Thoughts on Mr. Berry and NEWLIB-L (Long Post)

John Berry recently posted about the “Jobless Jitters” on NewLib-L, which is a listserv that I do read, though I’ve found it counter intuitive to participate very much.

I joined NewLib not too long ago and immediately found a number of all too familiar names. There’s at least one guy on there whose jobless whining I’ve been listening to for almost as long as I’ve been with my current boyfriend (18 months) on a variety of listservs. It is, unfortunately, the whining and extended cries for rallying against authority (in this case ALA and library schools), that make up the majority of John’s post and I’m saddened by that. I’ve come close to unsubscribing several times. I find myself emotionally exhausted trying to wade through the garbage of “if we convince students to quit school there will be less people graduating–fewer job candidates–and all of us who are whining can get jobs” etc etc.

As a relatively new librarian and as one who has struggled to break into the professional field, I feel somewhat qualified to discuss the state of the job hunt. It has been a long, strenuous, painful struggle both times. My first job hunt took eight months and culminated in a position that I loved but that meant I wasn’t in the “official” field of library science but rather in a wing of it. I took a lot of heat from librarians about the job. I was accused of abandoning the field and told that if I “really” wanted to be a librarian I should take a part time job and not be able to make my rent. This was a terrifying suggestion to make to a young woman paying her own way in NYC.

Relocating in September, I officially became “unemployed” again. To say I’m truly without work is untrue–I work part time at a theater and I am paying rent by freelancing but I don’t have what most of us consider a “real job.” I’m applying, I’ve been on interviews and eventually I’ll find the right position. I’m in a place that is not particularly enviable. I moved away from my school contacts, several of my professional contacts, and the universities and systems that I was most familiar with because of a relocation that I needed to make. Considering I started the job hunt last May, I’m looking at nearly a year before I get into a “professional” job in my field. I’m living with the consequences.

In argument to recent threads I’ve seen on NewLib and other places, I’m not entitled to a job. I am entitled by my degree to pursue a professional career in library and information science. If I don’t succeed in getting a job, then it is my responsibility as a candidate to figure out how I can improve myself. I wouldn’t want a substandard librarian in my library helping me because my library felt that “had to give them a chance” and I think most of us would prefer not to have to be satisfied with inferior informational assistance. The hiring team is looking for the best candidate–not the one who has sat on unemployment the longest and should just be given another shot.

Yes–my professors did tell us everyone was retiring. I’d also heard it from professionals before I started library school. And you know-it’s true. But they are retiring from directorial positions and when everyone shifts up, the bottom run is getting de-professionalized. Not to say that para-professionals aren’t as qualified–I know two people whose library skills are FAR beyond mine and one doesn’t have a bachelors. However, it is disenchanting to watch jobs being posted with a pay cut and a BA requirement–and knowing the library is less likely to hire you because you have an MLS and “might leave for a professional position.”

I don’t feel like we need another ‘advocacy team’ that wastes resources while trying to place candidates whose professional lack of development or inability to hold positions leaves them with resumes that are (at best) questionable. I also have a hard time believing that people who are unsuccessful in the career as a librarian or in general (some of them just seem to be thriving on unemployment checks after getting fired) would be the best “advocates.” Do I really want a unemployed falsely humble “advocate” with a healthy sense of entitlement to represent me? Hmmmmm….

I’m a part of NewLib to try and find the good points and the good friends that come of it. There have been a few suggestions that have come out recently that were useful. I’m glad Susan is daring enough to have it.

I wish John wouldn’t have focused only on the negative threads–although if more hiring directors etc etc are reading NewLib then (going back to my post the other day) it seems like the loudest complainers will only make a greater name for themselves as problem children. And then there is always the question–if an unemployed librarian who has made a name for him/herself as such gets a job–do they suffer a completely loss of identity?