For the last decade or more we’ve been told about the impending retirement of librarians and how that’s going to create a librarian shortage. It looks like the first of these events is really happening.
Every week I scan the national news for anything about librarians, just in case something good comes up. Searching Google News, usually the most interesting things I find are my own recent blog posts, but every once in a while there’s something interesting I’d otherwise miss.
The past couple of weeks? Much of the news I saw was of librarians retiring. It really was a wave.
They’re retiring, “checking out,” or “turning a page,” because news headline writers are such a creative bunch.
Another librarian in Selma, NC is leaving, too, after being the fifth librarian there in five years, but since she’s not retiring we shouldn’t count her.
Nevertheless, we have a librarian every day or so retiring. That’s a wave. This is finally the wave of retirements that the ALA and library schools promised us ten years ago. Sure, it took a while, but better late than never!
People were being recruited to library school a decade ago with the promise of jobs because of librarians retiring in 5-10 years. Now, that might be starting to happen. These are just a few retirements that made news that happened to be picked up by Google. There are probably dozens more!
So was that a good recruitment strategy?
Nope. It was still pretty a bad idea, at least for the students. Library school isn’t like a PhD program. It doesn’t take most people 5-10 years to finish, so going to library school in 2002 for jobs that might happen in 2012 was pretty pointless.
And what about now? Let’s say people are starting to retire. A lot of those retiring seem to be public library directors. The new librarians aren’t going to get those jobs.
But now we’ve had some seasoned librarians out there taking whatever job they could find for the past several years. They’re all over the country.
Does anyone think there will be a national search to get librarians for Dover, AR or Becker, MN? Somehow I doubt it. Perhaps some lucky underemployed librarian in Dover or Becker or Bern will get a chance.
That’s probably what any wave of retirements will lead to. The small public libraries that dot the American landscape will be trying their best to find someone who happens to be nearby. The one or two people in the area chosen will be the ones retiring in 20-30 years. The rest will continue waiting.
And waiting. And waiting. The best lesson from this is don’t go to school or major in something because someone says there will be jobs a decade down the line. That rarely turns out to be a safe bet.