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Employment Trends in Public Libraries

by on April 7, 2015

With a recent Forbes article citing Library and Information Science as the third worst master’s degree for today’s professionals, the thought of breaking into a library career or even changing jobs can be intimidating.[1] Forbes supports its position based on the field’s mere 7% job growth and $53,500 median salary. In my own experience, I have been hearing more and more about my peers accepting positions outside the traditional library or finding work in different industries altogether. Needless to say, I was quite interested in seeing the results of Hiring Librarians’ recent job market survey.[2]

The good news is that 74% of survey respondents stated that librarianship is not a dying profession. In fact, a slight majority, 36%, indicated that there are currently more full-time librarian positions at their current workplace than there were ten years ago. 62% also denied any full-time positions being replaced with part-time employees. Job growth may not be as dramatic as it is in other fields, but this survey suggests it’s not completely dismal either.

Interestingly, most hiring managers surveyed indicated having a small pool of qualified applicants to choose from. 42% of respondents received 25 or fewer applicants for their most recent professional job opening, while 36% had between 25 and 75 librarians apply. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the sample—64%—noted that less than a quarter of their applicants actually met the qualifications of the position.

For me, these results reiterated how important it is for job applicants to fully read and understand the requirements of an opening when completing their applications. This may be difficult in the case of finding entry-level work, but completing an internship or volunteer work while in grad school can certainly help set a new librarian apart from the competition. More seasoned librarians should not be afraid to take honest stock of their experience and brag about it a little. One thing I’ve encountered over the course of my career is that many of us in the field are uncomfortable boasting about ourselves and our accomplishments. Consciously avoiding this by creating a portfolio or making a list of points to touch upon in interviews can make all the difference. After all, you’ve worked hard for your experience; you owe it to yourself to talk about it.

What struggles are you facing in your job search or hiring processes? Let us know in the comments.


[1] The Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs in 2014. (2014, June 12). Retrieved January 29, 2015, from http://www.forbes.com/pictures/fjle45gfkg/no-3-worst-masters-degree-for-jobs-library-information-science/

[2] Stats and Graphs: State of the Library Job Market. (2015, January 17). Retrieved January 19, 2015, from http://hiringlibrarians.com/2015/01/17/stats-and-graphs-state-of-the-library-job-market/

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