The following post is an updated reprint of a column I originally wrote for Rethinking Information Careers, part of Rachel Singer Gordon’s LisJobs.com site. Although I’ve verified/corrected all of the links, my guess is that other, additional resources have come into being since I wrote this, so please add ones I’ve missed in the comments section!
If your wanderlust is right up there with your passion for, say, information literacy or tracking down answers to the toughest reference questions, then an international LIS position might be a perfect match for you.
What Are the Possibilities?
From international schools to cruise ships to non-governmental agencies (NGOs), the range of international jobs available is extensive and varied. But first you need to decide whether you’re looking for a relatively short-term engagement (think internship or job exchange), or a more permanent, longer-term commitment.
If you are interested in a short-term opportunity, your best bets are likely to be internships or international job exchanges (where you perform the job responsibilities of a colleague in another country and they usually do the same for your position for up to several months). The International Federation of Library Associations (see Information Sources, below) is an excellent source of these types of opportunities.
For more permanent or longer-term work options, generally you’ll find roles and opportunities that to some degree mirror those found in the United States. For example:
School library jobs. Primarily found among international schools and schools on U.S. military bases in international locations. Most jobs require the standard school library media specialist certification. According to The International Educator (TIE), an online clearinghouse and network for these types of jobs, hundreds of international English schools “provide an English-speaking education for children ages 3-18 in cities around the world. Many of these schools were originally started to serve the ex-patriot community; today many also serve host-country children.” TIE notes that international schools employ about 35,000 professionals, who work with nearly 350,000 students. The student body often comprises a highly diverse cultural and ethnic community.
When working for military bases, your constituency will generally be children of the American families stationed at the base. These schools may also be part of the international schools network, as the U.S. Department of Defense oversees some 220 of these schools (with the U.S. Department of State involved in another 200).
Academic library jobs. Colleges and universities throughout the world recruit reference librarians knowledgeable in specialized subjects, bibliographic instruction, collection development, and skills similarly in demand among U.S. institutions. In addition, some countries’ LIS programs (generally those taught at the undergraduate level) need faculty to teach basic LIS skill courses, providing teaching opportunities for those with MLS credentials. Explains Dallas Long (Instructor, Department of Library & Information Science, Berzsenyi Daniel College, Szombathely, Hungary) in his January 2005 LISCareer article “See the World – Be a Librarian!”
Western-educated librarians bring a variety of skills to Central and Eastern European libraries. We’re trained in the latest technologies; we design web pages and digital libraries; we’re unafraid of search engines, electronic databases, OCLC, and barcode readers; we understand the complexities of consortia. A lot of those things are new to many Central and Eastern European libraries, for which electricity and a supply of books may have been a more pressing problem in the not too distant past than accurate circulation statistics. They definitely have a need for people to help teach them how to build these skills or even help point out issues and concerns that they may not have thought about yet.
Another type of academic librarianship can be found with American higher education institutions that offer degree programs “on the ground” in other countries, for example, Virginia Commonwealth School of the Arts in Qatar.
Special library and/or corporate jobs. Although the job title may not say “corporate librarian,” both international and U.S.-based companies need (and recruit for) the research, analysis, and information management skills LIS professionals possess. Dreaming of living in London, Tokyo, or Mexico City? Then your options will include both non-U.S. companies with businesses there and U.S.-based companies with offices in your favorite city.
Another corporate alternative is to work with LIS vendors who have an international presence, and target positions such as sales that will take you to foreign shores.
NGO library positions. Non-governmental organizations include such groups as UNESCO and the United Nations, the Peace Corps, and hundreds of other organizations that seek to impact the numerous challenges playing out across the globe. NGO mission statements often include a strong information gathering, management, and dissemination component – prime territory for LIS professionals.
Other opportunities. Many American embassies in major foreign cities staff libraries. Military bases often have base libraries that are similar in mission (if somewhat smaller in scope) to U.S. public libraries. And yes, some cruise ships DO have on-staff librarians to manage the guests’ library/reading room!
But if none of these seem like the opportunity you seek, consider also offering your LIS skills to a potential employer outside the traditional library framework. Have you heard that someone is funding a women’s micro-enterprise start-up in the Yucatan, and you happen to have worked locally in your library’s community outreach program? They may not think they need a “librarian,” but they probably need a research or information specialist who can marshal a collection of key resources, can set up a process for managing the flow of government-required information and documentation, can coach women on organizing and writing a solid business plan.
The following resources provide information about and/or job listings for international LIS positions. In addition to the resources listed here, you should also directly contact or monitor the websites of businesses, associations, embassies, and schools in your locations of interest. And don’t hesitate to contact those cruise lines – if they don’t have an information professional on board, maybe it’s time for someone to pitch the position!
American Library Association: International Relations Round Table
The stated mission of ALA’s IRRT is to “promote interest in library issues and librarianship worldwide; to help coordinate international activities within the American Library Association, serving as a liaison between the International Relations Committee and those members of the Association interested in international relations; to develop programs and activities which further the international objectives of ALA; and to provide hospitality and information to visitors from abroad.” At the website, check out the “International Job Exchange” bibliography, join the International Discussion List, and learn more about the annual conference. Not a job source per se, but a great resource for staying abreast of – and connected to – the international LIS scene.
Access a clearinghouse of LIS job opportunities that includes postings from Canadian employers as well as American employers that have international opportunities. Search by keyword, location, library type, job category, position type, salary range, among other criteria.
