Annoyed Librarian
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Inside Annoyed Librarian

Why Librarian Jobs are So Hard to Find

If you’re a librarian having a hard time finding enough work, you possibly sometimes think about moving somewhere else entirely, some country that hasn’t been creating far more librarians than it can employ. Imagine it: a paradise for librarians, where people aren’t churned out of library school willy nilly with the promise of work which never appears!

Wherever it is, that country isn’t Australia, in case you were wondering.

That’s an article on the “top 20 jobs that are most in demand in Australia,” and librarian sure isn’t one of them. It was based on the “per cent of positions still open after 60 days.”

The hardest job to fill was “crew member,” although I would imagine that depends on the type of crew. I’d like to be in the crew of some really rich person who likes to sit around reading and drinking, but those jobs always seem to be taken.

Another hard to fill job is “installer.” That also might depend on what you were going to install. Librarians are pretty good with light bulbs, which is probably why there aren’t many librarians and light bulbs jokes.

If you’re a “panel beater,” you’re also in luck. I’m glad I don’t have to spend my day beating panels. Beating solitaire is hard enough.

Some jobs seemed more understandably hard to fill than others. It can’t be hard to find people capable of being a shop assistant or a pizza cook, just people unwilling.

On the other hand, you can’t just show up and learn how to make cabinets or be a veterinarian or electrician in a few minutes.

The poor librarians seem to be somewhere in between, harder to do than cooking pizza, but less useful than a plumber or electrician.

But it seems if you are a librarian looking for work, you are out of luck. This job is one of the positions that are quickly snapped up.

Just 4 per cent of librarian positions remained open after 60 days, equal with fellowship positions. They were followed by event co-ordinators, lecturers, parking officers, ward clerks, care co-ordinators, classroom teachers, editors and personal bankers, which all had less than 10 per cent of positions still open.

Based on the phrasing, it seemed librarian was the easiest job to fill, along with lots of other jobs that require some training but not much dirty work.

I opened with the worse interpretation, that the library field prepares way more librarians than the country needs. And that’s true.

However, there’s also a brighter way of looking at things, and after this week of library awfulness we could use some brightness.

Librarian jobs are easy to fill because being a librarian is the best job in the world. How’s that for bright?

Think about it, especially you librarians who are sitting around wondering why the hell you bother.

First, the location. Libraries are usually quiet, safe places that people love to be in. Kids love them. Adults love them. Adults with kids they want to drop off and not see for a few hours love them.

Even people who never use them love them. When people need their panels beat, they might want a panel beater, but when people want to just be, they might go to a library.

If you like to read, as many librarians do, the library is a great place to work. Books everywhere, and you find out about the good ones as soon as they arrive. Videos and music are cheap to stream these days, but new books aren’t.

Sometimes libraries are even quiet. That depends on the area and the type of library, but in a society of people who can’t stop listening to noise to distract themselves from the tedium of their lives, a little quiet is a nice solace.

Second, the work. If you’re a veterinarian, you not only have to deal with animals that aren’t your own, but you have to deal with their obsessive owners. Imagine if you had to deal with other people’s cats, and then have to tolerate people as obsessive about their cats as you are about yours. Awful!

If you’re a librarian, you just deal with people obsessive about books, which is much better.

Also, if you make a bad decision, nobody dies. Some cats can’t be saved, but there’s always another book you can recommend or printer jam you can clear.

Personal banker might be a great job, but you know what’s even better? Not having to worry about other dealing with other people’s money. Nothing you do as a librarian can lose much money, because there’s not a lot of money to begin with.

Your life is never in danger because of the work you do, and you rarely have to do filthy work. Yes, sometimes librarians have to do some dirty work, but they rarely come home smelling like their workplace, like pizza cooks probably do. Or maybe plumbers. I don’t even want to think about that one.

You get the satisfaction of knowing you’re making the world a slightly better place by answering questions, recommending books, helping people with that computer stuff, etc. Hair stylists and carpenters also get that satisfaction, probably, but individual people still have to pay them.

