What's so bad about being a librarian?
May 7, 2007 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Librarians -- rain on my parade! What didn't they tell you in school? What are the worst parts of your job? What do you regret about your schooling/early career?

So I have decided to go back to school to get an MLIS degree (at Simmons), and while I am completely excited about it and I am committed to going, I suspect that the large group of librarians here on AskMe can open my eyes to some of the pitfalls of the profession, with an eye towards avoiding them, if possible. I have seen the obvious questions here about careers in Library Science, but if you know of any that elude the site's search function, I'd be happy for pointers to them.
posted by Rock Steady to Work & Money (29 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
What they didn't teach us in library school, by Chip Ward.

posted by starman at 9:23 AM on May 7, 2007

OMG the entry level gap. There are exceptions to this and you may well be one, depending on your background, your chosen career path, and what you do in your program, but if you're like most librarians, finding the first job is not as easy as ALA would have you believe.
posted by clavicle at 9:36 AM on May 7, 2007

(Also: we can give you better answers if you get more specific about what kind of librarian you want to be.)
posted by clavicle at 9:37 AM on May 7, 2007

Welcome to the club! I'm sure library school has changed a lot since I graduated, and I know there vast differences in the culture and curricula of various programs. But I'll tell you what I can.

If you are looking to be an actual, practicing librarian (as opposed to a professor at a library school), take as many courses with adjunct professors as possible. In other words, take classes from people who actually work in libraries, rather than PhDs with little or no practical experience. I found (at least at my library school) that the "full-time" professors were mostly ignorant about what actually happened in a real, functioning library and offered little that I have actually used in my career.

Be sure to learn as much as you can about new and emerging technologies and computer trends as they relate to catalogs and other library offerings. But, don't become so enamored with these new gadgets that you forget to learn the basics of library science. The collective knowledge of librarianship that has been built up over the last 150 years or so is remarkable, and while the last few years have seen a tremendous upheaval of many of the core ideas of the trade (folksonomies! Library 2.0! Whatever whoop-te-do the kids thought up today!) the essential principles are usually very sound and useful.

My only major regrets about my early career had to do with where I chose to work, rather than the nature of the job itself. I suppose I could recommend some warning signs to look for when applying interviewing, but that's a bit far off for where you are.

I have an overlong, out of date, but perhaps somewhat useful e-mail about library school and librarianship that I can forward on to you, if you want to see it. Send me an e-mail if you want it, or if you have any questions about what it's like to work in a highly-specialized research library. I'm both a reference librarian and a systems librarian (which means I'm in charge of making sure our catalog program doesn't implode), so I may be able to offer some unique insights. (Or not, depending on your questions.)
posted by arco at 9:40 AM on May 7, 2007

Response by poster: Good point, clavicle. Right now I am leaning towards becoming an academic reference librarian, but I am also interested in the more technical/digital/Internet aspects of the profession. I am also intrigued by the corporate librarian and knowledge management discipline. One of the things I particularly disliked about my previous field was that it was very difficult to move from one specialty to another, and it seems like that is not so much the case with Library Science. So really any advice or information about any of the various disciplines would be great. Thanks for all the answers so far!
posted by Rock Steady at 9:57 AM on May 7, 2007

I'm just finishing my second semester at Simmons, so I have no real world advice on jobs. I can tell you that a couple of the profs I've had have been pretty upfront about job prospects, and the stuff you end up doing that you never thought you would, etc.
If you're into techie stuff, you usually get to interview a Systems Librarian in 488, which is incredibly helpful in figuring out just exactly what folks do with this degree in terms of technology.
I also just attended "Speed Geeking" @ Simmons, hosted by ASIS&T where we got to talk with 5 different librarians about their jobs, schooling, etc. Very helpful.
Good luck @ school - I've really enjoyed it so far.
posted by jdl at 10:06 AM on May 7, 2007

The ALA lies. There is no job shortage. None at all. What folks are retiring are often getting replaced by paraprofessionals. If you go through library school with no prior library experience, and you haven't done something exceptional during your time in library school to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack, good luck finding a job -- it'll be hard.

