Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

Even Lightning Gets More Time

I like lightning talks. I have given four of them now. It’s a challenge to come up with a sensible presentation that still manages a good learning experience while hopefully entertaining the crowd. All have been in the 5 minute range. That’s precious little time to say anything of much substance – but I talk fast. To my way of thinking 5 minutes is the right amount of time for a sensible lightning talk. And it’s still challenging enough that many who try cannot complete in 5 minutes. Well I just saw a program announcement where they are offering the stupendously generous time of 3 minutes for a lightning talk. My reaction to that is “why bother?”. Is there really much of anything you can say or do of value in so short a time – and would you really want to be in the audience at this thing? Are we now having a competition to see who can come up with the shortest lightning talk program? What’s next? A 30-second lightning talk? Perhaps a lightning talk where you only get 140 characters. This is getting ridiculous.

Those Other L-School Grads Aren’t Getting Jobs and They Are Mad As Hell and Not Taking It

Have you been following what’s going on with those disgruntled law school graduates who are incredibly pissed off because no law firms are offering them high-paying jobs as soon as they are handed their diplomas? They made the choice to become lawyers, and they made the choice to go into deep debt ($100K or more is not uncommon). Now they are blaming their law schools and their career offices for misleading them about their job prospects. From a USA Today article:

A small but growing coalition of graduates, on blogs with names like “Scammed Hard” and “Shilling Me Softly,” blame their alma maters for luring them into expensive programs by overstating their employment prospects.

Then of course there is the law school graduate who calls herself Unemployed JD who is making an even bigger fuss by going on a hunger strike until law schools agree to divulge career data. That generated its own little controversy when it turned out the law school graduate behind the whole thing really did have a job. I’m not going to rehash all the details here – you can read the story if you care.

I’m not sure what to make of all this. I can understand the students getting upset if the law school recruiters and admissions advisers really did lead them to believe that 99.9% of law school grads get high-paying jobs within 6 months of graduation. But could the law schools have predicted three years ago when those students enrolled that the economy would tank and that law firms would lose lots of business. So it seems just a bit unrealistic for the students to turn around and blame the law schools.

Reading this, and knowing how the economic crisis has severely impacted libraries and their hiring practices in all sectors (both budget cuts and the slowing of retirements), it is difficult to feel any sympathy at all for law school students or lawyers. According to the USA Today article, among 2009 law school graduates, 88% are employed, and that’s down from 92% in 2007. I have no idea what percent of 2009 LIS students are employed, but I’m going to guess it’s no where near 88% – heck, I bet it’s not even 50%. So should we librarians really feel all that bad for the other L-School graduates? I don’t think so. And even if jobless LIS graduates were to go on hunger strikes, protest in the streets, run naked through the halls of Congress – do you think that even a single newspaper in this country would pay any attention (OK – maybe the running naked through the halls of Congress might attract some – after the arrests). Not a chance in hell. Did USA Today have anything to say about The Unemployed Librarian‘s blog? So sorry LIS grads. It looks like the lawyers will continue to get all the “Why Won’t Anyone Hire Me” attention.

BTW, I’m glad to report that Elizabeth, the unemployed librarian, is now the Employed Librarian. So there is some good news out there on the job front.

The Accidental Academic Library Janitor: Book Review

In this fascinating account of one librarian’s act of courage in taking on responsibilities at his library that no one else would dare accept, we learn the true meaning of professional passion. The Accidental Academic Library Janitor, authored by Jack Van Der Kammp, begins when Van Der Kammp is hired as the new Interlibrary Loan Librarian at Dippinger College. For two years Van Der Kammp labors at filling requests from students and faculty, all of which registers barely a nod of recognition from his co-workers or the administration. But like all librarians who achieve accidental greatness, Van Der Kammp passes through his crucible on a wintry day in February 2008.

