Q: Are there work-from-home opportunities for copy catalogers?

Q: Are there work-from-home opportunities for copy catalogers?

Q: I have worked in libraries for 30 years. I have worked as a copy cataloger for about 20 years at a university. Are there any work at home jobs in that area?

CNW: The short answer is yes: there are many kinds of work-from-home opportunities for librarians. Cataloging is an area that can be home-based, especially if you are cataloging digital materials.

To find opportunities, you’ll need to think broadly about alternative ways you might use your copy cataloging skills. You will also have to broaden your search beyond the usual library list serves to include sources like Indeed.com and LinkedIn, as well as any local job sources for your geographic area. Inside Higher Ed and The Chronicle of Higher Ed will be more targeted to your background and experience. Library vendors like OCLC are much more likely to offer work from home options than universities, although every situation is different.

I recommend approaching your current employer about the possibility of working remotely. It can be difficult to approach a supervisor with a request for an arrangement, but there are things you can do to frame your request effectively, including:

    Brush up on your negotiation skills before you make the ask
    Frame your request in terms of benefits to the employer. For example, you can research statistics on employee productivity and satisfaction to show why this could be good for the library. See the Suggested reading below for some articles to get started.
    Listen actively to any concerns your employer may express
    Keep the door open for further discussion, even if the first answer is no
    Suggest a trial period to try out the arrangement before either side commits to a long-term arrangement

Be honest about any personal reasons for making the request. If it is related to a health issue or a need to care for a family member, that can influence how your request is heard and received. It is also worth heeding LCP commenter Renee Young’s helpful advice:

I work for NoveList, an online Readers’ Advisory database primarily marketed to public and school libraries…. Although my position requires me to work on-site, a similar position could easily lend itself to working from home. Some of the considerations that I, as a supervisor, have, when considering requests to work from home, include the employee’s dedicated workspace and internet connection as well as the possible distractions they might face. Not to mention that working from home requires an inordinate amount of concentration and self-discipline and is not for everyone. If you are seeking a position that allows you to work from home, having these issues worked out in advance would make your case much more appealing to your potential employers.

Suggested resources:

Yes, Flexible Hours Ease Stress. But Is Everyone on Board?” Phyllis Korkki, The New York Times, 8/23/2014

Where do I look for home-based cataloging jobs?” Carrie Netzer Wajda, The Library Career People Website, 8/4/2013

Location, Location, Location,” The New York Times, 3/2/2013

Pros and Cons of Working at Home,” CareerBuilder.com, 4/17/2009

Q & A with Tiffany, 10/17/2011

Q: How do I switch to being a catalog librarian without having any real formal cataloging experience?

Q: How do I switch to being a catalog librarian without having any real formal cataloging experience?

Q: I have been a librarian for over 20 years, mainly working in archives and small special libraries.  My question is, how do I switch to being a catalog librarian without having any real formal cataloging experience?  I considered looking for a copy catalog position, but have not found any openings.  I think people look at my resume and see archives and reference work, and never consider me for a cataloging position.  Also, I have only worked part-time during the last 10 years while raising my kids, mostly in para-professional positions, so I feel almost like I should start all over and go back to library school (although I can’t afford to)!

TA:  There are a number of areas that need to be addressed here: switching specializations from archives to cataloging; moving from part time to full time; and moving from a paraprofessional to professional position after 10 years.

My first suggestion is to dust off the old cover letter and resume and make sure it’s up to date in terms of both your experience and in formatting.  Styles change over a decade, so make sure you put some work into your application materials.  Make them look and feel polished and up to date.

Your cover letter will be especially important because it will be how you address all three questions (specialization, part time/ full time, para- to professional).  We’ve talked many times about the value of transferable skills, so you may want to refer to some of our other articles from the “Career Change” category of the column: http://www.lisjobs.com/CareerQA_blog/?cat=23

You should make a compelling case in your cover letter (supported by the work listed on your resume) about the parallels between your experience and the position for which you’ve applied.  For example, if you have experience processing archival collections and applying descriptive metadata using a standardized, controlled vocabulary, these are pretty similar in nature to traditional cataloging.  Describe how your experience will be an asset to the position.  Also include descriptive words that will appeal to the hiring supervisor, such as “detail oriented”, “works well independently as well as collaboratively”, or “self motivated and eager to learn”.  You’ll also need to explain in your letter that you’re in a position now to seek a full time, professional position, and that you’re eager to apply your knowledge, skills, and talents in that level of position.

