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The Myth Moves to Montana

Some of you might have already seen this news story a kind reader sent to me. I’m finding the whole story a bit odd, and wondered what you all think.

Supposedly there’s a shortage of librarians. You’ve heard this before, I know, but this time it’s more specific. There’s supposedly a shortage of librarians in Montana. That came as a surprise to me, because I didn’t even know there were any libraries in Montana. I thought it was all mountains and moose. The Montana State Library thinks librarians are hard to come by. "The state library is currently running a media campaign promoting librarianship as a career. In past years the Montana State Library has also offered scholarships for Montanans pursuing library graduate degrees."

A media campaign. Wow! That should solve the problem, if indeed they have a problem. Oh, and those scholarships? Where did they come from? Money from an irrational IMLS grant in 2003, part of the US Government’s ALA-inspired and utterly misguided effort to solve the problem of a librarian shortage that didn’t exist. If the government is going to waste my tax dollars on something, at least it could be something we could all enjoy, like fireworks displays or in-home foot massages or something.

One might question whether there really is a librarian shortage in Montana, and if so what might the cause be. This story was published in the Great Falls Tribune, but doesn’t look very encouraging to Great Falls residents.

"The Great Falls Public Library employs five master’s degree level librarians. The library isn’t currently hiring librarians and won’t be until one of those positions goes vacant, said library director JimHeckel. ‘When we do need them, it’s difficult to find somebody,’ he said.’"

Now that sounds more like it! It’s great logic. We don’t have any jobs for librarians, but on the off chance we do it’s hard to find librarians.Hmm, I wonder why?

Could it be the pay? "Librarians in Montana earn between $13 and $22 an hour, according to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry." Methinks it could be the pay, especially if that’s the range, so that it means the newer librarians would make about $13/ hour and the more experienced ones could work their way up to a stratospheric $22/hour.

I just don’t understand the standards of portions of this profession. Who would spend a year or two and thousands of dollars on a so-called graduate degree that might earn a new librarian $13/hour. What makes it more bizarre are the comments in the article trumpeting how specialized and difficult librarianship is these days (please, no snickering). Who would spend this sort of money for so little reward or prestige? Morons, that’s who.

Based on the evidence in this article, Montana – like the rest of the country – doesn’t have a librarian shortage. It has a moron shortage. As hard as it is to believe, the whole country seems to have a moron shortage, and this is what has made it hard to find librarians, if indeed it is hard to find librarians.

And no doubt Montana is trying to grow its own librarians who couldn’t compete nationally, because there’s almost no chance of finding morons from other parts of the country to move to Montana for that rate, even if there were jobs, which it seems there aren’t.

The situation seems to defy logic until you realize there’s a conspiracy against librarians. If there really was a librarian shortage, paying higher salaries and advertising those high salaries on job sites would take care of the problem. The pay of librarians isn’t rising dramatically to attract new librarians. Thus, there really isn’t a shortage. It’s like the folks at ALA and the Montana State Library and the IMLS and every other place pushing this myth never heard of supply and demand.

Once again, we have a news story propagated by a library organization proclaiming the myth of the librarian shortage. Whoever’s in this conspiracy, the aim is obvious. Keep as many unemployed librarians as possible in the country. This keeps wages low and makes librarians expendable, thus increasing the control over them by the powers that run libraries. The logic is clear. "We don’t have any jobs at the moment, but if we ever do have a job open we want a large pool of unemployed librarians desperate for work so we can get them cheap and keep them in line because they’re utterly expendable." It’s the logic of every domineering exploiter, and it’s coming to a library near you.



  1. Dan Kleinman of says:

    I wonder if the article is the library’s attempt to get noticed by the people handing out the stimulus checks.

    The article says, “The library applied for these funds again in 2008 and will soon learn if it received them, Jackson said.” Huh? We’re half way through 2009 and don’t yet know if they received 2008 funding?

  2. Mr. Kat says:

    We’re not short of Morons. We’re short of things for the Morons to go do so they don’t go making Moronic discoveries.

    I bet this campaign was spurred by the Montana Universities dealing with a shortage of MLS students – and that MUST mean a Librarians shortage, RIGHT???

  3. another young librarian says:

    I think comments underneath the article are the best part. They pretty much echo your sentiments. Two say “This is ridiculous. There are no job postings from this library that I can see. If you really want a librarian let me know because I’ve been looking for a job since January, and I’m willing to move anywhere.”

  4. Dan – It’s not 2008 money. It’s FY09 money. The application deadline was in December 2008; awards are announced summer 2009.

  5. Libraries?

    In Montana???

    bwaa haaa haaa ha.

    The only people they serve are Freemen and the Unabomber.

    Paying anything over $13 an hour would be silly.

  6. The AL is starting to sound like a Marxist!

  7. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    This is the first time AL actually started to put things together. Now is it done as some evil plot or just the way things are going. By over supplying you keep the schools happy and wages low. I do have to question one thing…which library in Montana thats not an academic library needs 5 degreed librarians? I am in a 45,000 sq foot building serving 68,000 and we do it with just two.

  8. ChickenLittle says:

    Actually parts of Canada have had real “shortages” of librarians. The Canadian prairies (Saskatchewan, Manitoba and less so Alberta) have always had difficulty attracting people from outside the provinces. If they do come, they tend not to stay long as reasons the Annoyed Librarian has already outlined….terrible wages, and to top things off…a terrible climate!! What’s is worse in a large part of Canada is that small town libraries employ local workers as “librarians” with little or no skills, thus bringing down the credibility of the MLIS degree (not to mention the wages)!

  9. I graduated with my MLS in Dec 08 and, having grown up in a western state, included Montana in my job search. I’m now making a salary within the range described, in a midwestern state. I found no shortage of job openings in MT, but, well, you can see how well that worked out.

