Librarian jobs in Canada? Does university name matter?
November 19, 2006 12:53 PM   Subscribe

Are there lots of librarian jobs in Canada? Does what university I graduate from really matter when I apply for jobs?

I'm currently getting my master's degree in Library and Information Science in California but I want to immigrate to Canada when I graduate. Does anybody know if it's hard to get a job as a public or news librarian in Canada, especially for an immigrant? (I really want to go to Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Ottowa or other BIG city) Oh, and I do NOT know how to speak French.

My second question is: Does it really matter what university I graduate from? I currently go to UCLA, but I want to transfer to San Jose State Univeristy (in northern California). Maybe in Canada it won't make any difference because they may never have heard of either UCLA or San Jose State U. Some people are snobbish about hiring only people from prestigious universities, but maybe they are the exception to the rule. When I apply for a library job, does the employer just care that I have my master's degree and the rest is based on the interview and other skills?
posted by HotPatatta to Work & Money (23 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
If you don't know French, go out west -- Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary. Ottawa is really "Ottawa-Hull", with the "Hull" bit being in Quebec. They speak French. Ergo bilingualism is needed for almost every single job in Ottawa. My one non-bilingual friend gets yelled at for not speaking French where she works -- and that's a minimum-wage job in a grocery store deli.

Can't help you with much else, unfortunately. But I remember growing up in Edmonton and seeing a person speak French for the first time out of the classroom -- she had a translator as everything in the grocery store was English-only. Mind you, this was 10 years ago, but still.

If you can't do bilingualism, stay away from Quebec, Ontario, (some of) the Maritimes and maybe even a couple of chunks of Manitoba.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 1:08 PM on November 19, 2006

I don't know the specifics about library hiring in Canada, but know that the Library and Information Studies program at the University of British Columbia is highly regarded - you could always ask someone there for advice.

And I would bet that everyone hiring in Canada would know UCLA, but wouldn't have a clue about San Jose State U.
posted by meerkatty at 1:16 PM on November 19, 2006

I am not a Canadian librarian, but I know many, and attend library conferences in Canada sometimes.

1) If you want to work for the Federal government in Ottawa, you must know French. No exceptions any more. The city government (which runs OPL) encourages French, but does not require it. I was just talking about this less than a month ago, with librarians in Ottawa.

2) Don't assume Canadian librarians are clueless about the difference between UCLA and SJSU. Canadians tend to know a lot more about US issues than we USians know about them.

3) Have you looked at any of this stuff yet? Got enough points?

Have you considered attending any Canadian librarian conferences? Several of the cities you mention are in Ontario, you might want to consider one put on by OLA or one of its sub-groups.
posted by QIbHom at 1:17 PM on November 19, 2006

Response by poster: Yes, QIbHom, I will have enough points to qualify as a skilled worker.

I know that in order to be hired at almost any library in the US, the university you graduated from must be accredited by the American Library Association. There are several universities in Canada with ALA accreditation.

But to get a job in Canada, does a school have to be accredited by the Canadian Library Assn?
posted by HotPatatta at 1:25 PM on November 19, 2006

Response by poster: flibbertigibbet, what is Edmonton like?
posted by HotPatatta at 1:28 PM on November 19, 2006

The OLA link includes a link to job postings. google will bring you more provincial links. They talk about degree requirements and accreditation requirements in those.
posted by QIbHom at 1:35 PM on November 19, 2006

Toronto (and the vast majority of Ontario, and most everywhere in Canada except Quebec for that matter) is not bilingual, although for almost any government job in Canada, speaking French will be regarded as an asset.

Toronto doesn't seem to be hiring at the moment. Note the links to librarian job sites on the left side of that page though.
posted by jellicle at 1:42 PM on November 19, 2006

Best answer: As a recent grad from SLAIS (at UBC in Vancouver) I might be able to help shed some light.

First off, it doesn't matter where you go to school, but it better be accredited. In 10 years I have not seen an posting for a job in BC that did not call for a degree from an accredited school. That does not mean they don't come up, but pretty much any large library system up here will want a degree from an accredited school.

Most librarians in the Vancovuer area will have come from SLAIS and that helps in speaking the same language of having networked with the same people, but it is certainly not the only reason people get jobs, so staying at UCLA or SJ (whose head used to be the head at SLAIS) will be fine.

Again speaking only of BC, there is pretty much only one newspaper that has a true library and they own both dailies here (Pacific Press) so I think your chance of lucking into a job there would be quite difficult.

For public librarians, it can be a bit tough to break in. Most of the large systems (Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond) make use of a large pool of on-call librarians. When jobs come up they they tend to be internal postings. Again, full time entry level positions do come up, but they are quite rare.

