Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

The Library of the Living Dead

The ALA has been claiming for years that there will be librarian shortages in the future (always in the future!) because of the graying of the profession and the waves of retirements libraries will be facing. Anyone who’s made the "graying" claim doesn’t know my secrets, and the librarian shortage is almost certainly a myth, but there will necessarily be some retirements in the next few years, at least of those librarians who can afford to retire.

In fact, we’re starting to see some now. I’ve been talking to librarians around the country who work in libraries where others are finally starting to retire. The problem that some of these librarians are finding is that the wrong people retire, and contrary to ALA propaganda, they’re not being replaced.

Maybe my information is skewed by the people I know, so I’m putting the question to you. Are librarians and library workers retiring at your libraries? Are the ones who are retiring any good? And are the ones who you’d really want to retire apparently going to hang on forever? And are the good ones who are retiring not being replaced?

These are cases I’ve heard about from other annoyed librarians around the country. (Some details have been changed to protect the innocent.)

A reference department of six librarians in a mid-size university library is graying like crazy, with only one librarian being under 50. Four are eligible to retire, but of the four only one does much work. The others mainly exist to provide warm bodies for the reference desk and recycle research guides from the 1980s for students to leave behind after instruction classes, while much of the reference work is directed to the other three librarians. So, naturally, the hard-working librarian is retiring at the end of the year, but the others indicate that they’ll be working until they die. And why not? You don’t have to love work you don’t even do.

Another example is in a college library in a technical services department with three non-professional staff, only one of whom actually does any work. Or rather, did. That person retired two weeks ago and will not be replaced. The other two generally do nothing except lie for each other to cover up incompetence.

A third example is a children’s department in a public library with three librarians, two of whom are eligible for retirement. One of those stopped developing in 1970 when she graduated from library school, but she’s the one staying on. The other is retiring. Oh, and because of cutbacks, they’re eliminating the third position altogether and redistributing work throughout the library. The one staying had the most seniority, of course.

One question is, are these isolated incidents? I am not brazen enough to claim my gossip is a national trend in the making. (Okay, I am usually that brazen, but I’m feeling calm and generous today.)

There are some younger librarians who resent their elders and just want them to move out of the way thinking that will create a job for them. The job isn’t necessarily going to be replaced, so that’s a dim hope. For libraries, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There are plenty of competent older librarians, and some who are actually new librarians because they came to librarianship from another career.

The finer distinction is between librarians who are good and those who are not, and one problem for libraries is that there’s very little incentive for incompetent librarians to retire if they don’t have to.

I haven’t heard of libraries offering any "golden parachutes," so money won’t be an incentive. And libraries can’t always just decide who goes and stays. Lots of librarians in colleges and universities have tenure of some kind (which for obvious reasons is concentrated in the older librarians), and lots of public librarians have civil service or unionization that protect librarians based on seniority. Thus, if cutbacks have to be made, the people getting cut aren’t the old duffers who shuffle around the library sipping tea and reading copies of LJ left lying in the staff lounge in the 1970s. They’re going to be the newer (if not younger) librarians who don’t have tenure or seniority.

The librarians who don’t do much have the most incentive to stay until they die at their desks after consuming their mid-morning box of doughnut holes. Why leave a good thing? The good librarians are finally going to be able to relax from their busy work lives and go do something pleasant and relaxing in their golden years. But for a lot of librarians, there’s nothing more pleasant than nibbling chocolate and gossiping all day, so why not get paid to do it?

If the good librarians retire and few are being replaced, it’ll be much worse for libraries than the younger librarians not getting jobs. If the situation gets bad enough, patrons would eventually find they are entering the Library of the Living Dead.




  1. ChickenLittle says:

    “One question is, are these isolated incidents?”…..sadly no! In our county library system, 7 librarians have retired, 3 were replaced by technicians and 4 positions have been left vacant. Library management has enacted a policy of “Vacancy Management” where positions are not filled in order to meet budget cuts. There are about another 10 librarians that “should and could” retire, but are not doing so. Largely because most of them have not much else going on in their life. These are people that graduated library school in the 70’s and 80’s and loved books and little else. No family, no real hobbies (other than reading) and no active social life. As a result, they are now in their mid to late 50’s and early 60’s and are panicking because they may have to go outside of the library land fantasy that they have hidden in for the last 30 years! Sad really! There was a “touchy feely” management consultant here a few years ago….at the start of the session she asked everyone to introduce themselves and tell a little about yourself. She then stupefied everyone by saying “and you can’t mention books, reading or libraries!” You should have seen the stunned faces who had nothing to say! I suspect the “should and could” retire crowd is pretty consistent in library land.

  2. Maybe I’m falling for the “Nobody I know voted for Nixon” fallacy, but of the three library systems that I’ve worked for had demanding workloads for staff. There’s always been time for chatting in the workroom and websurfing on the reference desk (which I’m doing right now). Of the various professions that I’ve worked in, librarianship has been — by far — the easiest.

    Of course, the ALA will always proclaim the Crisis of the Week, and this week, it’s a wholly imaginary librarian shortage. Maintaining anxiety about various hobgoblins (to borrow a term from H.L. Mencken) is how the ALA justifies its continued existence.

  3. grumbly youngster says:

    The problem I see is when the nearing-retirement librarians are in important leadership positions like head of reference or aul for public services, but aren’t really working to make things better anymore. It’s especially frustrating when the people above them and the people below them know there’s a problem, but library management won’t deal with it. People don’t have to fired, but they can be shifted into non-leadership positions to make way for new leadership.

  4. Lying Librarian says:

    This phenomenon doesn’t just involve librarians – where I work, many of the front-line staff have been there forever and are either a.) waiting for retirement while doing as little work as possible, or b.) staying long past retirement for whatever reason, while doing as little work as possible.

    Due to the recession and budget cutbacks, nobody has gotten a raise for the past couple of years. Also, while there haven’t been any layoffs yet, when they do happen it will be by seniority – so those most recently hired will be the first to go.

    So basically, the people who have been there the longest amount of time do the least amount of work, while getting paid the most, and don’t have to worry about losing their job. If you were lucky enough to start 5-10 years ago, you’ve built up enough pay raises that you have a livable wage, and you have the kind of job security that the rest of the work force envys. Meanwhile, younger employees who just started in the last couple of years haven’t gotten any raises, and are also the first in line to be laid off, even though they do all of the actual work. This seems to be the case across the board – for paraprofessional staff, supervisors, and librarians as well.

    Chickenlittle, your comments hold true for many folks in my workplace too. It seems like the younger folks are generally a more interesting lot: some artists, musicians, writers, etc. have latched onto working in a library because the easy nature of the work leaves them more time for their outside pursuits, while they get a steady paycheck and health insurance. The older librarians, however, seem to have nothing going on outside of “work” (or so they call it).

  5. In my system we’ve had plenty of crappy librarians retire. The problem is we still have plenty of crappy librarians hanging around and they’re NOT of retirement age! That of course means they have many years left for their work to become even more crappy before they ever leave (IF they ever leave…). And probably because of some bureaucratic silliness, many of these crappy librarians will likely get promoted to the highest level of their incompetence.

  6. Here in a large county library in the SW we have had only three retirements in ten years and none are in view. It is a young staff. However, when librarians do leave they are generally replaced with para-professionals or not at all.

  7. Techserving You says:

    Lying Librarian just about sums up the situation at my library. We’ve got people literally more than a decade past retirement age, still hanging on. Those a year or two away from retirement say they have no intention of retiring… and it’s not even about the money. It’s this baby boomer refusal to admit you’re old and make way for the younger people. That’s FINE if you’re still working hard. I’m not an ‘ageist.’ But if you’ve completely checked out, please make way for the young’ns…. and by young’ns I’m talking about people in their 30s and 40s….

    We have had a couple people retire in the last 10 years. Both of these people were replaced, but we’re a fairly small library. We can’t be without the head acquisitions person, etc.. The problem is that, from what I understand, these people who left were the most-liked people… which makes sense. They were the normal people who decided to leave at 65 and enjoy time traveling and with family. The people the rest of us would most like to see go are not normal and are never going to leave. Right now, we have an older contingent and a younger contingent among our professional librarians. There are about 5 people in each group. The average age of the older contingent is 66. The average age of the younger contingent is 35. The lack of diversity of age in each group is actually remarkable… in the younger group, everyone is right around 35… it’s not like we’ve got twenty-somethings and 40-somethings. In fact, we have NO STAFF MEMBER IN THEIR 20s, 40s or 50s, if you can believe it. We have a staff of about 20, and we do not have a single staff member in their 20s 40s. or 50s. What seems to have happened is that this one group started 30 or 40 years ago… they’ve all worked together forever. Then, for the other group… some positions were created more recently, so they did not open up because of a retirement. Some positions would now be filled by a 40- or 50-something, but the person (or chain of people) in the position left after only a few years. There’s really only one case where the young-ish person in the position replaced a retiree. The library seems also to only hire new people who are at least 30. Of the group with an average age of 35, the combined years of experience at this library is 19. Of the other group, average age 66, the combined years of experience is 163. Something to mull over….

  8. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    The least effective librarians I’ve worked with over a 30-year career were those who got a job with a library and never left that library. The best librarians had had varied careers – different libraries in different areas of the country. New jobs certainly made my career more interesting and forced lots of growth – intellectual, technological, people skills, etc. improved with every job move.

    For those long-timers – getting them out of their comfort zones can benefit them as well as the organization. One of our librarians has worked in this library since I was in high school (mid-70s) and he checked out a long time ago. He’s done as he pleased for so long the only way he’d retire is if he got a boss who expected him to produce. And managers like that are a rarity in LiberryLand.

    I’m in my early 50s BTW – I hope to retire at 65 but my retirement accounts took a huge hit last year. I may have to work to 67 and change to get all my Social Security. Maybe then I’ll have time to read as well as get pleasantly potted on martinis every evening.

  9. Um… you say you have people a decade past retirement, but later say the oldest is 66. Retirement age is about 65 these days. I don’t know a single person who could retire at 55. Most wish they could. Unless you have people 75 or older you do not have people past retirement age.

  10. Sorry, I see you said average age. That makes more sense.

  11. Techserving You says:

    Yeah, average age. We do have someone who is over 75 years old. In a professional position. And each of the others of that older group is 60 or older.

  12. Techserving You says:

    NotMarian – I agree completely. Unfortunately, in my library “years of service” are revered above everything else. Quite frankly I don’t see what’s so great about someone sitting on his or her a$$ for 3 or 4 decades, raking in a (relatively) large paycheck while working less than most of the other people and with no knowledge of the outside world, so to speak. I know there have to be exceptions – people who have spent their whole life in one library and are extremely active professionally, keeping up on the latest things, etc.. But even in cases like that I think those people would be lacking necessary perspective, and ideas about different workflows, etc.. The best people I have worked with have lived in different states and worked in different institutions. Part of the advantage of a varied background is knowledge of how other libraries do things… I think that is absolutely important. Part of the advantage – and just as important, I think – is having experience in a different region with different types of people. Really now, I’m getting away from what I think is important in a librarian to what I think is important in a person. Lack of this experience is especially common in libraries that are in small college towns. I don’t know how many of you have experience at places like this – where the institution is the town and the town is the institution, for the most part. You can’t get away from your colleagues. I happen to work in a location like this. Add to this the people who have been in this environment for 40 years, their entire adult life… it can make for some infuriating discussions. These people are usually the most ‘liberal’ on the surface (they espouse the usual liberal ideas that are common in academia) but are in reality some of the most intolerant and judgmental people and I just think they need to GET OUT MORE. I digress again….

  13. Dr. Brooks says:

    DECREASE retirement benefits every year you stay past 30 years, instead of INCREASING them. That would certainly be a kick in the pants.

  14. There have been studies which have shown that people who continue to work often live longer than those who retire, so these people may be with us for a long time! I don’t think there should be a mandatory retirement age. There may be rare cases when active, hard working people get forced out when they still have contributions to make (hey, it could happen!), and you lose that accumulated knowledge.

    I’d like to see more part-time positions offered to older workers. Library work is a field that COULD still be performed well into one’s geezer years, so why not encourage those folks to stick around, but with reduced hours? Move four 40 hour weeks down to 30 hours, and create one new full-time position. (But, this is a new idea and so libraries would be one of the last places to try it.)

    Instead of having the “on the job retired” continue to come in and piddle away their twilight years, they could be encouraged to take a partial retirement. That way they could still come and help out at less than a 40 hour week, giving them something to do and still letting them earn some income, without bringing the whole organization to a standstill.

  15. I second Dr. Brooks–please give the geezers an incentive to leave. I am patiently waiting for several librarians to die right now. Unfortunately, the policy at both public and academic libraries I’ve worked at is to pack that job into their coffins with them. The longer they sit around being ineffective the stupider the rest of us look trying to argue that we’re necessary. I didn’t start out as an ageist beast-libraries made me this way.

  16. Techserving You says:

    Meh. In most academic libraries, anyway, full-time is 35 or 37.5 hours a week. I’ve been 35 in almost all of my academic jobs. I don’t see the point of keeping people on but reducing their hours, unless the hours are going way down to half-time or less and they are no longer in professional positions. Most of the people who stick around forever are professionals. They’re not going to go for the reduction in hours when they can stay full-time with full pay and benefits and basically do what they please. I don’t even really care that younger people can’t get jobs because these people refuse to retire. I care that the people who refuse to retire are usually the ones who end up being obstacles whenever I and others want to take on large projects or make any changes. They need to leave altogether or have diminished ‘power.’

    As for accumulation of knowledge… sometimes it is true that people who have worked somewhere forever have a well of knowledge about a given area… cataloging, archives, whatever. In other cases, all they have is 35 years of doing the same thing, day in and day out, in the same office, in the same building, with virtually no change in their routine, and no experience to how their tasks are done elsewhere. People always make the knee-jerk comment about losing so much experience. Sometimes, it’s not a big loss.

  17. Dr. Brooks says:

    TechServin’ U has a good point. If patrons ask the same questions year in and year out, the older workers are going to know all the answers in a snap. On the other hand if the patrons are young, they won’t be able to RELATE to them, and consequently the library will lose circulation. With this bad economy, anyone who can claim a PENSION CHECK with full benefits should take it.
    Sadly, most of the older Librarians are not reading this blog and have never heard of it.

  18. All this is beginning to sound like the quality of life rhetoric used to justify healthcare rationing, euthanasia and so on. ‘Let’s kill off the older generation to make room for the young …’

  19. I can’t tell you how sick I am of hearing these people tell me how they’ll retire as soon as their oh-so-special progeny finish their undergrad studies at state schools paying resident tuition rates. The thing is, most of these folks have 30 or 40 years in and with the state retirement plan, that’s between 60% and 90% of their salary they could get for not coming to work. If they were really about the money, they’d retire from the state and take a job that pays at least of half of what they make now. If you make $65,000 and retire with a pension of $39,000 (60%) you only need to make $30,000 at some stupid job to clear more than you’re making at the library right now. Stop making excuses, losers, get a life and get out of the way!

  20. It will be fun to see how all of you feel in about 20 or 30 years from now. Somehow, I think the tune will have changed.

    Personally, you come off as a bunch of whiners.

  21. SadButTrue says:

    I work in a company with a similar culture/mindset to libraries. We’ve offered early retirement packages as a way to reduce cost and encourage some of the ‘retired but still here’ employees to move on.

    I just learned that management consolidated the work of two retirees with a 68 year-old man who has worked for the company forever and chose not to take the package … despite the fact that there are plenty of other folks who have asked for an opportunity to learn new skills and do something different.

    I predict after the re-orgs take place that management will lable the changes as an innovative leveraging of human resources that positions us well for the 21st century.

  22. I’ve been working in libraries for 25 years. The library I’m currently in has a very hard-working staff — every one of them. We work with a small staff of 14 and everyone pitches in when folks are on vacation and/or ill. No dead wood here. In the public arena, the dead wood may only exist in the larger urgan libraries. We can’t afford to have people who won’t work hard. And guess what … many of the hardest workers are in the 55+ range. We’ve worked hard our whole life. We know what hard work is and we can still plan, and execute vision for the future of our institutions. Just because we’re gray doesn’t mean we’re dead or that we’ve checked out. I get up every morning wondering what I can do to make my library a better place.

  23. I have heard the complaint “I do the work of 2 people while the person in the next cubicle/in that other group doesn’t do anything” so often that I am inclined not to believe it. I wonder whether envy, or some other issue, makes the complainer say this to justify their resentment.

  24. Literarylady1 says:

    The ageism of these comments is appalling. I am in my late 50s, and I’ve been a librarian for almost 35 years. I know more about reference and acquisitions than newbies in the field, and I give excellent customer service. It’s a good thing I like my job, because I can never afford to retire on the pittance that small libraries pay. I find that new graduates, especially those who get their degrees online, know NOTHING about doing a reference search or conducting a reference interview. Maybe you all could learn something from the senior librarians.

  25. Dr. Brooks there is an advantage to being older when your clientele is much younger – many of them need and want mom/dad figures, someone to talk to and encourage them. Our youngest librarians aren’t all that interested in doing those sorts of things – they’ve got romances to pursue, loans to pay off, bars to hop, etc.

    I will want to see what the “retire already!” crowd thinks in 20 years. You’ll be singing a different tune and the youngsters in LiberryLand will be calling for your ouster. Get over it – older people do not have to retire to “make way” for you. If you’re that interested in our leaving, find a way to reduce my hours when I’m 60 while still giving me full health insurance. There are several of us here who would gladly exchange our 40-50 hours a week (no 35 hours in this library) for a much shorter week or full benefits at 62 rather than 67. But that’s not going to happen.

  26. ChickenLittle says:

    It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, you can be a good librarian and provide better service to your clients by “Getting a Life”!! I firmly believe from watching librarians for over 25 years that the more well rounded you are the more you will bring to the workplace! You will become more open to new ideas and new situations. What is the litmus test if you don’t have a life, you ask? One question, what do you do on your days off?? If the answer is “I go hang around the library”, or something similar to that…you don’t have a life and need one badly!! Most of the existing co-workers would now fail this test BTW!

  27. We’ve had a several librarians retire over the last few years, but like others have said it is not always the right people retiring and most of the positions end up getting filled with techs, rescheduled to part time, or the position is cut completely. It is now very rare to see a full time librarian retire and have their position, exactly as it was come open. At this rate, most of our branches will be run by only a part time staff. I am thankful for my job, but also annoyed, as I did not waste all that time and money in library school just to work 20 hours professionally and pick up extra hours at a bookstore.

  28. “The ageism of these comments is appalling. I am in my late 50s, and I’ve been a librarian for almost 35 years…. It’s a good thing I like my job, because I can never afford to retire on the pittance that small libraries pay.”

