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Library Schools, Give Us Job Placement Statistics

The Chronicle of Higher Education had an article this week that made me think about library schools:  Judge Rejects Another Lawsuit Over Law School’s Job-Placement Claims [the full article requires a subscription]. That’s right: another lawsuit.

The plaintiffs argued that their law school’s placement statistics were misleading, and it’s the law school’s fault that they can’t now find a job. The judge was having none of it.

“With red flags waving and cautionary bells ringing, an ordinary prudent person would not have relied on the statistics to decide to spend $100,000 or more,” the judge wrote.

“Sometimes hope and dreams triumph over experience and common sense,” he wrote. “Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable for plaintiffs to rely on two bare-bones statistics in deciding to attend a bottom-tier law school with the lowest admission standards in the country.”

In my imagined recreation, he then licked the tip of his finger and touched it to the plaintiffs’ foreheads while making a hissing noise.

Basically, the suit was rejected because the judge thought the plaintiffs were idiots. Maybe that’s why they couldn’t get into a good law school.

In an article about the other rejected lawsuit against the New York Law School (NYLS), the quotes from the judge indicate he wasn’t impressed by the argument that not getting a job is your school’s fault.

“Plaintiffs could not have reasonably relied on NYLS’s alleged misrepresentations … because they had ample information from additional sources and thus the opportunity to discover the then-existing employment prospects” at each stage of their legal education, he wrote.

“It is also difficult for the court to conceive that somehow lost on these plaintiffs is the fact that a goodly number of these law-school graduates toil (perhaps part time) in drudgery or have less than hugely successful careers,” he added. “NYLS applicants, as reasonable consumers of a legal education, would have to be wearing blinders not to be aware of these well-established facts of life in the world of legal employment.”

I imagine him then placing his hands over his eyes and muttering, “ohh, I’m going to law school….I’m going to be sooo rich and successful!”

Which brings us around to library schools and how they’re even more annoying than law schools. In both of the law school cases, the complaint was that the law schools misrepresented their job placement statistics. Gathering such statistics seems to be a function of the American Bar Association (law librarians feel free to correct me if I got that wrong), and the schools were accused of providing misleading stats to the ABA.

What’s even more annoying about library schools is that they don’t have to produce any job placement statistics. In a random survey of ALA-accredited library schools, I found none that provided job placement statistics. (If you find examples, tell us to set the record straight.)

I found several that had places where they told you were some of their graduates got jobs, but nothing that would count as evidence about job placements. The implication was that some of their students are getting jobs at decent places, so you should apply.

And, as far as I can tell, the ALA doesn’t gather any job placement statistics, which would explain why no one ever uses them as a reason to go to library school. ALA does collect biannual statistics from library schools, but not about job placement.

The current ALA President’s response to that Forbes Article on how the MLS is the worst master’s degree for jobs was weak because it couldn’t really refute the claim.

The profit-centered, corporation-based measures valued by Forbes suggest that pay rates and growth are the only valid reasons for selecting a career or seeking an advanced degree.  While it is true that for some individuals these factors are the principal focus, for librarians the primary motivation is job satisfaction derived from the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of others.

The “primary motivation” for some people might be job satisfaction, but I doubt it. The primary motivation is getting a job; satisfaction comes second. You can’t be satisfied with a job you don’t have.

Had there been some job placement stats, the ALA would be able to argue that the MLS isn’t the worst master’s degree for jobs, unless the job placement stats support that analysis.

I really don’t know, and neither does anyone else. It’s all anecdotal. Librarians who get jobs they’re happy with say things are great. Librarians who can’t find work feel cheated. The reasons vary. Some suck. Some won’t leave a particular geographic area. But it’s still all anecdotal.

That doesn’t keep the ALA and library schools from talking up library degrees. That makes sense. It’s in the financial interest of both of them to have a lot of library school graduates.

But if they were honest and open, we’d be getting some numbers. So, come on, library schools. Give us some placement statistics. Prove that paying for library school is a good idea, even for those of us crass enough to care about things like getting a job that pays a living wage.


Please note that new comments for all posts on this blog have been closed.


  1. I think you’re right that it’s ABA accreditation policies that require law schools to report and publicly share some sort of placement statistics, but I note that there is also a separate association that promotes this kind of thing: the National Association for Law Placement (NALP). They’ve got a set of best practices for placement stats that looks like it would be an excellent place for library schools to start, at

    It seems that library schools aren’t very interested in doing this sort of thing voluntarily, so perhaps a formal group of some kind like NALP is needed to lobby the relevant parties (the ALA Committee on Accreditation, ALA Council, ALISE? ALA-APA?) to establish a required policy.

