That Retirement Thang.

This week’s Uncontrolled Vocabulary will discuss the retirement issue: Do senior librarians have a moral obligation to retire? It’s a sticky question, both in academia and libraries.

Do newcomers to the profession have a right to jobs? Not necessarily, but it’s hard to think people will stick around for any length of time if they can’t find employment. They’ll most likely find work where they can, and perhaps drift afield. Are all “senior” librarians outmoded and in need of being put out to pasture to make way for the next generation? Of course not. It’s interesting how this is such a recurring theme, and there’s lots of animosity on both sides of the argument. I know I’m in a weird position at work- I’ve just been hired as a librarian where I’m the only professional librarian under the age of 50- but I definitely can see both sides of the argument.

Newly minted librarians are often lack the experience past the practicum because it’s hard to get entry level jobs. They’ve spent lots of money on a degree from programs that keep talking about the eventual Valhalla where there will be waves of retirement and jobs will be there for the taking. The problem is that this isn’t exactly true, and finding a job is quite a bit of work.

At the same time, why should somebody who’s quite content working, and doing a fine job, retire because they happen to be over 65? They shouldn’t have to.

Some of the commenters in the thread make the point that the real issue should be that ineffective workers in any setting need to either be reallocated where they’d be a better fit, or removed. I don’t like the idea of putting people out of a job, but sometimes it seems like the corporate world has a point. Why should somebody who doesn’t do much, is reluctant to change, and doesn’t meet basic performance goals not have some consequence for their actions? I know in the academic setting, it’s often because of contracts which make it hard to get fire people after they meet a certain time length of employment. These rules were most definitely made with the best intentions, but there are, of course, unintended consequences.

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