  10. Nobody wants to work in those Arctic provinces.

  11. decent-looking straight guy says:

    A cursory review of data at the fairly standard sources suggests AL is right on target with this post. The website of the Montana Library Association,, does not even have a page with job listings in the state. The site map shows a page that’s a webform that allows a Montana library to post a job ad, but I could find none posted currently on the site. When I did one of those searches on ALA’s JobLIST that allows one to see all jobs at all kinds of libraries within a particular state, it revealed only three for Montana. One was the library director job at Montana State – Great Falls College of Technology, and another waas a “BMS” Librarian at Univ. Montana. I’ve never heard of a BMS librarian, but the job description revealed it’s basically acquisitions and cataloging. The third isn’t even a permanent position, but is a 1-2 temporary adjunct job as an archivist at Univ. Montana. So there’s cleary no shortage by that count. Moreover, only one of those jobs is really suited for someone out of library school (the visiting archivist job), and even then only someone who had some archives class which most of the bogus LIS programs dont’ bother with. Nor is the salary range really competitive enough for someone to move all the way out there for one year with the hope of two years. As anyone who has ever had a one-year academic appointment, as soon as you get the job you have to start looking for another one. (I’ve never had a one-year appointment myself but that’s what I hear). It’s conceivable that a really strong recent graduate that had good classes and some experience with technical services *might* get an interview for the “BMS” job. (Since it’s technical services, “BMS” may stand for “Bibliographic and Metadata Services” or something similar). Further, ALA JobLIST and a state’s library association aren’t the only place to advertise library jobs, so there may be other jobs out there. But a real “shortage” of librarians would evidence itself on the sites mentioned above, and it doesn’t at all.

  12. someone says:

    University of Montana has a bunch of respectable programs with some scholars of international known. Stop you bashing of the state. I’m not from Montana and have never lived there, but have academic colleagues (not librarians) that I respect and have worked with over the years.

    If AL and commenters wrote about particular ethnic groups the way you talk about particular regions and states on this blog, you’d get drummed offline for being racists.

    Or does the “it’s just satire” defense apply?

    And I’m not a fan of John Buschmann if that’s what you’re thinking.

  13. “. . .with some scholars of international known. . .”
    Ted Kaczynski?

  14. ChickenLittle says:

    Someone….you are so right! Why is it acceptable to bash a great state like Montana?? I’ve been there many times and would love to live there! Anyone would be lucky to live there, especially if you were the outdoorsy type….oops forgot I was talking to librarians who never step foot outside their 4 walls, how does that “stereotype” feel people??

  15. “Stop you [sic] bashing of the state”

    I didn’t read anything in there that could be construed as “bashing of the state”.

    I think Montana’s has two problems. First, it doesn’t have a local MLIS program so it has to import all of its librarians. Second, as AL said, $13/hour is not enough to entice someone to come out and live in the middle of nowhere (and being ranked 48th in population density qualifies as the middle of nowhere).

    I don’t know that the librarian shortage is a conspiracy. I’ve been through library school and I’ve seen the critical thinking skills of some of the “librarians” that get popped out. I think the bigger problem is that the people claiming a librarian shortage (who unfortunately seem to be everywhere) don’t have a grasp on things like statistics or reality.

  16. Rational Western Librarian says:

    As someone who grew up in the West, has no bias against Montana, and understands the complaints of small-town/flyover state libraries, I think it’s worth focusing on the salary. Plugging it into the CNN calculator (using Kallispell at our city, which is the closest equivalent), $13/hr translates into about $28775 gross in Chicago, or $23,900 in Charlotte, NC, and so on. That sort of starting salary is fine if you want to hang out in Great Falls & the rest of the state, fish, hike, etc.; it’s great if you’re local and want to stay that way. If you want to go anywhere else or take big financial actions–like buying a house or paying off Library School loans–it’s just not viable unless you’re part of a dual-income family. This is why (in this case, at least) AL is right: this is the kind of starting salary that will not hold anyone in place except recent grads desperate for experience.

  17. Hey 3k3e2….

    Ken Dial in biology, Linda Frey in History, pretty much any of the faculty affiliated with their paleontology center…that’s just the beginning.

    So shut the f*ck up.

    Besides, the Kaczynski joke is old and unoriginal.

  18. “I didn’t read anything in there that could be construed as “bashing of the state”.

    I was talking about commenter enp8s (fifth comment down), not AL.

  19. Librarians come onto here to be annoyed. If you want friendly banter, go the the ALA conference, drink eleventy martinis and cry about how no one loves libraries anymore.

    Especially in Montana.

  20. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    I’d love to visit Montana but would hate to live there. They have this thing called “winter” and I left winter many years ago and never want to see it again. Not even for $70K would I move to frigid temperatures, snow and short days. It’s hot as blazes where I am and I’d rather sweat buckets … while I earn my paltry MLIS salary of about $21 an hour. Lots of that goes to the electric company by the way.

    The insanity continues in LibraryLand – I’ve been contacted by a new student in an MLIS program who needs a mentor. So how negative should I be???

  21. I’m not looing for friendly banter. I’m just saying calling it like it is. Doing that *would* mean pointing out that there’s no librarian shortage. It would not mean saying or implying there’s no decent libraries or intellectual activity in Montana, as a previous commenter did.

    Pointing out that biased caricatures of Montana’s libraries are, well, biased caracitures isn’t the same as the trite pronouncements of self-importance of ALA to which you refer.

    So get it straight. Maybe there’s no librarian shortage, and maybe Montana’s not for obese couch-potatos or people who don’t like the cold, but that doesn’t mean the whole place sucks swampwater and has no intellect in it.

  22. Techserving You says:

    Thanks to the poster who brought up the cost of living issue. As horrifying as that salary range is, when you go to CNN Money and plug in various wages in that range and compare it to other areas of the country (such as Massachusetts, where I am) you see that it’s actually in line with what a lot of places here pay. It’s still pitifully low, but when evaluating it, at least look at it in terms of how much things cost in Montana. It’s not really much worse than starting pay is in many places (which is, I repeat, not to say that it is good. But it is better than nothing.) The pay is a huge issue almost everywhere except in the federal government.

  23. Doing a quick cost of living comparison between New York City and Bozeperson Montana (one of the sites with lots and lots of famous intellectuals and one of the two world famous research institutions in the state) $13 in Bozeperson compares to $16.04 in NYC.

