Give this technically-not-a-librarian a job title!
February 19, 2013 5:29 PM   Subscribe

I was hired nearly two years ago at a University Library when starting my MLS program but I was never given a job title.

This wasn't an issue, and frankly wasn't something I was aware about until recently when my supervisor said I couldn't put "librarian" on my resume when applying for jobs because I wasn't hired as a full time faculty status librarian. I am quickly nearing the end of my program, so I have been updating my resume because my position becomes defunct upon my graduation.

I don't work the circulation desk (although I am fully capable of doing so). I do reference through email and chat as well as a number of wide ranging projects like uploading media to our online learning management system, ordering materials, processing donations, and copy cataloging with our cataloging software. I've also made reference guides for students. Basically I do librarian work, but as a student employee I do it part time and for a fraction of the price.

I'm not a graduate assistant (my library doesn't have them) and so I don't get the perks that go with that like a stipend and free tuition.

What's a job title that:
1. accurately reflects the responsibility and accomplishments I have contributed to the library
2. is less than four words long
3. doesn't make me just look like someone who does grunt work like "library assistant" or "special assignments"

I'm obviously looking for a librarian job.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Junior librarian? Ask your supervisor what your title is, if not librarian.
posted by domnit at 5:45 PM on February 19, 2013

I know you're anonymous, but it seems to me that without some reason why you can't talk to your supervisor about this issue, that is something they should be actively involved in naming. Especially given the possibility that they'll get a call to check references/etc.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:46 PM on February 19, 2013

It seems strange that you can't put something like "student librarian" as your title. It very clearly delineates you have done librarian-type duties but aren't an actual faculty librarian.
posted by calistasm at 5:53 PM on February 19, 2013

Seconding that you need to talk with your supervisor again. They need to know what title you are going to use, and they need to be on board with it. Unless they hate you, they should be able to come up with a good job title that includes the word librarian or library in it somewhere.
posted by jsturgill at 6:07 PM on February 19, 2013

You get a salary for this? Then call your university HR and find out what your title is. When you apply for jobs the correct job title is a key part of the pre-employment background screening.

You can put whatever you and your supervisor select on your resume, but on the application you need the correct title and dates.
posted by 26.2 at 6:13 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

To me, this doesn't necessarily look like 'grunt work': Assistant Librarian, Special Projects.
(yes, discuss w supervisor)
posted by artdrectr at 6:14 PM on February 19, 2013

Depending on what kind of library job you're after, saying you were a capital-L Librarian without holding an MLS would be a big no-no, so don't think it will be a black mark against you. In my academic library, people who have jobs that share some reference/instruction/randomness components with you are called "Undergraduate Specialists". They are full-time folk in non-student positions, though. If you are holding a student job according to HR, though, no matter how professional your work, it would be unwise to say you were doing anything else.

I think that it's 100% on your supervisor to name your job, though. It's ridiculous that it would be your problem.
posted by donnagirl at 6:41 PM on February 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Your title is Library Assistant or Reference Assistant. Then you make it clear in the resume what the actual job duties were. Anything else would be super strange and a hiring committee would look at it oddly. You're doing a lot of very good work, yes, but under the direction of a librarian. You are not doing nearly all the things that a full faculty librarian would do. All of my jobs in library school were just like this. It's pretty typical graduate assistant work. But since you can't put Graduate Assistant put Library Assistant. This is what a search committee will expect. (Qualifications for answering: academic librarian who was a grad student not that long ago.)
posted by MsMolly at 6:45 PM on February 19, 2013 [10 favorites]

In the Chicago Public Library system, the title for the kind of role you are serving in is Library Associate. It is a librarian-track position for people working on their MLS. You might try to figure out what name your nearby library systems use for people working in the library while working on their MLS, but I think things like "Library Assistant" and "Library Associate" will be understood to be librarian-in-training positions and will not automatically imply that all you did was grunt work. Your resume and your date of graduation will also make it clear that you weren't yet a librarian but were doing many librarian-type duties.
posted by jessypie at 6:54 PM on February 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, as a "Library Assistant" I did reference and copy cataloging, among other things. I think you can elaborate in your resume/cover letter on the duties you've had that go slightly beyond what the title implies, but I don't think calling yourself an assistant does you a disservice. But yeah, your boss or HR should be telling you this. Good luck!
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 7:19 PM on February 19, 2013

I think it is not a good idea to claim to have been a "librarian" pre-graduation, as many folk with the MLIS guard that title jealously. Your supervisor may have done you a favor. How about "reference specialist?" Whatever you choose, make sure your supervisor and HR are on board with it.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:18 PM on February 19, 2013

Thirding Library Assistant. I am a librarian and our Library Assistants do the type of work that you describe.

