I am a public librarian and I want out
July 25, 2019 8:58 AM   Subscribe

I am a public librarian, where can I go from here?

I have been an urban public librarian for 5 years and I am spent. I have been yelled at, threatened, and grabbed by "customers." I have been working an irregular schedule with nights and weekends, and the administration seems to think that all the frontline staff are idiots. I can't see myself doing this for the rest of my working life. I'm ready for a new job.

Here are my challenges:
-My new job needs to be in the same city since my partner is employed here (this one is non-negotiable, please do not try to convince me otherwise)
-Timing isn't great as I'm also trying to get pregnant
-I don't know where I can go from here

In previous experience I worked as a contractor for a federal library but contractors in my area tend to be exploitative of labor and low paying. I'd love to go into federal properly but it takes forever so...

What should I be looking for? Keywords, job descriptions, etc

Testimonials from other ex-public-librarians and women who changed jobs while trying to get pregnant would be appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are you interested at all in other library areas? Academic or medical for instance? Many of these jobs have more regular hours available (not evening or weekend), and your patrons are more along the lines of students, researchers, or clinicians. I'm a medical librarian working at a mostly outpatient hospital; happy to answer any questions if you want to memail me. I can't speak for all medical librarian positions, but the transition from public to medical would be okay in a lot of cases. The valuable thing is your library skills, all the other stuff can be learned on the job.
posted by LKWorking at 9:20 AM on July 25

I used to work at a product design research company. They would consult with companies and do ethnographic research to find out what would serve people’s needs. One of my coworkers in the research department was a librarian. Not sure if she was ever a public librarian but she’d use her database research skills etc to get background info for projects.
posted by azalea_chant at 9:23 AM on July 25 [5 favorites]

Suburban public library? They're at least less physically threatening. I made the switch from public to academic three years ago and I'm not sure I would recommend it, academia comes with its own set of issues, some of which are arguably worse.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:24 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]

If you see openings for any law librarian jobs (at law firms, not academic), apply for those, regardless of your lack of expertise in law. You'll get regular hours, a living wage and lawyers are nicer than the general public (truly). Feel free to memail me--this is the field I work in.
posted by purple_bird at 9:39 AM on July 25 [5 favorites]

Found my current non-library librarian job by searching “metadata” on Indeed.com. Good luck!
posted by Riverine at 9:42 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]

I'm a librarian at a small research library - 90% of our questions are email or phone, very few walk-in people, and the work environment is fantastic.

I second taking a look at other libraries (medical will often ask for some science/medical background, but they're often hurting for applicants, so strong library skills and being convincing you can learn the content can go a long way). One of our current volunteers retired from a major local hospital library - she loved it, but they've had a really hard time filling her position because they're not getting many applicants (pay/etc. are reasonable for our area.)

The Special Libraries Association is the sort of catch-all or for jobs, and there are job listings and job boards, but also often city or regional groups that can be really helpful with networking and postings.

I've been an academic librarian (I agree that's a set of issues, and a hard one to recommend right now), and a librarian at an independent school (which also has issues, but it depends hugely on the school - most independent schools do not care about teacher certification for librarians, so having a MLIS and wanting to work with teenagers are the basic requirements.) If that sounds interesting, glad to talk about it more.
posted by jenettsilver at 9:44 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]

What part of the world do you live in? If it's North Texas, please MeMail me.
posted by orrnyereg at 9:48 AM on July 25

There are a lot of libraryfolk on MetaFilter. If you ask a moderator to add your location to this question I bet you can get some actual job leads out of this, if you want.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:29 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]

I'm a librarian at an academic library in an urban area and I'm familiar with what public libraries and librarians are dealing with. We have that at like 2% of what you have. Plus while we sometimes work evenings and weekends, it's not a regular part of our schedule (depends on the position, really, but I've never had a job that required me to work an evening or weekend regularly in the long-term). I'd encourage you to apply for librarian positions at local colleges and universities if you meet the job requirements (I'd avoid the non-librarian positions at libraries). I know the job market is a challenge and those positions can be competitive, but some academic libraries are open to folks with public library experience. If you want to build up academic experience, you could look at reference pool-type positions at community colleges and universities; often part-time librarians at community colleges are also teaching library instruction session and working the reference desk, so you can build up your resume to be more competitive for regular academic positions when they open up.

