Feeling depressed about career prospects. Where do I go from here?
April 1, 2021 9:11 PM   Subscribe

In 2019 graduated with my MLIS (yes, dumb choice in retrospect) after working in libraries for about 5-ish years prior. I was able to get a great 1-year contract position, but that ended late last year. Now I've been back at my old job and, honestly, I hate it. Due to the pandemic, general situation of libraries in Canada in general, I really don't know what to do next. What should I be doing next? Should I try to switch fields somehow?

I just feel like I'm at a loss for what to do with my future. I really don't have any marketable skills that allows one to find a job within a decent amount of time (computer programming, medicine, etc.). Frankly, I'm hard pressed to even say that I have "skills" in general. I have no idea what non-library related jobs I could even apply for at this time where my resume wouldn't be thrown into the trash.

Truth be told, I haven't been applying to librarian jobs since my 1-year contract position ended. I've only applied for one and I got an interview, but not the job. There hasn't been much to apply to, which is obviously worrying me. I'd even move for a job, but BARELY anything in my province (Alberta) has been posted. I've noticed a ton of jobs in BC and Ontario, but there has to be so much competition for those positions and I can't move to another province right now, so that's just not feasible.

I feel like... I just don't even care about my career at this point. I made my bed and now I have to lay in the shitty career choices that I've made.

I'm working part-time at as a school library technician which I didn't mind before, but now it just depresses me. I'm temporarily assigned to a school because there's not a "permanent" position at a school yet, so I'm working somewhere where what I do doesn't really matter. It's only part-time because the previous principal I had CUT my hours about a month before I found that 1-year contract. I feel dumb for taking a leave because, honestly, I could have made more money on EI than I am making now. I make *literally* half of what I made during my 1-year contract. So, that's also depressing. Not being able to earn and save much. I am living with my mother at the moment so rent isn't an issue (honestly, living with her again hasn't been that bad at all).

Working at the school just makes me feel depressed. I know I am going to sound like an asshole for this, so please bear with me. After working in schools for about 5 years, I know the reality of teachers. I haven't worked at schools with "easy" kids, either, so I get it. I feel sooo crazy for saying this, I feel stupid for all of my life choices when I'm around people who are mostly doing what they enjoy and are getting paid pretty well for it, yet... somehow I'm too stupid to manage to do the same thing for myself. Again, I sound like an asshole, I know. But coming back to what feels like a "lesser" support staff position in a school from being an ~actual full-fledged~ librarian in a public library has made me feel like... shit. And working in a school library without kids is so fucking boring. So. Boring.

I don't know what else to do at this point. There are no library jobs. I can't think of another field or position that I could pivot or leverage myself into. I only have library and retail experience. I don't have sexy skills like computer programming or anything. I just want to cry. Am I really supposed to just work part-time the rest of my life? I just feel so STUPID.

I know some of these feelings and frustrations must be driven by my anxiety, which I have seen a doctor about (just went for bloodwork yesterday, haven't been prescribed any medications yet), but I feel so frightened for my future. Like... this stupid shit is what I CHOSE? What the fuck was I thinking?

I'm thinking of NOT doing any irrational career changes until I get my anxiety "sorted out" with my doctor, but I feel like I should be doing SOMETHING!!! I am so frustrated! Is my best option to wait out the pandemic and see what happens? What next? What do you do when you're in your early 30s and all your career choices have been awful?
posted by VirginiaPlain to Work & Money (31 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I apologize if this is blindingly obvious, but have you been looking at corporate positions? I've had many colleagues with library science backgrounds over the years with corporate positions in Information Services departments. Their work involves not just journal subscriptions, but also learning enough about the business to help people with advanced searches, evaluating and managing vendor databases, etc., etc. Pay is decent.
posted by mark k at 9:23 PM on April 1, 2021 [11 favorites]

I am not in this field but I know librarians who have moved to work in international schools around the world. They enjoy very comfortable lifestyles and work in an academic environment where their skills as librarians are highly valued by their peers, as well as by parents and students.
posted by mdonley at 9:26 PM on April 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

I don't known if it's be relevant but my wife shifted sideways from tertiary libraries into a commercial image library. She had a library diploma and a Bach. CompSci (so prob. not too diff from a MLIS) and built their catalog from scratch as well as many other aspects of image-handling for commercial licensing.

