Recruitment Issues in Northeast Massachusettsby Gregory Pronevitz, Regional Administrator, Northeast Massachusetts Regional Library System
Newly published census data indicate an expected surge in librarian retirements in the near future with a peak between 2015 and 2019. While the '90s saw the number of working librarians grow by 22 percent, many of the new librarians were females following a career path that led late to librarianship and a shorter career. 1
In 1998 when the Northeast Massachusetts Regional Library System (NMRLS) was formulating its first Strategic Plan there was a shrinking pool of students in ALA-accredited MLS programs which created a recruitment issue for libraries. Enrollment continued to decline in 1999. Enrollment increased in 2000 and continues to rise for both full-time and part-time enrollment. MLS programs are becoming more selective (figure 1).
Several other recruiting issues that affect NMRLS members have been discussed since 1998, such as difficulty recruiting in the area of youth services, attracting candidates from diverse populations, and the local high cost of living.
The recruitment of directors takes longer than planned for many libraries. The region has an average 10 percent annual turnover of public library directorships. Local librarians predict that this percentage will rise soon. Among 13 academic libraries in the region, the annual turnover rate of directors was about five percent.
NMRLS has taken steps to assist with the shortage of youth services librarians, at the suggestion of the NMRLS Youth Services Committee, by initiating an internship program targeted at undergraduates interested in working with young people. Internships were designed to provide career information to students who had an interest that might lead them to seek youth services work in libraries and consider seeking an MLS. Four interns have been placed in member libraries. One has enrolled in an MLS program.
The very small pool of candidates from diverse populations remains an issue in our increasingly diverse region. This is a widespread shortage as shown in figure 2.
Our plans to address diversity needs included participation in statewide discussions on possible grant applications to provide library education for MLS candidates from diverse population groups. While no applications were made, these grants are still under consideration. NMRLS staff and members participated in Simmons GSLIS Diversity Summits. We included the topic of diversity in our brown bag discussion series. NMRLS launched a pilot Web site to provide information related to services to diverse populations and a second site to directly serve Spanish-speaking patrons. NMRLS was recently awarded an LSTA grant to provide training in serving patrons from diverse population groups. This training will be offered over the next year targeting libraries with the largest Spanish-speaking populations.
The cost of living in Northeast Massachusetts has also been a clear obstacle in recruiting. NMRLS has taken steps to assist member libraries with advocacy education and support to address budgetary issues.
Additional opportunities to assist members with recruiting have been suggested. These include working with MLS programs to bring classes to the area to help overcome commuting obstacles; expanding the internship program to introduce more MLS students and potential MLS students to local libraries; and identifying a pool of skilled library staff to fill in temporary vacancies. Members have asked that we provide a service like the innovative "Bibliotemps" program of the Central Massachusetts Regional Library System.
Our region also has a number of recruiting pluses. Paradoxically, high housing prices demonstrate that this is a desirable place to live. Many local libraries enjoy stronger local and state support than in neighboring New England states; there is room for professional growth in the region with many directorships open; there is a very strong resource sharing system; and, finally, libraries in our region are eligible to participate in NMRLS programs.
For more information, contact Gregory Pronevitz at (978) 762-4433 ext 15 or by e-mail.
1. "Retirement and Recruitment: A Deeper Look,” American Libraries, January 2005, p. 28. Source for Charts: ALISE Library and Information Science Education Statistical Reports, 1997-2003, Tables II-1-a-1 and II-3-a: ils.unc.edu/ALISE/.
NMRLS Programs to Assist Members in Recruiting