So Librarian Drupalvangelist Nina McHale announced that she is leaving her current library job as of 10 June to work outside the field for a Drupal developer. Coupled with a co-worker announcing his departure this week (it’s an internal move, and a good one for him, and a good one for our team in that his presence will allow for better inter-department relations), and even the host of my favorite web series (The Brain Scoop) announcing her new job at the Field Museum in Chicago, I start thinking: Is it time for me to make the leap? Hey Libraries, do we need to break up – and it’s not me – it’s you?
I have many of the same grievances that Nina has with libraries: low pay, poor (but improving) library-publisher-vendor relations, lack of self-marketing skills, etc. As an MLS working in a non-traditional career (library resource provider, if you know me you know the place), I’ve tried to work on reform from within on that second one. But after running for ALA Council three times and and losing each time, do I have any more fight within me to run again, at least while in my current job?
But then there’s libraries. And more questions. Do I want to work somewhere where I have to fight for the existence of my job each year? Where my master’s degree results in compensation of $32,000 a year? (By the way, that was the posted salary for a library director in Tinton Falls, NJ. No kidding.) Now I know that one does not simply walk into the library profession with expectations of a six figure salary, but a livable wage (of which $32k a year is not, at least in my part of the United States) should be a bare minimum and certainly not something our profession has to fight for on a near-daily basis.
I’ve been writing websites since the days of Geocities (RIP), and managed to get some Drupal (and self-hosted WordPress site) skills under my belt, mostly on nights, weekends, and lunch hours. I still have much to learn, but I have learned enough to know that maybe a career in web design and content strategy – where I can use principles from my library education in a career where self-marketing is welcomed and where I am properly compensated for my skills – is the next step.
And then there’s a training career, which I would have not discovered a passion for if it wasn’t for the T is for Training podcast folk. (My mom was a teacher – maybe I inherited the gene from her and it just stayed dormant?) And what about a research-based job? I have friends in research professions, like my library school friend Jessica Speer who is a researcher for DePaul University, or my friend Melody Clark who works at University of Washington’s Technology and Social Change Group (TASCHA). And I don’t count out that dream of getting another degree, which depending on day has varied from resurrecting the LIS Ph.D. dream to a Master’s in Public Administration, to a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership to the MBA.
As Nina indicates, “Maybe after immersing myself in a non-library web development for a good long, I’ll have the skills and experience to come back and help solve some of these issues.” Perhaps I need that kind of break as well. Much to think about this summer, for sure.