Many large companies have everything from samples libraries to images that they need organised.
posted by unearthed at 9:29 PM on April 1, 2021 [1 favorite]

When I began my library science graduate degree in 2004, we were told that if there weren't enough library jobs, we could move into records management where there was a large demand for well-trained information managers. I didn't complete it because I got a paying job doing something else but it made me realise that librarians' main work was with information, not just books.
posted by Thella at 9:52 PM on April 1, 2021 [4 favorites]

I have no answers, but just wanted to say that I'm in a similar boat (if different career) and I really relate to all of this, and I am curious to see what advice you receive. Anyway, you're so, so, so, not alone - and the problem is structural, not some personal failing on your part.
posted by coffeecat at 9:56 PM on April 1, 2021 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far.

I would love to go into records management, but I've found the entire field to be a walled garden. I have no idea how to get the profession. None of the records management positions seem to require an MLIS, they seem to require a ton of certifications that I'm not qualified to complete because I don't have career experience. I've looked at ARMA, but it hasn't been much help. Records management seems very opaque to me.

I was thinking of doing a records management certificate through a college, but ugh. I don't know if it'd be worth it in the end.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:59 PM on April 1, 2021

You don’t sound dumb or like an asshole. You sound a bit like you are depressed, or maybe stuck in a rut. I’m sad you’re beating yourself up so much. It wasn’t stupid to pursue a credential for your field. You couldn’t have predicted a pandemic.

In libraries, there are three general elements of jobs: the location; the kind of library; and the job category (ie public services, cataloging, etc). I tell new grads that, early in your career, aim for two of those things. You can probably get two if you’re flexible.

Can you really not move? Even for a year or two? Then be flexible in the other areas because you are focused on one location. But, yeah, it’s very hard in librarianship to build a career if you can’t move.

I think you could work on self-esteem or self-regard. You are a human with worth. And I don’t think you should wait til the pandemic is over. There might not be a real end, you know?

Applying for jobs can be a slog, but even folks very successful in our field have gotten way more rejections than job offers (like, I have a solid job that aligns in all three areas for me, and I have also in my career been rejected by dozens of other places). It can be dispiriting for sure, but if you want to be a librarian, I don’t think it’s time to give up.

Also, it’s been a really tough year. Spiff up your resume and really think about what kinds of jobs you might be able to do in the field, and start applying. It’s too soon to give up. But you’re going to have to try to work through your anxiety or depression or self-defeatism along the way too.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:05 PM on April 1, 2021 [8 favorites]

I'm just seeing your response. I can't speak to records management, but I'm seeing that you only applied to one regular librarian position since you left your last position, and you got an interview but not the job. That's actually... really good! Getting an interview from one application is actually excellent. And usually not getting the job is about what the other person had, not what you didn't have.

I'm wondering if you're mulling a new area or degree as a delay mechanism. Is a job shift really that good of an idea when you haven't really been looking and applying for things? It sounds like you finished your one year contract in late 2020, which isn't a huge or insurmountable gap. You sound super down on yourself. I would keep looking and applying for things that might be a bit of a stretch and see what's out there in librarianship. I think it's too soon to throw in the towel. I mean, you had a one year position right soon after graduation, which is great! You applied for one job and got an interview, which is great!

