How to Break Out of the Library Field & Feel Good About It

by Veda Darby Soberman, Head Editor, INALJ Hawaii
previously published 7/9/13

How to Break Out of the Library Field & Feel Good About It

veda.darby.sobermanI am sure some INALJ followers have noticed that INALJ posts more than just what are considered traditional library jobs.  If you look at the page I edit, INALJ Hawaii, you would actually see that, on average, well over half of the job listings are not for a position in a library setting.  Yes, many are in the information technology field, but you will also see variety in fields and job titles represented. What is a library-trained job seeker to do?

Does this mean that library jobs are fading?  Not necessarily, but I do know that it is time for all of us to evolve. This can be frightening, but have no fear.  I, like many of INALJ Head Editors, will post any of those jobs which MLIS holders could be qualified for (some with additional specialized training, and some not).  Here are some things which may help you to gain confidence in entering the non-library professional world:

  1. Don’t let them call you librarian.  Okay, of course if your current job title includes the moniker, you are a librarian, but to be really open to other opportunities, make a habit of calling yourself an information professional.  I know that this idea causes some controversy among librarians, but as a job seeker, it is best not to be chained to a singular job title.  An information professional with a library background better communicates our diverse skills and knowledge to those outside of the library field.
  2. Recall the broad core reasons why you chose to pursue a library career, and let those ideals carry you to other related jobs.  I understand that many of us really want to just be a librarian.  That’s great, but really think about what drew you to librarianship.  Undoubtedly, it is more than a simple love of books.  Do you love connecting with people and helping them to reach their goals?  Any number of information jobs would fit this bill (just see the list of Keywords for Job Searching in the INALJ sidebar).
  3. Pursue a variety of trainings, and apply for a variety of openings.  We hear this all the time, but I will give you one clear example.  Just a few weeks ago, I came across a listing for Geographic Information Specialist.  I was a bit on the fence about including this in the INALJ listings, as it seemed quite a bit more specialized than what an average MLIS holder would be qualified for.  A few days later as I perused the LITA website, I found an upcoming web training entitled Getting Started with GIS.  This inexpensive three-week course covers the majority of tools and skills listed in the Geographic Information Specialist position.  While the INALJ Head Editor mantra is, “When in doubt, list it.”  The job seekers mantra should be, “When in doubt, sign-up for training and apply.”
  4. Maintain a Buddha-like detachment from librarianship.  Some librarians are leaving the library field with heavy hearts (read Leaving Librarianship:   some recent blogposts).  Avoid such heartache by understanding that many of us will likely enter a non-library field for at least part of our careers, and dare I say, be happy. The fact that trained librarians can so easily leave the field and be successful in other pursuits, speaks to our mutability and varied skill set.  My goal has always been to utilize what I have learned in library school in whatever position I wind up with.  Honestly, had my MLIS coursework been solely focused on work in a library, and skills which were not transferable to other fields, I would have gone mad with boredom.  I can already say that in my current non-library job, I use many of the methods and skills gained during my schooling.  While a library job can still be a goal, be open to whatever possibilities come your way.

Good luck!

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