What can I do with a certificate in digital curation?
May 17, 2020 6:18 AM   Subscribe

I am a mid-career public librarian, and I am thinking of positioning myself for a career change within the profession. I've been looking at certificate programs in digital curation, but I can't get a sense of the job market, and whether such a program will pay for itself. I know there are a fair number of librarians here, so I'm hoping someone can shed some light.

I've been a public librarian for seventeen years, starting in youth services, taking a long detour to electronic resources, and ending up in administration. I've realized that what I really enjoy is managing digital projects for the library. I also like working remotely, which I have discovered over the past two months! And I hate managing. I am looking for a career shift which will allow me to a. mostly do digital things and b. not manage people.

I'm looking at programs like The Maryland iSchool digital curation certificate or this similar program in NC. Does anyone have any experience with the utility of such programs and the career outlook in that field?
posted by missrachael to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I went this route, earning a post-master's certificate in digital archives and records management after 18 years as a librarian (13 years as a librarian consultant at a book vendor, 5 as a public librarian). I now work as a processing archivist in my state's library. The catch: my state is only just now taking in digital materials, so my exposure to what I was trained to do is limited, and I'm really more of a regular archivist handling paper records, with some digitization worked in.

I would absolutely say that the program I went through (San Jose State University, 100% online) was a good experience in that it allowed me to shift gears from one branch of information science to another - I needed to reset after being stuck in a corporate role, and I genuinely like taking classes - but I have found the career tracking somewhat wanting. SJSU does offer pretty robust job listings to grads but these tend to be located in the West and I was not up for relocation. I am not unhappy by any means with where I wound up - but it was networking with professionals in the field that landed me my job.

My sense is that the digital field has a lot to offer someone with prior experience. Many of my classmates were already working in the field and obtaining certificates to get promoted. Your electronic resources experience should make you a prime crossover candidate for such a program. If you are a joiner and like conferences, so much the better - in the Northeast, a membership in MARAC will serve you well, plus an SAA membership if you are specifically interested in institutions/academics.

The program was a relatively low-commitment, medium-cost investment for me. I can't claim that I recouped the financial investment yet - I work part-time - but for me, it was an ideal way to realign my pre-existing professional training to something else I could do with an MLS. There *are* jobs in the field - I recommend taking a look at ArchivesGig to get a sense of what's out there. If you can swing the tuition, I say go for it - the freedom from librarian burnout is worth it.
posted by Otter_Handler at 7:20 AM on May 17, 2020

It sounds like you already have an MLIS? You will want to look at this program at UNC instead: Post-masters Certificate in Data Curation.
posted by k8lin at 9:50 AM on May 17, 2020

I got an MLS from the UMD iSchool in 2015, and took several classes from the certificate. They were good classes. However, my career has been more-or-less stagnant, despite having several digital curation projects under my belt.

You already have an advanced degree. Some hiring managers may come in with more info, but I would expect people who are just looking for recent credentials will be mostly hiring younger people with different expectations, and anyone who genuinely wants to hire people with experience will look at their . . . experience. Basically if the only cost to you is time, there's no time like the present. But if it would require you to take out loans, or pay out of pocket? In general I wouldn't think this is a great time to switch careers, and frankly I wouldn't do this unless you can get someone else to pay for it.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:02 PM on May 17, 2020

My experience on search committees within academic librarianship is that education can help you meet basic minimum requirements (i.e. making it through the automated first cut before a search committee begins reviewing applications), but experience is what you helps you get into the narrowed down and eventual final pool of candidates.

So if you do go for this, you'll need to show how you've applied your skills, ideally in circumstances beyond just a student project. If you get the certificate, could you use it to develop something like a Personal Digital Archiving workshop (just an example off the top of my head) in your current job? That will help you get a lot further in future job searches than only having a student work project to point to.
posted by mostly vowels at 5:20 PM on May 21, 2020

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