Librarians can make the world a slightly better place without worrying about the cash transaction. The tiny amount of cash librarians get is already paid, and you don’t even have to tip them, which means librarians don’t have to feel annoyed when people don’t tip.

And compared to a lot of jobs, the work is easy. Lots of librarians might protest that statement, but that’s because librarianship attracts people who haven’t done and don’t want to do really hard, dirty work.

Librarians might be busy, sometimes very busy, but the individual tasks they do aren’t that challenging in themselves, and sometimes they’re even enjoyable in smaller quantities.

Librarians who disagree can always go cook pizza, and see how they feel standing in front of a hot oven several hours a day for even lower pay and probably no benefits. Do that for a while and you can probably see the charms of being a librarian.

No wonder those librarian jobs are so hard to come by. Who wouldn’t want to be one?


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


  1. anonymous coward says:

    “And compared to a lot of jobs, the work is easy. Lots of librarians might protest that statement, but that’s because librarianship attracts people who haven’t done and don’t want to do really hard, dirty work. ” – AMEN.

  2. Amused Librarian says:

    How many catalogers does it take to change a light bulb?
    Catalogers don’t change light bulbs. They change “Illumination – sources of.”

  3. “And compared to a lot of jobs, the work is easy. Lots of librarians might protest that statement, but that’s because librarianship attracts people who haven’t done and don’t want to do really hard, dirty work.”

    That’s nonsense, and I say that as a librarian who’s previously worked in food service, retail, customer service, and landscaping. Some of what I do at my library is just as gross and exhausting as anything I did in those jobs. The librarians who think the job is easy are the ones who aren’t pulling their weight.

  4. anonymous coward says:

    Don’t lie to yourself. It’s not true. You occasionally have to do difficult or dirty work- but it’s rare compared to being a fry cook, janitor, construction worker, etc. It’s just a fact.

  5. I would say that public librarians often get more acquainted than they would like with having to clean up bodily fluids. Not every public librarian has had to face this, but I think if you talked to ones who work in large, city branches they’d have some interesting stories.

    I would also say that one of the difficulties in finding work as a librarian is that now that people are finally retiring, their vacated positions are often not filled and their duties are just spread out among the remaining staff.

  6. Doomsayer says:

    I will give you a hint when I graduated in 1994 it took me 6 months to find a job. The average size of a MLIS graduating class? 12. Now the average size of a graduating class is over 200. We need to tie accreditation to job placement (98% fulltime employment in an MLIS related field within 6 months of graduation) or the school is out. Sure we will loose most of the schools (which have turned into diploma mills anyway) but in the long run it will be a good thing.

  7. Public Librarian says:

    “First, the location. Libraries are usually quiet, safe places that people love to be in. Kids love them. Adults love them. Adults with kids they want to drop off and not see for a few hours love them.”

    Oh, puhleese. You must not work at a modern public library. I am not even in an urban location and I regularly deal with homelessness, mental illness, loud cell phone conversations, etc. I also deal with wonderful customers of all kinds, but I would not say my job is safe and quiet.

  8. anonymous coward says:

    Just make the courses HARDER. That’ll cut the graduates down quite a bit.

  9. Harukogirl says:

    Annoyed didn’t say the job was always easy, Or had no difficult aspect – they said “compared to many jobs.” I agree. I worked retail, food service and other similar jobs – including house cleaning and nannying. I am MUCH happier as a librarian. The job is in many ways much easier.

    The biggest problem is the pay inequity – and by that I mean that most libraries want to require a master’s, but pay like they require an AA. Look at city pay scheules- an admin with an AA usually makes more than a librarian 1 with a master’s. Libraries need to make up their minds. If they want the master’s, pay like they may other master’s requiring positions. If they think the job is easy and not on the same level as say a civil engineer, don’t require the master’s. They are trying to have it both ways. I went to school (while working full time as a library para) to get the qualifications I needed to apply for positions. I got a job within 6 weeks of graduating because I worked my butt off making sure I’d be a competitive candidate (internships, experience, ect). But it is frustrating getting paid less that the city assistant admin, especially since I can’t afford to live in the city I work in (silicon valley) and commute 1.5 hours reach way everyday.

