Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Careers as librarians

After reading your discussion from last week, I noticed you are all concerned about the type of library you want to work it.  My first reaction is that it’s much too early to worry about where you will find a job. You still need to learn what it is to be a librarian and how libraries work. Yet, many of you are already working in libraries or have careers and see this degree as the next move in your life.

When I’m asked about planning a career, I often feel at a disadvantage for my career just happened. I stumbled into librarianship, love the field, and then moved from job to job as they came along. There was no purposeful planning as to what I wanted to achieve in my career. Maybe that’s why I’ve had so many interesting experiences. Maybe it’s why I learned so much about libraries, books, and research.

My usual response to up and coming librarians and library science students is to get a broad education, learn all you can about the core skills and, today, about technology. These will provide the basis for your first job.  In many instances, that first job is where you actually train to become a librarian.  Library school is where you learn the ‘theory’ and the concepts. And I’m old school, where I think that library science is a practical degree and my colleagues often tell me the field has lots of theory. I think that’s a generational difference. How do I know? I mentioned the Buckland article today to a colleague who said it’s important to get the theory, because the MLIS is not just an apprenticeship. If the MLIS was an apprenticeship, you would all come out of the degree with all the practical skills you need for your new jobs, and that’s also not the case.

Anyway, I ramble. So to continue with my advice, learn about cataloging and technology; learn about reference tools, print & online; learn to reason and analyze materials, questions, and answers. All these skills will stand you in good stead. Learn about the history and ask “why” often to have a background and grounding in the field. Remember, my focus is reference and research, so I want to know why and I want to think about how to find sources, information, and answers that are complete and to the point.

Enough on this topic for now.  I have snippets of things to say about academic credentials for librarians and archivists in my next blog posting tomorrow.

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