Hope this helpful.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 1:49 PM on November 19, 2006

Not knowing French is no reason not to consider most of Ontario -- French will me a 'mostly necessary' thing in Ottawa-Gatineau, a less-so but still likely necessary thing anywhere in Northern Ontario, New Brunswick, or certain parts of Manitoba and a possibly good thing around Kingston.

Most library jobs in Toronto will not require bilingualism.

If your school is ALA-accredited, you should be fine on that front.

Also, municipal nit-picky point: Hull no longer exists, but has been superseded by Gatineau. The Quebec government merged Hull with several nearby cities in a manner simmilar to the way Toronto was made a 'mega-city', casuing places like Scarborough, North York, East York, etc., to become mere neighbourhoodish names rather than cities.
posted by onshi at 2:00 PM on November 19, 2006

Response by poster: Razzle Bathbone-
Great info. Thanks.

You say that full time entry level positions come up rarely. What if I wait a few years to get some work experience in California and then look for a full time librarian job in BC? For full time positions, how many years of experience do they typically prefer?

Another question: Do you know how salary compares to librarian salaries in the US? Do Canadian librarians get a salary similar to that of a public school teacher?

posted by HotPatatta at 2:09 PM on November 19, 2006

The CLA has some job listings that might interest you when the time comes to apply for a position. Also, do be advised that the permanent residency application process will take a while (about a year in my case, applying as a US citizen working in Canada, YMMV), and if you want to get a head start, it's possible for you to work in Canada without getting permanent residency first -- librarians are on the list of NAFTA professionals who can get a renewable work permit without any hassle. You can then apply while you're in the country, and even get more points for having had Canadian work experience.
posted by greatgefilte at 2:18 PM on November 19, 2006

Not sure how it compares to teachers, but for public librarians, the starting salary in BC would be between 43-44,000 per year (about $24hr). The big bucks are at the colleges. One thing I have noticed lately is there are quite a few maternity leave postions coming up (that is what I am in right now). These would typically last a year, and you would be able to apply for under NAFTA. This could be helpful in giving you some experience up here and decide if you you really want to stay. (We get a hell of a lot of rain).

As for experience levels it is really hard to say, it can vary from system to system.

If you are interested in academic work, UBC usually hires several 2yr term positions every year, with the postings going up around May.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 2:42 PM on November 19, 2006

Best answer: I am just finishing my MLIS program at the University off Western Ontario in London, ON (two hours SW of Toronto) so I think I can shed some light...

I have frequently heard that there are a lot of library jobs in Canada and this was confirmed as recently as last week when Linda Cook, current President of the Canadian Library Association, spoke at our school. She said there are more jobs in Western Canada which is booming right now (especially Alberta which has both Calgary and Edmonton as major cities) but that an aging population of librarians is opening up many positions right across the country. (It tends to be a domino effect - mid-level librarians move up to senior management positions while current entry-level librarians move up to middle management. But because of the number of baby boomers who are now at the top of the pyramid, your odds of going in at a higher level and/or moving up faster, are much improved.)

Although there probably is a small degree of nepotism in that, all other things being equal, librarians doing the hiring might look more favourably on someone who attended the same school as they did, as long as you attended an ALA-accredited school, you don't need any other qualifications to find work here. (Canadian library programs are also accredited by ALA, not the CLA, and most library job postings have ALA accreditation as a requirement.)

I've got a blog where I write extensively about my experiences in library school. I'm planning a post about job sites but for the time being, if you go to the Canadian Library Association or the U of T's Faculty of Information Studies, you'll find most of the current job postings. Most provinces have job boards, usually through their provincial associations. The Foothills Library Association in Alberta is particularly good for western Canadian jobs.

Canadian Library Association
U of T Faculty of Information Studies - has extensive links to other job boards as well
Foothills Library Association (Alberta)

What else?
- ditto on whoever said bilingualism is pretty much a necessity in the Ottawa area (and to a lesser degree in certain other areas of the country although not to the extent you might think, especially if you're not from Canada and have been led to believe it's a fully bilingual country. As someone said, this mostly applies to federal government functions but rarely extends much beyond that realm.)
- also a good suggestion to attend conferences. The Ontario Library Association's is in the spring in Toronto and they usually have networking and job hunting events as well as the usual sessions and trade show. The Canadian Library Association conference will be in Vancouver in 2008 so, depending on when you're done, that might be a perfect one to plan to attend.
- if you want to do media librarianship, your best bet is to go to Toronto as that is the Canadian equivalent of New York in terms of media companies .

I'm working through this thread responding to things as I come to them so to answer your final two questions: experience is always preferential so if you can get experience in the US before coming to Canada, that might make your job search once here easier. There's no standard for how experience you need but typically it's something like "3 to 5 years of related library experience preferred" in the job postings I've looked at.

