Supreme Librarians in Metaspace: the comic

Matt sez, "The School of Library and Inoformation Management at Emporia State University (Kansas, USA) unveiled a comic book aimed at generating newfound excitement for librarianship and increasing the awareness of the many opportunities that an MLS/MLIS degree can provide. From the same team that created Library of the Living Dead and Monster Clash, Supreme Librarians in Metaspace is a promotional comic that highlights the many facets of librarianship in a quirky, tongue-in-cheek manner. This resource encourages librarians around the world to take a look at the profession in a new light. And maybe have a laugh or two while doing it."

Supreme Librarians in Metaspace (Thanks, Matt!)


  1. “excitement for librarianship and increasing the awareness of the many opportunities…” They’ve got to be kidding. Tell that to all the unemployed librarians.

    I have four Web sites related to librarianship and a former professor told me that she was “shocked” the local library had not hired me. I’ve had one interview since I graduated three years ago and they said they were surprised by the response they got.

    Once you get a library degree, public libraries will not hire you for anything but a librarian position and most want years of experience. Libraries primarily hire library assistants, individuals with only a Bachelor’s degree. The MLIS program I attended graduates approximately 120 students each year.

    Good luck everyone.

    1. I have 6 years experience working in Technical Services, with an MLS. I’ve had 2 interviews in the last year but can’t get hired. There are too many librarians and not enough jobs and Emporia is part of the problem. They take anybody with a pulse, churn out Master’s degrees and flood the market. Every job I apply for, I find there are at least 100 other people with the same qualifications (at least on paper) and a large number of them are locals who went to the Emporia satellite school in the area.

      I had never met so many under-qualified and shamefully ill-prepared librarians until I got my last library job. Came to find out that the Director and two of the other librarians were Emporia grads. I won’t say it’s a diploma mill, but it’s not far from it.

  2. Too bad Emporia is very low ranked and, from my experience, scoffed at in the librarian world. It’s hard enough to get a librarian job without having that school on your certificate.

    1. I really wish I could agree with you on that. Unfortunately I’ve known some who are enormous jerks.

      Reading through the comments here I get the feeling that there are a lot of wonderful and qualified librarians who can’t get jobs because the positions they should be in are filled by people who make statements like “If I wanted to help people I wouldn’t have become a librarian” part of their email signature.

      And don’t get me started on the snubbing of paraprofessionals who do the work some librarians think is beneath them. Paraprofessionals often do the low-level grunt work that frees up the librarians’ time to do the more complicated jobs for which they’re qualified. And yet some librarians seem to think those same qualifications make them superior human beings.

      Sorry if I’m a bit touchy, but let’s not generalize. Librarians, in spite of what some of them think, are just like everybody else. Some are amazing and helpful and wonderful, and some…well, to be polite about it, just aren’t.

    1.  I misread it at first as “Supreme Libertarians in Meatspace.”  That’s way too surreal a title to wake up to.

  3. Right. So my spouse got an MLS out of Emporia.  We spent a pretty penny, and she loved the educational experience… but it’s now years later and she still can’t get a full time job as a librarian in our city.   She’s smart, personable, works hard, takes lots of part time shifts, but the full time jobs, the ones with benefits, just aren’t there.  In fact she has been reliably and repeatedly informed that the ONLY way to get a full time job in the local city library system (the main library employer here) is basically to move out of our city and get a job as a full timer somewhere else first.  Well we have kids in school, I have a job, and that’s not happening.  So it sucks, big time.  The idea of librarianship is cool.  The reality bites.   Emporia?  It trained her for a job that doesn’t really exist.  It’s not that she didn’t enjoy the experience, but all we got for it in the end was loan payments and a bitter taste in our mouths.  

    (I don’t think she has been disadvantaged by Emporia per se. It seems like a perfectly respectable MLS degree, at least based on what people will tell her to her face. It’s just that the jobs aren’t there, and degree programs never have an interest in owning the reality of employment. You may be studying for your next meal, but you ARE their next meal.)

      1. Some librarians like dogs, and other like cattle, if the section of the cubicles at Seattle Public Library that has a ton of cow posters and figurines is to be believed.

        AND WHAT ABOUT THE ALPACAS AND ANTELOPES?! Won’t anyone think of the antelopes? This is highly discriminatory.

