Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Gray but not going anywhere

According to the 8 Rs, The Future of Human Resources in Canadian Libraries, one-quarter of the professional and paraprofessional staff in Canadian libraries is over the age of 55 [summary]. Indeed, there have been a few presentations, including an ALA Town Hall, that state that the "graying of the profession" may lead to a shortage of librarians. But if librarians are getting older, may they also be staying at work longer?

From a CBC Money story today, based on an RBC poll, 82% of Canadians may not retire when they hit 65, even if they could afford to retire. That means, if you love your job and you haven't wrecked your knees from brick laying, you are probably going to hold on to it. And an older librarian keeping their job could translate into a longer wait for the first promotion of a younger professional. Not to mention the possibility that some boomerang retirees may decide to return to the workforce in part-time positions that might normally provide the entry for a rookie librarian. So for young librarians, staff cuts to libraries are not the only the problem; competition from a professional who has many valuable skills accumulated over a career of several years may mean another obstacle to their first professional position.

Well, there could be worse news. For young librarians, this means it isn't enough to just learn XML, you need to learn some Excel. Here are some skills that you can acquire, and you may have already acquired but discounted as not Web 2.0 enough:
  • Budgeting: More than your bank balance, though many have tried that response. Have you secured funds for a program, fulfilled the mandate of the program and came out even or with some money left over? If you spent it all and came out with a negative, what would you do differently after having this experience? You should ask if you could spend some money to fill a deficit in a collection or planning and delivering a program. Keep your own records and spreadsheets and get permission from the person who supervised your work to use it in show and tell at the interview.
  • Plan and deliver. What gap is there in the training or the information skills at your library, workplace or volunteer job? Is there a class for seniors to use the computers; a session on getting more from your handheld; or a talk on getting letters of reference? Can you volunteer to give them and keep the documents--including the evaluations--that you get from this experience.
  • Supervising staff: Supervising staff involves a whole range of skills, from creating schedules to directing and delegating work loads, to recruiting, hiring, firing, evaluating and commending staff. Any one of these skills can make you stand apart from your peers who may have spent a lot of time taking orders, but not giving any.
Look critically at your past work experience, as well as previous or current volunteer experience, and determine if you have done any of these management-related tasks in your BLS (Before Library School) Life. Highlighting these skills in your resume, discussing them in the interview or documenting them in your portfolio can make you seem more like a manager, someone ready to step into the shoes of the master.

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