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Considering transitioning from a traditional LIS job to a job outside the familiar library roles? One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is figuring out how your traditional skill set “maps” to non-LIS positions.

In an effort to create a group of questions that could be replicated for each LIS role, I decided to take one job – reference librarian – and see how it could be taken apart as an LIS role and then parsed into non-LIS opportunities. A caveat here: I’ve never actually been a reference librarian, but have colleagues who’ve been willing to share their reference-librarian experiences with me, so this represents my best-guess interpretation of basic reference-librarian skills.

Here’s the process I would go through to map this role:

Job title: Reference librarian

Core job skill: Research

Job skill components: 1) mastery of research process; 2) ability to conduct successful reference interview; 3) ability to identify, evaluate, and choose best, most authoritative information resources to answer question; 4) ability to successfully use those tools to answer patron questions.

Additional “soft skill” business strengths: 1) customer relations; 2) interviewing; 3) interpersonal communication.

Business value-add: 1) analysis and synthesis; 2) research results presentation and packaging for client; 3) specialized topic knowledge (for example, biotechnology); 4) specialized resource knowledge (for example, public records or patents). [Note: these are skills that would make your basic reference skills more valuable to a non-LIS employer.]

Shift in approach: in a business or organization setting, your research will generally be used for decision support, so you will be expected to provide very targeted information and data as concisely as possible – think bullet points; also, research will often be only one component of your mandate – you may also be relied on to analyze, synthesize, and “package” the information so key points are readily identifiable.

Potentially translates to these roles: business or data analyst, business or information researcher, market research, business or product development support/research, competitive intelligence specialist, donor or prospect researcher (in general, all of these titles would include descriptors such as “analyst,” “researcher,” “specialist,” or “coordinator”).

Additional potential roles: focus group facilitator/leader; environmental scanning specialist; business trends analyst; customer service, content curation, writer, online content developer.

Who would use these skills: almost all businesses (most likely in these departments: marketing, sales, business development, product development, corporate communication and/or community affairs), large nonprofits (especially for donor research), marketing and public relations agencies (research for their client projects), organizations that use content for marketing/branding purposes.

Considerations: 1) think about which aspects of reference work you most enjoy to determine which of these career paths might be most appropriate for you – for example, if you especially enjoy the people interaction part of reference work, then you might be most interested in jobs like market research, focus group facilitation, or customer service; 2) think about whether or not there’s a subject area you’d like to specialize in if you choose to pursue the research field; 3) if your writing skills aren’t solid, you’ll want to practice them until they are.

I would love to hear from others whether this type of information is helpful in thinking about how to repurpose traditional library roles into new opportunities. Too much information? Too little? What’s missing? Would greatly appreciate any and all recommendations!