What to do with an MLIS degree?
October 15, 2017 1:44 PM   Subscribe

I have been told that a Masters in MLIS can be quite versatile and can even stem outside of the library career. What luck have found with your MLIS outside of libaries? Is researching possible with companies, governments, non-profits, and academic research without the doctorate route?
posted by RearWindow to Education (15 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
With the caveat that the "versatility" of an MLIS may be touted to keep programs full when the library field is demonstrably not able to support so many graduates, I did find luck using my degree in government. I got my foot in the door with more of an administrative/IT role, but once I had a couple of years in the department, I was able to combine that experience with my degree to get a policy analyst position.
posted by haruspicina at 2:53 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Since the MLIS is considered a "terminal" degree in the field, I was able to use one to get a job teaching technology classes (how to make a website sort of stuff) at my local community college. I have had a lot of non-library jobs with my MLIS including a lot of contracting, a lot of writing and a lot of public speaking TO librarians about other things of interest to them including technology education and the digital divide.
posted by jessamyn at 2:55 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

the "versatility" of an MLIS may be touted to keep programs full when the library field is demonstrably not able to support so many graduates

I used mine at Lowe's in the garden department and at the U.S. Post Office Bulk Mail Facility in Commerce City, Colorado. I guess that fits a certain definition of "versatile."
posted by scratch at 3:02 PM on October 15, 2017 [23 favorites]

I work in (local) government doing work under the GIPA Act (Australia) - the US equivalent is "Government in the Sunshine Act"; I am basically an internal reference librarian. I don't have an MLIS, but I've thought about it and I got my current job while working on an AA in library technology - I sold myself based on courses I'd taken in research skills, information ethics, and the general interest the profession has in "information for all!", privacy, transparency, etc.

If I was more ambitious and really wanted to make a career of it an MLIS or MLIS + law/paralegal background would eventually become necessary I think - esp as you move up into State and Federal government positions.

I also got a job doing content development for a website (basically, "populate this database with all the organic farms/sustainable fisheries in Alaska/etc"... fun albeit freelance, US), did records/filing for liquor licensing court (Aus govt), and circulation desk type work for the internal circulation desk at the ABC (like PBS in Aus) [both these latter two were temp jobs]. YMMV - the job market is better in Aus, but I was definitely working with folks with MLIS degrees all the same, which definitely gave me pause with regard to pursuing grad school.

I've also heard about people going to coding bootcamps and doing stuff in "digital humanities"...
posted by jrobin276 at 3:08 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

My MLIS has been irrelevant to my career for 15+ years.
posted by LoveHam at 3:50 PM on October 15, 2017

I have a family member who got a M.L.I.S. and now does UX for Google, so.
posted by praemunire at 4:47 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

I used my MLIS to get a job managing a knowledge base & running a help desk for users & giving training (yes, de facto reference/instruction work) at a large firm then left to go work for my client.

I really played up my "I have research and organization and communication skills and I am used to doing my thing on a slim budget".
posted by pointystick at 4:59 PM on October 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

+1 for UX. Many UX researchers, taxonomists and IA folks I know have MLIS degrees.
posted by thejoshu at 7:10 PM on October 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I have an MLIS and am a user experience researcher for a large tech company. Many of my colleagues also have an MLIS.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:21 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Off the top of my head, I can name folks from my MLIS cohort who work on the back end at Amazon; teach middle-schoolers; work with engineers doing idk what at a big power plant; and work at a large university press.

It is fairly versatile, but you’d do well to specialize in a skill and spin the rest of your experience like pointystick mentions above. Be ready to sell yourself. The MLIS will help you, but it won’t do much on its own w/r/t credentials.
posted by witchen at 7:53 PM on October 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

When a graduate program that doesn't pay the students it admits vaunts its versatility, it's essentially making the claim that even though your chances of getting a library job are diminished, you still won't be broke. Which is probably true -- you can become a UX designer at Google or work at Home Depot with an MLIS, but you can also get those jobs quite without an MLIS. Most people do. People rarely get a library degree because of its versatility; they get one because they'd like to be a librarian, or an archivist, etc -- the versatility only comes into play when it turns out they can't get the jobs they'd hoped for, and specifically gotten a degree for.
posted by tapir-whorf at 9:44 PM on October 15, 2017 [7 favorites]

This is like saying “what else can I use a degree in physical therapy for?” Like, sure, a physical therapy degree will be handy if you decide to become a martial arts instructor or even a dental hygienist or something. But you don’t go to PT school for those things.

Get an MLIS if you want to be a librarian (ideally want it very much, and have realistic ideas about the librarian job market). Otherwise don’t bother.

(I’m a software developer with a library degree. The library work didn’t hurt me as I made my career change but I’m pretty sure just being steadily employed for that period would have been just as good.)
posted by mskyle at 4:07 AM on October 16, 2017

After I got my MLIS and before I got my benefits-paying librarian job, I had a job working for a large phone company creating the yellow pages section of phone books--my supervisor had an MLIS and specifically hired me because I had one, since much of the job involved information management. This was 14 years ago for a well-known phone company that still produces paper phone books, but I have no idea how their internal processes have changed.

It started as a temp job, but while my supervisor convinced her bosses to give me the job on a more permanent basis after a few weeks, they didn't include benefits in the offer. I quit it as soon as I got my current job, which offered very nice benefits and paid more and had the advantage of not requiring me to drive through terrible morning traffic to an office near a major airport at 7AM.
posted by telophase at 11:22 AM on October 16, 2017

I got my MLIS about 18 years (!) ago and have not worked one day as a librarian. The jobs just weren't very available. I did work for a company that sells research software primarily to university libraries; I variously did technical support, technical writing, and end user training. I got to visit hundreds of libraries around the world, so that was really neat.

I now work in state government as a technical writer and software trainer, with a dash of project management and a smidge of QA testing.
posted by medeine at 1:14 PM on October 16, 2017

the versatility only comes into play when it turns out they can't get the jobs they'd hoped for, and specifically gotten a degree for.

This can vary. Learning and understanding systems thinking and knowledge organization is useful, and for some employers the fact that you learned it in school (instead of picking it up from people around you or just naturally being like that) can add weight/status. Additionally, just having a Masters is helpful in some cases and, as Masters degrees go, a library degree is not a super difficult one and can, sometimes, be done cheaply.

So while I agree that there are sometimes some hand-wavey aspects to the versatility of the degree, there are places you see pockets of librarians working that are not libraries but which their library degrees have trained them for and helped them get their foot in the door for. Digitization projects run by cultural heritage organizations often benefit from librarians being at the helm of their projects. NPR, for example, has a library they don't even call a library and they're 1. doing amazing stuff 2. mostly staffed by librarians.
posted by jessamyn at 2:29 PM on October 16, 2017

« Older Looking for a specific recording of "If I Could Be...   |   Appendix E? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.