Normally I don’t link to the other AL because there’s usually not much of interest there, but I noticed this column in AL Direct and had to take a look. In it, Joe Janes writes about how the applicant pools for library school have shifted over the past 25 years.
In the olden days, “library school applicants often covered two basic points in their personal statements: what job they desired and why they wanted to work in libraries.”
I suspect my library school application statement was something like that. “I want to be a book librarian because I love to read books.”
In addition, “most would also tell some version of the Road to Damascus story.” I think my version was that I’d failed at everything else so librarian was my last best hope. Apparently that worked because I got in. On the other hand, everyone gets in somewhere.
Things are different now it seems. New applicants don’t know what they want to do and haven’t taken a long journey into librarianship.
There are now a “substantial number who are within a year or two of completing undergraduate degrees and more than a few college seniors” who have a “less specific sense of what their interests and intended careers are.”
For example, “I want to work to improve and develop communities and promote social justice through better access to information.”
That’s vague and hopelessly idealistic, the perfect qualities for aspiring librarians! Or maybe not.
Could this shift have any relation to the difficulty some librarians have finding jobs? Maybe it’s not just that library schools let in anyone with a pulse and access to student loans.
It seems like in the past more people went to library school who were older and had already worked in libraries. The previous experience along with not being 23 probably made it easier to get library jobs.
I know a lot of library school students probably don’t want to work in libraries at all, especially if they’re coming out of an “I-school” rather than a “library school.” It’s possible that wanting to improve communities and promote social justice through better access to information would have nothing to do with public libraries. If not, actually working in a public library for a while would probably beat the idealism out of people.
But presumably some of these students do want to work in libraries, and if so, I suspect they’re the ones having the hardest time finding jobs.
If recently graduated college students then soon become library school graduates with no library experience, what sort of odds do they face in the job market compared to their more experienced, and in academic libraries often more educated, librarians?
And if these odds are bad, should they even be let into library schools in the first place? Let’s say yes, because obviously library schools have never been concerned about who makes it into the program.
The other question is whether such students should go to library school at all.
Or if they go, should they be informed early on that they’re going to face very difficult odds?
It probably doesn’t matter, because there’s not going to be anyone in the pipeline doing the informing. 22-year-olds fresh out of college with no library experience are just as eligible for thousands of dollars of student loan money to attend library school as people with more library and life experience.
What library school would want to rain on their parade?