May 26, 2004


I plan to take this site down two weeks from today (i.e., Wednesday, 9 June).

UPDATE (June 4):

I have received many requests to keep the blog up, or at least to allow mirroring. I haven't yet decided what to do.

In any case, the site should eventually be archived at the Internet Archive. I requested a crawl over two months ago and I know the Alexa crawler has since visited my site. The results do not yet turn up, but apparently this can take several months.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at May 26, 2004 10:48 AM

I have just stumbled across this blog via an article in THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER ED. The insights of the IA are superb, particularly her reminder that the deprofessionalization, via cheap labor, will ultimately infect the whole guild.

In 1976, I wrote a piece for the ADE Bullettin outlining my despair over the job situation. I was an ABD, weary of excuses others gave for the lack of jobs, and deeply cynical as a result of of hearing my "mentors" so blithely rationalize this scarcity of positions. Ultimately, i finished my degree, held several part time positions, until finally securing a tenure track position. I was just plain lucky; I tried to do what I could at my small private college to make the teaching of composition and intro courses staffed by full time people; I met resistance, much of it from colleagues who refused to see that this exploitation of part time workers was wrong for reasons readers of this know all too well. I got into lots of trouble trying to argue that it was our responsibility as faculty to create as many full time positions as we could, especially at private colleges where tuition was so high. I failed and my cynicism grew, especially toward tenured radicals in English who talked a nice "radical politics" game, but acted otherwise when it came to thinking about their own complicity in a system that was, and still remains, exploitive.

I took early retirement, and was fortunate to be able to do so. Economically, I still need some dough, and I do still love teaching, so I'm really semi retired, teaching, alas, as an adjunct at two different schools. One has a Masters in English program, and I'm stunned at how many young graduate students still don't get the picture. (A friend back in the '70's compared those who still kept coming to lemmings. . . and I'm just amazed that the metaphor still applies after all these years of job deflation or proletarianization of Academe.)

A final note: I have an 18 year old who's just finished her first year of college. She's a gifted musician and loves philosophy. She thinks an academic life would be great and I listen as she spells out all the virtues she, in her innocence, it embodies. It seems like Eden. I've just turned 60 and have to find a way to break the news to her without breaking her spirit as well. Perhaps some of the IA's cogent remarks, quoted in the article, will serve. (Like her, I feel in many ways most alive in teaching, and my 1976 article echoes many of her concerns.)

I don't know if anyone will read this or respond, but having had this concern about
the future of academic life threaded through my own life since around 1975, I needed to write this.

Posted by: George T. Karnezis at May 26, 2004 08:36 PM

Bon Voyage. Loved your interview in the Chronicle, and was delighted that you chose to remain annonymous. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have 100 blue books to mark up. (laughter)

Posted by: ABD in the salt mines at May 26, 2004 09:43 PM

I'm so sorry to read this is going down.

I do hope you archive it and perhaps consider selling it on CD in the future.

Posted by: Ethesis at May 26, 2004 11:09 PM

Time to print out huge parts of this site for future reference. There's no better place to send naive would-be graduate students.

One day, scholars will be writing to each other to see if they can assemble a complete run of Invisible Adjunct (including the vanished entries on Benton's 1 in 5 column). Nicholson Baker, are you reading this?

Posted by: THB at May 27, 2004 09:47 AM

I'm sorry to hear IA is going down, too. It has been a great forum...

Posted by: Chuck at May 27, 2004 02:45 PM

I guess I'd better start reading fast!

I told someone that I plan to go to grad school after finishing my undergrad degree in a couple of years and that my first choice of occupation is professor.

They just laughed at me and gave me this URL.

I hope I read enough to understand their reaction before it all goes away.

Thank you for producing this resource.

Posted by: S.R. Cross at May 27, 2004 07:54 PM

You've done a wonderful thing here - and kept many of us company with your insight and presence of mind. Thank you - and I wish you all the best, wherever the future will now take you. I am sure that good things are in store for you.

