Monday, May 12, 2008

Survey Analysis

Survey Asks....

"As a librarian or archivist, what is your employment status?”

In total, 66 readers of The DIGITAL Archive responded to the survey. I want to thank them for participating and for writing comments (thanks to Heidi and the Lone Arranger for their unique comments), and to thank those who promoted this survey on their blogs.

By the numbers, the votes revealed the following:

  • 44 people (66% of the vote) indicated they had a permanent position with a full benefits package;

  • 9 people (13% of the vote) indicated they were unemployed;

  • 7 people (10% of the vote) indicated they had a contractual position with a full benefits package;

  • 6 people (9% of the vote) indicated they had a contractual position but with no benefits package

For the sake of transparency, I would be part of those unemployed.

While Blogger surveys are not formal, nor the most scientific vehicle to gather such complex information, and while my survey question had a few holes in it—I should have asked how long the respondents took to find or land a permanent position, for instance; or what career path they had chosen, librarianship or archives; or whether they were recent grads or those who had been in the profession for many, many years—I was still able to conclude that:

1. There are a large number of people with permanent positions;

2. There are still a sizeable amount of people with no jobs or with contractual jobs

I was surprised such a large number of people had permanent positions. I was really surprised. I was also surprised there were more unemployed librarians and archivists than those with contractual positions.

In reading the poll results, I also concluded, on a personal note, that I need to revise my career strategy, or more specifically, my job search strategy and then my career planning.

After 8 years in this field, after working at various locations in mainly contractual positions, each with its own share of opportunities and challenges, I still find myself no closer to a permanent position. The survey numbers reveal that there are permanent positions, but thus far these positions have remained elusive to me and the 22 other respondents.

Surveys, opinion polls, and statistics can draw different conclusions, depending on the perspective, biases of the individual analyzing the data.

What conclusions can you draw from these numbers? Were you surprised or shocked or indifferent by the numbers?


Heidi said...

I'm not surprised, but then I think I have been fortunate in my career path so far. A big and difficult choice I made after finishing my MSLS (UNC-Chapel Hill, 2000, focus on special collections/archives) was to accept a position in a seriously crappy geographic location. It was permanent and came with a significant amount of autonomy/public profile, but living in that place nearly killed me. I stuck it out for two years, built up my resume in ways many of my classmates weren't able to, and then went on to a lot of better things. It was a very hard time personally, but in the end, quite worth it professionally.

I usually encourage others to make the same choice if they can. It's hard with other personal commitments, but in looking at the status of the field as a whole, that's perhaps what we should be planning for before even beginning the education--or maybe what our educators should be telling us about more! Not every job is going to be in the Beinicke right out of graduate school...

Unknown said...

I too took a position that was geographically difficult for me right out of my MLIS program. I was separated from my spouse for a year, but near my parents. It was an NHPRC project position. After the year was up, my spouse had found a full-time job, and I had some professional experience on my resume, I was able to locate my own full-time job in the same area as my spouse.

David Kemper said...


Thanks for the feedback on the survey numbers. Well said.

I was particularly drawn to your comment on the necessity of recent grads (or not so recent grads, like myself) to accept a position in a 'crapy geographic location' in order to build up one's resume.

As tough as it is--and believe me, I know, it's toug--I truly believe this is a fact that library school rarely, if ever, mention in their material or classrooms.

I can empathize with you on how these difficult relocation decisions can impact both one's personal and professional life.

I made the most radical decision in my professional career by accepting a very intense and challenging contractual position in Washington, DC, which has since ended, roughly a month ago.

I think every new grad wishes to land a very good position in a high profile university or institution. But, truth is, that rarely happens.

Bringing the survey numbers into this comment, I realize that 1) the first few years after graduating are marked by contracts and part-time gigs, in the name of getting that resume pumped up; and 2) following those first few years, there must be a transition from landing short-term jobs to establishing a long-term career (i.e. that permanent position).

I am a little behind, but I am closing in on phase 2. But this time, I am opening to gates, entertaining positions beyond the library and archives field.

about the author

I am an information professional, researcher, and writer with over eight years experience in the information services field with experience in information and communication technology.

I have a B.A. in History and a Master's in Library and Information Studies and working on a Web and Multimedia Design certificate.

I believe that empowering people with information can enrich lives and transform the world.