Q: Do you have any advice on moving from a position in a public school system to a children’s librarian position in a public library?

Q: Do you have any advice on moving from a position in a public school system to a children’s librarian position in a public library?

Q: I am just approaching my 28th year in public school library services. I’d really like to try something different and am considering applying for a public children’s library position. Any thoughts or tips on making such a change?

We get this type of question about moving from one area of librarianship to another quite often. The desire to move (or change roles) leads us to believe that librarians crave variety; that they are able to do so leads us to believe that librarians possess skills that transfer well between different roles, libraries and institutions.

For many of us, one of the major draws of a career in librarianship is the immense variety of roles/libraries/institutions/clientele to choose from. It is certainly a diverse and exciting profession, and you are not alone in your quest to find a new position in a different type of library.

To make sure that this is truly the direction you want to go in, you might want to start by volunteering in your community library or taking a part time position, if possible, which is something that you might have in mind already.

Moving from a public school system to a public library system should be a fairly easy move, and your extensive experience working with children in a school library will carry across wonderfully to a public library setting. You will probably find that the roles in these two types of libraries can be quite similar as they often rely on each other, especially when it comes to educating our children.

If you haven’t yet, start looking at job ads for children’s librarians in public libraries and see what skills are required and preferred. Then spend a good deal of time tailoring your resume and your cover letters to address those needs. When you’re reviewing the job ads, pay close attention to qualifications that relate to technology and make a special effort to stay current with the trends. This might mean taking a few continuing education courses to update your skills (a lot are online now!) or familiarizing yourself with the latest tools by trying a few of them out in your personal time (e.g., blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, RSS, etc.). If you have experience using some of the tools and new technology, you will be able to talk about and demonstrate a certain level of knowledge that will be required in the job. A lifelong learner and someone who demonstrates flexibility, adaptability, and a willingness to continue growing is welcome in any kind of organization.

Finally, we will point you to an article that we wrote a few years back (but still relevant today) on moving from one area of librarianship to another, that provides some helpful information and links to useful resources:

How do I get there from here? Changing jobs, changing roles, changing institutions
by Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Allen
C&RL News
, December 2004, Vol. 65, No. 11

Good luck!

Q: How do I determine my fee?

Q: How do I determine my fee?

Q: I have eight years experience working as a school library media specialist at both elementary and secondary levels. I was recently asked to help a private school get their library up to standard (weeding, acquisitions, cataloging, etc.). I have offered to act as a library consultant to the school for at least the next year, possibly long term. How do I determine my fee? How do I determine how many hours of service I would provide? Can I do this and continue working for the public school system? I have had difficulty finding resources online for setting up a school library consulting service.

TA: There are quite a few factors to consider, some of which I may be able to help with, and others you may need to resolve on your own – such as coordinating with your current employer. Before proceeding with your consulting work, you’ll need to check to see if it’s permitted in your contract, and that it doesn’t present any conflicts of interest with your current job. If you’re clear to begin, I hope you’ll find the following advice helpful: First, some things you need to consider while pulling together your consultant business plan, and secondly, several online resources to help answer some of your questions.

First things first: Congrats on the offer of work with this private school. One of my favorite sayings is, “The reward for good work is more work.” Most often, it truly is a reward. You’ve clearly done a good job, and garnered a great deal of respect for your work — so much so that others are seeking you out for your wisdom and expertise.

So, now that you have an offer to help get this school’s library up to standard. Where do you start? A logical place to begin might be with an initial consultation and survey of the materials. Try to size up the type of work that will need to be done and estimate how long it will take. Be sure to make a comprehensive list of the work required, and an accurate and honest appraisal of the time required. Just as with any other project, you’ll want to know the guidelines and framework before starting.

Once you have a reasonable idea of what needs to be done, you want to think about your billing structure. Will you be charging by the hour, or will you charge on a project basis? It seems natural to charge on an hourly basis, especially since your work may continue past this original project, but first consider all the factors. To get a sense of what to charge, I would suggest a review of the market. Look at the pricing models of similar businesses in the local area or region. You may be able to get some assistance with identifying peers from your local business bureau, chamber of commerce, or even ALA. Also, when setting your fee, don’t forget about the costs that are usually assumed by the employer when working in a larger organization, such as fringe benefits (health insurance, retirement) and the overhead costs of doing business (equipment, office supplies, postage). Factor these relevant costs into your hourly rate.

Next, review the project proposal with the client. Go over the details of the work to be done, the method of billing, and the expectations for payment. Will you receive payment at the end of the project, or be paid in installments? Be sure you have their complete buy-in on the work to be done and rate of pay before proceeding.

I would also recommend that you check for any small business development centers or business incubators in your area. (A business incubator provides support to entrepreneurs through services like coaching, networking, and capital.) You may also want to check out your local public library. The Spokane Public Library has an amazing online resource for freelancers and consultants (see Additional Resources) and your public library may offer similar services and expertise.

Best of luck with your work. I hope it is a successful and enjoyable venture.

Additional Resources

Spokane Public Library, Research, Subject Guide: Start Your Own Business
Excellent site that covers print and online resources on a number of topics related to starting your own consultant services. Also includes information on federal agencies and national organizations for freelancers and consultants.

How to Start a Consulting Business
Pay particular attention to the “Income and Billing” section.

Working Solo: The information source for independent entrepreneurs and companies serving the SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) market
If you decide to do more someday with your new consultant business, lots of resources here…