Q: I am considering whether or not to attend an LIS program beginning in the Spring…

Q: I am considering whether or not to attend an LIS program beginning in the Spring…

Q:  I am considering whether or not to attend an LIS program beginning in the Spring. Until recently I worked with the developmentally challenged in a residence as a Case Coordinator but became burnt out. I went to a career counselor several weeks ago who administered several tests and after talking with me suggested that I consider learning Library Sciences either to be a librarian or a non traditional path. I am having trouble making up my mind if this the right career for me. Unfortunately, I have only 6 weeks to decide before I will need to submit an application! Is this enough time to make a good decision and if so, what should I be doing to in the meantime to aid that decision?

TA: Wow, this is an interesting, and extraordinarily time-sensitive, question.  I know that we’re all required at some point in our life to make quick decisions, but this feels a little pressured in terms of the short period of time and the large impact of this decision.  My advice would be to slow things down a little.  Meeting with the career counselor was a great first step, and it’s indicative of a level of intellectual curiosity and self awareness.  On the other hand, you shouldn’t pursue a graduate degree just because someone told you to, or because you tested that way.  I would strongly recommend that you get some kind of library experience first, and then pursue the degree if it’s a career of interest.  Try to find a job or even a volunteer experience in a library.  And explore different types of work experience and environments—public services, technical services, public library, academic library, school library.  There are so many choices.  You’ve done the initial work of identifying a new field of potential employment.  Take some time to do the in-the-trenches work to see if actually fits.

Q: What type of Information Studies job would suit me?

Q: What type of Information Studies job would suit me?

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.

Q: Does the chance of finding a job increase or decrease depending on where you get your degree?

Q: Does the chance of finding a job increase or decrease depending on where you get your degree?

Q: I am currently seeking admission to graduate school for library science.  Does the chance of finding a job increase or decrease depending on where you get your degree?

SM: It can. Getting your degree from a highly ranked program may help your job prospects.  It all depends on who is on the hiring committee and how much importance they place on where you get your degree.  Getting your degree at the same place as someone on the committee, or the director of the library you are applying to, may help your chances of getting that job.  You never know.  It won’t, I guarantee, get you a job in and of itself.  You need to possess the skills and experience required for the job (which you can get while you are in library school), you need to be a good fit for the library and institution you are applying to, and you need to show proof of what you learned in your library school program (projects, skills, classes, experience, etc.)… so choose wisely.

You may not be able to move across the country or commute a long distance to go to library school. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t research several different programs, including online programs. You need to figure out which will be the best for your educational and financial needs and you need to find a program that will fit into your lifestyle, or be willing to change your lifestyle to fit the needs of the program. I do not think that going to the nearest school, just because it is convenient and just because you want to hurry up and get your degree, is the best thing to do. Let’s face it, you are not going to make a ton of money as a librarian so you should not spend a ton of money on your library degree. Luckily, some of the best programs are in large public universities. See if there is one near you, or in the same state that you live in.

If you plan on working in libraries during library school, which is something we always recommend, then take into consideration the number of jobs available in the institution itself or in the surrounding area. Your graduate education will help to define your career, and the people you encounter (professors, fellow students, graduates, employers, coworkers, counselors) will help to shape your view of librarianship as they become your mentors, your supporters, and your collaborators.

So, take some time to review different library schools.  Look at the classes they offer and the areas they specialize in, and think carefully about what you want to get out of the program. Every program has its strengths.  Visit the school, talk to people in the program, ask questions on an online forum like LISjobs Message Board.

Ultimately, it isn’t the reputation of the program, or school, that matters most. It is how you use your degree (+ experience  + knowledge + communication skills) to secure that first professional job. Good luck!

A few links:

ALA Accredited Schools

ALA Scholarship Program

U.S. News & World Report Rankings – Library and Information Studies



How to Choose a Library Science School

Q: I am about to finish my library degree in the United States and want to know if I can use my degree in Canada, and how do I find jobs there?

Q: I am about to finish my library degree in the United States and want to know if I can use my degree in Canada, and how do I find jobs there?

SM: I have met several Canadian librarians working here in the States, but I haven’t heard much about U.S. librarians working in Canada. If you have ever perused Canadian job ads for librarian positions, you have probably seen the message, “Canadians and permanent residents of Canada will be given priority.” Even though this sentence sounds discouraging, don’t let it stop you from sending in your resume. Here’s why:

An MLS degree or its equivalent from an accredited U.S. school is recognized in Canada (and vice versa). Library schools in Canada and the United States are accredited by the same organization – ALA’s Office for Accreditation & Committee on Accreditation.

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) makes it easier for librarians in the U.S. to cross the border to work. Librarians who are U.S. citizens can qualify for a work permit under Chapter 16 of the NAFTA regulations. The NAFTA applies to four specific categories of businesspersons: business visitors, professionals, intra-company transferees, and traders and investors. Librarians are included in the list of professionals.

All businesspersons covered by the NAFTA are exempt from the need to obtain approval from Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC). This means that Canadian employers do not need to have a job offer approved by HRDC to employ a U.S. librarian. For more information, Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has a helpful site.

U.S. librarians with a job offer from a Canadian employer are classified as NAFTA Professionals, and may apply for an employment authorization at a Port of Entry, at a visa office abroad (in the U.S.), or from within Canada if the applicant is already in Canada as a visitor. The duration of NAFTA Professional status is for an initial period of one year and an unlimited number of one-year extensions may be subsequently obtained. Canadavisa.com offers more information on employment authorization for non-Canadians.

Although NAFTA makes the process of getting into Canada easier, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easy to procure a job. It really depends on where you would like to go and how much competition there is in that particular city and/or province. There are fewer library schools in Canada than in the United States, and also fewer jobs. But, if you are serious and you are qualified, you should by all means apply for positions in Canada. Just make sure the employer knows about the NAFTA Professional status.

Currently, the job market for librarians in Canada is fair, and the unemployment rate is below average. The HRDC hosts a Job Futures site that provides information and statistics on different careers in Canada.

The following library job sites either list Canadian job openings or link to sites with job postings:

Canadian Library Association Classifieds

LIBJOBS – mailing list and web archive, international in scope

Library Job Postings on the Internet


TA: As a brief follow-up to the excellent ideas from Susanne, I would add a note about the importance of networking and staying involved professionally. In many ways, my response to this question will mirror many of the suggestions from the answer to the above question. Beyond the basics of wanting to work abroad (learning the language, researching labor laws and the work visa issues, etc.), the key to successfully entering any job market (here or abroad) is who you know. Make professional contacts through professional organizations (ALA, CLA, etc.). Check out web sites, monitor e-mail lists, and attend annual conferences. Contact professionals currently working abroad, or folks who have worked abroad in the recent past, and schedule an informational interview. You can speak to individuals who have successfully worked abroad and ask them how they got started. You can also speak with other librarians currently working in the area to which you may be considering relocating. In addition to gathering information about the area, information interviews will also widen your network of professional contacts.

Below are a few links to online resources that I hope you will find helpful in your research:

ALA International Relations Committee (IRC)

ALA International Relations Office

ALA International Relations Office list of International Associations, Organizations and Conferences

ALA International Relations Round Table (IRRT)

International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA)