A recent study of the most desirable jobs in the UK from early 2015 produced some intriguing results. Unsurprisingly jobs like Hollywood movie star, Olympic athlete, doctor and lawyer were near the top of the list. However, the top three were comprised of author, librarian and academic (in that order) (YouGov 2015). Arguably academic librarian, which combines elements of all three, might be the dream British job. It should also be noted the exact question was “Generally Speaking, please say whether you would or would note like to do each of the following for a living” with a list of options provided. As such the phrasing of the question may account for some of the appeal of the high placement of these intellectually oriented professions.
Beyond question phrasing though, the high placement of librarian is particularly curious given the situation facing public libraries in the UK. In late 2014 the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) released its annual survey on libraries, showing declines in several areas including active borrowers, library visits, numbers of libraries, book holdings, expenditures and staff.
- The number of active borrowers fell 13.4% over the last two years.
- The number of libraries fell 2.8% over the last two years.
- The number of web visits fell 4.7% over the last five years (though there was some fluctuation and was not a consistent decline in each year).
- The number of book holdings by libraries declined 20.1% over the last five years.
- The total expenditure on libraries fell 6.7% over the last two years.
- The number of FTE staff fell 22% over the past five years (the number of volunteers in libraries doubled over the same time period.)
The full set of statistics is available here: http://www.cipfa.org/about-cipfa/press-office/latest-press-releases/cipfa-library-survey
Perhaps the findings of the first survey aren’t that surprising – many people would like to be librarians – but the reality is that there is increasingly less opportunity to do so in the UK.
YouGov. 2015 “Bookish Britain: Literary Jobs are the Most Desirable.” https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/02/15/bookish-britain-academic-jobs-are-most-desired/