Non-traditional library careers
October 26, 2011 3:46 PM   Subscribe

(1) What are some non-traditional careers out there for MLIS graduates? (2) Also, I've heard a little bit about consulting and information architecture, but how does one get started in these fields?

1.5 semesters left of my master of library & information science degree. I am finding that I prefer the information science aspect more than the library side (especially the technology parts). My university tends to focus on the library side and discussion of potential information science related jobs is sparse.
posted by angelaas525 to Work & Money (8 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
What is it about the information science aspect that appeals to you? I have a MLIS degree, and am a business consultant. There's a lot of overlap between the types of things I studied (how people access information, doing a reference interview, etc.) that's directly applicable in my consulting job.

One place to start to get ideas of potential career paths would be websites of other schools that do have more information about non-traditional careers for MLIS-type graduates, for example the University of Michigan's School of Information.
posted by msbubbaclees at 4:13 PM on October 26, 2011

Response by poster: I enjoy the practical project aspects of information science. There are a few projects that I have really enjoyed doing, for example: web design and architecture, creating pathfinders, creating technical instructional manuals, and designing user interfaces.
posted by angelaas525 at 4:25 PM on October 26, 2011

So, based on your interests, career wise here are a couple of ideas:

1) general business consulting, that draws on your technical experience--in this path, you look for opportunities with management consulting firms (entry level is usually described as a "business analyst" position) that do business in areas where they'd draw on your web and user interface design expertise.

2) more specific consulting with a firm that specializes in one of your interest areas--in this path, you look for opportunities in the User Interface design or Information Architecture areas (for example, in business, they sometimes look for people with expertise in developing Enterprise Architectures, which I think of as pictoral context for how systems fit together/interact).

To answer the second half of your original question, getting started in consulting or information architecture is as straightforward as finding an entry level job, getting experience, discovering the aspects of it that you really love and are good at, and pursuing those. Perhaps the biggest hurdle is the mental one of thinking somehow that your degree isn't "what they're looking for". But in reality, if you're good at the things you say you've enjoyed doing, then you should be able to make the case to a potential employer that you can bring good stuff to the table, no matter the particular name of your degree. Think skills (organizing info, managing projects, writing, user-focus) rather than degree type.
posted by msbubbaclees at 4:43 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

It looks like you like explaining IS to users, and making it usable. As an LIS MA, you should also have some database/cataloging/metadata background. Based on your listed interests, I could see you working as a user experience/HCI person for enterprise-level knowledge systems (yes these jobs exist) - these can be internal home-brewed systems as well as stuff they sell.

Do you have or can you get any HCI experience? If you can get an HCI course or two under your belt before you leave that might be advantageous in the long run. If you can, talk to an HCI prof about your interests. S/he will be able to advise you further.
posted by carter at 4:51 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I am currently taking an information visualization class (and enjoying it). I believe that IV is a subset of HCI...This is the closest course we have at my university.
posted by angelaas525 at 4:59 PM on October 26, 2011

IV is not really a subset of HCI at least as I understand it. It is more closely related to data mining and data viz (at least in my opinion).

If you are interested in building better interfaces to large/complicated back ends, and also finding out what users want need, and learning how to get usability data from users, and then using this data to inform design - then you may want to look at HCI. If you are in an iSchool, there might be HCI classes there. Otherwise, try Comp Sci. However I would seriously recommend a talk with an HCI prof, at least to see if this is an appropriate avenue or not.
posted by carter at 5:14 PM on October 26, 2011

Vendors. Library vendors.

The vendors themselves will love your interest and knowledge about "web design and architecture, creating pathfinders, creating technical instructional manuals, and designing user interfaces."

The library/librarian customers will love that you have an MLIS.

It just seems like the absolute perfect fit for what you're looking for.
posted by INTPLibrarian at 9:43 PM on October 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have an MSIS from a School of Library and Information Science. My first job (mid-1990s) out of it was as a consultant/designer for major consulting company's advanced technology group. I cold-applied. I will be honest: at that time, my undergraduate institution's name got me the interview (because they'd never hired anyone out of a library school before for a consultant's job), but my practical experience and skills got me the actual job. I became a UI Designer, and later an IA, a manager (mostly creative/UI, but I also pinch hit for Marketing, Dev, Testing, Customer Support, etc), and a variety of related roles.

If you want to go down the UI/IA path, I would put together a portfolio of your work so when talking in interviews you can demonstrate your skills, especially if you want to do UI. However, even if you want to be an IA, coming with something you made to display and talk about can reinforce your value - and give you a lifeline sometimes if the interview goes wacky. Try and make sure the portfolio isn't all schoolwork. Volunteer to build stuff for groups or about things you are interested in. Even if it is, you want to convince your interviewer that you have the skills to work for them. If you've done anything related in a job (however part-time), highlight that. Work in a professional environment carries extra weight. (Even if it's reorganizing a store layout, redesigning an ad, maintaining a blog, running treasure hunts, writing directions, helping coworkers doing a better job, etc.) You are coming in at an entry-level, so you don't have to have a huge amount of experience, but you want to show that your have the mindset and abilities that will help you get the job done.

Even though I veered off to IS pretty early on, the classes I took in LS-geared referencing and cataloging courses both came in handy in my later life.
posted by julen at 6:34 AM on October 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

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