Fwd: [Info Career Trends Newsletter] March 1, 2005 issue
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Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005 13:31:47 -0600
From: Info Career Trends
Subject: [Info Career Trends Newsletter] March 1, 2005 issue
Info Career Trends March 1, 2005
vol. 6, no. 2
Published by Lisjobs.com - http://www.lisjobs.com
In This Issue (Alternative Careers):
1) Editor's Note
2) Career Q&A From the Library Career People (choosing a school,
3) My Path To an Alternative Career
4) A Really Alternative Career in Librarianship
5) My Life As a Librarian Without Walls
6) Alternative Careers
7) What's Online? Recommended Resources
8) But I Want To Hold It In My Hand! Review: The Librarian's Career
9) Administrivia, Copyright, Subscription and Removal Instructions
We talk often about our skills as information professionals being
transferable, and this issue's articles illustrate ways to use our
library background in various environments. Knowing more about our
options allows us to plan out the career path that's best for us; as
libraries and librarianship continue to evolve, many more of us may
end up in careers formerly viewed as "alternative."
One of the ways we can use our skills as librarians, particularly
researching, networking, and sharing, is by contributing our thoughts
to our ongoing professional conversation through writing for
publication. ICT is seeking authors for two upcoming issues - July
2005 ("getting what you're worth) and Nov. 2005 ("what I wish I'd
learned in library school"), and I'd love to see your queries at
editor@.... Please see contributor guidelines at
http://www.lisjobs.com/newsletter/theme.htm#contrib . I'm also seeking
a reviewer for Blanche Woolls' and David V. Loertscher's The Whole
School Library Handbook (ALA, 2005); e-mail a brief note with your
For more on why you might want to contribute your work to an online
publication such as this one, see my February Library Link column,
"Online Is Fine," at
While I'm on the subject, I'd like to share with you some of my own
contributions to the literature. Look into one of my books for
yourself or your library; check out a list, with links to sample
content and reviews, at http://www.lisjobs.com/resume.htm#write .
- Rachel (editor@...)
*** Find yourself with management responsibilities? Check out The
Accidental Library Manager! http://www.lisjobs.com/talm/
Career Q&A From the Library Career People
Q: I recently became interested in the library profession, but can't
seem to find any schools that offer the library sciences degree. What
schools would you suggest?
TA: This opens the door, not only to answer your initial question (how
do I find a school?), but also to address the broader question: out of
all of the programs, how do I decide which one is right for me?
Answering your initial question is pretty simple: Go to the ALA web
site for a lengthy list of accredited schools. But, with so many
options, how do you evaluate which school is "best?" Let's back up and
look at the broader picture.
What To Look For
A quick Google search on "selecting a graduate program" yields many
results. Glancing at some of these articles (many of which are listed
below), you will see many common themes. Most advise students to look
at the location of the school, the cost of the program, and the types
of courses and degrees offered. In addition, when comparing
institutions, most recommend looking at both academic qualities
(differences in curriculum, academic requirements, faculty interests
and research) as well as "quality of life" benefits (the campus,
community, housing, distance from family and friends). Other factors
to consider when researching and comparing graduate institutions
* The cost of the program
Tuition, housing, books, student fees, travel, cost of living
* Financial incentives
Fellowships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships
* Selectivity of the program
Compare the number of applicants to the number accepted
* University and department reputation
Of the faculty, students, university, community
* Faculty interests, research and ranking
What is the student to faculty ratio?
Do full-time faculty teach classes? What percentage of the time?
Are faculty members conducting research?
Are they published?
Are they respected by others in the field?
* Does the program emphasize theory or practice?
Are there specific courses of interest to you?
Availability of internships and field experiences
* Flexibility of the program
* Quality of facilities and resources
Library materials in your subject area, classrooms, technology,
endowments that support student research
* Are there opportunities to teach? To publish? To attend conferences?
* Where do graduates typically find work upon graduation from the
Do most graduates go into academia or into professional positions
in the workplace?
How much assistance is offered to job-seeking students (and/or
At the top of this list is accreditation. On its accreditation web
site, ALA states that "ALA accreditation indicates that the program
has undergone a self-evaluation process, been reviewed by peers, and
meets the Standards for Accreditation of Master's Programs in Library
and Information Studies that were established by the Committee on
Accreditation and adopted by the ALA Council in 1992." During the
accreditation process, a program is evaluated in the areas of mission,
goals, objectives, curriculum, faculty, students, administration,
financial support, physical resources, and facilities. While
accreditation is by no means a guarantee of quality or an indicator of
"best fit," graduating from an ALA-accredited program will allow
greater career mobility and flexibility in your professional pursuits.
