Some of the best new professionals I meet and teach are leaving academic libraries. Another scholarly-communication librarian in an academic library got in touch with me online last week about finding a different kind of job. I’m well-used to these messages from scholarly communication librarians and research data managers new to the profession; sometimes they’re my former students, sometimes they’re conference acquaintances or folk I converse with online. Like the other pre-departure messages I’ve gotten, this one came from the kind of new professional every academic library claims to need: smart, tech-savvy, creative, passionate, hard-working, up-to-date, and consciously committed to staying that way. Like the other pre-departure messages I’ve gotten, this one breathed disillusionment and burnout. I’m worried.
We knew Corinne Hill was destined to be a star back in 2004, when she was named an LJ Mover & Shaker. She had been a librarian for only eight years. A decade later, as executive director of the Chattanooga Public Library (CPL), she is the 2014 LJ Librarian of the Year, an award sponsored by Baker & Taylor. Hill’s career has climaxed in Chattanooga, where she has transformed what consultants June Garcia and Susan Kent called the “ugly, irrelevant, and mismanaged” public libraries of Hamilton County, TN, into the new and vibrant CPL. “She has fostered a culture of change and innovation that has affected nearly every aspect of the library,” says an August report in the Chattanooga Times/Free Press.
Congratulations! You have worked hard to earn your degree and have been successful in finding a professional position that suits your skills and abilities. You have navigated a competitive job market in the midst of a recession, and, in spite of reduced budgets, you have been able to launch your career. But no library school, however full of internships and practicums, can fully prepare you for day-to-day life as a working librarian. Here are some hints to help you fit into your role and have a fruitful and rewarding lifework—all based on observations from years of mentoring new employees.
I’ve had some strange experiences teaching workshops and continuing-education courses over the last couple of years. These challenges simply don’t happen in my regular library-school classrooms. Sometimes I can easily take them as a salient reminder to me to explain clearly the “why” behind the “what” in my teaching. More often, though, I find myself worried, both for these learners and for the state of the overall pool of professional skill.
After years of struggling to get its house in order, the Masters of Library Science (MLS) program at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) lost its American Library Association (ALA) accreditation last week. While faculty and administrators hope to take the withdrawal as an opportunity to focus their efforts at revitalizing the troubled program, the withdrawal of ALA accreditation is a serious blow to the school.
Holding steady. That’s the overarching picture of salaries for new graduates from MLIS programs, as captured by LJ’s annual Placements & Salaries Survey. Every year, LJ takes the pulse of the profession through this national survey, and each year we suss out the significant issues conveyed by the numbers and the respondents’ verbatim replies. Steady, of course, can be relatively good news in a challenged economy. Still, I don’t like it. I want to see salary growth in this evolving and crucial profession. More important, the bulk of our new graduates need better salaries to survive and thrive—and the profession needs those wages to retain, and continue to attract, the best and the brightest.
The real achievements for the 2012 library and information science graduating class came in the form of emerging jobs and new responsibilities, according to the approximately 1,900 graduates who responded to LJ’s annual Placements & Salaries survey, representing 30.7 percent of the 2012 graduates from the 41 participating programs.
While new roles offered higher compensation opportunities as well as excitement, that growth did not extend to the full range of new librarians. Overall, starting salaries were flat, and placements decreased in school libraries. The overall average starting salary growth was lackluster, holding steady at $44,503, $62 less than in 2011. (Though this varied widely by region.)
Geography continues to play a key role in determining the level of salary new graduates can anticipate. Graduates landing jobs in the West fared the best: 2012 grads working in the West saw the average salary of $54,454 climb 9.3* percent above 2011 levels ($49,819) and seven percent beyond those achieved in 2010 ($50,792). This included healthy increases in salaries for public librarians (up 13 percent), academic librarians (up 7.2 percent), and school librarians (up 6.8 percent). Not surprisingly, many jobs in the West had an information technology industry focus, especially in the areas of user experience design and software engineering.