Career Strategies for Librarians
Work Outside the Box
by Christina Bennett McNew
Months of unsuccessful job searching for entry-level professional positions can leave many new
graduates frustrated. Though we all have classmates and colleagues who easily infiltrated the library
world, struggling to find employment is not uncommon. I spent eleven months searching for a full-time
position after graduation. The email listserv of ALA’s New Members Round Table regularly has posts
from people stuck in a lengthy job search. Though positions for new librarians are out there, quite a few
prefer candidates with 3-5 years experience along with other skills and backgrounds. While job
searching, I was stunned to learn that a mentor of mine was applying for similar positions. How can
new librarians compete with seasoned information experts?
A large percentage of advertised positions are for directors and department heads. This makes the
competition for entry-level positions even stronger. When the student loan bills begin arriving, it may be
time to expand your job search. Don’t wait patiently for the perfect job to magically appear. Consider
alternative avenues to kick-start your career. Consider working outside of the box.
Finding a Job through a Staffing Agency
Working for a staffing agency provides librarians valuable experience. I have worked in three corporate
libraries in the past two years as an employee of Infotrieve, which has been a great way to see different
approaches to librarianship in action.
Staffing agencies partner with organizations to fill positions in a variety of ways. Some companies use
agencies to fill temporary/short-term assignments. Others use staffing agencies to screen and hire
employees who have the potential for direct hire after a probationary period. Staffing agencies are also
used to hire outsourced employees. These hires have full-time permanent positions at a client site but
will always receive their pay and benefits through the agency. All of these approaches usually involve
formal contracts between the organization needing staff and the agency. All types of libraries use these
agencies. Here are a few web links to library staffing companies:
Advanced Information Management - www.aimusa.com
C. Berger Group - www.cberger.com
InfoCurrent - www.infocurrent.com
Infotrieve Inc. - www.infotrieve.com
Library Associates www.libraryassociates.com
Working for a Vendor
Working for a vendor is a great way to learn about cutting edge technology and services. It also builds
confidence through constant interaction and networking. Investigate career opportunities with
companies that produce library databases, automation systems, and other products. Most vendors post
job vacancies directly on their company web site.
Working for a Publisher
Another possibility to consider is working for a publisher. Areas to explore include academic presses,
STM (scientific, technical, and medical) publishers, book publishing companies, and popular presses.
Examine your favorite journal or magazine to find out if it’s part of a larger publishing group. Many
publishers work with vendors, subscription agents, and sometimes libraries to negotiate contracts. With
the explosion of electronic licensing, publishers need employees to negotiate copyright agreements to
protect their content.
Companies in Your Community
Within three companies I’ve worked for, I’ve noticed various departments doing work suited to librarians.
Many companies employ staff in records management, medical informatics, company archives,
technical writing, and as bibliographers. Although these positions can be difficult to find, they do exist.
Often large corporations hire staff through more than one general staffing agency, which is why knowing
an internal contact is key. Knowing someone who works for a local company can put you in contact with
the right person, department, or staffing agency. He or she may be able to ask around, find out where to
send applicants, and possibly put in a good word on your behalf.
Making your Move
If you take the bold step of accepting a job outside of the traditional “library box,” remain positive. The
experience will enhance your interpersonal skills and lead to building valuable contacts within the
profession. Remember that you’re in change of your own career and make a change when the move is
right for you. Always keep your eyes open and your curriculum vitae up to date so you’ll be prepared
when the next promising opportunity presents itself.
About the Author:
Christina Bennett McNew graduated with her MLS from Indiana University in 2002. She is an onsite
global business manager for Infotrieve Inc. working inside of a corporate library. Christina is active
within ALA’s NMRT and SLA’s Indiana chapter.
Article published Jan 2005
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.