Also, absolutely do not plan on finding a job near where you went to school. The competition will be insaaaaaaaane.

That said, I went into library school with an eye towards being an academic ref person just like you -- I had worked in academic libraries for years prior -- but don't let your desire to do academic ref shackle you from poking about at other options whilst in school. Consider public work, or K-12, or what-have-you. You might have a survey class that introduces this concept.

Also, about ref: you will probably not find a job doing academic reference solely. Reference is in free fall; our library does not have dedicated academic ref librarians and hasn't for a good long while now. So think about picking up on some tech -- good solid tech-savvy librarians (beyond the I-know-how-to-make-web-pages variety; consider learning about the guts of OPACs, or getting into something like PHP or Ruby On Rails) are often in demand.
posted by the dief at 10:08 AM on May 7, 2007

The entry level gap that clavicle mentioned is extremely significant. Try to get internships started now, like even before you start school, and do everything that you can in school to either gain unique technology skills or participate in high-profile research or internships.

If you can get in on some grant-funded research or do some amazing digital library things, the job market is not too bad. If you just have a BA in English and think that an MLS will let you walk into a salaried job in the city of your choice, you've got another thing coming. Competition for good library jobs is very fierce: we're all pretty smart, sorta nerdy, and don't like to lose.
posted by rachelpapers at 10:10 AM on May 7, 2007

Actually, I think it's pretty difficult to move from one specialty to the other. Certainly if you're a public librarian it would be veeeeery rare to move to academic. Each type of library really has its own specialized body of knowledge, so I think people are reluctant to hire someone from another branch of the profession.

My advice? Practicums, practicums, practicums, and um... practicums. Get all the in-library experience you can. You will have a wicked hard time getting hired without it, because libraries in some ways are very insular, and don't like to hire bright people who have been successful in other fields if they only have classroom experience of libraries. Also, start thinking now about how geographically bound you are, and start browsing job listings for areas you want to work in. If you're willing to go to Podunk, USA, or geographically undesirable areas, your search will be a lot easier than if you plan on targeting Seattle or San Francisco. If you decide you really want a job in a particular place, start making connections now. Intern, serve on committees, whatever you can do so that when it's time to look for a job you have someone who knows you and has a reason to pick you out of the zillion other resumes they'll be getting. But really, keep an eye out on the job boards for what jobs are available and how often in your desired area. And if you go academic, prepare for a loooooong job search process. I'm going on 6 months since I sent in my resume for the job that I'm currently waiting on an official offer from.
posted by MsMolly at 10:19 AM on May 7, 2007

What didn't they tell you in school?

IANAL, but from what I've read I think it can be summed up with one sentence:

How to deal with the homeless population.
posted by Ynoxas at 10:21 AM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Start by going to the summer (not mid-winter) ALA conference/job fair and you willl get a nice introduction to the library world. A nice atmosphere with library-oriented presentations, some at a basic level, and sympathetic people. Also, the people doing the interviewing have the authority to hire you, thus saving you from the regular job application treadmill. Many academic people may not be the professional job-interviewer and they know that. If you have your priorities straight, then you will probably be willing to compromise yourself on "location, location, location", but not on your professional ethics. I don't mean that you should worship the ALA, but rather that you should stick to your own personal service beliefs.
posted by kapec at 10:36 AM on May 7, 2007

Don't rule out special libraries - especially if your undergraduate degree or prior experience is something which provides expertise that would be valuable to a special librarian.

Science degree? Look for a job in a corporate library in an R&D-heavy industry. Art degree? Consider an art museum library. History degree? You can take arco's job.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:40 AM on May 7, 2007

If you go through library school with no prior library experience, and you haven't done something exceptional during your time in library school to distinguish yourself from the rest of the pack, good luck finding a job -- it'll be hard.

