Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Working in libraries: the job announcements

The deal I made with myself being that I wouldn't leave without a formal employment proposition, I've begun investigating library jobs all over Great-Britain. And, at first, I was shocked by a simple fact: there are actual job announcements for academic permanent positions (well, for all kinds of positions really). And quite a lot actually.

So why was it so shocking to me? Because academic libraries in France don't work like that at all. To have a permanent position in a library, you have to be a civil servant. And to become a civil servant, you have to pass a competitive exam. There are three main branches in French public service: state, territorial and hospitals, and, even though you can move from one to the other afterwards, the initial competitive tests you need to pass to integrate one branch or the other are different.

Territorial communities (and the ministry for culture) manage public libraries. The territorial competitive tests allow you to submit your application to these libraries and you're in charge of finding yourself a job within two years after passing the test (which isn't always easy... but that's another story).

The State (in particular the ministry for research and higher education) is in charge for academic libraries. I personally am an academic librarian, so their working is more familiar to me. After passing the competitive test of your choice, you are assigned to a position. You get to emit vows based on a list of vacancies, but you are not the one making the final decision. After three years of service in a library, you can ask for a transfer: once a year (twice for head librarians), a list of vacancies is issued and you can apply for positions. A commission decides, based on a variety of criteria, from marital status to length of service, who gets to go where.

This intricate system is the price we pay for our outstanding job security. But I personally resent it a bit. It was not my choice to come working in Paris. But 80% of the jobs in academic libraries are in or around the capital, so it's really hard to avoid coming there at one point or the other. I actually got very lucky and, even though I didn't get to stay in my region of origin, I integrated a very interesting position within an amazing team. But now, part of my motivation for leaving is to be able to actually make a choice: choosing where and what kind of position I want to apply for. Choosing of having a new experience in a nearby country. This new horizon of possibilities is a great motivation.

So, is the French libraries market really closed to foreign librarians who would like to get an experience here? Not really. Actually, French libraries employ quite a number of people on temporary contracts, and you can find announcements for this kind of jobs quite easily.
Here are two of our main resources:
  • Emploi Enssib will tip you off on vacancies in academic libraries;
  • While on Biblioemplois you're more likely to find job announcements for public libraries.
And of course, if you are a European Union citizen, you can take the competitive exams to become a civil servant, but that's another subject entirely...

Licence Creative CommonsThe above photo was taken by me at Seyssel, France, in December 2012.
This photo and text are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

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