    Woo woo.

    I wouldn’t let my dog take a job for that amount in either place. Even he could not afford dog food and a flea infested flop house to live in.

  24. Dr. Pepper says:

    @NotMarianTheLibrarian – you should be as negative as you want. If people are going into the MLIS thinking there are jobs – then it’s your job as a mentor to snap them back into reality. If they have a plan for post MLIS that does not include libraries and they are doing the MLIS just for the fun of it – then you can be lighter on the person.

    I tell it like it is to young starry eyed MLIS folks who work in libraries as workstudies and want to work in them post graduation. There are no job. And no, if you do get a job, it won’t pay you anywhere near the $80k that the ‘senior’ libraries get.

  25. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    I neglected to add, Dr. Pepper, that the student is enrolled online with UNT. He may rethink his future when he learns that we haven’t considered any UNT online grads for recent positions.

    A little gripe here – why is it students think our mentoring them is an opportunity for us? It’s just more work on my plate and my dean doesn’t give me extra cookies for that sort of work. I turned a student down flat when her e-mail subject read “Opportunity for You!” Erp.

  26. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Though cost of living calculations are nice they are out dated for the modern economy. Sure I might pay less or more for rent or even energy but thats the only places it makes a deference. My student loan(s), Car,insurance, even trip to Wal-Mart, IT expenses, etc all are fixed at a national level and will cost the same whither I was in NY or Montana. The question you have to ask is how much of cost are fixed to a national level and how much is not? If its low then cost of living works in your favorite. If its high like me and I expect most of you it screws you.

  27. My answer for the mentor question and I might be getting one from UNT too is having them read this blog :) This will let them see a different view of library land then what they are being taught. Also I know more then one UNT LIS student who dropped out because the work was boring. Even with me trying to get them enthusiastic about it. So the work might just do it for them. Maybe thats it its not a librarian shortage its a shortage of brain dead people

  28. ChickenLittle says:

    A related question for everyone….does anyone know the “how’s and when” the myth of the librarian shortage came to be? The myth had to have made its rounds in the early 2000’s because I do not recall hearing this in the mid-late 90’s when I was in library school. Was in fact ALA largely responsible as the AL has suggested?? It is an interesting case study on how a “myth” can be openly perpetuated as a “fact”…..

  29. Dr. Pepper says:

    @notMarionThelibrarian – hahahaha – I had a good laugh with the “Opportunity of you!” email ROFL. Yeah, I would turn those cocky people down too.

    The poor sap is going to UNT? I would say tell them to quit while they are ahead and look at other career choices. Think of it as positive karma points ;-)

  30. Techserving You says:

    Post Post Modern Librarian – you have some good points, and I am in the same boat as you are when it comes to having very high student loan payments. But, although cost of living calculators are not perfect, they still have some use in indicating how much living costs are in one place versus in another place. Information on tax burdens (which, as far as I can tell, is not always included in cost of living indicators) is also useful – is there an income tax? A sales tax? What are property taxes like? Etc.. I understand that lots of people have costs that are fixed, regardless of where they live. But I find, especially as someone who has always lived in a very expensive part of the country, that it is helpful for me to look at these indicators when evaluating salaries. For instance, in Boston, rent for a typical one-bedroom apartment might be $1,200. And groceries are expensive, taxes are fairly high (though comparatively not as high as people in “Tax-achusetts” think they are.) Then let’s say that on top of other bills, I’ve got $500 a month in student loan payments. I look at $13 an hour – or even $20 an hour – and I think HOW could I ever live on that? I’d have to have a milliom roommates, etc.. So, it’s just helpful to stop for a minute and realize, oh wait, rents will be much less expensive there, there’s no sales tax, the overall tax burden is lower, etc.. So while someone wouldn’t be doing WELL there on that salary, they may not be struggling any more than they might be with a much higher salary in a more expensive part of the country. That was my whole point.

  31. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    I don’t know what my little mentee is doing right now – if he is a school teacher, UNT offers a fast-track, not-quite-the-real-deal MLIS for school librarians. A friend made that transition from teacher to school librarian and found the public school sytem a lot easier to endure. She is the only person I know with the UNT degree who has found a job AND kept it.

    I think ALA created the librarian shortage myth. I’m 25+ years in and it has always been challenging to find a job, particularly if you weren’t willing to move. I left lovely Austin, TX, for a cultural backwater – had to have that first job and it hurt to move to Podunk. I boohooed a good bit of the way to my new home.

  32. Techserving You says:

    Also, I get that $13 in Bozeman is equivalent to $26 in Manhattan. Not that that is enough to live well on in Manhattan. But the problem is not so much this pitiful salary offered in Montana as it is the general pitiful salaries in the library field. $26 is actually high for some library jobs in Manhattan that I have seen posted.

  33. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “Anyone would be lucky to live there, especially if you were the outdoorsy type….oops forgot I was talking to librarians who never step foot outside their 4 walls, how does that “stereotype” feel people??”

    Have news for you…I live in L.A.,CA, at the base of a National Forest, because I just happen to be the “outdoorsy type” who often ventures outside of my 4 walls.


  34. Post Postmodern Librarian says:

    Techserving opps I forgot about taxes those can get pretty hefty at the local level. Sorry there is a benefit for living in Texas there. As far as going from NY to Montana sure you can possibly come out ahead but then we encounter the factor of standard of living and are you happy living in that environment. I live in one of the poorest parts of the nation and get paid only a bit more then Montana. Its not so much the pay that is killing me its the lack of living that is killing me. This is why we mess with fly over states and Montana. Just different ideas of what life should be.

  35. Get a few miles away from those ivory towers in the university towns, and most people in Montana don’t cotton to book larnin.

  36. I’m curious. What’s with the UNT hate? I’m not familiar with the program, but it seems that many people have many negative things to say about it.

  37. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Dang it, Auntie Nanuuq!!! I’m not working with you after all!

