“A Look at Recessions and their Impact on Librarianship”…01.14.09

14 01 2009

Hilary Davis has a long but very interesting post entitled “A Look at Recessions and their Impact on Librarianship” [http://inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2009/a-look-at-recessions-and-their-impact-on-librarianship/] on the In the Library with the Lead Pipe blog.  Here is the conclusion:

“…The Bottom Line?

Overall this is pretty rotten news. It’s possible that the U.S. Census hasn’t got the most current data and that much of this is certainly up for scrutiny; however, if the current recession is being called the worst recession since the 1930s, it’s hard to imagine the average librarian salary continuing to increase and the employment figures getting much better anytime soon. If you have a job, hold on it. If you don’t, there are some pretty good avenues to explore. In addition to hosting job ads, LISJobs.com is a great first stop for resources that help match librarians with free continuing education opportunities as well as help aligning your skills in a non-library workplace. The Special Libraries Association (SLA) has even set up a mentoring program for librarians who are between jobs or who have been laid off. Eventually, things will improve. We can see from past recession events, the profession does indeed rebound. And, because libraries are acknowledged as a fundamental force that holds societies together, I think the important thing to take away from this crude analysis and brief snapshot of libraries during today’s economic recession is that our profession is buoyant and has a good chance of weathering this storm.

The bright side of the recession is that libraries across the nation are getting the best PR in mainstream media that we’ve seen in a long time. Indeed, libraries have traditionally been strongly promoted during times of economic crises (e.g., American Libraries August 2002, pp. 62-63). The upsurge in use of libraries is good evidence as is the public outcry when a library is threatened with being closed down.

Revisiting the radio broadcast from 1933 on ‘How to Reduce the Library Budget’” Carl Milam, secretary of the American Library Association at the time, crafted a careful argument supporting the value of libraries during economic crisis. His arguments framed the necessity to uphold librarian salaries, look for efficiencies in government, and make cuts to libraries in the order of (1) decrease operating costs, (2) implement efficiencies in routine processes, and as a last recourse, (3) cut the collections budget. One of H.L. Woolhiser’s (the City Manager from Illinois) final statements from the broadcast is as true an argument for supporting libraries during today’s recession as it was for the plight of libraries during the Great Depression:

‘The library exists to provide the means of self-education. Education is the interest of the state, and the educational institutions – school, libraries, universities – are engaged in the process of helping people to become intelligent members of society. In other words, society has a stake in what the library does. It is interested in having the library’s influence reach the largest number of people in the most effective way.’” 

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