Re-frame your education & experience in your mind to open new job horizons!

 Re-frame your education & experience in your mind to open new job horizons!

by Lauren Bourdages, Senior Assistant, INALJ Ontario

laurenbourdagesSomething I’ve thought a lot about ever since I realised I wanted to work in libraries is that there are a lot of people in this profession who are adamant that the library is the be all and end all of career paths for those holding LIT diplomas and MLIS degrees. I don’t know why, and frankly I don’t understand that attitude at all, or why people think that just because that’s the choice they’ve made for themselves, they have the right to try and force that opinion on others. After all the “I” in LIT and MLIS stands for INFORMATION not I.

Yes most/all of us probably ended up on this industry because we love libraries. And most of us probably started our education thinking that yes, we want to work in libraries. The great thing about library and information programs though, is that they let you know pretty much right off the bat in some way that libraries aren’t the only job place option you have. As you go through your courses you may find yourself drawn more towards the research side of things, or the data side, or the records side, or the web programming side, all of those information streams that you may or may not end up doing in a library. Being drawn towards records management isn’t any different than being drawn towards academic librarianship.  Or children’s programming. People’s interests change as they grow and learn, that’s what makes us human, my experiences won’t match someone else’s so why should my career trajectory?

Even if everyone did want to be an academic librarian, there are only so many academic librarian positions around. We as a collective whole need to keep thinking outside the box, a lot of us already do, but we need to keep doing it and to encourage others to do it, if we get enough people talking about themselves as information professionals first who’ve chosen to work specifically in libraries we make the whole profession stronger. Look at Rachel Altman has taken a job as a Corporate Researcher, and still a librarian. My former field placement supervisor in the Prospect Research department of a University is still a librarian. Kate Kosturski working for a vendor is still a librarian. What about Kim Dority, Nora Stoecker, or Marcy Phelps and the other independent information professionals out there? They’re all librarians who have made the conscious choice of using their skills as information professionals outside of the library to do the much of the same work librarians in libraries do.

It frustrates me when people try to limit themselves or others, especially when it comes down to people throwing out statements like “I can’t do that, I’m a librarian.”; “That’s NOT a job for a librarian.”; or “Why would I think about doing that kind of work, I’m a library professional?”. I just personally can’t think in such narrow, limited terms. That scope is too small and stifling for me. One of my absolute favourite job hunting books just happens to be on this very topic, it’s a book I discovered in my second semester of the LIT program, and it is wholly responsible for shaping my view on this topic and on the options that are out there for any LIS pros interested/willing to look for them. Rachel Singer Gordon’s What’s the alternative? Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros.

This is also a topic we talk about a lot around INALJ, because it keeps coming up again, and again. That’s why I’m writing this article this month, because I think we just need another reminder, to take the blinders off and see what we could be missing. So for a refresher, check out some of the past INALJ articles on this matter:

So What CAN a Librarian Do Outside the Library? by Kate Kosturski

Exploring Alternative Library Careers via Linkedin Groups by Joy Rodriguez

How to Break Out of the Library Field & Feel Good About It by Veda Darby Soberman

Looking Outside the Box by Stefanie Maclin

Breaking Out: Non-Traditional Jobs for Library Technicians by me! (I don’t think I sound like a broken record for having talked about this already, I feel very strongly about this topic!)

There’s also all of those keywords and article links that are on the sidebar of every page of INALJ, right over there to the left of this. If you’ve never looked before, give that a peek.

So, don’t limit yourself, and don’t listen to anyone who tries to limit you.If we all had the same interests and same desires we would be living in a very dull world indeed. As information professionals, it’s our ultimate goal to make information accessible to people, by trying to limit LIS pros options or narrowly define them, you’re working completely against that goal. Just some food for thought and my two cents on the matter.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, 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.