    Anyone – UNT’s online program as opposed to UT Austin’s in-residence program? That’s pretty a pretty easy one. Say you live in a wee little town with no library. You may get the MLIS but you won’t have worked with a decent library collection. That’s why I selected UT Austin – they have a fantastic library system and the library school students worked with that collection. It isn’t a question of hate, it’s a question of quality.

  38. dementedlibrarian says:

    I know someone said it here but can’t find the post again. It’s all about cost of living. I’m working on my MLS with the full knowledge the library I work at will NEVER pay me what the standard is for librarians. And I know I can’t make it on my own with my $14 an hour. But in other parts of the country, that’s big money.

  39. another f-ing librarian says:

    “in other parts of the country $14 an hour is big money.” this is true. but not in montana. food, for one thing, is more expensive than elsewhere on account of the cost of getting it to its destination. i have family members there. it’s a beautiful place, and i love winter. but there’s no way i could even live on $22 an hour there, given the fact that *not* owning a car is basically impossible, and that the distances a person has to drive to get anywhere are nearly mind-boggling. with fuel prices on the rise again, even if there *were* a librarian shortage, it seems kinda risky.

    tangentially (or am i moving out to the bigger picture?), what i’ve been wondering about, is ala’s ‘planned giving’ program. what’re they thinking? that we’re all married to people who both earn big, *and* love ala enough to remember it in their wills? if ala really wants dough left to them, you’d think they’d take some kind of interest in assuring that we *have* some. i’m never even going to be able to retire. why the heck would *my spouse* leave them a dime? boneheads.

  40. Planned giving to ALA. That’s funny. snuck, snuck. I don’t even give them annual dues. I might be persuaded to give them annal dues.

  41. Techserving You says:

    Yup, Post Post Modern…. standard of living is enother issue, and again, I agree with you. I’d actually much rather be poorer in a more expensive city area, because of the culture and free events, lack of need to drive everywhere, etc.. But some people might love it in that area. So strictly money-wise, it may not be as bad as that salary range makes it seem.

  42. Emma Truelove says:

    Uh, nah. I don’t think there’s an exploitation. Public agencies don’t have MLS money. Period. Florida’s Librarian of the Year, Doreen Gauthier, did an interview on 5/21/09 in the Miami Diaries blog (Blogger) and talked pretty frankly about it.

  43. Youth Services librarian says:

    Dementedlibrarian, you questioned salary. I started at $16.80 an hour (40 hour a week job) in 2006 and live in a flyover state. The cost of living is fairly low here. I now make $20.00 an hour, have health, vision, and dental premiums covered and feel lucky in this economy. My starting salary is pretty common. I wouldn’t have started somewhere for $13 or $14 an hour, and yeah I had to move to get a decent job, and it was very competitive to get it. Also, moving to a place you’d rather not live doesn’t mean you have to stay there forever.

  44. I have helped many UNT and Sam Houston distance education students. I swear I am going to start charging both schools as GA soon. It would help pay off my student loans. I am in a distance education program for another masters and I dont have near as much trouble as these students are having. Something tells me its because the MLIS is a vocational degree and you really need someone explaining things to you face to face. it speeds things up.

  45. Skipbear says:

    I guess this one can’t be put under “Library Jobs That Suck” because there is not a job openings…but they might do better recruiting a pool of “adjunct librarians” Is it me or what but ever since I started reading the “Chronicle of Higher Education” there always seem to be plenty of low-paying library jobs posted in Montana but seems the same for Illinois outside the Chicago metro area as well as a lot of other places. And come on it’s expensive to live above the poverty line anywhere these days.

  46. Why is the AL being sexist. Librarians are no longer the stereotypical spinster myths. Many are men and many are married Mrs. A a great deal are Ms.

  47. I love it when I get calls for monetary gifts from the school of information studies where I graduated. My response: ‘I’m a librarian, I can’t afford contributions’. As for the librarian shortage – it took me several years to finally land a full time library job – at 27k.

  48. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    When UT Austin came a-calling for $$$, I told them no way. As a self-supporting (all of $7,500 a year) white woman, UT Austin had no financial aid for me when it came to graduate school. Since they were not willing to help me, I will not help them. Those were mighty lean times for me and I lived hand-to-mouth while working on my MLIS.

    I had a high-paying corporate job for years and I preferred giving money to the Salvation Army and Habitat rather than UT. In their defense – they never said finding a job would be easy back in 1982.

  49. Techserving You says:

    I have a question… and this is not meant to be rude or critical… I’m just curious. How many of you library school graduates who can’t for the life of you find full-time professional jobs have much previous library experience beyond manning a circ desk as a student, or something? I only ask this because while I do NOT for a second believe that there is a librarian shortage, I have never had trouble finding a job. First, I easily moved from paraprofessional position to paraprofessional position (not making a huge amount, but in the high $20Ks/low $30Ks.) Then after library school (which I did full-time at a very good school (I mean, overall it was a very good university, not referring specifically to the library school) after a decade in the “field,” I had no trouble finding a good job (in 2007) and then when I wanted to leave that one within a year, finding another very good job. I do think that in a way I ‘lucked out’ – just happened to respond to postings at the right time. But I also had in-depth technical services experience. I kind of feel that the majority of people having such a hard time finding a full-time professional librarian position are simply in the same boat that most new grads – in any field – are in. They lack closely-related experience. The difference is that because they had to go and get a masters degree in order to have any hope of getting a job, they have higher expectations… like because they have ‘specialized’ knowledge there should be a job waiting for them, and that it should pay decently. I’m not criticizing that view (well, maybe the idea that we have specialized knowledge)… that’s the myth sold to lots of people. I guess my comment is just that the librarian field is really no different from many other fields, in terms of available jobs and pay. The difference is that we have to have masters degrees to get jobs, and I think that that makes people think that the experience part is not important… like having the masters takes the place of having lots of experience. I always say that it is necessary to getting a professional position, but not often sufficient. And, I know that there are also plenty of out of work experienced librarians. So I am not making a big blanket statement… I’ve just been surprised at how many people I know did library school with no work relevant experience and then expect a professional position when they graduate – and even think that they somehow know more or could do a better job than a very experienced paraprofessional without an MLIS. Again, this is not meant to be a provocative statement… I’m sort of thinking outloud (or ‘in print.’)

