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Author Topic: Possible Library Career  (Read 46173 times)
ncadmissionsguy
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« on: April 28, 2011, 6:36:59 PM »

Some of you may have already read a message from me I posted back a few months ago under the job search experience thread. I am just now getting back into checking things and thought I would try and re post under this thread. I am currently in admissions but am contemplating pursuing an MLS so I can work in a university/college library.

There were a few people who responded to my inquiry and told me the market is extremely competitive. I suspected as much but when I look on-line there appear to be many openings. Are there truly that many MLS degrees out there? My work experience has been in admissions and institutional research. The library related careers interest me because I love the environment, the technology available fascinates me and that will only get bigger as time goes on, and it puts me on the academic side of the house. I love student affairs but I am honestly getting burned out. I love higher education and see this potential move as a way to enter the academic affairs area of a university.

Any thoughts or advice is appreciated. I am within driving distance of Chapel Hill and UNC Greensboro so those would be my two options for the MLS.


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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #1 on: April 28, 2011, 7:24:55 PM »

There are jobs, but only for the right people with the right experience. For a research library job, you must have relevant experience, and hopefully very current experience. What can you bring to the party? There's a lot of work, but nobody will tell you how to do it, or what is going to be happening 5 years from now, or what courses can prepare you for the position. For that matter, nobody can even tell you what the position titles might look like in a couple of years. It is a moving target.
Of course, I hope the library survives. Mostly, it will be in your handheld device.
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kzkzts
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« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2011, 12:36:19 PM »

Most academic library job postings are attracting many more applicants than five years ago--even for libraries in less desirable locations. There seems to have been an over-production of MLS's in recent years, which was due to an expected "greying" of the profession that never happened, due to the economic downturn. At present many new MLS's have often not found professional work for a year or more after receiving their degree. There is a lot a competition.

That said, libraries find some positions harder to fill--particularly the more technical ones (systems, web); those skill sets are in short supply.
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ncadmissionsguy
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« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2011, 10:41:43 PM »

Thank you for the posts. I appreciate it. I did pull some stats using NCES and saw several ALA programs graduating a significant number of MLS students. Perhaps they were preparing for the "greying" of the profession that has yet to materialize.

I plan to apply for a MLS program for fall 2012 and can keep my current job. If I don't gain employment immediately, then I have a place to remain.

Any other advice anyone could give would be appreciated. Thank you all so much!
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punchnpie
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« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2011, 11:54:37 PM »

I'll add that our faculty is discussing adding an internship or practicum element to our program. Some schools have a required practicum. The point of this is to get experience in the field. If you are going to keep your job and go to school part time, I strongly suggest that you make time to get some experience - either working on the weekends, doing an internship, volunteering, something. From our grads and from what I've heard from practitioners who are hiring, it's having experience that makes the difference between those who get hired and those who don't.
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vkw10
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2011, 10:24:14 AM »

MLS students need to do internships, graduate assistantships, part time jobs, or whatever else they can find to get experience in libraries. Our field has very few true entry-level jobs today; check the advertisements for experience required or preferred. I've served on an entry-level search committee every year for the last six years; we preferred experience but did not require it. Every applicant we invited for a campus interview had   academic library experience; the least experienced was a systems developer candidate who'd spent a year as a grad assistant in a library systems dept. As you contemplate an MLS program, read job ads with an eye on both required and preferred qualifications, because the people who get interviews tend to have many of the preferred qualifications. Identify the common ones for the positions that interest you, then plan your program so you acquire all the required qualifications and as many frequently preferred ones as possible.
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2011, 1:26:44 PM »

vkw10 is absolutely correct.  The MLS without pre-MLS library work experience is worthless, or nigh onto.  When job ads say 'entry-level, 1-3 years experience required', the writers of said ads do not even seem to realize that they are writing an oxymoron.  And library schools, in the main cash cows for their unis, continue to churn out legions of ever-increasingly underemployable new MLSs annually, with no one doing anything to stop this scam.  If anything it is growing worse due to the proliferation of online MLS availability as well.
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punchnpie
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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2011, 1:44:08 PM »

it is growing worse due to the proliferation of online MLS availability as well.

Have you ever interviewed someone with an online degree? If so, what are your thoughts - especially if that person didn't have library experience? For example, I can understand if you are doing paraprofessional work in a library already and get an online degree to move up. I don't quite like it, but I understand it and at least that person has library experience.

Among the many things that worry me about online programs is that people use them to career change, but then don't get library experience and wonder why the degree didn't work for them as they expected. I don't see how a piece of paper gets you socialized into a profession. You need more than just a string of courses to be a competent information professional. My 2 cents.
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2011, 3:33:43 PM »

You are correct, but you could be essentially just as professionally clueless as a grad of a brick-and-mortar program.  Both of these sorts of MLS degrees traditionally did not require the candidates to get pre-MLS library experience, and *this used to be enough to get an entry-level professional librarian position*.  Indeed, the degree is still theoretically supposed to do so-- certainly the ALA has not chosen to strongarm and or outright-require library schools to incorporate some sort of mandatory library experience component to their MLS programs.  That said, this ain't 1999 any more, and it almost certainly never will be again-- get that experience, or do not get a job.

