Annoyed Librarian
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Job Market Stuff

Almost immediately after the last post about the MLS being the worst master’s degree for jobs, I received an “American Libraries Special Delivery” (i.e., spam advertising) informing me of the wonders of the San Jose State Post-Master’s Certificate Program. Since they say that the program is “fully online” twice within two sentences, I’m assuming the program is fully online, so you wouldn’t even have to travel to San Jose.

They claim the certificate will  help you “Update your knowledge about emerging trends in
the library and information science field and stay competitive in a challenging job market,” which implies they don’t think their massive multiplayer online MLS is sufficient.

If the MLS is the worst master’s degree for jobs, would a “post-master’s certificate” help at all? The certificate calls for 11 courses. For that much work you could probably get another master’s degree, which would probably look better on your resume depending on what it’s in. Anyway, San Jose, I think I’ll pass, but thanks for paying ALA to spam my inbox.

Since we’re talking about job market stuff, a kind reader sent me a couple of links with the subject line “job market stuff.”

One is for a lovely part-time temporary job. I won’t include the link, because the ad isn’t aiming for a national audience. Check out the description:

Circulation/Reserves Coordinator (Temporary, 3-month position)

Part-time (32 hours per week) for 3 months. Provides coverage for circulation/reserves coordinator position during fall 2012 semester through mid-November. Responsible for training and supervision of large student work force staffing primary service desk; manages circulation and reserves operations, including an active technology (laptops and other personal devices) lending program….

Good opportunity for summer 2012 MLIS grads seeking academic library service desk experience while job-hunting for a permanent position; other recent college graduates (undergrad) deferring graduate school entry until January ’13 also encouraged to apply.

It doesn’t technically qualify for a library job that sucks. The criteria for those, you might remember, is that the job has to require an MLS, and be temporary and part-time or, in the case of job pools, not even be a job at all. Since this one doesn’t require the MLS, but just a bachelor’s degree, it doesn’t qualify.

But boy, do they want one. I question whether it really would be a good opportunity for new MLS grads to work in a non-professional temporary part time position. It might be good for their finances, though since no salary is stated that’s debatable. But for their career? I’m skeptical. One temp job leads to another, and pretty soon your resume looks like have ADHD and wanderlust, but I could be wrong.

The kind reader also sent this newsletter from the conditionally ALA-accredited MLS program at Valdosta State University. I don’t know anything about Valdosta State or why their accreditation is conditional, but they’re very happy about the possibility of ending their conditional status some day soon, and who could blame them.

A section of the newsletter contains information from recent graduates on “How I Landed My First Job.” Based on reading them, I’d say if these grads are typical of Valdosta State, then they’re doing a pretty good job of informing students about the realities of the job market. If they’re extraordinary, then the other Valdosta State students should emulate them, because they seem pretty savvy about the market to me, especially regarding flexibility and covering tattoos.

Kind Reader specifically directed my attention to page 4, where one grad mentions why she was hired. “I was later informed by my supervisor that out of the ‘huge stack’ of applications they received, I was chosen because I was young, technologically savvy, and ‘had all the right answers’ they were looking for.”

That seems like a recipe for success in applying for any library job these days, so I’d like to recommend it. Just be young, tech savvy, and have all the right answers to questions and you’ll be a shoo-in. Job market problem solved, unless you’re one of those older, second-career librarians.

However, someone should tell that supervisor that the appropriate term isn’t “young,” but “enthusiastic.” “Enthusiastic” you can even put in a job ad and not get sued.

Earning a certificate, taking temporary non-professional positions, or being young and tech-savvy – I think we know which would increase your chances of getting a job.



  1. Funny, I’m pretty certain that I received the same SJSU “targeted email advertisement” that very day from your employer, too, AL. Why, it’s almost as though ALA and LJ have something in common: they don’t get their funding by asking, they have to earn it. I certainly don’t hold it against either of them…I just hit “delete.”

    And way to contribute to misuse of the term “spam.” This was just honest old-fashioned advertising.

    Some weeks (like your last post) I think you’re on to something, but then you go back to flailing about for things to rant about that really aren’t rant-worthy. This one’s a loser.

