Is it really that hard to get a job in Portland, OR?
August 20, 2007 4:35 PM   Subscribe

Is it really that much harder to get a library job in Portland vs the Bay Area? How long do you think it would take for me to get a job after moving up there?

I am a librarian (with MLS and experience), and although I love the Bay Area, I can't realistically imagine myself being able to buy a home and have a grown-up life here on my wages in a neighborhood I like.

I want to stay on this coast (my family is in the B.A.) and would like to move north to Portland, but I have been scared after seeing some of the Metafilter posts about jobs. I'm thinking of saving some money for the next 6 months while I work in San Francisco and applying for Portland library jobs. If no job materializes in 6 months, I'd like to just move up there and try it in person.

So my question it really that much harder to get a library job in Portland verses the Bay Area? How long do you think it would take for me to get a job after moving up there? I'm trying to figure out how long I could live there without one during the job search.

I'm especially interested in the experiences of MLS librarians (as opposed to paraprofessionals) applying for jobs in the area, but I'm interested in everyone's un/employment experiences as well. Thanks!
posted by lulu103 to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You have a lot fewer places to apply in Portland, than the B.A. There aren't any other major metro areas in Oregon, just Vancouver-Washington, across the river to the north, so the number of jobs would have to be similarly limited. Those facilities that do exist are also considerably smaller than similarly functional places, in the B.A. This affects all job markets in the area. I left PDX for Seattle specifically because I felt PDX just didn't have the breadth of job opportunities.

On the other hand, if you want to librarian at Nike, you're going to have to move up, and probably wait till the current one dies/leaves.
posted by nomisxid at 5:03 PM on August 20, 2007

Check out this comprehensive listing of library jobs in PNW. For a while, I watched that list as well as many others and never saw something somewhere else that I did not also find on that list. You'll get a feel for how often different types of library jobs open up. Depending on what kind of library work your interested in, you could be waiting for somebody to retire or quit. You may want to do the job search from where you are and move after you get a job, instead of the other way around. Also in my experience (Medical Librarian here) the time between when you apply for a job and actually start working, can be 4 - 6 months!
posted by dipolemoment at 8:41 PM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I dropped out of library school last year, but I have a few friends in the program who just graduated and are looking for jobs in the Portland and Seattle areas. They are having a very difficult time finding work, esp. in Portland. And I wouldn't move there without a promising job prospect. Doing so would be very risky. Plus, it always looks better to a potential employer when you are currently employed in the field.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:44 PM on August 20, 2007

The Portland job market is very, very tight. As said above, even pretty highly educated people have trouble finding stuff. Have you thought about Seattle/Tacoma? There are more schools and more possibilities up there, & its only an extra 3-4 hours. You get some better music, too. And real snow. (Of course, then you don't get to be awesome because you live in Oregon. )

I'd recommend applying to wherever you can find in the Portland area, and if that doesn't work out, looking north. You could hit it lucky, but, like previous posters, I definitely would NOT move there without a job lined up.
posted by devilsbrigade at 6:34 AM on August 21, 2007

Experience helps, but, as many have said before, it's hard right now to get a job in a library here. I have an MLS and some experience in law libraries (and an MA in Lit, blah blah blah) and have been looking for a little while, but I have extenuating circumstances (meaning my wife is freelancing so one of us needed insurance; I was accepted for a job with Multnomah County, but didn't take it because, although it would have been a good starting position, we couldn't afford it at the moment and, like I said, needed insurance). Emporia State has a branch of their SLIM program here and I think there's a program in Seattle. As one person I met said, "Everyone in Portland is either a librarian or cartoonist" (she was a librarian, her husband a cartoonist).

Check the PNLA site suggested above. Check the OLA Hotline. If you're willing to work for very little money to start out or know a second language (Russian, Mandarin, Spanish to name a few), you're going to do better in the job market here, from what I've seen.

I'm in no way trying to discourage you, of course. Portland's great and it hasn't changed much since the first time I lived here (12 years ago; there are more condos and people willing to pay a lot of money for a little bit of space nowadays). Luckily my wife and I came here with the mindset of wanting to live here and knowing I'd find a job doing something, whether I liked it or not. Experience in publishing and other industries has helped out as well. Also, knowing someone who needed to add someone to their office helped me not have to work at a Fred Meyer.

FWIW, PDX is also going to be cheaper than the Bay Area. We pay a little more than what we were in a midwest college town for rent/food/utilities. Of course, our house is a story less, but the ocean and mountains make up for it.

Hope that helps. Good luck.
posted by sleepy pete at 8:56 AM on August 21, 2007

thanks everyone. i feel like i have a realistic idea of what to expect if i do decide to take the plunge. and especially thanls for the pnw listing page, dipolemoment.
posted by lulu103 at 7:04 PM on August 22, 2007

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