  4. Yeah, I’m chiming in to say that this is the height of irresponsibility on the part of ESU to publish right now.

    Not that being a librarian isn’t amazing.  I love it.  But I’m one of the lucky ones with a full time job.  It took me over a year to land it, during which time I basically had to work two part-time library jobs, break my lease, and start living on friends’ couches.  The technical term for doing this is “homeless.”

    And that was 9 years ago – the job market has only completely tanked since then, putting thousands of public employees out of work with layoffs, while the LIS schools keep cranking out thousands more new grads.  You hear it all the time now – a library job opens up and gets over a hundred twenty qualified applicants.

    Meanwhile, the Boomers are all hanging onto their jobs well past retirement age, because their retirement portfolios have tanked, or SS has raised the age at which they can retire, or the politicians have raided their pension funds, or some combination of the three.  When a senior staff member *does* finally retire, any smart manager is going to turn that one position into 3 or 4 part time jobs.  There are literally libraries in the suburbs around here where the Library Director is the only full time position!  (Ironically, these Director positions typically require 5 or more years of full time, professional library work with “increasing levels of responsibility” – exactly the type of career path which has been eliminated by profession-wide cutbacks.)

    I have one friend who finished library school 5 years ago and has never landed a job in the field, despite having a previous Masters degree and career in journalism.  Another friend who is cobbling together a career out of all the part-time gigs she can land.

    Meanwhile, I’m incredibly well paid and my position appears stable…. but my reward for increasing the circulation at my branch by 40% in the last 5 years has been a 55% cut in staff.  The things that take up more than half of my working day – basic circulation and shelving – are hardly the things that Emporia is glamorizing in its comic.

    1.  Thanks for posting your perspective and experience. I’d had the same initial reaction to this, but hesitated to do so since I haven’t been on the job market for a while and almost every time I’ve criticized something that’s been posted on BB, the special snowflakes show up to criticize me for being a Debbie Downer.

      The last time I did try to apply for a job in a specific geographic area (was considering relocating because of a long-distance relationship that has since ended), several years ago, I applied for several positions but didn’t get a single interview, despite years of experience. The last couple of times a position has opened up in my current library, we’ve gotten several applications despite not posting the position on the general job sites or library job sites–just the company’s job site. So, it’s not that people aren’t being thorough in their job searches.

      And YoDoe has it right; the library school programs have hung onto the myth of the Boomers retiring in a big wave Any Day YearDecade Now, to keep encouraging people to take out loans and get their MLS, because that helps keep their doors open, but the jobs aren’t there; they’re abetted by a certain Large Library Association, which seems to be operated on behalf of two particular groups: library administrators and library school students looking for jobs. I haven’t been a member for quite some time, and haven’t missed them.

    2. There are literally libraries in the suburbs around here where the Library Director is the only full time position!

      I serve on the Board of Trustees for a small public library (and I mean small: 2000 ft^2). The Director is our only paid full-time positions. And she’s had the job for about 15 years.

      Libraries are the bomb. But as a career choice? I’d have a hard time recommending it to my kids, unless is was their consuming passion.

  5. Wouldn’t a competent librarian know (without having to do research) that if you’re driving your bookmobile full of cats through the voids of space, you probably do *not* want to roll down the windows or open the sunroof and stick your head out?

  6. I know many, many people with MLS/MLIS degrees who are either unemployed or “lucky” to have a job as a library tech or assistant – myself included. At this point it does seem like an irresponsible money grab to promote the degree as having any value. Such a shame!

    I’ve worked in 3 different libraries, state, large urban public, and academic and they all have similar problems. One of the main being that administration really has no idea what’s involved in the day to day operations. Then when they have a budget shortfall they react by cutting the lowest paid workers – the people who actually do the work in the libraries! Meanwhile the administrators get raises and the workers lose their jobs.

  7. Thanks to all for your responses – at one time I considered getting my MLS (and only partially because I want to be turned into an Orangutan and that seems to be the most straightforward route) and after the “Librarian Boom” of the early-to-mid Aughts I’m pretty glad that I didn’t.  I have a couple of friends who did and, while they have jobs, they’re pretty much locked in place and have to pray they can keep them, they don’t have any mobility and until someone retires/dies they aren’t moving up either.