In addition to your updating your application materials, if possible, you may want to seek opportunities to volunteer.  It’s a great way to gain experience, build skills, and add to a resume.  You will also build contacts in the profession, some of whom may serve as references for future cataloging positions.

A final idea to consider would be exploring the Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS) at Library and Information Science programs.  Wikipedia defines the Certificate of Advanced Study as:

A Certificate of Advanced Study (CAS), also called a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) or a Certificate of Advanced Professional Studies (CAPS), is a post-Master’s academic certificate designed for practitioners who seek a continuing education program to enhance their professional development in areas such as education and library science.

Many library schools, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, offer the CAS, and it might be a way for you to develop or further enhance your cataloging expertise.  Drexel University offers an online CAS program for Information Studies and Technology.  Many of the CAS programs are self-directed and allow you to select courses with a faculty advisor to customize your experience.  If you have the time and desire to supplement your educational background, the CAS may be the additional support you need to switch specializations within the profession.

In closing, I wish you the best.  Start with your application materials and put your time and energy there.  Move next to the volunteer experience, and down the road, if you’re so inclined, think about additional educational opportunities that may help you secure the position you’re seeking.

Q: Can you tell me how I could find the most current salaries for catalogers?

Q: Can you tell me how I could find the most current salaries for catalogers?

SM: Salary information can be difficult to find – especially when you are seeking current, specific information on a particular type of position. Salaries vary greatly depending on geographic location, years of experience, and type of institution. Several organizations do publish librarian salary information annually. The following sources might not contain the exact information you are looking for, but they might be useful nonetheless.

Maata, Stephanie, “Closing The Gap (Salaries of Reporting Professionals by Area of Job Assignment (Table 6))Library Journal, Oct 15 2005: 26.
Each Fall, Library Journal publishes a report of salaries for recent library school graduates. This data is for 2004 graduates.

Average Salaries of ARL University Librarians by Position and Years of Experience, FY 2004-05 (Table 20, p. 43) “ARL Annual Salary Survey 2004-05”
This survey reports data for ARL University librarians. It includes tables with information on type of position, years of experience, geographic region, size of staff, type of institution, and sex.

Another, slightly more crafty, way to find out about the most current salaries (for any position) is to monitor librarian job ads. Many ads will list the position’s salary, or a salary range. You can also get a good idea of what kinds of qualifications are required and preferred for a specific salary level, as well as for specific institutions and locations.

Here are a few places to start:

LISjobs.com/Library Job Postings on the Internet
The Chronicle of Higher Education / Chronicle Careers  

ALA Joblist
Canadian Library Association / Career Opportunities
Finally, there are several published salary surveys for sale. These reports contain in-depth information on types of positions, locations, and institutions. Check to see if your local library has any of these:

2005 ALA Survey of Librarian Salaries
2005 SLA Salary Survey & Workplace Study
Salary Survey 2000 / The Canadian Association of Special Libraries and Information Services (CASLIS)

Q: Any advice for breaking into cataloging?

Q: Any advice for breaking into cataloging?

Q: I have a MS in Library and Information Studies, and two years of professional experience, mostly in reference and public services. Two years ago I decided to return to school for a second masters degree in linguistics. During this time I have held a job in the English department as a writing tutor, which I have enjoyed, but my joy in life does not come from teaching. I have been rather successful in my studies, and considered a PhD, but it is not for me. As I near completion of this degree, I need to consider my professional options. I would like to return to libraries and I am interested in working in technical services, specifically cataloging. I have had limited experience in the past with cataloging and indexing, but I like this kind of work. I think my strengths in this area are my analytic skills and knowledge of semantics/taxonomies. Of course, being interested is a plus, and I have obtained great people skills and an understanding of how patrons view library catalogs from my public services experience. Any advice for breaking into cataloging?

SM: The first thing that comes to mind – and you’ve heard it all before – is: get some experience, any experience. You think you know what you want, which is the first step in getting there, but how can you be sure without first getting a taste of what the job entails?

Cataloging can be a tedious, sometimes monotonous, and potentially lonely job. It typically requires long hours of inputting, uploading and editing data. It calls for precision, organization, and knowledge of many separate, but inter-related things like classification systems, subject headings, MARC, Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules (AACR2), authority control, catalog environments, databases, and metadata. It can also be very rewarding and challenging, especially for analytically-minded people. It is more tangible and more structured than its somewhat amorphous counterpart, public services, and it involves a close (and hopefully comfortable) relationship with technology. It can be exciting and fast-paced as well, because there are always new technologies, new systems, new rules, and new ways of access that all relate to the cataloger’s role.

Like you mentioned, your interest in cataloging is a good start, and your previous library experience along with your second masters, in the “study of language” no less, should help you out in your job search. The only piece you are lacking is the relevant cataloging experience, so don’t despair just yet. Cataloging, although a learned skill that involves knowledge of many distinct systems and technologies, is done differently everywhere. You can know the basics, but each library will have its own way of cataloging specific items, its own integrated library system, and perhaps its own classification system. Even the most experienced cataloger needs time to adjust and learn in a new environment, and training is expected for any new position.

To get started, immerse yourself in all things cataloging: talk to catalogers, join e-mail lists and associations, read books and articles, and search for useful web sites. If you have no experience, practice a little by cataloging your own books, CDs, or DVDs, using whatever resources you can get your hands on. Also, keep in mind that cataloging comes in many flavors, and in larger institutions catalogers typically work with only one or two material types, which could be monographs, serials, photographs, rare books, manuscripts, audiovisuals, or online resources (to name a few). If you are interested in a particular kind of cataloging, then you may want to use “material type” to narrow your search.

There are entry-level cataloging positions that require little to no experience. However, since cataloging is so structured and based on sets of rules, previous experience may be an even more important requirement than for public service positions. Some job ads say “advanced coursework in cataloging required” (or preferred) in lieu of experience. This is where some extracurricular classes may help. See if there are any opportunities in your area, or look for online classes to help develop your skills and your resume.

Finally, rework your resume to emphasize your analytical skills and experience, including cataloging classes and any related job experience. Show potential employers that you are truly interested in cataloging!

These web sites may be useful:

TA: Transitioning from one type of position to another, or even from one type of library to another, is sometimes a difficult proposition. You can, however, take steps to make this transition as smooth as possible.

Susanne’s advice about immersing yourself in all things cataloging is especially pertinent. Join lists, talk to catalogers, maybe do an informational interview or two. (For a quick article on informational interviews, see Carole Martin’s “Informational Interviewing: The Neglected Job Search Tool.”) If possible, try to get some experience; even volunteering in a cataloging department would give you some experience and perhaps a glance into what life would be like as a cataloger.

Secondly, without knowing your personal situation, I am not sure how viable an option this would be, but you may want to consider taking a class or two in cataloging. Basic cataloging and advanced cataloging, offered in most library schools, would certainly cover both the basic principles of cataloging, as well as some of the higher level details (and specialties) in cataloging. You would have the opportunity to work with Dewey and Library of Congress classification systems, MARC format, and different types of materials (monographs, serials, CD-ROMs, video, electronic resources, just to name a few…). Current coursework would not only indicate a strong interest to future employers, but would also give you the fundamental skill set and vocabulary used in the day-to-day work.

Finally, I strongly believe that power is all in the spin. If you can express enthusiasm for the profession and a strong interest in cataloging, as well as highlight your transferable skills and abilities when applying for a position (knowledge of how patrons view the catalog, formal education in linguistics, analytical skills, and knowledge of semantics/taxonomies), you will be a viable applicant for any cataloging position. You may want to refer to the March 1, 2004 issue of ICT. In the career column of that issue, Susanne and I discussed moving from a special library to an academic library; you’ll find some helpful information there about transitioning from one specialty to another, and some tips on assessing skill sets, job searching, and applying and interviewing for positions. Best of luck!