Monday, March 18, 2013

Article Note: On teachers as second career librarians

Citation for the article:

Lambert, Claudett, and Nadine Newman, "Second Career Librarian: Teachers Transitioning to Librarianship." Library Review 61.6 (2012): 428-446.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

Right away I was interested in this article because I am a teacher who made the transition, after a few long winding roads and some bumps, into librarianship. I knew that many school teachers did jump into school librarianship, often as a way to get out of the classroom or as a way to advance that did not involve moving into administration. In my years, I have not seen many school teachers transition into academic librarianship like I did, but I am sure there are some out there. I can say that having training in pedagogy and education has been invaluable in my career as an instruction librarian. I think it does give me an edge over other librarians who fill instruction positions that lack such training. While you can gain some knowledge and training in programs such as ACRL's Institute on Information Literacy (a.k.a. Immersion), having the teaching degree does go a long way.

The authors start by reviewing the literature to point out that librarianship has gained benefit from professionals in other fields coming to librarianship such as scientists, lawyers (in fact, one of my classmates in library school was a lawyer who had served as public defender. Boy, did she have tales to tell), teachers, and managers. Many of them came to the profession by serendipity. I know I came to it because someone pointed me to it at the right time. The authors also go on to point out that the teaching profession has had a series of challenges and troubles: classroom conditions, low pay (not that librarianship is any better depending on where you are), politics, etc. Many teachers leave within the first five years of entering the teaching profession. To make their point, the authors go on to observe that librarianship has relatively good levels of satisfaction. Overall, and this is something I have known, the service orientations of teaching and librarianship tend to be very compatible.

The article is reporting on a qualitative analysis of data from interviews conducted with library degree graduates at the University of the West Indies in Jamaica. It was a small sample size. The authors wanted to see what issues had influence on teachers leaving the profession.

Some additional notes:

  • As I was reading and the authors discussed the loss of teachers to that profession, I wondered if education as a while is really bothered by the losses. Does it really lose enough good teachers (I don't mean the weak ones who just get weeded out) for it to make a difference? 
  • And then another question was the eternal issue of the non-existent librarian shortage. I don't know right off the top of my head if library jobs are any more plentiful in Jamaica. But here in the U.S. we have a serious excess of library school graduates, new and old, plus librarians looking for work (be it promotions, lateral moves, so on) competing for an extremely tight number of jobs. So, what happens to those teachers who now became librarians? Public schools have been chopping school librarian jobs left and right. Let's not forget as well just the tight market for other kinds of librarians. So, what do those former teachers do? Languish? Do something else? Go back to teaching? I am thinking these questions could provide further room for research and study. 
  • This caught my eye a bit: "In terms of second career librarians, the literature has failed to give adequate coverage as it relates to public and special libraries. From the literature gleaned, it would appear as if many of these career changers have opted for academic libraries" (433). This may sound cold, but it could be because academic librarianship is often seen as more glamorous and/or prestigious in the librarianship hierarchy. Again, here is another possible field of investigation, a look at public and special librarians. 
  • Again, those of us who came in with teaching skills may have an advantage. The authors cite the following: "McGuiness (2011) notes that most teaching librarians lack not only teaching expertise but also good role models. However, for those teachers who transition to librarianship, they are already equipped with the skills and competencies for the job" (433). I was fortunate that I had one or two good librarian role models when I was coming into the profession. 
  • The authors drew various conclusions from their study (see pg. 442) including: 
    • Teachers had a desire to get advanced education/degrees.
    • They came to the profession due to various conditions (this does seem kind of vague, but I think they are trying to say that for teachers they often had their own reasons). 
    • For many, it was not their initial field of choice. 
    • Librarianship (very often) low paying, but it did not deter them. Keep in mind, teaching is also low paying in most cases.
    • Librarianship is a service profession very compatible with teaching (this is something I have always said and believed since I became a librarian). 
  • The authors were doing mostly fine for me until they gave some credence to the by now discredited meme of "the greying of the profession." Let me make it clear again: there are no massive numbers of retirements coming in our profession. In fact, in many cases, people literally drop dead on the job rather than retire; people are just working longer, and there are not that many jobs out there. Need proof? C'mon, a few of us have been talking about this since at least 2005.

No comments: