MLIS + Non-Library Job = A Much Bigger Picture

by Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey

MLIS + Non-Library Job = A Much Bigger Picture

PaulsdaleAbout two months ago, I started a new job as Program Associate at the Alice Paul Institute. We’re a small non-profit organization, based out of suffragette Alice Paul’s childhood home, Paulsdale, in Mount Laurel, NJ. The site is on the National Register of Historic Places, but we’re not a historic house museum. There are no Victorian sofas, knick-knacks, or floral wallpaper. Instead, API is a leadership institute and education center for children and adults. Most of our programming focuses on girls, including two summer camps, our Girls Advisory Council, in-school programs for middle school students, just to name a few. There is, in fact, a small library on the third floor of our “office,” but we don’t spend much time in there. British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst lived by the motto, “Deeds, not words,” which sums up nicely how we prioritize our work – we spend less time researching and writing and more time doing and educating.

I’ve had a number of people ask me, “So, what’s the library part of your job?” I’ve begun responding, “All of it.” Programming, outreach, education, social media, collaboration, development, fundraising, networking, applying for grants, running an organization within the confines of a tight budget…I could go on. I’m not bound by a specific daily routine, only routine responsibilities. I pitch in where I’m needed (to stuff envelopes for our annual appeal, for example), but I get to take the lead on lots of projects, too.

And guess what I learned about in library school? Programming, outreach, education, social media, collaboration, development, fundraising, networking, applying for grants, running an organization within the confines of a tight budget, etc.

If I did not have an MLIS, I would not have the skills necessary to do my job. Period.

Which leads me to the reason why I decided to go to library school in the first place – after reading through the program requirements and course offerings of a number of MLIS programs, I realized that a degree in library science meant I would have the skills to do so many jobs, both inside and outside of a library setting.

By virtue of the breadth of skills taught in library school, I posit that an MLIS is a slightly different kind of Claire.Schmiedergraduate degree, one that prepares library students with more than simply “library skills.” I took courses in information policy, library software, basic HTML & database coding, the history of the book, digital libraries, management, archival preservation – and these are just the tip of the library school iceberg. Folks take collection development, government information resources, database design, social media campaigning, information behavior, young adult literature, reference resources…and way too many others to list here.

This is why I tell people that my job is all about library skills – I just happen to use those skills outside of a library. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

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 has had over 18.5 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. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. 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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  4 comments for “MLIS + Non-Library Job = A Much Bigger Picture

  1. Joanna C. Maniglia
    February 24, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    I would love to apply my library skills in a full time position. I have applied to positions outside of the library in order to broaden my job search. I have held one job in a for profit company doing proofreading, but have otherwise worked in traditional libraries. I have discussed my skills and experience with employers in cover letters and interviews and explain how the skills are applicable to many positions outside of the library, but I have had a very difficult time getting people to understand. They say that I have an “interesting” background or simply don’t see the connection. I’m told that I do not have the background they are looking for or won’t complement the team. Has anyone else had this issue? How did you overcome it?

  2. Julius
    February 15, 2014 at 12:42 pm

    I’m a bachelors student in Africa and this article inspires me to take on an MLIS degree.. thanks.

  3. Kate Lang
    February 15, 2014 at 12:49 am

    Or you could do the same job with a Master’s in Arts Management.

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