A former student of mine recently asked me about my job. More to the point, this person is considering librarianship as a possible career. This is someone I got to know pretty well over the span of my first couple of years at my current job, someone I think would be fantastic as an instruction librarian. If I were to base my advice purely on whether s/he is suited to the work, that would be enough. "Go forth and study library science." The trouble is, there's so much more to consider. After letting the idea ruminate, I sent an honest answer, most of which I'm reproducing here:
- Most days I love my job. It appeals to me because I enjoy math/science/computers AND art/literature/humanities. In my role, I get to be a professional, academic generalist.
- Depending on your motivation and your interests, there's a place in Biblioterra (a more fun appellation for "Libraryland" that I learned from Will Manley) for pretty much anyone.
- Most library science programs are a lot of work, but it's doable and (if you have the right professor) fun.
- I do wish I made more money, but I make enough for what I need and to put a little aside (the reason for my adjuncting). It's not impossible to make money as a librarian, and my salary does reflect the market in which I work, but I do sometimes think about how much education I had to get to earn this salary - and shake my head ruefully.
- Job prospects are not great right now. Recruiters for library science graduate programs will try to feed you a load of bull hooey about Baby Boomers getting ready to retire, but with this economy hitting their retirement funds it isn't happening. Further, there is supposedly a slower than average expected growth in librarianship.
- Some days it's extremely hard being neither fish nor fowl. Not really faculty - even at colleges where librarians are given faculty rank - and not really staff. When this comes up, at best it's annoying and at its worst it's demoralizing.
- Don't get a PhD in Lib Sci unless you want to teach at a library science graduate program.
- A second master's can be useful, and is needed for some positions, but it's not required in general.
- Think about how much debt you'll accumulate, especially since no matter what kind of further education you get, you might end up working part time in academia at first.
After all the pros and cons, though, if this is what's in your heart, you should consider it. On the bad days, I talk about giving it all up and becoming a hermit, but on the good days - and those come more often than the other kind - I know I'm right where I want to be.
How about you? What do you tell people who ask you about librarianship as a career?