30 June 2011

Librarian Job Satisfaction and Outlook

Libraries, and the people who work in libraries, are undergoing significant cultural and budgetary stresses. Library Journal conducted a "Job Satisfaction Survey" that might be of interest to some readers. On the whole, librarians enjoy their jobs but there are significant drawbacks to working within the profession that are taking a mounting negative toll on physical, mental, and financial well-being of its workers.

Read LJ 2011 Job Satisfaction Survey | Rocked By Recession, Buoyed By Service if you want to get a sense of the current situation of Libraryland.

To get an historical overview of the profession in the United States, read the Oxford University Press's blog entry "Librarians in the U.S., 1880 - 2009" by Sydney Beveridge, Susan Weber and Andrew A. Beveridge, of Social Explorer.

Recently, Forbes Magazine listed "Library and Information Science," as one of the worst Master's Degrees to acquire since the cost of librarianship graduate education is high in comparison with the median annual renumeration of its Master's degree holders. (Librarianship tied with Counseling at number 27.)

In case you are a statistics geek:
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Office of Occupational Employment Statistics released a report on Librarians in May.

The Department of Professional Employees of the AFL-CIO recently issued a "Library Workers: Facts and Figures" fact sheet with the source of their statistics cited. "Unfortunately, the sources used include the Librarian entry in the BLS’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 edition, released in December 2009 just as the recession's effects started significantly impacting the profession. The 2012-13 edition, due this December, should better reflect the current environment." (quote from the ALA JobList Direct e-newsletter of 6.23.2011)

South Carolina is a "right to work" state and overall union membership within the state is 4.6%. Our neighboring states and our fellow Southern states also have low rates of unionization. According to the AFL-CIO report, nationwide about 21% of librarians employed within the United States are affiliated with a labor union.

With an unemployment rate of 9.1% and an underemployment rate of 19% or higher, I am sure plenty of folks reading this entry would just tell any and all librarians to just be grateful that they have a job at all. And given the length of this recession and its unlikelihood to end any time soon, that may well be the best lemonade one can make with the lemons this sour economy has produced.

PS: The payscale for MLS degreed professional level librarians in South Carolina is well below the national median of $47,900 given in the "Job Satisfaction" article. The trend of being considerably below the national average of pay affects just about every job classification in South Carolina. See this table from the Bureau of Labor Statistics about librarian salaries.

For a criticism of how PayScale.com comes to its earnings statistics, read this. The "Comments" are contentious but enlightening.

Nota bene: This entry was highly informed by data and links provided by the American Library Association whose stated mission is “To provide leadership for the development, promotion, and improvement of library and information services and the profession of librarianship in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.”

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