Friday, June 02, 2017

Full-Time Library Staff: A Community Investment

Icons on a green background: human reading in black, a grouping
of people in gray. Text reads: "Full Time Library Staff: A Community Investment"

Lately there's been an underlying theme of the value of staff in online conversations I've encountered. If you haven't already, please go read "Grit? Git!" by April Hathcock, this tweetstorm on the realities of salary compensation by Lisa Hinchliffe, and "The Emotional Labor of Librarianship" by Julie Jergens. I'll wait.

EDIT 6/7: AND OH CRAP PLEASE READ "Vocational Awe?" by Fobazi Ettarh.

These posts have refueled some thoughts I've had for awhile on the social sustainability of librarianship: namely, recruitment and retention. And a few recent posts on a Facebook group I follow have underscored the reality of a large portion of librarianship today: working at several jobs with few hours, sometimes volunteering (I'm sure when some imagine a part time employee, they think of an employee juggling 2 twenty-hour positions; but in my conversations it's more like 4-7 different jobs at 5-10 hours per week each). Doing this wherever you can find a library job, sometimes thousands of miles away from your support network, driving up to 2 hours to get the job you found. Not being able to afford to take trips to see family or friends, little to no sick or vacation time, not qualifying for employer-offered insurance. When a sustainable, full-time librarian position opens up, you might be passed over for any number of related and frustrating reasons: Little to No Real Experience, Job Hops, Why Would This Person Want This Job When They Live Far Away?

The hiring end has its own frustrations with this reality. Often, really great candidates turn into beloved employees, only to leave less than a year later because they finally got that full time job. While it's true that money is saved in the form of the former employee's wages, job searches are extremely costly and it can be difficult to get people to cover the desk or other duties when you're down a staff member during this process. Sometimes it's "easier" to just get rid of the position.Which is totally understandable when budgeting-slashing time comes around, if we're being honest.

This is not a sustainable model, and it's not a model where productivity and morale thrive.