Voices from the Field
An Interview with a Community College Librarian
While it is important to keep in mind that every library, institution, and state is different, it may also be helpful to read a first-hand account of what it’s like working in a California community college library. The information below is from an iSchool alumna (MLIS 2011) interview done in summer 2014.
1. What is the typical salary of a community college librarian?
For full-time faculty members, the salary is based on a set schedule (based on the units of education one has, as well on unit loads of work). You can find faculty salary schedules for any community college district by doing a search on their website or Google, which allows you to see the breakdown. Every community college district might be a little different.
2. Is there a tenure process?
At my college there is a four-year tenure process for faculty members. For librarians undergoing the process, one is evaluated every fall for reference service and instruction. The process includes a pre-meeting with the faculty lead that includes a self-evaluation; a reference observation, which includes anonymous student evaluations for reference service, and an instruction observation; a meeting of the committee members (faculty lead librarian, dean, and another faculty librarian) to talk over the observations and documents; and then a final meeting between the committee members and the faculty librarian to go over the results.
3. Are librarians expected to do research and publish?
While I believe that no one is required to research or publish at this particular college, that is something I am going to do and am starting this summer. We are very much expected to work on a number of committees, complete a set number of professional development hours, and be involved on campus. Attending pre-term orientations and graduation is a requirement, as well.
4. Do librarians at the community college level have specific job titles (i.e. subject specialist, digital initiatives, etc.) or are they more “jacks of all trades” (generalists)?
Some librarians have specific titles, and you will find lots of variety across community colleges. We have an electronic resources librarian who does some reference, and everyone else is just called a reference librarian, except for our associate librarian, although everyone does much more than reference. We have one part-time librarian who teaches library classes for credit. At the campus where I work—I am a solo librarian—I provide 30 hours of reference, but I also teach one-shot sessions, manage the collection, and do liaison work with all the instructors at my campus, community outreach, marketing, club advising, etc. I am not always able to be at the desk if I’m at a class, etc. It’s a little worrying that the desk is empty when I’m doing something. For someone new to the job, it can be overwhelming, but a great learning experience.
5. How many faculty librarians are there at your institution?
I’m the only full-time faculty librarian at my campus; at the other larger campus there are three full-time faculty librarians. We also have three part-time faculty librarians at the larger campus.
6. What are some of the benefits to working at a community college library?
I have great working conditions as far as benefits and time off. I have a 10-month appointment. Although it’s a detriment to students, the libraries are closed on the weekends and during winter break, spring break, and summer break between spring term ending and summer term beginning, and for a few weeks between summer term ending and fall term beginning. I don’t work during these times. In the summer, I have the option to work, but we have a part-time librarian who worked it this past summer. I also don’t work at night, which is quite the change from other library environments.
I love being able to make a real difference in the lives of our students. Many are working parents, or take care of their siblings or aging parents, and it’s wonderful to help them on their road to earning a certificate or two-year degree, or transferring to a four-year university. And it also feels great when students come by to say that they did well on a paper; share other good news, like getting a new job; or even sharing a book or article they read that they found interesting.
Learn more about academic library careers via these iSchool alumni profiles: