Q: I’m an MLIS student and my concentration is digital librarianship. Online databases and helping individuals retrieve information off of them is the largest interest to me. I’d enjoy helping students, professors, lawyers, or doctors. What type of Information Studies job would suit me?
TA: Now is the time to seize the opportunity. Once you leave graduate school, the ease of free exploration of different areas of librarianship grows exponentially more difficult. It’s an accepted practice to try different things when you’re in graduate school. You’re still learning and in many cases still trying things on for size. In graduate school, you can take classes across the curriculum and you can try different (paid or unpaid) working experiences, all in the effort to identify your area of specialization in the field. It sounds like you’ve narrowed your concentration to digital librarianship, but you’re still working on what type of library might suit you best. I would encourage you to use this time in school to try different working environments to see which challenge and engage you the most. You may also be able to earn course credit for some of your employment through field experiences or volunteer placements through your academic program, which might help balance the work hours with your course load.
Additionally, you should also consider other avenues of learning about areas of specialization, such as informational interviews and networking with colleagues through professional associations. I would also encourage you to join several listservs and follow the conversation. Are you interested in what they’re talking about? Do you have ideas to share regarding their topics of discussion? Do you want to learn more? Job announcements, which are often shared via listservs, are also a great source of information. Pay attention to the way positions are described, to the job responsibilities outlined in the announcement, and to the required and preferred qualifications, and use this information to shape your academic and professional pursuits.
One thought on “Q: What type of Information Studies job would suit me?”
If you’re interested in digital librarianship, one area you might consider is distance librarianship. There are several forms that distance librarianship takes, but in my position as an academic off-campus librarian almost everything I do is online. I do provide in-person instruction at off-campus locations, but increasingly we are moving to online instruction sessions as more and more classes go completely online. My interaction with students is almost exclusively done via email, chat, and online forms.
Distance librarianship requires the same set of skills and knowledge required of traditional academic librarians, and you do pretty much the same job: reference, instruction, collection development. That said, you need to be willing to adapt your skills and knowledge to fit the online environment. For instance, you may not have any in-person contact with most of your patrons, but your public service level has to be the same as if you were helping them in person, sometimes higher. You don’t need a strong technological background as much as you need to have an interest in emerging technologies.
And that’s just in an academic environment. Many corporate and special librarians are online librarians serving clients worldwide.
If you think distance librarianship is the type of librarianship for you, you might consider checking out ACRL’s Distance Learning Section (http://caspian.switchinc.org/~distlearn) and/or maybe attending the Off-Campus Library Services Conference (http://ocls.cmich.edu/conf2010/index.html).