Do we work in libraries for love, money, or both?
The Billfold shared a financial interview with an academic librarian today. “Dave” drops some real talk about financial incentives for librarians to move into management:
Generally speaking, the only way to get a significant raise in my field is to move into management, and most people who want to be librarians don’t want to manage anybody.
Once I decided that I was willing to be some kind of manager, the field suddenly looked really different to me.
We know librarians’ motivations for becoming managers are diverse, because we love to ask library leaders what brought them into management. For Jon Cawthorne, it was a conscious determination to become a leader. Paul Gallagher took a management role to serve his organization. Jessica Jones stepped into an interim role after her director retired. Many librarians join management because they want to see things change for the better, and a leadership position offers the platform to make things happen.
These are all motivations that inspire many library leaders, but Dave is right that there’s a financial motivation to move into management. Like many of my colleagues, I didn’t go to library school with the intention to become a boss. After graduating, however, student loan payments made an offer that included supervisory responsibilities seem very hard to turn down. I had also developed strong opinions about efficient workflows, and supervising was a chance to make change a reality.
Dave also describes a common career path for entering librarianship:
I absolutely stumbled into being a librarian. I had an hourly job in the campus library when I was an undergrad.
I discovered that my university had a library school — before that I didn’t know that you had to get a specific degree to be a librarian.
Many librarians entered the field because of part-time jobs as a page or student worker. Knowing this, experienced librarians can begin mentor people in these entry level positions. Helping entry level library workers see the possibilities of information careers is a great strategy for diversifying the profession. As Matt Church says in The Power of Shelvers, “The library shelver you hire today may one day be a youth librarian, corporate librarian or even a library director!”
Check out the full interview on the Billfold to understand Dave’s decision to become a library manager, and then let us know: how did your career path begin? What would incentivize you to consider a position with greater managerial responsibilities?