Public Librarians with the Highest Retention Rate are More Likely to Choose their Entire Career Path in Public Libraries

Nazi Torabi

Abstract


Abstract

Objectives – The main objectives of this study were the following:
• to analyze the career path and career movement of librarians in Korea
• to identify and compare factors influencing the career movement path of chief librarians in public libraries and other librarians
• to determine library positions’ turnover rates, average career retention, career reinstatement, proximity between careers, and proximity between different libraries

Design – Survey questionnaire.

Setting – One survey conducted in college libraries, public libraries, special libraries, school libraries, and library-related service providers in Korea, and another in public libraries in Korea, targeting chief librarians only.

Subjects – Librarians were identified from the 2008 Korean Library Yearbook published by the Korean Library Association. Also, more survey recipients in the ‘other category’ were identified through Internet search, directory search, and library ads. A total of 816 librarians participated in the survey. The breakdowns of participants based on the type of library they were working at are the following:

First survey:
• 282 Public librarians
• 268 University librarians
• 24 Special librarians
• 25 School librarians
• 15 Other librarians

Second survey:
• 202 Chief librarians at public libraries

Methods – A total of 2179 questionnaires were distributed twice in May 2009 via mail to different libraries. Postage paid envelopes were provided. A phone call reminder was made to increase the response rate. 614 copies were returned. The total response rate for the survey was 28.18%. The highest response rate was from academic libraries with a total of 37.17% (Table 2 in the article). Six hundred and forty three copies of the questionnaire were sent out to chief librarians and the response rate was 31.42%. The SAS statistical package was used for conducting statistical analysis of the data. The content areas covered in the two questionnaires are listed below in Table 1 [see Table 1 in fulltext].

In order to investigate the career movement path of librarians, participants were asked to identify their current job position plus the first three positions before the current position. Each position equals one phase in the librarians’ career path analysis. The jobs were broadly categorized into public libraries, university libraries, special libraries, schools and school libraries, database and content builders, library automation system developers, MARC companies, agencies, Internet portals, library supply companies, and others.

Main Results – The data obtained from those items italicized in Table 1 were used to compare factors influencing the career movement path of chief librarians in public libraries and librarians. The survey results on differences in gender show that most chief librarians (58.9%) were men compare to women (41.1%), while the ratio of women to men librarians is 2:5. Therefore, it is more likely that male librarians decide to become chief librarians. Analyzing the age of respondents indicates that it takes 20 years of library experience before one becomes a chief librarian. Survey results on differences in the final academic degree between librarians and chief librarians show that more librarians (96.7%) held higher graduate degree compare to chief librarians (87.6%) (results calculated form Table 7 - p. 333). Likewise, there are more librarians who studied library and information science (83.3%) compare to chief librarians (55.9%) (Table 8). Comparing the type of certificates held by two groups, it is evident that 26.7% of chief librarians do not have any library related certificates compare to 5.9% of librarians. The survey results suggest that both librarians and chief librarians make effort to increase their knowledge and skills. While librarians spend more time to improve operational aptitude and personal management, chief librarians identify themselves as hard working individuals.

The study conducted a simple analysis on factors influencing the career movement of librarians and chief librarians. Those factors differ greatly between librarians and chief librarians. While 25.5% of librarians rank compensation and working conditions as the most important factors, 19.2% of chief librarians report organizational culture as the main motivating factor. Based on the percentage of initial career selected in each job category, the most frequent career paths taken by librarians and chief librarians were identified. A total of 92.9% of public librarians reported that their whole career path was indeed in public libraries. In addition, the average length of service by career movement phase was identified to get shorter from the initial to fourth career for librarians while they intent to stay at their current position the longest (157.8 months). On the other hand, chief librarians have one main career in which they have stayed the longest (116 months). This main career is the position immediately prior to the current job position.

The main results of this article are summarized in table 21, based on numbers presented in the tables 12 to 20 in the article.

The lowest and highest turnovers were among public librarians (7.1%) and library automation system developer and information professionals at MARC companies (100%). Conversely, the retention rates for all other jobs were also determined. 6.2% of school librarians returned to school libraries after working in other types of libraries. This is the highest rate for returning to the previous job.

The proximity between different types of careers was analyzed based on combining the numbers of instances of career movement from the initial to the forth career. The highest rate of proximity is always the movement between the same types of career. The two highest (not same career type) career movements are university library and public library (2.65%) and university library and special library (2.32%).

Conclusion – It is more likely that male librarians will take on leadership responsibilities in public libraries. Usually, it takes 20 years of library experience before one becomes chief librarian. More librarians hold higher graduate degrees compared to chief librarians. This study also analyzes factors influencing the career movement of librarians and chief librarians. Those factors differ greatly between librarians and chief librarians. The lowest retention rate was 0% for library automation system developers and information professionals at MARC companies, whereas the highest retention rate was for public librarians followed by university libraries. The highest rate for return-to-first-job belongs to school libraries. It is noteworthy to mention that chief librarians have one main career in which they have stayed the longest. This main career is the position immediately before to the current job position. It usually occurs in the midcareer phase and it is when the individual has spent more time developing their skills and expertise and has been getting ready for their leadership role.

Keywords


career movement, public libraries, retention rate, Career development

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