Most major institutions call for an ALA-accredited degree when seeking
candidates for professional positions. For a complete list of ALA-
accredited schools, please visit:
Never underestimate the power of research when deciding on the
graduate program that best meets your needs. The definition of "best"
is completely subjective. For some, it may mean attending the top-
ranked program according to US News & World Report; for others, it
means attending the ALA-accredited program in their area because of
limited geographic mobility. Regardless, when making your assessments,
do your research. Talk to current students and alumni. Speak with
administrators and faculty. Look at department web sites and class
offerings. Visit schools and look at the fit of the campus and the
surrounding community. Last, but not least, use the following
resources to help formulate and answer some of your questions. Good
About.com Graduate School: Questions & Answers:
ALA's 2004-2005 Directory of Institutions Offering ALA-Accredited
Master's Programs in Library and Information Studies:
ALA's Office for Human Resources Development and Recruitment:
http://www.ala.org/hrdr (general information about scholarships,
placement, salaries and general career information)
The Directory of Graduate Programs (published by the Graduate Record
Examinations Board) contains information on U.S. graduate programs in
over 80 major fields
Financial Assistance for Library and Information Studies (an annual
compilation available from the ALA Committee on Education)
The Guide to American Graduate Schools (describes post-BA study
opportunities at more than 685 accredited institutions)
Hansen, Randall S., Ph.D. Criteria for Choosing a Graduate Program:
Hiatt Career Center. Things to Consider When Selecting a Graduate
JOBTRAK Selecting a Graduate School: Look Before You Leap!
Kuther, Tara, Ph.D. Choosing Among Graduate Programs:
Peterson's Annual Guides to Graduate Studies (profiles over 1400
accredited institutions offering masters and/or doctoral programs)
Q: I have an interview with a public library as a clerk. I want this
job very much but I have no prior experience working in libraries.
Please advise me on how I can convince them to hire me! I really would
love to work in a library. What intelligent thing can I say during my
interview, to convince them to hire me? Please help.
SM: First of all, congratulations on getting an interview! This is the
first step to a career in libraries. A clerk position (sometimes
called library assistant) is usually considered entry-level, which
means no library experience required. Your interviewers will, however,
expect you to be computer literate, detailed-oriented, and organized,
and to be able to communicate effectively and pleasantly. So, play up
the skills and experience that you do have, especially ones that
relate to these traits.
Since you made it to the interview stage, assuming that you either
filled out an application or submitted a resume, your interviewers
already know your work history and your skills. Take comfort in
knowing that you meet most, if not all, of their requirements. The
interview is their chance to get to know you, and your chance to
impress them. During the interview, keep in mind that you are also
interviewing them. You should have some questions prepared to ask your
interviewers (typically at the end of the interview). For general
interviewing tips, look at the interviewing section of Lisjobs.com at
http://www.lisjobs.com/advice.htm#interview , which has a list of
helpful web sites. In response to your more specific plea for help, I
have the following advice:
Read the description of library assistant in the Occupational Outlook
Handbook http://bls.gov/oco/ocos147.htm or of library clerk in the
Essential Skills site from Human Resources and Skills Development of
Canada http://www15.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca/english/profiles/12.asp . This
will help you get a better understanding of the position and what it
Brush up on your library searching skills by familiarizing yourself
with several online catalogs, such as the New York Public Library's
catalog ( http://catnyp.nypl.org/ ), the Boston Public Library's
catalog ( http://www.bpl.org/catalogs/index.htm ), the Los Angeles
Public Library's catalog ( http://www.lapl.org/catalog/ ); the Houston
Public Library's catalog (
http://catalog.houstonlibrary.org/search~S1/ ), and (most
importantly), the catalog of the library where you are interviewing.
During your interview, you may be given a shelf-reading quiz to
determine if you know how to organize library materials, either by
Library of Congress Classification (LC)
http://www.loc.gov/catdir/cpso/lcco/lcco.html or Dewey Decimal
Classification (DDC) http://www.oclc.org/dewey/ , which is used more
in public libraries. If you do not know much about these
classification systems, I suggest that you look at the following
An online tour of DDC (from OCLC)
Let's Do Dewey (from Middle Tennessee State University)
SatchLCall - Library of Congress Call Number System Tutorial (from the
University of Pittsburgh)
Call Number Tutorial (from Hunter College, CUNY)
Public libraries are very community oriented. Depending on what city
you are in, you will most likely be working with a diverse user
population. Let your interviewers know that you are interested in
working with different age groups and different cultures, and, by all
means, let them know how interested you are to begin a career in
libraries. Explain that it won't be "just a job" for you, but a
passion. For more information about public libraries and working in
public libraries, look at the Public Library Association's web site:
As for something "intelligent" to mention during your interview, try
reading, or scanning, some articles in current library-related
journals to give you some ideas. A few examples of journals are:
Library Journal http://www.libraryjournal.com , D-Lib Magazine
http://www.dlib.org , LIBRES http://libres.curtin.edu.au , and First
Monday http://www.firstmonday.org . To get a longer list of open-
access ( http://www.soros.org/openaccess/read.shtml ) library-related
journals, go to the Directory of Open Access Journals
Never be afraid to show your enthusiasm for working in libraries. Best
*** Have a question for the Library Career People? E-mail it to
librarycareerpeople@..., and you could see it answered in
an upcoming column. Sorry, we cannot provide personal responses.
About the Authors
Tiffany Allen is currently serving as the Assistant Personnel
Librarian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior
to her work in academic librarianship, Tiffany worked in a variety
of libraries, including a small non-profit library and a large
corporate research library.
Susanne Markgren is Reference Coordinator and Web Librarian at the
Levy Library, Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York City. Her
career experience encompasses a variety of positions in different
types of libraries, including public, special, and academic.
*** Post your resume online! See http://www.lisjobs.com/resumes.htm
My Path To an Alternative Career
by Paul Duckworth (paulmduckworth@...)
How does a librarian move from a traditional job to something outside
the box of library walls? If this sounds like a Zen koan to you,
perhaps you're thinking about it too hard - just let the energy flow
into your solar plexus. When you're centered, you can follow the path
of the stepping stones that are submerged below the surface of the
water. How? Step-by-step, feeling your way, remembering to breathe and
center yourself - and not being afraid to get your feet wet.
First Steps First
My path began with the recognition that it was time to move on from my
public library job in Missouri. I'd been there for over twenty-five
years, moving upwards in responsibility. The job was great, my salary
was excellent, and I had every reason to stay, except three: I was
restless, felt stagnated, and found myself experiencing boredom.
"What to do?" I thought. "How do I uproot myself? Where do I begin?"
For me, a recent marriage had brought a fresh perspective and someone
else's needs to consider. For many reasons, we decided to relocate to
within a few hours of Toronto. So, the first decision had been made:
the geographic focus was defined.
Time to get out the career and resume guides. I raided my library's
shelves, looked at more than a few, studied every style and strategy,
then set the books down and never picked them up again. What I did
reach for, though, was the ear of anyone who would listen to me as I
told my story. Never underestimate the power of these words: "Ask, and
it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and the door
will be opened to you." I found talking with many people, especially
those not in the library field, of immense assistance in clarifying
I began bookmarking library job sites and searching them again and
again - sometimes to the point where I felt desperate. There were
jobs, but few interesting ones in the geographical area where I needed
I also reached out to colleagues through the networking approach,
including joining an e-mail list from a state adjoining Ontario. It
was fascinating to learn about the issues going on there, which
affected services, employment, selection, and the financial health of
Alternatives Can Find You
Time was getting short. We needed to move before autumn, but nothing
seemed to pan out. What to do...? Be persistent, I reminded myself.
Success is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. So, I did everything I
could not to let discouragement slow me down: meditation, yoga,
talking to friends, and strategizing through good note taking.
And then, there it was - a job posting on an e-mail list for a library
vendor in New York State. Good fortune - the vendor was a major
supplier for my library. My application led to a response with a
questionnaire to fill out; this led to more e-mail, and then... a call
out of the blue from the company's sales manager, followed by a second
one. Could I come to the ALA conference in Orlando, expenses paid, to
meet with the company president and him?
Yes, I could, and I did! I flew to Orlando and visited with them. And,
while I was there with some free time to visit the exhibits hall, I
stopped by the booth of another vendor I worked with on materials
acquisition, to meet some of the friendly staff I had visited with on
the phone over the years. So, I had a good chat with several staff,
and casually mentioned that I was interviewing for a job that would
take me to New York State. "We just happen to have an opening for an
account rep for that area," one of their vice presidents mentioned.
Would I be interested in talking about this position?