  2. Come to think of it, they don’t have much in common after all. When LJ sends spa…I mean, targeted email advertisements, the goal is to make more money for their publisher. When ALA does it, it’s more like a fundraiser for all those things ALA does that cost money without making any, like advocacy/lobbying. Thanks for helping me change my perspective, AL! Now I might actually even click through those ad emails before I delete them!

  3. Interesting that library education & credentials are increasing at the same time the professional/institution identity is being dissolved from within.

    How valuable can curriculum & certification be for a role that encompasses social worker, therapist, and medical assistant, computer trainer, job search coach, [add other roles here] — and works in a place that increasingly defines itself as “whatever the user wants”?

  4. I personally think that the MLIS should do the opposite. One should be able to get a grad certificate as a “foot in the door” degree for libraries, and would also train for very basic librarian tasks, as well as basic, smaller-scale librarian jobs. If one aspires to do higher level work or act in an administrative fashion, one could opt to complete the entire librarian master’s degree.

    • At first read-through this seems like a smart idea! You’ve given me something to think about.

    • Joey – James Fallows has posited a competency-based model in The Atlantic.
      Here’s an article summarizing some of his argument with a link to the full piece.

      Fallows draws attention to the way pilots are trained and re-certified. I can easily imagine it working in a range of professions, including librarianship.

      The pilot-licensing system was built on the premise that competence was divisible: people can be good at one thing without being being good at others, and they should be allowed to do only what they have mastered. As opposed to receiving a blanket license, the way members of other professions do, pilots must work their way up through four certificate levels, from student to air-transport pilot, and be specifically qualified on each kind of aircraft they want to fly. What’s more, a pilot must demonstrate at regular intervals that he is still competent. To keep his license a pilot must take a review flight with an instructor every two years, and the pilots for commercial airlines must pass a battery of re-qualification tests every six months.

      “A small but regular percentage is washed out each time,” John Mazor, of the Air Line Pilots Association, says. It is reassuring to know they are gone, but what about their tenured counterparts in the other professions?

    • I am a librarian and proud to be one, but I don’t think that being a librarian is comparable to being a pilot. Pilots literally are responsible for the lives of people; librarianship does not. Yes, you could say we improve the lives of people, but that is not the same as being responsible for the lives of passengers is a problem happens and you have to take drastic action to pilot the plane. Being a pilot is a highly desirable profession, and as the article says, many commercial pilots get their training in the military. In order to qualify for the flight hours required, many take low paying jobs and they know that eventually there will be opportunities for the skills they possess. The general public is fully aware of the skills that pilots have and wants to be assured that pilots have the necessary skills and training to do the job. I don’t think you can say that about librarians-most people think the person at the check-out desk is the librarian.

    • Hi Penny – I referred to the article in response to Joey’s suggestion of a graduated training program for librarianship.

      A program modeled after pilot training & certification might better match the content and cost of library training to employment opportunities. It might also help weed out incompetent library staff thereby freeing up positions for the abundance of library degree holders that have been unable to find employment.

    • @Jean-now I see what you were saying. I am right there with you about the ability to weed out those employees that are incompetent. As things stand now, in a library with civil service positions, weeding out those folks is pretty close to impossible.

    • Or, they could *gasp* allow an undergraduate degree in library science make individuals eligible for certain jobs. ALA means to tell me that a person with a bachelor’s degree is eligible to teach elementary aged children in the classroom but a librarian needs a MLIS to do story time and plan children’s programming?

  5. @SIIS

    The idea came about after my first year of my MILS program. I realized that a huge majority of my classmates really just wanted to be a small-town public librarian or read books to kids or some other sweet little librarian stereotype, while I was far more interested in the information theory, IT, and administrative aspects. The first group could really do most of what they aspire to do with minimal graduate training. The problem is that the MILS is already so entrenched in the job market.