  50. ChickenLittle says:

    Techserving You: you make some excellent points! Like you, I didn’t have any trouble finding full time work, not because I had a lot of library experience, but I had a lot of private sector work experience that applied to library land. You may be right when people expect jobs when they have a masters degree as opposed to work experience. A lot of the people I work with here have little work experience outside of libraries. This is scary, should they ever become unemployed. It may also point to the “well roundedness” of the profession as a whole, having people working in libraries who have done little else, and have little interests outside of books and reading does not make for a good robust profession.

  51. Real Life Experience says:

    Techserving You–I had 5 years doing paraprofessional reference in a law firm, 2 years in publishing with a role in information needs, and 2 years in a business research unit, and a year of adult and children’s services in a public library. I couldn’t find a fulltime job after finishing my MLS in 2 different regions of the country and eventually moved into another field where I’m very happy. Believe me, it wasn’t because I lacked work experience. The MLS actually limited my job prospects because so many jobs have been deprofessionalized. And I’ve got friends who have had similar levels of experience–there’s few positions for entry-level librarians no matter what your background, and there’s few jobs to move up into.

  52. Techserving You says:

    Good point about ‘well-roundedness.’ Certainly those librarians who are most employable – in the field or outside of the field if they choose to change careers or are forced to by circumstances – are those who can easily adapt. They should have a wide skill set or at least skills that can apply to a range of jobs, but also need to be adaptable, personality-wise. I find personalities that can adapt to new environments are even rarer in library staffs that are people with a wide range of skills! Oh, this reminds me of another point, though… another myth perpetuated by the ALA and library schools… that the skills you use in libraries can be applied anywhere. Sure, you can move into any clerical or customer service position you want! Or, the skills can be applied in other jobs but in no way meet the full range in skills needed in a different job. So if people DO want to stay in libraries, I think they’ll do well to work in a range of library positions. As far as outside interests go, though… I’ve actually found my librarian coworkers – in every library in which I have worked – to be more well-rounded than most other people I know, or at least to have a more well-developed talent or hobby than most do. This is true in academic libraries, anyway. I think many people go into and stay in librarianship because it’s a job they don’t usually have to take home with them and it frees them up to work on another interest, without having to wait tables, or something, to make ends meet. But I digress!

  53. Techserving You says:

    Real Life Experience – interesting story. And I think you have a good point about many jobs being deprofessionalized, and then employers don’t want an MLS-holder because they fear he or she will leave as soon as a professional job opens up. But, having worked in libraries for so long, I have found that a lot of libraries (stupidly, in my view, at least when it comes to certain areas of librarianship) want people with library experience, and not other relevant experience that was obtained outside of libraries. I’m sure there are lots of people like you, though… I really would never recommend librarianship as a career change. But, I did see in my own MLIS program the majority of students having NO library work experience, and maybe half not even having ANY work experience, which is why I raised the issue.

  54. Techserving You says:

    Oh, one last thing. I have to point out that in most cases, librarianship is not a career where you do the traditional move up the career latter. It’s just not suited to that, because hierarchies are so often quite flat. Only at the largest libraries do you even have staff librarians, librarian managers, and directors, etc.. Most libraries have the hourlies, then the librarians, and then one or two people at the top. Instead, I have found, it is a career of lateral moves. Somewhat unique to librarianship, I think, is the fact that the positions that new librarians and experienced librarians are going after are usually the same, even in a good economy. There isn’t usually a big difference between entry-level positions and positions for experienced librarians. People get a position and stay in that same position, learning and perhaps taking on more responsibility, or helping to develop newer procedures, but don’t usually move up out of it the way they might in another field. Or, they leave to go to a position that offers new tasks and therefore (briefly, anyway) some new challenges. But the typical post-MLIS career track is not one that involves getting an ‘entry-level’ position and then moving up through higher and higher-level positions. People lament the lack of entry-level positions, but that’s just the nature of the ‘field.’ I guess in a way you might liken it to teaching. There isn’t a huge difference between the positions a new teacher gets and the position an experienced teacher has… the experienced teacher just tries to grow in his or her position, but generally the function they have is the same, unless they become department head, etc..

  55. Real Life Experience says:

    Oh, absolutely–library hiring people have narrow visions of their candidates, and heaven help you if you don’t fit their vision, no matter what your skills.

    But if MLS programs are not going to require relevant work experience of their candidates and continue to market the field as a second career, it’s just going to be more of the same. I was extremely amused by the article “MLS: Hire Ground?” in the last issue of LJ. I can’t beleive no one picked up on the fact that the survey respondents paid lip service to the value of a MLS while admitting that they’ve deprofessionalized most of the work, and that the professional work like outreach, public library instruction and IT services are all better done by people who don’t have a MLS but other experience, schooling, or background skills. I mean, really? AL has it exactly right–they want a pool of desperation the better to pit us against each other and pay us less for the few jobs there are.

  56. Techserving You says:

    Thanks for pointing out that article, which I had not seen. This quote in it makes a point I have often tried to make: ‘If nonlibrarians are genuinely capable of providing top-notch service without the degree, then either the degree, the work, the paraprofessionals, or some combination of the three must have changed.’ When I worked as a paraprofessional, I did higher level work than many degreed librarians do. All of my useful knowledge of librarianship comes from my work experience and not my degree program. But I had to get the degree to get a professional position. If all these libraries are ‘deprofessionalizing’ positions – giving the same work to none-degree holders, what does that say about the work or the value of the degree?

  57. ChickenLittle says:

    Techserving You: “If all these libraries are ‘deprofessionalizing’ positions – giving the same work to none-degree holders, what does that say about the work or the value of the degree?”…..I’m afraid to answer that question! If there was such a thing as the “5th amendment” in library land I would take it!