Yes, I was, and I did. We talked, and the job sounded as intriguing
and challenging as the first one. Always keep as many options open as
possible, I reminded myself. Don't start closing doors until you know
for sure which door you're going to walk through.
When One Door Opens...
At the end of the weekend I expected a job offer from the first
vendor, who had flown me to the conference. It didn't come. So I
waited, weighed my options, and decided that the better choice for me
was the new possibility. Then, amazingly, a friend told me about yet a
third prospect with the university library in the town to which we
were considering moving. While in Toronto on vacation, I faxed my
application, and within a few days had a telephone interview with the
Within days, an offer was made by the second vendor and I accepted. A
few days later, the initial vendor indicated they wanted to hire me.
And, as I withdrew my application for the academic position, they
indicated that I had been their top candidate.
How is it, you ask, being outside those traditional walls? Well, I
travel inside those walls throughout my sales territory, meet great
people (we librarians ARE interesting), and sometimes have the
exciting opportunity to show up for work in my home office in my
pajamas. I still speak "library," am appreciated by my employer, and
network every day with colleagues and customers across the country. My
employer is tops, the job brings me the challenge I was looking for,
and I'm traveling to lots of places I had never seen before. The path
ahead isn't clear, but, truly, it never is. For right now, I'm
enjoying getting my feet wet, taking one step at a time, and
remembering to breathe.
Paul Duckworth lives in upstate New York and is a Regional Account
Manager with BWI, (Lexington,
KY), a major vendor of books and audiovisual materials to public
libraries. Prior to that, he was Collection Development Coordinator at
Springfield-Greene County Library (Springfield,
MO). He can be reached at paulmduckworth@... .
*** Need some encouragement on writing for publication?
A Really Alternative Career in Librarianship
by Officer Tom Rink (trink@...)
When you think about the title "librarian," the traditional settings
that come to mind are public libraries, academic libraries, and school
libraries. As a matter of fact, the entire time that I was in library
school, I envisioned becoming an academic librarian. I never
dreamed that I'd be able to pursue a library career in my chosen first
profession, law enforcement. However, when the opportunity arose to
create a library for the police department (where none had previously
existed) I jumped at the chance. As the information age continues to
evolve and grow, this may just be the time to start expanding our
thinking in the direction of the "non-traditional" or "alternative"
career choices that are available in the field of librarianship.
To successfully explore the new career opportunities which are
emerging all around us, we must realistically assess or evaluate our
skill sets and competencies. We must also be able to articulate and
translate these to the new, and sometimes difficult to understand, job
descriptions that are written in different terms than those for
traditional library-related positions. "Out-of-the-box" thinking must
become the norm. Use your imagination, set your goals, and go for it!
What is really required is an entrepreneurial spirit which includes
having a vision for the future, a certain degree of risk-taking, a
strong desire to succeed, a creative/innovative outlook, and a
customer-focused service orientation. In addition, today's information
professional must be an effective communicator, have the ability to
prioritize, be committed to lifelong learning (and career
development), understand the balance between leading, following, and
collaborating, be flexible, and understand the value of networking.
Having dogged determination (perseverance) doesn't hurt, either!
So, what are the jobs, and where are they? The overly-simple answer:
as a profession, we are becoming more and more entrepreneurial; we are
able to manage information organizations, manage information
resources, manage information services, and apply information tools
and technologies in any setting that we choose (corporate or
Every sector of the economy has a growing need for information
professionals: the manufacturing industry, the service/business
industry, government agencies (yes, even an occasional police
department), academic or educational institutions, hospitals or other
health institutions, agricultural and food processing businesses,
professional and trade associations (and not-for-profits), research
and consulting organizations, and arts and entertainment
organizations. The new focus for librarians or information
professionals is on managing the informational needs or requirements
of the decision-makers within the organizations that they serve.
To help brainstorm the possibilities (and the following lists are by
no means exhaustive), some of the titles used (in addition to
librarian and information professional) include archivist, consultant,
information broker, knowledge manager, independent information
professional, chief information officer, market researcher,
taxonomist, indexer/abstracter, records manager, and web developer.
And, judging from some of the recent job ads that I have seen, these
titles are becoming more and more technological in nature: electronic
resources librarian, network administrator, technology systems
librarian, electronic products manager.