I've heard this over and over, but haven't found it to be true: I graduated in '01 and found a professional job within 5 months, having done nothing more exceptional than work in a used bookstore for 5 years, then as a student assistant and an intern in 2 federal gvt. libraries while in school.

All of the folks I've kept in touch with from library school have found interesting and decently-paying work as well. I'm beginning to think there are a lot of new librarians out there who need some help with their interview/resume writing/job search skills ...

Also, absolutely do not plan on finding a job near where you went to school. The competition will be insaaaaaaaane.

This may be true - I'm in D.C., probably one of the best spots to find library work in the country.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:09 PM on May 7, 2007

Some grouchy and long-winded thoughts from an August `07 MSLIS and current "Librarian Trainee":

You either can or cannot go from public lib. work to academic lib. work, and vice versa.

You either do or do not need a subject master's in addition to the MLS in order to get an academic library job.

You will be strongly encouraged to be flexible in your job search: that is, accept that you may have to move from, say, someplace like Chapel Hill or NYC to someplace like Murfreesboro, TN, or Billings, MT, to get an entry-level job.

The job you may or may not get in Billings or Murfreesboro may or may not pay enough for you to even consider paying off your student loans.

If you are looking to be an actual, practicing librarian (as opposed to a professor at a library school), take as many courses with adjunct professors as possible. In other words, take classes from people who actually work in libraries, rather than PhDs with little or no practical experience. I found (at least at my library school) that the "full-time" professors were mostly ignorant about what actually happened in a real, functioning library and offered little that I have actually used in my career.

Tangenting/ piggybacking on what Arco said, my experience of lib. school was that the instructors made all the difference. Not so much in their adjunct or full prof status but whether the enthusiasm they had for their specialty was contagious; whether they were in fact good teachers; and whether their classes were hard! Take the classes that all the smartest kids take, you'll have more fun.

If you choose to go the public lib. route, know that many public librarians are not very happy. We function as social workers, babysitters, cops, concierges, ad nauseam, but rarely as librarians. I have admittedly limited experience but I am certainly not the only one who feels this way.

That said, a lot of librarians like their jobs enormously, and thus far I have found that library and university HR departments actually do make an effort to help in the job search, unlike their counterparts in the for-profit sector. I don't wanna be a public librarian anymore but I like it a lot more than I liked publishing.
posted by scratch at 12:20 PM on May 7, 2007

I'm a '00 Simmons grad, former full-time children's librarian, now part-time academic librarian.
One piece of advice: Don't wait to graduate to try to find the perfect professional library job. The way I got my first professional job was by taking a part-time circ job while in school, getting to know the library and the staff, and then being the most helpful, wonderful, innovative and productive circulation assistant they'd ever seen. When a paraprofessional opening came up in the children's room, I was seen as a natural choice. By the time I had my degree, I was head of children's services, and the city had paid for about half of my education.

The job I have now evolved in a similar way. I only want certain hours right now (young kids at home) and most of the jobs available in those hours are not advertised for professional librarians. After 5 years at this college, though, I am a full-fledged Reference librarian and head cataloger. I just consistently showed the Dean that I could do more work, even with the limited hours and I now have lovely business cards and professional pay and the same flexible schedule.

Some other random pieces of advice:
Take classes with Candy Schwartz. I took 3 with her at Simmons. I hadn't done any cataloging since grad school, but when they offered me the cataloging job at my current library I was amazed at how much had stuck with me. I think she's into tags and folksonomies etc these days.

Don't specialize too much. If I had only focused on children's services while at Simmons, I would not have been prepared for the job I have today. It pays to know a bit about a lot, and to be flexible. I always figure if they throw something at me that I'm unfamiliar with I can find out about it easily....after all, I'm a freakin' librarian!