My understanding is that Canadian librarians are better paid than those in the US (at least in public libraries.) I'm not sure how our salaries compare to public school teachers - presumably they're very similar. Just curious - is that the benchmark in the US or are you asking because that was your background before going to library school?

Good luck - maybe we'll meet at a CLA conference someday!

Oh, I'm from Saskatchewan and planning to return there in a month. I don't have any job offers yet but I do think this will be an advantage as fewer people want to go to smaller centres. I know you said you want a big city but you might want to consider a smaller city, at least to gain experience, before moving to a larger centre. Places like Red Deer and Lethbridge in Alberta or even London here in Ontario are fair-sized cities in their own right and are only an hour or two from the larger centres. (Oh, and get used to spelling it "centres"! That's one way that bilingualism has affected us in Canada. )
posted by Jaybo at 2:46 PM on November 19, 2006

Something else that I just thought of. Not sure if UCLA requires you to do a practicum placement, at SLAIS we have to do 2 weeks. If there was a specific city you were interested in, you could ask to try to get a practicum placement there. Vancouver Public library takes several practicum students every year.

Or if your school has a co-op program try that as well. Not sure how many co-op placements occur up here in public libraries, but a good way to know if the city was right for you.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 2:52 PM on November 19, 2006

If the number of Canadians I worked with at the Queens Borough Public Library a few years back is any indication, no, there are not many librarian jobs in Canada. At least not nearly as many as there are Canadian librarians to fill them.
You'll need to do something else to get your foot in the door, then. A practicum or and internship at a Canadian library might work. Could you transfer to a Canadian library school instead of San Jose State? That might really help (hell, tuition might even be cheaper).
As for which university you graduate from, well, it depends. A great candidate who is articulate, knows their stuff, and got their degree online from Emporia will impress most potential employers more than an ill-informed stiff who went to UIUC. Between two otherwise equally great candidates (or two otherwise equally stiff stiffs; sometimes you have to take the applicants you get), though, something like the reputation of their school can be a difference-maker. It's probably not a good idea to pull that particular rug out from under yourself unless you really can't stand to be where you are anymore.
posted by willpie at 3:20 PM on November 19, 2006

Response by poster: Canadian librarians-
Do MLIS programs in Canada last one or two years? Most in the US are two years.

MetaFilter is so great. You guys are helping me out big time!

posted by HotPatatta at 3:42 PM on November 19, 2006

Yes and no.

Western (in Ontario) is a bit different in that the program is full time for 12months straight I believe. At UBC, it is typically 2 yrs, but because course are offered in the summer, you can be done sooner. I started in Jan 04 and finished Aug 05.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:03 PM on November 19, 2006

Please do not bold all your comments, poster. It's annoying and distracting. We can all read your username under each comment.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:05 PM on November 19, 2006

Can I chime in about Edmonton? I lived there for five years (1999-2004) and mostly enjoyed my time there. It's a medium-sized sprawly city--the city proper covers more land than Toronto, Chicago, or Montreal and there are about a million people in the metro area. It can be really freaking cold during the winter (-40 C), though the summers are lovely and warm (but not hot), with long long days. Calgary's weather is much the same.

There's a bit of a rivalry between Edmonton and Calgary, the two biggest cities in Alberta. Edmonton is the provincial capital and isn't quite as prosperous as Calgary at the moment. Calgary is very much a business centre whereas Edmonton tneds to be filled with bureaucrats. I think that Edmonton beats Calgary culturally, though I may be biased. While both cities have large professional theatre companies (Theatre Calgary and the Citadel), it seems to me that there's more going on in Edmonton. Edmonton also has North America's largest Fringe theatre festival, which is something that ought to be experienced.

Both cities have large universities, though the University of Alberta (in Edmonton) is more well-regarded than the University of Calgary. The U of A has a library school (don't know about the U of C), so this could impact your job search.

Owing to Edmonton's general ambience, I think that I'd choose to live there rather than Calgary. However, the climate will take a good deal of getting used and after a couple of years in slightly warmer (though not much!) places, I don't think I'd willingly subject myself to a protracted spell in a Canadian winter.
posted by lumiere at 6:08 PM on November 19, 2006

UWO's program is unique in Canada in a few ways (all of these are AFAIK - someone please correct me if I'm wrong)...

1. It is the only Canadian library school program you can complete in a single year (three straight semesters - including the summer - of five classes) as opposed to the more common two years, four semesters, sixteen classes configuration that most Canadian library schools follow (although as someone above pointed out, you can choose to finish earlier at other schools although not in a single year.)

2. It is the only one that has a full-fledged co-op program where students can go out to academic and special libraries for paid four or eight month workterms (public library jobs are extremely rare unfortunately.)