Our settings are also quite varied. We work in libraries,
information centers, resource centers, research and development units,
planning centers, think tanks in corporations, banks, law firms,
prisons, churches, museums, hospitals, police departments, and even
from our homes. We can operate in person, by phone, by fax, and via
the computer and/or the Internet (providing virtual reference
Out On Your Own
You could even become your own boss and enter the world of consulting.
Consulting can include evaluating a library or library services, doing
public relations, performing information audits, outsourcing, space
planning analysis, document delivery, records management, training
other librarians (through workshops and seminars), writing (books,
articles, newsletters), designing or producing databases, web design,
indexing and/or abstracting. Or, you could become a vendor
representative (sales, database searching), or work for a library
supplier. In the corporate world, the field of competitive
intelligence (gathering information that will assist a company in
maintaining or gaining a competitive advantage) continues to thrive.
Again, all that is required is a little creativity in your thinking.
Hopefully, you are beginning to get an understanding of the variety
and types of alternatives that exist in our world today. And, if for
some reason you cannot seem to find your niche, then create it! Take
the initiative and put your entrepreneurial skills to work. Colleagues
that I encounter during the course of my professional development/
professional association activities constantly marvel at the fact that
our police department has a library, and that it's staffed by a
degreed librarian, to boot. (In the law enforcement world, this is not
the norm - but wouldn't it be wonderful if it were to become the
How many other people have had the opportunity to create their own
niche? Probably more than you would guess. Next time you are at a
conference, workshop, seminar, or program, challenge yourself to
examine the job titles and employers/work settings of the other
attendees - you'll be amazed at what you discover. In addition to
being a wonderful networking opportunity, you may just find your dream
Editor's Note: See Officer Rink's story at
Officer Tom Rink, a 23+ year veteran of the Tulsa Police Department,
received his MLIS from the University of Oklahoma in 1992 and has
spent the last 11 years building (from scratch) and managing the
library for the Tulsa Police Department. Tom is active in the Special
Libraries Association and is the current President-elect of the
*** Love the newsletter? Make a PayPal donation to its upkeep:
My Life As a Librarian Without Walls
by Marylaine Block (marylaine@...)
From time to time I get e-mails from library and information science
students asking me to talk about my career as an Internet librarian,
so I'm going to answer some of those questions here.
Why Did You Make This Career Move?
There were a lot of reasons.
* I'd been in the same job for 22 years, and even though new
responsibilities and challenges came along every year, it was growing
stale and so was I.
* As the creator of one of the first librarian-created guides to the
internet, Best Information on the Net (
http://library.sau.edu/bestinfo/default.htm ) I had already acquired a
reputation as an Internet "guru," and invited to deliver conference
presentations and workshops. (It's the Hershey bar principle: if
you're there first, you don't have to be the best possible.)
* I was developing a career as a writer. At the time I left my job, I
was writing a weekly column, "Observing US," for Fox News Online.
* I already had a weekly platform in Neat New Stuff I Found This
Week, as well as BookBytes ( http://marylaine.com/bookbyte/index.html
). My employer agreed that these were my personal projects rather than
the library's property, so I was able to take them, and their
audiences, with me.
* Probably the biggest one was that I could afford to take the risk.
My mortgage payment was only $300 a month, I knew how to live cheap,
and I didn't have anybody but me to support, since my son was grown
up. Fox was paying about half my basic living expenses, and I was
pretty sure I could make up the rest with speaking engagements.
What Did You Do To Build the Business?
First thing, I bought the marylaine.com domain, got an internet
service provider, and placed NeatNew, BookBytes, and my resume there.
(Later, I had to break it into two separate resumes: my internet
librarian resume and my writing resume.)
I started ExLibris, and archived it, as a way to expand my reputation
among librarians by sharing what I knew about the internet, searching,
and other professional issues. When people told me they preferred to
have their information come to them, I made ExLibris and NeatNew
available in a combined free e-mail newsletter as well as online,
which dramatically expanded its reach. And I increased my usefulness
to librarians by making all my conference and workshop presentations
freely available on the web ( http://marylaine.com/handouts.html ).
I made a decision up front not to accept any advertising. That was
partly to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest, since the
greatest asset I have to offer is my integrity. But mostly it was
because I wanted to use my web page frames to promote my own work.
Which ever route brought readers to me - BookBytes, Neat New Stuff, or
ExLibris - would lead them to my other work.
All of the archived work on my web site allows editors and conference
planners to see the kinds of work I have done, and the kinds of topics
I have addressed. The fact that I clearly meet a weekly schedule also
assures editors that I know how to meet a deadline.
How Much Of a Role Did Dumb Luck Play?