Though not suitable for repetition in this highly respected journal, Van Der Kammp artfully recalls the worst poop incident in the history of the Susanna D. Drake Memorial Library. While his colleagues stand by in shock and disgust, Van Der Kammp goes looking for help only to realize the regular library janitor never made it to work that day. With no one else willing to go within 10 feet of the horrific scene, Van Der Kammp explains how he grabbed the pail, mop and Lysol, took matters into his own hands, and forged his destiny as The Accidental Academic Library Janitor.

Over eight insightfully written chapters, Van Der Kammp enlightens other academic librarians on how they too can become an Accidental Academic Library Janitor. Topics cover all the vital skills for would be library janitors such as best cleansers for greasy sink goo, keeping urinal cakes where they belong, how to remove pornographic graffiti from the men’s stalls, advanced techniques for fast cleanups after library raves, and most important of all, how to stay one step ahead of the real library janitor. Van Der Kammp’s book is a timely addition to the library literature because in this period of harsh budget cuts our academic libraries are constantly threatened with the loss of the janitorial staff. And when that happens, readers of The Accidental Academic Library Janitor will be poised to jump into action. Like Van Der Kammp, they too can become a prime candidate for the American Library Association’s Milton R. Grenich Library Housekeeper of the Year Prize, awarded annually by the LLAMA Interest Group on Sanitary Facility Management. Highly recommended for all academic library collections.

3 thoughts on “Sudden Thoughts And Second Thoughts

  1. Here’s what gets me about the hunger-strike person, aside from her general dishonesty about her own circumstances– nobody in any field is guaranteed a job in that field. Nobody likes to admit it but just because you have a degree doesn’t make you a good lawyer/librarian/whatever. While you have to have a certain amount of savvy to make it through the program let’s face it some programs aren’t as prestigious/well-received as others and some people just aren’t as smart/charismatic/hard working as others. The economy is having a rough effect on all job markets but it is up to the student to research a program before participating in it and be realistic about their job prospects afterward. It’s not totally the school’s fault that there is a pervasive idea that all law school students get high-paying jobs right after graduating just as it isn’t all LIS schools’ fault that so many people buy into the whole “graying of the profession/mass retirement” theory either. At some point people have to take personal accountability for their choices. And perhaps examine whether the reason the aren’t getting a job is that other people worked harder/got more involved/wrote better cover letters or whatever it was that made them stand out over others.

  2. I forwarded the article about the law student to my friend who just started her 3rd year at law school. I think she shares a lot of the same feelings as the “unemployed JD”, but she’s smart enough to realize it’s not her school’s fault. They didn’t lure her there under false pretenses. Like you said, Steven, no one knew the economy was going to tank quite so badly or stay down for so long.

    I was told upon applying to library school that I would be practically guaranteed a job since there was a huge shortage of librarians. In fact, the ALA is still saying that same sort of thing. I started library school in August of 2008 and by November, I knew getting a job was going to be tough. Clearly it was or I wouldn’t have started my blog!

    But I don’t blame the school; it’s a part of life right now and we all have to deal with it. I just wish that it wasn’t just law students from expensive schools getting coverage. Other jobs, career paths, and students are suffering too.

    And yes, I am employed! I am now a medical librarian at a community hospital in my hometown. Completely unexpected but it’s a good job and that’s saying a lot these days!

  3. As the Accidental Academic Library Incompetent-Attempter-to-Fix-Copier (there was a massive toner spill; at least I stopped short of setting it on fire) and Doer-of-Two-People’s-Jobs-Besides-Her-Own-Without-Training, I really want that book.

    While the hunger strike thing is extreme and silly, I sympathize with these recent graduates. Don’t forget, they are kids in their 20′s. Their life experience is limited. And I suspect the schools knowingly take more students than the economy will bear (even without a recession in the interim) because they want the tuition money — at least that is my opinion of UCLA’s behavior when I was there getting my MA in History. Yes, the individuals need to be accountable for their choices, but the institutions also need to be accountable when they give misleading information, when they knowingly over-enroll, and when they fail to put sufficient resources into providing internships, practicums, and post-graduation career placement.

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