What else is an MLIS good for?
April 14, 2010 10:57 AM   Subscribe

I picked the wrong time to go to library school. What else can I do with my life?

I have been a stay-at-home mom for 7 years. In 2006 I made a plan to re-enter the workforce: go to library school, be done and ready to get a job as a librarian when kid is in 1st grade. (If only I'd been reading AskMe then I would have known better!) I finished my MLIS in December 2008, at which point the universe dropped two large chunks of reality on my head: The tanked economy means that there are no jobs for librarians where I am, and the kid who in 2006 appeared to have a few issues with social skills that he would surely grow out of, is now diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome and requires too much of my time and attention to allow me to have a full-time job.

Now that the kid is in school, I have several empty hours during the day and I am going buggy with boredom. But I am "on call" during the school day (the school calls me fairly frequently when there are behavior issues) and I am "on duty" from 2-6 pm as homework helper and chauffeur. So a regular day job won't work, even assuming I could find one.

I have thought of doing SAT/PSAT/GRE tutoring, but I don't have teaching experience and am not sure how to break into it. My previous career was making Filemaker Pro databases for small businesses, and I don't want to go back to that, even if my skills weren't 7 years out of date.

I really enjoyed going to school, and loved the process of finding, researching, synthesizing and analyzing information. I feel like this skill ought to be valuable to someone. But... who? What kind of job is this? Or could I be a freelance... what? I don't need to make lots of money, but I don't want to work all day for free either. I live in Charlotte, NC and can't relocate.
posted by Daily Alice to Work & Money (11 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Professional genealogist?
posted by fellion at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2010

Grant writer or prospect researcher for a non-profit.
posted by Jacqueline at 10:59 AM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Research assistant for a writer. Tech editor.
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:03 AM on April 14, 2010

If you're still interested in the tutoring - I used to do SAT tutoring and it was really easy to break into. I just needed a high SAT score, no experience required. If you want to teach for Kaplan or Princeton Review they also want you to give an engaging presentation in front of a few people to make sure you're good at public speaking. Other private tutoring services wouldn't require this (mine didn't).
posted by hazyjane at 11:11 AM on April 14, 2010

Best answer: Lots of job postings in the user experience/information architecture/interaction design (UX/IA/IXD) field list a library science degree as one specialization option in the degree requirements list.

Subspecialties in this area include work on taxonomies, controlled vocabularies, classification systems, indexes, and abstracts. Applications/software that would use this kind of work include search engines, content management systems, knowledge management systems, and online medical records, to name a few. In fact, I've been practicing IA for over 10 years and am considering getting an MLS/MLIS to deepen my knowledge about the subspecialties above. I'm thinking of getting into more back-end work on search engines and/or searching/retrieval systems.

I don't know about the frequency of job postings in these particular subspecialties, but job postings in general UX/IA/IXD are seemingly everywhere.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Freelance indexer. You may need to do some additional training. Your MLIS should be very useful for this. There's some good basic information here.
posted by cushie at 11:24 AM on April 14, 2010

Best answer: I feel your pain - I completed my MLIS in December 2006, but have yet to work in a library. Heck, even if offered a position in one I couldn't afford to take it, with the way that budgets have been slashed and salaries cut. But I digress.

Since library school, I've made my living doing the kind of work that ImproviseOrDie described above. I'm a taxonomist - I've built taxonomies for various websites ranging from image archives to phone directories. You mention you enjoy the process of finding, researching, synthesizing and analyzing information - so do I, and I do a lot of it in the process of building a taxonomy.

Best of luck to you!
posted by chez shoes at 11:33 AM on April 14, 2010

Best answer: Are you familiar with AIIP? They're the professional organization for Independent Information Professionals. Their conference was in my town last year and I had dinner with several colleagues during dine-arounds (I didn't attend the conference, was just a city host) and more than one person mentioned that part of the reason they went independent was because of family care issues.

I'm a 9-5 corporate librarian (always have been), so don't know the details of how you'd get started at your own research business, but what you describe liking to do - both the research end and then the analysis to provide a nice tidy little results packet, is what people pay information professionals for. There are a surprising number of companies that large corporations who have closed their libraries now outsource to for that type of research and analysis. And so much of what they do is online, it really shouldn't matter where you do it from. (So you might want to think about SLA too - there's a lot of overlap in membership.)
posted by librarianamy at 12:51 PM on April 14, 2010

Congratulations you are now a social media consultant. You are welcome. If you can even get to the point where you can post on MetaFilter and use a tag, there is a good chance there are libraries in your area [or small businesses] who could use someone to help them get a leg up on getting started with having a voice online. Having a library degree lends it some legitimacy.

If you grok databases generally, you might also want to set up little websites. Nothing fancy, WordPress, five pages and you're done. However, a small amount of customization with a nice handholdy approach [yay library school] will net you some decent money for not too much work and onging clientele who might enjoy working with you.

Think local history organization who has a scanning project. Or local small grassroots campaign who doesn't understand twitter. Also if you like local history you could be a local goto person to go to the library and look stuff up in books and databases. In fact even knowing how to use your local databases makes you more of a researcher than a lot of people depending on where you live.

Independent research is okay but my experience [which was far from exhaustive] led me to believe there were a lot of people wanting it with more money than sense and poorly formed ideas of what they needed looking up and it was more frustrating than fulfilling.

You might want to see if any of the 24/7 ref companies need people. Stay at home, answer reference questions at off hours, be thorough, know how to use IM.

I don't know much about what's good in the area but you might want to at least check in with the local libraries anyhow. I have found that sometimes if you can just have them on board with having you helping with something, you can write grants that pay you to work on projects [like local history scanning stuff] and they don't have to employ you specifically, just sign off on having you working there and with their materials.
posted by jessamyn at 1:03 PM on April 14, 2010 [5 favorites]

You could probably break into SAT tutoring, if you are good at test taking, but I see a logistical problem: The hours when that tutoring happens are when kids are out of school, on the weekends and weekday afternoons. It sounds like you aren't free then, unless you can arrange alternate childcare. If you can get childcare then, you might be better off looking for a traditional 9 to 5 job at a workplace that can give you the flexibility to step out occasionally when your kid has a mid-day behavioral issue.
posted by reren at 4:33 PM on April 14, 2010

Is it possible that you could be a free intern or assistant to the librarian at your child's school? They might appreciate the help, you might appreciate the work and the proximity to your child.
posted by halfguard at 11:29 AM on April 15, 2010

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