SCALL Fall Meeting
The Law Librarian Employment Market in Southern California
(Its Current State and Future Prospects)
Future Prospects Speaker, Belinda Beardt
wish I had a crystal ball to confirm and guarantee that the future of
law librarianship is bright and secure. All I have is my 12 years
experience at AIM Library & Information Staffing to back up my
claim that as law librarians and information professionals, your future
has endless possibilities.
I was a speaker at the SANDALL Fall
Workshop last month and I picked up a handout summarizing the state of
special librarians compiled by Sr. Associate Librarian, Betsy Chessler
at Morrison & Foerster. I am going to share with you, three points
of the survey summary:
* A survey
conducted by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School
of Information and Library Science, about 40% of special librarians
made between $50,000-$79,999 per year between 2002-2007.
Law Library Journal reported that California had the highest number of
job postings on AALL followed by NY and DC between 2002-2007.
According to the 7th annual survey of head librarians at the top 200
law firms, 50% of firms surveyed said that the library was the main
source for competitive intelligence (CI); 63% of firms said that the
library was the main source for marketing research; 75% of librarians
play an active role in the firm's knowledge management (KM).
So what does this all mean in the future?
As special librarians with the focus in the legal field, you have a
great potential to earn more money because of the short supply of
experienced law librarians in the job market. There will be an
increased demand for law librarians in the future at all levels from
library clerical support staff to executive level librarians and
information professionals. I have found that, even in this job market,
candidates want to change jobs, but the salary being offered is not
significantly high enough to risk being laid off as the last one hired
in the new job.
* You don't need to move out of California to
find a job. You can always find a job in public, academic and school
libraries. These libraries will be around for a very long time. There
will be jobs for you anywhere information flows in special libraries.
You just need to know where to look.
* If you do not know or
participate in CI (competitive intelligence), KM (knowledge
management), DAM (digital asset management) or some form of high level
specialty research in business, marketing, pharmaceutical, technology
and etc, you better start now because that's where your career is
Yes, the economy and the job market are not doing
well right now. What you have to understand is that everything goes
through a cycle. What comes up must come down. When there is a downturn
in the job market, think of it as a reality check or a learning
experience. Since things seem to slow down, take some time to reflect
on the past, learn from it and plan for the future.
If you are currently employed:
thankful that you are employed. Accept the "no bonus this year" or
"minimal raise next year" or "possible pay cut" gracefully with "I
understand." You can't really do anything about it, so complaining or
being upset about the situation will only make things worst. Yes, it's
a hardship. It's not fair. You deserve that year end bonus or a raise
because you worked hard for it. But think how fortunate you are to have
a job with benefits, while others may be working part time at minimum
wage with no benefits or worst, unemployed. Take this opportunity to
re-assess your goals and prepare yourself for the next boom.
Make sure that your employer knows that your contributions are valuable
to the firm. Learn to toot your horn and look out for yourself. What
makes you more valuable than another employee? Why can't the firm hire
a paralegal or the legal secretary to manage the library? Or hire the
receptionist to maintain and file the updates? Why should the firm
downside or close another department and not the library or information
center? Make sure that you are able to defend your job or department
with facts and in writing.
* Be prepared. There is really no way
to predict how long you will stay employed with any employer. Is your
resume current and ready to go? Do you have a wide range network of
colleagues to solicit for jobs or references? There are reasons why
library associations put together meetings and workshops: professional
development and networking opportunities. Are you marketable in the
current job market? Can you compete with retired librarians, seasoned
information professionals and new MLIS graduates today? Do you have the
right skill set, flexibility and competitive salary range? These are
important things to think about while you are still employed. Are you
aware of the current trends in the library and information field and
the environment that you are in such as legal, business, technology,
and etc? As an employee of AIM, we have to network and learn about the
trends in the staffing industry, human resources and the library and
information field from professional librarians to library support
staff; public, academic, school and special libraries. You have to be
aware of not only the library and information field but also the legal
environment if you are in law firms, academic field if you are in
university or college law libraries and etc. Expand your horizon and
get out of your comfort zone. Attend local and national meetings and
conferences outside your specialty. You might learn something new and
If you are unemployed or may be laid off:
Don't worry. You are an educated, experienced and talented individual
who was employed before and will be employed again. Nobody can take
away your education and work experience.
* Maximize all your
benefits: unemployment, severance pay, outplacement programs and etc.
Take advantage of all the resources available to you. These benefits
are in place to help you.
* Be flexible and open minded. You
don't know what you like or don't like until you try it. This is a good
time to explore other employment opportunities and environments. Become
a temporary employee. Sign up with AIM and you can work in various
library settings (public, academic, school and special libraries) and
do a wide variety of tasks. Have you thought about being your own boss
or owning your own business? Become an information broker or an
independent contractor/consultant. You can get creative and do what you
couldn't do in the past because you were busy working a full time job.
Don't be discouraged. Having a positive attitude is very important.
Whatever you do, don't give up. The job market will pick up sooner than
Your future is as bright as you want it to be.