Inside the Library Job Search
The journey from LIS student to library professional is long but ultimately rewarding
Stephanie Maatta -- Library Journal, 10/11/2008For some, the transition from graduate student to employed professional was seamless. Of the 1,546 graduates reporting employment, a full 41% remained with their current employer (compared to 36.9% in 2006 and 37% in 2005) while completing the master's degree; of these grads, 77.3% were placed in professional positions. For some, this meant a promotion from support staff and library technical assistant to professional staff. For others, there was no change in professional status but simply the addition of an “official” credential for the job they were already doing.
Encouragingly, nearly 42% of all graduates found employment prior to graduation, which is slightly less than the previous year (46%) but well above the historical trends, ranging from 30% in 2003 to 25.2% in 2005. As in the past, grads began the job search well in advance of graduation day to ensure a smooth transition and no loss of income. A number of recent grads pointed to volunteer activities in libraries and other information agencies, previous experience, and fieldwork or internships as real boosts to landing positions.
The bane & boon of part-time
Graduates with part-time positions held steady for a second year at approximately 16.2%. The majority of part-time positions were located in the Northeast (42.1%), followed by the Midwest (24%). The Southeast had the least amount of reported part-time positions (7.3%). Public libraries and academic libraries continue to employ the highest levels of part-timers, with 40% and 23% of the part-time pool, respectively, comparable to 2006 levels. Part-time positions in both of these types of agencies may be another indication of the impact of a soft economy and lower operating budgets. An intriguing side note regarding those graduates who said they had two or more part-time jobs, most frequently holding one in a public library along with one in an academic library. While one might assume the nonprofessional positions would be more likely to be part-time, positions in reference and information services saw the highest level of part-time staffing at 30% of the reported positions.
A long haul for some
More than a few graduates shared their stories of many, many interviews but very few real job offers. The overall length of time from graduation to landing a professional position increased from four-and-a-half months in 2006 to just shy of five months in 2007, and some were still looking over a year after graduation. The most frequent advice graduates offered to their future colleagues included “Network, network, network, early in your program,” “Find good mentors,” and “Get as much experience as you can during your program to prepare yourself for the realities of the workplace.”
The LIS programs had a slightly different perspective, with more than 60% of the participating schools saying that they felt it was no harder placing graduates in 2007 than it had been the year before. In general, the LIS programs provided a broad range of access to job announcements and placement services, through electronic mail lists, bulletin boards, professional organizations and student chapters, and the schools' own web sites. However, only approximately 30% of the reporting institutions offer a formal placement and/or career service for their graduates.
Several of the LIS programs created a variety of mentoring programs for incoming and current students as well as recent graduates. Drexel University launched a new Alumni Mentoring Program in which alumni of the iSchool programs serve as mentors for prospective students, current students, and other alumni. In a similar effort, Drexel also launched a Graduate Peer Mentoring Program to connect successful graduate students with new and continuing students. The University of Alabama features a Mentoring Day to assist its students with job placement. The University of Texas at Austin, University of Washington, University of Rhode Island, and Simmons each have either career mentoring, faculty mentoring, and/or peer-to-peer mentoring programs to help ensure the success of their graduates.