Friday, October 7, 2011

A Message to Library Students from a Digital Services Librarian

In case you live in a cave or perhaps a cavernous library there is a new trend on the horizon in today's libraries, and that is a need, no... it is a demand for tech savvy MLIS grads.  Whether you are in an academic, public, or special library you are probably grappling with a major transformation from print to digital resources (publics may be the exception here as well as large academic libraries, but for many others it is just a reality).

The stacks are shrinking and what money we do have we are pouring into open repositories, web resources, electronic databases, ebooks, hardware, study rooms with large monitors, and scanning equipment.

These days I rarely get phone calls or emails from vendors trying to sell me print collections or anything else concerning physical resources which signifies (to me) the white flag of surrender from businesses all but abandoning the "push for print" and jumping into the crowded electronic resource market.

My advice for current MLIS students is to focus on what is close to your (heart) interests but also give your self a decent dose of technical library courses that will enable you to apply for positions like Digital Services Librarian, Digital Humanities Librarian (have seen this job posting multiple times in the last few weeks- it is trending folks), or Systems Librarian (a dated term but nonetheless a position that is still on many business cards these days). 

Of course, there are many other library positions these days that have a heavy technical component. Library Web Developer is an example as well as working on Open Repositories, and even Metadata Librarians- the point is they all require some basic skills working with digital documents and some web development skills like HTML, CSS, Web 2.0, and the list goes on and on.

The other bright spot for library students is the fact that many of the nation's library workers and librarians are near retirement age and do not have the necessary technical skills that their library and patrons demand.  This is not to say that seasoned librarians are not engaged or able to meet today's demands for electronic mediums, but to point out that the majority (in my experience) do not and are not out taking HTML courses to catch up. 

Instead they are looking to hire the newly minted techie MLIS grads that they can pile on all those projects in a game of library technology catch-up, which should be music to your ears.  Yes, there is a lot of opportunity for technology savvy librarians, but you just have to be willing to go out to those areas that are behind (hint- forget about the trendy metropolitan spots that every librarian wants to work in Seattle, San Diego, NY, etc.).

I started my job hunt before my final semester of library school in quite possibly the worst time and area of the nation for libraries, Southern California.  I realized quickly that just like the early American librarians that moved to where the work was, that I would have to broadened my search beyond the borders on the Golden State. I did try to land a California library job anyway but quickly realized that it was futile- not impossible I am sure, but I was mobile and wanted a position pronto- I was hungry and anxious to start my career.

Once I did start to apply for positions outside of California I started to get more attention. Also,  I do not think it hurts to showcase your technical ability, right away.  In fact, I would suggest checking out those libraries with websites that look like they are from the 90's- there are plenty of them and they need help. 

When applying for positions that require technical abilities show them what you can do with lots of links to things you have created.  You should have some digital projects that you have completed for your library classes that will suffice.  If I were to do my job search all over I probably would have mocked up a library website, just to show that I was capable and prove that I could seriously help them.

Though these are hard times for libraries I still see plenty of positions and opportunity for new librarians that are hungry to take libraries and librarianship to the next level.  While many large libraries are already pushing the envelope of technology and doing great stuff with huge numbers of library workers there are a 100 more smaller libraries struggling to remain relevant and contemporary- library students, this could be your opening.

Digital/Technical Librarian Resources

  1. Hack Library School
  2. LibGigJobs
  3. Join Twitter and start networking with Digital Services Librarians and other techies.  Follow me @vagabond9 and see who I follow (100s of techie librarians).
  4. Join Linkedin and do the same, plus join the many library groups dedicated to technology.
  5. Get involved with Code4Lib
  6. Add to this list!- leave links and reasons in the comments- thanks. 
Recent Digital Librarian Jobs from LibGig

Good Luck!

*Information contained within these pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Schreiner University

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