Breaking Out: Non-Traditional Jobs for Library Technicians

. . . by Lauren Bourdages, Head Editor, INALJ Ontario

Breaking Out: Non-Traditional Jobs for Library Technicians

laurenbourdagesThere’s a lot of talk out there about non-traditional LIS jobs for librarians. For example:

  1. 61 Non-Librarian Jobs for LIS Grads

  2. The ALA’s Non-Traditional Jobs for Librarians page

  3. The Where We’re Going: Non-Traditional Careers for LIS Graduates slideshare presentation

  4. What’s the Alternative?: Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros (This is the book that helped me begin to explore non-traditional paths as a Library Technician)

  5. Even the Non-Traditional Library Jobs tag here at INALJ, which I know this post is going to appear under when it goes live, how meta.

The concern I have with all of these sources is that they’ve all been written solely with Librarians in mind, the LIS pros who have Master’s degrees. Now I know that Library Technicians, AKA, Support Staff/Paraprofessionals aren’t always regarded as equals with our Master’s-holding counterparts, but the truth of the matter is we have a symbiotic relationship, the work we each do complements the work of the other. I think it’s important to create professional development resources for those of us who consider LIS our profession, but aren’t considered professionals.

Personal experience tells me that a lot of Library Technician candidates focus solely on the “library” portion of “Library and Information Technician,” which leaves them ignoring a whole world of information-focused career paths and job opportunities. We live in an Information economy now, so we should remember that, as Library and INFORMATION Technicians, we have the skills to provide value to many different organisations other than libraries. Don’t get me wrong: I love libraries and my number one career dream is to run a school library. But at the same time, you know what else I love? Having options, not being limited. I have a lot of different skills and a lot of different passions. Opening myself up to the options of the information industry got me the job I have now – a job I absolutely love, but a job that isn’t considered traditional for a Library Technician. Strangely enough, I’ve talked to a lot of LIS professionals who have followed a similar path, so maybe it’s not that non-traditional after all. Food for thought.

As for my non-traditional job – I manage the fundraising database for a small university’s advancement department. It’s not what I pictured for my first job out of the Library Technician program, but it uses many of the skills that I developed in my courses. We spend a lot of time focusing on job titles and companies, so much so that we get blinded to jobs we wouldn’t have even glanced twice at, even though the skill sets are a perfect match.

What can Library Technicians do outside of libraries? The answer is: a lot. You know that list of job titles on the side of every page on INALJ? A lot of those job titles can be just as applicable to Library Technicians as they are to Librarians let me pull out a few just to highlight them:

  • Taxonomist/Taxonomy

  • Digital Content Curator

  • Certified Records Manager

  • Data Curator

  • Archives

  • Market Analyst

Here are some other examples of non-traditional  job titles you should consider looking at as a Library Technician:

  • Technical Information Specialist

  • Documentation Specialist

  • Freelance Researcher

  • Health Records Clerk

  • Client Services Representative

  • Customer Care Representative

  • Advancement or Development or Fundraising Assistant

  • Prospect Researcher

  • Technical Writer

  • Museum Guide/Interpreter/Programmer

  • Educational Programming Officer

  • Grant Writer & Researcher

  • Records Assistant (in say a College or University Registrar’s Office for example)

  • Data Reporting Analyst

  • Registration Coordinator/Officer

  • Sharepoint Analyst/Developer

  • Customer Experience Manager at a Bookstore

  • Volunteer Manager

Remember, these are just SOME examples! There’s a whole world of possibilities out there and the only limits are the skills you choose to build and the experiences you choose to have. My recommendation is to try and pick two areas to focus on your skills, one traditional LIS skill set and one non-traditional. (In my case, I focused on programming and instruction for my traditional skill and records and information for my non-traditional skill.) Then, reinforce the skills you’ve chosen by doing at least one practicum/field placement/work experience in each area.

The most important things to remember are that we have to take off the blinders and remember that just because we may not be working in an actual library, that work doesn’t make us any less of LIS professionals. Focus on your skills, not on the company and/or the job title, and be open to new and different positions.



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