I’ve got 99 Problems...But a Book Ain’t One!

There is so much more to being a librarian than choosing new books and maintaining a library. In fact, it is no secret that more is being expected of librarians now than ever before. We asked and you answered, let’s run through the top 99 problems modern day librarians are facing today.  

  1. 1. No money, more problems– Our librarians consistently report that their budgets just aren’t big enough to effectively maintain their collections. 

  1. 2. Changing COVID protocols – COVID-19 numbers are all over the place and it can be challenging to keep up with the latest rules and mandates.  

  1. 3. Library relevancy – According to Publishers Weekly, there has been a steady decline in the usage of public libraries over the last few years.  

  1. 4. Keeping up with technology – Many librarians are not IT trained Media Specialists but are expected to fulfill technology duties regardless. 

  1. 5. Fighting book bans – When an administration is questioned over the content of a book, usually the librarians face backlash and consequences. 

  1. 6. Keeping patrons happy – When it comes to banning books and monitoring content, there will always be somebody who isn’t happy, and guess who they usually take it out on?  

  1. 7. Not enough hours in a week – Curating a collection, keeping a library neat and organized, and building an inclusive space for everyone to read and learn takes a lot of time and energy. Time is a limiting factor for so many librarians.   

  1. 8. Work schedule – According to Balance Careers, it is not uncommon for public librarians to work nights, weekends, and holidays. This can be for author visits, book signings, or any other community events.  

  1. 9. Damaged books – There is an expected amount of wear and tear that happens to books that are leant out, but with shrinking budgets, it’s harder to take these titles out of circulation and replace them with new ones.  

  1. 10. Lack of basic supplies – A limited budget not only means less time for books, but basic office and Maintenace supplies. Many librarians and educators are forced to purchase their own materials for their libraries and classrooms.  

  1. 11. Lack of help – Some of our librarians have reported a general lack of help and manpower. An additional body in the library to help sort and organize books can go a long way, but because of budgeting restrictions, additional library staff are usually not a priority for school administrators.  

  1. 12. Content curation – Librarians are expected to create engaging, up-to-date collections of the best new books for their patrons, but many do not have the time to read new content themselves.  

  1. 13.  Additional duties – Most librarians are not only responsible for running their library. They cover class, bathroom, bus, and detention duties as well as whatever else is asked of them by their schools.  

  1. 14. Stolen budgets – Not only are budgets for libraries generally getting smaller, some librarians have reported that the money allotted to them is being used for other programs around their schools and facilities. 

  1. 15. Organizing the shelves – Keeping a library organized is a full-time job. It is no secret that younger readers tend to move books around, making them harder for patrons to find. Librayr collections need to be monitored and sorted frequently to make sure everything stays organized.  

  1. 16. Keeping up with MARC Records – When librarians can order new books, they must successfully document and organize them with MARC records. This can be very time-consuming and must be done properly to keep things running smoothly.  

  1. 17. Mylar Jackets – Mylar Jackets are an important part of keeping books safe and extending their lifespans. However, putting a jacket on every book that they add to their collection can take up a lot of time.  

  1. 18. Computers – For many students, the library is the only place where they have access to computers and other technology. Computers come with their own sets of technological issues and challenges.  

  1. 19. Fighting over fines – It is well known that libraries have historically charged fines for late books, however, there is a strong argument that these fines perpetuate inequity with patrons. Librarians are often in the middle of the fine/ no-fine debate.  

  1. 20. Tracking circulation – Circulation is an important part of libraries, and understanding which books are not being checked out can help librarians decide which titles should be retired.  

  1. 21. Inadequate training –  Most librarians are required to have a Master's Degree in Library Science, but this does not train them for the technological issues and additional responsibilities being added to their plates.  

  1. 22. Lack of upward mobility – Because so many schools have such a limited buget for their library programs, there are often not many opportunities for growth advancement within the field.  

  1. 23. Constant accessibility – According to Balance Careers, librarians are expected to be accessible in person, via email, and over the phone to answer questions or address patrons' concerns.  

  1. 24. Red tape   A Reddit user in the r/librarians thread had this to say; “The worst part is the red tape to get things up and running. By the time you finally get things approved to move on them, something else is new and popular and then what you wanted to do isn't as successful because people have already moved on to the next big thing. Libraries should be leading the way, and instead, we tend to lag behind.” 

  1. 25. Shipping delays – When librarians do get money for new books, they often have a limited window to use or lose their budgets. With recent supply-chain issues, the delays and cancellations of book orders have been a momentous challenge.  

  1. 26. Password management – Younger students (and even older patrons) forget their computer passwords, it happens. However, librarians are often the ones in charge of managing and resetting these passwords.  

  1. 27. Testing schedules – Many librarians are called in to help proctor and manage standardized testing. These testing weeks are very busy and take away time designated to library management. 

  1. 28. Classes invading space – Many librarians face their areas being used as additional classroom spaces, making it hard if not impossible to work in their libraries during these hours 

  1. 29. Balancing vendor sources – When librarians are allocated funds, managing their budget is a tedious task. They must ensure they are getting the best deal possible from their vendors and using every penny appropriately.  

  1. 30. Book fairs – Book fairs are fun and exciting for students, but they take hours of planning and set up to properly execute, which often entirely falls to the librarian.  

  1. 31. Censorship – With book bans on the rise, librarians are often responsible for advocating for certain titles and topics in their collections and why they should be accessible to young readers.  

  1. 32. Keeping up with new trends – The world of library sciences is constantly changing; however, many librarians are struggling with their allotted resources to maintain and sustain their libraries, let alone to foster these new changes 

  1. 33. Constant interruptions – Working in a school requires flexibility as there are often situations that arise that require all hands on deck. Librarians are often amongst the first to bas asked to help.  

  1. 34. Proving their worth – To justify funding and manning, librarians must find ways to prove the worth of their library.  

  1. 35. Not the job they signed up for – Librarians have their master's degrees in library sciences. They are well-educated and prepared to run an effective library. However, with so many new things being asked of them, many do not feel that the tasks they are assigned fall under the job description that they signed up for.  

  1. 36. Making time for reading – With all their other roles and responsibilities, many librarians hardly have enough time to get their work done, let alone to read new books to add to their collections. 

  1. 37. Access to databases – Access to reputable databases is essential to teach students how to research. The cost of these databases are just one more thing that librarians need to fit into their shrinking budgets.  

  1. 38. Tracking down resources – Hounding students for forgotten books can be a full-time job. Making sure that all materials are returned by the end of the school year can be a timely and difficult task.  

  1. 39. Building student relationships – Librarians are often catering to the needs of an entire school. This means they have limited time with students to build relationships and to help foster a love of books, reading, and the library.  

  1. 40. Library acquisitions – Managing library acquisitions are a big responsibility for librarians. This is basically the practice of choosing and purchasing resources for a library. This involves budget management as well as justifying purchases to school and public administrations.  

  1. 41. Crisis management – When a crisis strikes, many people turn to their local libraries for support. This can be in the form of education, a hub for Wi-Fi, or even just a physical space to go. 

  1. 42. COVID resources – Since the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries have been used as a place to learn more about the virus and to even pick up masks and at-home tests.  

  1. 43. Marketing - Because of lack of staff and resources, many librarians oversee marketing their own events and programs.  

  1. 44. Choosing which resources to invest in –Librarians often must prioritize which resources they feel they should put their budget to. This can be a difficult decision, as their choices directly impact their schools and communities.  

  1. 45. Gaining trust from the community – Community involvement can greatly impact the success of a library but building relationships with patrons takes time.  

  1. 46. Engaging young readers – Reading programs are a fun way to get students and young readers excited about books. Many librarians are overrun with other responsibilities and don’t have the time to properly execute these programs.  

  1. 47. Predicting what will circulate – While librarians tend to have a pretty good idea about which titles will be popular, you can never truly be sure what will circulate within your collection.  

  1. 48. New legislation – Politicians in certain states are calling for stricter laws regarding community libraries 

  1. 49. Burn out – Because there is so much being asked of school librarians and their staff (if they have any) burn out, low morale, and general frustration is common in the field.  

  1. 50. Underserved populations – Librarians in vulnerable communities may have patrons with greater needs. Often time, the need for access to technology and Wi-Fi can be higher in these areas, however, libraries don’t always have the budget to support this. 

  1. 51. Strong libraries and test scores – There are many studies that indicate schools with strong library programs tend to have higher standardized test scores. This is a challenge for school libraries with smaller budgets and less access to strong literature for their students.  

  1. 52. Government mistrust – According to Public Libraries Quarterly, there is a growing mistrust of the U.S. government amongst taxpayers which can actually harm our libraries. According to Mark Smith in volume 38, issue 3 of PLQ, “This dim view of government is particularly characteristic of attitudes toward the federal level, which is damaging to library operations at the federal and state levels and indirectly affects local public libraries through a loss of funding, policy voice, and stature.”  

  1. 53. Staff safety post-pandemic – Like many other industries, one of the challenges that library staffs face is the fact that they work in person and interact with many different people throughout the day while COVID number are still fluctuating.  

  1. 54. Fewer adults are reading – Did you know that according to the National Endowment of the arts, there has been a dramatic decline in the adults in the United States that read? This means less patrons, circulation, and use of public libraries.  

  1. 55. Fewer library cards – According to CalPolyPomona University Library, only about 58% of adults in the United States have library cards. That means about half of the adult population is not utilizing their public libraries.  

  1. 56. Public Libraries are low priority – Additionally, according to CalPolyPamona University, Americans spend almost three times more money annually on candy than they do on public libraries.  

  1. 57. Reflecting populations– Another challenge for many librarians is finding content appropriate for the population that it is serving. Representation in books matters, and it is important to curate a strong library collection based around the patrons who will benefit from it.  

  1. 58More book challenges – According to the Washington Post and the American Library Association, there were 1,597 book challenges and removals in the U.S. in 2021.  

  1. 59. The reason for book bans – Book bans have changed drastically in the US. According to the Washington Post, before 1999, most books were challenged or removed because of violence or profanity. In recent years, books are more likely to be challenged because of LGBTQ+ characters or because of topics involving racism. This opens a large debate about the ethics behind censoring these topics.  

  1. 60. Librarians are being targeted- With the rise in book banning's, librarians are now being personally attacked. According to the Washington Post, librarians are consistently being scrutinized and challenged about the books in their collections, and some have even lost their jobs because of the content on their shelves.  

  1. 61. Unfair pay – According to a study done by the College & Research Libraries News which explores things like established wages and other factors that impact earnings, librarians' salaries are described as “relatively low.” 

  1. 62. Industry shortage – According to the American Library Association, there is a general shortage in the number of librarians in the U.S. today.  

  1. 63. A variety of content – School and public librarians are catering to a wide array of readers with all different interests, ages, and reading levels. It is important, and time-consuming, to collect content that serves everybody’s needs.  

  1. 64. Maintaining virtual services – Librarians went above and beyond to provide virtual resources during the pandemic. Now that their physical spaces are back open to the public, sustaining their virtual and physical resources can be a tough balance.  

  1. 65. Online harassment – Some librarians have reported being harassed online for the books they choose to keep in their collections.  

  1. 66. Escalated confrontations– According to the Washington Post, the severity of confrontations around books has dramatically changed recently. According to the article “With Rising Book Bans, Librarians Have Come Under Attack,” by Elizabeth A. Harris and Alexander Alter, in the past parents could prevent their student from checking out specific books or could fill out a form for consideration if they felt a book should be removed. Now, librarians are facing things such as being target through social media or dealing with extremist groups showing up to school board meetings.  

  1. 67. Violent threats – In some parts of the country, threats against librarians have become increasingly violent. The Washington Post article referenced above, talks about a woman in Arkansas who made open threats of gun violence to her local library.  

  1. 68. Lack of volunteers – According to the University of Maryland School of Public Policy, the United States has seen a consistent decline in the amount of people who volunteer or donate annually. For many libraries, volunteer hours help to fill the gap in their lack of human resources.  

  1. 69. Lack of teacher support – According to an article by JCS, 59% of school librarians do not feel like they are supported by teachers at their schools.   

  1. 70. Lack of admin support – The same JCS article referenced above also states that 31% of school librarians do not feel that their school administrators place value on information literacy skills.  

  1. 71. Lack of resources – This article also mentions that 29% of librarians feel that they have an overall general lack of resources.  

  1. 72. Positive public opinion – For public libraries, almost 90% of their funding is directly impacted by local voters and politicians. This creates an urgency to foster a general positive public opinion 

  1. 73. Lack of diversity – According to Public Libraries Quarterly, in 2019 86.7% of American Library Association members identified as white. Librarians are responsible for serving communities of all different races and backgrounds. The lack of diversity within the industry does not seem to have changed much within the last few years.  

  1. 74. Wage gaps within the field – According to a study done by Zippia, women librarians are making about 94% of what men are making.  

  1. 75. High turnover – There is a relatively high turnover within the library field. According to the study by Zippia, referenced above, about 36% of librarians stay at their job for 1-2 years while 26% stay less than one year.  

  1. 76. Decreasing job opportunities – According to Becomeopeedia, job opportunities within the library field are decreasing.  

  1. 77. Varying requirements – Each state has educational requirements to become a librarian, which can make it hard to move or pursue job opportunities in different parts of the country.  

  1. 78. False perceptions – Many patrons and other school staff do not understand all of the rules and responsibilities that are required of librarians.  

  1. 79. Summer learning loss – It has been proven that children lose a lot of the information that they learn during the school year over extended breaks. This is called Summer Learning Loss, and one of the ways it is combatted is through effective summer reading programs, which often fall on the shoulders of librarians.  

  1. 80. Young students and books– Many librarians cater to young children who are just learning how to handle books. The additional wear and tear of curious hands can take its toll on their collections. 

  1. 81. Forecasting the future – Librarians are charged with filling their shelves with the best new books, particularly for their young readers. However, often awards for books are given out long after their publishing date, making it hard to forecast which titles they should add to their shelves. 

  1. 82. COVID-19 and education – For the last two years, many children have had to adapt to the virtual learning environment. While teachers have adapted and overcome the challenges that came along with the pandemic, students' education and social skills suffered from this time missed in the classroom. Librarians are tasked with helping to bridge this gap.  

  1. 83. Copyright laws – Librarians are often responsible for making sure their library and patrons are in compliance with copyright laws. These laws often change and can be hard to keep up with.  

  1. 84. Staff management – On top of all their other roles and responsibilities, many librarians are responsible for hiring, training, and managing their own library staff. 

  1. 85. Community coordination – Because the support of the community can impact local legislation, it is important that librarians coordinate programs for their local communities.  

  1. 86. Maintaining technology – On top of discovering and implementing new technology, librarians are often tasked with choosing the right programs for their library.  

  1. 87. Library audits – On top of ordering, organizing, processing, and shelfing books, librarians are also expected to audit their own collections on a regular basis.