Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Layoff, not a fun way to start the week

I've seen a bit of chatter on some of the listserves that I subscribe to about recent and upcoming layoffs. Layoffs in the public service sector--as public librarians, that's where some of you fit--are the result of the economy's belt-tightening--or the mistaken belief that less spent on public services, the less it looks like government waste. Just when the public needs us the most.

A layoff is not a firing: it has nothing to do with performance--but it still hurts like a son of a bitch. It may also be temporary and not permanent--don't we wish rent and groceries could be the same? Put it on my tab, or trust me, the cheque is in the mail.

I'm trying to soothe at the same time I'm giving a smack: it's intentional. If you are afraid of a layoff, or imminent layoffs have been announced, I don't want you to wait. I want you to get your resume ready, find some job postings, line up some freelance stuff. Why? Not just because eating is important but because I'm betting something most outplacement specialists don't think of: you still want to be a librarian. And if layoffs come, the pool of available applicants will be that much bigger.

If you look at most layoff survival advice, it's buck up, or take this as a learning experience or opportunity to switch careers. I bet most of you don't want to: librarianship is cool, it's fun, we have great colleagues, nice places to work, the pay is mediocre to abysmal, but we can read and talk to people who are interested in knowledge and books and call it work. It's not just the dream, it's the wet t-shirt whipping cream dream. I would give it up to make my mortgage payment, but not forever. And you need to plan for how you will stay on track, not at a place, but in a particular occupation.

So, what are you doing to stay librarian?

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