The comic strip “On a Claire Day,” which follows the exploits of a young woman who has just moved out of her parents home, provides an interesting comment on working in a public library today. (Today being 7/30/07 if you’re looking for the strip)

When suggesting to her friend that she thinks a public library job could be a good career choice her friend identifies it as a government job. Sammi says those jobs are “limiting, don’t pay well, and don’t come with stock options.” and the only good point is job security.

There are obviously a few myths in this strip and I wonder if creators Carla Ventresca and Henry Beckett are speaking on government jobs in general or library jobs in specific.

I can’t argue with the pay. It generally is higher in the private sector than it is in a public library, where raises are subject to taxpayers. And last I checked no one was proclaiming about being paid too much. 🙂

Limitations only exist where you make them. You can be at the top of your line in nearly any field at some point. I’m not sure what the limit would be for a public librarian? Director I suppose, but you could always move to a larger system and climb that chain. Yes, this assumes mobility, which I know is not always an option.

And yes, there are no stock options, but many public libraries have state pensions, which these days might be a little more reliable. I know there’s a hefty chunk of change coming out of my paychecks every two weeks before I see the money. Even if I should chose to leave this system in a few years, I’ll be able to take that money and invest it.

Job security? Well, if there’s a union yes. But this assumes that most public libraries are civil service jobs, which only a few seem to be, and/or that there is a union in place. I work in a system that is unionized but neither of the other two librarians in my immediate family do. So while their funding is tied to the government, it’s an employment-at-will workplace. Granted, they have to have documentation out the wazoo if they fire someone, but so does everyone in this litigious day and age.

I’m interested to see if they follow this over the next week or so.