Don't get too hung up on technology and the latest and greatest library 2.0 fads. You may find yourself in a small public library that caters mostly to people looking for the latest bestsellers and tax help in the spring. You may find yourself working in a cash-strapped city library that struggles with a large ESL population and a high illiteracy rate and could care less about librarything etc. In my current case, I work for a small college transitioning from a 2 year school to a more competitive 4 year school. Our students don't care that we don't have our catalog available for their phones, or that we don't have an RSS feed of our latest books. Are those things in the pipeline? Sure, but right now the top priority is making sure the students can actually find the books in the catalog and on the shelves.

Good luck. My email is in my profile if you want to chat with a real live Massachusetts Librarian! (we have some paraprofessional openings, but we're out Worcester way.)
posted by Biblio at 12:57 PM on May 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Having been on multiple hiring committees now, as an Academic Librarian, I can say: you must have actual, in library experience. There are about 870823572938475234 ways to get this while in library school.

Aside from practical experience inside a library, doing what you hope to be hired for, my suggestions: stay current with technology, know how to write some webpages, get your fingers in instructional design/user interface design, and do as much as possible during school to make contacts with librarians doing what you want to do. Librarianship, especially academic librarianship, is a wonderfully connected group...someone will know someone and it will come in handy.

Do something active if you want to be an academic librarian...write for a blog, do a poster presentation somewhere, speak at your regional/state conference...something. Show that you are in the profession.

With all that said: I don't buy all the nay-sayers about how hard it is to find a library job. From what I've seen, if you can write a compelling letter and don't have misspellings on your resume, you'll do fine. The problem is that SOOOOO many people can't and do. If I had a nickel for every bad resume I looked at....
posted by griffey at 1:50 PM on May 7, 2007

I believe you, Griffey, but if I had a nickel for every impeccable resume I sent out that returned exactly zilch for my efforts...well... I'd had a helluva lot of nickels.
posted by scratch at 3:16 PM on May 7, 2007

I graduated from library school last May and have been a professional public librarian since then. I've worked for the New York Public Library and now for a mid-sized public library in Northern New Jersey, so I really only know about this geographic areas. I found library school to be practically useless, when compared with the everyday realities of my job. I went to two research-heavy schools (McGill and Rutgers), though, so many of my professors and TAs hadn't been practicing librarians in a while, if ever, so that didn't help matters any.

The most important aspect of this profession is customer service. A lot of people don't care how good you are at your job, if you have crappy people skills, you're not going to be very effective. Don't talk down to people. Don't expect people to understand what you do, what kind of degree you had to get to do your job, and what you do when you're not staffing a public desk. These sound like basics, but I have several coworkers who have yet to master these skills.

Oh, yeah, there's definitely no overall librarian shortage. Some areas of the country (or North America, if you're interested in branching out across the border) might have more of a need than others, but it's nothing like the mass exodus that ALA might have you believe is taking place. Like others have said, I'd be more than willing to answer any specific questions or concerns you have if you're interested; contact info is in my profile.

Good luck!
posted by LiliaNic at 4:35 PM on May 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

From what I've seen, if you can write a compelling letter and don't have misspellings on your resume, you'll do fine.

Heh. And everyone who's still single at 30 just isn't trying hard enough.

As you can see from the answers here, there will be a great deal of variation in the ease of your job search depending on what type of library you want to go into and what area of the country. Basically, just by thinking about what you want to do when you graduate and taking steps to get closer to that, you'll be way ahead of the game. You may still have trouble (It took the ALA chapter president at our school almost a year to find full-time work), but you'll have at least done what you can.
posted by MsMolly at 4:54 PM on May 7, 2007

New Zealand academic reference librarian here, previously special librarian in small govt agencies.

Jobs: no problems here getting entry level positions, all my classmates from a few years ago got good jobs and many have already been promoted.