Posted by: LiL at May 27, 2004 11:04 PM

Seconding Lil -- we'll be thinking of you.

Posted by: Rana at May 28, 2004 02:44 PM

I'm making a mirror of the site for local viewing with wget right now (the commandline is cribbed directly from wget's manpage: wget --verbose --page-requisites --mirror --convert-links --backup-converted --html-extension, if you want to make one yourself). Assuming it works right, I'll send a tarball to anyone who wants.

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 28, 2004 05:37 PM

Assuming IA doesn't object, that is.

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 28, 2004 05:38 PM

Why take the site down? Because it costs something to keep it running? It seems like a very useful resource to keep online, and it would be a shame for all the comments and discussion to be lost. What would you think of keeping one or more mirrors up (with new comments disabled)? I'm sure it would be easy to find volunteers to host them for free.

I don't like the suggestion from #3 above about selling it on CD. That would be inconvenient, and also awkward because much of the interest comes from the comments (and it's not clear that it's reasonable to sell them).

Posted by: Anonymous at May 29, 2004 04:57 PM

Please don't simply take it down. You can pass it on to a web organization to host it for you for free while you keep your anonymity. Please! Why throw it away?

Posted by: Seun Osewa at May 29, 2004 06:11 PM

I agree, there's stil good stuff to be found here that might not have been found yet.

Posted by: fairest at May 29, 2004 07:51 PM

If anyone wants a copy of the site, I have mirrored it just as ben wolfson has and can senda copy to anyone that asks. Thanks ben, my wget mirror didn't do the convert links thing and was quite annoying.

For a copy, simply mail andrew at

Posted by: Andrew Cholakian at May 30, 2004 01:01 AM

Well, I haven't heard from IA. If Andrew's making his copy available, I'll make mine available, too. It's here, until that webspace gets taken down in, uh, maybe a month or so.

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 30, 2004 08:14 PM

I lied. The archive is here.

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 30, 2004 08:42 PM

If you haven't heard from her (it is a holiday, after all), you might want to hold off on making the archive available.

Posted by: ogged at May 30, 2004 10:34 PM

Per IA's request I took it down.

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 30, 2004 10:54 PM

Publish it as a book instead, and it will still be available 500 years from now.

Posted by: Gustav Holmberg at May 31, 2004 03:19 AM

Per IA's request I took it down

Surely this doesn't mean she wants the site to vanish forever? What will happen to my Weekly IA Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence (No Cash, Just Glory) -- perhaps my proudest online moment? Say it ain't so!

Posted by: language hat at May 31, 2004 03:55 PM

Mr. Hat: she says she's undecided about mirroring and will think about it.

Posted by: ben wolfson at May 31, 2004 05:05 PM

I have only just discovered this site, too, and hope that IA is not the Seb I know collegially; if so, more's the loss to academe.

As I've said elsewhere, and vocally, the academic hiring process is the most demeaning, soul-battering trial I have ever encountered (having come to this world with 28 years of successful experience in industry). It is appalling -- mind-boggling -- ego-crushing, and from everything I can determine, is consciously and deliberately so. But if you love to teach, IA, perhaps you should just take a vacation from it, rather than swear off the profession forever. No one is having a good time of it, job-hunting right now in the humanities. Being an independent scholar represents a certain kind of freedom, too: no faculty (whine and cheese) meetings.

Hang in there. We need you.


Posted by: Invisibletoo at June 1, 2004 10:28 AM

Dammit, this can't simply be erased.

Posted by: Fukstix at June 2, 2004 12:50 AM

Hmmm, you're right ogged. No one's mailed me yet anyway, so I havn't distributed any copies. I'll wait to hear what IA has to say regarding this, of course I want to respect her copyright.

