One has only to participate in a few LIS discussion lists or online groups, hang out at a professional conference or two, or read some of the many LIS blogs and their comments to realize that the library profession is in the midst of extensive and somewhat discouraging change.
Although the long-promised “graying of the profession” is in fact underway, the equally long-awaited results – thousands of professional-level jobs opening up and tons of great, entry-level opportunities for new grads – are simply not happening. Nor are they likely ever to do so again.
For the past ten years I’ve had the enjoyable, enlightening, and often humbling experience of teaching a course in alternative career paths for LIS students and professionals as part of the University of Denver’s MLIS program. Without a doubt, I learn as much from the students as they learn from me.
Throughout all ten years of classes and students, my overriding goal has been to find ways to help people create careers that feed their souls, intellects – and income streams. In order to do that, we consider what career paths exist (or can be created) for LIS professionals; what constitutes meaningful, rewarding and authentic work for individual students; and how to connect the two.
One of the questions that comes up frequently when talking about LIS career options is freelancing. Does it make sense to pick up freelance work if you already have a job? The answer very much depends on your individual life circumstances, but for me, freelancing has been integral to my career growth (and opportunities) from the beginning.
Amelia Kassel is well known to hundreds of San Jose State University and Simmons LIS students as a great teacher and career mentor. She’s also known among countless researchers and independent information professionals (not to mention clients) as an expert researcher on myriad business topics.
Amelia has had an amazing impact on the profession. She shares insights about her career here…
There are some LIS professionals that, given the opportunity, I always read: Mary Ellen Bates, Stephen Abram, Rachel Singer Gordon, Pat Wagner, and a handful of others.
I also keep an eye out for anything written by Jamie Larue, because, besides the fact that he’s an interesting thinker, I especially like his approach to public librarianship, which I will loosely paraphrase as “get the hell out of the building and into the community.” (Actually, in his defense, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Jamie swear…)
Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
– Samuel Beckett
How can you not love an article that touts the benefits of failure with a cover photo of actor Alec Baldwin? In its January 2010 issue, Wired magazine had a series of articles entitled “How to Fail” that focuses on the opportunities inherent in failure if we’re wise enough (and paying enough attention) to reframe them as learning opportunities.
That’s the premise of lead article “The Neuroscience of Screwing Up” by Jonah Lehrer, which examines scientific research as the poster child of accidental discoveries based on dashed expectations and failed experiments. Missteps, wrong paths taken, world-class screw-ups – pretty much the hallmarks of a life lived to its fullest, and a career engaged to the max.
I’ve had the good fortune to be friends with Pat Wagner for many years, and during that time have marveled at her ability to “get to the heart of the matter” clearly and quickly, whatever that matter happened to be. Recently she shared this information about her career helping library organizations do what they do, only better.
What is your current position or professional role?
I am a management consultant for the library community. I speak at conferences, conduct workshops at libraries, facilitate meetings, and provide advice for groups and individuals. My topics are mostly what people don’t learn in grad school: personnel, management, leadership, strategic planning, project management, customer service, marketing, conflict management and career issues. I also help write, produce and market online classes in various formats. My main partner is the University of North Texas LE@D program, which provides online continuing education classes for libraries.
Mary Ellen Bates is arguably one of the best-known information professionals working today. Her workshops are standing-room-only, and her books, blog, and columns have helped countless independent info pros and those considering this option find their way.
Following are the answers Mary Ellen gave to questions about her career path:
What is your current position or professional role?
It’s a personal point of pride that I don’t have a job title, but I will admit to being the founder and principal of Bates Information Services Inc. I help my clients make better-informed strategic decisions through research and analysis, and I offer business coaching for both new and long-time independent info pros.
How long have you been doing this work?
I started my business in 1991, after having worked in special libraries for more than a decade.
What career path led you to this work?
I worked in special libraries for 12 years, primarily managing corporate information centers. I loved the research, but didn’t enjoy managing people or working within large organizations. While attending a Special Libraries Association conference back in the late 1980s, I saw an exhibit booth for the Association of Independent Information Professionals, and I knew I’d found my future.
The problem is this: Often the heart and mind disagree. Fervently.
– Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
You know the feeling: you know you need to make a change of some sort, but don’t seem to be able to get it in gear.
Perhaps you’ve decided to broaden your skill set, which may mean pursuing an online certificate or degree, something you’ve never done before. Or you’ve decided that you’re going to start actively building your professional brand online, necessitating learning and using unfamiliar tools. Or you’ve determined that your organization could support professional development among the staff much more effectively if it changed its approach to annual performance evaluations – but how do you help bring about that change in approach?
Heather Hedden, author of the excellent and very practical The Accidental Taxonomist(Information Today, 2010), has developed her career as a respected taxonomist by being willing to take on new challenges, move fluidly between employment and self-employment, and constantly learn more about the issues and technologies that drive this discipline. In Heather’s words: