Could we talk about skill and competency lists, please? They’re everywhere, inescapable as change. Professional organizations have made dozens. Dozens more come from the LIS literature, as content analyses of collections of job ads or position descriptions. Whatever job you do or want to do in libraries, someone’s made a list of the skills you must supposedly have mastered.
With my co-instructor Kyle Jones, who is currently working toward his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s iSchool, I am mining the survey data from the Hyperlinked Library massive open online course (MOOC) that we taught last fall for 363 LIS professionals. With support from the San José State University School of Library and Information Science, feedback on the broad professional development opportunity we offered is providing some unique views of how models of online learning for library staff continue to evolve.
The Librarian Shaming tumblr highlights anonymous “confessions” from our field. Some are humorous, some shocking. Some will make you think and maybe reconsider assumptions. This shameful confession perked me up when I discovered it: “I want to replace all librarians with tech people with great customer service skills and teaching ability. I want the library to have its own Genius Bar.” While a bit narrow in focus, this statement resonates on an instinctive level with me as an LIS educator.
The phrase, “professional development” is used liberally by librarians. It’s used so liberally and in so many different contexts that I’m not really sure just what it is anymore. Is it getting yet another degree? Publishing in the literature? Participating in the life of your community? Given that most performance evaluations involve assessing an individual’s success in developing professionally, I think it’s a concept we all want, and need, to understand.
A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, How Americans Value Public Libraries in Their Communities, includes this finding: “Some 90 percent of Americans ages 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an impact on their community, with 63 percent saying it would have a ‘major’ impact.” What’s intriguing is that only 29 percent reported that it would have a major impact on the respondent and respondent’s family. In other words, 90 percent of folks do not want the library to close, but many fewer would feel the negative consequences.
For the past decade, Suzie Allard has worked to build a specialty in science information and science data management. In the process, she has expanded the range of jobs available for the new librarians graduating from her programs. Allard, associate professor and associate director of the School of Information Sciences (SIS) in the College of Communication and Information (CCI) at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), now has been named the winner of the 2013 LJ Teaching Award, sponsored by ProQuest.
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.
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.