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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Wanted: Nonlibrarian Librarians

A Kind Reader sent me a link to this job ad with some negative comments. It’s the first ad quite like this that I’ve seen.

On the surface, it’s nothing special. An academic library is looking for a “library technology specialist,” basically someone to work on computers, update software, do some web stuff, etc.

The offending portion for Kind Reader was the Preferred Qualifications:

Broad general education with special interest in computers and their applications in libraries. Enrollment in or recent (2010-2012) completion of a program of study in library science. Prior experience working with computer networks, experience working with Microsoft Windows, and proficient in popular software applications (Microsoft Office Suite, Adobe products, Mozilla products). Web authorship skills and/or application proficiency.

This is an administrative position, not a librarian position, but applicants with recent MLS degrees will be considered if willing to accept a non-librarian position.

Kind Reader commented: “So 50K later, and within 2 years one’s degree is worthless?”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up, at least for this job.

The job doesn’t require an MLS. The Minimum Qualifications don’t mention a degree at all, so technically someone without even a college degree would be qualified if they had the necessary skills.

Nevertheless, they’d like someone with an MLS, or at least some experience in library school. That’s understandable. Librarians are a peculiar bunch, and having some feel for the culture would help people communicate with them.

The recency of the degree is one of the odd things about the job ad. Why only within that 2-year completion window? Is someone who earned an MLS in 2009 so out of date?

There was a similar instance of something like this in the academic news last year. Colorado State University was criticized after advertising for an English professor position that required the person have earned a PhD between 2010 and the time of appointment.

With both jobs I have to wonder why 2010 as the cut off. Did something magical happen in library education after 2009? Or is 2010 just a nice round number? I suspect that’s more like it. 2010 will probably be the go to number for places looking for a cut off for the outdated until 2017, at which time 2015 will take over.

Nevertheless, it’s bad news for potential job seekers if this dubious requirement ever became common. It’s hard to find a job right out of library school and then impossible two years later. Something’s wrong with that picture.

The other odd thing that I haven’t seen before is deliberately saying this isn’t a librarian job but that they want someone with a library degree. I know there are lots of MLS holders working in non-professional jobs because they can’t find professional work.

I also know lots of previously professional jobs have been reduced to non-professional jobs.

But I haven’t seen a job ad specifically stating this isn’t a professional position but they want someone qualified for such a position anyway. Has anyone seen other ads like that?

I suspect there will be plenty of people who finished library school in the past couple of years who would be “willing to accept a non-librarian position” just to have a job, but whatever such a request says about the job situation in libraries right now can’t be good.



  1. miss.smith says:

    I think what they mean by this is an ‘administrative’ not a librarian position is they don’t want someone with soft skills, they want someone with actual systems admin experience. Nothing wrong with that. Lots of librarians think the apex of computer knowledge is social media and chat widgets and write long obfuscated blog articles about apps and their effect on ‘patron impacted learning’ or some equally half baked pseudo intellectual title. I heard somebody sneer at a male colleague who wanted to know more about XML after a lecture on metadata and digitization. Who wants to know how it works when you can just ring the I.T. department and sit there happily drooling over your keyboard?

    • No, “administrative” at a college or university means non-faculty; basically you’re staff with perhaps more responsibilities–probably supervising duties. If librarians are faculty at Elmhurst this might be another way of getting around extra pay and benefits.

  2. I don’t know why everyone is getting so bent out of shape by this. Obviously when you see job postings with ridiculously specific qualifications that means they already have a candidate in mind but must advertise it. When I see stuff like this I know this is just an HR department going through the motions.

    • Bingo!

    • While I certainly can’t speak to the specifics of this position, I will say that I have positions in my academic library (I work at a public university) that have specific requirements similar to those advertised. These positions are not considered to be librarian positions. The skills, educational requirements and duties are largely determined by the state personnel office. That is how it works in my state. Due to state personnel guidelines, every job that is not an exempt position must fall into a defined classification as defined the state personnel office. I Googled the Illinois state personnel office, and this is what I found.

      Since this is a job within the state of IL, it is likely that this library used job descriptions similar to the state personnel office, perhaps because they do not have the HR expertise to develop their own job descriptions. In working and having discussions with library hiring managers, many of them say they can’t find librarians with the skill sets they need to do many of the jobs they have. This might be one of those jobs.

      As to why they specifically state that this is an administrative position, I’d guess that they don’t want to hire an MLS and have that person disgruntled in 2-3 years because the position has not turned into to a library position. I’ve seen that happen often. Yet, the person won’t leave (or can’t, depending on your point of view, because it is now a “golden handcuff” job) but it upset because they aren’t being paid as a librarian. From what I read of the position description, this is not a librarian job description. While position responsibilities vary from library to library, the librarians in my library don’t update hardware or software, they don’t fix computer equipment, nor do they upgrade web pages. We have an IT department for that.

    • Wow. And I thought it was bad when one of the patrons asked if one of the “computer assistants” could come help her. I guess that’ll be the job title soon.

    • I don’t even know how to reply to that…

    • library_yeti says:

      Outside of academia and public library settings, the word “librarian” is used to describe someone who organizes things. Here in L.A., entertainment companies are constantly posting job ads for “librarians” to organize media. They have no concept of what a librarian actually does, the professional qualifications associated with the title, etc.

