When I left my Acquisitions Graduate Assistantship at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (because I graduated), my supervisor wanted me to write up a one-page summary of the work I did in the Acquisitions department.
This summary would help her recall what I had done, in case anyone ever called her up to ask about my credentials. And this summary might help to remind me of all the aspects of library acquisitions that I have experience in. This reminder could come in handy if I ever want to switch jobs in the future; if I want an acquisitions position, I have a nice list of everything I’ve already done. (No need to struggle to remember in order to fill out applications, or answer interview questions.)
My supervisor recommended creating one of these summaries for each job I have, so I can always return back to them and say “Hey, I’ve done that and that.”
Since I have spent the past two years in library acquisitions, I was excited to see that American Libraries Magazine has a list of useful titles for librarians hoping to familiarize themselves with library acquisitions. Also having spent the past two years in an MLIS program, I know that most educators (i.e. professors) have no clue as to what goes on in library acquisitions (or technical services, for that matter). And most of my public services colleagues don’t have a full grasp of what happens in library acquisitions.
So American Libraries Magazine‘s mini-bibliography on library acquisitions thrills me. Hopefully more librarians, professors, and library and information science students will pick up a few of these books and educate themselves about one of the most complex aspects of working in a library.
In one of my final classes in my Masters of Library and Information Science program, an undergraduate sat in. They worked for a library consortium, in the center where all the interlibrary loan books got rerouted. (Yeah, that’s a really cool place to work. Of course, they would want to be a librarian.) They asked the class for advice on how to prepare themselves for a career in libraries. My classmates and I gave advice (perhaps not all of it useful). The event prompted me to think about what someone needs to think about before deciding to go to library school, before becoming a librarian.
Should you be a librarian?
I am quite happy to be a librarian. I got very lucky that I found a career path that looks like it will fit me. But it doesn’t fit with everyone. And there are enough cons that means if you don’t really want to be a librarian, don’t be a librarian.
All professional librarians will tell you that you don’t become a librarian for the money. Librarians made a median pay of $56,880 per year (about $27 per hour). It’s not a lot. Still, that pay is not abysmal. For example, a public relations specialist would make $56,770 per year and editors make $56,010. Chemical lab technicians make $44,660 annually and tax examiners make $51,430 annually on average. Of course, these other jobs do not require a masters degree – but they prove librarianship is not completely fiscally irresponsible. Still, if one were to get a professional degree, a JD (a law degree) looks more fiscally sound ($115,820 per year).
There is the stereotype (supposedly) that librarians basically hide in the basement and never talk to anyone. Yes, there are definitely jobs like that. My acquisitions job would be like that, if I didn’t push for more interactivity and higher level work. But most of the time that behind-the-scenes labor is no longer performed by professional staff. Most frequently, librarians are going to be on the frontlines: they deal directly with the public and with administration (i.e. managing people). If you want to be a librarian, be ready to face the public and plenty of library employees.
The job market isn’t terrible…but it’s lackluster. If you come out of a top program, like I did, people will want you. But the job doesn’t have to be a very good one and probably will pay you barely subsistence-level wages. You also have to agree to move anywhere (including the Yukon Territory). Being geographically constrained might kill your librarianship career. To get that exciting, well-paying job in a good location, you still need to be brilliant – out of a good school and with experience out the wazoo. But if you want to be a librarian, you’re much more likely to seek out those experiences that will help you land a decent job.
Library school is awful. To get through 4 semesters of utter boredom and intellectual decay, you have to really want to be a librarian. I am so lucky that I got my assistantship. I love my assistantship. And if I didn’t have that job to prove my love for librarianship, library school would have killed that love.
So, not everything is great about librarianship. There are still awesome perks. Librarians get a lot of vacation time. We throw really good parties. We get to learn a lot about everything. We are exposed to technology in ways others never are, so we become really techy. Many librarian communities are liberal; and many are conservative (you’ll find your niche well enough). The staff who work in libraries are often great people to work with; I’ve never had a problem with my coworkers. You’ve got so much to do that it’s hard to get bored.
