Magazine article American Libraries

In Praise of Older Recruits

Magazine article American Libraries

In Praise of Older Recruits

Article excerpt

In praise of older recruits

ALA's Planning Committee has correctly identified personnel resources as a critical concern. It's a complex issue, and one component--recruitment--will be much discussed.

The evidence of the senses shouts that the problem is real. Large library systems are actively recruiting in ways not seen since the mid-60s. AL's LEADS classified just keep growing. Although library school enrollments are rising, MLS degrees granted in 1991 will likely number about 50% of those granted in 1974.

What's more, librarianship is a greying profession. It was that in 1975, the last time the Bureau of Labor Statistics took a hard look. Although statistical proof is hard to come by, we're losing librarians to retirement faster than we're training replacements.

Throw in one more fact--the average library school student is 36 years old--and it's transparent that recruiting undergraduates will be seen as the solution to our labor supply problem.

Nobody asked, but...

Intensive efforts to recruit undergraduates will be a poor use of our energies. Why? Because the great majority of undergraduates may simply be too young to appreciate the subtle rewards and pleasures of a career in librarianship.

Although there are signs the overheated consumer culture of the '70s is cooling, and careers in service and helping professions are becoming more popular, too many undergraduates still appear to think a BMW and a country club are a birthright. They're unlikely to be wooed to a field that's not especially lucrative or outwardly exciting, even at a time when information is the country's most important commodity, and educational effectiveness and illiteracy are hot-button topics. …

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