    I am so tired of hearing older workers complain about how they can’t retire on their measly wages. Most young people in the workforce today will never have the wages (adjusted for inflation), job security, pensions/retirement plans, health care benefits, etc. enjoyed by older workers. That’s partly the reason so many are lining up to get an MLS degree – the wages may be paltry but at least they get health care and some job security, rather than the precariousness of most jobs in the private sector today. Librarians complain about the low pay, but clearly many younger workers would be willing to trade low pay for not getting laid off every six months to boost a corporation’s stock price, and having an old-fashioned pension rather than being forced into the scam that is the 401k account. Don’t worry, though – any state/municipal/federal employer who still has a pension is working on setting up “tiers” so only the older workers get the full benefits, while the newer hires get to subsidize them without receiving the same thing themselves.

  29. Dr. Brooks says:

    I noticed in Library School that no one discouraged the introverted students. The professors could have cared less who was in the classroom, all they want is to fill the room to keep their jobs. These introverted types are pushed into library work for all the wrong reasons, then they wonder why no one will hire them. So we have old Librarians who refuse to retire and job candidates who are too shy to work, and don’t get hired. All bad news for our profession.

  30. As one of the youngins (someone forgot those of us in our 20s!), I’d like to see the jobs for directors, managers and experienced librarians/archivists being filled by these older and experienced professionals thus making their positions available for more entry-level candidates who will stay for some years.

  31. SmartsTasteGood says:

    I feel that a Library of the Living Dead would be an excellent way to both get rid of dead (ha!) weight and bring in the younger folks, as everyone knows that young people love anything that can be labeled as “old school,” and nothing says “old school” like a good old fashioned zombie.

  32. Young Librarian says:

    Oh my goodness. I actually agree with the Annoyed Librarian on this one! It is so true that we have “gray-haired” librarians that refuse to retire and they most certainly need to! And, due to seniority, they are the ones that aren’t getting laid off because of budgetary restraints…

  33. undertaker says:

    Let us note that the phenomenon of people who should retire is not limited to librarians. I know of a lady that is in her eighties, does not need the money, and still goes to work. Her job could be given to a younger person with a family.

    Anyway, I don’t feel too terribly sorry for recent graduates. I was recently passed over for a job that went to a recent grad even though I had 15 years experience. This particular organization wanted someone who had no experience so they could mold him into exactly what they wanted. Had they hired me I would want to do things my way.

  34. CliotheMuse says:

    I notice a different trend in my library (a good-sized academic library). A few deadwood librarians have retired, but in other cases, good people have retired, and they’re hard to replace, because my institution doesn’t believe in succession planning or mentoring its own employees, and it’s hard to find people with special expertise outside the institution. So here’s what’s happened with several of our talented retirees — as Al Pacino says in The Godfather, “Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.” Rather than hiring new people or promoting younger librarians, the university library has chosen to hire these people back on contract, usually part-time. The retiree gets to collect a pension AND a consulting salary, while spending several hours a week working, and the rest of the time enjoying their retirement lifestyle. The library saves money, not having to hire someone full-time, or invest in training them. Obviously, though, this is only a short-term solution.

  35. Those young un’s that have a life, and go on and on about it, creating litmus tests and nonsensical rules of thumb ad-nauseum, probably won’t in another 10 to 15 years. Yes, it can happen to you. Now go back to your cubicle and look at Twitter or whatever.

  36. When I bagan in this profession there were librarians and staff who were just waiting to retire, but did not have enough money. There were new librarians and staff who wanted all the higher level jobs and resented those with senority. There were flakes and inspirations in both groups. There still are. I have been in the profession for over 30 years. I have always had a life beyond these walls. Reading is not a hobby, but a necessity I enjoy. A day does not go by that I do not learn something or try something new either in my position, in my professional life or in my private life. I have traveled and corresponded with people all over the world, and yet I have worked my entire library life in the same library. Library school was a breeze, and I feel fortunate to have had a life doing something I love and getting paid for it — I’m learning. Do not assume all 55+ librarians have no life and are not interested in anything. Do not assume all librarians under 40 will be any better. Competency and excellence has nothing to do with age or variety of work experience. It has everything to do with attitude and intelligence. At my institution we have “new” librarians who are worthless as well as “new” librarians who are worth their weight in gold. We have 65+ librarians who we forget work here and we think may die at their desks, and we have 65+ librarians who are brilliant and continue to be the more innovative thinkers in our state. Global assumptions and glaring generalizations about age and experience prove there is much ignorance and inbred discrimination within this so-called “profession.” Deal with it. I have for over 30 years.

  37. in-between says:

    I’m a 30-something librarians quickly nearing 40. I’ve worked as library staff for 6 years and have been a librarian for 10. Worked at 4 libraries– 3 academic, 1 public. In light of my years of experience and age I don’t consider myself a young librarian but neither am I senior. I don’t see the librarian issues as an age issue but as a management issue. I’ve worked in libraries in which everyone was expected to be productive regardless of rank and age. And they were. Different roles were respected and different strengths cultivated. In those environments management cleverly used both the carrot and stick. But I’ve worked in other libraries in which there are very few expectations and those that exist are rather vague, environments in which management use neither carrots or sticks and as a result chaos reigns.