  10. dan cawley says:

    ten: one to hold the bulb and nine to argue about the classification number.

  11. anonymous coward says:

    why in the heck would any library do this? They have applicants coming out of their ears- with masters degrees- for those low paying jobs. It’s working well for them, why not keep doing it?

  12. politically incorrect librarian says:

    I agree that there are too many MLIS graduates. I think job placement rates may be too narrow a criterion, but should have to do with the intellectual rigor of the program. I think rigor could be measured by factoring in the following: 1) courses that are more theoretical than practical (learn how to think, and learn the why/how it works, not just the “what”); 2) no non-sense courses like “library science 101″ or courses on using Drupal or course on how to apply for library jobs (read a book on these subjects, or talk to people, or attend a workshop/conference, or take a community college class. In other words, do this on your own time); 3) practicums and internships that are focused on projects that involve addressing/solving complex or challenging problems; 4) higher admission standards to ensure better quality students (GRE required, prerequisites like computer programming and statistics; and admission rate lower than 50%); 5) thesis required for graduation (or perhaps a portfolio if it’s done correctly and isn’t just a showcase of “these are the internships I did” and “these are the papers I wrote” kind of nonsense); 6) research output and impact from the faculty (sorry, but if the faculty aren’t willing to think, work hard, and figure out something original, how can they create and teach a curriculum that cultivates those same competencies/virtues in the students?); 7) more than just a couple of required courses that are a thoughtful attempt at integrating both library and information science and has some perspective on what unifies this field.

    I could go on and on, but I liked the MLIS program I attended many years ago. It has some short-comings, but it wasn’t one of the typical nonsense “library school” programs, nor was it a program like some of those i-schools that are just watered-down computer science departments.

  13. just one, but they want to wait to see how the Library of Congress does it first.

  14. “Imagine if you had to deal with other people’s cats, and then have to tolerate people as obsessive about their cats as you are about yours. Awful! If you’re a librarian, you just deal with people obsessive about books, which is much better.”

    Except of course being librarians, you *also* have to tolerate people as obsessive about their cats as you are about yours. Awful indeed.

  15. Libertarian Librarian says:

    One reason they aren’t finding jobs is the applicants have no sense of customer service or what is means to begin at the bottom and learn. The applicants who left me depressed, spent the interview telling how bad our website was (not relevant to the position), told me we needed to buy new computer lab equipment because she didn’t like that brand, etc., weren’t hired.

  16. Former Archaeologist! says:

    Being a librarian is incredibly easy compared to being an archaeologist, which in my experience pays $10 an hour with no benefits & 10 hour manual labor workdays outside in literally all of the weather conditions (including tornadoes). This was with a bachelor’s degree but I was told if I got a masters I could make as much as $11 an hour. Archaeologists can’t even go home at the end of the day, they generally stay in disgusting hotels most of the week with no access to a vehicle with a meager per Diem check that requires employees to scavenge the continental breakfast spread. Sometimes there are bed bugs too and you just have to deal with that cause unions don’t exist. I was actually starting library school while being an archaeologist and the hotel I was at did not have adequate WiFi to access the Internet, making it hard to do the assigned online readings. I have never had to openly pee on the side of a random highway regularly as a librarian OR been chased away with a farmer carrying a shotgun pointed at me. Never gotten poison ivy, ticks, or chased away snakes on the librarian job either. Or encountered semi-large scale drug growing operations hidden within cornfields. Or drink hotel bathtub water out of a dirt encrusted old Gatorade jug, provided for the entire crew.

