This week, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about all of the many things I do as a library supervisor that are not written into my job description. Like everyone, I, too, have been reading about the coronavirus and paying attention to any updates from my employer. When I opened my email this morning, I learned that one of the students I supervise was now frantically trying to find a different internship because hers was cancelled due to the travel bans that have been imposed. I was also asked if we had a good amount of hand sanitizer still, because it, like many other products, are impossible to purchase without spending a fortune; even if you can find it. Reflecting on how many emails, details and questions I have had to field I realized there is a trend here and it is not a good one.
As Emily Wros pointed out in her article earlier this week, one of the most annoying aspects of working in the library field is the constant lament that applicant’s CVs and types of experience just don’t measure up to the position they are applying to. Well, perhaps employers need to dig deeper and, instead of outright rejecting these applications, have an initial conversation with the candidate. Search committees may be surprised to learn that candidates are far more qualified for these library positions.
My thirty-plus years of experience in an academic library have given me skills and responsibilities that can be listed on a resume, but there is no way I can list them all, nor should I. A small example of my work experience includes countless trainings on how to deal with an active shooter situation, how to avoid cultural or gender bias in the workplace, and what you can and can’t do if someone approaches you and says they have been sexually assaulted. I have also managed a collections budget worth over a million dollars, chaired the Library Staff Development Committee and my local public library board. These are the clear examples I could list, but what about my work recruiting and retaining students each term? Supervising them and approving their timesheets every two weeks? Or how about the phone calls I have received about leaks in the library on a Saturday night, or the 6 am phone call on my vacation because someone forgot the code to get into the building? Or the times I have just had to offer a hug, or walk an emeritus faculty member through the Web of Science again.
There are a lot of management or tenure-track positions in academic libraries all over the country, in addition to countless directors and assistant directors of public libraries. Yet reading some of the job descriptions versus the hours they want you to work and the amount they are willing to pay you is sobering. I have chosen to pursue a youth librarian concentration because the part of my job I love the most is working with students. Yet given my age, I may not be able to pursue a public library position until I am semi-retired. So, many of the positions I have seen are part or full-time, but not paying a living wage. It is no wonder that my own library school encourages us to look very broadly at positions and, instead of only searching for descriptions that include library in them, to broaden our search to include: data, IT, analysis, publishing, or editing, because the reality is you may not be able to afford your dream job straight out of graduate school.
I don’t have a solution to this disconnect. It is disconcerting that so many librarians coming out of library school cannot find work in the very discipline they have chosen. Educators in general are underpaid for the work they do, but expecting anyone to work for 40K as a director of a library or as a new academic hire is a disservice to our profession. We know what it costs to get a library degree; and we also know what it takes to be successful in our roles as librarians. It is time to advocate for higher wages so that anyone with a library degree can be a librarian, without holding down a second or third job, just to work in their chosen profession. Wouldn’t it be so much more beneficial to pay someone a reasonable salary so that, instead of wondering how they are going to pay their rent, they can devote their energy to grant-writing and creating new programs for your library?
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