A big role - as in any business. I was fortunate in the word of mouth
from librarians, who forwarded my newsletters to colleagues, or
recommended particular columns in the weblogs.
I was also fortunate with search engines. I always tell people I was
doing all the right things to get search engine attention before
anyone knew there WERE right things to do. Because the engines paid
great attention to librarians' web pages, they followed me from Best
Information on the Net to marylaine.com. Because search engines also
give preference to sites that update regularly, they spider my site
often, keeping up with the new material I add.
Since I cover such a wide variety of topics in my handouts, columns,
and ExLibris backfile, and Google routinely spiders my site every
week, librarians and other information seekers are frequently referred
to my work, regardless of what they're searching for: "out of print
books," "library marketing," "cool quotes," "Images on the Web" -
even, would you believe, "Burma-Shave signs." Once searchers find one
of my pages, they can and do explore others.
Thanks to the fact that one of my subscribers was a technology writer,
I got some entirely unexpected free publicity when he wrote an article
for Wired about NeatNew and other e-mail lists in February, 2002 (
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/10.02/lists.html ). Within a month,
I'd added more than 1500 techies to my subscriber list.
Do You Make Money?
Yes, though not as much as I'd like. Like many self-employed people, I
start the year not knowing how much money I'll make and where it will
come from, so it's not a job for the faint of heart. My income comes
from an ever-shifting mix of writing, speaking fees, and royalties
from my book, Net Effects: How Librarians Can Manage the Unintended
Consequences of the Internet ( http://marylaine.com/book/index.html ).
This year, as library budgets have dried up, my speaking business is
down, but my writing business is up.
It helps that my costs of doing business are not prohibitive: my
server, my DSL connection, and distribution charges. These are offset
by the tax deductions for business expenses and my home office.
I chose not to charge a fee for NeatNew and ExLibris, but to use them
to promote my writing and speaking business. My users can make
donations, though, through their Amazon accounts (
1222427 OR http://makeashorterlink.com/?R25B3219A ). If all my
subscribers donated even $5, I'd be making as much money as I did in
my last year at work. That hasn't happened, but it would certainly be
nice. I welcome your donations.
What Are the Gratifications of the Work?
There are many. The greatest is that I have the opportunity, in both
my print and online publications, to influence the way librarians
respond to our challenging new technological and economic environment.
I love the e-mail I get, the very personal responses to my articles,
and I enjoy seeing my ideas picked up in weblogs and listservs. But
I'm even more pleased when I see my articles turn up as required
reading in LIS courses.
I love the opportunity my work has given me to meet librarians all
over the country, including some of my own personal heroes, who I've
gotten to mingle with at conferences or interview for ExLibris. One of
the regular writing jobs I've gotten is the Movers and Shakers issue
of Library Journal, which has given me a chance to get to know some of
the most interesting up-and-coming young people in our profession, and
find out about the exciting things they're doing.
I can't tell you how much I love setting my own schedule. I can count
on my fingers the number of times I have set an alarm clock since
July, 1999, when I began this enterprise. When it's 20 below zero, or
the snow is up to my waist, I don't have to go out unless I'm stupid
enough to want to. I can hang clean laundry up to dry on any day when
it's sunny and warm, instead of waiting for a Saturday or Sunday
that's sunny and warm. I can read during the day, on my sunporch,
instead of in dim fluorescent light. When daylight dwindles down, and
you are all going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark, I
get to enjoy every little bit of daylight we are allowed.
Of course the other side of setting my own schedule is that I work
whenever the job needs to be done. That sometimes means working on
Thanksgiving and Christmas, or writing and researching at 2 in the
morning or 11 at night. I routinely work on Saturdays and Sundays.
I can live with that.
Would I Recommend This Work to Young Librarians?
Not unless you are extraordinarily confident in your own abilities and
are willing to take risks and live cheap. Most independent information
professionals already had a base before they went private; they knew
who their prospective clients were, and already had a good reputation
within that group.
But is it something you might want to aspire to after you've gotten a
few years of experience? Absolutely. Because the bottom line for me is
this: it's been a fun ride, and I've had a ball doing it.
Thanks to all my readers for keeping me company on the ride.
This article originally appeared in ExLibris #233, Nov. 12, 2004 (
http://marylaine.com/exlibris/xlib233.html ) Marylaine Block was an
academic reference librarian for 22 years, and is now a full-time
writer and speaker. Links to her work are available at
*** Have technology responsibilities in your library? Check out The
Accidental Systems Librarian! Information and links online at
by Amelia Kassel (amelia@...)