Posted by: Andrew Cholakian at June 2, 2004 12:54 AM

This issue really bothers me. From a legal point of view IA is entitled to do whatever she wants with the site, but I think the right thing to do is to leave a copy online. I believe the comments form the bulk of the site overall (correct me if I'm wrong), and that much of the value comes from the conversations that took place under IA's supervision. In some sense she's not the "author" of the site, but rather the caretaker of an online community. She played the fundamental role of organizing the site and leading the discussion, and is clearly in charge of the web site. However, it would be terrible to see all these conversations and discussions erased forever, without even any explanation of why.

Please don't let them vanish, Invisible Adjunct. If you post a request, it will be easy to find people who can keep a public archive of the site, unchanged, for free and without knowing your identity. I really wish we knew which issues were bothering you, so we could offer advice or at least so we could understand why you seem to prefer that all this information vanish without a trace.

Posted by: Anonymous at June 2, 2004 02:39 AM

i'm not sure how many archival copies there will be, but i've made one for future research purposes. i'd be happy to provide access to it, should ia grant that, through the archives section of my research center, else, i'll likely just burn it to dvd like a few other little bits of history that have come and gone.

Posted by: jeremy hunsinger at June 2, 2004 08:49 AM

Whatever IA decides to do with the site, I wish her all the best in her future endeavours -- no doubt in a job that values her. But I still miss her insight.

Posted by: wolfangel at June 2, 2004 08:51 AM

I came to this site just about a month ago and have not had time to read all the archives yet. I gave academia the finger after only a semester of grad school and now have a real world job. Great job...not so much time to read online.

Please give us latecomers a bit more time, or release the blog to one or more of the guys above, OK?

Posted by: Kathy at June 3, 2004 04:21 PM

It would be a shame to lose all the information here. Someone in a college management class (as in 'how to manage a college without being a total dork') might find this site to be really useful. I've looked for ia on the wayback machine and they don't have it all archived (much less the comments). See New York Times this week on grad student at Princeton who milked New Yorker fiction for data to report on how editors chose work. You never know what this site might give rise to with regard to someone's research. Or, you never know how beneficial this site might be to the cause--i.e. decent pay for righteous work--academia is the real world (this is your brain on job of work--skillet empty and melting, vs. this is your brain on job of love--no skillet just sizzle); wouldn't it be great if we could all participate in it as colleagues on equal footing? . . . hope . . . hope

Posted by: Tom at June 3, 2004 11:02 PM

Dear IA:

I first came across your Blog by means of the _Chronicle_ and was both moved and disheartened by it. You see, I am one of those naive would be graduate students to whom your voice seems to have been calling out to. Unfortunately I came too late, that is, the experience of reading your Blog for me is now one of solidarity, sorrow, and hope. I am a philosopher in the so-called Continental tradition of philosophy. The academic atmosphere of most (not all) philosophy departments to this is tolerating and warm at best, with the exception of those seemingly fewer and fewer schools that stand up for it. Unfortunately I have felt the viciousness of just the political atmosphere you have described first hand - from insipid comments to rejections from departments due to my "lack of philosophical breadth." An ironic statement given that personal interest is somehow equivocated with lack of knowledge, which is not the case.

Since a very young age I had decided to be an academic and it has been my guiding pursuit throughout most of my youth until now, my mid-twenties. But now I have decided to leave the Academy and try, desperately, to not leave philosophy too. The angst that accompanies this decision is made more difficult by the seeming loss of identity to which you have referred in your own case. I am an academic and will be one always, but for now I will be an academic without a voice or the possibility of recognition within the only institution that grants philosophers the authority to speak.
Thank you for your insights and I can only hope that you please will publish this site for the aid of future academic ex-patriots.

Thank you.

Christopher D. Merwin

Posted by: Christopher Merwin at June 4, 2004 01:13 PM

If it's smart (and/or reckess) the Chronicle will devote an entire issue to reproducing the contents of this site.

Posted by: fyreflye at June 4, 2004 07:15 PM

I'll second the remarks of others here urging IA to permit a mirror somewhere. These conversations will be timely for some time to come--for people who haven't yet found the site, and for past participants and readers who want to dip back into the archives to find something memorable.

