This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

March 10, 2004 - consider library profession

As a teenager, embroiled in my own family conflicts, I swore I was never going to have children. I was going straight to grandchildren.

In a way, that's just what I did. I am part of the second wave of Baby Boomers. When my wife and I got around to having kids, they were in the first wave of the Millennial generation. A combination of the perspective of our own advancing age, and the character of this new generation has meant (so far!) pretty smooth sailing.

Rather than feeling a lot of flash points of conflict between them and us, I admire my children. My daughter is now 16, and I find both her, and her friends, delightful. They're smart, funny, and conscientious.

Beyond that, I've started to realize something important: my profession is going to need them.

I mentioned last week that I attended a national public library conference. At one of those sessions, the speaker asked, first, for all librarians born before 1946 to stand. In a roomful of over 500 people, there were 4.

Then she asked for the Baby Boomers to stand (born between 1946 and 1964). Whoomf -- the room rose.

Finally, she asked for the Gen X-ers to stand (born between 1965 and 1980). Six. The Millennials (born from 1981 to 1999) haven't hit any job market yet in significant numbers.

Then she splashed this statistic on her PowerPoint screen -- by 2019, 68 percent of today's librarians will be retired. Who will replace us?

The profession of librarianship, of course, isn't the only one facing this dilemma. There are twice as many Baby Boomers as Gen-Xers. The retirement crunch might transform a lot of fields.

In the library world, automation will replace some jobs. But the truth is, automation also creates new kinds of jobs, and generally speaking, better paying ones than the ones it replaced.

Librarians haven't done a good job of recruiting. As I often say, most of those now practicing in the field came to us for their third profession. The first was an accident, the second for money, and the third for love. We also, at least for the Boomers, often attract the people who discovered (after their third or fourth layoff or merger) that they wanted more than the illusory cheese at the end of rat race. They wanted to do some real good for their communities.

So consider this an invitation, especially to you Gen-Xers and parents of Millennials. Consider librarianship as a career.

Do you want to be in the swing of things technologically? Today's libraries are hotbeds of web design, content management and delivery.

Are you interested in the planning and creation of interesting public space? Libraries, especially in Douglas County, serve every demographic around. We need rooms for small kids, teens, business people, housewives, and seniors. I would submit that libraries are some of the most interesting buildings you'll find anywhere.

Are you a trivia junkie, fascinated by the endless turns and twists of the culture? Track it at the library.

Or are you interested in the sheer power of literature? Whether it's inculcating a love of books in preschoolers (a chance to show off some dramatic talents, here!), or in steering somebody toward a new favorite author, we offer the chance to change lives.

Are you interested in management, and working with the larger community? Libraries, traditionally, have been remarkably open and collaborative institutions, strongly driven by principle. To those of you coming from bottom line organizations where pointy-haired bosses call the shots, this can be a refreshing change.

Right now, most of the better, higher paying jobs in libraries do require a Master's degree. But most libraries these days will help you pay for it -- part of that dawning awareness of our recruitment issue. Certainly ask that question at an interview!

Parents, those young Millennials will be coming back to you in the coming years baffled, uncertain about their futures. Gently suggest this option: why not look into librarianship? Quite aside from offering work that they can genuinely love, that helps knit together a community, it's also a safe bet.

Bright young people will rise fast in this field. If we can find them.

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