Someone left a comment on a post a few weeks ago that I’ve been meaning to address. Consider this addressing. It’s a long comment disagreeing with my claim that a lack of geographic mobility can make it harder to get jobs.
Here’s a shortened version:
After two years of looking for a professional library job, I think it’s time that I took issue with something the Annoyed Librarian keeps repeating and that I continuously find not be true….
What she seems to be deliberately ignoring is the fact that some libraries see geographic mobility as a “symptom of desperation.” That is an exact quote from a phone interview I did with an academic library two years ago….
Even more disheartening is when a library places a job add on LibGig and specifically states that, “This employer requests that only candidates within 100 miles of Townson, MD apply to this job.” Here’s the link, if you think I’m making this up: http://publicboard.libgig.com/r.php?id=bd6b8db6f87bed46
These are good points, so maybe it’s time to make some qualifications.
First, I never said geographic mobility means you will get a job, only that the lack of it can hinder you. If you’re stuck in some small town without libraries and you want a library job, you’re probably out of luck. The same is generally true if you’re stuck in a town with a big library school. I still think this is true.
Second, based mostly on personal experience and anecdotal evidence, there does seem to be a distinction between which types of libraries hire nationally and which don’t. Basically, the more prominent the library, the better chance it hires nationally.
In practice, that means most public libraries aren’t going to be hiring people from far away. They don’t have the money to bring in candidates and they’re not competitive nationally.
While lots of librarians are want to work in New York or Chicago or Los Angeles, fewer would make sacrifices to work in a small town they’ve never heard of. They know this. The libraries know this. So national searches are a waste of time.
Based on the comment, the same seems to be true of academic libraries. Libraries at major universities hire nationally. By major, I more or less mean ARL libraries, the big private universities, the flagship state universities, etc. These libraries aren’t going to restrict themselves to whomever happens to have a close zip code if the candidates look promising.
Applying for a job at Harvard from California wouldn’t be considered a sign of desperation.
The same might be true of the top liberal arts colleges such as Williams or Swarthmore. I’ve known lots of people working at colleges like that who weren’t locals.
So where does that leave us? There are all the smaller colleges and universities, which sometimes seem to have hiring practices similar to small public libraries. Their faculty are probably hired that way, too.
The job posting linked in the comment isn’t for a professional job, but there’s another listing at Towson University for a professional job that has the same geographic limitations. The reason? Possibly because it fits the academic profile sketched above. It’s not a nationally ranked university. It’s a regional public university.
The nationally known universities in Maryland, and probably the only ones people outside of Maryland have ever heard of, are the University of Maryland at College Park and Johns Hopkins, and neither of them likely limit their hires to within a hundred miles.
If this analysis is right, a rule of thumb might be, if you’ve never heard of a college or university in some region you’re unfamiliar with, they probably won’t be hiring a lot of people from out of state.
Thus, your geographic mobility won’t help you get jobs at such places, even if the lack of it will prevent you from getting other jobs.
At best, I was only partly right, not that it’s helping anyone get a job.