Thursday, January 31, 2008

Academic Librarians Say Their Work Is Satisfying

"How they came to their careers is as varied as the people themselves, but despite some clear challenges for college and university librarians in the digital age, academic librarianship is good work, according to Library Journal's recent Job Satisfaction Survey (examined in Take This Job and Love It ). The overwhelming majority of the 1,209 academic respondents—some 70 percent across all age groups and institution size—reported being either “very satisfied” (32.1 percent) or “satisfied” (37.9 percent) with their jobs. Just under a quarter reported they were “somewhat satisfied” (23.4 percent). Only 6.7 percent admitted they were dissatisfied with their career choice.

The survey, however, also amplified some persistent challenges facing librarians, including keeping up with rapidly changing technology, stressed budgets, management and career advancement issues, campus politics, concern over their role in the academic enterprise, and, of course, low pay.

No surprise: when asked about job satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—answers frequently involved money. Overall, 50 percent of respondents said they were underpaid; 48 percent said they were fairly paid (and yes, two percent said they were overpaid). The survey results also suggest a solid correlation between salary and job satisfaction levels: those who said they were “very satisfied” with their work had an average annual salary of $63,800, while those who said they were “not satisfied at all” averaged less than $50,000. In addition, 70 percent of those who said they were unsatisfied also said they were underpaid.

Advancement, in terms of pay and rank, also emerged as a vital, complex job satisfaction issue. A glaring majority (62 percent) rated their chances for advancement at their institutions as “fair to poor.” The survey also found that although advancement was a challenge, jobs nevertheless are changing, mostly driven by external factors. Just two percent said their jobs changed owing to their own initiative or other proactive measures such as a library expansion or earning an advanced degree. On the other hand, 49 percent said their jobs changed because of technology, followed by staff reengineering (36.3 percent) and downsizing (17.4 percent). More than 10 percent said they had to leave their library for another to have a chance to advance.

Despite challenges in their careers, academic librarians clearly value their jobs. Three out of four respondents said they planned to remain in librarianship until retirement. Only 3 percent said they would likely abandon the profession; 86 percent said they would choose librarianship again if they had it to do it all over again and 87 percent said they would recommend a career in academic librarianship to a young person entering college. That bodes well for the future. In fact, the change and uncertainty that can cause uneasiness on the job were also cited by many as draws. “I wanted a career that changed and evolved,” commented one respondent, “where I wouldn't know everything I needed to know within a year of starting.”

The academic survey is the second in a three-part series on job satisfaction based on a comprehensive survey by LJ. For the October overview of the entire survey results see Great Work, Genuine Problems. The next article, forthcoming in March 1 issue of LJ will focus on those who work in public libraries. The full results of the survey will be online after the third installment is published."

Source: Library Journal, Academic Newswire Jan. 31, 2008


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