Meet the New Whine…

Library Journal recently published its state of the state for librarian jobs and salaries. One of their findings? Recent library school grads believe one of the main impediments to finding professional positions are older librarians refusing to retire.

What a surprise. At least it seems that way for new grads and those contemplating library school. For me? It’s the same old song, but with a different refrain. In my decades-long library career, one thing remains a constant:

It ain’t easy finding a professional job.

It wasn’t for me and chances are it won’t be for you. My ego was slammed against a contiguous wall of rejection letters and ludicrously defined positions looking for a MLS. One of the jobs I applied for was in reallity a tarted-up receptionist position with the occasional records filing, something I was already doing when I wasn’t part-time librarianing. The capper? It paid less than the two jobs I was then currently working. I did eventually land a professional job, but had to move to a remote part of Oregon for the opportunity of full-time library work.

As for that tsunami of retirements? I also heard that–in library school. Droves of librarians were supposedly waiting for the social security alarm to ring, signaling them to dump volumes of Readers Guide or AACR2 on the nearest tech’s desk and march out the staff door. It didn’t happen, but I never blamed them for not being able to find a decently-paying library position within a reasonable commuting distance. I had simply chosen a career that had far more degree holders than jobs–it was up to me to figure out how to find employment.

But now it seems recent grads’ expectations about finding work includes a not-so-subtle (or diplomatic) view of older librarians as dimly sentient dinosaurs roaming the stacks, roaring at any suggestion they dirty their forelimbs by touching a keyboard, focusing instead on trampling upon the sensibilities of next-gen mammals who are praying for the meteor to hit. Too bad those mammals fail to realize many generations of these dinosaurs were the first adopters of technology, some good (machine readable records), some bad (microform).

The “Old Ones” (as one ALA 10 tweeter so waggishly tagged them) may be part of the problem, but in a much smaller way. Recession, technology and the public’s misunderstanding of our mission are much bigger culprits. But it’s hard to fix things that are amorphous (the economy) or seemingly intractable (library stereotypes) and much easier to blame those who don’t seem to understand last call was announced years ago. My guess? Their penchant for wedge haircuts instead of tats as well as their lukewarm reception to pronouncements that real librarians should be wizzes at Captivate, Twitter and online gaming are just plain irritating to those with 2.0 proclivities.

I’d like to argue librarians with a few years (and countless pairs of Easy Spirit loafers) behind them are a significant part of the solution: they’re the ones with the experience, political savvy and the guts to fight for our future. As surprising as it may seem, they do care about you finding a job. They want the profession to survive. And they do appreciate the skills you bring to the virtual table. They’ve been where you are now and are trying like holy heck to ensure LibraryLand will always be safe and sound by spearheading funding initiatives and spending countless hours of outreach to the Powers That Be and the public.

So be nice. Or at the very least, don’t do something stupid, like publicly diss your forebearers. One day you may discover you’re being interviewed by someone you virtually rolled your eyes at….