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In a tough job market, finding alternative ways to get your foot in the door of prospective employers can give you a serious competitive edge. One of the best of those alternative strategies? Signing up with one of the temp, staffing, recruiting, or outsourcing agencies that specialize in information work. (For more on the benefits of temporary gigs, see 6 Ways Temping Can Help Build Your LIS Career.)

What’s the difference among these types of firms?

Although there’s often overlap among these four terms, you can make some general assumptions when you hear these terms.

A temp or temporary job is one that is for a specified, short-term length, perhaps one to six months.

A staffing position is one that may be essentially indefinite in length but is often long-term. You work on-site for the client, but you are employed by the staffing company.

A recruiting firm is retained by a client to find candidates for high-level or executive positions; clients may be libraries, businesses, non-profits, or other types of organizations.

An outsourcing company generally employs consultants and contractors who can advise the client regarding information solutions and then, if part of the project, execute (and sometimes maintain) those solutions. The outsourcer’s consultants and contractors may spend some time on-site with the client, but only when necessary for a specific phase of the project or for maintenance purposes.

The leading players

AIM Library & Information Staffing
Specializes in placing librarians and support staff in a wide variety of library jobs in special, public, academic, school, government libraries and information centers. AIM’s Hot Jobs section posts jobs from throughout the U.S., and the site encourages users to register to also be considered for job handled exclusively (and not posted) by AIM. Headquartered in northern California.

Archive Media Partners
Clients are archivists and librarians needing assistance with digital collection management. Detroit-based Archive Media Partners employs “archivists, information management experts, imaging professionals, librarians, and business researchers from a variety of backgrounds,” including multilingual professionals for international work. Main practices areas include digitization, archival processing, process improvement, translation, content identification, encoding and description, and efficiency (administrative and process support).

Specializes in several verticals, including Information/Records Management & Library Services. Offers temporary (“contingent”), direct hire, and temporary-to-hire positions nationally, primarily outside of traditional library settings. It would appear that searching for open job postings takes you to a partner site, the Impellam Employee Self Serve Portal, where you can search by keywords and zip code.

Although not specifically focused on library or information-work jobs, Flexjobs is notable for its emphasis on jobs that offer telecommuting, flexible hours, part-time, short-term projects, and other options that may appeal to you depending on your life and career circumstances. In addition, many of its jobs involve some sort of fairly skilled information work, the type that LIS professionals could easily take on. Check out the website home page to see benefits and support programs offered to participants.

LAC Group
Los Angeles-based LAC comprises several entities (LibSource, LibGig, and LACFederal, among others) that provide project-based or contract information professionals to clients in the legal, corporate, government, and media spaces. Spans the spectrum from fairly traditional library/information management roles to more cutting-edge projects such as digital asset management. Open positions are searchable by country, location, job function, and keywords.

Library Systems & Services (LS&S)
Formerly known as LSSI, LS&S is an outsourcing firm that provides comprehensive library “solutions” to municipalities seeking to replace their current public library staff with individuals contracted and managed by an outside management company.  Their client base includes struggling public libraries as well as Federal agencies who contract out their library services. Some librarians absolutely hate the outsourced model they’ve pioneered while others see it as a sustainable, realistic solution for underfunded or otherwise struggling public libraries. To read more about their model and their recruiting pitch, see the Careers page on their site.

Pro Libra
Provides library and research staffing for “Fortune 100 corporations, trade associations, universities, government agencies, law firms and public libraries.” Temporary, temp-to-hire, direct hire, and executive search. No jobs listed on the website, so you’ll need to inquire directly via their Contact Us page for specific types of projects or positions, or visit them at their Summit, NJ office.

Special Counsel
Contract staffing for legal services, corporations, nonprofits, and other organizations with information management and governance needs. Employment options include project, temporary, temp-to-permanent hire, or permanent placement. Their four major practice areas are Records; Library, Research & Knowledge Management; Information Governance & Content Management; and Legal Information Resources. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Special Counsel was previously known as TRAK Records and Library Services.

Taylor & Associates
San Francisco-based provider of library and records management contract staffing, recruiting, and consulting services in the Bay area. Focuses on direct hire, contract, and temp assignments, with some digital-related listings. Primary practice areas are corporate, legal, government, and medical/healthcare clients. Per the company’s message to job seekers, they focus their efforts “not only on matching the candidate’s skills to the position but also on making sure the organization and the candidate are right for each other.”

Show ‘em what you’ve got
Temporary employment can offer a multitude of benefits, but most specifically it’s often a terrific way to demonstrate the value you can add to a potential employer without being in the immediate position of asking for a job. It’s the perfect opportunity to show rather than tell, to prove how effectively you can hit the ground running, apply your skills, and start adding value from day one. Not a bad way to introduce yourself!