Another career question for disaffected librarians
November 4, 2021 8:38 AM   Subscribe

I am a librarian considering alternate careers in the event that I decide to leave the public sector. Advise me?

Due to the political climate, I've decided I need a concrete backup plan in the (hopefully unlikely) event that things go south at my current job. If I do move on, I want to open my search beyond libraries - library salaries are underwhelming in my area and I have no interest in relocating at this time.

What I'm Looking For: I'm a reference librarian with experience in historical/government documents research. My dream job would be to work as a fact-checker, or a personal research assistant, or to write white papers or compile literature reviews all day. I also suspect I'd be a good technical writer or instructional designer. Interested in politics and public policy but know enough to be cautious about the nonprofit sector.

Strengths: My skillset is research, writing, customer service, teaching/training, and UX/content strategy.

Requirements: Salary at least $50k. I prefer a ~40-hour workweek. Remote would be awesome. My location means I could credibly commute to DC a few times a month.

Limitations: Introvert, so I can't see myself as a full-time teacher or trainer. No formal background in history/law/political science/public policy. No experience in K-12. Limited experience in activism/organizing. Not strong in statistics/data science (but could learn). Uninterested in marketing/social media. No desire to become a professional genealogist.

Any ideas of careers/sectors that might be a good fit? What job titles should I be looking for, what skills should I be developing, and what pitfalls should I be looking out for? Thanks in advance.
posted by toastedcheese to Work & Money (9 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Check out I Need a Library Job (INALJ). The provide lots of keyword suggestions and relevant job postings for career transitions.
posted by veery at 9:31 AM on November 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Hey! Are you familiar with Code4Lib at all? Sometimes their stuff is a little bit broader than code, thankfully. How familiar are you with code?

I currently work as a user experience designer. My bachelor’s is information science (I strongly considered getting my MSLS but decided I wanted to work a little more broadly).

Some of my work involves working with instructional designers. Currently, I’m totally remote, and it sounds like a lot of people may stay that way if they can.

I am totally an introvert, and my UX work absolutely requires to be on some, but it’s balanced between my designing time (coming up with user workflows, wireframes, sketches for interfaces - which tends to involve things like Figma, Axure, or good ol’ pen and paper) and the slightly-tougher user research time (conducting user interviews, testing designs with users, etc., frequently done with stuff I made in Figma or Axure).

I have developed a reputation for my fondness of information architecture, which has a lot in common with traditional library science thought - how do people find information? What terms do they use to search to find what they need? How do we design navigation on websites (or other things) so that those using it have a sense of place? Abby Covert is a phenomenal resource on the field as a whole.

Another thought - frequently has positions from the Smithsonian, and I’ve even seen one for a taxonomist for DAU before. They were looking for knowledge of controlled vocabularies, and I definitely applied.

I hope this is helpful! Please let me know if there’s anything I can expand on/clarify.
posted by so-it-goes at 11:42 AM on November 4, 2021 [4 favorites]

Almost any sizable professional services firm - lawyers, accountants, consultants, etc. - have research functions that employ people just like you, doing this type of work all day every day. You can be a generalist or a specialist, depending on how you want to spend the next phase of your career.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 12:30 PM on November 4, 2021

If you want to build your data skills, check out Library Carpentry.
posted by brainwane at 12:45 PM on November 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

Can also suggest Library Carpentry, I took their classes and it was really great. INALJ is a good place to look as are the state library associations. I have amassed a career out of a lot of library-adjacent jobs so I am not great on suggesting positions. You sound like you'd be a perfect fit for the skillset of Congressional Research Service. Here's their jobs page. You might also be good working for someone like IMLS who oversees a lot of grant funding for library stuff. Here's their jobs page. The one downside to government work (well two if you count the possibility of a different administration) is that they seem less chill about remote work.
posted by jessamyn at 1:35 PM on November 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you might be good at Technical Writing, which is sort of like teaching without running afoul of your introversion. Check out the Society for Technical Communication.
posted by Ragged Richard at 1:56 PM on November 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have an MLS; have not worked a day as a librarian.

I've worked as a technical software trainer, technical writer, QA/QC tester, and (currently) business analyst. My current job is pretty much all research, interviewing staff, documenting business processes, and recommending improved business processes. With a little training thrown in, because I just can't seem to get away from it. All in all, a pretty chill job and 100% remote (for now).
posted by medeine at 4:18 PM on November 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

2nding I just saw a reference librarian job with the Library of Congress today. I usually (ok, every day...) search for the keyword "library" and find good results. There are librarian and librarian-type jobs in a crazy amount of government agencies. There are also jobs that use pieces of library skills like research and public affairs. A word of advice, use the posting to write your resume. USAJobs scans for keywords, so you want to use similar language in your resume with the posting. And include everything; the longer the better for USAJobs resumes and written responses for KSAs. The federal government is still public service, but they pay and have respectable hours and benefits, and have recently been embracing telecommuting.
posted by DEiBnL13 at 9:28 PM on November 4, 2021

Response by poster: Thanks, all! I appreciate the breadth of resources and suggestions.
posted by toastedcheese at 12:23 PM on November 5, 2021

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