One of the most rewarding career paths open to LIS pros is working for LIS vendors; it can be a great way to redeploy both your specific skills and your knowledge of the LIS market. Your knowledge and job experience will be a valuable asset, and depending on the company you work for, you may have a wide range of growth opportunities.
Although you may feel you don’t have the personality for sales (although if you do, there’s some serious money to be made here), there are numerous other roles to play. These could include marketing, market research, account management, product development, external market communications (social/digital media), information/content development and/or management, indexing and abstracting, taxonomy work, customer product training, competitive intelligence research, and user testing, among other roles.
Working for a Vendor: What to Expect
Depending on the company and the position, your job may entail substantial travel, financial incentives, and the opportunity to help create new products and services for the profession. Your job may entail supporting internal or external customers.
You’ll also be expected to meet performance benchmarks, be accountable for supporting your team and/or department’s success, and possible (depending on your job) represent the company to potential and existing customers. Personal accountability and initiative will be important parts of your job.
Identifying the Universe of LIS Vendors
There are a number of ways to get a sense of all of the various vendors who might offer work opportunities of potential interest. For example:
The Librarian’s Yellow Pages. One great starting point is the now-online free resource, Librarian’s Yellow Pages. It provides listings of thousands of LIS-industry vendors by category (e.g., automation systems & services, book publishers, library services, etc.) and subcategory (collection development, abstracting and indexing services, knowledge management), plus you can search by company listing. Each entry provides the company’s address, contact information, and website. It’s a great starting point to get a broad overview of the vast range of companies serving libraries and information professionals.
Library Journal. The “Products and Vendors” section found on its website under the “Technology” tab provides recent articles and updates about LIS vendors that have appeared in the print issues. In addition, the print publication has annual overviews of database publishers, ILS vendors, and other categories of vendors.
Visiting conference exhibitor booths. Depending on your interests, the annual ALA and SLA conferences can be worth attending at least once simple to hang out in the exhibit hall to get a sense of who all the different vendors are, and talking with the booth staff to get insight into the companies, their products and targeted markets, and possible job openings. (Be sure to come equipped with business cards that you can leave with any interested parties.)
Finding Jobs with Vendors
You may come into regular contact with LIS vendor reps during the course of your daily job responsibilities; this is a great opportunity to chat them up and find out more about what they do, how they like working for their employer, and the types of jobs that people have within their companies. It’s also a great way to find out about potential job openings with that vendor.
But if you don’t regularly come into contact with vendors, there are still a number of ways to learn more about these opportunities. These include:
Registering with recruiters and temping agencies. If you’re job hunting or considering a job change, signing up with a placement agency can offer multiple benefits, including providing reliable information about LIS vendors. They can often provide insight into what companies are hiring for what roles, provide you with a sense of what vendors might be a match for your expertise and career goals, and potentially be able to match you with a good job (or an initial project) with a vendor.
Checking the library-related LinkedIn group members for corporate affiliations. One of the great reasons to join the LIS-related LinkedIn groups (especially the ALA group and its subgroup, LIS Career Options) is to have an opportunity to cruise the membership list, and see if anyone is working for a company that might be of interest to you. If so, you can reach out to them for more information about the work they do, their company, and possible job openings. Also, as a LinkedIn member, you have the option of “following” a particular company to keep apprised of potential information that might lead to a job opportunity.
Visiting company websites. Once you’ve identified some companies that may be of interest, start checking out their websites to see what job openings are listed. This is a great way to get a sense of whether there may be a match between your skills, work history, and market knowledge and their growth opportunities.
Searching the LIS job boards. We have several great resources for job postings, including Rachel Singer Gordon’s LISjobs, Library Journal’s Job Zone, and the ALA JobLIST, among others. Although most of the jobs listed at these sites are for libraries rather than vendors, they can still be the source of some vendor openings.
Although working for a vendor may not be the first choice for those just coming out of grad school, it can be an excellent choice for a librarians or information professionals who have worked in a library environment for awhile and are ready to transition into a new but related career opportunity that will still recognize the professional equity they have built over the years (read: offer a decent salary).