to drive Mercedes.

    • SIIS says:

      Both of us are arguing anecdotally (I would welcome anyone–Jean?–who has numbers on this), but when you write:

      “As usual, the AL wants to shame the profession of librarianship ‘where salaries are awarded for credentials and seniority rather than accomplishment.’ That’s wrong now and I don’t think that it has ever been true.”

      … it is COMPLETELY true, and has been for a long time. Perhaps you are referring to the opportunity for innovators or hard workers to advance to a higher-level job. I’m sure there are times that happens. But the norm is that advancements are given to those with the most seniority. Likewise, of two librarians at Library A with the same job description, the librarian with more experience will receive the higher pay–even if that librarian is less hard-working, less innovative, or less dedicated that the other.

    • Hi SIIS – I usually include lots of references in my replies, tho for this thread I’ve written mostly from 35 years experience in organizations of varying size and sectors, as employee, consultant and adult undergraduate student from 2002-2005.

      An ideal, I suppose would be to value and encourage performance over the long-term, thereby creating a good performance/tenure mix. I’ve seen that only once, as a 7-year employee of Waters Corporation, based in MA. It was pretty amazingt.

      All the other organizations have either foregrounded performance or longevity. In the former, I’ve worked with some real superstars. I learned tons and did some outstanding work. The downside (at least in the tech realm) is that burn-out tends to be high. I’ve also worked for firms that reward longevity and it’s generally been like being a nail in a pine board – the minute you pop up something comes along to put you back down. I’ve experienced this in libraries, professional societies & publishers.

    • D says:

      Perhaps we don’t agree or maybe I wasn’t clear. I think it’s silly and wrong to suggest that people are given jobs or promotions just because they have a degree or have more seniority than their competition. Plenty of people have degrees and seniority, but don’t get jobs awarded to them. If you mean that government workers get increases in their salary for longevity, yes, that’s true. Is that a bad thing? What’s the alternative to rewarding experience? Should you receive the same pay your first day and after your 30th year? Perhaps you are suggesting the “Logan’s Run” approach – we simply kill (or fire) any librarian over the age of 30.

      I think denigrating librarians for their big fat pay checks is about as noble as blaming the failures of our education system on lazy, over-paid teachers.

    • SIIS says:

      I guess that as long as we’re arguing anecdotally without looking at numbers, we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. You say:

      “I think it’s silly and wrong to suggest that people are given jobs or promotions just because they have a degree or have more seniority than their competition.”

      AL, Jean, and I are saying that in our experience, people ARE given jobs or promotions just because of their degree or seniority–often over and above more talented or harder-working colleagues or applicants. You are (I think) saying that in your experience, this is untrue. I guess we are at a stalemate.

      I guess I will just say that I wish I had worked at places like the ones you are referring to! :)

  12. Andy says:

    I’m approaching the start of my third year in a great job that did not require, or even ask for an MLS. I’m doing pretty well, IMO, compared to my fellow grads who held out for library jobs (in an academic research context).

    Based on my experience & anecdata from colleagues, I think most ALA-credentialed folks who understand how to market their skills outside the library are doing at least as well as any other skilled professionals in our economy.

  13. it’s funny that many of the comments are discussions with Jean. I wonder how long it will be before the AL gets replaced by someone who seems to be doing her thing for free.
    people always complain about the public sector because they’ve never had to work in it. they’ve never had to deal with the endless policies and revisions, and the citizens, oh, God, the citizens, who all have to be treated like they crap gold because otherwise they’ll vote someone out of office. those private sector people have no clue about what it’s like to have to treat everyone equally. someone sleeping on the furniture could be suffering from a medical condition, so we have to respect their slumber. but in the private arena, you can just call the cops and toss his ass out. every complaint must be handled respectfully, but private companies can leave you on hold for hours or send your call to India or bill you for speaking to a live person. you can shred all the company records you want while I have to store everything for years. you can hide your company profits in offshore accounts while every dollar I spend is there in the open for you to scritinize. you private company employees have it so easy; you could never survive in the public.

    • Hi Effing – Many people are interacting with me in this thread and it’s happened in a handful of others too. I’ve been trying to generate dialogue with the library community since early 2009 and have mostly been rebuffed – albeit politely, as if I’m just another one of those bothersome people you described in your comment. I wonder what it means that the only place I’ve found regular dialogue is via a syndicated diatribe where nearly every other commenter feels the need to use a pseudonym.

