Hello! Glad to see people showing interest in this field. I covered my rather simple (and probably not the best) thought processes when choosing a grad school in this post. It boils down to: 1) Does the degree offer courses/specializations in the field I want? and 2) What’s the cheapest/easiest school to attend? Any school accredited by the ALA/SAA offers you the same basic trusted degree, so in my opinion it’s best to pick one that you can make the most of by having courses that pique your interest and will put you in the least debt.
As for the job market, yes it is bad for most specializations. I know people who have been job hunting for over a year after graduating and still haven’t had a single interview. There’s a bunch of factors for why there are slim pickings for jobs, but I don’t have room in this post to get into it. I’ve had professors and employers flat out say there are no new jobs in rare books, museums, conservation, archives, etc. THAT SAID, there are jobs in the archives field, but most are not for “traditional” archivists. I’ve seen way more jobs in the private/IT sector under job titles such as records management, metadata specialist, digital archivists, digitization project manager, digital preservation specialist, information officer, etc.
There are ways to increase you chance of getting a job after graduating. Every graduate of our program said the most valuable course offered was the internship/practicum, and I’m now realizing how true that is. Getting work experience before you graduate is a major boost is passing the absurd requirements of “1-2 years library/archive experience” required for most entry-level jobs. For you, I’d recommend trying to get a job in your university’s special collections department while attaining your degree. Most schools have student employment programs for jobs on campus, and they really help. If you’re not interning or working part time while studying, volunteer instead. If you’re lucky (and if they magically get money) they might hire you as in the case of some of my peers. Working, interning, and volunteering also puts you in contact with people who can recommend you to others for jobs and act as valuable references on your job applications. It’s all about hands-on experience and networking.
Anyways, I wish you luck in your grad school applications and hope the grim job prospects turn around by the time you graduate.