Letting Go of “Librarian”

by Naomi House, MLIS

Letting Go of “Librarian”

naomi house biz card backI love discussing INALJ’s scope and strategy for finding jobs with anyone and everyone I meet.  Often those who are familiar with our INALJ Jobs pages are curious as to why we post more than just the traditional librarian jobs.  Either they are unfamiliar with some of the job titles and how their MLS skills fit, or they do not understand why INALJ chooses to go beyond the traditional.  The answer is that INALJ is not original in this thinking.  SLA (Special Libraries Association) and ALA (American Library Association) have many, many non-traditionally employed members and offer many courses as well in outside but related fields.  INALJ wants to see librarians and staff employed using their skill sets regardless of job title.

letting go of librarian
The “N” in INALJ stands for “Need” and the “L” for “Library” but libraries have been re-branding as information centers and more for a long time now.  The word Library is in most of our degrees and is most recognizable, but even from the early days I only put it in as an identifying marker, not a limiting one.  I hear the same two basic questions/arguments over and over and here is how I respond to each.


“But I went to school to be a Librarian!”

OK.  The two most common types of people who say this to me are very different. There are the hopeless romantics who entered library school with no true understanding of what the job entails (what do you mean we have to measure all the shelves before a big shift? I thought I was just going to answer questions), and the opposite type who know not only what being a librarian entails but also have very, very clear ideas of which type they want to be (but I majored in Theater in undergrad because I only want to be a cataloger for a major playhouse).  Strangely my answer is the same to both.  What are your skill sets?  What tools do you have in your kit?  I talk to them about articulating not only what classes they took but what they can do.  Then we talk about jobs that are non-traditional that also use those skills.  I completely understand that for many people the dream of the job is something they feel strongly about.  It drives them on.  But the reality is that who you work with is much more important that the job title.  Job satisfaction comes from being part of a great team or organization.  Your dream job isn’t a title.  Your dream job is a place you can work with passionate colleagues working on projects you believe in no matter what your title is.

“But I never took classes in  that in my Library School!”

 I love this tweet conversation between two librarians that I know, @micdow and @africahands.  They were part of the #nmrtchat (new member roundtable chat) on Twitter on April 22, 2014 and the point they made answers this perfectly.

letting go of librarian 2 Alternately it may not even be another full degree that helps you learn more about an outside-the-box job, but rather a class or certification program.  Project Management certification competitive intelligence  classes, knowledge management classes, records management training; the choices are endless.  Another avenue is to do informational interviews with people in a field to see what software they use and then find a way to learn that software.  So when people tell me they don’t feel like they received enough training for these  careers in their MLS program, I say of course not.  You can’t possibly leave prepared for all possibilities and learning is life-long.  These are just some ideas to get you started.


So What are These Jobs I Should Be Looking At?

On every single page of INALJ.com I have a list on the left sidebar that I am always adding to of job titles/ keywords for job searching.  Some of the ones I know people employed in include Competitive Intelligence, Knowledge Management, Prospect Research, Development Analyst, Social Media Manager and Certified Records Manager.

letting go of librarian 3

In addition to these titles I also recommend you check out Mia Breitkopf’s list of 61 job titles.  Sit down with a friend or classmate and really think about what skills you have and what you enjoy doing.  What is it that you can already do versus what you can easily learn and they check out our jobs list and many more jobs will be open to you.  But first you have to let go of the job title “librarian,” but you will still be doing what you were trained to do.  We are more than just the job title.





Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular LIS jobs resource 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 20 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 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 now lives part time in Western NY and Budapest, Hungary. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


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