Assessing Vocational Development in Prospective School Librarians

Gayle Bogel

Abstract


Objective – To explore the motivations for choosing school librarianship as a career.

Design – Narrative research, qualitative interviews.

Setting – The School Media program specialization in a Master of Library Science program at a large research university.

Subjects – Five graduate school students seeking initial certification as school library media specialists.

Methods – The researcher employed narrative research, based on career construction theory and the Life Story Interview, (McAdams, 1995). This methodology is a set of loosely-structured, open-ended questions designed to encourage detailed, in-depth responses from the participant teller, combined with a more structured Career Style Interview (Savickas, 2005) designed to elicit self-defining stories.

Data was collected through qualitative interviews, using personal narrative interviews that focused on the entire life of each person from birth to present (Life Story Interviews) and additional questions in an interview format (Career Style Interview.)

Data was collected and analyzed in two stages. The analysis first examined participants as individuals then tried to identify commonalties among the stories. Each life story was examined to determine a career style on the basis of vocational personality, career adaptability and life theme. The interview data was then analyzed for thematic connections and occupational choice.

Main Results – The final analysis identified the following themes as relevant to the study, and to the career choices of graduate students planning to be school librarians: parental expectations; career changers; librarian mentors; prior library work experiences; reading; library experiences; altruism-service; desire to work with children; financial stability and security; flexibility of work schedule; emotional distance; and vocational personality.

In general, the participants appear to value safe, traditional career choices that allow them to put family first and maintain a flexible work schedule, while also providing financial stability and security. Those who are already teachers noted interest in a job that provides relief and emotional distance from the everyday social problems of students. All five noted the “love of reading” as a motivation for choosing this career path.

The vocational personality of each subject was determined through interpreting their answers on the Career Interest Surveys, using Holland Occupational Theme RIASEC codes: Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising, and Conventional. The vocational personality of all five students did not match the predominant code for school librarians. None exhibited a resemblance to the “enterprising” type, the most prominent personality for successful school librarians. All five did exhibit “artistic” vocational personality, and the researcher notes that this may be an explanation for the choice of librarianship as a second career, as artistic types take longer to find a compatible career match. The researcher also notes that the final code is a “best estimate” for each subject.

Conclusion – Examining the vocational development of the five graduate students through vocational personality, career adaption and life theme afforded a broader viewpoint than traditional survey studies. The determining of vocational personality type may be helpful to recruitment efforts to the profession, and help make the career choice more visible.

Keywords


school librarian; career

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