Posted by: T. V. at June 4, 2004 10:43 PM

I add my encouragement for a permanent archive.

Just last week I heard from a cousin with a new BA that she was that she was aiming for graduate school in the humanities, with the happy encouragement of her professors. As I don't think that she -- like Jane Bast, and so many others -- has a clue about the risks involved in this choice, I tried to use my own career path as an example. That didn't seem to take. Perhaps she thought I was exceptionally thick or perhaps unlucky. But at least I could then dictate this site's address to her, for her sake, to read some other sobering viewpoints.

Please don't let this site go!

Posted by: P at June 5, 2004 02:36 PM

I liked the IA site as much as anyone, and have always appreciated the amount of time people spent reacting to it. A great deal of good sense, and no small amount of wisdom, accumulated on this site.

But it's time to let the site go. Everyone who wants to should make their own copy, and I hope it circulates in digital samizdat form among graduate students and young Ph.D.s for years.

Keeping the site alive, and maybe even keeping it online at all, would freeze something that, when live, was very good, but of a particular moment-- and, unintentionally, would also freeze a public identity that its author wants to move beyond.

Posted by: Alex at June 7, 2004 04:37 PM

Just visiting, thought I'd drop a quote from Lieter on philosophy programs and placement:



Students beginning graduate study in philosophy ought to have a realistic sense of what awaits them. You need to realize that job prospects are uncertain, that jobs at top departments and elite colleges are hard to come by, and that many who start PhD programs do not finish them. The following data may help provide some perspective--though it bears noting that this data is culled from a “top” graduate program; it is likely that data from less prestigious graduate programs is even more sobering. Students should check with particular programs for detailed information on matters like rates of attrition and completion.

The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, long one of the leading departments in the nation (ranked in the top ten for most of the 1980s, in the top five more recently), makes available extremely detailed and informative information about job placement over the last decade at Of the 48 students who completed the PhD during that time period, 13—or slightly more than one-quarter—have not secured tenure-track appointments. 3 of these 13 first entered the job market since 2000, and so may very well secure such appointments, as might one or two of those from before 2000. At the same time, 11 graduates (or almost one-quarter) secured tenure-track (in some cases now, tenured) appointments at highly ranked departments (in philosophy, law, and political science). Since attrition in philosophy graduate programs is often as high as one-half the entering students (and one-quarter is not atypical even at top programs), it would not be misleading to say that, even at a top graduate program, only one out of ten entering students will end up teaching in strong research-oriented departments, while perhaps as many as two out of ten will be unable to find permanent academic employment. In addition, 4 of the 18 graduates from the above list who have come up for tenure decisions failed to get tenure; three of them secured other tenure-track or tenured academic employment.

For 1995-96, there were 341 PhDs awarded in the United States and Canada, as reported by the Review of Metaphysics. Of these 341, just 17 were offered tenure-track jobs (or the equivalent) in top 50 Ph.D. programs or their foreign equivalents. Of these 17, six were graduates of Princeton, three of Pittsburgh, two of Michigan, and one each of Rutgers, Stanford, Iowa, Minnesota, Notre Dame, and Texas. Of these 341, a mere six were offered jobs at top fifteen programs. Of these six, two each went to Princeton and Michigan, and one each went to Pittsburgh and Rutgers.

A further warning: the vast majority of the Michigan students who had tenure-track offers from top ten departments during the 1990s spent 7-10 years in graduate school. There is a sobering message in this: the kinds of skills needed to land a entry-level post are now the kinds of skills someone thirty years ago would have acquired after three years as a tenure-track assistant professor! The ferocious competition for jobs creates an incentive for students to spend a very long time perfecting their work.

