Let me blunt: if you go through a doctoral program, realize that your prospects to be employed as a professor in academia are dim, not to mention the possible issue of racking up an obscene amount of debt you will likely never be able to repay. Falling back on the hope of becoming an academic librarian is not going to be your salvation. If anything, you should have stopped at your first master's degree, then gone to library school. Because unless you are hoping to work in an elite R-1 school, you are overqualified with that Ph.D. A substantial number of academic librarians work at teaching universities and smaller settings, places where your very advanced degree is not exactly an automatic entry key. Allow me to tell you who you would be competing against:
- Newly minted librarians. These are the people of all ages who are just coming out of library school. Many of them already go to library school with some library experience, and if they were smart, they got themselves some more experience while in library school (a job in a library, assistantship, internship, so on) to increase their odds to be hired.
- Recent graduates of library school. These are the folks who graduated within a year to let's say three years or so. They have been in the market a while due to the bad market. If lucky, they may have a part time job in a library to make ends meet, often along with a second job.
- Experienced librarians. These are folks who are looking for a better job. They may be looking for an advancement (say become head of a department), or they may be making a lateral move to another entry level job if the new job is better in some way. In our profession, experience in libraries counts for a lot, and if these guys are any good, they get hired fast.
I am willing to admit that I may come across as harsh. I honestly believe that, as someone in a doctoral program, you should know how to research things like a job market in your chosen profession. If not, you should be asking your local librarian, who will likely tell you what I am telling you if he or she is honest. Yet I also know, both from experience and extensive reading (remember: the tagline of this blog is "I read a lot of the LIS literature so you don't have to"), that some people will not be honest with you when it comes to job markets, the placement rates of their programs, so on. Thus allow me then to give a bit of the truth because better that you hear it now before you decide to plunk down more money into yet another degree, in this case the MLS, than learning the hard way that you could be as unemployable as before, if not worse.
In the end, I am not saying to not pursue the degree if it is your lifelong passion or if you want the education and/or do not care if you work in that line of work (maybe you have a full time job already, for instance). I have been very fortunate to find work as an academic librarian, but I learned some hard lessons along the way. Those lessons could be material for another blog post, but I digress. However, if you choose to get that doctorate anyways, do so informed and with your eyes wide open. This includes realizing that you may end up working in something other than academia. There are perfectly good careers out there for doctoral graduates outside of academia if you are willing to look, which is another little detail graduate schools often fail to mention. Realize also that jumping over to the library is not the magical cure given the reasons I have stated above. If you ask me straight up, I'd tell folks to not do it. But if you must, do it only after very careful consideration of your options and go in informed and prepared to face any consequences of your decision.
Additional note: I made a small list of items for further reading over on the scratch pad, Alchemical Thoughts, in case anyone wants to get more context.