*From March/April 2015 issue of the ALA’s American Libraries magazine
Some recent library school graduates have read the slower growth in the library job market this way: “Necessity is the mother of invention.” As they take up that charge, they are clearing many different and unconventional paths to meaningful careers “beyond the library walls.”
With the March/April 2015 issue of the ALA’sAmerican Libraries magazine, in an article called “Bohemian Librarians” by Ellyn Ruhlmann, we learned about such a person in Virginia Sanchez, the librarian of Yosemite National Park, who is as likely to be out in the field on a bear team expedition with the rangers to count and track the population as she is to be cataloging new library materials. According to Ruhlmann, experiences like that aren’t at all what Sanchez had envisioned while attending library school in Arizona, but she’s excited that librarianship has transformed in the way that it has.
Like others in Ruhlmann’s research, Sanchez is among recent MLIS (Master of Library and Information Sciences) grads who “veer off the well-trodden career path and discover rewarding vocations.” Job seekers needn’t look as far as Sanchez did for nontraditional career opportunities. Many times success can be hand among publishers and vendors who serve the library market. Other nontraditional paths might involve research, IT, higher education, sales and marketing, insurance and special collections.
Former librarian Rachel Singer Gordon, author of What’s the Alternative? Career Options for Library and Info Pros, recommends that librarians begin their career search by identifying the traits of a profession that are most important to them. For example: Do you like working with others? Do you enjoy research? Are you creative and desire intellectual freedom? Working with these characteristics in mind will help narrow down possible career paths.
Unconventional roles might mix library skills with general business skills. They might involve travel, meeting with library directors, investigating trends and technology developments, or being “out front” presenting to prospective clients, member associations, etc., both inside and outside the library industry.
Besides developing or leveraging different skillsets and interests, being willing to relocate or travel can open up the doors for library-based career possibilities tenfold.
Library job websites can be tapped to find nontraditional jobs. One such database is ALA’s ALA JobLIST . This website offers advanced search criteria that allows job seekers to narrow down their search by city and state as well as by keyword and job category. INALJ (short for “I Need a Library Job:”) is another job database, this one managed by a network of librarian volunteers in every state. A careful choice of keywords can be helpful in identifying nontraditional job opportunities that require librarian skills: for example, “knowledge architect,” “taxomomist” and “futurist.”
No matter what route a librarian chooses to take, Ruhlmann notes that it is important to always keep learning. Many postgraduate classes and seminars are available online for low or even no cost. These outlets can help revitalize one’s skills and resume for a higher chance at success. She lists a few different options:
Post-Master’s Programs: SJSU, UNC, and other library/ information science schools offer certificate programs that help enhance professional development.
Continuing Education Workshops: Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science hosts a variety of workshops for MLIS grads.
Virtual Conferences: Like webinars, these conferences feature distinguished speakers and panelists from the library industry.
MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses): SJSU offers several of these. Some popular courses have been “Emerging Future: Technology Issues and Trends” and “In the Hyperlink Library.”
Shortly after starting at Yosemite, Sanchez realized that it was her MLIS scholarship that led her to such a rewarding opportunity. At the University of Arizona, she attended as a Knowledge River Scholar, which is a role that centers around the preservation of cultural heritage diverse communities. She is quoted as saying that her work at Yosemite National Park is a “logical offshoot of that mission” and is one of the best decisions she has made. With today’s possibilities and outlets for an information-based career – and a bit of creativity – there is now a plethora of nontraditional careers for librarians at one’s fingertips.