    If we have a management crisis where does it stem from?

  38. NotMariantheLibrarian says:

    in-between – there are crap managers in huge corporations. I had the pleasure of working for one and all too often the incompetent rose to and above their level of competence. I’ve been in the workforce 35 years and I can count the good managers I’ve known on one hand. What I’ve seen over and over again are people who have no business managing people seeking management positions. Unfortunately, they get those positions. I dread the day my boss retires – I’d bet a year’s salary the replacement will be as incompetent as they come. Good managers are a rarity. Alas.

  39. itsnotageism says:

    It’s not ageism, it’s “you’ve had your chanceism.” I don’t care if you’re 48 or 80 when you get your 30 years in, that’s plenty for you. You say you can’t afford to retire, but whose fault is that? Have you been saving at all? Have you built equity in a home? Do you not understand that part of retiring is spending less money?

  40. itsnotageism: You are pathetic. Where do get off choosing a random number like 30 years and imposing it on others. Get over yourself. And as has been said before, I can’t wait to see what tune you sing 30 years from now.

  41. Should have said, “Where do You get off.”

  42. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    itsnotageism – sorry but it’s ageism and sour grapes.

    Plenty of people with more than 30 years in (paras and pros) are doing excellent work. Just so you’ll know – I own my home outright, I’ll get a small pension, and I have have saved for retirement since I was in my 20s. Get over yourself. I enjoy my work and plan on contributing to this community until I am at least 65, maybe longer. That will make nearly 50 years years in LiberryLand.

  43. middle aged librarian says:

    Rather than rant in response to itsnotageism I’ll quote the social security administration.

    “Full retirement age

    The “full retirement age” is 65 for people who were born before 1938. But because of longer life expectancies, the Social Security law was changed to gradually increase the full retirement age until it reaches age 67. This change affects people born in 1938 and later. Check the following table to find your full retirement age.”

    Oh look, I’m expected to retire at 67, but am encouraged to wait until 71 (I got the SS statement just this week.)The earliest for benefits, 62.

  44. I very much wanted to become a librarian after a satisfying stint in a college library. I joined the NYPL and realized I could not take the public library system. If I wanted to work in an unsupervised daycare, I’d apply at one. Off to a different career path!

  45. shadowedge says:

    I’ve seen a failure of management more than of the “good” people retiring. My library suffered under a director who hid in her office for 30 years, followed by an interim directory who kicked butt and took names. The interim director read the riot act to those who did not work, left the productive people alone, and let the library go about its business.

    Now, 8 months into our new director, it has been a backslide into the previous 30 years. The head of a highly efficient department was all but chased out, but the accountant who can no longer do sums correctly stays on. Work piles up on the desks of the slackers, and the rest of us work unpaid overtime.

    Something is rotten, but it has nothing to do with the age of the participants.

  46. Working in three different types of libraries during my career, I’ve seen a lot of “staying on”. … it reminds me of the following quote by Charles De Gaulle:

    “The Graveyards are full of indispensable people.”

  47. wedontgetsocialsecurity says:

    We don’t get social security you idiot. Almost all librarians (public or academic) are on government retirement plans. You don’t pay into Social Security and you don’t get it when you retire. In many of these alternate retirement systems, the eligibility point is 30 years of service regardless of age. Furthermore, in most of them, you get more the longer you stay so that at 40 years of service you are only getting a 10% premium for being in the building. You are obviously a loser for wanting to work that long, but working for pennies on the dollar makes you a complete idiot too. Now go read your retirement handbook. You clearly haven’t done it in the first 30 years.

  48. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    All of the public and academic libraries I’ve worked for paid into Social Security and offered a retirement contribution plan. None offered a pension – mine’s coming from the years as a corporate worker bee.

  49. Techserving You says:

    I haven’t read all of the latest comments, but I have read many. I want to say that I KNOW there are SOME people who have been in the field for 25, 30, or more years, who have kept up on changes, and have valuable knowledge. (And I’m not talking about the latest trendy gadgets and Web 2.0 applications, I’m talking about fundamental changes in technical services and the way libraries are run, etc..) There are even some people who have worked that long in one library and are still great. I’m not making a blanket claim that all older workers are lazy and have checked out mentally. But I have worked in 6 libraries and have encountered MANY MANY MANY people like that. Much of it has to do with the overall library culture – maybe academic libraries, in particular – there are no real consequences to doing a bad job, and no real praise or gain (no incentive) for doing a good job. I’m in my early-mid 30s, but not a “newbie.” I have both deep knowledge and broad knowledge, and it is extremely frustrating to deal with someone who has only ever worked in one library, has been at that library for over 30 years, with mostly the same coworkers in that time, little professional development over that time, and little knowledge of what’s going on in the rest of the library world, no ideas on how to change workflow, etc..

