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Placements & Salaries 2010: The Lucky Few – in LJ

Posted by Editor on October 20, 2010

By Leah L. White, Oct 15, 2010

Photo ©Glenn Kaupert, 2009

I remember reading my first Placements & Salaries issue of LJ. I was a recent graduate, and the economy had officially hit an all-time low. The Chicago sheriff was making headlines for refusing to kick renters out of foreclosed apartments, and gas prices were soaring. I looked at the cover and realized that with my salary I couldn’t balance student loan payments and gas for the commute to my first job. I also felt concern about my mostly unemployed friends.

How much has changed since then? The past two years have brought all sorts of things to me personally, including difficult job searches. So the survey of 2009 graduates (see p. 22) reflects and confirms things that I know to be true, not from data and statistics but from rejection letters and underemployment. Ah, those pesky placements. Isn’t that really just another way to say “finding a job”? Those three little words impact our day-to-day lives so intensely. Placements seem to be the hardest part of becoming a librarian these days. You apply for jobs, knowing that you are just one of possibly 200 other qualified new librarians.

Breaking into the library world has never been a walk in the park. “Doing time” as a clerk, shelving, or simply working part-time is par for the course in this profession. But as a great man once sang, “The times, they are a-changin’.” There is a drastic increase in the number of degreed librarians taking paraprofessional positions, simply because they need a full-time job with benefits. Also, there are more temporary positions being filled with librarians wishing and hoping for the position to be made permanent. It is a daunting reality, and we all deal with it in our own ways.

Three finding their way
The three librarians highlighted here are newbies like me. All of us transitioned to Librarian (with a capital L) in the past three years. We came into a job market incredibly changed from the one experienced by many of our predecessors. Molly Kelly has fought tooth and nail to claim her place in the library world, finding herself at one point on the wrong side of a pink slip. Justin Hoenke turned his job search into an adventure, knowing he couldn’t stay put geographically. Karen Keys got hired at a major metropolitan library in 2007, before the now notorious job freezes and layoffs devastated our crucial urban systems.

It is difficult to select only three people to hear from, because we all have these stories, these struggles. Times are hard for new librarians. So many in the field didn’t have to deal with the challenges we have, and that can be frustrating. However, we are all librarians and that unifies us. If there is one thing that we librarians are it is survivors. We fight for funding. We search out and lobby for what we believe to be true. We apply and apply and apply and hold our collective breath that everything will end well because this is our new reality. We became librarians not for money or prestige but because of our beliefs. We believe in connecting people with information and know deep in our hearts that knowledge empowers them.

These are the stories of three newly minted librarians working to find their way in this challenging time becoming known as the Great Recession. They are individuals, but their stories are part of all of us and our collective experience as librarians.

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