Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment


According to the Wall Street Journal post From College Major to Career, “Choosing the right college major can make a big difference in students’ career prospects, in terms of employment and pay. Here’s a look at how various college majors fare in the job market, based on 2010 Census data.” WSJ gleaned the study data from a report by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Click here for the full report.

When you select Unemployment Percentage – from highest to lowest – the Library Science major ranks #4 at 15%.

While 15% unemployment doesn’t sound all that bad for those entering a new career right out of college, especially in the current economy, but remember that 15% is the projected fourth highest unemployment rate for all 40 college majors studied.

Couple that with the earnings of $23,000 as the second LOWEST on the entire list, just $3,000 ahead of Performing Arts. What does this say about our profession? If it was a business, the prevailing wisdom is that a business that is shrinking is dying. Is librarianship dying?

AND, in response to commentors who are upset that the Post title is misleading, I agree that every Post needs to be truthful and undistorted, and I make every attempt to do so. However, my mistake was not emphasizing that the main point of this Post should be the fact that this Georgetown University report emphasizes that LIS undergraduate degrees are essentially denounced by ALA and these obviously talented people are discriminated against by the profession in which they want to participate. It is ALA’s fault that unemployment is so high among LIS BS degree holders – for whatever reasons ALA may have that appear to be simply elitist. The spotlight needs to be directed on the validity of a BS in LIS and its place within the profession, and within the library organization. NO OTHER profession requires a masters degree to qualify for an entry level position. It’s not only unfair, it’s detrimental to the profession.

24 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

24 responses to “Library Science Ranks #4 in Highest Unemployment

  1. Jeannine

    I received my MLS in 2004 & I haven’t been able to find employment in any capacity in any library. I certainly should have been doing something much sooner about my situation but it’s only now that I have reached a few conclusions: since the curtain (so to speak) is closing on this country, and libraries will continue to either downsize or close, I have realized that I probably should’ve gone back a long time ago for a masters degree in something like international relations or comparative politics but I bought into the belief that jobs were out there for librarians. I guess the saying with crisis comes opportunity because I am unemployed and the European Union has been experiencing crisis with the current state of the Euro. That has always been an interest of mine but, way back when, the EU wasn’t a hot topic. I also have been finding that universities in Canada offer more opportunities for degrees in both translation and European studies than the US. I’m beginning to look in that direction.

    • Sorry to hear about your situation. A good friend and colleague who earned her MLS in 1994 went back to school in 2005 and earned an MBA. She is a major public library director, but is interested in moving and can’t find anything either. I also knew a colleague who lost her county library director position and searched for over a year only finding a position several states away.
      It is a hard job market. Maybe the profession SERIOUSLY NEEDS to recognize a BS in Library Science so that entry level positions are truly at entry level responsibility.

  2. Anonymous

    Could it be we are now catagorized or referred to differently, at least in K-12? The most recent posting I saw for what I would consider a school librarian job referred to the position as Academic Integrator.

    • I am interested in seeing that position description, to see whether it even sounds like a librarian position.
      Maybe “librarian” is too generic for the 21st Century of specialization.

      • Liz Broemmelsiek

        Haven’t forgotten about this interesting conversation! This posting is from the Illinois School Media Association listserve and is what I was referring to above.
        Best,
        Liz

        North Shore Country Day School is seeking someone excited about the challenges and opportunities of 21st Century Library and Technology education for the position of Upper School (grades 9-12) Academic Integrator. This Integrator will have the unique opportunity to lead faculty and students in using our Upper School building, newly renovated for the 2011-12 school year.

        The Integrator should have a clear vision of 21st Century education and the place that technology and the library can play in that vision in a high school environment. A strong technical skill set in these areas should be matched by someone with even stronger collaborative skills. A member of the Upper School faculty, we are looking for someone who will have the right mixture of initiative and follow-through, leadership, collegiality, tech savvy, and interpersonal skills to be an integral part of Upper School life for students and faculty.

        Our ideal candidate has some combination of education and/or experience in the fields of education, technology, and libraries. A graduate degree is preferred, but not required.  Previous High School classroom teaching is an additional benefit, as is previous experience with Interactive Whiteboards and 1:1 environments.

