School Librarianship: Career Choice and Recruitment

Article excerpt

Recruitment to librarianship has been a recurring topic in the professional literature with the prediction of shortages as baby boomers begin to retire in large numbers. This article reports results from surveys conducted to gather information on reasons for choosing school librarianship as a career path and how employers go about recruiting school library media specialists (SLMSs) to their schools and school districts. As part of a survey of University of South Carolina School of Library and Information Science program completers, respondents explained reasons for becoming a SLMS. Focus group interviews with current students and recent graduates were also conducted. Three South Carolina employer groups (school district media supervisors, human resource directors, and school principals) were surveyed to determine how they recruit SLMSs. Results will inform recruitment efforts of LIS programs, professional organizations, and school districts.

Introduction and Background

A wave of retirements among the nation's librarians is expected to occur between 2010 and 2020. Given graduation rates reported by library and information science (LIS) programs accredited by the American Library Association (ALA), this could result in a deficit of LIS professionals.1 According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, three in five of the nation's librarians are 45 years of age or older.2 In recent years, recruitment to the profession has been a recurrent theme in the professional literature and the focus of a number of initiatives created to address the problem. Then ALA President John Berry appointed a Recruitment and Diversity Task Force in 2002 and in 2004 ALA President-Elect Michael Gorman announced that his presidential year would focus on library education and recruitment of librarians from diverse ethnic and cultural groups.3 In 2001 American Association of School Librarians (AASL) President Helen Adams appointed the AASL Task Force on Recruitment for the Profession and in 2002 First Lady and former school librarian Laura Bush announced the "Recruiting and Educating Librarians for the 21st Century" program. At the 2005 ALA midwinter conference, the ALA Recruitment Assembly sponsored a day-long forum to share information and ideas for recruiting "high quality people from diverse backgrounds to library careers."4 Recruiting young librarians to school librarianship emerged as a top concern of school library leaders who attended the 2006 School Library Journal Summit in Chicago.5

Most studies of librarians' career choice and recruitment conducted over the past few decades have solicited perspectives of library school students through surveys carried out in library school settings.6 More recently, researchers using Web-based surveys have sought participation of library workers identified through mass mailings to electronic discussion forums.7 Results of these studies have revealed some consistent patterns. The nature of library work is often given as a reason for choosing librarianship as a career path. Many respondents mention gratification in helping people find information, a love for books and reading, or that they like "library work" and believe that it makes a difference in users' lives. Prior work in a library setting and personal contact with a librarian are both significant motivators for those who enroll in library school. None of these studies, however, focused specifically on preservice or practicing school library media specialists (SLMSs).

Findings from an AASL Recruitment Task Force survey conducted in 2002 cited the following reasons for a predicted shortage of SLMSs: (1) retirements, (2) limited access to library education, (3) poor teaching conditions, (4) low pay, (5) negative stereotypes of librarians, and (6) no job security.8 The impact of each of these explanations varies from state to state depending on a number of factors. In some states (such as South Carolina) SLMSs are required in all but the smallest schools which translates into more job security. …