  58. Dr. Pepper says:

    It’s amazing to me the lip service that the MLIS gets. I am working on my 3rd MS (lucky for work benefits) and I have a number of librarian classmates. While they all tell me that I made a better choice for going with the MS instead of the MLS, no one says that they regretted doing theirs!

    As someone without an MLS, and someone who’s desperately looked for a good and challenging school (because colleagues pressured me to get an MLS – which I have outright rejected now), I could not find one. There is no pyaback for the MLIS. It’s a piece of paper that signifies nothing to the world at large.

    As I wrote on LJ – it would be better to have librarians with other MA/MS/MEd/MBA/JD degrees plus some sort of graduate certificate that indicates that you’ve completed training in areas such as information organization, cataloguing and acquisitions and call it a day. Those people would be better prepped for a library work and anything else life throws at them

  59. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Techserving You has a valid point. When I finished my MLIS I had seven years of experience in an academic library. I didn’t get a job in the city of my dreams but I had no problem getting my first job or subsequent jobs.

    It’s something I harp on with my students and it’s worth bringing up here. I’m not hiring anyone who cannot write. Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation speak volumes about a job candidate. The Dean’s List student with a cover letter filled with errors? That’s a person who does not care enough to submit an example of good work. My experience has shown that that attitude carries over to the workaday world. Hire someone with an error-filled cover letter and resume, and someone will have to carry that person.

    A good reference librarian in an academic library needs good people skills to teach students effectively. With the advent of LibGuides et al., writing is just as important. You want people to denigrate our profession? Write like a bozo and publish it. I guarantee your work will be added to the bad writing files maintained by faculty and staff across every campus. We’ve got a guy here (not in the library) who publishes some gems. He offered to “service” students. Well … that has an agricultural meaning in this part of the world.

  60. I Like Books says:

    It’s not just librarians. They said there was a shortage of scientists and engineers, too. And, sure, a physicist might make decent enough money if he can get a permanent job, but might spend years moving from one part of the country to another, working in one low-paid post-doc position after another, a nomad of science. And that’s with a PhD. It’s worse in biology– there are people post-doccing for ten years hoping to finally get that permanent position. And computer science isn’t the career it used to be, either.

    A lot of people get an education far in excess of the requirements of their eventual jobs. And that actually says something about the human mind to strive and to understand– people are thinkers. But not so much about the supposedly smart student who didn’t bother to research his career prospects.

  61. Dan Kleinman of says:

    Didi, thanks.

  62. Techserving You, I graduated a year before you did from a school that I thought was mostly pretty good. The people I went to school with who could move and who had gained experience beyond “manning the circ desk” all found jobs. There were even a few who found jobs without any library experience, but with experience in fields related to what they were looking for such as a music specialist who managed to land a school media job with no prior experience. Most of us found the job hunt hard work, taking between three to seven months to land a job despite our pre professional experience in libraries that allowed us autonomy to run a number of projects. For some those projects led to jobs before graduation. After graduation, I met many recent library grads who had little to no library experience, said they were stuck in one location, and were convinced that they had to stay right where they were. They did not find jobs. It surprises me how many people I come across who think that the degree should qualify them for an entry level job. I tell them that I’ve only met one person who four years ago landed one of those elusive entry level jobs that I think are mostly mirages. That person had supervisory experience before he graduated, which was lucky for him because the corporation where he was hired had no intention of hiring a beginner. As for me, I was thrown into my first job and told that I’d have to hit the ground running as the person in charge of a department — no entry level there. It seems to me that what is most looked for is experience, but that’s true in other occupations too.

    Having said that, I don’t think there is any shortage and think there are likely plenty of people with loads of experience who weren’t as lucky as my classmates and I were, particularly right now. Does anyone have an answer to the question as to how the library job shortage myth got started? From what NotMarian said,it sounds like it’s been around for a long time. Though I don’t think there’s a conspiracy, the myth probably has something to do with money. The schools (maybe also ALA?) are dependent upon the steady stream of revenue from new library school students.

    I’d like to add something about the lack of respect for paraprofessionals that I think is out there. In my first semester as a library school student one of my jobs was at the information desk at a large academic library. The librarians became mad at me when it got to the point that I could answer reference questions and could help undergrads find the materials they needed. They became even madder when they found out that I was teaching undergrads how to use the databases. I was banned from answering any and all questions beyond directional, and was no longer allowed to answer any questions even when reference was backed up or always unavailable on the weekend. I was to tell students whom I was capable of helping that they were supposed to go home and come back on Monday when a full MLS reference librarian would be available to help them. As soon as the semester ended, I left that job. Good riddance.

  63. Techserving You says:

    I totally agree about the lack of respect for paraprofessionals. At many places I have worked, I was, as a paraprofessional, ‘allowed’ to do the work that many professionals do – many technical services functions including cataloging, and even project management after I had a lot of experience. Still, even in that environment, I was not considered part of the ‘royalty’ – the librarians. Even the people with PhDs (and there were many working as library assistants) were looked down upon. But, at least I was allowed to do some relatively interesting work. (It was always in technical services so reference was not an issue.) Where I work now, NO paraprofessional is allowed to man the reference desk. Even during school breaks when we have almost no patrons, and certainly NO real reference questions, a degreed librarian must sit there. I can sit for hours on end doing nothing. I try to do other work, but much of my regular work really needs to be done in my office. Even in the face of articles about libraries moving reference to paraprofessionals, we simply cannot have a non-professional sitting at the desk, even if we have no patrons (and therefore should probably not have ANYONE at the reference desk.) I am a professional now, but the paraprofessionals are, literally, banned from doing reference work even in an informal way. It’s completely ridiculous. I think this stems from a misguided view of the importance of reference. Everyone here knows that the full-time reference librarian has the lightest workload of any of us – often sitting and reading a book and answering only directional questions, and that the job could be changed to give her more work/more challenging work. But, that will never happen. And actually, I think SHE even perpetuates the idea that she is some kind of scholar and the only one who can provide good service. This keeps her in a job where she can do nothing most of the time.

  64. My experience made me decide to NOT become a reference librarian, something I would have decided anyway but this cemented it.

