As the instructor of an LIS course on academic librarianship I’m certainly interested in hearing more about LIS students’ interest in taking a course on this topic and about their interest in academic librarianship as a career. At the ACRL Conference I attended a session about attracting LIS students into academic librarianship. One of the presenters, Sue Searing, Library & Information Science Librarian University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, talked about data she gathered in an informal survey of UIUC’s LIS students to find out about their interest in academic librarianship.
When asked to identify three things that would attract them to a career in academic librarianship the students gave the following as their top responses: (1) the people; (2) research and intellectual stimulation; (3) being a part of higher education; (4) disciplinary focus; (5) teaching; (6) access to technology; (7) building collections.
When asked to identify three things that would keep them away from a career in academic librarianship they said: (1) workplace culture; (2) higher education environment; (3) tenure and promotion ; (4) poor job opportunities and pay; (5) inadequate LIS education; (6) technology.
While I would like a more in-depth understanding of some items on these lists (what is it about the workplace culture, for example), this type of information can be valuable in recruiting new people to the profession. The more we know about what gets them excited, and what turns them off, the better a job we can do of targeting our messages about why it’s a great career. And getting new people interested while they are still in LIS school could be pretty effective. I hope that ACRL will consider doing some sort of comparable survey in the future.
But Searing also pointed out a barrier to entrance for many LIS students. To get students involved we need them in ACRL. But that’s the problem. ACRL’s student dues are the highest of any ALA division. To join ACRL as a student, first one must join ALA for $28. Then the student must pay $35 to join ACRL. I’m sure students would get their money’s worth given the publications and other perks one gets from ACRL, but as Sue pointed out to me, with their low incomes, student loans, and uncertain job prospects, $35 is substantial money for a student. At this rate, they are unlikely to join. Getting any ALA division to lower fees is a challenge, but perhaps ACRL will explore ways in which the outreach to LIS students could be more welcoming – and affordable. They are the future of our profession.
Many thanks to Sue Searing for sharing this information with me.