    As a side-note, I never understand the argument, like you made, that it’s to ALA’s financial benefit (or any other sort of benefit) to have lots of library school graduates, ESPECIALLY if they aren’t able to get library-field jobs. I hear the unemployed and disenchanted spend notoriously little on memberships, books, conferences, etc. Lots of unneeded library degrees good for library schools bottom lines? Yes. ALA? No. What ALA wants/needs is more “gainfully employed” librarians, which their focus on advocacy for libraries supports.

  2. Annoyed Librarian says:

    “I never understand the argument, like you made, that it’s to ALA’s financial benefit (or any other sort of benefit) to have lots of library school graduates, ESPECIALLY if they aren’t able to get library-field jobs”

    I’ll try to expand that argument next week. Maybe I’m wrong on that one.

  3. Because all those unemployed library school graduates, desperate for jobs, will join organizations like ALA to further their contacts.
    But imagine if the ALA came out in favor of the creation of some organization to collect and publicize hiring stats. Not only would the schools fight it, but the ALA runs the risk of looking like fools for supporting the pursuit of useless degrees (more so than they do now, anyway).
    The emperor may have no clothes, but some people benefit by NOT pointing that out.

  4. Great article. I’m just finishing up my MLS and ran upon it when I was researching something in LJ. Will have to check in here more often. Anyway, I think it’s a valid point to ask about placement stats when the profession claims to require it. Is an ALA-accredited degree worth it? Or, for that matter, is an MLS worth it, accredited or not?

  5. I always love the superior tone those ALA articles take about how we’re all in for the “satisfaction” not the pay or those ugly profit motives. The epiphany I had my last semester in library school that I was going to have a master’s degree and make less than half what my father made driving a truck. So, I was either going to figure out a way to make money at this or I was going to truck-driving school. Turns out the feds pay a decent wage so that’s where I went. I was lucky I was able to relocate (no husband or kids tying me down). Otherwise, I’d be a stellar truck driver today…

  6. Library Spinster says:

    Landlords, utility companies, and supermarkets prefer actual money to “satisfaction”.

  7. Well why does any librarian think that doing what you do actually entitles you to some fat check anyway?

    Honestly your jobs aren’t that complex, no mater how much the ALA spins that you are gods of human knowledge preservation.

    Any competent person can utilize and search database (and Google), order books from a catalog based on patron requests, schedule a storytime, check out a book, re-shelve the same, and make a budget.

    And since libraries are chucking all that for trashy fiction, video games, DVD rentals, and lots of public Facebook terminals, it makes it even more likely that you all aren’t going to be making much in the future either.

    A library degree is a total scam. Worse than an art degree.

  8. Clearly Jack has no concept of what librarians do. First off, we are not all public librarians, so many of us are not dealing with video games or DVD rentals at all. Second, librarians rarely, if ever, shelve books! Third, if you had ever watched a college freshman try and find a peer-reviewed article from a Google search, you would know that plenty of “competent people” do not have a clue how to find accurate information. Librarians don’t need to get rid of library degrees, we need better PR so ignorant people know what we do and don’t make ill informed statements on forums.

  9. Nothing is worse than an art degree. Except maybe an art history degree.

  10. Jack, the degree isn’t the scam. It’s the fact that their isn’t any, or rather extremely few, entry level jobs on the other side of that degree. So the diligent students newly minted hunt and hunt for the holy grail that almost doesn’t exist and must fall back on previous degrees, experience, and internships to land those few jobs out there. Or take a different job unrelated to librarianship. That’s the crime right there. Create better paying, entry level positions for all these wonderful new ambitious grads and let’s jump start the profession again. There remains great librarians in the field but like all fields, it could always us more!

  11. their = there*

  12. Library schools won’t publish placement stats until applicants demand them. I disagree with Jack, because I believe that some types of librarianship–primarily those that require additional knowledge or skill sets–can be valuable and well-paid. I make a good salary and my job is rather difficult, so my library degree was a good investment. That said, library school applicants and students are, generally, a passive, unprofessional and desperate bunch. “Sometimes hope and dreams triumph over experience and common sense” never described a group of people so well.

