The occupational choice of school library media specialists
Jones, Stephanie Anne
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The purpose of this narrative research study was to identify and explore the reasons that five graduate students in a school library media program had for selecting the occupation of school library media specialist. Savickas’ career construction theory served as the framework for understanding the vocational behavior of the participants. The primary data collection method was through life story interviews. Narrative analysis was used to create first-person career stories for each of the individual participants. The data was also examined in relation to the three major components of career construction theory: vocational personality, life theme, and career adaptability. Lastly, a comparative analysis was conducted to locate commonalities across all the participants’ life stories. Looking at the life stories of the participants through the lens of career construction theory provided a comprehensive picture of the complex network of elements that accompany any occupational choice. This examination revealed the substantial value placed on educational achievement by the participants and their families. Also significant was the finding that the influence of a librarian was instrumental in bringing these five individuals into the profession. Lastly, this analysis evinced the importance of vocational personality in occupational choice. In career construction theory vocational personality is portrayed as resemblances to socially constructed categories, specifically Holland RIASEC codes. The finding that all of the participants had a resemblance to the Artistic type has implications for recruitment. The comparative analysis found that the reasons these five people had for becoming media specialists are similar to those previously identified in the occupational choice research literature. These motivations are a love of books and reading, library experiences, altruism-service, and a desire to work with children. Reasons specific to the choice of school librarianship include financial stability and security, flexibility of work schedule, and emotional distance. These findings suggest that the reasons that these five participants had for becoming school library media specialists are not significantly different than those applicable to other library specialties. Finally, this study reiterated the library profession’s persistent problem of the public not even being aware of librarianship as a possible occupation.