  8. I’m a thirty-something library director at a moderately-sized community college in America, and I can tell you that the field of librarianship is contracting. I encourage ppl considering a MLS to pursue com sci. Those that remain in this profession to its end will need training on server security, database design and administration, and web languages and protocols.

  9. At first I thought the bus was being driven by cats. Then I looked carefully, and saw that the driver was a person hanging out of the window the way dogs do (sans tongue), and the four cats are just enjoying the groovy ride.

    I think it would have made the point better if the cats were driving. Because that would nail the complete disconnection from reality.

  10.  I am five years out of an MLIS degree from Emporia State, and I am two weeks away from becoming Curator of Special Collections and Archives at the institution I’m at.

    I concur that you do need to have an understanding of databases design/admin, and an overall familiarity with technology – or at least a willingness to learn as you go and not be terrified of it. Yes, you will have to take low-paying and/or contract positions at first. Yes, you will have to work your butt off. Yes, you will have to potentially volunteer or take low wages to get the experience that you want. If you think you want to be a librarian, get a low-paying job in a library like you think you want to work at right now. If you’re an undergrad, get a job working in Stacks or Access Services or even in Tech Services, labeling books. Get a job in the Archives helping do basic processing of colletions. (Nicely) pester the people who are doing things in libraries in your area that sound interesting and ask for their advice and/or volunteer positions.

    If you don’t like the library environment (and public libraries do not = archives do not = law libraries – libraries vary a LOT in their organizational culture) and you don’t like helping people and you don’t like technology – then no, you are not cut out to be a librarian, and you should seek a career elsewhere. It is hard. But if it is what you love, it’s definitely worth it.

  11. Also, for anyone complaining about the cost of library school, SLIM is about as inexpensive as a masters degree comes (in just about any field, let alone library science). Shop around. Find a program that is affordable. Frankly, all most institutions/organizations  care about is that you have a degree from an American Library Association-accredited institution after you get that first contract position. SLIM is actually pretty great as far as cost goes, and the degree is ALA-accredited. It’s like anything else in life – do a cost-benefit analysis and a risk assessment and see where you come out.

    1. Thanks, Katherine. I’m about to start SLIM in August in Portland. The ALA-accreditation plus the fact that I can do the program through distance learning, while working, and thus not racking up massive student loans made Emporia a good deal for me.

  12. Go into debt just so you might get a job where those without credentials below you will disrespect you and do everything they can to punish MLS holders.  Put your research skills to better use, become an analyst on Wall Street. 

    The world doesn’t reward that degree, and it’s cutting library service globally. 

    Unless your a trust fund kid looking for clean semi respectable gentile poverty life subsidized by your trust fund, get a real job.

    In most medium to large libraries, the career goal of every professional is to get as far away from dealing with the public as quickly as possible. Most library admins have no clue how their org works, what their customers want, and pointed out by others, respond to budget cuts by cutting the lowest paid workers, while expanding administrative perks.

  13. I have a problem with this comic on so many levels (granny librarian/hipster librarian stereotypes and an overstated grandiose view of the profession, to name a few).

    Anyhow, I’d like to suggest to anyone is seriously considering general libraries as a career and need to depend on full-time employment to pay their bills, please wait until your local economy picks up a bit. Even if older librarians are retiring (but I don’t really see this pattern myself), governments budgets are shrinking and it’s difficult to find work. I was recently laid off myself, from a federal librarian position. Many public library systems are also closing branches. 

    1. I was the artist on this comic, hired by ESU to draw the book.  I won’t comment on the lion’s share of the criticisms here (they paid me, I drew it, end of story), but I do want to comment on your dissatisfaction with the inclusion of the “granny librarian” and the “hipster librarian.”  