  13. mildred says:

    Dear Mlisa, since you have a library degree I guess you may also be called “passive, unprofessional and desperate..” But wait, you have a job…a chosen one, why I don’t know since you sound like a total snob. I guess you are one of the chosen, marked by the ALA with those letters on your forehead. Gives you the right to bully those who have the degree and no library job because they are stupid anyway.

  14. Lana Kane says:

    For interest’s sake, Western University (London, Ontario) collects job placement statistics. They haven’t published them since 2008, though I know they were collecting them for my graduation cohort in 2010.

    Unsurprisingly (given the quality of LIS research), the survey completely obscures certain realities of new-grad-careers. It asks if the job you are in is “relevant” to your MLIS. This would surely include librarians working as support staff, which is the norm here for new hires. Depending on how generous the respondent is feeling toward the degree, it could probably even include any number of analyst, administrative, research, or even bookstore clerk jobs.

    I may shoot them an email to see what’s up with the 4 year lag on the data…

  15. tiredlibrarian says:

    My husband went to university with a woman with an art history degree who is presently the curator of Queen Elizabeth’s art collection!

  16. Michelle Sellars says:

    You would think “any competant person” would be able to do such things, but I work at a historical society, and the majority of people who come in don’t understand how to use the catalog or find books on the shelves. And these are people who want to do research and come here voluntarily. While in graduate school I knew college and grad-school students who didn’t understand how to use a database to find journal articles, find books in the library, or find basic reference info. And at the public library I visit, they still have a hard time getting patrons to use the self-checkout. Add that to the number of patrons I see who want a librarian’s help with technology questions and in-depth research, and it seems that we are filling a need.

    I’m personally very glad I got my MLIS, debt and all. I got a good full-time job with benefits and good vacation time in a city that I love, and the job took less than a year to find. I know plenty of people with other degrees who’ve had it much harder.

  17. Michelle Sellars says:

    An art degree actually woulde have been very useful for me–my first job out of library school was doing preservation work. A library degree is useless if you don’t want to work in a library, but if you do it’s pretty much required at this point. So not useless to everyone.


    But they say the MLIS “isn’t just limited to libraries”: barristas, bartenders, burgerflippers, grocery-store baggers…

    danger zone.

  19. Generally, I have found the pool of applicants (and library school students, because they are more or less exactly the same) to fit this description: passive because they don’t demand quality from their schools or their professors; unprofessional because they have little work experience–and it shows; desperate because they have useless degrees and staggering student loans. I should add here that they also make poor choices as to what to study and the amount of effort applied to the curriculum. Most employed librarians seem more assertive, more savvy and more hardworking than the LIS student population. I didn’t say that students are stupid: quite the opposite. They may have plenty of intelligence, but many have chosen not to apply it in ways that will get them employment after graduation.

    My point still stands: until LIS students demand quality, including placement statistics, we will continue, as a group of professionals, to have mediocre success at finding good, well-paying jobs. It benefits all of us when our peers and colleagues have actual, marketable, useful skills.

  20. Michael says:

    “Satisfaction?” That and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee, as they used to say. Librarianship is being killed by its own breeding machine. I recall being told at my orientation, “You will certainly work as librarians–the market is booming.” I work now but not as a librarian. My library school training was quite valuable to me, really the capstone of to previous work. Young librarians: look elsewhere. Your profession isn’t going to help you. In fact library leadership continues its silence on the over-stuffing of the schools. They are part of the problem.

  21. Mandalynn252 says:

    Agree with Michelle. At my library job, I end up teaching a lot of people how to use the resources they COULDN’T afford without libraries. Databases and good quality information aren’t cheap! Not everyone is competent in searching for quality information. Not saying that the degree is completely necessary to do a library job. You could learn how to do all those things with a few simple classes. I have one more year with my MLIS, but I’m not going into libraries. I am pursuing technology. Hopefully I will be able to find a job once I’m done. Best of luck to everyone out there looking!

  22. “But if they were honest and open, we’d be getting some numbers.”

    FYI, I have made that same observation when the annual list of the top 10 most challenged books comes out. They don’t give the numbers. The reality is the numbers are so low the list would not be newsworthy in the slightest. In 2010 the top book was challenged, all year, all across the USA, a whopping 4 times. Oh the text said dozens of times, but that was fluff; it was just 4. Top of the list of 10 books was challenged only 4 times. Big deal. People challenge anything these days, like law schools with misleading job placement statistics. That doesn’t make it newsworthy.