Of course, the other problem is that, experience or no, there just ain't enough jobs out there, and there likely aren't going to be for years, so long as nothing is done to reduce the amount of new MLSs churned out annually.  And nothing is being so done.  About five years back, for instance, the ALA revoked its accreditation from my alma mater's MLS program... and then gave it 'conditional accreditation' pending its completion of certain tasks needed to meet the ALA's objections.  Initially this was supposed to be accomplished in 18 months, in order to get the full accreditation back.  The school keeps working on the issue, supposedly, but the ALA keeps extending the deadline.  The program is essentially a diploma mill, and has long accepted numerous underqualified students, because it is a cash cow for the uni-- it should have been shut down years ago, after it was unable to get the accreditation back in a timely manner.  But the Uni has not done so, neither has the ALA pulled the plug. And there is now that online option available, too.

Online education in almost any discipline has several severe deficits to address, vs. brick-and-mortar.  And when there are already more than enough degrees being produced the old-fashioned way...
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2011, 6:12:15 PM »

I think there are a couple of things besides older librarians not retiring that are adding to the crunch. First is the difficulty that the profession might be having in deciding what kind of people are needed, and with what skill set. That's not so easy these days as everything is changing so much. If you could figure out ebook business models, now there's a challenge ...

The experience just makes things easier. Someone who's worked for 5 years as a staff person in an electronic resources department, dealing with vendors and systems and familiar with link resolver technology, discovery systems, etc who gets a MLIS at the same time will be more appealing as an entry level candidate than someone who has a newly minted degree with no experience in the type of library applying to (very important).  For a research library, there can be the added scholarship and service expectation. Another factor that I notice is the number of PhDs coming into the field. That was rare when I first began my library career, and now is somewhat commonplace. A person may show up with multiple degrees but no work experience. I am often surprised at the number of degrees some people have.

I think there are still plenty of opportunities but you really have to have something specific in mind-a focus to your job search. You can craft a career path that looks like you have a particular interest, and then have added some experience in that area. Please don't say you like books, even though we all do. Don't say you worked in the public library if you want to work in a research library, etc. We have hired new librarians recently and they are varied in their backgrounds, but they have a clear and very professional focus to their CVs. Any library I've ever worked in has required an ALA accredited MLS and library experience (in addition to whatever else you have that's appealing) for a professional position. If you were a career changer, you often would start as an intern, a temporary worker, or something like that and then build on that.
Some of the MLIS students I do meet (and work daily with)will likely never be successful getting or doing a library job-just like some of the people who try to enter any profession. Others will do very well, and have.
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kaysixteen
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« Reply #10 on: May 25, 2011, 9:08:19 AM »

You aren't exactly correct, collegekidsmom-- how many JDs, MDs, etc., are not 'successful' in building some sort of professional career in their chosen profession, if they want one?  There are too many MLSs being produced, period.  This has been true for at least a decade now, and no one who could do anything about it is doing anything about it.  It is fundamentally not in the interest of libraries and the American LIBRARY (n.b., not 'librarian) Association to do so, as the laws of supply and demand are in full effect here.

I asked myself this rhetorical question when I, a PhD who went to Library school afterwards, in the year 2000, and found myself unemployed and essentially unemployable after graduating (because I had no pre-MLS experience, which no one had ever told me to get, etc., rather agreeing with my plan to get the MLS in the minimum possible time, to get on the job market asap without wasting extra tuition $, etc.):  if this is supposedly a professional 'master's degree', why is it thus not adequate, by itself, for entry-level employment in the field?  JDs, etc., are not asked to do time as a paralegal, for instance, before practicing law.
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punchnpie
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« Reply #11 on: May 25, 2011, 12:52:04 PM »

You aren't exactly correct, collegekidsmom-- how many JDs, MDs, etc., are not 'successful' in building some sort of professional career in their chosen profession, if they want one?  ... JDs, etc., are not asked to do time as a paralegal, for instance, before practicing law.

Let me address the last point first. Most law school students will do a clerkship or internship during their summers. Those who do have a significant edge over those who don't. They don't work as a paralegal, but they do get some experience.

I am shocked at the number of new JDs (say maybe the past 7-10 years) who can't find work. There are numerous blogs chronicling the bad market, high tuition, and incredible debt these students have. Many - close to 25% last time I looked, will only be able to get contract work doing document review at hourly rates that can be as low as $12.  Going to small towns or working for oneself seems not to be the answer either.

I spent some time looking through these blogs because I just couldn't believe the situation had become so dire, but apparently it has. For years, I have tried to discourage people from going to law school for various reasons, but not until I read these blogs did I really fear for most people going to any but the top 10 schools. If you go to a state school and plan to stay in your state, you might have a chance, but the days of thinking you're going to make $80-150,000 out of the gate are pretty much gone. Even Ivy League law grads are having problems, but not on the level of the grads from lower ranked schools. It's astonishing how the field has changed. The ABA is even considering credentialing foreign law schools - as if American grads didn't have enough problems getting a job, soon they may have to compete with foreign attorneys who might be willing to work for less.
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collegekidsmom
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« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2011, 11:16:53 PM »

That's probably why there are so many JDs working in the library.
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