librarian angst talking blues
August 9, 2012 6:35 AM Subscribe
I'm on the edge of starting an online MLIS degree. I know that the conventional wisdom is that this is a bad idea, but I don't feel like I have any other options. Am I about to make a serious mistake, or could I be an exception? Were all of the dire warnings about becoming a librarian due, in part, to general economic malaise, or is the profession in trouble?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I'm approaching my third year of working as a paraprofessional in an academic library. I don't think I really want to be a librarian, but I'm in my mid-thirties and feel like I don't have any other realistic options. Continuing to work as a paraprofessional isn't sustainable in the long run, and I have had zero luck applying for other career-track jobs (aside from "admin assistant") with just my bachelor's degree.
1a. Library degrees are generally quicker and less expensive than other professional degrees, and I can continue working full-time if I enroll in an online program. This makes it much more attractive than, say, allied health degrees (the other options I've been looking at), which seem like they have the potential to quickly spiral into the $70,000-$100,000 range for tuition + living expenses while I'm in the program/not working.
1b. There are no post-baccalaureate requirements which I would need to fund with private loans, as would be the case with almost any allied health degree.
2. My employer may reimburse me for 6 credit hours per semester/$5000 per year. As far as I know this is a "submit a request for reimbursement after you've completed the credit" kind of deal so I'm initially on the hook for the whole amount, and it's not completely clear if these requests are approved as a matter of course. Reimbursed education expenses must be "for the betterment of [employer]," and my employer has in no way asked me to get an MLIS--in fact, the number of professional librarian positions at my library have been cut by since I was hired.
3. I work in an academic library with a STEM focus, and my undergraduate degree is in a related STEM field.
1. I'm ambivalent about librarianship as a career, both personally and in a "librarianship is being systematically deprofessionalized" kind of way. I'm not absolutely in love with working in a library, but I'm very much interested in working to live and not vice versa.
2. IBR payments have only covered the interest on my undergraduate loans, so whatever graduate school costs will be on top of the roughly $40,000 I racked up as an undergraduate. I'm concerned that I'll be in the same pickle as a librarian earning $40,000/year and making payments on $65,000 of loans that I am in now as a paraprofessional earning $27,000/year.
3. Most of the librarians I know are underemployed (two part-time jobs, non-professional/paraprofessional library positions, etc.), but they're generally not in the little corner of the library world that I occupy, and don't have a STEM undergraduate degree. I'm concerned that the assumption that my STEM degree will make me employable is wishful thinking. It also seems unlikely that my current employer will hire me as a professional librarian (none have been hired since I started, ~35% of the positions have been cut through layoffs and attrition).