Q: I am currently in an MLIS program, a little over half done. I have (and probably will continue to have) a disability that severely limits the amount of time I can work. I am so excited to be in the profession, but am concerned that I will not be able to find a part-time position (under 20 hours a week) that is interesting and/or challenging. Can you help me?
SM: All types of libraries, public, special and academic, hire part- time librarians. Finding a part-time librarian position may be easier than you think; finding something that interests you is likely to be the bigger challenge. And this is a major challenge for all new librarians, not just those looking for part-time work. Of course, as with any job, there will be many more opportunities if you are able to relocate after you graduate. If not, you may need to be a little more patient and persistent as you search for jobs in your hometown.
Part-time jobs can be just as interesting and challenging as full- time positions, and one advantage is that they are often more flexible. You may get to determine your own hours, or vary them by day or week. Many institutions have part-time public service positions to cover hours on evenings and weekends. And many smaller, more specialized, institutions such as hospitals and law firms employ part-time librarians and library staff.
Also, keep in mind that there are ways you can make any job more challenging and interesting. I try to engage in as much continuing education and professional development as possible. During an interview, inquire about professional development opportunities and the possibility of learning new skills on the job. Letting a potential employer know that you are eager to learn new skills is always a good idea during the interview process.
Check out the Association of Part-Time Librarians. Their site has useful information and helpful hints for finding part-time employment, which include getting as much experience as you can while you are in school, networking with librarians and joining library organizations and associations.
Two important job-related tools are electronic lists and library job web sites. Join electronic lists that are of interest to you, whether these are public library, reference, or cataloging lists, or a job list like libjobs. These lists are great venues for current job postings and information on the profession itself. Also, search for part-time positions on library job sites such as Lisjobs.com. Do a keyword search for part-time to focus your results.
When you start interviewing for jobs, make sure you know your rights. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination in all employment practices, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” (ed: See also “A Brief Description of Title I of the ADA for Library Managers” later in this issue.) Good luck in your job search!