On January 26 of this year, I began teaching a new course about
alternative careers (
http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/courses/287.kassel/287sp05gs.htm ) to graduate
LIS students. Alternative careers, or, should I perhaps say, non-
traditional-careers, are not new to me - nor is teaching. I received
my MLS in 1971 from UCLA, and then applied for and was awarded one of
four pre-doctoral internships at the UCLA Biomedical Library, funded
by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) for one year. We rotated
through all departments of the Biomedical Library, including
acquisitions, cataloging, reference. We also spent time working with
the Pacific Southwest Regional Medical Library Service (PSRMLS), which
offered training and other services to medical libraries in a four-
state region (California, Hawaii, Arizona, and Nevada), and was also
funded by NLM.
Starting Out Alternative
After I completed the internship, the UCLA Biomedical Library hired
me. I stayed on for three more years, working half-time in
interlibrary loans (where I did all the detective work needed to
verify incorrect citations that came into the library), and half-time
for PSRMLS. Working as a PSMRLS librarian, my first professional job,
I consulted for and trained hospital librarians on how to establish
health care collections for physicians and allied health care
professionals. I also assisted hospital librarians in writing grant
applications to receive monies available from NLM for starting or
expanding hospital libraries. My first library job as a consulting and
training librarian was an alternative career. Although I was based in
a library, I did nontraditional work, traveling to libraries in the
region to provide on-site workshops and consulting.
In 1974, I moved to Northern California and became an adult reference
librarian for the Sonoma County Public Library. I worked there until
1982, when I became the reference coordinator for the North Bay
Cooperative Library System (NBCLS), housed at the library. NBCLS is a
multi-type library system that includes public and academic libraries,
and at that time provided various library services to its 19 member
libraries. NBC (as we called it) offered services such as
acquisitions, cataloging, book processing, reference, and continuing
education for librarians. Again, I found myself working part of the
time in an alternative (or non-traditional) job. I provided reference
service to libraries in the region when they could not answer
questions from their own collections, and also coordinated continuing
education programs for librarians in the system.
Striking Out Independently
In 1981, the forward-looking director of the Sonoma County Public
Library decided that it was time to use online services, and we
established an account with Dialog. All adult reference librarians
were trained by an on-site Dialog trainer. When first introduced to
Dialog, I was absolutely wowed. It opened up a whole new world of
knowledge, much like what the Internet has done today. In late 1981, I
began to consider establishing an information brokerage business based
on skills I had learned as a librarian - mainly because I was looking
for new challenges. While attending a conference at the California
Library Association, I chanced across an exhibitor, Sue Rugge, who was
demonstrating how her company (Information on Demand) conducted online
searches for clients. I immediately decided that this was what I would
like to do.
At about this time, both Apple and IBM had introduced microcomputers,
later known as PCs, and the desktop revolution was on its way. You
could buy a computer for home or office, and this opened up tremendous
opportunities for home-based businesses. Online databases, on the
scene since the early seventies from companies like Dialog and
LexisNexis, were evolving and growing in numbers, with more and more
full-text information available.
I needed new skills to start a business. I began taking classes at the
local community college and attended workshops about business
planning, marketing, and sales offered by the chamber of commerce and
individual experts. I continued to hone my online research skills and
established an information brokerage in 1982 while still working at
NBCLS. During the early years, I attended breakfast meetings and
evening business mixers to make new contacts. On my birthday in 1984,
I gave myself a birthday present by resigning from my job and going
into business full time.
Staying the Course
The focus of my business is online research, and I've worked on
hundreds of projects for a wide range of clients during the last 20
years. The majority of my work today is business research - industry,
market, or company research, plus a multitude of business topics. One
area of interest is business research for law firms. Various
applications for the research I conduct include market research,
competitive intelligence, marketing, new product introductions, and
mergers and acquisitions, but the sky's the limit. I've also conducted
medical information searches for consumers based on my medical library
background, and accepted contracts in which librarians or other
organizations outsource library and information services such as
state-of-the art research, library and database organization and
management, and intranet resource development.
