the great librarian shortage debate

ALA’s FAQ states there is or will be a shortage of qualified candidates for library positions. News articles support this assertion. It may be worth noting that their press kit about this shortage cites an article written January 1, 2002. Here are some stats from ALA’s own placement center. Do these numbers jibe? New librarians know there is also a shortage of jobs, because they’re looking for them. How do we explain the disparity between all these facts about the availability of library jobs? Here are a few ideas I have. Do you have others?

  • As librarians retire their jobs are eliminated due to funding crunches.
  • As librarians retire, senior librarians take their positions and open paraprofessional positions for the librarians who moved up.
  • Retiring librarians’ positions aren’t always available to newer librarians with less experience, so jobs requiring experience stay open as library students look for entry level jobs.
  • Professional organizations misrepresent the true state of library employment due to optimistic outlooks and in order to stay relevant and keep their own doors open.
  • As populations move around, some libraries are serving smaller populations with the same staff. Other libraries are serving larger populations with the same staff. Increases in population do not always reflect increases in staffing due to tight money situations and the false belief that automation has reduced our staffing needs.
  • It is not in library schools’ best financial interests to tell you that there are not many jobs available, or to take on fewer students to meet a reduced demand. There are many ways to interpret statistics, they choose ones that are most favorable.