To paraphrase the oh-so-elegant Babe Paley, you can never be too rich or have too many terrific books on LIS career options. Two of the best ones on alternative LIS paths are A Day in the Life: Career Options in Library and Information Science (Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard Murray, Libraries Unlimited, 2007) and What’s the Alternative? Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros (Rachel Singer Gordon, Information Today, 2008).
Written by information pros who know the LIS space well, both provide profiles of an encouragingly broad range of LIS career paths and practitioner profiles. Concerned about what to do with an LIS skill set when traditional jobs are in freefall? These two books are a great place to start.
I’m happy to report that we’ve now got a third resource that does an excellent job of lining out existing and emerging LIS career opportunities: Neal-Schuman’s recently released The New Information Professional: Your Guide to Careers in the Digital Age, by Judy Lawson, Joanna Kroll, and Kelly Kowatch.
The authors are associated with the University of Michigan School of Information (admissions and/or the career center), and bring an “iSchool” (as opposed to library-centric) conceptual focus to their career guide. The result is a different – and very useful – approach to thinking about LIS career options.
LIS Career Options – In a Digital World
The New Information Professional is structured around eight career paths: archives and preservation; records management; library and information services; human-computer interaction; social computing; information systems management; information policy; and information analysis and retrieval.
For each path, the authors provide an introductory overview (issues, opportunities, future trends), a description of the types of jobs and career paths to be found, requisite hard and soft skills for success in this type of work, salary and employment information, and profiles of individuals and their related career paths.
In addition to these well-done basics, however, readers will find some extremely valuable extras: a list of similar/related jobs and how they differ from each other (for example, archivist vs. preservationist, web designer vs. information architect); a list of actual job titles and companies that employ people in these roles; and notes on whether an advanced degree or simply job experience is more likely to land you a specific job.
Career Flow Charts
In addition, each career chapter provides an extremely useful career-planning diagram “to provide a snapshot of career options and pathways and to help you map your own path to a career in information.” Laid out graphically like flow charts, these diagrams chart a path beginning with education and potential prior work experience through possible grad program paths, relevant coursework within those grad programs, relevant internships, career titles, and finally career industry areas.
This information is simply invaluable, and to my knowledge, doesn’t exist anywhere else.
Organizing Your Career Exploration
The guide’s concluding chapter, “Planning for Your Career in Information,” is meant to help readers determine whether a career in information is right for them, and if so, what type of information work might best suit. It includes several assessment exercises, useful information for researching career options, and coaching on how to develop and execute a career action plan.
In addition, an appendix lists schools with iSchool programs, plus links to lists for ALA-accredited programs, human-computer interaction (HCI) programs, and archives and records management programs.
A Terrific Career Resource for the LIS 2.0 World
The New Information Professional provides valuable information that’s specific, detailed, and actionable. The iSchool conceptual framework will help students and practitioners successfully focus their career pursuits on expanding, rather than contracting, aspects of the LIS world. And given how things are going in the traditional librarianship job market, this is good news all the way.