Posted by: Ethesis at June 10, 2004 12:09 AM

ia, i just want to thank you again for blogging. OBVIOUSLY it was something we all needed. i personally have benefitted enormously from your blog.

all of us who are adjunctified, as well as our allies, owe it to the young'uns to let them know what time it is. let's not just let this excellent blog rest on its laurels, let's go out and start our own movements, organize oursleves in new and even more powerful ways. if we simpy keep relying on this blog, we lose whatever momentum and empowerment we got from it.

the issues that ia addressed are the issues we all still deal with. this blog is a work of art, a representation as transitory as our lives in the academy. one thing i've always heard about artistes is that they learn to let go of their works so they can create more. so let's create, people!

Posted by: meanregression at June 15, 2004 11:29 AM

I've posted here before and long followed the site w/ great interest. I finished not even an MA program and already was very disillusioned w/ grad school (especially to the extent that I'd at least been _considering continuing on to a PhD). I look back now at that whole bizarre experience (which took place many many years ago) and wonder what I must have been smoking to have committed to the program that I did.

The benefit of hindsight, and of copious information on the 'net such as this amazing site (and which of course didn't exist back in "my day") certainly makes it much easier to validate the disillusionment and confusion that current specs, students or attriters may have felt or may be feeling. It makes us all realize for sure that we're not alone in feeling these things, that we were never alone. The very culture of isolation and overspecialization at grad school normally makes it much harder for anyone to feel anything _but isolated when confronting these real problems, issues and feelings.

But as I reflect even further on this, I do note a tendency for many to be awfully hard on themselves for having committed to any particular grad school or program (or to even have thought about it) in the first place. "What an idiot I was!" "What the f@#$ was I thinking?" Etc. etc. Believe me, it has taken me many years to even begin to shake off these nagging feelings.

What certainly bears studying, then, is why the siren song to jump into the grad school "paradise" is indeed so strong in the first place. Certainly, this siren song has been discussed at length here and we hardened "vets" now find ourselves charged with "educating" the young "naive" ones who "don't know any better" about the realities of the experience. But don't knock the youngin's who might not immediately be warm to our message. We were once they, after all, and don't we all remember how much we may well have tuned out one or more skeptical outside voices ourselves?

Fact is, there is something about the perceived atmosphere of graduate study and collegiality that acts as a very strong lure to those who might otherwise be turned off from spending the rest of their lives selling widgets or (literally) pulling teeth. Fact is, this image is often reinforced unwittingly by anecdotes that do emanate from participants in the grad school world, that do little to contribute to an overwhelmingly _negative image of grad school.

Fact is... don't we all have some _positive things to say about the experience that we can't escape? When in our lives have we ever been so closely associated with intelligent, idealistic individuals with whom one could spend literally hours talking about the fate of the universe? When have we ever had such access to reams of printed knowledge that could enrich our minds and broaden our horizons? Upon hearing and experiencing these things, aren't we all a bit prone now and then to put a bit more positive of a spin on grad school than it may deserve?

Therein, I think, lies a major part of the problem. We often delude ourselves into thinking that extended graduate studies (even in a sorry job market) may well be worth the effort if only to partake of those rare but very powerful experiences that are truly "diamonds in the rough" (and.. what diamonds they are!). And I can't personally say that I was ever worse off for having experienced those distinctly positive things per se, rare as they were. But we need to remind ourselves of the immense price that ends up being paid to access those "diamonds"... a price that is far too often just not worth it.

So... somewhere along the line we hardened cynics perhaps need to do a better job of dispelling even further the myths and siren songs that lead unsuspecting newbies into (for them) unsuspected traps. The message, strong as it is now especially with the growth of the internet, needs to be reinforced even further. Accordingly, if this site indeed goes down and is not mirrored elsewhere I can only hope and pray that another enterprising cynic somwhere out in cyberland can so much as spit in the direction of providing the extremely valuable service that this site provided. We owe it to ourselves and to the future of the (increasingly "mental") institution to do no less.

Posted by: Anon at June 16, 2004 09:43 AM

I would add, we also need to work to create _more_ places where "diamonds" can be found, for real -- both outside and beyond grad school and academia as well as within.

