Q: How do I transfer from circulation & customer service to reference & instruction?

Q: I just graduated with an MLIS. I currently work in circulation/customer service at my local library. Most of my library experience was from that, working mostly in customer service in museums & attractions as well as an internship at an academic library. Due to personal issues, I didn’t have the extra time to participate in extra curricular activities that could build my resume. After completing my internship at the university, I realize I enjoy doing reference and instruction. I also want to work in an academic library. Would I have the skills and experiences that’s transferable to an academic library? What advice would you recommend?

CNW: You are wise to focus on transferable skills. Your customer service is a solid background to launch a career in reference. For instruction, academic libraries often like to see some kind of experience with teaching or presenting. In your current role, you might consider asking your supervisor for opportunities to present or teach a workshop. Many libraries, for example, offer classes for basic MS Office, using the Internet, and other computer skills. You could also ask to take a turn at the reference desk for a few hours a week. If you did any of these things during your internship at the academic library, you should highlight them in your resume and cover letter.

Because you are not approaching the academic job market with a lot of experience, you may have to focus your job search on opportunities that are part-time or only involve one element you’re looking for, to get a foot in the door. As you look for the right opportunity, you will want to do your research into the organizations you’d ideally want to work for. Being able to articulate why you want to work for a specific academic library, rather than any old academic library, will strengthen your position as a candidate.

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