Do I need more qualifications to be a librarian/archivist having spent some time away from the field?
January 31, 2005 1:25 PM   Subscribe

Wanna-be librarian/archivist filter -- I'm looking for advice or personal experiences on how long library experience "lasts", if a MSI can "expire" due to immediate use, etc. (more inside)

I am trying to gather information to help me determine what qualifications I should have in order to be hired for a library position -- not sure at this point whether I want public, academic/special, or archives.

I earned a MSI in Archives and Records Management from Michigan in 2003, but I have not held a job in a library setting in many years. I did roughly ten years of volunteer and paraprofessional work throughout high school and college (shelving, checkout, barcoding, limited reference work, interlibrary loan, etc.).

I work full-time for a university in a budgeting/research capacity, which is what I've been doing since I stopped working in libraries. I would have tried to move to a library job after getting my MSI, but I have had to wait a couple more years to do this, for family reasons.

I chose an archives specialty instead of library science because I wanted to learn more about that area of special library work, but I find that the library work I have enjoyed most has always been circulation/technical services.

What I am hoping to learn is this: does my degree effectively "expire" after a certain amount of time? What about my approximately 10 years of library experience that ended roughly 10 years ago? Does that gap matter? Are there supplemental courses in Library & Information Sciences that I should take (cataloging, for example) to round out my formal education?

I've subscribed to the archives listserv on and off, but it seems geared to those immersed in the profession, not those trying to keep up with current events and issues. Should I join a professional society, and if so what would be the best one (if you had to pick just one)? Know of any good email lists or print journals for someone wanting to lurk to keep up to speed/get back into library-shape?

posted by birchfield to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In general, the less your job has to do with computers, the longer a degree will last. I'd recommend looking in to the Society of American Archivists. They're very active and they do a lot of good things, I hear about them often and I'm not even in the archival field. Your recent degree will be seen as more important than your less-recent library work. Many people getting out of library schools have effectively NO library experience and sometimes very little other work experience so I'd say you're still pretty ahead of the game.

Also, don't sell yourself short on non-library experience. Knowing the ins and outs of budgeting is a really important part of doing a lot of different kinds of library work and will likely be seen as an asset on the job. I know nothing at all about specific supplementary coursework, though I will say that many circ/tech svcs jobs don't even require a graduate degree [though it's helpful, in smaller libraries it's not at all required] so again, your resume looks pretty good.
posted by jessamyn at 1:44 PM on January 31, 2005

As far as getting into the National Archives, having a degree makes the difference between being an archives technician (without a degree) and an archivist (with a degree). The currency of your degree or prior experience doesn't necessarily matter (depending on the competition), but it may affect your starting salary.
posted by grateful at 6:22 PM on January 31, 2005

Also - feel free to email me directly if you want more info. Check my profile for the address.
posted by grateful at 6:23 PM on January 31, 2005

I thought it sounded like you were most interested in pursuing a career as a circulation/technical services or a public-services librarian. Honestly, as long as you are technically savvy and able to handle basic reference (come on, you're a Mefite!), I think the fact your MSI is ten years old will have no bearing on your chances of getting a job. Also it might help to be familiar with some of the philisophical issues libraries face these days.
posted by punkbitch at 7:02 PM on January 31, 2005

I suggest joining one of the regional archivists groups. I have been a member of the Southwest Archivists and Mid-Atlantic and find it extremely useful. They have regional conferences with sessions and workshops, plus fun stuff like site tours and archives week events. They also publish their own newsletters and job listings. Email me if you would like to chat more about this.
posted by modavis at 9:34 AM on February 1, 2005

I wouldn't worry about having taken a job out of archives. MISt/Library degrees can help you do a lot of things. People will be glad that you have that much experience in a library, and a good long work history.

The only thing that could hurt you is not having current contacts. You might want to consider auditing an archives class at your university. People like to hire known quantities.

Archivists and librarians like talking to people in the job market, provided you don't put any pressure on them. They like to keep their fingers on the pulse of the job market. Don't feel shy about asking for informational interviews.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 9:36 AM on February 1, 2005

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