I’ve been mulling over some words that Stanley Wilder guest-wrote on the ACRL blog in early January. The Associate Dean of Information Management Services at the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries notes that the recession (it seems that it is finally safe to call a spade and spade) is going to affect the looming demographic shift that the profession has been expecting through the retirement of baby-boomers. Wilder is spot-on when he suggests that now is not the time anyone would want to retire from any position, given the shaky state of the global and local economy.
At the heart of Wilder’s post, I think, is the expectation that many positions were projected to open up in the coming years, but that those projections must now be drastically revised. Now, it may be a little foolish on my part to say this, but I’m not worried too much about demographics and a forestalled massive baby-boomer retirement. Having worked and weaved my way through academics for over ten years (including one mid-1990s recession and one 2000s dot-com bubble-burst), I’ve heard the “baby-boomer retirement” line a couple times now. I’ve also become accustomed to seeing revised retirement projections due to swings in the economy. I’ve also learned how to adapt to a labour market that was long ago primed to live on short-term contracts for recent hires and recent grads, and I’m still willing to duke it out with the best of my colleagues (who are the best of my friends) for the coveted permanent positions out in the field.
This is not to say that I’m unconcerned about Stanley’s projections, nor am I unconcerned about the economy, the recession, and the labour market. On the contrary, I’m as curious as anyone else how this will all play out. But while I did shift into LIS to increase my chances of finding permanent work, I’m not going to allow myself to worry about the other end of our industry, the end full of people who likely are going to hold off on retirement (and no one can blame them for that). LIS professionals, be they recent grads or not, will find work because they’ve developed the right skill-sets and personal character to find a place in an organization, not because an organization has seen positions open through retirement.
Our employment will be secured because of our ability to excel in our field, not because a former generation of librarians have decided to call it day. Of course, economic conditions will affect the number of open positions we can apply for, but we can’t spend our days worrying about macro-level issues we can’t change. Whether the economy is on an up-swing or a down-swing, I’m still going to litter the field with resumes, c.v.’s, applications and letters of reference. Persistence, as opposed to demographics or a recession, will always be the key to securing work. The recession will affect the day we finally find work, yes, but it should not affect our resolve to continue looking for it.