Our Debts

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nd, forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors . .

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The American Library Association (ALA) provides data regarding Student Loan Forgiveness. The ALA’s introduction to the process of getting student loans forgiven, however, begins with this message:

  • Public libraries and schools across the nation are experiencing a dire shortage of librarians, as an alarming number of librarians are reaching the age of retirement.

Genthe-LibrarianOf course, there is no dire shortage in public libraries or schools. Public libraries have closed branches, reduced hours, and even outsourced management. School librarian positions have been eliminated with a movement towards automated learning centers.   The fact that many librarians are reaching the age of retirement does not mean that they can afford to retire – many have spouses who lost employment during the economic downturn and retirement portfolios have suffered losses and retirement benefits have been reduced. There are librarians who have had no pay increases for years and are just trying to get by.

The ALA’s misleading statement  creates an expectation of new graduates that employment opportunities are plentiful. Is it wishful thinking? An attempt at self-fulfilling prophesy? A marketing strategy to emphasize the value of the profession? A marketing strategy to continue to fill library graduate schools? It is hard to understand how a professional organization that supports non-biased critical information analysis would publish and maintain such a misleading representation of employment prospects. However, the result of creating an oversupply of MLS graduates has pitted new librarian vs old. It has led to an expectation that librarians should simply step aside because they are old and *should* retire - completely devaluing lifetime learning and cumulative wisdom.

The 2012 United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics reports :

  • Employment of librarians is expected to grow by 7 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is slower than average for all occupations.

  • Most librarians need a master’s degree in library science.

  • 2010 Median Pay – $54,500 per year

Bureau-of-Labor-Statistics

Contrary to what ALA says, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth at half the rate of *all other occupations* and less that half the rate of Education, Training and Library Occupations overall. Note that the anticipated growth in employment opportunities is 7% over ten years – less than 1% per year.  As a statistical estimate with a margin for error this means that there, in fact, could be negative growth.

Yet, even though the Master’s Degree is required for *most* to be a librarian – without the Master’s Degree in library science the job outlook is even bleaker.

The ALA APA adopted a resolution in 2008 that full-time professional librarians minimum salaries would be set at $41,680.  Many full-time librarians still make significantly less.   In fact, even the minimum full-time professional salary is less than the living wage estimate required for a household with one adult and one child in Rhode Island.

Unfortunately, in order to complete a master’s degree that may lead to a $41,680 a year professional job, most students will also have to go into substantial debt.  According to FinAid.org  in 2012  71% of graduate students will complete their degrees with a cumulative average of $53,727 in undergraduate and graduate student debt.

A twenty year fix rate loan for $53,727 requires a monthly payment  of $354.57 for a total of $85,097.86.   The take home pay at the minimum full-time professional salary level without state tax or dependent deductions is: $34,970.58.   So, repayment of the loan to complete a master’s degree in library science could represent over 2 1/2 years of full-time work.  That burden of debt means that it may take at least twenty years before being able to begin to save for any sort of retirement.

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aying Down Your Debt – You can be forgiven!

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The graduate student debt problem in Library Science was brought home by Library Director Michelle Mears of the Public Library of Enid & Garfield County in Oklahoma with her posting on Publib December 12, 2012. Ms. Mears also provided an option for loan forgiveness that every new librarian with federal loans should adopt as soon as they find full-time employment.  Your debts can be forgiven for the valuable public service you provide in ten years instead of 20 or more :

I wanted to get the word out to those who may be unaware of their eligibility for student loan forgiveness through the federal government.  Working full time in a public library makes you eligible for this program. http://www.studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service  If you are eligible, you need to get certification documents turned in right away, even if you are still working for the same employer or have only had one employer, and get one from each qualified employer since October 2007.  Your loan will likely transfer to a different servicing company who will keep track of qualifying payments.
I just certified my first five years, which leaves me only 5 to go (120 payments total), but this will likely forgive the balance of my loan when I get there.  Remember, with interest you end up paying back more than what you originally borrowed, but this program will probably save me about 5 years worth of payments.  Ten years seems like a long time to be in repayment, but any forgiveness is better than none.  I just wish they would have back-dated it because I have already been paying for 14 years (which means I have paid nearly $58,000 on a $38,000 loan and have yet to make a significant dent in the principal-only recently have my payments been gnawing away at it).
Hope this helps someone, or at least gives them hope that someday a month will come with no student loan payment! ~ Michelle

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