    I’m actually really glad to be a librarian now because I have access to clean drinking water, toilets/sinks, and I can go home when I am done working 8 hours and cook myself a meal on my own stove. Please do not ever take these things for granted. At least the construction workers have unions!

  17. And here I was, hoping that once I began my career as a librarian, I’d come home smelling like books!
    Though I will say, I find that in my area there are several open Library Assistant positions that I currently qualify for (still working towards my degree), there are VERY few for Librarians. I saw a show a while back about a small town mayor who wanted a library in his town, and I did seriously consider packing up and moving…for all of about 2 minutes when I remembered the whole “job, family, house” thing I already have going!
    Your blog puts in to perspective for me what job hunting may be like after graduation. I appreciate the insight!

  18. Once again many blaming the applicant, who has already been victimized by the ALA and the profession they seek to enter, that keeps allowing new programs and online degrees. Oh, and telling everyone how transferable your skills are. There are just too many graduates. Closing down all the schools for around 10 years might help. I don’t believe one more degree in library science needs to be granted. When the Library Directors finally start dropping dead then there will be a crisis because of the lack of experience so many have. However not to worry, a friend of mind who was an acting library director for several years was replace by a book store owner with no library you can always look to other sources to fill those professional, master level jobs…sushi supervisors maybe?

  19. Jen Jones says:

    I live in Dallas, Texas. I received my Master’s Degree in Library Science in 2010 and I have been applying for positions since then. Therefore, I have been applying for a position in a library for 7 years and I still do not have a job yet and that lowers my chance of getting enough experience to work in a library. I can not find an online librarian job. I have gotten so frustrated and depressed that I cut back on applying for a job in a library. I do not have a car nor no type of income coming in. Whenever I get results back after applying for a job Human Resources would tell me I do not have enough experience and they found somebody with enough experience. A library job is very hard to find in Dallas, Texas especially if you are a Black American. I applied for the Dallas Public Library numerous times but they wanted somebody bilingual and with more experience which I think is discriminating.

  20. Jen Jones says:

    I also think another reason why it is so hard to find a job in a library whether it is online or not is that they want to hire friends, family, certain people, and those who have been working in a library for years do not want to retire. I sometimes think that getting my Master’s Degree in Library Science was a waste of time and money. I can not afford to move out of state for a job in a library.

  21. anonymous coward says:

    I can tell you that the Dallas Public Library (and all libraries in DFW) get HUNDREDS of applications for each entry level librarian job. Even more for library assistants, etc. When there are hundreds of applicants, libraries can- and should- be very picky. Also, no one in the hiring process, until the interview, sees anything at all about your ethnicity or race.

    Volunteering- if possible- helps. It’s not, however, possible for everyone. Mirroring the language of skills required for the position with similar skills you’ve used in other jobs (retail, etc.) would go a long way. However, it’s probable that your MLS was a waste of time and money.

  22. Librarian Wannabe says:

    I feel your pain although When I graduated from Library School in 2011, I had already been working in libraries for 12 years. I still work as an assistant and can not find an actual librarian position because I also don’t have enough experience apparently! Going on 19 years in public and special libraries plus a MLIS is still not enough experience in the Pacific Northwest to be a librarian. I am also not qualified for anything else and I make enough as an assistant to live on, although I am not doing the collection and programming work I really want to do. So, know you are not alone Jen Jones! FInd a new path or keep trying for the page, assistant and substitute positions and be ready to work your way up.

  23. While I was working on my BA, I happened upon a research position at the university Library. I worked side by side with the reference librarian for 5 years. I was flabbergasted that I was making only 1/3 what she made with no benefits either. I then looked at the cost of getting an MLIS. When I first started my undergrad, the LIS credits were about 215 by the time I enrolled in grad school 5 years later, it was 635!!! Pure insanity! The reference librarian told me on several occasions that it is a pure racket. Anyone with a high school diploma and a little bit of instruction could be a librarian. It really is the easiest job on earth.

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