Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Working ’til I Die

While looking through this list of  exciting programs planned for the upcoming ALA Annual, I stumbled across the existence of the Retired Members Round Table. I’d forgotten all about this.

It was created last fall, and supposedly “shall exist to develop programs of particular interest to retired persons from all types of libraries and all forms of library services, including formal opportunities for continued involvement and learning; a variety of leadership training and opportunities for mentoring; lifelong professional involvement and networking; and active engagement in the American Library Association and the profession of librarianship.”

Anyone can become a member by paying ALA and RMRT dues, so it’s also a way to keep getting money from people even after they’re not working anymore. Very clever!

Or maybe it’s in response to the huge waves of retirements the ALA has been telling us will come. I’m still waiting!

They even have a Facebook page, though they only post to their wall a couple of times per month. You would think people who don’t have to work would have more time to update their statuses. With only 43 “likes” at the time of writing, the RMRT isn’t terribly popular yet, but maybe we can change all that by handing more money over to the ALA.

Here’s the RMRT activity planned for ALA Annual:

Retired Members Cafe
RMRT. Sun., Jun. 26, 4–5:30 p.m. They will plan activities for the new RMRT. The top priority should be convincing over-the-hill colleagues to retire and make room for the growing number of young, new, unemployed librarians. At the very least, they ought to buy them drinks and dinner.

At least it shows they have a sense of humor, though “over the hill” is a very relative phrase these days. I also don’t see how this is “developing programs of particular interest” for retired librarians. Unemployed librarians can go to the cafe to see if anyone is persuaded to retire. Then they could go to this discussion and find out how to replace the scores of retiring librarians:

Welcome to Planet FURLOW: Advice for Furloughed, Underemployed, Restless, and Laid Off Workers

Planet FURLOW sounds as depressing as the Retired Members Cafe, although considerably more practical. As for “convincing over-the-hill colleagues to retire and make room for the growing number of young, new, unemployed librarians,” I doubt it’s going to happen.

For one thing, making room for the new or the young or the unemployed isn’t a good reason to retire, which would explain why that reason has never motivated anyone to retire.

The larger question is, why retire at all? People wanting me to retire to “make room” for a bunch of people I don’t even know makes me want to work until I die just to spite them.

Does that sound depressing? Not to me. Think of the perks of librarian jobs, or at least a lot of librarian jobs.

Job security. Either through tenure or unionization or some other reason.

Lots of vacation. Public librarians don’t always fare so well, but that’s just bad choosing. Academic librarians often get several weeks of vacation a year, and those embattled school librarians get the whole summer off.

Mental labor, not manual labor. Manual laborers are the worst off in terms of retirement. They rarely make enough to save much money and their bodies have been harmed by decades of physically demanding work. The most manual labor a lot of librarians do is flipping a light switch. Mental laborers last longer, stay healthier, and are less bored with their work than manual laborers.

Varied work. While there is a lot of dull and routinized work in libraries, it’s usually not done by the librarians. It’s done by people supervised by librarians, leaving librarians free for coffee breaks, conferences, and deadly boring meetings. Deadly boring meetings are bad, but smart librarians know to avoid meetings whenever possible and various tricks for making sure they’re kept short.

Good health benefits. It means librarians can be healthier longer and work into their seventies! At least if they stay away from the doughnuts.

Money. This is the most important at all. Many librarians near the end of their careers are administrators making a pretty good living. Even if they have enough saved or invested to retire, it’s still nice having a real income, and with several weeks vacation a year there’s still time to travel and do other things.

Instead of feeling like older librarians should retire just because there are a lot of people who went to library school despite there not being many jobs available, turn the question around. Why would we retire? Varied work, good benefits, decent pay, lots of time off? We’d be crazy to retire.

That’s it. I’m working until I die, and I’m definitely not joining some retired librarians group.



  1. I hear retirement gets boring anyway. I think AL just convinced me to avoid retirement and work until I die. Can we start a group for that?

  2. I wonder if being retired will contribute to librarians losing their fear of speaking out about ALA policy. You can no longer be forced out of your job if you are retired.

    Many librarians and library directors tell me they are afraid to speak out. Some whisper to me telling me they do not want to be overheard. One even asked me to investigate the pron viewing in her library ( ).

    Very few are willing to speak out, unless it’s to toe the politically correct line.

    Very few have no fear of the ALA. Dean Marney. Jo Ellen Ringer. Will Manley. Etc. What a shame.

    I hope retired librarians will be more willing to speak out. I will post their comments on my blog, if they wish.

