Q: How does a part-time librarian find affordable health care insurance?

Q: How does a part-time librarian find affordable health care insurance?

Q: Dear Library Career People, 

I have so many questions I could ask but one dilemma is weighing on my mind (and affecting the contents of my wallet!): lacking health insurance as a part-time librarian. 

I absolutely adore my job as a YA librarian, but I am employed part-time. Though the job market for librarians has gotten a teensy bit better, competition is still fierce. I have yet to land another part-time position (which still wouldn’t give me insurance) or a coveted – and increasingly rare – full-time position. There is no option to “buy-in” to my employer’s insurance and civil service law limits my hours so I won’t qualify for that 30+ hour part-timer Obama law.

I make slightly too much income for state-sponsored programs like Medicaid but far too little to pay for private insurance out of pocket ($1,300/month?!). I know supposedly the new Affordable Care Act will change things next year, but do you know of any options that could help me? Do any professional librarian organizations offer group insurance? 

I know I can’t be the only part-time public librarian struggling with this. Please help if you can and thank you in advance. 

SM: You are definitely not the only part-time librarian to struggle with this issue, and you certainly won’t be the last. Lack of health insurance is one of the biggest drawbacks of working in a part-time position. It’s great that you love your job, but healthcare (or being able to afford health care benefits) is extremely important. Yes, things may change for the better in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act, but you can’t be certain. So, your options come down to: find a different job that offers health insurance (not that practical), find another part-time job that offers health insurance (not so easy), marry someone who has health insurance (ummm?), have someone claim you as a dependent (rather unlikely), or pay lots of money for private insurance (sigh).

It seems like you’ve already looked into any possibility of getting on your employer’s insurance, or getting a lower rate because of your employer. If you haven’t yet, I recommend that  you talk with your supervisor and your human resources department to see if there is anything that can be done or any prospect of changing your existing position into one with benefits (you never know until you ask). Finally, you may want to talk to family members, colleagues, and other part-timers, to see if they have any suggestions and to find out what kind of health insurance they have. And, I’m not sure how old you are, but if you are younger than 26, you may have the option to be added to your parents’ plan.

The good news is that some state level library associations do offer discounts to their members on health insurance plans (for example, NYLA) and some universities offer medical plan discounts to alumni (for example, California State University, Long Beach). So check our your state and local library organizations, and any alumni association that you may be a member of, to find out.

Below are some resources that may provide you with more assistance or information on the current state of part-time positions. The good thing is that you are working in a job that you love and you are getting valuable experience which will help you get that next job… which will hopefully come with benefits. Good luck to you!

On-call, Pool, and Substitute Librarians Facebook Group

Association of Part Time Librarians

The Art of Part-Time
by Sandra Collins and Allison Brungard

Part-Time Work Becomes Full-Time Wait for Better Job
by Catherine Rampell

A Permanent Alternative: Temporary, Part-Time Library Work
by Jennifer Johnston

20 Best Part-Time Jobs With Benefits – Updated for 2013
by Emily Guy Birken

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The Young Person’s Guide To Health Insurance

Q: Can a contractor find a traditional library job?

Q: Can a contractor find a traditional library job?

Q: [Edited] I am a 2007 MSIS graduate. A month after finishing library school I was able to start in a contract position with a large non-profit hospital. At the time I thought it was an amazing opportunity; now I’m not so sure. After marrying a member of the military I was able to continue in the contract position and transition to telecommuting. This is a part-time, non-traditional library position,  and I doubt I’ll have many further opportunities for growth or for learning new skills. I am concerned I missed out on the opportunity to start my library career off on solid footing. My job title is contractor and I don’t know how to make it more attractive a description to potential resume readers without raising questions. I’m now actively searching for a full-time position with benefits, but have had not succeeded in getting so much as an interview in two years. Could the non-traditional nature of my experience be hindering my search? I am very active in two professional library organizations, but my spouse is now planning a long-term military career, and I’m concerned that even if I get the chance to gain some experience in a traditional setting I’ll have to rebuild a professional network and job hunt every time we move. Is it time to consider leaving librarianship? Would more or different training help?

CNW: Careers are only one aspect of our lives, and balancing career and family needs is a challenge for many people. For the time being, it seems as though you have found a flexible role that can accommodate your spouse’s military career growth. There’s no reason to feel that you have gotten your career off to a bad start. It sounds like you have done very well in finding a role that makes use of your specialized training but is flexible enough to accommodate your family’s needs.

Since you have already been on the job market for two years and you’re not getting interviews for traditional library roles, it’s a possibility that your contract status is making you appear less attractive to prospective employers. However, you may also want to revisit how you are framing your skills and work history. Since employers want to hire the most qualified candidate, it would be a good idea to reach out to your professional network for help with framing your qualifications in the most attractive light. Note that I don’t advise fudging details of your employment or experience, but articulating clearly and concisely how your skills relate to the specific traditional library job you want. This means tailoring your resume and cover letter for each job application and telling the story of how your unique skill set qualifies you for the position.

Since you are still relatively early in your career, more training could benefit you in the long run but it won’t necessarily help your library career. I recommend that you look closely at your reasons for wanting a traditional library job. If you will be moving frequently, you will likely find it frustrating to uproot your career repeatedly – and in the long run this pattern could make you a less attractive candidate to traditional employers who value stability. It sounds as though you have outgrown your current gig and are ready for new challenges and professional experiences along with the benefits that come with a full-time job. Full-time, location-independent roles do exist for librarians, though you are more likely to find them in a nontraditional setting. Consider building on your nontraditional experience by looking for a full-time job that can flourish in tandem with your spouse’s career – wherever that may take you.