A Reading From the Book of Job (Hunting)


And, lo, it came to pass that  the Time of the Library School Graduations did come round again.  And at first, there was much rejoicing.  And in many cases did that rejoicing consist of quaffing the fruit of the vine, but also, for those not so inclined, there was indeed punch and pie.  And yea, verily,  it was good pie, and the graduates did celebrate their accomplishments in having become Masters of the Library and Information Sciences.

[And, lo, for one shining moment, the catalogers did cease their quarrels with the reference librarians, and the technomages lay down with the Luddites, and there was much rejoicing.]

But as the glow of accomplishment faded, and unpleasant aftermath of the fruit of the vine did descend upon the revelers, so too did the realization that they still did not have jobs.  And it did dawn upon them like a shock of cold water to the face that they had not yet heard back from the many positions to which they had applied.  And the academic set gnashed their teeth as they realized just how long the hiring process could be, for they had hoped to be compiling their tenure portfolios at that very moment.  And the public librarians did wail as they realized that their bosom friends and classmates were now their fiercest rivals for the teensy pool of positions available.  And the medical and corporate and legal librarians did shiver in their shoes, for while their skills were somewhat more marketable in the overall economy, it did not increase the size of their library job opportunities overmuch; and for what had they toiled if not to work in a library of their choosing?

And so a great howling and finger-pointing went up in library world, as each faction sought the cause of this wretched condition.  And some did blame the library schools, with their generous admissions policies, and some did blame the libraries which did not fill vacant positions for budget reasons, and some did blame copy cataloging.  Others took issue with technology, and sank to their knees bewailing the death of print that meant there would be fewer librarians needed; and others did scoff and call them asses, pointing out that, technically, even more librarians would be needed to help train and teach the hapless patrons, especially those that did fall on the wrong side of the Great and Perilous Digital Divide…but that there were no funds to do so, nor tricks of rhetoric so as to convince the city gubmint that such reinforcements would be needed.

And the hiring managers did wail and smite their breasts and bang their heads repeatedly on the thick stacks of resumes and cover letters they received for each and every opening.  And loudly did they groan in disgust and despair at the cover letters which did not address the requirements mentioned in the job description, and their brains did break to see the bizarre array of unusual fonts used on the aforementioned resumes.  And the hiring teams lifted their eyes to heaven and cried out, “Lord, lord, did they not learn professional communication in library school?”  And the volunteer resume reviewers, who did recently quit those posts because the amount of their unpaid professional labor did reach a tipping point, didst hang their heads in shame at having failed their peers. And everyone involved in library hiring did automatically let all their calls go to voice mail until a position had been filled, and avoided their e-mail with a passion.

Softly did HR teams weep to see candidates with PhDs applying for entry-level clerk positions.  And many were the tablets of Alka-Seltzer dissolved into glasses when they realized that nobody would understand that their lot was just as difficult, in its way, as that of the seekers, especially during interviews in which a Gen X manager might have to decide between candidates who were either her own classmates, or persons who had already forgotten more than she would ever learn. And many an otherwise intrepid soul decided that s/he could no longer, in good conscience, look one more job-seeker in the eye, and so s/he did quit to start a goat farm, upon which many tasty varieties of goats’ milk fudge were made and sold at reasonable prices.

In those dark days the fortunate few who had jobs feared to lodge a complaint of any sort, lest it be perceived as ingratitude for having honest wages in such a horrid economy.  And meekly did they accept the burden of unpaid extra work as staff members retired, or were laid off, or left for personal reasons, and were not replaced due to shrinking budgets.  And in vain did they life their eyes to the mountains of labor, whence cometh paychecks, but yea, verily, no help.

 And they turned the other cheek at the patrons’ bad behavior until they could take it no more, at which point they retreated to the secret hiding places of their libraries and turned the air blue with their wrath and fury.  And many did join not-so-secret societies wherein the word “mofo” was uttered copiously, or blogged anonymously/psuedonymously, and in such way vented their spleen and took comfort in shared misery. 

