Peoria Journal Star
EUREKA - While the U.S. job market is generally described as bleak these days, speakers at a recent conference at Eureka College suggested that things are looking up for librarians.
"Librarians make up a graying profession. A large percentage of the nation's librarians will be retiring in the next five to 10 years," said Robert Martin, director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services in Washington, D.C.
More than 30,000 of the roughly 125,000 school, public, and college and university librarians in the country are expected to reach retirement age by 2009, according to the American Library Association.
Already, librarians are in short supply, especially in urban and rural areas, Martin said.
One of the reasons for the impending shortage is that a number of librarians came to their jobs after doing something else, he said.
"Many (librarians) don't start until their late 30's or early 40's. That's something we're trying to change," said Martin.
Relatively low pay is also part of the library story, experts point out.
Librarian salaries start at about $32,000 and a master's degree in library science is required. By comparison, the entry-level salary for a speech pathologist, another profession that requires an advanced degree, is about $46,800, according to Salary.com.
While placing a new emphasis on recruiting, library officials are also taking aim at the stereotypes that dominate the profession.
Librarians are still pictured as stern ladies that wear their hair in a bun and wear glasses and like to shush people, said Ann Seidl, a library consultant from Madison, Wisc., at work on a documentary called "The Hollywood Librarian."
Seidl hopes to change that image with a film that features interviews with librarians from across the country.
"We need to put a face to the stereotype. We want to show that librarians are real people," she said.
Seidl plans to focus on the contributions made by librarians in these technologically advanced times.
"With the Internet some people ask, why do we even need librarians?" said Seidl. "Actually, in an age of information overload, we need librarians more than ever," she said.
About 200 librarians and library trustees gathered at Eureka College in mid-June for a day-long celebration sponsored by the Alliance Library System, covering 30 counties and 284 libraries in the state. The Alliance system includes libraries in central Illinois.
The group reviewed "The Great Librarian Adventure," a year-long Alliance effort to help recruit the next generation of information-gatherers, said Karen Bersche, Alliance spokeswoman.