Q: I am just approaching my 28th year in public school library services. I’d really like to try something different and am considering applying for a public children’s library position. Any thoughts or tips on making such a change?
We get this type of question about moving from one area of librarianship to another quite often. The desire to move (or change roles) leads us to believe that librarians crave variety; that they are able to do so leads us to believe that librarians possess skills that transfer well between different roles, libraries and institutions.
For many of us, one of the major draws of a career in librarianship is the immense variety of roles/libraries/institutions/clientele to choose from. It is certainly a diverse and exciting profession, and you are not alone in your quest to find a new position in a different type of library.
To make sure that this is truly the direction you want to go in, you might want to start by volunteering in your community library or taking a part time position, if possible, which is something that you might have in mind already.
Moving from a public school system to a public library system should be a fairly easy move, and your extensive experience working with children in a school library will carry across wonderfully to a public library setting. You will probably find that the roles in these two types of libraries can be quite similar as they often rely on each other, especially when it comes to educating our children.
If you haven’t yet, start looking at job ads for children’s librarians in public libraries and see what skills are required and preferred. Then spend a good deal of time tailoring your resume and your cover letters to address those needs. When you’re reviewing the job ads, pay close attention to qualifications that relate to technology and make a special effort to stay current with the trends. This might mean taking a few continuing education courses to update your skills (a lot are online now!) or familiarizing yourself with the latest tools by trying a few of them out in your personal time (e.g., blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, RSS, etc.). If you have experience using some of the tools and new technology, you will be able to talk about and demonstrate a certain level of knowledge that will be required in the job. A lifelong learner and someone who demonstrates flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to continue growing is welcome in any kind of organization.
Finally, we will point you to an article that we wrote a few years back (but still relevant today) on moving from one area of librarianship to another, that provides some helpful information and links to useful resources:
How do I get there from here? Changing jobs, changing roles, changing institutions
by Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Allen
C&RL News, December 2004, Vol. 65, No. 11