by Courtney Baron, former Head Editor, INALJ Georgia
previously published 5/22/13
3 Ways to Get Library Experience without a Library Job
I just finished my first semester of library school and I don’t have a library job. By the time I realized I wanted to be a librarian and decided to apply to my MLIS program, I had just accepted a job working in student affairs at a university. Library jobs at my university are few and far between and the paraprofessional positions typically pay less than jobs in student affairs. I would look elsewhere, but as a university employee I qualify for tuition assistance, so I’m committed to staying at my job while in school. Of course, job experience matters, and I’m definitely concerned about working outside the field. Nonetheless, I’ve discovered that it’s certainly possible to get library experience even if you don’t have a library job.
Can’t work in a library? No problem – libraries and librarians are always in need of volunteers. It’s possible to do this during the evening or on weekends or even remotely. I love volunteering for I Need a Library Job because I can do it anywhere and anytime as long as I have internet access. If there is a specific kind of LIS job you want to do, then try to find a volunteer gig that fits that. If you want to work in IT, there are places you can volunteer and either teach people how to use computers or refurbish donated computers. Do you love history and plan to work in archives? Volunteer at your local history center. I love art and I have volunteered as a docent at a museum for nearly two years.
Another great way to get experience is to intern. Interning is definitely different than volunteering, because you are expected to work on something specific and complete a certain amount of work in a specified timeline. Internships are sometimes advertised, but if you don’t see any postings, don’t be afraid to contact libraries you are interested in and ask about opportunities. I decided to contact one of the librarians at our university who worked in an area that I’m interested in – collection development and art bibliography. I told her that I was in library school and especially interested in art librarianship and she enthusiastically offered to let me intern with her on her latest project. I can do this remotely for the most part or come to the library on the evenings and weekends. Score! Also, many LIS programs offer internship courses, which are a great way to get both credits toward your degree and some library experience.
3. Apply for a job
Now that I’m posting library jobs on a daily basis, I’ve noticed several positions that are specifically geared towards library school students. Normally I would dismiss these for myself, but these positions tend to be part time, sometimes in the evening or on weekends (i.e., they expect you to already have another job). This is something I’m considering. It’s difficult to hold a full time job and go to school, so it might be crazy to think about adding another job into the mix, but if you can’t leave your current job at the moment, this is a great way to get some professional experience. A part time position could lead to a full time position later on plus you get to make contacts.
I highly recommend that you stay active on social media and library websites. That is how you will make contacts and discover opportunities that will allow you to engage in your field even if you don’t have a library job. I do want to stress that it’s certainly OK to have a non-traditional job and be a LIS professional. We know we can do all sorts of things and that’s one of the benefits of being in this field.
Have you been able to get library experience without a library job? Any other suggestions out there?