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Two Librarian Satisfaction Surveys Offer Conflicting Results

Two recent surveys on librarian job satisfaction offer conflicting views.

According to Law.com,

LawFirmInc.'s sixth annual survey of law firm librarians at Am Law 200 firms reveals that they are continuing to move beyond "traditional" library work, like legal research, and into marketing and competitive intelligence, computer training and even knowledge management projects... Yet the burgeoning responsibilities... aren't causing librarians to lose sleep. To the contrary, satisfaction rates remain extraordinarily high, with 87 percent of respondents happy in their jobs and just 1 percent saying that they prefer traditional librarian's work.

BBC News, however, reports that in a survey of 300 people drawn from five occupations (firefighters, police officers, train operators, teachers and librarians), "librarians are the most unhappy with their workplace, often finding their job repetitive and unchallenging."

Librarians complained about their physical environment, saying they were sick of being stuck between book shelves all day, as well as claiming their skills were not used and how little control they felt they had over their career.

Stuck between book shelves all day? Not once in my career as a professional librarian have I ever felt that way. I spend so little time in the book stacks that this notion is simply ridiculous. Like the Am Law 200 librarians surveyed, much of what I do is beyond "traditional" library work and most of it is conducted via my laptop. And I can truthfully say that I love my job.

One can only assume that the difference in attitudes comes from the difference in the in the population surveyed. The Law.com group were law firm librarians from the US. Although it doesn't say what kind of libraries the librarians in the BBC group were from, we at least know that they are British. Is there that big of a difference between libraries in the US and Britain?

Or does it stem from the type of library? Or the specific position? Before I went to library school, I worked as a page in a public library where my only duty was to shelve books all day. My satisfaction - or lack thereof - with that job much more closely matched those of the librarians in the BBC study. Definitely repetitive and unchallenging - I literally was stuck between book shelves all day. As a professional librarian my duties are much more varied and challenging. Makes me wonder if the "librarians" in the British study were actually professional librarians at all.

Sources: Law.com Newswire and Law Librarian Blog