What I don't like/wasn't trained for: being a library cop - shushing, telling people not to use cellphones or to eat. (Shushing isn't much of a problem, our students really, really like quiet and most of them will shush us if we are talking in the stacks).
- Doing routine administrative stuff/desk duty. It's OK, but I feel like I didn't get a degree in order to stamp books.
- Saying no to people - we get members of the public wandering in and asking for help doing research. We try to help where we can, but we're not resourced to help everyone, and aren't contractually allowed to let them use our databases. Leading into
- the odd crazies (I don't hesitate to use that word; a few months ago someone smashed windows and destroyed paintings in the building we share with faculty. At the time, we had a solitary female staff member on).
- the bureaucracy (probably inevitable, and I realise it happens in many organisations)

But overall, I really like my job:

- finding articles that students had spent hours looking for;
- helping them find the one book that supports their argument in an essay;
- teaching (something I never thought I could do), and getting intelligent questions from the students, which show that they've picked up on what I'm saying, and it's meant something to them;
- students I recognise smiling and saying Hi as I walk around the library.

It's fun. I recommend it.

Special libraries are similar: you get the satisfaction of having respect from your colleagues, and knowing that you're contributing to their work. The major downside for me was dealing with members of the public, and wanting to help them but being constrained (e.g., I can't really help every single student who emails me for help with their homework).
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:52 PM on May 7, 2007

Academic librarian at a large public university. We hire new grads for tenure track positions, but expect that they did some interesting internships if they have no library experience outside school. (I've listed two of our openings on MeFi Jobs.)

Technology skills are key, no matter what type of position you're trying to get, so if you don't like technology, I guess that's a pitfall. Other drawbacks might be more related to academia than librarianship - there are lots of committees, and lots of process. Librarians tend to like procedure, and that can get tedious if you're a do-er more than a talker. All libraries say they "embrace change", and only a few of them mean it.

Library school didn't do a ton for me beyond introducing me to the professional culture, but that MLS is a entry ticket you can't avoid. If you're not committed to Simmons entirely, you might find a less expensive alternative, as many libraries don't really care where you went as long as it was accredited. I just looked at Simmons' current fees, and they are upwards of 4 times current fees at my library school.

All that said, I do love my job. I get to play with fun new toys and try to find service applications for them. Few days are ever the same. My colleagues are smart, my schedule is flexible, my pay is decent, and I get to claim membership in the mefi librarian posse.
posted by donnagirl at 9:44 PM on May 7, 2007

In my experience at a reference library, I would recommend getting experience in technology. Libraries, like every other place of business, needs someone who knows how to make computers, printers, networks, websites, etc., run like they should and, like many public institutions, libraries often can't afford to hire a full-time tech. My tech knowledge, limited as it is, has been a big help to my library and has helped me in my career. I would also learn as much as you can about handling conflict. Unless you are in a totally private library, you will have to at least handle telling angry people they can't eat that sammich in the rare book room. You will most likely have to deal with mentally unstable people so check into any seminars that your local mental health service providers may be offering to give you a few pointers.
posted by Foam Pants at 11:33 PM on May 7, 2007

Sorry to be a little late to the party here. You've gotten some great advice. These are my bullet points about the profession and feel free to email or IM me for more specifics, also google "things they don't teach you in library school" and on a more sarcastic (but nonetheless somewhat accurate) note, read "What I Really Learned in Library School: Karen Elliott" [published in the book I edited Revolting Librarians Redux which you might like to read]

To Do while in school

- jobs don't pay well, try hard not to go broke while you are in grad school
- networking is important, but it's not too terrible. Meet and interact with classmates and other professionals. The online world is full of librarians using social software, look for them on your favorite tools (facebook, myspace, wikipedia, ning, here -- anyone labeled as a "colleague" on my contacts page is a librarian or a library school student, fwiw)
- get a library job or experience while you're in school. It's hard and it's a lot of work, but having concrete experience is one of the key parts about job hunting not being horrible
- consider joining a professional organization like ALA, SLA, ASIsT or something else. Go to a conference. Present at a conference or try to help out. Its good to know people genertally AND it's really important to know what you are getting into.
- read library blogs. There are a ton of them. Mine is librarian.net, there are a thousand others. Go to technorati.com and search for librarian blogs or go to a place like LISZen and do a few searches. You can get an idea of what some of the issue areas are in whatever part of the profession you decide to go into.

