Other career options for a public librarian?
May 24, 2010 5:37 PM   Subscribe

My public library system is preparing for massive layoffs; how can I transfer my librarian skillset -- research, customer service, computers -- into a new career?

I'm 27 years old, and have been working as a public librarian since I graduated with my MLS. It's looking extremely likely that I'll be laid off within the next few months, and with so many people in the same boat, my odds for finding a new library job aren't good.

My plan A is to try temp agencies while I wait for things in the library world to get better. But they might not get better. So, plan B: how do I spin the skills I already have into a new career?

I'm excellent at research but don't have the specialized knowledge or specialized database experience necessary for most legal/medical/corporate library jobs. I have good general computer skills, including HTML and CSS, but no real knowledge of programming since a semester of PASCAL in high school. I'm great at customer service and I'm a good writer (but my professional experience is in fiction, so I'm not sure it would "count" for something like technical writing or grant writing) and I know a couple of foreign languages... but I've looked into translation as a career before I got my Library Science degree and I don't feel that I have the specialized knowledge that would require.

So -- add that all up and I'm a great librarian. What else is out there that I might be great at?
posted by Jeanne to Work & Money (12 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Most Embassies and Consulates have libraries, but usually not enough budget to hire an experienced librarian (and not very big libraries either). Depending on your location, these might expand your options or give you something to do (and pay the rent with) while you look at other options or acquire new skills.
posted by vidur at 5:54 PM on May 24, 2010

Some companies hire librarians to maintain their libraries and put their documentation in a searchable form. I worked for companies that used librarians and many more who should've used librarians. You might try looking into the private sector for placement. You may need to do a sales job, because you'll need to convince some executives on their need for your services. Any way, it's something you should consider before changing fields.
posted by Hilbert at 6:40 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

Not sure if you are attending ALA this year, but they will have a job placement center open to all (don't have to attend whole conf to take part). No clue how such things go, but if you're here for that, wouldn't hurt to check it out.
posted by wowbobwow at 6:44 PM on May 24, 2010

Prospect Research for non-profit fundraising.
posted by kimdog at 6:54 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

This thread might be of interest to you.

Looks like you're in NY - I recently spoke to someone from NYC who said that many of the publishing companies have corporate libraries and/or archives. She said that she had better luck going that route than public librarianship. The jobs she described sounded much like the ones Hilbert mentioned above.

I've also got an MLIS, but have the opposite problem - I can't get hired in a public library, as my experience is all with internet and technology :)
posted by chez shoes at 6:55 PM on May 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might look into executive recruiting or other consulting firms--companies that need to have a large amount of information that is up to date, organized, and managed by a competent team of librarians who can retrieve and work with it as needed (ex., information on top companies in a given industry). When I worked for a large recruiting firm, I knew a couple librarians in the library department who had previously worked in university or public library settings (MeMail me if you'd like details).
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:02 PM on May 24, 2010

I am sorry, that sucks. I was just coming here to point to my own answer in the thread that chez shoes pointed out. It starts: Congratulations you are now a social media consultant.

You are in New York, home of a lot of writers and bookish people who need strategies for getting the word out that are genuine and don't seem like marketing. Knowing a few languages makes you a MULTILINGUAL social media consultant. There are lots of other directions to go [short term digitzing projects often need people who understand taxonomy, indexing is cool, transcription is not too difficult] so you may want to think of like ten words or so that describe the things you like doing [what sort of librarian are you, what do you do for fun, that sort of thing] and people can give you more targeted ideas.
posted by jessamyn at 7:06 PM on May 24, 2010

See if New York State has some sort of worker retraining program with local colleges, and see what those colleges offer in terms of academic programs. I'm getting laid off next month (it's OK - I learned about it a few months ago), and this is the route I'm taking.
posted by spinifex23 at 9:23 PM on May 24, 2010

I'm excellent at research but don't have the specialized knowledge or specialized database experience necessary for most legal/medical/corporate library jobs.

If your research and customer service skills are good, and you can work under pressure, I don't think you should necessarily rule out legal work. The databases aren't that difficult (if you can use standard structured databases, you can use Westlaw or Lexis). I'm an information officer at a multinational law firm (based in London but with NY and DC offices) and several of my team didn't have legal experience before they started working here. My boss thinks that work ethic and customer service are much more important, especially as the work is so specialised that most people wouldn't have a background knowledge anyway.

OK, that's London not New York, but it's possible that your skills would transfer. The poor economy means you'd be facing more competition, but it's worth a shot - though maybe you'd have to apply at a fairly junior level. But in a good economy, someone with your skills (the writing and languages would be highly valued, too) would certainly have a great chance of getting a job in my firm.
posted by Infinite Jest at 2:23 AM on May 25, 2010

Memail me. I have a reference opening now, and will have another in July.
posted by davismbagpiper at 9:25 AM on May 25, 2010

Check into telephone companies and other places that put out directories. Before I landed my current library position, I worked a temp job at a phone company division that created Yellow Pages-type directories. I was essentially indexing at the time, but I didn't work there long enough to get a full grasp of the overall picture of putting the book together before I got hired by a university, which makes it harder to explain what I was doing.
posted by telophase at 12:15 PM on May 25, 2010

Well crap, I guess I should move to London (no really, if anyone can arrange that I'm there) because all the law library jobs I've tried to get I'm always beat out by LOTS of legal experience, especially now with all the out-of-work lawyers.

Try looking into some of the big library database companies and see if they're hiring. Ditto the ILS companies.

I'm in a similar position to you actually although on the other coast, so good luck!
posted by grapesaresour at 4:08 PM on May 25, 2010

« Older Fridge cooling woes   |   Check, mate! Help ID this illustrated chess book... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.