    And the ALA doesn’t even count crimes in libraries, or numbers of librarians filing sexual harassment suits, etc. If you don’t count them, they don’t exist. Isn’t that a Six Sigma standard? “Measure key aspects of the current process and collect relevant data.” Not measuring key aspects means you’re not interested in collecting data — that’s way we all hear the total number of challenges each year and nothing about library crimes affecting librarians–or about library jobs–they reveal what they care about and what they could care less about. Us librarians (I’m a volunteer one), they could care less about us being harmed on the job, but they need us to submit book “banning” incidents. Those books, every last one has to be counted, and in the aggregate, but not revealed in the annual top 10 list.

    So if ALA is not providing job placement statistics, it simply means they don’t care.

  23. Perhaps some of you didnt seem to get that I was talking about the staff, not the “stupid” patron archetype that many of you play off of to justify your overpriced degrees as making you supermen of information.

    “Well I find the “accurate” information”. Well congrats!

    I easily do the same searching that sheep-skinned librarians do. Why? Because I got some simple training and practice. I also find the “accurate” information as well. I just dont get paid an over-inflated salary and moan about being scammed because I wasnt smart enough to read up on the job prospects of a degree path before I blew money on it.

    So yes, you indeed need better PR people if you are going to keep duping the public or whomever into thinking that you are these amazing intellectuals and indispensable “information ninjas”, because the public is quickly catching on that what you do is not rocket science.

  24. ALA accredited MLS programs do have to account for their placement stats, but I don’t know how significant a factor they are when it comes to accreditation review. Law schools not only track placement #s but bar exam passage rates. There is no national exam for librarians (which could be argued that librarianship is not a profession, but I am sure that was a previous column in AL.) Not once has my school asked me if I am working in the profession or the type of job I have. I am not sure how many programs have a separate office for career development and placement (like MBA programs have) but I would guess that most do not.

  25. Randal Powell says:

    I agree that a person can research and find authoritative information without a MLIS. In fact, I think that public and academic library directors should view information literacy as a major part of their job. I don’t think the public has really gotten good instruction on how to do good general research.

    Jack may or may not be an expert on how to find all kinds of information, but few others are. He may or may not be able to write a good, professional research paper, but few others can. Even if he can, he does not have a breadth of knowledge in every specific domain, is not going to spend all of his time giving other people guidance and instruction on how to find the specific kinds of information they need, and is not going to catalog, store, and maintain millions of books and journals a year and provide facilities and services so that people like him can conveniently access them.

  26. Tired Librarian says:

    The only thing sadder than library school placement rates is being a “volunteer” librarian when you supposedly have a law degree. That and obsessing about the evil perfidy of ALA on the slightest excuse.

  27. Kate Lang says:

    I went to R*tgers and the stuff the faculty did was clearly incompetent. No one else seemed to care that the head of the department had a PhD from an unaccredited diploma mill in the West Indies. ALA didn’t, I emailed them about it during the recent re-accreditation.

    I took an online multimedia class – I’ll never take an online class again. The professor got his PhD in TX studying.. Second Life. I actually that kiss of death art degree, so I took the class as an easy A. It was. Because the professor didn’t actually show up to comment or lecture. One week he went to a tech conference and couldn’t get online to give us our assignment. AT A TECH CONFERENCE THERE WAS NO INTERNET. He told us everyone gets an A for trying. I made the worst crap I’ve ever made on purpose, no feedback and an A. No one knew any better, I’d secretly email people when they mispronounced a word in their presentation videos that was specific to multimedia to save them future embarrassment. He made 3 “lectures” of 20 min each and that was it. For $2000 in state tuition. And he kept telling everyone to use Fireworks. My friend and I started thinking he got a commission. Who uses Fireworks when you have Photoshop and Illustrator? Fireworks is for web graphics, not print!

    I have a lot more complaints including projects that utilized statistics that libraries don’t keep so we all had to make it up, sexist professors (toward women)- one laughed in my face at a serious question. I had to email someone in the Princeton Library to get an answer. However, I could go on and on.

    Students can’t demand more. What are we going to do? Complain to the dean? They know it’s going on, it will only come back to bite us in the ass in our grades. We’re there for 2 years and then out.

    There’s nothing we can do, but keep our mouths shut, take it, get our degree, and get out of there.

  28. Placement says:

    They should also count underemployment.

  29. Honestly, it’s not that difficult. Any competent person can utilize and search database (and Google), look up books on pardon requests, request a storytime, check out a book, re-shelve the same, and make a budget. Come on people! :)


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