So How Do I Get Experience?

Having served on search committees I know one of the key things looked at on resumes is whether or not a candidate has experience (with the ILS, in libraries, etc). I know this can be a big challenge these days as many MLIS/MLS students work full time and take night classes or online classes. Also many newly minted librarians are coming from other fields and only discovered later on in life their passion for library and information work. Their opportunities are often very limited.

It is easy to say ‘go volunteer somewhere’ but that isn’t as easy as it sounds either. You also have to take into consideration what type of library work you want to gain experience in. So where do you begin if you really are beginning with no experience? Here are some suggestions:

  • Listservs: I know several archivist and library school students who have asked listserv admins if they could advertise their willingness to do an internship on listeservs. Always ask first but I personally know several people who found great internships this way. Also local listservs often post opportunities.
  • INALJ: We include internships and temp jobs as well as full time jobs in the daily INALJ jobs digest.
  • Temp Agencies: I am a big fan as I got my start in libraries from a temp agency. If you are working nights and weekends already or attending school then and have your days free- even better. It is a great resume builder and foot in the door.
  • Informational Interviews: If you don’t know whether you want to work as a cataloger, reference librarian or even as a business analyst setting up informational interviews will be important. Use your built in network- ask professors and classmates for ideas on who you can interview. I have had fantastic luck with contacting people outside my network too. I looked at local public libraries, association libraries (DC is a fabulous city for finding special libraries in) and at businesses with competitive intelligence and analysts that might be willing to speak to me. Then ask if they have anything you can help with on a volunteer basis.
  • Computer Skills: It can be difficult gaining experience with ILS systems if you aren’t in a library setting. Ask you library school program about gaining experience and even contact vendors to see if they have classes online. Also take free classes that local libraries offer on databases and computer skills.

And for further discussion and to chime in with ideas join my INALJ LinkedIn discussion here: So How Do I Get Experience?

Reposted from 3/7/12 and 2/11/13

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ.com has had over 17 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to being nomadic. She runs her husband’s moving labor website, KhanMoving.com, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 

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  2 comments for “So How Do I Get Experience?

  1. June 18, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Hi Naomi:
    I neglected to respond to this email when it first came out, but I have a question. You had mentioned using temp agencies. Were they specific for our profession? I had contacted Manpower a while back and they said they really couldn’t help me.
    The comment about learning ILS through vendors was a great tip. Thank you.
    Lynn Hildenbrand

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