(This is presuming you can get things like good health insurance through your partner.)

Other librarians I know who have left librarianship have found positions in areas like digital assets (for a clothing corporation) and research administration (for a research-intensive university).

What are your regional library organizations? I'd get on those listservs and websites and look at job listings there and on their website.

If you haven't been on the market in a while, you might not know that INALJ is a helpful site, with job listings and resources by state and also with tips and keywords. And of course the ALA joblist is great.

I'd also look at positions in tech in your city, if that's an industry there. Our skills can translate.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:47 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]

I have 20 years experience in Public Libraries, mostly frontline. Have you taken a good look at internal opportunities, both lateral (to a non-frontline position) and upward (supervisors/managers generally have better hours and less customer interactions). Even moving branches to another front line position often gives you a different demographic you will be dealing with.

I’m not sure how your pregnancy plans impact your employment, do you need to be with the same employer to get paid parental leave? Or are you just concerned about the optics of taking time off in a new position? If it is the latter, three times now I have accepted a new position in the same week I conceived (must have given me a glow of something) and it has not been a problem - but year-long paid parental leaves are part of my culture. If you don’t have that kind of culture you you can look into being a self-employed tutor and when you return to a working for an employer explain that you took time off to have and care for a baby, which is not an unusual occurance.
posted by saucysault at 11:42 AM on July 25

Depending on where you live, you could try a library vendor - Baker & Taylor, Follett, Ingram, EBSCO, etc. Or maybe something in publishing - publishers are always trying to market to librarians so they might appreciate having one on staff in various roles.
posted by lyssabee at 1:38 PM on July 25

Law librarian is a shrinking profession but from what I've seen it looks like a pretty good berth. If I were going that route, I'd probably try to add some data experience as a hedge so, if necessary, I could help out/double up in lit support.
posted by praemunire at 1:46 PM on July 25

[This is a followup from the asker.]
I'm looking for something in the greater Washington DC metro area (DMV), and the answers so far have been helpful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:40 PM on July 25

I'm not a librarian, so take this with a grain of salt, but one idea I haven't seen mentioned yet is the tech industry. I work at a large-ish tech company that employs at least one librarian to help manage and organize its copious internal documentation. "Librarian" is her actual job title. In my experience, tech companies rarely post jobs on Indeed/Craigslist/etc, so it's worth looking directly at companies' webpages or chatting up people with similar jobs on LinkedIn. The tech industry is not always friendly to women and parents, but this varies wildly from company to company, and it often has great pay and benefits. Note that I'm in the bay area - YMMV in DC.

I imagine that other large corporations may have similar roles for managing their institutional knowledge, although that is only a guess.
posted by introcosm at 6:14 PM on July 25

I can corroborate introcosm‘s guess - I work in this field and have for over a decade. Jobs are usually described as ‘knowledge management’ or ‘content management,’ pay is much better than public libraries, and many knowledge managers come out of MLIS programs (I did). Feel free to MeMail if you’d like more detail.
posted by scyllary at 10:49 PM on July 25

Lucky for you there's an embarrassment of riches when it comes to DC-area library jobs! Law librarianship is what I know best and I cannot recommend LLSDC highly enough. Nice folks and super helpful. If you can wait on a federal gig there's several currently open on USAJobs as well, not just in DC itself but also NoVA and Maryland.
posted by orrnyereg at 8:57 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]

errr....memail jessamyn?
posted by lalochezia at 1:13 AM on July 28

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