Q: I’m 42 and completed my MLS and LMS certificate in 2006. I have 3 years experience in 3 different school districts with varying success. Last year there were 3 school library positions lost in our county due to budget constraints, and we lost 3 more for the 2010-2011 school year. Our public libraries have just been warned that funding for next year will be cut 50%! I am currently collecting unemployment. I don’t foresee an improvement in the local economy, and I’m in competition with a small group of very competent recent grads. Because of my child custody arrangement, I can either stay where I am or I can move to the Raleigh/Durham area of NC. I have done some preliminary exploration in NC, but the competition is stiff so near to a reputable library school. I don’t have the support system to commute 2 hours or so a day, so my travel radius is limited.
This week I have applications in at a few different places: The local university (I think I’m under qualified, but they are accepting recent grads) the local community college (a 10 month grant funded position I believe I am very qualified for) and a local library (also a 10 month grant funded position that I believe I am very qualified for). I customized my resume for each position.
I always felt that an MLS would be versatile, but now I’m struggling with feeling prepared to leap onto any one of these career paths. I can take courses in any of these areas to increase my skills, but I can’t really afford the tuition without a loan or using retirement funds. And what if I work on a literacy certificate and then find I should have been pursuing college reference? I’d like to volunteer in the public library so that I can get a good current reference, but if I make a commitment to that, I’m less able to pursue other options that might be equally helpful, such as volunteering in a private school library. I get up each day and don’t know which path to follow.
So, assuming that I’m intelligent and competent and my resume is okay, what should I do next?
TA: The MLS degree can afford a lot of flexibility; it’s often the experience that shapes our path after the degree. Specialized coursework and internships can often lead to the first job, which can lead to progressively more responsible jobs in the same or similar specialization. With the loss of your position, coupled with the personal circumstances surrounding your job search, you now have the option of staying in the current specialization, or exploring new ones. In order to break into a new area, you’re going to have to do a couple of things. First, try to get some experience, either through volunteer or part time work. Additionally, identify transferable skills from your previous positions and make those marketable assets in your job search. I recommend that you review our previous articles regarding application materials and transferable skills.