Returning to librarianship
July 14, 2005 12:00 PM   Subscribe

What would an aging defrocked librarian have to do to return to the fold?

I have a Masters of Library Science, but haven't worked as a librarian (cataloging) since 1982. I am in my fifties, and considering a complete career change and returning to the profession, specificly as a media specialist in a public school system. Essentially, I have an obsolete credential and no relevant work experience.

I'm sure librarianship has changed enormously in 23 years. Fortunately, I live five miles from a university with a graduate program in education and a quality library school. I'm very comfortable with the internet, on-line search tools, and small computers in general. Further, the appalling level of compensation for librarians (some thngs never change) isn't an issue.

So, how would you reenter the profession?
posted by mojohand to Work & Money (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think if you showed evidence that you had brushed up on your job skills, your prior degrees would still be valid. I'd take a few "charm school" courses, maybe the same ones that practicing school librarians are already taking.

Oh, by the way, you still have to be quiet in there.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:23 PM on July 14, 2005

In some states if you want to work as a media specialist, you will need to get a certificate, so you will probably have to take classes and an exam. So I think doing that would make you look updated if you are going to reenter the profession.
posted by gnat at 12:28 PM on July 14, 2005

Oh, by the way, you still have to be quiet in there.

Although I am sure you were joshin, I'm very happy this isn't always true. The "working library" where regular volume is acceptable and there are dedicated quiet rooms is a Good Thing. Viva le Volume!
posted by phearlez at 12:36 PM on July 14, 2005

Oh, by the way, you still have to be quiet in there.


I would join my local professional association [which you can do even if you're not yet in the profession] and start going to meetings and talk to some of the people in my specific interest area. They likely have a listserv and you could join that and get to know the people in your area who work in your field, and they could get to know you. This way you're not just one more anonymous person when you're putting your resume in front of them.

I'd figure out what schooling I'd need [certificate or whatever] to be a school library media specialist and start going after it. If you have to go back to official-type school to get a certificate, try to get a job while you're there. School jobs generally have lower barriers to entry than regular old jobs, but can lead to contacts within the profession as well as possible professional level jobs after you graduate.

Cataloging, as I'm sure you know, is not only different but it's becoming more and more centralized, so your comptuer skills will be put to good use. Make sure you dispell anyone's incorrect notions that because you're over 50 you must not be good with computers; have a handy sound byte that makes it clear you're skilled and comfortable with technology "Oh no, I've been writing my own web pages since 1998 and fix computers for my local church" or whatever.
posted by jessamyn at 12:38 PM on July 14, 2005

Also, are you just sort of kidding about being "defrocked", or is there some shady librarian past you have that you didn't mention? That could make a difference; most library employers worth their salt will Google you, so if there is a weird history blip there, worth knowing they might know it if it's Googleable.
posted by jessamyn at 12:41 PM on July 14, 2005

I'd get in touch with someone from the library school near you. My school, UIUC, has a special track in school media studies. As others have said, you'll probably at least have to get the teacher certification part of the degree, and here at least that comes with practicum experience that lets you work in a school library for a semester. You could use your time when you're in school getting your teaching certificate to take a few library classes too in any areas you feel like you need to brush up on. Regardless, talking to the library school's school media program director is your first step. The school will be the best place to get information about local job opportunities too.

Oh, by the way, you still have to be quiet in there.

You don't know many librarians, do you? ;)
posted by MsMolly at 12:43 PM on July 14, 2005

Response by poster: Even in 1982 OCLC and CIP had the handwriting on the wall for catalogers. Frankly, I'd be astonished if outside specialized collections there were more than a handful of jobs in that area, but even if there are, it's not for me any more.

Jessamyn, you're right. Even casual Googling will disclose my sordid past selling space in technology pubs (your life is what happens to you while you're planning something else.) I was just going to say I'd been in prison these past 23 years, but I guess I'll have to 'fess up.

More usefully, thanks everyone, for the excellent counsel.
posted by mojohand at 1:11 PM on July 14, 2005

One of my colleagues is a guy about your age who got his MLS in the 70s and never used it until a few years ago.
He started out working as a substitute librarian and eventually got a full-time job.
We work in a public library system, though, so I assume there are different requirements for school libraries.
posted by exceptinsects at 3:31 PM on July 14, 2005

If you are willing to do part time on call stuff, you could try getting on the sub list at local public libraries (or library co-ops). That gets you back into the librarian gossip network, although school librarians here look down on public library librarians.

We are crying for foreign language catalogers here. YMMV where you are, or you may have no such skills.
posted by QIbHom at 5:00 PM on July 14, 2005

Even in 1982 OCLC and CIP had the handwriting on the wall for catalogers.

Mojohand, I'm starting library school next month and I'm curious what you mean by this.
posted by scratch at 6:12 AM on July 15, 2005

Response by poster: Scratch - I meant that, aside from the cataloging of unusual subject or language materials not cataloged by centralized sources like the LC, libraries were not going to need as many catalogers. But the fact is that I really don't know what I'm talking about. My knowledge base is almost a quarter century out-of-date and ill-remembered at that.

Talk to the profs at your school for opinions informed by actual knowledge.
posted by mojohand at 9:01 AM on July 15, 2005

What mojohand says about cataloging is most true for traditional cataloging-- which would, now that I think about, be the kind of cataloging you'd most likely see in a school media environment anyway. There are a lot of interesting innovations and efforts underway in the library and IA worlds regarding non-traditional cataloging, as well as enhancement of traditional cataloging, and of course the general principles and practices of enabling user access via cataloging and classification have translated in a variety of ways onto the internet and other networks with regards to metadata creation, organization, etc.

In other words, I second mojohand's other remark to ask your profs what's shiny and new and yet, taken from the long-view, not exactly entirely new after all.
posted by Carol O at 11:07 AM on July 15, 2005

« Older Most widespread file format   |   I'm thinking the solution requires a hammer. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.