Thursday, September 18, 2014

I Get Letters: On the Library Job Market of the Future

At present, the most popular post I've ever written is about the woeful data both presented and collected on Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS). Every week hundreds of people read it. I received a rather interesting email from one such reader, who has graciously allowed me to post parts of it here, along with a response.
What gets cut off after that screencap is "... support her as an independent adult."

This reader had previously examined an article in a national magazine about the "worst" Masters degrees to obtain, in which the MLIS was the least desirable. I won't link to it here.*

Here is, in part, my reply.
For some time now, the American Library Association and MLIS programs have touted a wave of retirements from baby boomer librarians. This has yet to happen, and many librarians who retire are not replaced with newer librarians. Often, the responsibilities of the retiree get spread out amongst other library staff, or the retiree is replaced by part-time or volunteer staff.

However, your daughter will not obtain an MLIS until around the year 2024. None of us knows what the job market for MLIS holders will look like then. Even now, there are many positions outside of traditional library settings that an MLIS would be useful in. Medical records, corporate archives, information architecture, to name a few.

Your daughter is 13 years old. When I was 13 I wanted to be a marine biologist. I suspect her career plans will change as she continues her intellectual awakening and studies. Anything that you can do to encourage her intellectual development, including pursuing a career in information sciences, is a good thing in my book.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) may be of some help here. Behold the Occupational Handbook Outlook for both librarians

and archivists, curators, and museum staff.

Indeed, the BLS itself parrots the ALA and MLIS program line, writing "Later in the decade, prospects should be better, as older library workers retire and population growth generates openings." (Source)

Based on Library Journal's 2013 data, over 6,100 people graduated from ALA-accredited MLIS programs in 2012 (source is table 3), so the addition of 14,300 jobs in libraries, archives, and museums by 2022 will be dwarfed by just a few years of additional graduations from Library and Information Science Programs. But again, predicting the job market in 2025, or 2022 is tricky. In the meantime get creative; vote for government officials who will support the information professions, try to change the hearts and minds of those who don't or won't; if you have money to spare, give it to EveryLibrary, our profession's political action committee; and always be advocating.

* According to this magazine's ranking one year later, an MLIS is now "only" the third-worst Masters degree to obtain, so progress?

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