Posted by: Rana at June 16, 2004 06:16 PM

Famous in her old age for a lifetime of corporate success, dreaming by the fire, she realizes that Invisible Adjunct, the self she would never acknowledge, was her best self, her greatest achievement. Years later, on her marble monument, two intials are engraved in tiny letters below the famous name, "IA." May she rest in peace.

Posted by: The Happy Tutor at June 18, 2004 09:53 PM


I have been exploring new blogs and find yours very appealing! Thank you for your efforts. I think we share similar ideas. I wish you would continue though.


Posted by: PipeTobacco at June 23, 2004 12:32 PM

I just stumbled across this blog and I see that its about to go down. Being an IT type person, I have to ask what it would take to keep it going? Is it hosting space? Is it administration? I have just started dipping my toes in the adjunct water and I now have absolute respect for adjuncts. I also see that there are huge problems that need to be addressed in higher education. I think this site needs to stay active.

Please let me know.


Posted by: TheInnocentAdjunct at June 24, 2004 09:44 AM

I just stumbled across this blog and I see that its about to go down. Being an IT type person, I have to ask what it would take to keep it going? Is it hosting space? Is it administration? I have just started dipping my toes in the adjunct water and I now have absolute respect for adjuncts. I also see that there are huge problems that need to be addressed in higher education. I think this site needs to stay active.

Please let me know.


Posted by: TheInnocentAdjunct at June 24, 2004 09:47 AM

I just want to say, thanks for the thoughts, and for the rhetorical resistance you've put up. I'm sorry to see the Invisible Adjunct 'blog about to disappear, but I don't blame you a bit for moving on. Good luck with your new pursuits!

I just suffered through a smarmy interview on WHYY with Judith Roden (sp?), soon to be former President of the University of Pennsylvania, and highest-paid University President in the USA--the same person who at Yale witheld the faculty recommendations of graduate students who tried to unionize. I heard her say things like "I don't think we have grade inflaction at the University of Pennsylvania."


I wish I could report my observations of the way adjuncts have been treated in my own close environs, without endangering the careers of the innocent.

Here's to the Star System, and the lip service paid to educators, while the rich build their spaceship to Mars to escape our presence. Maybe they will take the bellybutton music and the football scholarships with them.

Off to work my abs,

Zoot Organizing Kit
Reserve Outfielder,

Posted by: Zoot Organizing Kit at June 24, 2004 11:25 AM

Another suggestion-

Could another group have your permission to carry this on, either as Invisible Adjunct or another name? Again, I think this is a valuable forum, and I know that I could get hosting and administer the site (I can't contribute much on literature or history, but I can run a website :-) ).

Obviously there is interest.

Other readers and adjuncts, your thoughts? Would a group be willing to continue to help with content and comments in order to continue this forum?


Posted by: TheInnocentAdjunct at June 24, 2004 11:54 AM

I found this site a few months ago via Erin O'Connor's website. I had no idea there were other people in the world who shared so many of my thoughts and experiences.

Unfortunately because of some difficult personal circumstances, since that initial discovery I have been unable to access the web for several weeks at a time and have therefore been unable to read the archives--and believe me I want to read the archives.

A bit about me--I am an ordinary working person with an undergraduate degree in English. I also love philosophy and art history. I did seven years of graduate school after finishing my B.A. but the only "real world" tie I maintain to academic life is the fact that I am penpals (and sometimes e-mail pals) with my former Romantic Poetry professors (who is now 83 and one of the most brilliant scholars and wonderful human beings I have ever known). I grew up in America but left the country in my early 30s and now live in Europe where I feel much more at home--Social Democrary rules :-) The "nice ladies" in one of the book clubs in the city where I now live don't even want me to join their book club--ha!--because I'm not posh enough (I don't have an important job, and good greeves jeeves, I live in a "working class" (rough) neighborhood--having come here originally because it was what I could afford and having stayed because I get on so well with the people and feel at home here).

