Saturday, May 24, 2008


is what i'm thinkin after this word to the wise i got from a viable source- my homeboy's fiance who's worked in the NYC and FL library systems (which, consequently, echos a good majority of the sentiments i've come across in other community board research i've done. sheeeeeeeeesh!):

Hey there. I got your email about becoming a librarian. I think in the last few years a lot was publicized about how this is a great profession because of the "graying of librarianship," lots of people retiring=lots of job opportunities, etc., but there is a lot wrong with the field and, if I had to do it again, I would not have gotten the degree. I am hoping not to come across as too bitter, but here are my reasons:

1. Salaries. Librarian salaries are AWFUL. I think a first-year librarian at NYC public libraries makes something like 34K. Now, what career do you know that REQUIRES a master's degree that has such a low starting salary and such low salaries across the board? If you want to work as a "school media specialist" (librarian who works in K-12 schools) expect to make around that same salary. Academic librarians (university librarians) make very little to start as well, and often employers want a SECOND master's because they want to hire "subject specialists." It's better in corporate libraries (law firms, banks, news outlets, etc) but those jobs are extremely competitive and few and far between because those people never leave those jobs. There are lots of reasons why the salary sucks (it's "women's work," budget cuts everywhere, etc) but there is also this sub rosa element to librarianship wherein many librarians are married to men who are wealthy so to complain about salary is perceived as being declasse and blue collar. The American Library Association (ALA) does pay some lip service to this, but dude, taking salary surveys doesn't pay my bills!

2. Diversity. There is NO diversity in librarianship. Perhaps this is slightly better in the city, which is a much more diverse place in general, but overall the field is overwhelming white and old.

3. Libraries are toxic. Academic libraries are political and hierarchical. Some corporate libraries are great, but say you work in a law firm that doesn't have a collegial environment you will get treated like sh!t by the attorneys and no one will stick up for you. Public librarians are overrun with kids whose parents can't afford daycare and you will become a glorified baby-sitter. The homeless and mentally ill also like to congregate in libraries for obvious reasons. If you ever wanted to be a social worker, then I guess this might be fun for you.

4. Job prospects are NIL. Yes, loads of librarians are retiring, but not at the same rate that library schools are churning out graduates. Especially living in an area where there are a few different library schools makes finding jobs even more difficult. Also, because of extreme budget cuts at most libraries, if someone DOES retire, typically her work duties will be distributed to other staff members (with no salary increase) rather than hiring someone new or promoting from within. Also, there are still VERY few entry-level positions and with so many recent grads, libraries can take their time trying to find the perfect candidate (and trust me, it's not unheard of for a library to take 9 months or longer to fill a position, all the while you are waiting with baited breath by the phone and email wondering what the hell is going on with your application.

OK, so let's so I haven't totally turned you off and you're still considering becoming a librarian. Where to go to school? Well, there's the Pratt Institute. Pratt has a campus in downtown Manhattan (14th and 7th) that is convenient, as well as the Brooklyn campus. Anyway, Pratt is a private school and extremely expensive. I think I paid something like $8500 a semester and I graduated in 2005. Queens College has a program and since it's part of CUNY it's much cheaper. BUT the campus is totally inconvenient to get to. I lived in Queens and didn't want to make the commute because it was in the middle of nowhere. It's like, you have to take the 7 train to the end of the line (literally, to Main St.-Flushing) and then take a bus for another 20-30 minutes. It's just a hot mess. Plus, Queens College requires a master's thesis, which Pratt does NOT. LIU also offers a program, but are you going to schlep out to Long Island? Pratt seems like the best way to go, but like I said, it ain't cheap. If you could get a job at one of the public libraries for ZERO pay they may still pay for you to complete your degree, but with all the budget cuts I am not even sure if they do that anymore. I know Brooklyn Public had a program, you might want to look into if they still do.
So, that is my story. If you have any more questions, let me know. Like I said, I have become bitter because my current job sucks so bad, but the job I had in NYC working at a law firm was great. Still, overall, it's not a career I'd recommend. AT ALL.

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