There was a curious comment on the blog last week that I thought I’d address. In the post on leaving the profession, I had speculated that “There are other library jobs out there, and people with good skills and lots of experience have a much better shot of getting those jobs.”
If people disagree that’s fine with me. What I found curious was what I took to be the nature of the disagreement. Here’s the comment:
This does not apply to all parts of the country; good jobs of ANY kind are still few and far between in many places. Where do you get this rosy data about librarian jobs? And from my experience, good skills and experience do not always play a role as many employers are looking for the cheapest hires possible. Maybe a little insulated in academia, huh?
The first part of the comment I don’t think counts. Saying other jobs are out there doesn’t mean those other jobs are right around the corner from where you live. I’ve long maintained that a lack of geographic mobility means you’re harming your chance at getting a job. Still, there are jobs out there.
Rosy data? You’ve got me there. I have no data, rosy or otherwise, although I do see job ads, and there are definitely library jobs available.
Cheapest possible hires? Yeah, you’ve got me there, too. I think I’ve even written about that, but it would be too much trouble to find the post(s). But yes, I agree that there are libraries who will hire the cheapest over the best, or at least not hire the best if the salary demand is more than the library is willing or able to pay.
The really curious part was the suggestion that I’m “maybe a little insulated in academia.” I’m not quite sure what that means.
Does it mean that academic libraries are somehow “insulated” from something? The library profession? Other kinds of libraries?
They’re certainly not insulated from budget pressures, hiring problems, organizational chaos, incompetence, or any other sort of problems you’d find in other kinds of libraries.
The examples I’ve seen of hiring the cheapest over the best have all occurred in academic libraries. On the other hand, the norm that I’ve seen is hiring the best available candidate, although sometimes the best available candidate is just too expensive.
Plus academic libraries bring some unique headaches like “publish or perish” for a lot of librarians.
So are we to interpret the comment to imply that public libraries, for example, are more prone to all of the problems of libraries in general than academic libraries?
Or, and here’s what I think the comment is getting at, that good skills and experience don’t count for much, or for as much, as they do in academic libraries?
If that’s true, and I do repeat if because I don’t have any experience with this, then it’s surprising that every talented public librarian with an escape route to another profession or kind of library doesn’t bolt immediately.
So is it true that public libraries in general don’t consider talent, skill, and experience when hiring librarians? Do they really just take the cheapest person they can find? Could a profession really sustain itself with that kind of approach to hiring?