In the last library where I worked, that might have been a Library Specialist, so that's another possibility.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:49 PM on February 19, 2013

Fourthing library assistant, and that does not equal grunt workwork. Also I think that the work you describe will look totally appropriate (and probably impressive) for that level but wouldn't at the Librarian level (for example, copy cataloging).

All this will vary by institution so being thorough in your résumé about the types of tasks you performed will be the most important way to communicate the breadth/depth of your experience. The title won't matter as much, unless its attention grabbingly unusual (which I think would be a mistake unless you have some very unusual work experience to back it up).
posted by pennypiper at 11:05 PM on February 19, 2013

What about contacting the HR department? I am a HR professional (not yours, obviously) and this is the kind of information we should have.
posted by coffee_monster at 1:15 AM on February 20, 2013

When I did similar work (plus circulation) I was an Assistant or a Coordinator.
posted by mskyle at 7:23 AM on February 20, 2013

At my library, we have Library Assistants who do everything you described, but they are full-time employees. The part-time student employees are either Student Assistants or Library Interns.
posted by Boxenmacher at 7:52 AM on February 20, 2013

Check with HR. They will likely have very specific definitions for job titles, including what qualifications are required for positions with specific duties. Even for student positions.

There is nothing wrong with "library assistant"-- put your professional bias down, this is the title that paraprofessional staff (which it sounds like you are) have to describe the very important work they do to support essential library functions.
posted by epanalepsis at 9:07 AM on February 20, 2013

Another possibility: my library would call you a Library Technician. It would also be Not Okay to use the word "librarian" to describe yourself here. I suspect that as librarianship continues to be systematically deprofessionalized the title will be carefully defended, and this distinction between librarians and people who work in a library is, in a way, one of the profession's shibboleths. Whether there is a significant overlap in duties is beside the point--that's exactly how the deprofessionalization is progressing.
posted by pullayup at 11:05 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

In my system, "Library Assistant" is the paraprofessional job class. "Librarians" have their MLS and are hired at that rank. It's a hassle but it's not uncommon. Does your paystub have your job rank on it? As for your title, that's probably more fluid. Digital Reference and Tech Processing Assistant might be better? Or Manager? Before I was hired as a Librarian, I was Circulation Manager and then Public Services Manager, though my official rank was Library Assistant.

And yeah... don't be down on the Library Assistant (or Tech or whatever you go with) title. I know Librarian means a lot (hey, I was happy to become one), but it take a community to run a library. Most places worth their salt will be happy to see you have good library experience and really wouldn't expect you to have a professional position before getting your degree.
posted by kendrak at 1:21 PM on February 20, 2013

I do reference through email and chat as well as a number of wide ranging projects like uploading media to our online learning management system, ordering materials, processing donations, and copy cataloging with our cataloging software. I've also made reference guides for students. Basically I do librarian work, but as a student employee I do it part time and for a fraction of the price.

Yep, this is super super common and I agree with everyone else above that your title is some variation on Library Assistant (I picked Reference Desk Assistant for my resume because that's what HR called it at my library--what's yours say?). The title is well understood in the library world, and if you're going for an academic position you'll have plenty of room to elaborate on your actual duties in your resume/CV.

I also agree with everyone above that you will be looked at extremely askance if you put the job on your resume pre ML(I)S as 'librarian'. For one reason, most academic librarian jobs include things like teaching/instruction, faculty outreach, subject specific outreach, and committee work in addition to the duties you list--and it sounds like you were not doing those critical things. For another reason, many hiring committees include paraprofessionals/techs and I could see your attitude about this job accidentally sticking in the craw of some of those folks.

Be clear that you've got solid library experience, but also be clear that you haven't got that first professional job yet.
posted by librarylis at 9:29 PM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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