        Pasted from

      • Thanks for that link Richard.
        Academic Integrator – that’s a new one on me. Definitely not an entry level position, and this totally reinforces the idea that the concept of librarianship is changing.
        •Provide skill development in the areas of technology and information literacy for students, through partnering with faculty, classroom instruction, and outside of classroom in groups or individually
        •Work with other members of the Library/Technology Department in the selection of new print, video materials, online databases and tools
        •Promote library resources and develop the library’s online presence
        •Supervise library facility, including extended hours, with the other members of the Library/Technology Department
        •Assist in the management of online learning resources (e.g. Moodle or GoogleAps)

  3. The Georgetown study projects an 8% growth rate for librarian jobs. I would not call that shrinking or dying.

    The WSJ article compares college majors. They do not distinguish between levels of education, so I’m assuming they are talking about undergraduate majors. First, I don’t actually know anyone who has majored in library science as an undergraduate. Why would you? To get a professional librarian position, you generally need a Masters in library science. (See the Georgetown report’s statistics on education levels and wage gaps — 60% of librarians have a Masters or better, and there is a $17,000 difference in annual salary for those working in libraries with just a Bachelors vs. those with a Masters.)

  4. Just to follow up, I dug some more and you have a bad link. The correct link to the source of the WSJ stats is http://cew.georgetown.edu/whatsitworth/. There, it clarifies that they are talking about undergraduate degrees.

    • Thank you. I’ll take your word for it, because frankly I couldn’t figure out how WSJ got the numbers they published in the table from the WIW study. I shouldn’t admit it, but somebody must have dug much deeper than I was willing to.

      • Claudia A. Perry

        Ms. Pashia is absolutely correct. If you go to p. 107 of the full report you’ll see that they are dealing with those with a bachelor’s degree in LIS (** Full-time, full-year workers with a terminal Bachelor’s). They group LIS as an education major, and indicate the percentages of library science major by industry. Top percentages were 23% education, 13% health services, 12% other services, with only 11% grouped in information, just ahead of 9% for Mining, which seems very odd. I agree with the anonymous post on Dec. 9 that you should post a disclaimer clarifying that these data are not applicable to the job situation for those with a MLS.

        • In response to commentors who are upset that the Post title is misleading, I agree that every Post needs to be truthful and undistorted, and I make every attempt to do so. However, my mistake was not emphasizing that the main point of this Post should be the fact that this Georgetown University report emphasizes that LIS undergraduate degrees are essentially denounced by ALA and these obviously talented people are discriminated against by the profession in which they want to participate. It is ALA’s fault that unemployment is so high among LIS BS degree holders – for whatever reasons ALA may have that appear to be simply elitist. The spotlight needs to be directed on the validity of a BS in LIS and its place within the profession, and within the library organization. NO OTHER profession requires a masters degree to qualify for an entry level position. It’s not only unfair, it’s detrimental to the profession.

  5. it seems there’s really something wrong with the report. the full report indicates that 33 percent of those with a degree in “library science” did not obtain a graduate degree. is it possible that most of the 15 percent unemployed are those with bachelor’s degrees… because most employers require a master’s degree?

    • Sounds to me like ALA’s fault that they refuse to recognize any BS in Library Science, and libraries are afraid to hire talented people who have earned a BS in Library Science that’s not accredited by ALA. If people are willing to get a BS from an accredited institution, why should ALA block their employment? REALLY – What is so special about an ALA accredited program? Isn’t most of the predicament the profession is in now due to MLS degree holders? (See my post on this issue at Business Model Revisited –Business Acumen.)

  6. justanotherlibrarian

    I assume this is just U.S. data? I think things are quite different in Canada, or certain parts of Canada at least. I know a few recent graduates who are strugglling but a lot of my graduating class had been able to find work. Maybe I’m just very fortunate, but I just finished my MLIS and got a job right out of school that pays well over double the figure given. And I’ve probably seend 10-15 interesting job adds since I got this job 4 months ago. I would guess that the statistics up in the great white north would be a little higher.

    I also think a lot of it lies with library schools and the drastic difference between recruitment strategies by schools and employers. I have met a few people who went to library school because they like books or reading and though libraries were a good fit for them because of their love of book. Only to find out that employers are looking for people who have very specific management and technology skils and customer-service focused. employers do not care about GPA for entrance. I don’t know how to do this, but I think the situation might be improved if library schools were more inline with employers and both recruited people who are more likely to suceed in the workforce, but more importantly actually trained people to develop skills that are valued in the work force (my degree did not and the technology skills that helped me be marketable in the workplace were developed outside of SLIS).

    But that’s just my opinion.

    • I agree with your opinion. Not nearly enough marketable skills taught by SLIS. Not nearly enough 21st Century Skills emphasis in SLIS. By the time most SLIS adopt the 21st Century skills and ideas that will allow new librarians to advance the profession, it may be too late.
      Thanks for commenting.