      I greatly appreciate the dialogue because with every post someone shares something really valuable to inform my understanding of “the library dilemma”. I truly hope the library folk here also appreciate that a patron values the Institution and the work they do enough to follow a library blog and engage this way.

      I look for the day when there is more dialogue like this between people within and outside the library ecosystem — and in a context in which we can improve the problems we identify. As an FYI, I speak about libraries all the time with “the public”. I do so with friends & colleagues but also with total strangers (if, for example, we’re standing in a long grocery store line and their child is holding a library book, on airplane flights, at professional venues that get me out of my own backyard). Almost to a person, people say they’ve never given much thought to libraries but once I tell them about my advocacy or ask them a question — well, the dialogue flows. I’ve found that people care deeply about libraries and their future; we just gotta find a way to generate productive dialogue about ‘em.

  14. quietly says:

    In only three years as a public librarian, I have already become burnt out enough to feel like the love child of the Annoyed Librarian and Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec, so I am taking a significant pay cut from my living-wage, above-average entry level librarian salary to start at the entry level in the private sector. I still hope to gear my career back toward information organization, but I’ve realized I’m not well suited to the public part of this job. Many people are, though, and bless them for existing to make others happy.

    I agree that this job can be learned and done well without a master’s degree, but I also respect, in large part, the education I received in library school, and I think it has made me much more effective in my job than I would be had I walked in off the street. And I agree that I am not underpaid. My twin is a physician, and she racked up about eight times as much student debt in medical school as I did in library school. Soon, she’ll earn anywhere from 5 to 8 times what I earn. It’s pretty congruent! The same can be said for law school. To compare the three based on the fact that they are “professional” programs is absurd.

    What I find most infuriatingly amusing about librarians and education is that people tend to be astonished that we’ve attained education beyond high school, but when they visit the library, patrons expect us to be wellsprings of information– not only about literature, but also about taxes, law, astronomy, IT, geography, history, etc. Anyone can ask us anything any time and stand around impatiently while we jump through hoops trying to find the best answer. And of course, we don’t always do that, but we try as hard as possible. Anyone with any wits about them enters the library field because they want to help, or because they’re fascinated by the work.

  15. joyce says:

    Most people getting a degree in library science or whatever fancy term they want to call it, need to worry about getting a job not the salary, seriously. An education, as even those getting a Law degree, have discovered, is not a sure thing anymore.

  16. shine says:

    I was a teacher, but decided to go into librarianship. In either profession, I never once thought I’d get paid well or that I deserved higher pay. Although, most of my friends who work in the private sector will tell you that I have the more difficult job. The one big difference: I like what I do and see a purpose for it. They do not.

  17. Mr. Kat says:

    I’m still shocked that people think the degree coursework for an MLS is at all rigorous or requires any real serious mental investment. I realized around the second week into my database management class I followed the wrong path through college. But oh well.

    I found this article to be especially illuminating on the subject. The truth is, Librarianship is a humanities, a Social Study at best and a Pseudoscience at worst. It’s core companion is education, seeing as how a large sector of librarians are employed by educational facilities – its an incestious relationship. The people within this community are increasingly becoming the people who can’t practice the field, so they teach it instead. And if they teach it long enough, they get masters and PhDs in the subjects without ever having the slightest amount of real world experience actualy WORKING in the field they teach. The Academic Path worked well for them, so this is they path they so richly adorn…but…well, it’s ultimately a pyramid scheme…

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-unteachables-a-generation-that-cannot-learn/?singlepage=true

    One does not need a degree of any sort to do library work.

    When I retire, I’ll perhaps work in a library. At that point I’ll have a pension and I’ll be pulling Social Security, if it’s still around, while enjoying my full medical benefits. At that point I could ask for perhaps $10,000 a year, but they’ll only see me perhaps 4 hours a day, 3 days a week.

    Jean Costello, I have yet to understand why some people get huffy about pseudonyms. I have concluded that it is because you have no idea who I am, so you cannot reduce what I say by considering who said it. In short, you cannot practice ” If you can’t kill the message, kill the messenger” style tactics, which is quite popular amongst our citizenry.

    Regardless, it would be wise to consider using a Psuedonym. In this manny only the people who need to knwo who you are, know who you are. The rest of the random rock throwers in the world need not know your presonal information, and your name on the world wide web is really no better or worse than your social secutiry number being plastered in a similar manner, particularly if you have a professional portfolio.