A Job Seekers' Market for Librarians; Growing Number of Vacancies Prompt Recruitment Drives

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A job seekers' market for librarians

RECRUITMENT TO THE PROFESSION was on the minds and lips of many librarians attending Midwinter this year. The subject popped up at the candidates forums, in meetings of such groups as the LAMA Personnel Administration Section Discussion Group, and, it seemed, wherever librarians gathered informally.

The recurring topic recalled the early 1960s, when recruitment to the profession was one of the field's highest priorities; by the mid-'70s, however, candidates by the dozen were available for, say, an entry-level reference position in a university library.

Nevertheless, Margaret Myers, director of ALA's Office for Library Personnel Resources (OLPR), cautions against making direct comparisons with the 1960s. She notes that demand for librarians in that decade was generated by library expansion, creation of new positions, and increased federal funding, while the current situation reflects the need to fill existing positions.

According to James Matarazzo, associate dean of Simmons library school, a rapidly graying profession is behind the rise in position vacancies: "Seventy-five percent of all librarians employed in 1980 will reach a retirement age--65--by the year 2020." Matarazzo adds that the situation will likely worsen owing to early retirements and librarians leaving the field to apply their skills in non-library settings. Failure to consider the age of practitioners, he notes, remains "the fatal flaw" in library personnel planning.

How serious is the shortage? Terry McLaughlin, who manages the Placement Center at ALA conferences, observed that "The biggest complaint [in San Antonio] has been from employers who want to interview more candidates. Some employers have even been walking through the applicants area initiating conversations with applicants. That's a lot different from the mid-'70s, when there were half a dozen applicants for each listed position." McLaughlin said that he knew of several firm job offers made during the conference.

Pat Harris, North Dakota state librarian, said she expected to have some difficulty finding a library consultant. "If I could combine the experience of the three candidates represented by these resumes," she said, "I would have a perfect candidate." She also noted that applicants seemed more likely to turn down an opportunity to interview for a job than at past meetings.

Patricia Dobbins, employment and placement administrator at New York Public Library, expressed "positive" feelings about NYPL's recruitment activities, but said the system needed to hire librarians in 31 separate job classifications, many with multiple vacancies. NYPL, Dobbins said in a later telephone interview, expected to make several job offers as a result of contacts made in San Antonio.

Jean Keleher, a University of Michigan student attending her second ALA meeting, said she was satisfied with job opportunities at the Placement Center: "It's been intense; I've had 10 interviews in two-and-a-half days and haven't even had time to visit the exhibits. …