Placements & Salaries Survey 2009: The Job Search
For the LIS graduates of 2008, this year was fraught with many challenges along with some triumphs.
Stephanie Maatta -- Library Journal, 10/15/2009
From the Front Line
For the LIS graduates of 2008, this year was fraught with many challenges along with some triumphs. In general, the economic recession erased any gains that grads made in 2007, with the notable exception of the Northeast. Some reported that during the job hunt, employers told them that it would be three to five years before their organizations realized any substantial improvements in funding along with the ability to hire professional staff. Other job seekers suffered huge disappointments when, after successful interviews, they were told that the search had been cancelled owing to hiring freezes or loss of funding for positions. A growing number of grads remained in or accepted nonprofessional positions as clerks and library assistants (13.5% in 2008 compared to 11.3% in 2007), and, as noted previously, part-time positions increased.
For other grads, the transition from graduate student to employed professional was much smoother. Approximately 42.3% of the 1,784 who responded to questions about previous employment remained with their current employer while completing their master’s degree. While this did not guarantee the likelihood of promotion or better salary, it did mean continued employment in a poor economic environment.
In 2008, the number of grads who found employment prior to graduation fell from a high of 42% in 2007 to 22.9% in 2008. This reverses a trend that began in 2003 when 30% of the grads were employed before completing their master’s degree. Once again, grads began the job search well in advance of graduation day, by as much as two semesters prior. For some, this was productive, as they started their new job the day after they received their diploma. As a group, grads consistently recommend starting the job search early, making use of personal and professional networks and contacts, and gaining valuable experience through fieldwork and internships as well as volunteering.
Grads reported sending out 30–40 résumés before being offered even one interview opportunity. The average length of the search was longer than in previous years at just under five months, though it has been slowly creeping up over time. The comments most frequently made by the LIS graduates were that employers are looking for experience (two to three years professional experience) and that the number of entry-level jobs is dropping. Some grads expressed the wish that they had not pursued an LIS degree at this time, and in hindsight say they would have chosen another field if they had known how truly difficult the job market was for librarians and other information professionals.
Other grads reported successful, quick job searches. Most attribute their success to prior experience as well as personal contacts. Among their strategies, they count the assistance of LIS faculty in identifying appropriate positions and keeping in contact with former classmates about open positions. They also did their homework and were well prepared when going into a job interview, understanding the agency and the position they were seeking and well practiced in interviewing skills. Overwhelmingly, they advised others not to underestimate the value of completing an internship. It not only provided practical skills, but it also put them in the running for available positions at the institution where they were interning.
Not surprisingly, the LIS programs’ view on the job search is less dire than that of the graduates. Approximately 54% of the participating schools said that it was no more difficult to place graduates in 2008 than it had been in previous years, down from 60% last year. However, 15 of the participating programs indicated that the number of jobs available decreased on average 22.5% from 2007. In particular they saw fewer jobs in school library media centers and in special libraries. This reflects the placement trends described by the graduates.The reality is probably somewhere between the grads’ view and that of the LIS schools. The economic recession was well illustrated in the declining salaries and position counts, especially in agencies reliant upon public funding and in regions hit heavily by high unemployment. And, given the number of potential library system closings and continued economic hardships, it is likely that the 2009 graduating class will experience similar frustrations along with some triumphs.
|Stephanie Maatta, Ph.D. (email@example.com), is Assistant Professor, University of South Florida School of Library and Information Science, Tampa|