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Employable Librarians?

Marydee Ojala @ 8:49 am

File under Dangers of Statistics. A Wall Street Journal article about Generation Jobless included an interactive table listing employment rates by college major. I sorted by employment rate and the resulting table put library science third from the bottom. The source of the data is the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. This morning, that chart was mentioned on the National Public Radio program, Morning Edition, but it said the source was the Census Bureau. Now I don’t doubt that Georgetown University got its original data from the Census Bureau, but I do wish that commentators, particularly those who are librarians, would understand the data better than those who give it a cursory glance and declare they’ve always wanted to be an accountant rather than a librarian.

Didn’t anybody wonder why international business was also at the bottom of the list? That would seem a growth opportunity for employment.

Astute readers will immediately grasp that this chart reflects employment rates based on Bachelors degrees. To land a job as a qualified librarian, you need a Masters degree. I suspect that the international business jobs go to individuals who’ve earned an MBA.

So, before we all join the lemmings decrying the plight of the unemployable
library degree holder, let’s recognize the basic flaw in the data. As with many statistics, understanding the wider context is critical to interpreting the raw data.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for pointing this out. This is a detailed, nuanced but essential insight…which means most people will misunderstand it or miss it completely. It takes a (somewhat) deeper understanding of the library field to know the BA’s don’t really do anything, but don’t let that get in the way of people jumping off cliffs after reading 1 headline.

    Comment by NoahJon Marshall — December 6, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

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