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