  50. Techserving You says:

    Uh, wedontgetsocialsecurity, what are you talking about? Are you referring to librarians in the United States? I’ve never worked for a library that was part of, say, federal or state government, but in every library job in which I have worked (mostly private academic libraries, one state university library) we paid into the Social Security system. We did also have other pension plans. My employer pays 9% of my salary into my TIAA-CREF account. But my paystub also indicates that I am paying Social Security taxes. I’m trying to figure out if there is a post I missed so I am not properly understanding your comment. But it is NOT true that most librarians are on government retirement plans and do not pay into and do not get Social Security. I’m not even sure if that would be true of state or federal workers, but I have never been in that position.

    Anyway, I also wanted to say that I do NOT see this conversation as being a comparison of new grads old workers. I truly believe that many newbies (new MLIS grads with little experience) would be no better than old workers who have completely checked out. I’m talking about people in the mid-range ages – people with experience but who still have energy and ideas – being stuck because people are staying til 70, 75, or even older!!! This happens quite a lot.

  51. As a public librarian, I’ve always paid social security. Being in City gov. I will not receive all of it back, which sucks. But I definitely will get some.

  52. middle aged librarian says:

    Again, resisting to urge to mock our less intelligent posters… As it may be clear to you now “wedontgetsocialsecurity,” we get social security. I’ve worked at three academic libraries, public and private, and yes, they took out social security and Medicare. My retirement plan is with TIAA-CREF which is NOT a pension but a 401B (for non-profits) and while more conservative than many 401Ks is essentially a 401K for educators.

    I suggest some of these young bitter and likely under/un-employed librarians work on their research skills. Maybe then you might get a job. (Sorry, couldn’t resist the cheap shot.)

  53. Techserving You says:

    middle aged – I think you mean 403(b). Actually I realized I’m not even sure what kind of plan mine is. At some places I have had a 401K even though the employer was a university. Other places, I have had TIAA-CREF with the employer paying the entire contribution. My current employer refers to that as a Defined Contribution Plan so I am not sure if that is different from a 403(b). I still decide how the investments are allocated.

    In any case that has no bearing on Social Security.

  54. TheIlliterateLibrarian says:

    I know some rather old workers here who are hanging on for their 30 year mark. They WANT to retire, but they need that 30 years in to see max pension benefits. And it’s not like they make so gosh-darned much now that seeing a reduced benefit will just mean they can’t go to the fancy steakhouse every week, it’s the difference between being able to buy their prescriptions and NOT. I’ve not known MANY librarians who made SO much that retirement wouldn’t hurt them financially. And these are people who have scrimped and saved for years and years, own their home, etc. But those property taxes aren’t going to pay themselves when they retire. When you’ve been living on reduced income your whole life before you took up librarianship, there’s not much more you can do to live cheaply, other than, say, a box under the bridge. “Some people” may want to think of that before they make blanket statements about how other people should get the hell out of the library so the youngins can have their crack at messing things up too (sorry–I may be a millenial but I’m not naieve enough to believe that simply being YOUNG gives someone all the answers). Some of success is hard work and education, some of it is luck. But once you have the education, and you work hard, luck is NOT going to come your way if you don’t open a door for it. Be social (step one: don’t be an anonymous jerk on the internet), make contacts and friends, keep yourself open to non-traditional opportunities and tracks because not everyone’s journey to the same destination takes the same road, and above all… TAKE CHANCES. You may fail or fall flat on your face publically, but learn from it, dust yourself off and go on. No one is entitled to a job in libraryland or anywhere else. Having a degree can open a door, but it doesn’t assure you anything. And yes, there are people here who’re just doing their time–fine, whatever. I’m going to keep working hard and trying new things, and I’m going to move up and on, while they’re still here 20 years from now, doing the same exact thing. It just means *I* am vying with less people for the next job or opportunity. Does it stink that things run badly because of these people? Yes. But if I don’t move up and on, I’ll never be in a position to change it. I certainly had NO power as an afternoon volunteer, and who really wants to listen to the lowest man on the totem pole kvetch about just how unfair everything is in the world?

  55. John Berry, LJ says:

    AL ought to provide evidence from the past five years where: “The ALA has been claiming for years that there will be librarian shortages in the future….” I can’t find it.

  56. middle aged librarian says:

    Techserving You —

    Yes 403(b) not 401(b). And TIAA-CREF is a 403(b).

  57. Techserving You says:

    I think I could probably find the evidence of ALA’s claims. I have been working in libraries since the mid-90s, and I certainly have read this claim over and over since that time. It’s usually in articles in publications like Library Journal, American Libraries, and also in stories from news outlets which (so it seems) contacted ALA for input before writing the article. You know, those articles about how librarianship is one of the best careers of the year.

