Friday, January 05, 2007

The Chicken or the Egg?

No matter how many blogs I read I always seem to miss something of interest. In preparing for an upcoming panel presentation I came across the Taiga Forum's provocative statements (pdf) published in early 2006. Although I am late on this thread, these statements deserve revisting since they seem to summarize the various major topic areas that were blogged by librarians last year.

While being defined as being provocative I didn't find them that provocative. Perhaps this is because I am reading them retrospectively. Then again, maybe they would be provocative if I were a technical services/cataloging librarian.

The only statement that I thought was provocative is number 8:

" Within the next five years.... there will be no more librarians as we know them. Staff may have MBAs or be computer/data scientists. All library staff will need the technical skills equivalent to today’s systems and web services personnel. The ever increasing technology curve will precipitate a high turnover among traditional librarians; the average age of library staff will have dropped to 28."

This statement leads one to believe the shift will result from changes in technology when the reason behind the change is something that we have been expecting. We know there is a graying of our profession and a significant number of library professionals will retire in the upcoming years. At the same time the number of library schools and individuals going to library school has decreased. In order for libraries to survive libraries will need employees. Given the dearth of library school graduates we will need to hiring employees with alternative degrees. So, we will see more alternative degrees.

Younger individuals become library professionals will likely come in with a more technical orientation and skill set which will push forward the creation and integration of more technology services.

Therefore, I feel the increasing technology curve will not precipitate the high turnover. The high turnover is a bubble that we have been waiting to burst for ten years now. The turnover will bring in younger, more technology oriented library professionals which will in effect lead to an increase in technology deployment that may have been held back by the "old school" librarians heading into the next phase of their lives. Sphere: Related Content


Anonymous said...

"At the same time the number of library schools and individuals going to library school has decreased."

Are you sure the number of individuals graduating from library schools is decreasing? I'm not.

Eric Schnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Schnell said...

Thanks for the comment.

According to Hardesty's 2002 review of Library Journal's annual Placement and Salaries Survey:

- Between 1978 (when the Graduate School of Librarianship at the University of Oregon closed) and 1990 fourteen library education programs closed.

- The year 1973 can be considered a peak year for graduates, before a decline in the job market and before closings of any library school. Fifty-three of the then sixty accredited library schools reported 6,336 graduates.

- By 1980 the results of the survey revealed evidence of a downward spiral in all categories. In the 1980 report, 63 of the 69 eligible schools reported 4,396 graduates

- By 1985, the fifty-eight reporting library schools reported fewer than 3,500 (3,484) graduates

- the total number of graduates ranged from 3,625 in 1992 with forty-one schools reporting, to 4,754 the very next year with fifty institutions reporting.

While I have not looked at the recent numbers, based on this data one could assert that in over the past 34 years the number of library schools and those attending library school have decreased.

Source: Hardesty, Larry. "Future of Academic/Research Librarians: A Period of Transition -- To What?
" Libraries and the Academy 2(1) (2002) 79-97.

Eric Schnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eric Schnell said...

OK, I took the time to look at the 2003, 2004, 2005 surveys. There were 4200 graduates in 2003 (43 schools reporting), 4874 in 2004 (46), and 4600 in 2005 (38).

I stand corrected. The number of graduates has been relatively stable. The crisis is that there are not enough graduates to fill the openings from the bubble created during the 70's. Library professionals with alternative degrees are needed to fill the gaps.