The 10 Year Crunch - Half of Vancouver Law Library Staff to Retire by 2015!
The question "Is retirement in your near future?" was addressed in the most recent Vancouver Association of Law Libraries webpoll. The results showed the number of Law Librarians and Library Techs looking at retirement at a reasonable 4 percent over the next 3 years. That number will increase to almost 18% within 5 years, and a whopping 49.9% within 10 years.
A further breakdown of the survey results showed the number of Law Librarians and Law Library Managers looking to retire within 10 years at 54%, and the number of Library Technicians at 41%. Overall, these numbers would seem to be closely aligned with Mary Jo Lynch's 2002 study published in American Libraries that said 68% of Librarians will retire by 2017.
To begin by pointing out the obvious, the ranks of our senior Law Librarians are dwindling. Over the next 5 years, the staffing of Law Libraries will seem like normal attrition. Then it's going to hit - a serious lack of qualified candidates. Librarians in general will be scarce, and (I don't think I'm going out on a limb here) Law Librarians with experience will be worth their weight in gold.
My personal opinion is that we will still be able to find Librarians. Salary wise, Law Libraries are near the top of the Librarian food chain, and we can likely recruit from other related industry Libraries. The real problem will be finding anyone with Law Library experience.
If you've recruited a law librarian in the past 5 years (FWIW, I've recruited 2), you know that your best chance of getting a good candidate is finding someone at another law firm. Your second choice is likely a senior corporate librarian in another industry. Your third choice (or maybe your second) is that amazing new MLIS graduate who's taken the legal bibliography course at the local library school. Then you look at everyone else.... And the biggest factor of all in your recruiting efforts? timing. With a small community like ours, when people are happy they tend to stay put. If there is a shuffle going on among the other firms, you might pick off a candidate. If not, you'll be looking at the above mentioned alternatives. My point being here - it can be difficult to recruit right now - and that's before taking away half of the qualified people.
The other issue worth considering is, how many years of practical training does it take to bring a new graduate Librarian (or Library Technician) up to speed? While this is dependent on the individual, I'm not sure how much we can depend on new graduates knowing when they first start out. Simply put, so much of this profession is experience.
So who must pay attention to this? Well first of all - VALL. We (I speak as a member of the Executive) have to prepare our membership. Mentoring and training are going to be more important than ever. Next up, UBC SLAIS. The legal bibliography course needs to be offered regularly, and we need to support it (be it Teresa Gleave or another local Librarian who takes on this huge task). And finally, the local Library Tech programs - UCFV & Langara. Your graduates are going to be asked to do more and more. As Law Librarians get drawn into more sophisticated tasks, Library Techs are going to have to fill in the gaps.
One last disclaimer, I know this poll isn't exactly scientific, but with a 45% percent response rate (a sample some election pollsters would love), I just don't think this is something we can ignore.