      As for the granny librarian, that one is on me; if you want someone to blame for that character, I’m your man.  Yes, I designed that character and chose to make her older…I even chose to make her look older than the script called for.  My reason for doing this, however, was not to perpetuate a stereotype, but to address what I felt was (and still is, more often than not) a failing in educational advertising:  ageism.  As a cartoonist, I am constantly reminded by clients to keep the casts of characters ethnically, socially, and racially diverse, but not ONCE have I been told to be age-conscious in pursuing diversity.  Since I used to be a librarian and as such know a number of people who didn’t bother going to grad school until they were what you might call “grandparent age,” and since I too was a non-traditional college student at one time, I felt it was important to include an older character, both to reflect SLIM’s actual student body and to let prospective students know that, regardless of age, grad school is an option for them.  There was no desire to perpetuate a stereotype:  I was drawing on my own experience and observations in hopes of addressing what I saw as a common failure in the promotion of most graduate programs.  And as for the tattooed hipster librarian, I’m sorry that bugs you, but I happen to have BEEN a tattooed hipster librarian, and I know a bunch more (including my wife-to-be), so again, it wasn’t an attempt to perpetuate a stereotype…it was an attempt to represent an actual segment of the target audience.  

      1. So, I appreciate where you’re going with trying to tackle the diversity of diversities… However, I have a problem with the fact that the employed librarian is an old woman (STEREOTYPE) and the people on the journey to discover libraries are youthful sorts. It would have been better if an older person was adventuring around.

        And is there a black woman in there? Missing Black Woman syndrome! (Especially when there are three white women and one … Asian?/Indian?/Arab?/Hispanic? let’s just say “generic brown” guy.  (Maybe the hipster woman is also a generic brown person? …)

        Also, everyone is slender and in shape, so that doesn’t quite depict all diverse student “bodies” … 

        1. First Point:  So, I can’t draw a character who might be construed as a stereotype when I’ve known people in that role, and used them as inspiration for the character’s design?  That’s absurd.  I’m not going to be so afraid of a label that I won’t reflect reality in one of the rare instances where a cartoonist with my goofy style is able to actually reflect reality.  Besides, this is hardly a negative stereotype!  I don’t think Mrs. Geis (the librarian who retired from my high school shortly after I graduated, eons ago) would feel like she was used to perpetuate a stereotype; and I don’t think she’d feel there is any negative connotation to being a “granny librarian.”  We all adored her.  I’ve adored all the older librarians who, while I was growing up, helped shape my mind and open it to new reading experiences.  Sometimes?  Sometimes the viewer sees a negative stereotype where others see a SYMBOL:  something they can relate to, or identify with.  The cartoonist’s art is all ABOUT symbols (McCloud devotes entire CHAPTERS to this concept!).  When someone is determined to take what I designed as a positive symbol and interpret it as a negative stereotype, well…that’s not my problem.  That’s the reader’s problem.   

          Second Point:  The female lead in the book I drew just prior to this one was a black woman.  That book was also library-related, and since I didn’t want to repeat myself in the casting department so soon, there’s no black lead in this one.  (I did put a black woman in the “Intelligence Analysis” panel on page 7, though, so there’s no Missing Black Woman Syndrome; you just must’ve missed her because she wasn’t in the lead.)  Why did I choose a white female lead?  I based the female lead on an actual SLIM-educated librarian.  One I know quite well…I’m marrying her.  
          Third Point:  As for the bodies, yeah, almost everyone’s pretty trim.  You got me.  But again, that’s on me, not ESU.  Speaking as a professional cartoonist, though, let me tell you that drawing unconventional body types is often a huge can of worms:  people look at the way I draw (cartoony, light) and assume I am trying to parody my subjects.  So being inclusive in that area often obfuscates the work’s purpose, and makes it appear as if I’m mocking heavy people, when I’m not.  The artist ends up having to defend “negative stereotypes” that he never intended to create, and which have more to do with the audience’s reaction than the actual content of the work.  So I’m reluctant to include heavy characters unless the script gives said characters enough time and space that they can be developed as people and can’t be attacked as stereotypes by sensitive readers.

          When you get right down to it, you can’t please a hostile audience.  In this case, the work is a piece of advertising that offends certain people by virtue of its very existence.  I’m fine with that (as they say, never listen to the critics).  I just felt the need to defend the work’s inclusiveness; I made a genuine effort, and so did ESU.    

  14. This comic book is advertising. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just keep in mind that a library school is a business, you are their potential customers. They see you as sources of revenue, not someone to help and nurture.

    I’ve had a totally awesome full-time librarian position for three and a half years. The market has only gotten worse since then. If you’re just now graduating from library school in the USA, anticipate that you’ll have to relocate, probably to another state or even a different region of the country. 

    If you’re thinking about going to library school, don’t expect the job market to improve and plan accordingly. Under no circumstances go into debt for library school.

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