I came across a 2005 study by Corinne J. Mahoney entitled Make Do or Jump Ship? Solo Librarians and Internal Career Advancement submitteded to the SLIS at UNC at Chapel Hill today which I found interesting, especially since I have been a solo, special librarian now for over 3 years. Here are a couple of excerpts:
“…This study was designed to address the following research questions:
• Do the organizations that employ solo special librarians provide internal career advancement opportunities for them?
• If yes, is their a correlation between the type of organization and the prevalence of career advancement opportunities for solo special librarians?…”
“This research study set out to determine if internal career advancement opportunities exist for solo special librarians. It also sought to determine if the type of organization influences the prevalence of internal career advancement opportunities. The study results, although not conclusive, suggest internal career advancement opportunities are not widespread for solo special librarians. Furthermore, the results suggest that the majority of solo special librarians are not particularly interested in advancing to new positions within their organizations. However, solos are very much interested in developing their skills and elevating the role of their library and its services within the organization (also a type of career advancement). No correlation was found between type of organization and the prevalence of internal career advancement opportunities.
Interesting significant relationships between internal career advancement opportunities (measured by a 12 point index) and other survey responses included:
• a positive correlation between internal career advancement opportunities and agreement with the statement that one is currently gaining skills that will make one more marketable in the future
• a positive correlation between internal career advancement opportunities and the belief that one is in a position (or will be in a position in the foreseeable future) to influence important policy or strategy decisions at ones institution
• a negative correlation between internal career advancement opportunities and the number of years in the library profession
The majority of respondents could not agree with the statement, I am currently in a position to influence important policy or strategy decisions at my institution. These results suggest that more attention should be given to career advancement issues for solo librarians. More training in library schools, at conferences and at professional workshops should address career advancement and how solo (or nearly solo) special librarians can position themselves to influence important organizational decisions.
For those solos who have ambitions to advance in the traditional sense by promotion, it is worth noting that several variables were significantly related to having received a promotion in the past five years. These variables include:
• number of supervisees
• receiving a non-promotional title change
• having a discussion about career goals with a manager in the past year
• having a manager who encouraged an internal job change in the last year
• the availability of internal job openings in the past year
• attending trainings led by or paid for by ones employer in the past year
• the perception of having current and future influence over important policy or strategy decisions
Solos with an eye toward promotion should ask questions about these types of opportunities and events during the hiring or performance evaluation process. Absence of or resistance to these events could be a red flag that promotions are not forthcoming.
Finally, although the majority of survey respondents indicated that internal career advancement opportunities are scarce or undesirable, it is also important to note that there were some salient exceptions who reported ample opportunity for advancement. Almost 14% of respondents agreed that there were internal career advancement opportunities for them, and almost 23% had received a promotion at their current employer in the past five years. Close to 30% of respondents would be interested in an internal change of position. Some solos are open to taking on new roles in their organizations. This survey suggests, however, that there is not a lot of precedence. As information skills become increasingly relevant to organizations, solos interested in new roles may pave their own career paths within the organization and, in doing so, increase the value of librarians to the organizations. Solo special librarians will continue to change employers when necessary to advance their careers; however, jumping ship need not be the only advancement option.”