Help me reclassify my job
March 7, 2012 7:47 AM   Subscribe

Librarians of MeFi, how did you transition into a job in taxonomy?

I just found a job that I would love to apply for. The company is looking for someone with a library science background (that's me!) to work as a taxonomist/ontologist (hopefully, that's you!). Did you successfully make this transition? Any advice you can give me? The sum total of my work with taxonomies thus far was one class in library school, and general knowledge of them for day-to-day use in reference searches and subject headings, but this has long been a field I am interested in exploring.
posted by jabes to Work & Money (4 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
hey there!

I am a librarian/taxonomist.

1. take as many cataloging/indexing/metadata classes or work as possible. Just because you're out of library school doesn't mean you can't take classes!

2. do an internship--for us having experience is more important that a degree. A lot of people will let you do free work for them whether or not you are a student. Be proactive and kick ass at the gig.

3. Read a bunch of books. I have some here: The Aitchison & the Morville are pretty mandatory.

4. Find a way to do taxo projects either at your current job or at a volunteer org, particularly those that will be on a website that someone can go to. For example, I worked in a math library and I did a crosswalk between DDC & math subject classification to make DDC more comprehendable to mathematicians. The project helped the library and was a good example of my work.

5. Go to Taxonomy Boot Camp--it's the annual conference and usually aimed at beginners. Try to find a mentor there! Or SLA Taxonomy division. Or IA Summit.

6. Join TaxoCoP--the taxonomy community of practice. Don't post this there. Just listen. Find someone whose posts you like. Email them and tell them your story and ask if you can do free work for them. Find their job site and follow it.

7. There are lots of agencies (i.e. Earley & Associates, ByteManagers) in the field that get big jobs that need lots of minions. These tend to be easier to get jobs at when you're starting out.

8. Be ready to move--while eventually you will probably be able to get freelance/work from home jobs, it is an extremely specific field, and unless you live in a major city (SF, Seattle, NYC, Chicago, Boston), or somewhere with a major corporation, there won't be a ton of jobs in your area.

9. Put good keywords in your linked in--taxonomy, taxonomist, metadata, etc. Recruiters will call. But it's a VERY tiny profession, so don't do this unless you actually have these skills, because if you're hired somewhere and CAN'T do these things, the rest of us will know!

I cannot emphasize enough that experience, even if it's stuff you did at a NON taxo job, heck even if it's something you did on your website that isn't even real, is WAY more impt than the degree.

I have a coworker who likes to say a taxonomist is just how you're born: you organize your m&ms, you put everything in order from most to least favorite, etc. It's hard to fake. We specifically organize our interview to weed this out.

Also, you can google me and contact me. :)
posted by jennybento at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2012 [7 favorites]

thanks to user MsMolly for sending this to me!
posted by jennybento at 1:56 PM on March 7, 2012

So much good info, jennybento. Thank you!!
posted by jabes at 11:17 AM on March 8, 2012

no problemo! As you can see, you will never shake the need to answer a reference question! :)
posted by jennybento at 5:44 AM on March 9, 2012

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