Could you move? First you said you can't, and then you said the positions would be too competitive. I don't really see how you can know that for sure. Many libraries like folks coming in from other areas. You have a year of experience post-MLS, plus several years earlier. You could be a strong applicant for the right position. But you're not going to find it if you're not looking and applying, you know?
posted by bluedaisy at 10:13 PM on April 1, 2021 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess my thoughts towards moving are complicated. I suppose I could move, but I guess... I don't see the point in applying for jobs in provinces like British Columbia or Ontario (many positions in Toronto, Ottawa, etc.) when those provinces are INCREDIBLY saturated. I'm sure a resume from someone in Alberta would get thrown in the trash if I applied for a job in Toronto. I guess that sounds ridiculous, but it just seems like a waste to apply to positions that are in highly saturated locations.

Would I move out of my city for a job in a different part of my current province? Sure.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 10:16 PM on April 1, 2021

You've asked *lots* of similar questions about this career. You seem to really like being a librarian! You've done pretty well for yourself as a beginner in a competitive career! Like earlier poster said, when you've applied for things, it's gone well! You're also remarkably and consistently self-defeating about every aspect of this career. That seems like a therapy thing.

But: Apply for library jobs as they come up. If you think you might want to move to BC or Ontario, apply for jobs there! Let them turn you down, instead of failing to apply for reasons that exist in your own head. If you think you want to stay in your province, then same thing: apply for librarian jobs that come up, while being more patient with yourself staying temporarily in less-ideal positions because you're choosing to be geographically selective in your job search.

But maybe work on the self-defeating chatter and associated behavior. You are a librarian. You are pursuing a career as a librarian and paying your dues as a person relatively early in your tenure in that field. It wasn't a mistake. You don't need different skills. You need to apply for jobs in your chosen field without making excuses not to.
posted by shadygrove at 10:39 PM on April 1, 2021 [26 favorites]

Well, as someone who is a librarian in a popular city in a saturated market and who has been on lots of search committees here and at other libraries, I disagree. I’d much rather see an applicant from out of town in a crowded pool. When local folks apply, I don’t know if they want the actual job, or just any job. I want to hear from folks who want the position. And hiring folks from out of town, who have worked in different places, is very healthy for the organization. There are many libraries that specifically avoid hiring only folks from local programs because they want some diversity of thought and approach.

Listen, you have reasons not to do everything, and you keep making this stuff up. Have any librarians in Ontario or BC told you they’d put the resume of someone from Alberta in the trash? Thinking like this is giving you an excuse not to put yourself out there, not to try. You’re rejecting yourself because, it sounds like, you’re very scared of facing rejection. If you decide you’re not good enough, you don’t have to be vulnerable.

I get it, but this inclination isn’t serving you well. A career change isn’t going to help you if you keep sabotaging yourself.

What’s the worst case scenario if you apply to a few of those jobs? You spend a bit of time and you might not get the job. That doesn’t really put you in much of a worse position than you’re in now. You spend a bit of time updating your resume and writing some nice cover letters. This is a really healthy career practice even though you won’t get every job.

I don’t know if you’re depressed, and I’m sorry if you are. Do you need a pep talk or therapy? I don’t know. But you’re sounding a lot like Eyeore, you know?

The reason you’re not getting jobs is because you’ve convinced yourself you won’t, so you’re not even trying. It might be worth spending some time about how that behavior is rewarding you. It seems pretty unhealthy. I know it’s a really hard time right now, but you’ve had success when you have applied for things. If you’re depressed, this won’t be easy and you need real treatment. But if you aren’t depressed, I think you kind of need to suck it up and get over yourself and start putting yourself out there.
posted by bluedaisy at 10:45 PM on April 1, 2021 [25 favorites]

I'll refrain from offering specific career advice because I'm not a librarian, but I will say that my partner has an MLIS and moved from Edmonton to BC. I really don't think you should rule out other provinces just because you perceive them as being competitive. There aren't a ton of library schools in Canada and out-of-province applications are to be expected.

