10.12.2006

So how important ARE things like principles, exactly?

One of the debates going on in the NextGen librarian world concerns the starting salaries of entry-level librarians. Lots of them are very low compared to other jobs that require graduate degrees. So here's the argument.

Side A says that new librarians need to stop accepting jobs that pay less than $40,000 a year, and then the Powers That Be will have to start raising salaries if they want to hire anyone.

Side B says that's all very noble and good, but new librarians have student loans to pay and families to feed, so they don't have the luxury of holding out for more. They're having to compete hard for the crappy jobs as it is.

Then we have me. I've been looking (albeit halfheartedly) for library jobs for the past couple of months. Most of what I'm seeing is in the 30K range--and some of these do require previous experience. Yesterday, though, I saw a position for an Assistant Library Director in L***n, UT. It's at a small public library but looks like a great job description. Lots of experience, lots of responsibility, and you get to put the word of "Director" on your resume, even if there's an "Assistant" in front of it. At the end of the description I see the salary range: $23,000 - $27,000 per year.

Now---

See---

Uh, yeah. Is it possible that what they're actually looking for is an Assistant to the Library Director? Because that's about what a secretary would make. I was sure this had to be a typo. They meant to write $33K - $37K. They had to have meant that. That's still low, but it's not insane. There is just no way.

I called my L***n-dwelling sister and told her about the job and the salary and how that can't even be right.

Sister: "Is it a City job?" (She works for the city.)

Me: "Yes"

Sister: "Then it's right."

She says that L***n has possibly the lowest cost-of-living in the state, and that's why the jobs pay less.

But still.

So I called the library director to confirm the salary, and she was very nice. She said that actually is correct, and she realizes it's very low. And she's sorry. But that L***n is a beautiful place and it does have a very low cost of living and it's a nice library and she's a really nice boss. The poor lady must have people calling her up multiple times a day to ask if this is a joke.

I told her I would still be interesting in applying for the position and she seemed surprised. "Really? Oh! Okay, great!"

If I even get an interview from this, which, let's face it, doesn't always happen, the question of whether a criminally-underpaid job is better than no job will become slightly more important to me. Or if a criminally-underpaid job that gives me much-needed library experience (and includes beautiful scenery, good coworkers, low cost of living, and close proximity to family & friends) is better than a well-paid job at Borders Bookstore or in something else completely outside my field.

Important questions, friends.

20 comments:

Anonymous said... [reply]

Sounds like the same type of argument my field is having, albiet at a higher pay scale. The field requires a doctorate to enter the field and the people with master's have a deadline to get their doctorate, so people are arguing about weither they should earn the master's degree wage or be paid a doctorate wage. Seriously, If we spent the time and money to get the education we should be paid accordingly.
In your case Nem is the experience you are getting in Anchorage comparable to what you would get at the Logan Library? Do you want your own paycheck and experience or do you want to stay in Alaska? Sorry I won't make the decision for you but you can always work toward getting your dreamjob.
On the bright side if you come to Logan we can go to lunch and catchup on old times.
AuD

The McCulloch Family said... [reply]

That freaking city. It's not like gas is $.97 a gallon or anything. It's not THAT much cheaper. I think it's a poor excuse. I guess if you end up with the job you should get involved in city politics and get library job salary increased.

Squirrel Boy said... [reply]

According to Bestplaces.net, Logan's cost of living is 88.4 (100 being the nationwide average). So if you get the job and make the top end of $27,000, it's like making $30,500 somewhere with an average cost of living.

Yeah, not exactly rolling in dough, and it's still a couple hours from civilization, but it'll probably look great on a resume.

(By the way, I snorted at the "Assistant to the Library Director" bit.)

Scully said... [reply]

For my $0.02, how important is getting the experience the Assitant (to the) Director position would provide? It might pay less, but would adding that to the resume and then shopping the resume again after a year or two make a world of difference in career prospects down the road vs. the higher salary at a job on tangentially related to your field? I guess this my question is would making the financial sacrifice now improve your long-term professional and financial prospects?

Desmama said... [reply]

I somehow feel guilty for living in L***n.

Master Fob said... [reply]

What you should do is take the job, then work your way up to director, then you can make changes in salaries for entry level positions for those who come after you. If all of you recently-graduated MLIS people do this, you'll change the playing field. Preferably in the next two years.

DP said... [reply]

A small, but important factor to consider: Utah government jobs have pretty decent health-care benefits and retirement savings accounts, to which they make sizeable contributions. That's something worth looking at when you're crunching the numbers of city job vs. Borders.

