Community s02e21 “Paradigms of Human Memory”
Community s02e21 “Paradigms of Human Memory”
Basically after I posted that super depressing graphic I got a job. A “library” job. And I have been working there since December. It’s not at all what I want to be doing, but I feel a bit worried about jumping around too much, even if I know that I’m making slow movements towards what will be right for me and my career. No one wants to hire someone who’s had 4 jobs in 6 months.
But I applied to 49 more jobs between July and this month. Not ready to settle for bullshit yet.
Hey guys. So my Aunt got me a MacBook air for my birthday but she didn’t know that I already have one. I can’t take it back. So I decided to give it away to one of my followers on here, it doesn’t matter what country you live in. You just have to re-blog this and be following me. I’ll pick a random winner on valentines day.
This graph shows the number of jobs I applied to in each month from June 2009-June 2010. I wasn’t as great at keeping records in 2009, so I think the numbers should probably be slightly higher. Keep in mind I actually didn’t graduate until November 2009.
Total? 196 applications. 0 full-time (term, contract or permanent) offers received.
Depressing graphic created @ http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/default.aspx
CLA: Why didn’t we talk about poverty, about financial instability, about financial unsustainability of new librarian positions at this conference?
In my opinion, it’s difficult to say “this is the way things have always been” when the way things have always been does not work in a practical need for basic survival. I mean, I guess these concerns are nodded at in the sense that they know it’s “hard” for newbie librarians, but I truly believe that librarians in permanent positions for the past 2 or 3 years have absolutely no idea HOW difficult. If you haven’t been in the job market (from the perspective of the unemployed) in 2008, 2009, or 2010, I don’t think you have a real appreciation for how desperate the situation has gotten.
We’re told that within 2 years you’re established in a stream (public, academic, special, law, medical…) and your chances elsewhere diminish. But the reality is that a significant percentage of posted jobs are 1) temporary, 2) part-time, 3) short-term (12-18mo) contracts. To provide context: As an academic library (tenured) hopeful, you are under immense pressure to publish, or to participate in the research process perhaps at a pace that is unnatural and unfair because you will want to keep your job or to find another. We’re also under immense pressure to perform with little guidance. In fact, a peer-reviewed session I attended at CLA today discussed how only about 24% of new (GenX) librarians feel they have the guidance/direction they believe they need to best perform their jobs. That leaves a whopping SEVENTY-SIX PERCENT of new librarians scrambling to do an adequate job, to wade through the piles of work left behind, to scrape out work for themselves, to avoid asking too many questions and protect their reputations as already professional. We know there are 90 people waiting to take our jobs when we do have them. You are never safe. Add to this the reality that your job is transient from the start and that you’re probably going to be pigeonholed in a stream you (maybe) didn’t even want to enter (assuming you are not a martyr and will take the work that is available) and maybe don’t like. For your entire career. Daunting, right?
Academic librarians stay in their positions for decades and the mass exodus of boomer librarians just isn’t happening. We have a growing pool over highly qualified, technically able young librarians who are essentially wilting attempting to (financially) sustain themselves while also looking constantly, slavishly, dedicated to the profession that we LOVE but where we can’t find meaningful WORK. We’re told to negotiate when jobs are offered, but we also know friends, colleagues, who have been out of work for whole years, without EI, living with their parents, living in literal poverty, struggling or unable to repay even the minimum on their large student loans, but also unable (professionally) to accept “menial” administrative work at risk of establishing themselves as the sort of person who gives up. As the sort of person who isn’t willing to starve to work in the thinking professions.
I guess what I’m getting at here is that I really don’t feel like CLA, as an association, as a conference, as a group of professionals, is really dealing with or discussing the real changes in this profession. Instead of discussing the literal poverty of our members, the national lack of jobs, studying AND publishing the percentages of unemployment MONTHLY, discussing and disclosing our salaries, and most importantly acknowledging that there are problems, we discuss “the death of the reference desk.”
I’ll admit, the reference desk question is contentious. I get it. But you know what’s more contentious? the fact that we continue to graduate record numbers of students from iSchools, with MiSts, MLIS, MLS, and archival degrees when there are no jobs. The fact that there are more student jobs available than jobs for new professionals. The fact that these student jobs pay, in many cases (literal) minimum wage. How can new professionals compete in a market where desperate graduate students will do the same work, to (likely) the same quality, for approximately 1/3 of what we’d expect to be paid?
[I know there were a few Ontario government student jobs posted this summer (that I can’t find at the moment) that were paying $10.25/hr for FINAL YEAR GRADUATE STUDENTS. You’d literally make more money working at Starbucks.]
CLA: why do we keep avoiding the reality that the way we hire, the way we select, the way we educate, is putting so many of our members in poverty, keeping us in poverty, keeping us out of the reach of EI or other social support ?
Leaving you with my sob story: last year I DID work a contract position, but I worked too few hours to qualify for EI, not for lack of trying to gain more work hours. I managed to set aside money by living with my parents and having my student loans put on hold because I made less than $400/mo after tax. All the while I was working to support medical researchers, doctors, epidemiologists, public health specialists, graduate students I COULD GO ON. I taught nursing staff, my research helped make treatment decisions, and yet I couldn’t afford to pay rent. My anxieties over being able to SURVIVE made it difficult for me to do my work. I was expected to be ultraflexible when others would never be held to that standard. I was expected to be happier, more available, pleased to do truly menial jobs With! Delight! Every! Day! because I was lucky to have that job. This sort of fear, this sort of false positivity, is emotionally unsustainable. I have been looking for a full-time position (contract, temporary, permanent, WHATEVER) for over a year.
While it is not the responsibility of the individual employer to be sensitive to how employment influences the social status of their employee, I’ll argue here that as a professional association we have the RESPONSIBILITY to ensure that our members are not put in desperate employment situations. These situations DO exist whereby employers and/or supervisors knowingly exploit the need for work and intentionally limit the role and work of new professionals, limit their skills, discourage their professional development (for example, offering monthly professional development seminars, but saying you cannot pay the part-time librarians to attend while also “gently encouraging” attendance), which ensure that there continues to be a steady stream of desperate, low-cost, low-morale workers who will put up with entirely unprofessional behavior because they otherwise cannot survive.
As professionals, as people who have attended graduate school, as people who are educated, I think we largely think of ourselves as suffering first-world problems. Woe is me and my master’s degree. But the reality is that there is a new generation of library graduates, uniquely qualified for the information professions and often little else (particularly for those who went from high school to BAs to MLIS, all before 24) who can’t find jobs in other fields (the employers assume we will leave as soon as we find library work, which we probably will - I can show you a stack of rejection letters FROM TEMP AGENCIES saying I am “unqualified” to work as an administrative assistant, a position I held for 2 years prior to graduate school) but who need to work.
How do we solve this problem? Why aren’t we discussing it? We talked so much about being radical at this conference, why not be radically honest and admit that we have a social crisis on our hands, and that it’s everybody’s responsibility.
Yup. That’s how it is, and that’s exactly how my boobs look.
If I stumble, they’re gonna eat me alive