If there’s anything the LJ Salary Survey can tell us, it’s that librarians generally don’t mind needing a graduate degree in order to earn mediocre pay. We must have the greatest jobs in the world.
Seriously, with the median pay for most librarian jobs in the $50,000 range and with around two thirds of librarians being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” in their jobs, what else are we to make of it?
It’s either that librarians have great jobs, or that the sort of people who become librarians are complacent and willing to settle for just about anything. We’ll leave that up in the air.
However, there are some dissatisfied librarians out there, and they tend to be the ones who can’t get decent librarian jobs. Go figure. The worst in the survey seems to be the part-timers. In public libraries, only 23% of them are very satisfied with their jobs, while 32% of the full-timers are.
I’m assuming that librarians who can’t find work at all aren’t included in the survey since they don’t have salaries, but they’re also probably dissatisfied.
Since I haven’t been seeing as many job ads for part-time librarians, I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. Maybe libraries don’t even need to advertise anymore. They have desperate MLSs lined up outside their doors every morning hungry for work, like longshoremen on the docks.
It turns out that 16% of public librarians are part-time, but only 6% of academic librarians. That’s really striking when you consider that about 40% of college faculty are part-timers. Supposedly that’s a crisis proportion, but it was 25% in 1975, so the situation never been particularly rosy.
Nevertheless, it seems that academic librarians have weathered a storm that teaching faculty have not. I guess it’s a lot easier to hire someone part time to teach low level introductory courses than it is to hire someone to develop an information literacy program or catalog books.
The part-time issue in public libraries is even worse if you’re in reference or circulation, where about 25% of the librarians are part-time.
One head of circulation is “hiring folks with MLSs for part-time temporary work. They are desperate to work in a library and cannot find a job.” That library “hired on about a dozen new people—but all of them are part-time, less than 20 hours per week, and get no benefits.”
A hiring public librarian said the “systems require years of part-time work from credentialed librarians before even considering them for full-time positions.” Who puts up with that?
Yet another hiring librarian asked, “Are there a lot of other professions that require a master’s degree for part-time work?” So the person hiring part-time librarians is wondering this?
No doubt the hiring librarians have good intentions. They probably don’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Even if they did have a choice, they have no economic incentives to hire full-time librarians with benefits. Why would they, when they can get desperate part-timers? Nothing boosts staff morale like desperate part-timers!
While looking for the percentage of college adjuncts, I ran into this story in the NYT about a 42-year-old man “with a wife, a toddler, and mounting credit card debt” who can’t find full-time work as an English professor 18 months after graduating with a PhD from CUNY.
I know we’re supposed to feel sorry for him, and I do. I feel sorry that someone stayed in school until their forties and hadn’t realized that their chance of getting a good teaching job was pretty low. By that age you should be planning your retirement income, not trying to find your first professional job.
Part-time librarians aren’t in quite as bad a position, since an MLS usually doesn’t take 8-10 years to earn. If they’ve graduated in the last few years, they shouldn’t even be surprised at their part-time status, since at least one library blog has been talking about the poor library jobs situation for years.
While not as long a shot as finding a good teaching job with a PhD in English or History, finding the right library job is often a matter of luck. If you’re in a state like North Carolina with three library schools pumping out grads every year and you want to work in a public library, your chances diminish considerably, and yet people keep hoping.
Does everyone go through school feeling like they’re going to be the lucky one?
On the other hand, even some of the lucky ones aren’t happy. Having tenure as an academic librarian is quite a boon, since “librarians with tenure make a median of $72,750 versus $49,596 for those without tenure.” God bless tenure!
But even some of those lucky people complain. One librarian reported feeling that “being on tenure track detracts from being better at my actual job.”
That’s clearly a librarian who should have taken a different job, because when you’re on the tenure track publishing is part of your “actual job.”
Sheesh, quit complaining already. It could be a lot worse.