Friday, January 6, 2012

ATR: Rant On, Rant Off

A colleague forwarded a job ad to me the other day. Not because he thought I needed a job, but because I suspect that he knew it would initiate a launch sequence in me. Houston, we have liftoff...

I'm going to name names because this job posting is a matter of record and frankly, the institution should be ashamed. The B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore apparently needs an archivist. However, they seem to have very low regard for archivists. The position pays between $25,000 and $27,500.

Yes, annually. But you do get benefits. To quote another blogging colleague, "Are you kidding me?"

However, you do need to, " able to stoop, bend, reach, crouch, climb ladders and lift up to 40 pounds to retrieve, store, and work with objects." And bring a Master's degree and three to five years of experience with you. And just in case you think this is really something of an intern's job, nope -- plan to manage a budget and train and manage interns, docents, and volunteers. And be ready to scrounge up some money by writing grant requests.

I was paid that sort of money in 1988 by the Archdiocese of Chicago with similar experience and responsibilities.

Now we are talking about a non-profit here. I get that. But this is a non-profit organization with over $20 million in assets, a lot of which is physical plant. They have, however, modestly grown their over $9 million in cash and investments each of the past several years. Seeing positive investment growth over the past couple years is something remarkable. I'm sure they work at that. I'm sure that their budgets are relatively tight. But I fear that those results come at the expense of their "professional" staff. I doubt that someone earning the sort of money being offered could afford a decent rental unit in a safe neighborhood in the Baltimore area. How do you pay back the loans for your Master's degree? How do you even try to get ahead? Twenty-some years ago it was difficult to live on that money, even with two adults in the household working.

The problem is that the archival profession is glutted with unemployed and underemployed professionals so there are plenty of people who are archivists who will take any job to build their resume for the "big" job some day. Supply, meet demand. But for a profession that prides itself on generally exclusive requirements for the positions that become available, AND usually require an advanced degree, this pay is insulting.

This is why I shifted from archives to records management. The pay is better. And we have cookies.

I'll also point out that some archivists "get" this. They are embarrassed as well. And they do their best to embarrass institutions that do this sort of thing. This job hasn't made it to the blog yet, but I suspect it will.

1 comment:

pakurilecz said...

"this pay is insulting."
I agree that it is insulting to an individual who has both an undergraduate and a graduate degree, but the problem lies with the fact that there are thousands of unemployed and underemployed archivists out there who will be applying for this position in a heartbeat. SAA has over 1500 student members. Surely there aren't that many archives jobs out there that can absorb that number. but check out the numbers here

But what to do? first would be don't apply for such positions. Yeah I know that is hard when you're faced with paying off tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, but if no one applies the organization can do oen of two things, either lower the requirements or increase the pay.