The Job Scene

- My personal feeling is while it's often not too hard to find some job, it's hard to find a good job. The more flexible you can be in terms of location, pay, duties, type of library, the happier you'll be. Relocation is the big stumbling block for a lot of people, think hard about how willing you'll be to move
- The librarian shortage is bullshit, ignore those people.
- Librarianship is a raditional profession. While there are many exceptions to this rule -- probably a lot of people here, for example -- there is an emphasis in many places in doing things the way they've always done it. People get librarian jobs and they KEEP them, so the normal level of churn of ideas and staff that you may be used to is more absent, esp among management. This is a problem if you are a young upstart with big ideas. The "pay your dues" mentality is strong and hotly debated. There are places this is not the case, but this is just a caveat, don't be surprised if your post-college workplace is shockingly traditional (dress codes, lots of bad xeroxes of forms that are decades old for interlibrary loan, a lot of fussing about minor nitpicky things while big issues go unaddressed)

Social Aspects

- You're a dude entering the library world, people will think you're gay. If you are gay this is great news. There are tons of hot gay men in librarianship. There are a lot of male librarians bloggers and male librarian administrators (disproportionate, in both cases) You might like Mark M's Ask a Male Librarian occasional blog posts.
- There are people who feel that librarianship is a way of forwarding the public good and, as such it is important to address social issues like homelessness, poverty, race inequity and others within the profession through book selection, professional activism and scholarship. There are those who don't think this. Those two sides frequently argue.
- There are library issues that DO affect librarians but are also social, like the USA PATRIOT Act, federal legislation requiring internet filtering in public libraries that take e-rate money, access to library materials for children, privacy issues, etc. You should know about these topics, though you don't have to "pick a side" but we have our out there conservative factions the same way American politics in general does.

General Pitfalls

- Depending on where you come from, the profession can seem rather staid. I used to work in technology and the two fields are, in many ways, night and day. Not that many librarians don't like to party, but as a group, they do not really like to party.
- I meet a lot of librarians in my travels -- and I travel a lot to library conferences and give talks, meet people etc -- who seem to be in the profession almost as an afterthought. They had a husband with a "real" job and this is their side gig. This is NOT everyone, but those people make up a decent amount of librarians esp in the public sector and can be hard to work around.
- Technophobia is strong in this profession. Again tons of exceptions, but the rule seems to be that effecting technological change is rough going.
- Our tools suck. The software that we buy from vendors is uniformly horrible and because of the technophobia stuff, I swear librarians don't seem to even know what a good tool looks like. You will have to use bad tools. You can agitate for better tools.
- We don't come down on the right side of copyright (imo), often, as a profession. There is a tendency to err on the side of copyright holders more often than I think is prudent. We pay a lot of money for licensed digital content and should worry more abotu our users' access and pushing fair use than we do.
- Microsoft. It's their world. As a librarian, you just shovel money into their gaping maw. This is true for other biggish vendors and is inescpable in larger libraries, though people are trying.
- Defensiveness, generally. I don't know what it is but I have it too. I wrote this whole bit worrying that someoen was going to crawl up my ass and hassle me for these assessments, even though librarians on MeFi are generally superduper awesome. I have internalized every crappy librarian I ever worked with or knew.

Despite any of this, I don't think I'd be happy doing anything else. I love the public, even the smelly unwashed confused and hostile public and I find that my skills are really utilized in ways that they weren't in the tech industry. The work feels useful and important, and I hope you find it is as well.
posted by jessamyn at 7:17 AM on May 8, 2007 [18 favorites]

As a graduate of the program, I can give you my opinion on Simmons. It's a very good and very expensive program. I worked while going to grad school and was quite crunched for time and money, so I never really took advantage of the Simmons extra-curricular networking stuff. If you have a chance, you really should. If you're just going to be an in-and-out student (physically there for classes and nothing else), I'd almost recommend taking a few cheaper courses at URI.

