Why I Quit My Library Job and Why I No Longer Want One

by Naomi House, MLIS

Why I Quit My Library Job and Why I No Longer Want One

Naomi House 2014I have worked in libraries for the last ten years but as of December 2013 I have been working only outside of libraries doing my other job, renovating and selling old houses, and forming a new partnership.  I have mentioned before that in October 2013 I lost my job as the Reference, Acquisitions and Marketing Librarian at a federal library during the government shutdown.  I was not just furloughed; our contract was not renewed.  It came as a surprise and I hold no-one in particular to blame, the furlough made a mess for everyone in our process of renewal.  I was a government contractor and appreciate all the efforts of my company, other librarians in our field advocating for us, as well as the fantastic government employees who resolved everything swiftly and had us all hired back within the month.  Truly everyone went to bat not only for our collection but for our jobs and I have nothing to say but good things for the resolution.  So yes, I lost my job but was rehired within a month.

Whew, right?  Um, yeah, definitely maybe.

I cannot remember many times in my adult life where I did not hold down multiple jobs.  INALJ (formerly titled I need a Library job) and INALJ.com were founded in 2010 when I found my first Librarian job half-way through my Master’s program at Rutgers online.  It was only advertised on the DC/SLA and CUA student listservs and I wanted a way to share jobs I found with my classmates.  Not only was I still taking 3 classes a semester and working full time but my husband, Sana Khan, and I had begun renovating houses and so I was doing that in the evenings, along with INALJ.  I loved staying busy and having another source of income because government contracting can be unreliable.  I know now that this other income stream and all the hard work behind it would be vital in giving me a choice in what I did work-wise.

So why did I quit?

  • Fixing Houses: working fixing houses and saving that income allowed me a choice to go back and stay or leave- this was key- though it wasn’t much saved it was enough to give me a choice    #mih
  • Travel:  I wanted to travel more and the job simply would not allow it     #yolo
  • Not that into what the job had become:  I loved being a reference librarian but after significant staff cuts I was doing more acquisitions and finding that I did not enjoy that aspect as much    #notthemoneyperson
  • There is Always Retail:  no seriously, I have done years of retail and customer service work and if I need money to pay the bills there are always places hiring in major cities and I have experience and could make an OK wage, temporarily.  Retail and part time would give me flexibility the 9-5 library job I had would not    #yesIwould
  • Opportunity for Someone New:  this was what excited me the most.  I was in the position for 3 years and gained such fantastic experience and I was excited for someone new to come into the job and learn and make it their own.  I actually came back for a few weeks to help them transition and to do one last search.  We found someone terrific who is leaving their mark and making the work environment better every day  #newlibrarian
  • Oh yes, and I had already bought a house in New Orleans:  our last house had sold and we were looking for a new opportunity.  I had no idea that I was going to be rehired so my husband and I set out on a road trip to Houston (from DC) and on the way back discovered that New Orleans had more potential.  We looked for and found an investment house to buy in this still affordable city   #househouse

So I quit because I had just enough saved to live on for a bit, the flexibility to move, the desire for travel to be a priority in my life, because someone new in that position would make the whole library better, and I always have my retail experience to fall back on in the meantime.  My passion is still there for libraries and librarians, I have just shifted into a new role/roles.  My case is not typical at all and luck and hard work both played a part.  I can say with certainty that if I had not lost my job I might not have taken the chance that I did, and I am happier for having made this leap.  It has been stressful at times and in ways but I am still glad I can organize my days as I see fit, now.

So why don’t I want another library job?

  • I Love Doing Something Else More: Since I left my job I have been able to focus on networks and partnerships beyond libraries and I have at least one partnership that has been formed that I am looking forward to putting some time into.  I love being at the house when renovations are taking place, not just at night, and being able to contribute more to this business.  Being able to build other businesses is something I am passionate about.  Connecting librarians to businesses that can hopefully create jobs for them is the dream!
  • Better Librarians Than I Are Unemployed or Underemployed: I am a huge fan of following many LIS professionals on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest & Tumblr) and so many are struggling to find meaningful employment that pays the bills.  Also working on INALJ for nearly four years has made me aware of how horrible the situation for librarian job hunters is.  I learn so much from them and feel that I only want to take positions where I truly am a best fit, and there simply are none in the field that I qualify for.  Really and truly and I am OK with this.  The good luck in all of this is that at least if anyone asks if I know of someone for a position I always have a few people in mind.  I do not feel right holding down a job in a library that I am not passionate about, when I strongly believe that someone else deserves that position.  I’d rather be a connector and work with businesses and HR folks creating jobs for librarians (my dream job).
  • Energy and Health:  My health has improved since leaving the job- my blood sugar is down, I no longer use a CPAP machine at night, etc.  I do not miss the 2 hours commuting each day, waking up early or collapsing on weekends.  I like having more time to be physically active for hours on end.  I also do not miss the winters in DC at all, but I do miss DC and the fantastic librarian community there.

Sometimes I know it must seem like INALJ is all I do as I am very visible and update the page daily or RT/Share on Facebook and Twitter.  It isn’t.  My dream is to help librarians and others in our field find jobs, whether in traditional libraries or outside the box using our various skill-sets.  Back in 2007 when so many librarians lost their jobs many of those jobs were in smaller libraries and special libraries.  I have joined and participate actively in many business associations because I would love to see those positions come back and libraries and information centers re-integrated into these businesses and non-profits.  I love that now I have the time to attend online webinars, chats and TweetChats with CEOs and people who are in the HR world, because my long term goal for INALJ isn’t just a long list of jobs, but to help create jobs.  Spending my time on this is well worth it if even one new position gets created. I believe this very strongly.
I don’t have the desire for a traditional library job anymore because I believe I am better at being a library advocate outside the job.  I still love working with and consulting libraries, librarians, vendors and others in related fields and this is what I am focused on now.   I have worked hard but I have also been lucky and certainly luck as well as privilege has played a role in my life.  I want to acknowledge this clearly.  I am not deserving of the life I lead but I want to use my time to help this community I really feel a part of no matter what my title is.  This is why I quit my job, why I no longer want a library job, but also why I still very much want to serve this field as best I can.  I <3 librarians, library staff and information professionals and hope that I am able to help some of you find jobs.  I believe that this is how I can best use my time 🙂


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. 


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