As one strategy for marketing my business - and to project my
expertise and credibility - I write, consult, and teach. Teaching is
of key interest to me. I began giving presentations, workshops, and
seminars in the eighties, and today travel within the U.S. and
internationally to conferences to train librarians and business
searchers on the skills they need to conduct market and competitive
intelligence research. In the nineties, I taught a full-semester
course in information brokering for LIS students. Subsequently, I
developed a one-year educational program via e-mail for those wanting
to start an information brokering business, which I call the Mentor
Program. The program focuses on establishing and marketing information
brokering businesses, and trains new entrants in how to conduct
commercial database and Internet research time efficiently and cost-
Both in my research and training business components, I've worked with
hundreds of organizations and taught people from all over the world,
almost all virtually, almost all online. Since the start of my career,
I've been able to put my graduate library education and a range of
experiences to work to create an alternative career. Today, there is
nothing I love more than imparting some of my knowledge to others
embarking on new careers.
Becoming an IIP
This year, I began teaching a new distance education course for LIS
students that focuses on IIPs (independent information professionals).
Through various assignments and online class discussion, students are
learning about diverse work environments, responsibilities, and the
required education and skill sets for various settings. The final
assignment is to select a hypothetical information-related business
and prepare a business plan. Required books are:
* Bates, Mary Ellen. Building and Running a Successful Research
Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional, 2003:
* Sabroski, Suzanne. Super Searchers Make It On Their Own: Top
Independent Information Professionals Share Their Secrets for Starting
and Running a Research Business, 2003: http://www.supersearchers.com
* One other title of interest from the Super Searcher series (
http://www.supersearchers.com ), or one of the following: The
Accidental Library Manager, The Accidental Systems Librarian, or The
Accidental Webmaster: http://books.infotoday.com/books/index.shtml
A few weeks into this semester, some students expressed trepidation
about the idea of starting a business and writing a business plan.
After one month of discussion and reading Sabroski's Super Searchers'
Make It On Their Own, however, most have moved from fear to
enthusiasm. We all know that establishing a business is not for
everyone, but learning about the world of the independent information
professional has started to electrify students, while nurturing
awareness that many IIP skills have direct parallels to other types of
Amelia Kassel, M.L.S., is president of MarketingBase, a firm
specializing in market research, competitive intelligence, and
worldwide business information since 1984. She combines an in-depth
knowledge of information sources and electronic databases with
expertise in business and marketing strategies. She is the author of
Super Searchers on Wall Street: Top Investment Professionals Share
Their Online Research Strategies, and teaches in the United States and
abroad. Amelia offers an email-based training program for new
information professionals and those wishing to expand their services
at http://www.marketingbase.com/bio3.html .
*** Advance your library career: http://librarycareers.blogspot.com
What's Online? Recommended Resources
"A Day in the Life of a Digital Librarian" by Alana Boyajian
An account of duties at a 100% distance education university.
"Job of a Lifetime" C&RL News column
sion.htm OR http://makeashorterlink.com/?R26B3219A
Not necessarily alternative careers, but spotlights librarians with
unusual or interesting positions. Scroll down page for links to
"Librarians in the Information Age: Alternative Uses of MLS Degrees"
by Darwin McGuire
A discussion of one librarian's hunt for alternative career
"Places an MLS Can Take You" by Linda K. Wallace
A 2002 American Libraries article highlighting a number of info pros
with interesting careers.
"Shifting Gears: Librarian to Management Analyst" by Pamela Newsome
A librarian's job rotation experience, showing an alternative way to
make a career change.
"Taking the Independent Research Plunge" by Barbara Fritchman Thompson
Chronicles a librarian's move to independent researcher.
But I Want To Hold It In My Hand! Print Resources
Shontz, Priscilla K., ed. The Librarian's Career Guidebook. Lanham,
MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004. ISBN 0810850346, $40.00. Purchase from
A follow up to Shontz's 2002 book, Jump Start Your Career in Library
and Information Science, The Librarian's Career Guidebook is a
wonderful collection of resources and information for librarians in
all stages of their work lives, from those just considering
librarianship as a career to those well into the profession. This
anthology contains sections on everything from types of librarianship,
to making yourself shine during interviews, to overcoming stress and
burnout, to finding ways to grow professionally. Written by working
librarians, each section is informative and accessible, with an
excellent list of resources at the end of many chapters. In addition
to these resources, Shontz also offers a companion web site, LIScareer
( http://www/liscareer.com ), that addresses all aspects of librarian
life. The Librarian's Career Guidebook is a rich reference for anyone
interested in the library field; I picture it becoming well-worn and
loved on many bookshelves.
Penny Scott (plscott@...) is a Reference Librarian and Business
Liaison at the Gleeson Library/Geschke Center, University of San
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