Tennessee Volunteer

by Marlena Barber, Head Editor, INALJ Tennessee

Tennessee Volunteer

editorWhen beginning my studies in San Jose State University’s completely online MLIS program, I had no professional library experience.  My experiences have been in editing, quality control, restaurant service, and working in television and film production.  While all of my work experiences that I have had have led me to where I am today, I read many online articles throughout my program that stated that it is much harder for new graduates to obtain the work they truly desire if they are in an MLIS program and not presently working in the field.  I would not let this discourage me to the point of giving up.  Tennessee has so many opportunities for the virtual student to gain relevant experience while completing their studies.

Being an online student, I really wanted to meet people in person who were already in the practice.  As many of my classes required research papers, I took those opportunities to conduct my research through completing informational interviews with librarians, touring their libraries, and learning about their collections.  As a result of one of those informational interviews, I was offered the opportunity to volunteer at an academic library where I presently live.

At SJSU, I learned the principles and rules of cataloging and how to use cataloging tools, but I was entering the metadata for course assignments into word processing software.  I was over the moon to be offered an opportunity to be able to use the library’s ILS and update records in their OPAC and in OCLC.  I gained wonderful experience while volunteering at the library and in their archives.  This experience helped me to reaffirm my decision that I was on exactly the right path as a future librarian.

As part of my volunteer experience, I was invited by the library director to attend a local one-day library conference where I met many other librarians in the practice.  That was a wonderful opportunity to meet professionals in the field.  My volunteer experience led to my fall internship as a cataloger for a library services firm.  I continue to contract work with that firm since completing my MLIS degree.  And, I have just accepted an opportunity to begin work soon as a librarian at a medical library at a university.  I am thankful for every opportunity that has led me to this moment, and I believe great opportunities will come to each of you as well.  Being a virtual student didn’t close doors for me, but it opened up the possibilities to learn more about the field through serving at a library near my home.

I cannot recommend volunteering enough to other MLIS students who are in virtual programs when you do not yet have specific library experience or when you want to learn more about your area of interest.  No matter where you are, there are volunteer opportunities abound.  Check out the volunteer opportunities in Tennessee that are listed as part of my resources if you live in or around the area.  Many of the companies listed in the Websites for Jobs section have specific volunteer opportunities listed on their websites at the links provided on the INALJ-TN page.  If you’re not in Tennessee, I want to welcome you to check the site out anyway to get ideas for places where you live.

As a final word on volunteering, I have had people share with me from time to time that they do not have time to volunteer.  The commitment you make to volunteer is up to you and the organization.  You don’t have to volunteer 40 hours a week.  Companies definitely understand that as we all have financial and personal responsibilities to uphold.  Make a schedule that you know that you can commit to, and enjoy the time you have at your site learning from the professionals in the field.  I believe that the renewed joy that comes with being inside a library around the professionals in the business made completing my other responsibilities that much easier as I was so happy to be in the field, even as a volunteer.  I hope you find a great opportunity to volunteer as well.  I wish each of you reading a wonderful career as a librarian.

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) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of T160K.org, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its 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. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians 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 one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


  1 comment for “Tennessee Volunteer

Comments are closed.