If you might want to pivot into IT I can offer this suggestion: consider improving your database administration or data science skills. Those could be an excellent pivot for you since database specialists are hard to come by in IT and are considered an asset in all kinds of roles. If you can pick up an industry certificate you should be able to get into all kinds of different analyst roles and, for the right organization, might be able to leverage your MLIS to get into a true database admin role. Data science, especially, is trendy right now. Plenty of entry-level work around for anyone with credentials that knows how to pull meaningful things out of data and present it to less technical people.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 1:00 AM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I bet you are going about your library job search just fine and I wish people would take you at your word about it. Librarian job-searching is almost as bad as looking for work as an actor or a journalist - yes, it's dues-paying, but we're not all cut out for it.

I'm going to put my advice first and then my personal story where I start as a desperately job-searching MLS, spend a few years as a professional librarian, and end up as a well-paid professional non-librarian.

MY ADVICE: I think you should pursue non-librarian jobs, because I think that will help you shake the "desperation" feeling, which I know all too well. I don't think you need to decide on a *career* necessarily, just look at and apply for jobs. What are the large employers and industries in your metro area? What kinds of jobs are they hiring for? Even if you don't have specialized non-librarian skills/certifications/education, there are lots of jobs out there that don't require that stuff. Library skills map very well to things like office management, data entry, customer support, etc., and even IT, database management, and data analysis in some cases.

Get in touch with a non-library temp agency and see what they have to offer. These may not be super-prestigious jobs but they can pay about as well or better than a library technician job, or even a librarian job (your provincial/metro job market mileage may vary, obviously). And at some companies it's possible to go from an office manager or customer support job to something more interesting. These are things you can ask about in an interview, and it will feel less stressful than a library interview because you won't be desperate to take any job that's offered!

If you take a job (or even if you're offered a job!) outside of libraries I think it might help you get out of the library scarcity mindset (which extends beyond the job market into the actual work - a large proportion of libraries are under-resourced in lots of ways). Also you are definitely in a self-defeating spiral about work - knowing that *someone* wants to hire you might help snap you out of that.

MY STORY: (I have definitely told this story before, maybe in an answer to one of your previous questions, but I like reminding people that there is life outside of libraries.) 11 years ago I was pretty much where you are now - I had gotten my MSLIS three or four years previous and had been working in libraries for maybe seven years, full-time but in a paraprofessional position with non-ideal hours. I had been applying for professional librarian positions for years, had gotten interviews and had even been offered a couple back in the early days after I got my degree, but which I turned down for OK (mostly location) reasons - I only felt mild-to-moderate regret about turning them down.

I was super burnt-out and finally after a particularly miserable week at work I decided to take the weekend and apply for literally any advertised job in the US that I would be willing to take, i.e. it was in a place where I was willing to consider living and at an organization I didn't know anything terrible about. I think this came to eight jobs, maybe ten? (In the whole US!) I got one or two interviews out of those applications and, more importantly, I got a professional job at a small private university.

I did fine at that job but it was poorly paid and after a year or two I was very confident that I did not want to stay in that location forever, and I just could not face another library job search. I ended up spending three years at that job after which I took a few months off and enrolled in a software development bootcamp; I've been a software developer for the last 7-8 years and I like it at as much as I liked being a librarian, plus I've been making more money than I did as a librarian (even my very first software internship-type-position paid more than my professional librarian job) and there are about a million jobs in my geographical area if I ever want to change jobs. I don't recommend software development specifically - it's a fine career but probably not for everyone - but the point is there are other careers.

Sometimes I get itchy to go back to work in libraries and I look at the librarian job ads to see if anything tempts me. So far, nothing. I can see myself retiring early from software development at some point and doing occasional contract library work if anyone would hire me for it... I'm not sure if my lack of desperation would be a plus or a minus in the library job market, but it's definitely good for my mental health.
posted by mskyle at 4:56 AM on April 2, 2021 [4 favorites]

There is so much negativity and hopelessness in your post. A job search can be dispiriting, let's acknowledge it, but don't let that define your entire existence.

