Tuesday, October 13, 2015

If I speak it then I mean it

I had already been thinking about LIS education when I read Kyle Shockey's post on Maria Accardi's blog. Shockey speaks thoughtfully about the burnout the LIS students experience and how it impacts them as job seekers and as budding librarians. I highly recommend that you give it a read.

I worked full time when I was a LIS student, first in a school library and then in a public library. I was a distance education student, so my courses were a combination of online courses taught by full-time faculty and in-person classes taught by adjuncts. With the exception of two cataloging courses--one required--and a collection development class, all of my courses were focused on public-facing functions of the library. I think to some extent that LIS programs change to reflect they way in which the profession changes. I looked at the website for the program from which I graduated and they've added a data management course and a copyright course. I wish that more LIS programs put courses in their core curriculum related to the back-room functions of libraries. Doing so gives LIS students a broader sense of what it means to be a librarian and prepares LIS students for a variety of jobs.

When I graduated from my LIS program, it took about eight months for me to find a full-time, Catalog Librarian job. In the intervening months, I continued to work as a paraprofessional cataloger. I lived in relatively close proximity to three graduate programs, which I think made finding a job and rising to the top of an applicant pool a significant challenge. A couple of years ago, I found myself on the job market again when I moved from the Midwest to NYC. In that situation, I was close proximity to three LIS programs and relatively close proximity to two more. It felt impossible to rise to the top of that applicant pool.

I have managed to find full-time, stable employment several times in my career. I have found work that I find meaningful and found opportunities to engage with colleagues in my profession. And I have had the luxury of forgetting what it was like to be a new LIS professional struggling to find my place in librarianship.

And that forgetting? That makes me part of the problem.

There are a million factors working against our next generation of library leaders. Real talk time: If those of us who have full-time, stable employment don't start addressing those factors, we're going to lose a generation of librarians. We're going to lose smart, talented people who push librarianship forward. We're going to lose the dreamers, the doers, the makers, and the teachers.

Kyle gives working librarian some ideas of how to help LIS students and new LIS program graduates. They are very smart ideas: advocate, mentor, support.

Here's what I would add:
1. Pay your LIS student interns for the work they do in your library. Paying a student for their work not only helps them support themselves, but also demonstrates that you value the work that they do.

2. Offer to read, review, and comment on application packets for new librarians. Are you headed to ALA Midwinter in Boston or ALA Annual in Orlando? ALA's New Member Round Table has a resume review service that is looking for volunteers. Surely you can give 30 minutes of your time to help the next generation of library leaders.

3. Engage with LIS students and new graduates and include them in your social media circles. Answer questions, listen to their stories, and offer advice. Remember what it was like to struggle.

So here's what I'm committing to doing: If you are a LIS student or a new graduate and you need someone to talk to, I'll be that someone. It's the least I can do with all of the amazing opportunities I've been given. Reach out to me on Twitter or leave a comment.

That's what I'm doing. What's that one thing you can do to help a LIS student or new graduate? How can your library help support our next generation of library leaders?

Stay positive,

ps--I should say that the signature I used is a reference to a song by the Hold Steady (the same song that the blog title comes from!) and not some sort of decree about always being positive. You should 100% feel how you feel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post, Erin! It's great to see such an established librarian trying to help out us little guys.