DP said... [reply]

Also, I think the buses are free in L***n. And by free I mean, funded by sales tax. So that could cut down on your gas expenditures.

blackjazz said... [reply]

I'm with Skully on this.

Providing you can live reasonably comfortably on the salary that's offered, I'd go for the job. If you get it, before long you'll be indispensible. You can then work on getting your salary up to where you think it should be in the same job or another. Applying for jobs is so much easier when you already have one.

daltongirl said... [reply]

Love the new name of your blog, but I worry that you're going to get into a legal battle with Stupid Ramblings over it. At the very least, you're going to have to compete for most stupid things said, and that's not going to end prettily. I vote you go back to the old name after the pain wears off.

Anonymous is probably one of your old bfs that is trying to bring you down to the depths after he realized what he lost when you walked out of his life.

Cicada said... [reply]

Remember that Utah gas prices---including L---n---are 50 cents above the national average. I'm just saying.

And I also love the name of your new blog. It was about time you changed it to something that actually reflects the type of stupid crap that is written about here.

And about the job... it's such a tricky situation, isn't it? I guess the argument that the job would give you experience holds water. If I can go back to the Utah gas prices, Chunga and Mister keep talking about how everyone just needs to stop buying anything inside the gas stations---no soda, no water, no snacks, etc.---and if everyone does that, the gas stations will be forced to go back down to the national average. But the fact is that not everyone is going to do that, so it's not going to work. I would say that the same is true for the librarian jobs. Although it would be GREAT if everyone would hold out, everyone won't so your holding out would prove fruitless while someone else snatches up the low-paying job.

And if you can't make ends meet, you can always moonlight as a Target shelf-stocker. I hear they make good money.

Stupidramblings said... [reply]

You're moving to Levan?

Did you know Levan is 'navel' spelled backwards because it's at the center of the state. Like a belly button.

Congrats.

But I doubt levan is actually close to your family. It's about an hour and a half (1.5 hr) south of P***o

abby said... [reply]

The library salary Catch-22. It's never an easy decision. Utah is known for under paying people because it is a "wholesome cheap place to live". The problem is it's not that cheap anymore. I have to agree with Circada gas is ridiculously expensive there right now. The real estate prices are much higher than they were ten years ago and more people are moving into the state. Governement workers may have great benefits, but that only goes so far too. When I worked at a library in Utah, I knew people who had 2nd jobs to make ends meet.

I sold out completely. I went into the higher paying special library sector even if it's still less than other professions. Public libraries have pros and cons and the con is always the salary because it is tied to decreasing library budgets.

I think the other problem is that so many people want to be librarians. I can't tell you how many people in grad school said it was a second or third career for them. People are willing to be paid less for a job they love.

lilcis said... [reply]

Here's the thing. You've been wanting to move to Utah, right? And this job does have a great title, not to mention you'd finally have some non-volunteer experience to put on your resume. If you really need to you could get a part-time job at Borders to get some extra cash. (Or pottery barn! Did you know if you work there you get a 40% discount!!) But think about it this way - you're young, you're single, no on is dependant on you. This is the perfect time to take some chances with your life. And someone mentioned the benefits you get - believe me, those should weigh heavily in your decision.

I say go for it.

The McCulloch Family said... [reply]

Ok lilcis, good advice but I totally laughed out loud and snorted at the same time. Maybe you should start an advice column.

Nem, I wonder if lilcis's bearded RA is still around. You could date him. That'd be awesome.

kristen said... [reply]

Scully and dp read my mind (or I read theirs): You can work this job for 6 mo or a year and get some experience under your belt....then apply for something better. Govt jobs do have great benefits. As a public school teacher in Utah I have to say that I love my benefits (although some districts are starting to stiff their employees, which is a story for another day). And--you'll be in Utah!!

I'm headed to L***n today for Jaime's wedding. Wish you were here to join us!!

Also, your blog is not stupid. Look at all the groupies you have. Anon is just smoking crack and is suffering from a severe case of envy (not to mention potty mouth).

lilcis (aka Cicely) said... [reply]

bearded RA? I'm so confused. Maybe you think I'm someone else?

The McCulloch Family said... [reply]

Totally did. Sorry.

chosha said... [reply]

It's a step on the way. They might get you cheap, but they won't get you for long, because any sensible person (as you are) will look for a better job as soon as they have enough experience to do so. You will be helping them to realise that they need to pay someone what their work is worth if they want to keep them and establish any long-term loyalty. The cost of living argument doesn't cut it - they're still cheapskating - but in order to get the experience you need, I say treat it as a training wage.

The McCulloch Family said... [reply]

Did you like the Wild Swans book?

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