To summarize your degree as a "dumb choice" is needlessly dismissive --it must have been a serious investment of time and energy, and taken focus and commitment. There is no need to put yourself down in this way, it is counter productive and creates all sorts of negative thought patterns. You are not a loser because you are overqualified for your current gig. It is tying you over until you can get to the next chapter of your career.

So, work on your outlook first..... There must be some good things in your life that make it tolerable. Stop focusing on what you cannot do, what cannot happen. To me it sounds like you are creating a lot of mental resistance. Our insecurities are insidious in creating barriers, don't give them that power.

Start applying for jobs! Even if you don't think you are qualified, don't think you want to relocate, just go through the process. Things sometimes lead to other things.
Second, do more research about records management. It sounds like you have looked into it a little bit, keep at this. My thought would be nose around linked in and see what you can find there.

Lastly, it might be cold comfort, but almost everyone goes through struggles related to their employment and career situation. I don't minimize the stress of it, but it is only one part of your life and your identity.

Good luck.
posted by rhonzo at 5:03 AM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Don't forget the federal government. My step-daughter has an MLIS and works for StatsCan. Any kind of records-keeping organization needs people who know how to organize and retrieve data.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:10 AM on April 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

I feel you! I changed careers and it was a demoralizing, exhausting slog, but in the end I landed in a job I enjoy that pays well with good colleagues in a place I want to live. Hang in there!

This may not have been the most efficient or focused approach, but I took any professional training that sounded interesting, either in chunks of less than a week or evening classes. I also volunteered for anything that struck my fancy. While I was in the midst of it, it must have looked really scattershot but now I'm in a position where I actually use most of those skills. I also made good contacts. Each piece was a stepping stone and it took a lot of stepping stones (and several years) but I'm pretty happy with where I landed.

Interestingly, the only training I don't really use is my original degree, so you're not necessarily locked into library-related work. It just might take more time and exploration to make a big shift.

You've got this!
posted by bighappyhairydog at 7:44 AM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I'd just reiterate that you should apply wherever you like - I have two librarian friends from New Brunswick and they have done well. Ottawa in particular is kind of a magnet city for Canadians from all over.

It was a long slog though, taking contracts all over (in those times and the pre-Covid times, NYC seemed to be a big jumping off point) - to the point that I think some of them are my friends who have lived in the most extreme places, from Queens to Cambridge Bay via Moncton. Also network! The OLA conference, which I know about because I get to hang out with my friends, was online this year - look for similar opportunities.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:35 AM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again for the answers.

I suppose my question was more in-line with this comment from mskyle: "I bet you are going about your library job search just fine and I wish people would take you at your word about it. Librarian job-searching is almost as bad as looking for work as an actor or a journalist - yes, it's dues-paying, but we're not all cut out for it."

I really don't think that I'm cut out for the library job-search. I find it too mentally draining and distressing to compete for like 5 jobs with 34934 other applicants (with most of the applicants having a stronger resume than my own). It's exhausting. I'm envious of other fields that have more flexibility and more options when applying for jobs. I don't think that I'm *mentally* I'm cut-out for the library job search. I find it extremely distressing. What other options do I have if this isn't for me?
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:06 AM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

MLIS isn't a dumb choice. i work in digital asset management systems. DAMs, PIMs, PLMs, IT, HR, etc..., all use content management systems that feed information into other systems, they all intersect with library science skills. Amazon and Netflix are just library-like systems. The whole world runs on library science. I just added a Digital Librarian to our team, who had a bit more corporate experience than other applicants that only had academic experience. Working with that side of things may not be why you chose to be a librarian, but if you look in that area you may be able to try something new, and work remote while you search for your next dream job. All of the software vendors that sell the products hire librarians as well.
posted by th3ph17 at 9:36 AM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I was in a similar place once. I worked as a library paraprofessional for many years, got my MLIS, but then found a combination of burnout and the stress of job searching became pretty overwhelming. I ended up moving to a non-library career. It was a rough transition to make, and hard to set aside library careers after I had invested so much in them. To be honest, I still miss working in libraries, but I also know I made the healthier choice for me. Here's a few things that helped me:

I found that I had made being a librarian/library person a central part of how I saw myself and how I introduced myself to others. I don't know if this is your experience also, but I thought I'd mention it. It probably wasn't a healthy approach even if I had stayed in libraries. This really got in the way of job searching for non-library positions, because it tied my job search to bigger "who am I?" questions. Quite honestly, therapy and journaling was helpful in this.