  3. NOT retire? Well, fine. keep working AL, cuz someone needs to pay for my social security benefits when I retire.

  4. Soren Faust says:

    According to a recent issue of the Economist, it’s not an impossibility, in fact, probably a good possibility that here in the US the retirement age is going to be raised to 70 years old; if you want to collect what’s left of your Social Security, that is and librarians will most likely go beyond that age because they won’t have enough to retire on now that people are outliving their retirement savings by 10 years, sometimes. I guess that sucks for the up and comings, though.

    By the way, I’m a public librarian and get 4 weeks per year vacation.

  5. annoyedlibraryworker says:

    Or you can do what the librarians do in my neck of the woods, you retire then come back to work part time, best of both worlds!

  6. dorothy hodder says:

    The most manual labor a lot of librarians do is flipping a light switch?

    Please. We haul our weight in books all over creation, rearrange furniture for public programs, and schlep displays to community events. Sometimes we rock babies or chase toddlers while harried moms struggle with the copy machine. It’s not breaking rocks, but it’s not just flipping light switches!

  7. Underemployed librarian says:

    I figure I’ll have to work until I die, because I can’t find any full time library work. It’s laughable to me to read discussions about raising the retirement age. Good freaking luck finding a job after 50, library or not, so heck, they can raise the retirement age to 100! If you can’t find gainful employment, you got nothing to retire from, so it’s all meaningless anyway.

  8. NotMarianTheLibrarian says:

    I hope to say adios in 12.5 years. That’s assuming Medicare is still available at 65. Though I enjoy my work I think it will be great to leave it and ALA behind.

  9. AL, Article in library news. Of course they can’t be stopped from “loitering,” no matter who it disturbs.

  10. Techserving You says:

    Some of the older librarians I know are very engaged with their work. The majority, though (and I have worked in several “prestigious” academic library systems) have almost completely mentally checked-out. At my last job, we didn’t even have performance evaluations… ever. At other places, the performance evaluations were useless, anyway, since people basically couldn’t be “let go” due to unions and tenure. If you can do almost no work and yet get paid more than anyone else, why retire?

    (And I agree that making room for other people is not a good motivator, and in some cases flat-out stupid. Who cares whether new grads with little experience who probably never should have gone to library school to begin with can find jobs? Then again, in many cases someone else (not just a younger librarian, and maybe not even a younger librarian) could do a person’s job much better than that person is doing it. But all that does is make the person’s colleagues desperately want them to retire. No one’s going to think, “I’m performing poorly and am doing a disservice to the library, so I think I’ll retire.” If only.)

  11. gatoloco says:

    What about a follow up article “Underemployed ’til I Die”?

  12. Annoyed Librarian says:

    Someone else will have to write that one. I’m much too busy working.

  13. Young Librarian says:

    Well, I’m about to go get a second masters or PhD. Maybe a job will open up for me and if I have that subject expertise. Or, I’ll go into business or the FSO and leave the industry altogether. Not that I’m pessimistic; just realistic. We had a staff position three levels lower than mine open and had PhDs applying for the position. I doubt I’ll find a professional librarian position with that kind of competition, especially with more and more libraries hiring people with “subject expertise” first and allowing them to get an MLS after they’re hired. ~sigh~

  14. I’ve been happily retired for eight years after a long and fulfilling career as a working librarian. I wish all the same good fortune. Retirement has allowed me to redefine myself as a library history buff and a promoter of library history. My ALA member I.D. card says I’ve been a continuous member of ALA for 42 years. For the first year since joining ALA, I didn’t have to pay dues. My prior continuous participation has rewarded me with life membership. Many of my former coleagues are retiring, and most of them are also choosing to stay connected to our wonderful profession. Even though they chose not to work until they died.

  15. AlwaysWanted2B says:

    I had gotten out of the habit of reading this column. It had become trite and the comments, downright ugly. This column today brought back the laughs. Thanks

  16. Anne Linney says:

    But there will be plenty of jobs! And if you can’t get one, you should join this initiative!

    Those who don’t look at the bright side are just meanines…

  17. carpaltunnelqueen says:

    ah, the greatest falacy of all library falacies” light work”. I am retiring after 32 years, I have carpal tunnel both in hands, shoulders and elbows from building better databases, typing reserve lists and labels, shelving and other “light work”.
    Just ask any doctor they will tell you it didn’t happen at the Library where no one works that hard. Sure, the library where we juggle double and triple oversized books hand to hand, where we move desks, terminals, force overloaded book trucks across unmatching elevator thresholds. Where we sit and perform endless repetitive
    typing tasks, or marking tasks or whatever tasks that are
    needed. Few of us actually do retire some of us just have to because we are worn out.

  18. As one of those young, new, unemployed librarians, I hope their meeting achieved its goals.

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