Over the past few years, I’ve known or heard about a number of librarians who got tired of their library jobs and wanted to quit working in libraries. That’s understandable. Librarianship isn’t for everyone, even if you can manage to get a decent job.
Of course, once you’re a librarian for a while, you’re not really fit to do much else, so what’s next? For a number of librarians, the next thing seems to involve becoming a library consultant.
As I heard of more and more people doing this, I had to wonder, just how many full time consultants can the profession of librarianship support?
In other words, can people who are only library consultants make a living? I have my doubts.
First, there’s the sheer number of library consultants.
The Library Consultants Directory Online is hardly exhaustive, but there are about 40 consultants listed in there.
If you search Google for “library consultant,” you get 87,400 results. Of course, Google has the same relationship to search results that some men have to parts of their anatomy whose size they want to exaggerate.
If you try to get to the end of those 87,400 results, it’s really just 396 results. But still, that’s a lot of results.
And if you go to LinkedIn and do a keyword for “library consultant,” you get a whopping 858 results.
According to the ALA, there are 12,479 public and academic libraries in the U.S. I’m assuming those hire the bulk of consultants.
With 858 consultants, that leaves about 15 libraries per consultant. If every library in the country hired consultants on an even basis, that would mean each consultant would have about 15 consulting jobs a year, which might in reality means only a few weeks work per year.
That obviously doesn’t happen, so the real market for consultants is considerably smaller, and a lot of those consultants are also employed as full time librarians, and they would presumably take work from the full time consultants.
My main question is whether leaving libraries to become a consultant is just a good way to go from a modest income to an almost nonexistent one, or are there people out there who really make a living from this?
Or do those people eventually return to the library fold in one way or another, as I’ve also seen?
Leaving a librarian job to become a consultant seems like going to library school so you can be assured of a decent job, but I’m really curious about this one.
It seems odd to say it , but if you need money, being a full time librarian is on average probably more lucrative than being a full time library consultant. Whoever would have thought someone might sell out to become a librarian.