Try to find ways to lessen the "searching for a non-library job means I'm a failure" and "why did I make this bad career decision" feelings of shame. Easier said then done, I know. Learning a bit about sunk-cost bias helped, along with time and consciously practicing reframing the situation as "this isn't a good fit for who I am right now, so I am trying to find something new", even when I didn't quite believe it myself.

I made a list of any projects/tasks in jobs or in my degree that I enjoyed or felt fulfilled doing, looked for common threads among those, made of list of six or so really high-level things that I was looking for in a job to help evaluate job descriptions as I came across them (e.g., "I like work that is project-based").

Because it was so overwhelming and I was struggling emotionally, I ended up just focusing my job search on finding a safe place to land for awhile, instead of pressuring myself to find a new, perfect career fit right now. I had a lot of shaming feelings of "you HAVE to get it right this time. You can't mess up again." In the end, that is a lot of pressure to put on one choice. Instead, I tried to find a job that would give me space to regroup and think about what else I might want to do. I focused on any job that met those criteria I mentioned above and that paid the bills to give me some security.

I know this isn't specific about the types of jobs to look for. My own experience probably isn't very helpful--I was considering temping for awhile but ended up hearing about a project coordinator position unrelated to library work through a friend--but I hope something in all my ramblings here helps you find a bit of compassion for yourself. You haven't failed, and you aren't doomed to misery because of a career choice you made.
posted by verity kindle at 10:09 AM on April 2, 2021 [5 favorites]

I'm about halfway through my MLIS, working a paraprofessional job with crappy hours and it's become quite clear to me that I don't want to work in libraries much anymore. But I'm sticking with the MLIS after talking to other people with that degree and other graduate degrees who told me that even having a Masters degree can open doors. One of the people in my library just left to work with a local non-profit, and really enjoys the work. In addition to what other people in this thread have suggested, maybe look into online certificates or training in a related field. There's a lot of free or affordable educational content out there, and on a resume it's a concrete way to demonstrate that you're proactive, a self-starter, and are actively working to build your skillset. All of that, and a Masters degree in information science, can impress people. Enough to get an interview at least if you send out lots of resumes because that's always a numbers game. Maybe 99 out of a 100 people will throw your resume in the trash, but all that matters is the one who doesn't. Good luck, and please don't give in to the depression--depression lies.
posted by indexy at 1:57 PM on April 2, 2021

As someone with both an MLIS *and* anxiety, I really feel for you. The librarian job market is not for the faint of heart, and dealing with mental-illness-infused self-doubt makes ANY job search even more fraught. I'm really sorry you're going through this.

Definitely address the depression/anxiety issues first. You are filtering your job search through a very cloudy, distorted lens right now, and as your mental health improves, so will your outlook on your career prospects.

If it helps, here's another success story of a librarian who is working outside the traditional library sphere. I worked as a paraprofessional for 5 or 6 years, got my MLIS while working full time, and then took a job as an academic librarian in a very small, rural college in a part of the country I'd never been. I lasted for about 2.5 years before I couldn't take rural life anymore, and decided to move to my hometown regardless of my library job prospects.

I now find myself working in university research administration, which is a TERRIFIC use of library science skills! I work in a university research center, and there are actually two other credentialed librarian on staff. One does traditional library work; the other is the director of our IT and communications team. I'm making more money than I ever would in a library (at least at this stage of my career), and being in a new environment is really refreshing after spending so many years in the same setting. When colleagues and professional connections find out I have a library background, they're never like, "Why the heck aren't you in a library?!" It's so, so common for people to get degrees and then veer a bit from that initial path.