[And middle management did stew in frustration because they could not be better shepherds to their sheep, though the sheep did understand that they were doing their very best, and did not take it personally.  And sheepishly did the managers approach their superiors to ask for what could not be given.  And sheepishly did the managers inform their flocks that while they could, and would, listen, there was at that moment no other remedy.  And the sheep, for their part, accepted their lot humbly, and did continue to give wool generously, and nibble upon such tasty things as were still available to them.  And the number of potlucks did increase in those countries, which was a mixed blessing thereof.]

But though many feared that the End Times of Libraries had indeed come, as was prophesied by the Kings and Soothsayers, all was not lost.  There came forth in those days wise bloggers who offered advice and good counsel to those who had ears to hear, and many did flock to their shrines of learning, and did take comfort in the strength and support of their more experienced colleagues.  And the library webcomics did flourish, bringing a touch of wit and humor to the daily rounds of the jobseekers and their beloveds. And, despite the proliferation of social technologies — indeed, mayhap because of them — the jobhunters didst gird up their loins and travel to the professional conferences, where they did schmooze with their peers, and sign up for interviews, and seek, with all their hearts, the holy grail of a full-time professional position. And though some did, admittedly, turn away from the library jobquest for other pursuits, those who were truly dedicated to the cause — or right tapped out in terms of funding for further educational endeavors — didst grit their teeth and plug away.

And the days passed, and the seasons turned, and the story began once more, with a fresh, new crop of hopeful library students. And the mutterers did mutter, and the cynics did cynic, and the satirists did write and publish manifestos of withering scorn. And so it shall be, it is said, until the great beast E-book descends from the skies in a form that all publishers can monetize and all patrons can utilize on the devices of their choosing. And on that day they shall throw away their print collections, and beat their physical libraries into community centers. All their troubles shall be alleviated with coffeeshops, and and they shall weep no more forever, and if they did weep for just a second thinking about how dull and painful a world would be without trashy paperback novels to read while snuggled up in hammocks, someone would feed them a blue pill, which would plug them back into the Matrix. And every tear would then be wiped away from their eyes.

[And the Library Alchemist sat a little ways away, in her cozy study, and did ponder these things, keeping them close to her heart, as helpless as anyone else to find a solution to the problems that plagued her profession, but doubly determined to laugh and poke defiant fun at the whole sorry mess. And none of that gentle tee-hee-heeing, either, mind you. We're talking the maniacal laughter of the damned here. As you may by now have gathered.]

Reading today: How to Live in the World and Still Be Happy, Hugh Prather.

Up next: Would you believe? Three pensées, by virtue of the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately. Stay tuned.

5 Comments

  1. jess said,

    May 24, 2010 at 11:31 pm

    And none of that gentle tee-hee-heeing, either, mind you. We’re talking the maniacal laughter of the damned here.

    And that, right there, is why I never miss a post.

    Way to sustain the Biblical rhetoric all the way through. That’s no easy task! I have to admit to being terrified at the thought of starting over on the job search scene, but I hold out hope that somewhere in Seattle-land, there is a part-time position for a librarian who’s committed to making time to write. We’ll see.

  2. Lisa said,

    May 25, 2010 at 12:52 am

    This is brilliant. Totally brilliant.

    As a new MLIS grad who is going through this exact situation, I can relate 100%. Thanks for writing the job story from all sides.

    Brilliant!

  3. May 25, 2010 at 10:13 am

    @Jess, thanks kindly! It just seemed to be the best way to approach a sticky topic with a bit of gallows humor…if I’m not mistaken, Seattle has a pool to which you can apply, no? An intern of ours was trying to get work out there recently…best of luck, and if you want to chat about it more, you know where I “live.” :)

    @Lisa, thank you; the job-hunting morass is hard on everyone, and while I don’t have practical experience with everybody’s perspective, I wanted to try to imagine what things look like from all sides. Glad I somewhat succeeded!

    Good luck with your job search, and you, too, should feel free to ping me if you like: vrabell at carnegielibrary dot org [spelled out to thwart spambots]

  4. D said,

    May 26, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    All I have to say, after lovely whistling past the graveyard, mate, is:

    Hugh Prather!!!!!

  5. Leigh Anne said,

    May 26, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    D., thank you, and…I know! I’m just determined to read every darned thing…and I have a meditation on self-help books planned at some point…


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