    • Cindy

      Besides the fact that you need a master’s degree to be a librarian (like it or not), many librarians have information science degrees, which incorporate more technology and a broader skill set than “traditional library skills”. For those of us with those degrees, things aren’t so bad. An excerpt from The Annoyed Librarian in the library journal’s blog backs this up: (http://blog.libraryjournal.com/annoyedlibrarian/2011/11/14/library-science-majors-as-unemployed-as-high-school-dropouts/):
      “what hasn’t been pointed out as much is that the WSJ survey shows that “information science” majors have a 5.9% unemployment rate and a median salary of $71,000, considerably better than the library science rank.”

  7. Anonymous

    Steve,

    Could you add a disclaimer to your post that this survey was about Undergraduate Library Science degrees (which you can learn if you review the report of the study).

    Given that there aren’t that many jobs for the undergrad Library Science degree, this isn’t surprising. But without this information, people believe the research is talking about the graduate LIS degree.

    • I feel strongly that this is an issue that needs serious discussion within the profession, and SLIS. As I noted in a comment above, this is the only profession I know that requires a masters degree for entry level positions. How elitist is that? and how totally unjustified.

      Maybe Melvil Dewey had a good reason back at the turn of the 20th Century, but this is the 21st Century and circumstances have drastically changed. Back then the prevailing ‘wisdom’ was that a librarian needed an undergraduate discipline upon which to base a “library science” degree (see 21st Century Librarianship vs. The 1876 Special Report), therefore it needed to be a masters. That has not been the case in MANY decades. The profession needs to catch up with the present and prepare for the future, not perpetuate the elitist past.

      • Claudia A. Perry

        Point of information. Melvil Dewey founded the “School of Library Economy” in 1887 at Columbia University, and later transferred the school to the New York State Library in Albany after disagreement with Columbia officials about accepting women into the program. It was not a bachelor’s degree. In response to concerns about the quality of library education, the Carnegie Corporation commissioned the Williamson Report which was issued in 1923. “Because Williamson regarded a college degree as an entrance requirement, he advocated professional preparation in librarianship as a graduate degree” (R.E. Rubin, Foundations of Library and Information Science, 3rd ed., 2010, p. 85). Not only did ALA respond to the recommendations of the report establishing the Board of Education for Librarianship, but the Carnegie Corporation gave nearly $2 million to 17 library schools to improve library education in the subsequent 15 years (Rubin, pp. 86-87). Further details on the ongoing development of library education are available in this standard textbook for beginning library school students. It also might be noted that many other professional programs (e.g. Pharmacy) now require doctoral degrees to practice, rather than taking the steps back to less formal education as advocated above.

        • Thank you for the clarification of history. Maybe my language was not clear, but the “prevailing wisdom” of which I wrote referred to The 1876 Special Report that explained the fundamental values and practice of librarianship of the day. My assumption is that the masters level librarianship degree was a result of this 19th Century concept of the trade. If Dewey was not the instigator of that requirement, my apology.

          If ALA was willing to accredit BS programs in LIS, those graduates could get hired by any library – at an entry level job. Under current “rules” no library will hire a “librarian” without a MLIS degree from an accredited program. Having worked in academia, I understand the self-perpetuating nature of the higher education system, and the desire to keep the LS degree at the graduate level. What professor of any graduate degree program wants to include undergrads? Well, actually, virtually every other discipline does just that – an undergraduate degree, followed by a graduate degree, followed by a terminal degree.

          Aside from medical careers, what other careers require a masters degree for entry level positions? AND, what other non-medical profession besides Librarianship requires the masters diploma from a degree program sanctioned by a professional association?

        • Jeannine

          I’ll second that about pharmacy requirements. My twin sister went through a grueling curriculum at Ohio State (I would help her study from time to time) in pharmacy & my one brother-in-law, an MD, said she had to take more classes for pharmacy than he did for medicine. I was also surprised to see that, at least in the mid-1990′s, I could’ve applied for a pharmacy tech position (as full-time college student looking to make some money). I have to admit that I think that a lot of those difficult classes she had to take had nothing to do with what she would be doing as a pharmacist.

  8. I can’t really relate to many of these comments because finding library work has been very easy for me. I am in the state of tennesee and there is a shortage of librarians holding a masters degree (2) library director positions are open in my area and I just assumed an assistant director positions while still completing my Masters from the University of Tennessee. I’m sure the market is more saturated where more access to education is available. The south has potential and needs help!

    • Danny, you are exactly right. Less populated states and more rural areas have a difficult time attracting MLS librarians. In my state probably 75% of small and rural libraries have no MLS librarians, not even the director. The salaries the community can afford don’t attract the masters level qualifications. That’s not to say that the libraries are not run well and offer all the essentials the community needs from a library, and staff get continuing education on all aspects of librarianship. It’s just an economic reality. If anyone figures out a solution, they could write their own ticket. Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s