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.
By now, you’ve probably heard about building your professional brand maybe, oh, I don’t know, 400 times a day. It’s like eating kale: you know it’s the right thing to do, but where do you start?
Happily, there are some great books out there on how to build your professional brand. Although none are specific to the LIS profession, almost all have key points that are easily adapted to any type of career path. Based on my own experience, an informal survey of colleagues, and student responses from my University of Denver “Alternative LIS Career Paths” course, the following titles provide the reliably actionable (if occasionally over-hyped) information:
Recently I had an opportunity to connect with Kelly Kowatch, Assistant Director of the University of Michigan’s School of Information Career Development Office. Kelly is also one of the co-authors, along with Judy Lawson and Joanna Kroll, of the excellent The New Information Professional: Your Guide to Careers in the Digital Age (Neal-Schuman, 2010).
I asked Kelly to do a bit of “virtual career coaching” for students by providing some practical advice on how to make the most of a program’s career services.
In the constantly morphing world of LIS careers, one of the areas that has continued to grow is knowledge management, i.e., the organization and management of, and provision of access to, an organization’s internal and external information via a technology infrastructure.
While this definition is subject to interpretation from organization to organization, the knowledge management role has generally been one of execution, especially as taught in MLIS programs. Recently, however, Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education has announced a new degree – an M.S. in Information and Knowledge Strategy – that takes a different approach. Knowledge management consultant and thought-leader Guy St. Clair, who’s been involved in its development, shared insights about the nature, scope, and goals of the Columbia University program.
Embedded librarianship refers to the delivery of library and/or information services outside of a physical library setting. Often this is as part of an operational team – whether in an academic or business or other organization setting. So, for example, in an academic environment, an embedded librarian might be working as part of an instructional design team for an online course, or working in collaboration with the course instructor to develop, monitor, and grade course assignments.
In a business environment, an embedded librarian might be working as part of the marketing team doing market research, or doing competitive intelligence hand-in-hand with the business development team, or doing patent research for the engineering department.
In a nonprofit organization, an embedded librarian might be working with the donor relations team, or aggregating topical resources as part of the website team, or researching community issues for the community outreach department.
These are basic examples of what can be very innovative roles; the bottom line, however, is that this type of “librarianship” is focused on adding value 1) at the point of need, 2) in a collaborative manner, and 3) with or without the existence of a centralized library. It’s also the role more and more special librarians are transitioning into as their libraries (perceived as overhead) are closed down.
I wrote this post for Rethinking Information Careers a couple of years ago, but just found myself in a conversation on this topic with several former students about to graduate. So I thought it might be useful to revisit this issue for all of those about to complete their degrees and start the job search…I hope it’s helpful!
Recently I had an opportunity to work with a young woman who had just graduated from an MLIS program. She was unsure of how to proceed with her job search given the precarious job market for librarians (and everybody else).
This young woman had never worked in a library before, and, like many of us when we complete our degrees, wanted to get a job in the same town where her university was located. But the reality is that with little or no library experience and facing the stiff competition that comes in an area flooded with fellow MLIS graduates, this young woman’s job prospects would be dim at best.
In fact, probably her best opportunities lie in a direction often avoided if not dismissed by recent grads: working for a library in Smalltown, USA.
Daniel Isaacs has one of my fantasy jobs – doing business research in an academic setting as part of a major, highly-respected university. Development research, also known as donor research or prospect research, involves doing background research into individuals and organizations that might be likely to donate funds to the employing organization.
This involves questions about shared interests and values, other philanthropic commitments, corporate giving programs, etc. The goal is to find opportunities to match individual interests and commitments with programs needing funding, either financial or in-kind (for example, technology contributions).
Recently, Daniel agreed to answer questions about his job so others can learn more about what this career path entails, and whether it might be of interest to them.
Subtitled “Define and Create Your Success,” this recent and welcome addition to the collection of LIS career books is a delightfully personal compendium of advice from two of the profession’s most respected and experienced practitioners: Ulla de Stricker and Jill Hurst-Wahl. Both have worked in a wide variety of information roles throughout their careers, and bring that breadth of experience (and lessons learned) to the handbook.
Disclaimer here: my dear friend and colleague Marcy Phelps has written a book that I’m going to shamelessly recommend for everyone who either does – or would like to do – business research. The book is Research on Main Street: Using the Web to Find Local Business and Market Information (CyberAge Books), and it’s for all of us who end up needing to find information at the local level.