Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Summer of Stagnation, Winter of Discontent

I have applied for approximately 25 library positions, and countless others outside of the field, in administration, in retail, anywhere it seemed I might be able to work. I'm on LinkedIn, Monster, CareerBuilder, and Craigslist, scouring search results daily. And in looking for library jobs in particular, I've come up to the following, distressing conclusion:

The New York libraries do not want me.

Not me, specifically, but the archetype into which I fall - newly-graduated and inexperienced. As of the last time I checked (October 13th), there were 13 positions available through METRO (the Metropolitan New York Library Council, for those who don't know), all of which required either a second master's, years of experience in the field that I don't have, or skills which I do not possess, such as archiving and cataloging.

In Suffolk and Nassau counties, where I'd prefer to look, since that's where I live, there have been a total of 16 positions combined over a period of 5 months. I had one interview in Nassau, and one in Suffolk. In Suffolk's interview, I didn't know the term "roaming." Apparently, it means to wander the library looking for patrons to aid. I'd never heard the term, and I knew when it came up that the interview was over. I don't think it would have mattered, though. While submitting my contact information on the way out, the reference librarian at the desk said, "This? I thought we'd filled that position." Other places told me that I was one of 70 applicants, 100 applicants, over 200 applicants in one memorable case.

In Nassau, more recently, I was told I was up against over 40 applicants. Nevertheless, I got to the second interview, and was feeling much more confident, even though they warned me that my eligibility for the job would depend on the results of the civil service department. I then promptly received a form rejection letter. "Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams," wrote Yeats. So much for that.

In Queens, there are zero available public library positions, between 63 branches and a main library building. I feel at this point that I should qualify my job search. I've been looking for public library positions. I don't have school certification. I took no business, health, or archives classes. Mistakenly, I thought public libraries with an emphasis on child and young adult literature, and an alternate focus on emerging technologies would be useful. I've applied for jobs outside my scope, but to no avail.

In Brooklyn Public Library, there are 5 adult literacy positions, mostly for math. New York Public Library offers another array of positions for which I'm unqualified: building manager, driver, senior editor, senior public relations expert. They have open positions for pages, but the cost of the commute versus my paycheck means that I'd actually be making negative capital to take the job. I did that once, the one time I worked in the city. Not only was I broke, I was also miserable because of horrible working conditions.

The last place I've looked is Westchester. There are positions open there, for clerks, and for part-time librarians. But all the libraries are over an hour and a half away, and that's without accounting for traffic. Assume I earn $90 after taxes for working 4 hours a day in a part-time position. I will then proceed to use approximately half that, possibly more, simply to drive my car there and back. It's not a fiscally responsible picture. And why not move? Because I have a lease on my apartment until February, and my family, friends, and boyfriend live on Long Island. Unless I'm completely out of money, which I am thankfully not (yet), I'd rather not go that route.

So here I am.

After reading successive articles detailing the state of the economy, and of the field, I've come to realize that our generation, aged 18-24 (I'm at the higher end of that spectrum), is the national scapegoat. Not in the sense of blame, although we certainly are being blamed for showing less initiative than our parents, but in the original sense, that of a goat being burdened with all of the metaphysical sins of the people and sent off into the desert to survive if it can.

When I started graduate school, the Bureau of Labor Statistics listed library positions as favorable because large numbers of people would retire from the field. But a year and a half later, the baby boomers aren't retiring, the economy is stagnating, and the budget crisis in New York has left a virtual hiring freeze in the library world. Those who graduated in the years before me will get the first jobs, because they have the experience libraries want, and can be gotten for the same price. And so far, as the Library Journal's study clearly shows, there are no jobs leftover after that.

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