So, should you be a librarian? Think about it. Don’t be one if you don’t want to. But if you do, I’m cheering you on.
During my last year of graduate school, I spent plenty of hours working on getting my next position. Everyone in my class, too, was working on applications and interviews and discussing with significant others about relocation. Due to the economy and the state of the job market, we were all abuzz with job anxiety.
So, when I was offered a job in January, why did I turn them down?
I’m not going to go into huge details here – in part because I believe it is best not to call people out when nothing egregious happened. But I will give generalities and some advice.
(Now, I have a disclaimer. I come from a privileged place. I still had four months of school and five or more months of income from my current assistantship. And while my housing was a bit precarious (once May hit), I could find a short-term lease. I had some cushion when I was offered that job and turned it down. Not everyone has that luxury.)
At my interview, (I felt) I aced their questions. The people who interviewed me, who I would have been working with were nice-seeming. The library was thrilled to have me as a candidate. I probably wouldn’t have been miserable in my job.
But there were other things that added up.
I want to work with a diverse patron group, and I also want to live in a diverse community. I realize that most PWI won’t be ultra-diverse; and I realize that historical redlining still affects current day housing and communities. So, I’m not likely to find some utopian version of diversity. But this institution and geographical region were unbelievably (to me) homogeneous.
Then, this library was located in a strange real estate market. As a young professional – and a young person – I’m not ready to purchase a house. But this housing market had high rent prices and low mortgages. My housing situation looked precarious to start.
This precariousness became even more important in my decision to decline the job – when I found out this library refused to negotiate on salary. I’m a librarian, I understand that libraries across the country are strapped for cash. I also understand claims that we should have set salaries, rather than negotiable ones – but this job market doesn’t have set salaries. So, an unwillingness to negotiate even a small increase in salary was strange and strongly put me off. When a library (or any employer) refuses to negotiate with a female potential employee, it makes the employer seem sexist because so often women are treated differently than men when talking money. Would this library have put down their foot with a man for a 5% salary increase? I wasn’t going to stick around to find out.
In the end, I’m without that job. Yes, I feel guilty. I know that so many people can’t say no. I feel unsure. I don’t know if I might have been okay, that it wouldn’t be so bad. I felt greedy. I had turned them down at least in part for financial reasons.
I think it will be awhile before I am no longer conflicted about my decision. But I keep telling myself that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable having taken the job. While I didn’t foresee issues with my immediate coworkers and the library wanted me, I had to consider if I would be happy with my decision to take the job. Did I want to be in a location I didn’t like, paying high rent prices, and working for an employer who gave hints that it might have been (perhaps unconsciously) discriminating against me? Probably not.
The moral of the story? Well, if there is a moral, it is: it’s okay to turn down a job offer. You have to balance your job with your life, your desire for a job and your intuition. Hopefully, then, you can have a job that you like.
The advocate general of the European Court of Justice, Melchior Wathelet, has determined that linking to copyrighted material is not copyright infringement.
The Dutch blog GeenStijl linked to leaked Playboy photos hosted by the website FileFactory. Playboy was able to get FileFactory to remove the photos. When FileFactory no longer had the images, GeenStijl linked out to another website which had posted the photos. Playboy took GeenStijl to court.
Wathelet ruled that “Hyperlinks which lead, even directly, to protected works are not ‘making them available’ to the public when they are already freely accessible on another website, and only serve to facilitate their discovery.”
This must be a huge relief to bloggers and news sites in the European Union. Now, journalists and editors know that linking out to various resources will not be considered copyright infringement.
European libraries and librarians can also benefit from this ruling. For example, when creating subject guides, librarians can link out to material that could be useful for users – even if the library does not hold the copyright or a license. Librarians linking out to other websites won’t be making these materials available to the public, but they will be making the materials more discoverable.