Association of American Schools in South America
Non-profit membership association currently serving 41 American / international schools throughout South America and offshore islands. AASSA also does teacher recruiting through a process of online application then attendance at an annual recruiting fairs at several U.S. and international locations; see “Teacher Recruiting” at the website for dates and locations.
The Chronicle of Higher Education: Jobs
Country-by-country listing of jobs available in academe, including some academic library positions.
Civilian Human Resources Agency
Covers civilian job opportunities with U.S. Army and Department of Defense groups around the world. The site is undergoing some redesign/reorganization work as of April 2011, so it may be awhile before this is a viable venue for finding international job opportunities. But you may want to keep checking back.
Department of Defense Education Activity
Responsible for “managing the human capital programs and policies affecting the civilian employees of the Department of Defense Education Activity and its field elements, the Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS) and the Department of Defense Domestic Dependent Elementary and Secondary Schools (DDESS).” See the “Educators Online Application” for information about teaching overseas, application requirements, and applying for jobs. The “Current Vacancies” listings are searchable by location through a link to USAJOBS, the official job site for federal government jobs.
Employment Opportunities in the UN and Other Organizations
From the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Organization Affairs, this site lists job openings from the specified organizations (updated weekly), and job applicants apply directly to those organizations. Listings are archived by date of posting.
Online clearinghouse of jobs at both domestic and international institutions of higher education. Select ‘International” to see jobs posted by country, sortable by date posted, institution, location, job title, and category. All posted jobs can be applied for online.
The International Educator Online
TIE is an online clearinghouse of international teaching (and librarianship) positions. The website offers resume posting, access to job listings, and useful information about teaching overseas. TIE publishes a hardcopy “newspaper” five times a year, and provides information about recruitment fairs and dates online and in its newspaper. Depending on level of service, a TIE subscription ranges from about $35 to about $75.
International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)
With a membership of associations, institutions, and individual practitioners, IFLA’s mission is to be “the leading international body representing the interests of library and information services and their users.” At the website, see “Activities and Services” for a listing of more than 50 sections and discussion groups as well as the IFLANET mailing lists. Also, if you are interested in international vendor opportunities, check out the “Corporate Partners” listing (including contact info) under the “More About IFLA” section.
International Schools Services (ISS)
Princeton, New Jersey-based ISS “plans and manages schools throughout the world for companies, individuals, and consortiums.” Of interest to those seeking international work opportunities, however, is that ISS also provides teacher, administrative, and information services recruitment for some 300 international schools. In order to take advantage of this service, job seekers must first create a professional file with ISS, which can be done online at their website for a fee. Conducts several regional job fairs in the U.S. and abroad annually.
International Society for Knowledge Organization
Although ISKO does not offer a job posting service, its conferences, journals and other publications, and regional chapters provide useful insight into the opportunities in information and knowledge management on an international basis.
LIBJOBS: Library and Information Science Jobs Mailing List
From the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), LIBJOBS is “a mailing list for librarians and information professionals seeking employment.” Subscribers receive job postings that indicate country, city, and position title, with job description and contact information. Coverage includes all types of LIS jobs, including short-term positions.
Click on “Non-US Jobs” from the menu for an extensive listing of job exchange programs, Canadian jobs, Australian and New Zealand jobs, UK and Ireland jobs, and jobs located in other countries. Probably the best starting point for getting a good sense of the broad range of library-specific opportunities out there.
Works with international schools to place teachers, administrators, librarians and interns throughout the world. Search Associates hold job fairs throughout the United States and globally; check the website tab “Fair Information” for specific dates and locations. For helpful background information on teaching abroad and the SA job application process, see sections under “Candidates.”
University of Northern Iowa Overseas Placement Service for Educators
Mission is to connect “international K-12 schools with certified educators year round.” This group hosts an overseas recruiting fair every February in Waterloo, Iowa; information about the fair and registration is available at the website. For 2007, organizers anticipate that more than 150 recruiters from more than 100 international schools will be attending and actively seeking teachers (and librarians).
The place to go for access to all federal job and employment information. Check out the Info Center for information about the government’s hiring process, resume-building (and posting) tips, and FAQs. Search for jobs by keyword, location [use “International Search” option], job category (can do multiple selections), and/or salary range or pay grade; sort by key word relevance or date.
In addition to these resources, consider also checking for employment information at the major NGOs such as the International Monetary Fund, NAT), the OECD, Organization of American States, World Health Organization, etc.
“Around the World in 100 Days,” Danianne Mizzy, C&RL News, November 2002; access at http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/publications/crlnews/2002/nov/aroundworld100.cfm
“Branching Out by Working Abroad – Opportunities in School Libraries,” Chris Tovell, Info Career Trends, September 2003; access at http://www.lisjobs.com/career_trends/?p=234
“International Librarianship: Getting from There to Here,” Robin Kear, LISCareer, June 2004; access at www.liscareer.com/kear_international.htm. See especially Ms. Kear’s list of short-term position resources.
“See the World – Be a Librarian!” Dallas Long, LISCareer, January 2005; access at www.liscareer.com/long_world.htm
“Taking Your MLIS Overseas,” Nancy Fawley, LISCareer, October 2005; access at http://www.liscareer.com/fawley_overseas.htm
“Working Internationally: Getting There, Being There and Coming Home,” Sam Werberg, Info Career Trends, May 2001; access at http://lisjobs.com/career_trends/?p=100