Again, there's nothing wrong with Simmons but the cost. As donnagirl notes, comparatively it's really up there. You're paying for those networking opportunities, so use them. Their ASIS&T ties are quite strong, for example (best student chapter many years in a row). If you do Archives, make sure you use the Simmons connection to get a fantastic internship (you can't throw a cat without hitting a fancy archive in Boston). Echoing what scratch and others have said, look for the most demanding professors. Read the course evaluations. Seriously. There are professors to avoid at any school, and Simmons is no exception.

I'll also nth the recommendations to get experience now, via practicums, internships, whatever. Boston in particular has a real glut of librarians, so employers are free to demand a lot more than in other places.

And I'll just add a few things representing the "bad" in academic librarianship. There was a recent Inside Higher Ed article on the lack of dissension and/or rigorous discourse in library land. You got a lotta librarians airing their grievances there. Personally I'd split the middle between most of the views. Look at it as presenting you with extremes, with reality being somewhere in the middle. (I have spoken!)

Academic librarians also have issues with status on campus. The fact of the matter is, you're in one of the more practice-oriented departments. You won't be doing traditional research in the same way a sociology faculty member is, and much more of your time is teaching- rather than research-focused anyway. Better yet, you have to know how to both do difficult research tasks and then communicate the process effectively. (You'd be surprised at the gap between knowing how to do research and then being able to communicate how to do it.) "Traditional" reference (as the big fancy desk) is going through changes, so new hires might be expected to be able to move to email or chat reference. Or create online tutorials for the iPod. Or send out a live-linked research newsletter to faculty.

I'll go way the hell off-track and suggest that U.S. higher education is experiencing commodification like never before, where students are customers and learning is simply a series of transactions. You'll have to work to give the research process a place of importance in a system that is becoming more about finding a job than developing critical thinking skills. In other words, if you're a librarian in a school or academic library, you're a part of the U.S. education system, with all the good and bad that that entails.

(Not to sound too soapbox-y, but you asked for the bad. I could write a much longer email about the good.)
posted by lillygog at 7:42 AM on May 8, 2007

Crap. Last line, email clearly = post.
posted by lillygog at 2:28 PM on May 8, 2007

Response by poster: Wow. Thanks to everyone who contributed. This is exactly what I wanted. It's hard to give Best Answers in a "opinion and personal experiences" type AskMe, but I considered giving all of you one, until I remembered I hate grade-inflation.

Extra-special thanks to those who offered to connect via email -- I may very well take you up on it, if I haven't already.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:26 PM on May 8, 2007

Okay and I'm really late to the game, but as a first semester Simmons GSLIS who is now working in the Simmons library, I can tell you this- there are a lot of jobs in Boston and Cambridge for students. I've found it really helps to have one while going through the program. And feel free to contact me as well. I'm at Simmons all day long now so I hope I can give you some kind of perspective.
posted by rodz at 8:13 AM on May 9, 2007

This is a self-link but I wrote a lot about all aspects of my experiences in library school on my blog, "Head Tale: Yet Another Librarian's Blog" (formerly "Yet Another Library Student's Blog" so yes, I did get a job fortunately.)

Many of my former classmates aren't so lucky and are really struggling to find even entry level positions. I had an advantage that I was moving to my home province in Canada which doesn't have a library school so there's greater demand here. I also had 10 years of related but not direct library experience before obtaining my MLIS and I think that helped too. The University of Western Ontario where I went for my MLIS has a co-op program which is quite rare but was really helpful for giving experience to many classmates who did find work.

It's a great career choice for all kinds of reasons and even if the jobs aren't there yet, I honestly believe they will be...it's just that boomer-aged librarians seem to be sticking around longer than many studies initially predicted.
posted by Jaybo at 8:09 PM on October 25, 2007

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