Q: I am considering a career change, after 18 years, from health care to the library profession. My interest in library work stems from my student work as a page in library and a passion for film, art and books. I will be attending an open house for an MLIS program and I am looking forward to finding helpful and relevant info as to whether this will be a good career direction. My feelings about this potential career choice are positive, however after reading comments posted about job and employment time cuts I am concerned about the overall stability of the profession. Any advice you can offer will be very much appreciated. Thank you.
SM: As long as you are motivated and enjoy what you are doing, I wouldn’t worry too much about the stability of the profession. The profession itself isn’t going anywhere, and as long as there are libraries, there will be librarians. Just remember that there are jobs out there in many different types of libraries and companies and institutions, and the skills that librarians possess are valued by other professions. Librarians go by many different names and yes, we often need to be strategic and creative as we search for jobs. If this is want you want to do, then go for it.
You are already checking out programs and attending open houses, which is a great way to meet people and ask questions about the program, specializations, and specific classes. Here are a few more tips:
- Don’t spend a ton of money on your degree. Librarians do not (typically) make a large salary and you don’t need to put yourself into massive debt for an MLS. As you research library schools, find out about financial aid options and grants and scholarships that you might be able to take advantage of and compare the pros and cons of several different programs.
- While in library school, or even before you start library school, get a job in a library. The MLS is a necessity to be a librarian, but it doesn’t guarantee you a job. Employers want experience, even from those just out of library school. Your past experience as a student worker counts, but more current experience will count even more, and will help you secure a job when you get out of school.
- Brush up on your technology and social media skills. Many employers expect their new(er) librarians to be on top of emerging technologies and trends.
- Try to determine your (librarian) niche. This might be difficult to do until you start library school, or start working in libraries, but you can start thinking about the different roles you might want to pursue (reference, instruction, cataloging, etc.), the types of libraries you might like to work in (special, academic, public, school) and the types of resources you might like to work with (archives, film/media, children’s books, consumer health, electronic resources, etc.).
- Seek out a mentor, whether in a formal program (offered by a school or a library organization) or informally with someone you admire and respect. It is always beneficial to have someone who can provide career advice and serve as a resource for you.
- Find support, encouragement, and comraderie in online forums. There are several blogs and sites and LinkedIn groups for new librarians, or those thinking of becoming librarians. Join up and join in the discussions.