  65. Techserving You says:

    I also have zero interest in reference although I do have to do a small amount of it in my current job. It all depends on your personality… I find that it is painfully boring most of the time. Even if I didn’t have other real work that I wanted to get done and couldn’t while sitting at the reference desk, I would still hate sitting there wasting time. But some people really love it and go so far as to pretend that they have the most important job when in fact they do almost nothing. (I am in a pretty small library and am actually aware of the aspects of my coworkers’ jobs, so it’s not like she is actually doing all this stuff I don’t know about.)

  66. anonymous says:

    Sounds like most of you have never been to Montana. 13-22/hr is more than enough to buy the ammo and bait you need to dine sumptuously on elk, moose, trout and the stray reindeer who wanders too far south. Wild blueberries, fresh air. 3,000 sq ft mansions for under 100K (utilities not included). Yeah, there’s snow, but a snow shovel only costs six bucks or so. Seriously, AL, you might want to consider it. I suspect a large number of twopointopians would help contribute to your broadband fund. Unfortunately, Chip will need to fend for himself. Does he know how to bait a hook with live worms? On the plus side, I’m sure you can find a way to disguise the Gin still, which will save you bunches from what I hear.

  67. Mr. Kat says:

    I have found this in a number of fields where contracting is becoming the norm. And the people getting these contracts are people with tons of management experience – guess who!

    Retired military!

    These people have between 20 and 30 years of military experience, aged roughly between 48 and 58 years, depending on how old they were when they went in and how long they stayed.

    In this time period it is like that they changed their MOS no less than twice and perhaps as many as five or six times. Each MOS requires educaitona nd training that rivals anything provided by our civilian vocational system.

    Once these servicemen finish their formal education, they are sent to a position directly related to that knowledge where they work for a number of years.

    that work experience is coupled with a definate defined and tiered system of promotion. Each level of promotion provides a greater opportunity for management experience. Your standard E1 can hope to make a O2-O5 if their personality matches the service.

    While these people are in the service, they have some incredible benefits that allow them to save up a considerable chunk of change if they manage their mony well, compared to an average civilian job. When they retire, they start pulling a retirement check that can yeild a yearly income in the midupper 30’s and better.

    When these people retire, they have a good 10-20 years before they qualify for Social Security. Now what is a bored manager crosstrained in three or four fields and carrying one or two degrees [if they became an officer, they had to get a degree] going to do when they get to the end of the line and retire??

    And what chances do the rest of us have against these people who can effectivly take any job they want?

    So you see, I realized, if I was smart, I’d go be like my bosses and do my term of service. It’s all a amtter of risk versus reward.

    Best advice for mentees? Question 1) Can you Qualify for Military Service? If yes, Go!

  68. Mr. Kat says:

    Here is my theory on where the “Shortage” Myths are coming from:

    Libraries are far flung and generally out of communication with the universe outside of their little bubbles – and this is labs and everywhere else too. Now the question is, where do all the rats come together?

    The universities are one big feeder for the ivory tower, bringing in both revenues and populations in sizes that can be considered large enough for statistical analysis. Every fall a new class convenes in these places right under the hands of those who like to make projections and conjectures based upon shady evidence.

    What is the hard evidence? School X only has 300 Freshman this year, the fifth year recruitment has been below the all time high trend established in a boom year!! What is the effect? The school is suffering due to under recruitment. What is the conclusion that makes this problem go away? There will be a Shortage of Xs in the professional fields!! Quick, get on the phones with the journals and the professional organizations and give them the good news; SHORTAGE!

    ALA is no doubt a large part of the “Shortage myth. But the ALA is nothing more then a speaker mouth for the Ivories, projecting only the information universities find appropriate or scholarly, or in other words, “tasteful” to the academic ego! ALA makes money, Universities make money, and it’s a win-win because nobody will still be around when the graduates come back with torches and pitchforks!

  69. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    Mr. Kat – retired enlisted don’t get anywhere near the upper $30s upon retirement. The pay isn’t so swell either for enlisted, particularly if they have a family. You don’t necessarily know whereof you speak.

    As for Montana and its shortage of librarians. This morning a news show had an interesting bit of info regarding public jobs in Bozeman – surrender your social networking user names and passwords and you just might get considered for the job. Not only “NO!” But “**** NO!” If Montana ever suffers a librarian shortage, they’ll deserve it with that mindset.

  70. went to UNT says:

    It was boring and useless. Go somewhere else. If you’re an awesome, motivated person you will have no problem finding a job with a degree from UNT but you have to suffer through 2 years of boredom first.

  71. If you don’t make rank, then yes, you will not be making a large sum of money. However, if you stay at E-2 your entire 20 to 30 year career [very highly unlikely], you will be taking home $9400 a year. To take home $30k per year, you would have to make a rank of E-9. You will also have 10-20 years before you turn 68 to further get a Social Security paycheck, if that so entertains you. When you consider that military personnel do not pay into ANY retirement programs while in service, and that their medical benefits are paid for both during and after their service, for both themselves and their entire family [how much are you paying per year for your helthcare plan?? And just what is that deductible?? does it cover your teeth, or is that a second plan??]. So you see, even if a person isn’t taking home $30k in cash after they retire, they are taking home a package worth nearly that equivalent – and that is if they chose to sit on their a$$ their entire time or they did not keep their heads down and their mouths closed. Do it for 20 to 30, and they give you financial freedom for 20 to life. Fair Trade!!!

    Even with a retirement of $9,400 a year, this retiree still has unparalllel medical coverage, any money they put into real estate on the Force’s Dime [that’s right, while you are in the service, the military gives you a healthy housing allowance!], unparralleled work experience, management expeirence, education while in service plus a GI bill, if they chose that route. Go ahead, compete!!!

