Stanley Wilder, he who got us all riled about information literacy last year, has another article in the Chronicle, this one exploring the changing demographic trends in hiring in ARL libraries. Channeling Jim Neal’s notion of “feral professionals,” Wilder analyzes the 2005 ARL demographic data and finds that 23% of professionals at research libraries are in nontraditional positions such as “systems, human resources, fund raising, publishing, instructional technology, and facilities management,” and that these professionals are more likely to be under 35 years old.
Wilder and Neal deserve praise for pointing out these broad trends, but what do they really mean and how should we interpret their significance? For example, when you include “systems” as a nontraditional position, is 23% really such a dramatic number? Is it really surprising that the new professionals are younger than their more established their colleagues?
Both Wilder and Neal bring up the quesiton of values. Is it true that those in nontraditional positions have different values than traditional librarians? What values do they have? Corporate values? And do all corporate values necessarily clash with academic values? When should academic values trump corporate values or vice versa? Does the hiring of the new professionals correspond to the increasing commercialization of research universities and are the same hiring trends evident at college libraries or non-ARL institutions?
In the end I think I tend to agree with Wilder that overall this is an exciting trend to be celebrated, if we can get all our diverse selves to work together to fulfill our mission of increasing access to scholarly information for all of our users.