Last week a commenter questioned my claim that having as many library school students as possible isn’t just in the financial interests of library schools, but of the ALA as well.
As a side-note, I never understand the argument, like you made, that it’s to ALA’s financial benefit (or any other sort of benefit) to have lots of library school graduates, ESPECIALLY if they aren’t able to get library-field jobs. I hear the unemployed and disenchanted spend notoriously little on memberships, books, conferences, etc.
It’s obvious how having lots of students is good for the library schools. If they don’t get jobs, the only people who are harmed are the students themselves and possibly us taxpayers when they default on their student loans because they can’t find gainful employment.
So, basically, it harms everyone in the country except the library schools. Thanks, library schools!
However, it does make sense that the ALA would prefer gainfully employed librarians, because they’re the ones most likely to join the organization and go to conferences.
And, frankly, I don’t doubt that everyone at the ALA would like there to be full employment among library school graduates. That would mean its duplicitous advertising about the “librarian shortage” for the past decade wasn’t, well, duplicitous.
But it still makes financial sense for the ALA to have as many people going to library school as possible, and here are a few reasons.
A lot of people join ALA during library school. The dues are cheap, and the students can add “American Library Association” to their resume thinking that it will matter. The same students who were impressed enough by the claim that there’s a librarian shortage will want to join up.
Even if the ALA doesn’t make a lot of money from the reduced student dues, it makes a little bit, and by offering such low dues for students, it hooks at least some of them for a long time, like junkies.
It’s likely that most unemployed library school graduates aren’t spending gobs of money on organization dues or conference fees, but some of them are. Why? The promise of jobs through ALA’s much publicized job placement service. Neither I nor any librarians I’ve ever met have gotten a job through the job placement service, but maybe some people do.
There are probably no job placement statistics from the job placement service, but it really doesn’t matter. If people don’t get jobs through the job placement service, they’ve still ponied up a couple hundred dollars to the ALA at a minimum. What matters is that they paid.
These same un- or underemployed librarians also pay their own way to conferences to meet other librarians and network. While I’ve never met anyone who has gotten a job through the ALA placement service, I’ve met numerous new library school graduates who pay their way to conferences in order to network, though not any who have gotten jobs that way.
And believe me, when they find they’ve met the Annoyed Librarian, they think they’ve arrived in networking heaven, which of course they have.
Despite the fact that you can learn just about anything regarding librarianship online and for free, a lot of librarians go to ALA conferences for continuing education opportunities. Maybe they take a preconference on a special topic or attend every session on new stuff they can.
A percentage of these people are most likely unemployed librarians, and any number of people attending is better than no number attending.
Let’s crunch some numbers. I’ll make them imaginary numbers so they’ll be easier to crunch, but the point is the same.
Let’s say 10,000 people graduate from library school every year, which is probably 1,000 from traditional programs and another 9,000 from online programs.
Of those 10,000 fresh-faced library school graduates, 1,000 get jobs within the year.
Of the 9,000 graduates remaining, how many would be likely to pay to join ALA and go to a conference? The correct answer is, it doesn’t really matter as long as a single one does.
Even the single unemployed librarian paying money to ALA offers a financial incentive, but the chances are likely that considerably more than one will.
And it doesn’t matter if you switch the numbers. 9,000 get jobs and 1,000 don’t. Of those thousand, some percentage is going to pay in the hopes of getting a job. The more unemployed librarians there are, the greater the possibility that some of them will give money to the ALA.
This argument isn’t unique to the ALA. Any professional organization that depends on member dues benefits by having as many potential members as possible.
If that organization also accredited the schools that produce those potential members, you would expect it to tout the benefits of getting a degree to join a profession and fail to mention the drawbacks, like the ALA does here.
Anyway, I think I’ve made my case. Even if just a few suckers finish library school, can’t find jobs, and give money to ALA, the ALA benefits financially. It’s just how the world works.