3. UWO is the only one that has three separate intakes per year in January, May and September unlike most schools which only accept students in September.

I should also mention that you don't necessarily have to complete the program at UWO in one year. Of the ~40 people I started with last January, only seven of us did it straight through. This was mainly because people had previous library experience or were older/married and only wanted to be out of the workforce for the minimal amount of time. With its three intakes, co-op program, full and part time options, UWO is also extremely flexible which also has great appeal to people.

There's some debate about how these policies (notably the ability to graduate after only one year) affect graduates - some people think that doing the program so quickly means you never have time to learn anything in depth or contemplate issues fully. Others have said the UWO program is well-respected in the library world precisely for that reason in that it most closely recreates the work world with its tight timelines, numerous assignments and pressure-cooker environment.

(Anecdotally, MLIS students make the highest use per capita of both the medial and psychiatric services available on campus.)

I'd go so far as to say the Department tries to downplay the one year option once you arrive (even though that's what attracts many students to Western) and also that many students who come intending to complete the program in a year voluntarily choose to participate in the co-op program once they see the value of the work experience and networking they can gain or drop to four classes when they realise what the workload is like.

Another thing - one unintended benefit of these three policies is that unlike other library schools which tend to attract the majority of their students regionally (UBC = BC, Edmonton = Prairies, U of T = Ontario, McGill = Quebec, Dalhousie = Maritimes), UWO truly attracts a range of students from across Canada. I'd say the total of people from Ontario in my cohort was equal to the number of people from other regions (and within that 20 or so, fairly equally divided again among each of the regions of the country.)

Wow, I've never typed longer answers on AskMF in my life!

(Willipie, just as an aside - did your co-workers at the Queen's library *tell* you they went to the US because they couldn't find jobs? Because I know a few grads who have gone to the States but it's usually for the sense of adventure/opportunity to live in a different country than ddue to the lack of job prospects.)
posted by Jaybo at 10:10 PM on November 19, 2006

Well, my sig other is a Canadian librarian who has done extensive research on working in the States.

That angle seems to be that U.S. libraries love the Masters of Library Studies from Canadian Universities. I have no idea why it is coveted, but it is. This may not speak well for your chances up here, so I would second the recommendation to check on accreditation. And why not write to some libraries and ask how your degree would be regarded?

Regarding this: Do you know how salary compares to librarian salaries in the US?

Salaries appear to be higher in the U.S., but part of the reason for this seems to be that Canadian grads can go south and take on supervisory/management roles much earlier than they could at that stage in their career in Canada. Afterward, they can return to earn higher salaries in higher positions, earlier, than they could have done had they stayed home. Again, this probably speaks to the degree. I can't comment on public school teacher salaries as I don't know anything about that.

On preview, must disagree with you, Jaybo, regarding Dalhousie. If there is a university that attracts a larger proportion of students from elsewhere in Canada, I'd like to see it. Most students from Dal come from elsewhere, and go back there, too.
posted by dreamsign at 12:25 AM on November 20, 2006

Dreamsign, not doubting you but do you have any stats about Dal attracting a larger number of library students from outside their region compared to the other library schools? As I said, I'm basing my observation about UWO on (admittedly) a very small sample size of my 45 classmates (nearly half of whom are from outside Ontario), but do think that's at least some evidence about my point that UWO attracts a lot of students from outside this region.

As with UWO's co-op program, three-per-year intakes and ability to complete the degree in a single year, from what I know of Dal, I think one of its major appeals to students coming there from elsewhere would be the dual degrees you can complete there in LIS and Law (or an MBA or MPA.) Dalhousie was actually my second choice although I also have a memory that it had one of the highest tuitions of any library school I looked at which probably also keeps a few people (including some I know here at Western) away as well.

I'd thought about doing a student's perspective independent study comparing the different library schools in Canada this term but unfortunately that didn't happen. It's still something I'd like to do someday as I don't know of anything of that type that's currently available and it would be really interesting to have a single document that provided a side by side comparison of the different schools - fees, number of students, unique advantage and areas of specialization for each program, etc.
posted by Jaybo at 7:25 PM on November 20, 2006

Not that anyone's going to read this so many days after the fact, but anyway... Yes, Jaybo, it was widely discussed among the many Canadians (a large percentage of whom had gone to Dalhousie and seemed to like it, FWIW) working in the Queens Borough Public Library that there weren't enough jobs for them in Canada so they ended up in the States, courtesy of NAFTA. That a great many of them enjoyed the heck out of New York City was just good fortune.
posted by willpie at 4:26 PM on November 26, 2006

« Older tap tap   |   Help Me Find a Good Stress Management Book /... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.