February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Librarians of Tomorrow | SLJ’s Job Satisfaction Survey

Participants in SLJ’s Satisfaction Survey were hardly representative of the diverse populations that our nation’s schools are educating and which public libraries serve: 95 percent are female and 89 percent are white. Their average age is 49, and over a third are 55 or older. While there are initiatives to bring underrepresented groups into librarianship, such as the American Library Association’s Spectrum Scholars, the lack of diversity in school and youth librarianship is especially troubling.

Such a large swath of the profession on the verge of retirement would be cause for alarm in most occupations—and it’s certainly reason for concern. However, two-thirds of those surveyed entered librarianship as a second (or third) career, and the average number of years spent in librarianship is just 12 years. So it’s possible that the ranks of school and youth librarians will continue to be replenished by mid-life career switchers.

Nevertheless, our participants would definitely encourage young people just entering college to consider librarianship as their life’s work. A whopping 93 percent of respondents would recommend it enthusiastically or with some reservations.

But potential librarians would do well to engage in some self-examination to determine if they have the attributes to succeed (see Attributes of Successful Librarians, chart above). School and public librarians were in agreement in identifying three personality characteristics—good interpersonal skills, the ability to multitask, and a desire to help others—as contributing most to a librarian’s success.

For school librarians, the major challenge ahead would seem to be convincing the larger educational community that librarians are teachers, and attaining enough support to flourish in that role. For children’s and young adult librarians, the greatest hurdle is improving their salaries, and maybe getting some more respect from their bosses.

Yet despite the ups and downs, a staggering 93 percent of school librarians and public librarians who work with young people report that were they to do it all again, they’d pick the same careers. Why? Perhaps one librarian said it best: “At the end of the day, there’s nothing better than knowing that you’ve made a difference in at least one child’s life.”