Please consider making this available to people like me who just didn't get a chance the first time around. I can't tell you how fascinating this website is to me--it is by far one of the most interesting and thought-provoking things I have come across in my life!

Posted by: MentalTraveller at June 25, 2004 06:05 PM

Good luck. I recently quit teaching and entered the world of editing. After the horrible experience I had as an underappreciated and underpaid adjunct, it is highly unlikely that I will ever step foot onto University grounds again.

Posted by: Amanda at July 5, 2004 11:29 PM

I'm not finding a good replacement for this site.

Posted by: Ethesis at July 15, 2004 08:27 PM

Like others, I stumbled across this site just awhile back. I find it fascinating, and would hate to see it vanish. If the issue is the hosting of it, I run a hosting company - we'd be delighted to keep it online, at no charge, and even foot the domain registration bill for it to keep it available. If you're interested, drop me a note at the email I provided. It would be a shame to let real, actual, useful, interesting content get away.

Posted by: Annette at July 25, 2004 10:52 PM

I was pointed to this site by a librarian friend in Australia. I am disappointed to see it will not be around much longer. I have a lot of deep sympathy for humanities graduate students, being a former humanities grad student myself (MA, German Studies, Rice University 1997). For me, the graduate program @ Rice was as exhilarating as it was took me 3 years to finish my MA thesis rather than the customary 2, which caused me to lose my funding for "insufficient progress towards degree" and made me a de facto & de jure "Terminal Masters" that point I'd grown very disillusioned by real, existing Germanistik as practiced at Rice University and had awakened new passions in Slavic Studies that I was unable to pursue because Rice doesn't have a grad program in Slavic Studies. After graduation, I got certified to teach German & History in Texas High Schools--tried that for 1 year, hated it, quit. I went to work for an international insurance company (AIG) for awhile, and it was fun because I actually got to use my German skills on the job. It was stressful, but nothing compared to teaching ungrateful high school brats.

As much as I enjoyed working for AIG, I could see it was a pretty dead-end job unless I totally sold my soul to Corporate America and moved out of this local subsidiary and into mainstream corporate AIG. I found I missed academia and pondered PhD programs but after reading lots of Michael Berube & Cary Nelson I got cold feet fast on that idea.

I hit upon the idea of getting my MLS and becoming a librarian, and it has been the smartest thing I've done with my (academic) life. It's not the same as my grand illusions of becoming one of the professoriat, but at least it will enable me to work in a university or community college setting with a decent salary & benefits one day. And keeping my intellectual life alive has nothing to do with whether or not I ever do earn a German Studies, Cinema Studies, Library Science or whatever. I think I'll be quite content to finish my days as an MA/MLS at a major research library.

I think the library profession is in dire need of critically minded, well-educated librarians and I think many a discouraged PhD, post-doc, and struggling doctoral student in the humanities could re-tool their careers and become very damn effective's a much more rewarding move than public school teaching as I can personally attest to. Right now, thanks to the expansion of on-line distance ed (something I view with disdain, even though that is how I am finishing my MLS right now), I think too many librarians entering the profession are the married wives of men with solid careers who are looking to get out of classroom teaching or just finding a "2nd career" period...there's nothing wrong with women like this becoming librarians in and of itself, but as a whole, these kinds of people in this kind of life-position tend to be more conservative and conventional and parochial. They are not the kind of folks who will join the Social Responsibilities Round Table (SRRT) of ALA or the Progressive Librarians Guild (, much less join the Anarchists Librarians Web...we need more radically minded, critically inclined people to join the library profession and I think disgruntled, disillusioned humanities graduate students (both pre-and-post PhD) are just the kind of people we need to reinvigorate the Library profession.

This probably won't appeal to everyone, but I please ask you all to give it at least a few minutes of thought. It is less of a "sell out" than any other career move I can think of...and it beats the hell out of continuously cobbling together the semblance of an academic career with a regular string of part-time adjunct gigs while hoping to make the big break someday into academia.

