Where do all the librarians go?

I feel very troubled. I feel as if I’ve jumped on a sinking ship and I can’t get off again. What is bothering me? Well, the same thing that has been bothering me for about the last four years – the constant and steady reduction of librarian (and assistant) posts in UK libraries. I feel now it’s reaching cracking point, and reading this blog post did nothing to calm my nerves. It’s a sorry tale of woe, of dooms and gloom, destruction and decimation. The myths that people create around the profession can be very damaging, and the thought that the only people losing their jobs are little old ladies close to retirement (or worse…) is pretty far off the mark. Government departments are strapped for cash, and libraries are a pretty easy target in the short term. They can be total money pits and, well, libraries are dying aren’t they? Who needs librarians anyway?! There are many people, like myself, who are at the start of their career who started hurtling high speed down the track, who now realise they’re on a road to nowhere.

So where do all the librarians go? What I mean is – if this career is a mistake, that libraries are dead, that I’m better off chucking it all in now – what next? I think we are pretty lucky that many of the skills needed for working in library or information roles are transferable. That is great, but I don’t know if I really want to do anything else really, not in the same way that I decided I wanted to be a librarian. It was as if I finally found the right fit after years of mundane jobs – I could use the mundane stuff for good, not evil! But now I find myself at risk, undervalued and under-utilised. I feel like the uninvited guest at a party most of my professional life.

When I took my current role working in a school I always saw it as a temporary thing. I don’t mean really temporary like a month or something, but I saw it as a bridge over troubled waters. I’d worked in public libraries for a while, that didn’t really work out as the arse was falling out of it, and I wanted to do something kind of…between…working in a public library and a university library. Mainly this was because I was missing some managerial experience in public libs and it wasn’t likely I was going to get any either, what with everything kicking off with the cuts. So, I took this role whilst I was finishing my professional qualification. I have that now and I am still here. Now, I am mainly still here because I truly enjoy it – the kids make me laugh every single day, I have fantastic colleagues on the most part and I pretty much have complete say over how I want to manage my time. The snag? No promotion prospects. I could stay here forever technically but I’m also not going up anywhere. This really is it.

But there isn’t really anywhere else to go. Do I stay here, happy as I am, but have no prospect of a promotion or do I get knocked back for the (very few) other library jobs in universities that are out there, or do I take the third route? What is the third route? I already avoided the trap of becoming a teacher – I don’t want to find myself again almost wandering into something I actually don’t want to do.

This is something that is either going to need more thought or more patience. I have very little patience so I will add it the list of big thoughts I will need to have.

Hey, isn’t Chartership cathartic?!


2 thoughts on “Where do all the librarians go?

  1. I agree it’s scary. I didn’t become a librarian 20 years ago because my family said there wouldn’t be libraries in 20 years. Personally I’m happy at least for now staying where i am. Work fits very well into my life and that’s a good thing.

    I agree that it’s scary though.


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