March 17, 2018

NextGen: Where Are All the Jobs?

By Christen Orbanus

When I first began applying to library schools, I heard rumors about all these great jobs that would be open to new students after graduation. For some time now there has been talk of a surge of retirements in the profession and how more librarians are urgently needed.

It made for a seductive pitch: go to school for something I love, graduate, and then get to pick which library I want to work at out of the many that would be lined up to acquire me and my new knowledge.

As I sit back and ponder my naïveté, I cannot help but laugh and think: What happened to all the great jobs I was promised?


The Rejection Letter: short, to the point…depressing! Sadly, I have been the recipient of several of these letters since I first began attending library school back in September 2004. At first, the letters were not so painful because I was just beginning library school and only needed a part-time job to gain experience. I persevered and was able to find a temporary position in a law firm library and then an internship in my county library system.

However, now that I am graduating and am looking for full-time employment, I sometimes feel as if I cannot breathe when each new rejection letter is delivered to my mailbox.

Meanwhile, when I search for jobs online, I am overwhelmed by the number of jobs there are for librarians with experience. For new librarians, especially graduates who lack the years of work experience often required, there are very few opportunities. And that makes me wonder how many more of those gut-wrenching rejection letters I will see before I am able to find the job I want.

The “job hunt”

How does that saying go again? “Location, location, location!” For me, and probably many of you, that is surely part of what I affectionately refer to as “the job-hunt problem.” I live in Southern New Jersey, about a 30-minute drive from Drexel University in Philadelphia and about 90 minutes from Rutgers. I am only about two hours away from the University of Maryland and the several American Library Association–accredited library schools in New York. So, I am effectively surrounded by all of these library schools and their recently graduated librarians. We all have one thing in common: finding a job!

To say the least, the competition in my area is fierce. Still, I am nothing if not an optimist. I tell myself things like, “That job was not for me.” I say, “Don’t worry, Christen, something better will come along” or “you didn’t get the job because you are still several months from graduation.”

But, in my more downhearted moments, I ask: What if that is not the case? What if I am doing something terribly wrong in my interviews? Do I talk too fast? Do I look too young? Do I look presentable? Is it my lack of experience?

I can’t help but wonder why the rejection letter doesn’t say something about why I didn’t get the job. But it never does, and I am left to ponder what the successful candidate had that I did not.

What shortage?

With a supposed shortage of librarians looming, the library science field has tried very hard in recent years to recruit young people into its programs. But now that there are all these new people, the truth is, there really are very few jobs for new librarians.

I consider myself lucky that I have been able to work in two very different settings because it has helped me realize what I want to do with my career: I want to be a teen librarian. And I would like to think that I am unique and that I have much to offer to any public library.

I am an Urban Libraries Council Scholar who loves to social network and blog. I am fun, energetic, and sometimes have pink hair. I am young and want to work with teens. Most important, I always want to learn. I want to find a job that will provide me with a challenge, as well as allow me to grow both as a librarian and a person.

Good company

But so far, finding that career opportunity has been the biggest challenge. I will be graduating soon, and mixed in with my excitement is also a sense of fear. In addition to my master’s degree, I will have a mountain of student loans to pay off. I also have all of this knowledge and all of these great ideas. But what good are they without a library where I can share them?

The job hunt can be a daunting task sometimes, especially when mom and dad are always calling, asking if you have a position yet.

When I began writing this piece, I wasn’t quite sure what point I would make. Ultimately, it is this: to all my fellow graduates now trying to find jobs, take comfort; you are not alone!

Author Information
Christen Orbanus is a recent MLIS graduate of Rutgers University, NJ, and an Urban Libraries Council Scholar in the Camden County Library System, NJ. You can find her on her blog, The Pink-Haired Librarian.
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