I haven't read this blog in any great detail (like I said, just discovered it), and maybe this idea was already raised and dismissed multiple times already...but if not, well, think about it.

This is the website to my library school:

They have extensive distance ed opportunities,
and Denton is not a bad place to live, all and all, if you would prefer to take classes "live" (as I did for 1.5 years). Another good ALA-accredited school in Texas is UT-Austin's School of Information (I hate that they dropped the word "Library" from their title, though)...Austin is a fabulous town, but the cost of living is higher than Denton...on the other hand, Austin is still a progressive town, while Denton is the county seat of one of the most Republican counties in Texas (though there is a small, but vibrant neo-hippie counter culture that can be found if you look hard enough and meet the right people)...and Denton has GREAT live music in a number of bars & clubs near campus.

Library school is probably not for everyone, but it sure worked for me, helping me to salvage my disillusioned former academic self...I gave up wishing Rice U. would do Germanistik differently or better and just moved on (they have subsequently lost their graduate program in German Studies and no longer offer advanced degrees to students of German).

Just my $0.02 worth, anyway, before this site shuts down.

Posted by: John J. Ronald at July 27, 2004 12:30 PM

A few last thoughts on why the MLS was better for me than the PhD road...

Aside from the obvious (crappy PhD job market in humanities), I realized from the grueling experience of writing my MA thesis that I just don't have the self-discipline to write a PhD dissertation at this stage in my life.
I just don't. I still much to much the dilletant,
the intellectual butterfly, flitting from one intellectual curiosity/passion to the next, never staying on one path overly long. Very VERY bad for a doctoral candidate--but actually an ASSETT for a working gotta play to your strenghts, I always say, and my quirky habits (plus my passion for learning as many foreign languages in my lifetime as I can) serve me far far better as a prospective librarian than they ever would as a PhD, post-doc, or adjunct instructor/lecturer or even assistant professor.

A former colleague of mine at Rice (who did succesffully finish his PhD in German Studies but now works as a computer wonk for Telecheck) put it to me very succinctly: "The chances of becoming a tenured assistant professor out of any given PhD program are about the same as becoming a professional baseball player from any particular collegiate atheletics program...still theoretically possible, but about that much of a long shot; the rest of us are doomed to play in the minor leagues until we give up or get too old."

The main difference being, there is often *no* difference in level of talent or capability between the academic "minor" and "major" leaguers. It is much more haphazard than that.

I'm sure everybody here is already familiar with
_Workplace: A Journal of Academic Labor_

(an online Journal dedicated to academic labor isuses)...I don't remember the URL but a google keyword search should find it pretty quickly.

Unionization is about the only thing that graduate students can do to better their lot; It's a high stakes gamble, to be sure, but it's the only move that even has a remote chance of paying off these days. (that or, as I said, go to library school and pick up an MLS along the way).

Unionization of graduate students is an up-and-coming issue that mainstream Labor is finally recognizing as a legitimate area of struggle and is lending its support to...the recent NLRB decision was a serious blow to the nacent Academic Labor movement, but the struggle continues (la lucha continua!) action (strikes, work slow-downs, etc) still work, even if they are outlawed. Labor didn't achieve gains for working people by always assiduously following the letter of the law. Intellectual workers are just as subject to exploitation from the managerial classes as any other worker...Orwell predicted as much in _The Road to Wigan Pier_...Librarians & Library workers do better when unionized also...

I'll hate to see this site go--maybe it can be archived somewhere, at the very least.

Posted by: John J. Ronald at July 27, 2004 12:51 PM

Why are spammers suddenly posting on this blog? (See the previous 3 posts)

Posted by: cwd at August 10, 2004 09:29 AM

Not suddenly: spammers have been posting here for many months (which is why I've disabled comments for all but this entry). I had ignored the site for many weeks: hence the comment spam, which I've now removed.

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at August 10, 2004 02:06 PM