Everyone is going away.
Recently I found out that a few (the number is three) librarians that I look up to and respect quite a bit are leaving the profession. Their reason for moving on from librarianship varies (more money, less time spent at work, the need to move away from the trappings of this profession) but taken together in such a relatively short period of time hit me a bit hard. Where are these folks going? Why are they going away? What does this mean for the future of the profession?
This may be the first time I’ve gone through something like this in the library profession. I know people come and go all the time but it feels like my people, the people that I grew up in this profession with, are choosing to not stick around and be part of this library thing. I get it. I’ve had similar thoughts about leaving in the 13 years I’ve spent working in libraries. As one of those library people who is leaving the profession recently said to me “the pay is shit and the opportunities are few in many areas, so you either move or leave profession”. The other part of that is that the job requires the person to be so very flexible and adaptable that sometimes it is hard to keep up. One day it is outreach services, the next day makerspaces, and then the following day you’re reviving a patron with Narcan while someone else screams at you while you’re at the circulation desk. Keeping up with trends & dealing with the ever changing nature of working in a public space with other humans is tough, tiring, and then to top it all off pay is low. Who wants all of this and also have to consider applying for food stamps to make ends meet? I get it all the way. The job is never-ending, the job is tiring, and the job doesn’t pay well. Duct tape those three things together and you have the perfect reason to leave.
It worries me that great and talented people are leaving our profession. I know at the same time that right around the corner are other librarians ready to grow and lead. I am confident in their work and their passion. I come back to the thing I always come back to: balance. I want the future of librarianship to be full of those good people who have been through some things and are positive and hopeful about the future balanced with those that are new, optimistic, and ready to take on the world. I want the folks that are leaving the profession to stick around and redefine what it leads to mentor and help new generations.