How to make the switch to special libraries?
June 9, 2012 12:06 PM   Subscribe

Frustrated NYC public librarian needs career advice, please!

Hi y'all! I'm about to be 40, and I've had enough of the chaos, incompetence and low pay that comes with working for a public library system in NYC. I can't foresee years on end of being yelled at by homeless people because the public printer doesn't work, dealing with incompetent, lazy supervisors, and watching the mentally ill defecate in the stacks, for 50k a year.

I want to make enough to live on my own, pay off my student loans, travel once in a while, and have a job where I'm actually required to use my brain. Even though I know I am very lucky to have a job at all, I am so tired of being poor, and am just plain burnt out from working with the public.

So, my 40th birthday present to myself is finding a new job, but I'm not sure what directions I should be looking in. I'd very much like to work for a corporate or legal library, but special librarians are reportedly being laid off and being outsourced just as much as us public librarians are. I want to stay in NYC, which further hampers my search, because the field is glutted with candidates here.

I love doing research, and I'm single/childfree, so I can work long hours. I don't mind working with flaming assholes, as long as they're MY flaming assholes. I'm very good at instruction, making complex concepts easier to understand - but I only have the one masters degree, so most academic library/instructional jobs are off-limits to me. Unfortunately, I cannot take on any more debt, to obtain another degree. I have the typical liberal arts undergrad background.

Beyond networking at SLA, does anyone have any suggestions for a public librarian who wants to make the switch to special libraries? Are there any job sectors slated to grow, or are they all shrinking? Thanks for any advice you can give me.
posted by librarian73 to Work & Money (5 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any background in/aptitude for legal research? There are some law-related jobs floating around (memail me if interested). Thank you for your public library service--I honestly can't imagine working in that kind of setting. Special libraries have their own drawbacks but nothing like that!
posted by orrnyereg at 12:47 PM on June 9, 2012

Have you thought about government work? The TLAs need researchers/analysts all the time. Need to have led a clean life for the security clearances but it is an option for some.
posted by pdxpogo at 3:33 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

The IRS is moving towards a licensing requirement for tax preparation, and you may be able to transition into long hour seasonal work in tax/accounting for small business and personal filing requirements.
posted by vozworth at 7:01 PM on June 9, 2012

You can still get a job at a college with just one master's degree. Community college librarians are only required to have one. University librarians may be hired with just a MLS and the requirement they get a second master's degree for tenure. But at 50K per year, you are actually doing ok. Academia does not pay all that well.

I have been a law librarian (very major law firm), you get yelled at by lawyers and can be fired at will.
I worked for AIG. You get treated like a serf and I had to deal with accountants.
I worked for a major investment banking firm, nasty business and I had less prestige than the janitor, but the partners adored me.
I ran a graduate-school library for a major university, it was fabulous, but the pay was not very good.
I worked for a major university system (again running a college library, not the big university library), again, the job is great, but the pay sucks (and this was in a high cost area). Your 50K/year actually sounds good.
posted by wandering_not_lost at 9:26 PM on June 9, 2012

Whatever type of special librarianship you are interested in, you can subscribe to many of the discussion lists without being a member first. (Not all, but many) This way, can virtually meet many of the SLA members. If you can make it to Chicago for the conference this summer, that would be great. If you can't afford the $$$ for the registration, you could go to a lot of the evening receptions that the divisions put on, and lobby con. (But, that would be tough to do without knowing anyone.) I would recommend talking to members of the NY chapter, too. and maybe even the upstate or NJ chapters? or Talk to some of the librarians (who are SLA member or not) who work in the segment you are interested in. Business/corporate library? Insurance? Museums? Science R&D Lab?
posted by jokrausdu at 6:22 PM on June 10, 2012

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