I would like to discuss a certain mentality in libraries that affects the job market in our field. We all know how difficult it is to get a job nowadays. However, we may have enlarged this problem in our field by making the wrong decisions. I was reading some time ago on a legitimate library source (I can’t remember which one) about the lack of a sufficient number of librarians as compared to the available positions. The result of this is to hire people who have nothing to do with librarianship, who will be gone in the future, to do the job of the librarians. A lot of these people do not even consider a career in this field or even care about libraries. These people are called paraprofessionals. The other side of the same coin is that many actual librarians apply for each library job and they are so many that they cannot find a library job. This is, in fact, the true story. There are a lot of librarians out there for less positions and not the other way around. Why is this happening and why do we spread around the lie that there are not enough librarians?
The answer is very simple and obvious. The libraries hire paraprofessionals instead of librarians because they are cheaper, in order to compensate for the bad economy that has affected libraries as well. Is this the only solution that libraries have? Is there a way to pull funds from other areas to cover a couple of extra salaries for librarians? Most of all, is it worth to do the latter?
If libraries pull some funds from areas like collection development and technology, they will be able to find the extra salaries. Is this the right thing to do and why? Think about it. No library has all the materials that its users want and/or need. This will never happen. How damaging is it going to be if we take away a few more and make sure that we work through a consortium to compensate? In my opinion, it is more important to have actual librarians to do the job of librarians than trying to acquire extra materials knowing that we will never get everything we want. We need people who have studied to do this job, who care about this job, who are going to stay in and contribute to this field and not the ephemeral paraprofessionals. I would like to finish by pointing out two things: a. I don’t consider library students as paraprofessionals. They are the real thing in early stages and deserve a chance to learn the job inside the library workplace; b. My opinion does not imply the existence of an “us v. them” situation. I have nothing against paraprofessionals. I just believe that they need to be in their field and we need to be in ours; that simple!