  72. If you don’t make rank, then yes, you will not be making a large sum of money. However, if you stay at E-2 your entire 20 to 30 year career [very highly unlikely], you will be taking home $9400 a year. To take home $30k per year, you would have to make a rank of E-9. You will also have 10-20 years before you turn 68 to further get a Social Security paycheck, if that so entertains you. When you consider that military personnel do not pay into ANY retirement programs while in service, and that their medical benefits are paid for both during and after their service, for both themselves and their entire family [how much are you paying per year for your helthcare plan?? And just what is that deductible?? does it cover your teeth, or is that a second plan??]. So you see, even if a person isn’t taking home $30k in cash after they retire, they are taking home a package worth nearly that equivalent – and that is if they chose to sit on their a$$ their entire time or they did not keep their heads down and their mouths closed. Do it for 20 to 30, and they give you financial freedom for 20 to life. Fair Trade!!!

    Even with a retirement of $9,400 a year, this retiree still has unparalllel medical coverage, any money they put into real estate on the Force’s Dime [that’s right, while you are in the service, the military gives you a healthy housing allowance!], unparralleled work experience, management expeirence, education while in service plus a GI bill, if they chose that route. Go ahead, compete!!!

  73. So, Mr. Kat, your job is going to be in the military, while you haunt sites aimed at librarians and regularly cut us and the people we serve down. You seem to think that the world you describe is going to last forever, or at least until you die. Being a young librarian who’s worked professionally in the field for a mere three years and who has read some of your commentary, to me you obviously don’t know what you’re talking about. Well, okay, your commentary doesn’t offend me, but I don’t get it. You’re going into your new world with your great new job that will provide you with the good life. Why waste your time here?

  74. Simple: It’s Fun. And in 20 years or so, I just might come back and take over a library near you as director, or at very least fill up one of those coveted 40-50k jobs in a academic university near you, joining ranks with the next group that will be forcing yet another generation of MLS graduates to take 20-$25k jobs. Now I won’t NEED that $40-$50k, which is why I will be able to offer myself for something ridiculous like $30k or $25k, thus re-devaluating the rest of the positions below that position.


    Many people in Library school are there because they are not applying themselves to really examining their career outlooks, researching what they are getting themselves into, and if they are, they aren;t necessarily getting ht emost honest informaiton. If you were to listen to ALA, for instance, you’d think there were library jobs available on every corner just being handed out.

    And then I meet fellow graduates a year after graduating from Library school, people I consider to be future star librarians [People who really do Think Like You, Kim], and they are traveling what amounts to thousands of miles to job interviews and still coming up with nothing but rejection letters.

    Furthermore, many of these graduates are of an age where they may still qualify for Military service. Many of them have not ever even considered it due to the numbers of negative connotations, some well deserved, that follow the military. A good number of these people would make very competitive Military Officers if they chose to apply themseves, as they already have one BA/BS degree and perhaps a Masters.

    All the same, don’t fool yourself about this field – don’t be afraid to call the spades out or cal the bluffs – there are many in this field and those who drin kthe Kool-Aide will fall for them hand and foot time and time again.

  75. Big City Librarian says:

    Normally I enjoy AL’s commentary, but I have to disagree. My library system has never been close to fully staffed in the 5 years I’ve worked there and I’ve never had a problem finding library work.

    There aren’t teacher shortages in good school districts, but go to the rural areas or the inner city and they’re being staffed with volunteers. Same with libraries.

    Of course, now it doesn’t matter, because the economy tanked and all the systems have put hiring freezes on. My branch is still 3 librarians down, one being a supervisory position with an excellent starting salary ($33/hour). It sat open for 2 years before the hiring freeze. But, it’s an inner city library, so no one wants to get their feet dirty. They’d rather sit back and complain how there are too many librarians and not enough jobs.

  76. TwoQatz says:

    Please don’t come to my fair city, Mr. Kat. I’d rather not work for or with you.

  77. Mr. Kat says:

    If I was able to come up with a plan that regionalized the management of libraries and streamlined the funcitons and positions within a library to the tune of saving the taxpayer between 25% and 50%, and then put myself in the primary position of that organizational structure, I wouldn’t ever have to move to your fair city.

    BCL, I only have to ask, if that position was so good, then why didn’t any of the librarians already in the library move into that position, and if they could not, then just what were the qulaifications for that supervisory position? The problem is not supervisory and upper level positions – its entry level and mid level positions that offer a salary high enough to make payments on student loans. The problem with these positions is simple: the library can fill the positions with volunteers and get just as much return with little to no investment. The librarians in these positions aren’t in any condition to move up, whereas I recognize local establishments here who firmly believe they can’t fill higher positions by hiring from within.

    I have other good news – I don’t ship out for a couple more months, but my two previous bosses both called up this week. turns out both companies have been able to wrangle a bit of cash [you know, 1-3 million], enough to get projects rolling forward. two Qatz, if I worked for you, with you, or above you, believe me, you would know the difference. For starters, I get work done. I don’t know how to milk a job for time – if it can be done in six, it will not be done in eight just to help myself out!! I move mountains – which I guess scares mountain folk. And no, I won’t ever drive a ******* Prius.

  78. IDriveaPrius says:

    all very amusing – but when someone values themselves as highly as Mr. Kat, I always assume they’re totally worthless.

  79. Sorry I missed most of this conversation. I am an MLS student and I’m in Montana. There is absolutely no shortage here. In fact, the scholarships the state library handed out over the last few years – with the brilliant stipulation that the scholars must find professional jobs in the state, because there’s a shortage, right – have put some of the scholars I know in a tight spot. If they don’t get the professional job in state, they have to pay back the scholarship. Last I heard the State library was offering a grant to willing libraries that would pay half of the salary for a professional position for up to two years. I assume part of the reason for doing this was to create placements for their new scholars finishing up at UW.

  80. I never thought about moving to Montana to be a librarian; dental floss tycoon’s more like it.

  81. Wow, that’s really lousy dbolt. Other western states have also offered scholarships It’s been explained to me by the powers that be that the scholarships will “grow librarians” from paraprofessionals already employed in the state’s libraries because that is needed — yeah, right. But I’ve never heard of someone being required to stay. Doesn’t matter, I’ve found these students often want to stay where they are regardless of the job climate.

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