    • I would also like to see a model like this implemented in library schools. At my school, the courses could have easily been divided into two groups: research-based systems or information design and classes on service and collection development. It’s hard to believe that those two tracks are lumped into the same degree, and I think it dilutes the MLIS. However, my resume notes my experience designing systems and doing research (not to mention actual library experience) and it’s why I got a job while those who “studied” graphic novels and story-time are still struggling to find one.

  6. Joneser says:

    Yeah, I’ve been through the “young/enthusiastic” thing before, and I wasn’t so old. Only in my case it was “new/fresh face”. Read: under thirty and not white.

  7. As a current MLS student I get so annoyed by some of the people in this profession. I have been working in libraries since I was 15 years old. The biggest anti-librarians are librarians and support staff! All I hear are librarians bashing their own profession, and talking about a future library apocalype. The biggest question I have is: if you can’t find a library job, why not do something else?! Surely if I couldn’t find a job out of library school, I would be looking at other options. This whole “no jobs” situation is across the board, I know friends that graduated with MBAs and Nursing degrees and still haven’t found a job. Even MDs are having issues securing jobs! This is the largest economic downturn since the 30s. This job shortage is definitely not only in libraries.
    The only reason I am getting an MLS is because I got a full scholarship and a stipend, and I have over 6 years of library experience. There are way to many MLS programs, and WAY to many MLS students. Unfortunatly it seems anyone with a pulse and a BA/BS can get into library school. I have read articles of people taking out over 50K to get an MLS (without any library experience)…seriously common sense is not so common.

    • before the grammar police comment: “to” should be “too” in the second paragraph.

    • “All I hear are librarians bashing their own profession.”

      which leads to…

      “There are way to many MLS programs, and WAY to many MLS students. Unfortunatly [sic] it seems anyone with a pulse and a BA/BS can get into library school.”

      So, which is it? Stop bashing the profession or not?

    • Hi BR – employment is tough across the board, no doubt about it.

      I’d be cautious though about comparing an MLIS & working in libraries to the examples you named. From perspectives of funding, relevance and skills transference the future for libraries seems much less secure than for most other major industries I can think of. Also, library workplace culture is very different from for-profit firms or the healthcare NP sector and that may be another barrier to transitions into other industries.

      I’m curious – is there a facet of your curriculum you can imagine pursuing in a workplace other than a library?

    • JW Librarian says:

      I got into this profession because I was out of luck in all my other endeavors. I got tired of waiting tables and partying too hard. I have a philosophy degree I was able to get into library school easily. Now I work for a large public library, and have for years, and have done very well considering my modest talents.

      I’ve yet to hit my level of incompetence, and from what I can tell, that is a long, long way up there away from me in the galaxy of administration. The sky’s the limits for me as far as I can tell.

      I mean, I would have never survived as a pilot with all those expectations and skills, but as a librarian? Hmm, it ain’t brain surgery. I’m certainly not brilliant or a genius, but I excel as a librarian because of hard work and an average IQ. That is simply all it takes; I doubt there’s an effective meritocratic certification process that could accurately measure what it takes to be a good librarian. You either have a good work ethic and the ability to learn technology relevant to your job or you don’t and it’s the latter who don’t belong, but that’s not saying all that much.

  8. The status will cease to be conditional as of 2014. I’m a VSU graduate. I found a job about a month after graduation. As far as the instructors at VSU, yes they are realistic about job prospects. They are realistic about the difficulties, and they have a lot of opportunities to gain experience working in the field. I’m a reference librarian currently at a small liberal arts college. Other friends of mine have also found positions although it took a while to get something full time. I think to find a job now you have to be willing to relocate, or try something outside the box, so to speak, just to get your feet in the door.

    • Pseudonym Anonymous says:

      Conditional status does not have an expiration date. VSU will have to pass a comprehensive review, and losing accreditation is still a possibility.

  9. Okay then let me say that if they keep up to the standards at which they are currently operating, and follow the guidelines which have been set, then they should be out of conditional status by 2014. I know that it doesn’t have an expiration date. I am not an idiot. I do know that losing it is a possibility, but I don’t think it is likely, because I think that the program is on track to have the status removed. Is that better?

  10. Here is the actual text, so, make of it what you will.

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