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 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 17.9 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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  10 comments for “Letting Go of “Librarian”

  1. Jo Monday
    May 20, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    I have a new job title’The Private Librarian” in Houston which involves three of the last jobs I have had as an independent Librarian contractor. I have helped 2 attorneys organize, catalog, arrange and reshelve their personal and professional Library collections.I use an excel spreadsheet to organize their books by Author,Title and Subject. I have also helped them with collection development and book conservation. For insurance purposes, I have also tried to fairly accurately estimate the value of their collection for insurance purposes.

    • May 20, 2014 at 9:26 pm

      Nice!!! Love the title too :) -Naomi

  2. May 2, 2014 at 2:11 pm

    I still think collection work is neat. I would hate for that kind of work to become passé.

    • May 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm

      Nothing in the article I wrote suggests that collection work is a) passé or b) not neat. I was a collection development librarian and loved it. This is about letting go of the idea that the job title “librarian” has to be the title you have. You can do the same tasks (collection dev, research, etc) and be called something else. Skill sets like the ability to create a collection are certainly something you can use in more than just the traditional job of librarian.

  3. Rebeca
    April 24, 2014 at 2:40 pm

    I am completing my LIS Master’s this month, and never had the intention of working in a library. Many fields recruit employees with LIS skills and abilities, and we’d be shooting ourselves in the foot as a profession if we overlooked all of the wonderful possibilities! I have an interest in disaster management and criminal justice, and am hoping to end up as an analyst in one of those fields. Information needs are all around us!

  4. LenaA
    April 24, 2014 at 9:59 am

    The problem I’ve run into is that many of these related, non-library job ads ask for experience specific to the field. Prospect research positions seem to welcome MLIS-holding applicants, but all the knowledge management-type gigs seem to want people who already do KM. But I guess that sort of requirement is true of librarian job postings.

  5. April 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

    I went to library school in part because I really disliked my job in competitive intelligence and wanted to do something different, but if I ever went back to that field, I’d be a lot better at it because of my experience as a librarian.

    • April 23, 2014 at 11:14 am

      This is such an excellent point. Library school makes us better at so many different jobs.

  6. ryan
    April 23, 2014 at 9:09 am

    The only problem is while those titles look interesting. I like working in public libraries focusing on collection work.

    • April 23, 2014 at 10:03 am

      If you can afford to be picky that is great. Many people can’t. Also working the same job in different libraries can be wildly different experiences.

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