I graduated from library school in 2011, and I'd say that at least a third of my classmates don't work in libraries at this point. They either use their MLIS in atypical arenas, or they bailed on the profession altogether. Regardless of whether you ever work full-time in a library, getting a Master's degree is a HUGE accomplishment, and information science is a hugely transferrable skill set. There is zero shame in finding a job that differs from what you had in mind, and you are certainly not a failure in any way!
posted by leftover_scrabble_rack at 3:44 PM on April 2, 2021 [3 favorites]

If you want to explore records management (or other library science adjacent fields), I'd suggest trawling through your extended network and seeing if you can find anyone who is currently working in records management. See if they would be willing to have virtual coffee with you and talk about what it's like working in records management and some of the different ways of getting in to it. If they've been working for a few years they can probably give you some ideas.

A few of the people working in information rights (data protection and freedom of information etc) that I've worked with have had library and information science backgrounds so that's another angle you might want to explore.
posted by plonkee at 3:50 PM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

I graduated with an MLIS in '99 and never found a decent job in a library. I tried on and off for about 10 years and finally just gave up. Here's what I've done instead:

- work for a company that makes library-oriented software, as a trainer and a technical writer (where I got to visit hundreds of libraries around the world, so that was really cool)
- work for a state government agency as a tech writer/trainer/QA tester (where I learned a ton of new skills, but also applied my skills of training folks on information systems)
- work for a state agency as a business analyst (new career for me in the past year; I am in my mid 40s. I use my research librarian interviewing skills every day in this position!)
- I also volunteer on an advisory board for the state library for my state

You can definitely pivot somewhere else, using the skills you learned in school and on the job.
posted by medeine at 4:39 PM on April 2, 2021 [1 favorite]

An avenue might be to be a prospect research analyst. Job closes on April 6 and based in Edmonton.
posted by saturdaymornings at 6:55 PM on April 2, 2021

Someone mentioned the mental health angle, I just wanted to add that our current situation mixes the distortion of depression with a much tougher, albeit temporary, reality.
So I'd double down on sorting out the thoughts (with help, as you are doing here), and looking at resilience. Measures that focus on making this interim bearable. Often times it's just acknowledging that independent of what you or others think of you, your situation just sucks. Someone new and wide-eyed might like it, but that's not who you are. Your description of your situation just sounds realistic and smart.
You sound like someone who'll come out of this fine. Remember to take care of yourself.
You're not stupid, your career isn't at risk, everything is on hold, your feelings are valid, all that. You need to vent that shit before you have the mental clarity to move on.
Or at least that's how I am.
posted by svenni at 12:19 AM on April 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think others have answered this question really well. I won't repeat what they're saying, but I wanted to address the Alberta angle specifically.

I think that if you really love library work and would be willing to move, you should definitely apply for out of province jobs. The combination of the pandemic and our current provincial government's hostility toward education means that heavily used (academic) libraries have been shut down and (public) librarian friends of mine have been on and off layoff for almost a year. Alberta is just an awful place to be right now unless you are... a fantasy tar sand, maybe? Or Jason Kenney's dead grandpa. I have friends who did their MLIS here who have gone on to get Very Cool Jobs in other provinces over the past few years and I really don't think you should rule that out. While I love and admire my friends, I don't think that they had any special skills or talents that you don't.

The one other thing I would suggest right now that might help, potentially both with your career and with your feelings about it all, is to find a class where you can work on a skill that you both enjoy and that might be useful in your career. I'm not thinking anything too formal, here... I'm thinking learn about 3D printing (libraries love their Makerspaces) , or take a free Coursera or Khan Academy course on programming (or anything at all, really) and work on it at your own pace, without pressure. It wouldn't necessarily lead to something you could put on your CV, but in terms of that feeling that you don't have skills (you do! you do have skills!) it could really make a difference. A lot of public librarian work involves interacting with vulnerable populations, so psychological first aid could be useful (training at that link could go on a CV).