  3. Captain Librarian says:

    So, I read this as “We’d kind of like to have a librarian, but don’t expect us to pay you for any experience and don’t expect us to pay you like you actually have a degree.”

  4. Finally a Librarian says:

    I’ve run into something similar in the IT world. It’s a not-so-sneaky way of hiring young people.

  5. Alicia Zorzetto says:

    I worked at a university that had tha similar graduate cut-off date. The reason being, the university only offered tenure-track librarian positions, and they happen to be the highest pay-scale in Canada. This means that people with more than six years experience would automatically jump to a significantly higher pay scale within their first year of employment. However, what is really stupid about these rules is that if you graduated six years ago, but took two years off completely to say….have children. Those two years would still work against you.

    Strange, but it is normally a reflection of a very rigid system rather than being a reflection of the library or the hiring committee.

  6. Definitely. A not-so-subtle way of trying to get young people in. I wonder what would happen if someone like me applied: I’ll complete my MLIS this year … but I’m 50 years old! :)

  7. I would suggest that this would be an appropriate entry-level position for somebody who didn’t have that all-necessary experience in libraries – great for a new graduate in an industry that has precious few traineeships. Or maybe one for the disgruntled Public Librarians out there who are keen on breaking through to the Academic Library sphere – good luck!

    And lets be honest, I know that there are plenty of managers out there who are saying “Why are we spending so much on staffing people on a professional librarian wage when my nephew with a liberal arts degree could do the same job for half the salary!” It’s unfortunate but true.

    Besides, what is a “non-professional” job? I know plenty of people in “professional” roles who are by no means delivering “professional” standards of work. However, it’s the interesting non-traditional roles out there that actually require our professional skills – and actually pay well and provide stimulating careers! Stop looking in libraries for jobs – you’re way better than that, people! :)

  8. Gregor Samsa says:

    I think that many posters here are missing the point. What is salient about this ad is not so much the fact that an MLS is optional. There are certainly jobs that straddle IT/Librarianship such that an MLS is neither necessary nor sufficient, but potentially helpful. That fact alone isn’t alarming.

    It is the 2 year drop-dead date that should be disconcerting. One thing which gives a degree value and sets it apart from industry certifications (for instance), is that a college degree has a long shelf life. Having achieved that credential, it cannot be revoked. Once I finished my 9 year course at State U., that B.A, was mine to keep. If I see a job that requires a Bachelor’s, then I can rest assured knowing that I meet at least this first requirement. Job postings such as this upend this logic, nullifying the credential after some arbitrary period of time. Surely this lessens the value of a library degree, MLS or otherwise. (And I’m referring to monetary-value/ROI/etc, and not the life-enrichment value that sprawling bureaucratic institutions are known to provide.)

    Students should take note. In addition to facing a bleak job market and crushing debt upon graduation, they now need to consider that the clock is ticking and that if they don’t land a job soon, that degree becomes effectively worthless. In fact, it becomes a liability. Surely this violates a social contract of some sort. If I were a college/university selling either LTAs or MLSs, I would not want my prospective students to find out about this practice. If I were a student…., well, I wouldn’t pay for the privilege, that much is certain.

    There is really no justification. If this employer wants “hard skills”, then why not require a degree in C.S.? If they want an entry level employees and not experienced librarians, there are more skillful ways of screening applicants to achieve that end. If they want 18 year olds who can code Lisp compilers in their sleep, and don’t require remuneration to speak of, why don’t they just say so.

  9. I don’t know, call me missing something, but doesn’t it say “preferred” qualifications? That usually means to me that “you don’t have to have this, but if you do you have a leg up on the competition.” In academic circles a lot of librarians are also considered faculty, but as time goes by I can see hiring a person with an MLS in a non-faculty ranked position. This might be if we find a great person with a non-ALA accredited MLS but faculty rank demands an ALA-accredited MLS or equivalent for the faculty rank. I’ve hired MLS people in staff positions, and they knew coming in that it was what it was – a librarian position with all the grunt work and low pay that unfortunately often accompanies it and no librarian “perks” (whatever those might be). Anyway, that’s how I see it, and no use getting all upset over someone else’s job description. Learn how not to do a job ad if you’re in the position to hire and maybe avoid applying for that position if it doesn’t float your boat. Then again, I’m tired. If I read this again tomorrow I might be cranky about it.

  10. Free2read says:

    Does a Librarian need an MLS? Not in Fairfax County Virginia where the MLS is being kicked out the door as the system implements a single service desk model. Hard to believe this is one of the wealthiest and most highly educated counties in the United States. The official word is that the MLS will be a preferred qualification, but the entry level salary is the same regardless of degree held. The job description is straight for the Human Resources office:

    Any combination of education, experience and training equivalent to:
    Completion of two years (60 semester hours) of course work at an accredited college or university; PLUS two years’ experience working in retail customer service, a library or an educational setting.

    • Wow, not even a bachelor’s degree? That’s alarming. Just who do they think is going to be doing this job?

  11. free2read says:

    Yes, it’s true: Two years at a community college and two years at Target make you qualified to become a Fairfax County Library “Customer Services Specialist.” The new classification comes with a a $6,000/year pay cut over the former Librarian I pay scale. I have included two links that sum up the community response. Feeling marginalized yet? &

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