  58. I know at one medium size private university a form of tenure is granted but I wouldn’t call those who have it “old” or near retirement. Some people who have earned it are in their early to mid 40s- so theoretically another 20 years away from actually leaving.

    But I used to work w/ a woman who is of retirement age whom I’m convinced will stay there until she dies. It’s the only place she’s ever worked and she is comfortable doing absolutely nothing while complaining about how hard it is to learn new things in librarianship. She’s been demoted several times over the last 3 decades but continues to stay. And the younger librarians there can’t stand her.

  59. dispirited director says:

    Regardless of at what age incompetency may manifest itself particularly in an era where professional library job descriptions should be changing as fast as the world around us is, incompetency, as illustrated by the comments of this list, is all too prevalent which does in fact reflect badly on the profession. However, speaking in regard to library management, be they competent or otherwise, library management rarely effectively intervene in or are permitted to intervene in the displacement of professional staffing with an eye toward building competency because library management are rarely imbued with the absolute authority to do so. Library management can suggest, they can recommend, they can weigh in on evaluations that all too often ‘have’ to conform to politically correct language that may convey dissatisfaction with incompetence in the mildest of terms for fear of the myriad of opportunities for employee retribution, for fear of countering the attitude of disconnected non-librarian boards or larger non-librarian organization executives, for fear of still probably having to work with these people regardless of their incompetency. It is amazing that non-librarian boards and executives, who I can only imagine must themselves have engaged in successful business ventures or management at one time or another in their lives, now in their position of authority over libraries seem to associate popularity/brownnosing with competence, and people who do not rock the boat or advocate for positive change as those worth retaining. And while Library management often does retain a great deal of influence over hiring and firing professional positions, inexplicably they do not have total authority over an activity in which they are the ones often held most accountable. I have had my own fingers burned on more than one occasion when pointing out incompetency, which in turn tends to force us to accept incompetence while lamenting the future of our profession.

  60. John Berry – American Libraries ran an article within the last 3-4 months about online degrees and it seems to me it included claims about “lots of jobs” or “lots of retirements” looming. I laughed as I read it – I’ve been hearing and reading about that for a long time.

  61. Anonymous Librarian says:

    Hey, John Berry, ALA Direct 12/23/09 has a paragraph entitled “Librarian Job Prospects ‘Favorable,'” which quotes stats from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and says “the entry for librarians is optimistic about future employment trends, remarking that “Employment of librarians is expected to grow by 8% between 2008 and 2018, which is as fast as the average for all occupations.””

    Now, as the AL has noted, and the commenters are affirming, just because a whole bunch of librarians reach retirement age between 2008 and 2018, does NOT mean that there will be employment opportunities. Positions are being cut to part-time with no benefits, or cut altogether. MLS-degreed librarians are frequently replaced with “library assistants” or “techs.” And yet, the ALA and library schools continue to tout the strong job market for librarians. It just ain’t so.

  62. Techserving You says:

    Anonymous – I was just reading that BLS statement in their Occupational Outlook Handbook online, and chuckling over it. Librarians, on the whole, are not an ambitious bunch. And, they are used to being marginalized and seem desperate for any kind of recognition. (Do you ever read the ‘how the world views us’ (or whatever it’s called) section of American Libraries? Apparently ANY mere acknowlegement that librarians and libraries exist makes it into that section.)

    I strongly suspect that for many librarians, ‘…which is as fast as the average for all occupations’ is a very exciting statement. We’re not growing MORE SLOWLY than the average rate of growth for all occupations. This, apparently, is cause for celebration. Being average is better than being below average.

    Or, it is also possible that many librarians have very poor reading comprehension skills, and they just focused on the 8% growth bit.

  63. As others have said, librarians are taking longer to retire, and many of their positions are disappearing when they do (or being converted to paraprofessional ones).

    Though such things vary from region to region, the overall trend is for there to be fewer available full-time librarian jobs that pay a living wage than there are degreed librarians who are job hunting. I can see it at work in my region (though not my library, thankfully), and have seen the situation worsen each year.

    You said: “One of those stopped developing in 1970 when she graduated from library school, but she’s the one staying on.”

    There is a lot of truth in that statement. Far, far too many librarians think that getting an MLS means that their education is done. That’s one reason that the library world does such a pitiful job with technology in general. I’m not talking about self-checkout machines and Twitter accounts – I’m talking about things like serious data management (as opposed to archaic MARC records) and other mature technologies.

    Libraries tend to attract certain personality types. For every active, energetic, creative librarian out there, there are 10 more who are highly risk averse and unwilling to be responsible for their own ongoing skill development (“I need to be sent to traiiiiiiniiiing”). There is far more whining in the library world than active attempts to fix things, and far too few people who are willing to stand up and say that the king has no clothes.

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