But really, what I came here to say is, it's really not you, it's Alberta.
posted by bibliotropic at 7:03 AM on April 3, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess the issue I have the most with moving (despite genuinely not believing that a library in Ontario would hire an Albertan, in general) is that I am the primary caregiver for my mother. I’ve learned that I am able to make it work if I can stay within the province and live less than a days drive from her. I was able to visit about once a month after the first wave of Covid settled down. However, I can’t see how I could care for her from a distance from Ontario, for example. It’s just too much distance. Yes, I know that some people might be rolling their eyes at this excuse, but honestly, it’s a reality that I do have to take into consideration. I don’t see how I can live THAT far away and make sure she’s okay, especially while Covid is raging on.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 9:10 AM on April 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

In the way of the library profession, I know two librarians working in Alberta (one at UAlberta and one at Calgary Economic Development) and quite a few others working outside it, including in the US. It really is tough times in Alberta right now and I believe that there are no ideal jobs and that you need to stay where you are.

Practical tips and tools for your situation:

1) One thing that it sounds like you need but don't have is a mentor (specifically around jobs); your provincial library association weirdly doesn't have one but I'd recommend OLA anyway; if you're okay with joining ALA then I'd recommend the NMRT program among others.

2) INALJ (I need a library job) has a great interview series with librarians who do non-librarian work. Great informational interviews without having to actually set one up yourself.

3) Another thing INALJ has is a great list of keywords for both MLIS and non- job searches; it's on almost every page.

4) Speaking of keywords, I know a ton of MLIS-ers who are (to pull from my LinkedIn) business analysts, knowledge managers, prospect researchers, business intelligence researchers, records managers, information analysts, user experience researchers, web operations, systems analysts, marketing specialists, policy research analysts, etc. If what you want is to stay in library adjacent fields (for ease of hiring if nothing else) in Alberta, then I'd suggest using any or all of those as keyterms in a LinkedIn search to start connecting with people.
*If that sounds exhausting beyond hope and like you'd rather roll over and go back to sleep forever, then I so much want to give you a hug and send you off to your doc again because there's some depression in there, too.

5) I met a lot of those MLISers via the Special Library Association, which had a lively Canadian chapter (that link is to their Fb page so you can see what events and things they do).

6) Finally, one option that I haven't seen mentioned is starting your own consultancy business. The Association of Independent Information Professionals is really well regarded for advice there (they'll pair you with a mentor, etc.). By all accounts they are just lovely folks. Their conference is online April 14-16, so you could jump in if you have any interest.

Finally, I urge you to continue to follow through on the options for therapy/meds. Speaking solely as a compassionate outsider, it sounds to me like you are struggling right now and would benefit from some external help.
posted by librarylis at 10:25 PM on April 3, 2021

It is totally OK to not want to move thousands of kilometers from your home for a job. It's actually incredibly normal. Even if you didn't have a family member who you needed to take care of that would be a perfectly reasonable decision. It sounds like it doesn't matter whether libraries in Toronto or whatever would be willing to consider your application - you don't want to move to Toronto! Me neither! (No offense to Toronto, I just like where I am now.) You don't need to worry about whether they would want you because you don't want them!

You are not required to make your career your top priority.
posted by mskyle at 6:51 AM on April 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

Like bluedaisy I’m a librarian in a big city (US) with a saturated market, and at least here in DC the current location of the candidate has never been a factor in search committee decisions.

I can also testify that it took me five years to find a professional position after getting my degree, partly because I was employed as a higher-level paraprofessional and could afford to be picky, but partly because this is a numbers game. I feel you, it’s very disheartening to keep applying and being shot down. But I applied to literally dozens of jobs before even getting an interview. You’re ahead of the game!

And I hate to say it, but this is true of *most* actual professional positions in most fields.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:37 AM on April 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

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