The Class of 1988: Librarians for the New Millenium

By Moen, William E.; Heim, Kathleen M. | American Libraries, November 1988 | Go to article overview

The Class of 1988: Librarians for the New Millenium


Moen, William E., Heim, Kathleen M., American Libraries


LIBRARIANSHIP IS FACing an acute personnel shortage both in terms of numbers of new librarians needed and in terms of the quality of these individuals. Currently there are a number of efforts being mounted by different specializations...and by different jurisdictions...to grapple with the problem. However, much of the work that is being done is not being integrated into an overall program of concerted effort by the profession."'

That statement is taken from the Office for Library Personnel Resources Advisory Committee's World Book-ALA Goal Award proposal, which sought funding to study labor supply and recruitment efforts and make recommendations for their improvement. Funding was secured and an invitational preconference held in New Orleans, July 7-8, 1988. Part of the preparation for that gathering was a study of current (1988) library school students.

What follows is a brief, preliminary report on findings of the Library and Information Science Student Attitudes, Demographics, and Aspirations (LISSADA) Survey. Conducted by the Louisiana State University School of Library Science, the study surveyed 3,484 students enrolled in 54 accredited MLS programs in the US. in spring 1988. Analysis of data continues. This report provides an overview of the class of 1988.

Vital statistics

Our respondents in the Class of 1988 were 80.9% female and 19.1% male. Nearly three-fourths (72.6%) were over 30 years of age, and 93.7% were white (See Table 1).

Differences emerge by gender Table 2 shows that a larger percentage of men (55.5%) were full-time than women (41.4%). Difficulty obtaining responses from part-time students (many of whom are off-campus) may have skewed the LISSADA data in favor of full-time students. Regardless, a far larger percentage of males are enrolled full-time than females.

This has significant implications for career development and gender-status issues. Students able to pursue fun-time studies may have an advantage in professional socialization and are more likely to become involved in activities that lead to career advancement. To examine this theory, a cross-tabulation was run to show the effect of full-time status on professional memberships. This cross-tabulation revealed that full-time students are more involved in national and student organizations than part-time students. Over 60% of all ALA student members and 55% of Special Libraries Association members were fulltime (Table 2). Sixty-five percent of those indicating no memberships were part-time.

Interestingly, part-time students were far more likely (64%) than full-time students (36%) to be members of state-level associations. This suggests that part-time students identified with their state in anticipation of local employment, while full-time students were more likely to be mobile and thus affiliated nationally. Since we know that national association involvement is one predictor of professional advancement,' it may be inferred that even at the student level full-time students are availing themselves of career-building opportunities. In the final LISSADA report, data on enrollment status will be cross-tabulated by professional involvement and sex to investigate this relationship more fully

With the exception of the very youngest students (20-24 years), men are enrolled at earlier ages than women. Table 3 shows that 36.2% of women enrolled are over 40, compared with 24.4% of the men.

In her paper on recruitment of science librarians, Brown' compared undergraduate major data for three MLS programs and found that over 50% held humanities degrees, 22.5% education degrees, and only 5% held degrees in the sciences. LISSADA data, although broken into finer categories, were similiar. Table 4 shows that only 6.4% of respondents held degrees in the sciences. English and literature accounted for 18.6% and history for 10.5%. Paskoff has noted that there is a shortage of qualified librarians in most specialized areas. …

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