31 Flavors of Librarian: Finding the One to Suit Your Tastes

About half way through my first year as a library grad student, my mentor blindsided me with the question “What kind of librarian do you want to be?”  Kind?  There are different kinds of librarians?!  Needless to say I was floored, confused, and a little bit scared.  Less than a year ago I had decided that I didn’t want to be a programmer or a help desk lackey and had turned to my true loves of information and books.  It had taken me four long years to come to that decision and less than six months in I was expected to know what type of librarian I wanted to be.

Growing up in small town Michigan and attending a small private university in Iowa, I had never met anyone who’s title went beyond “Librarian”.  They pretty much did everything from collecting to catalog, but had very little to do with the patrons.   While my definition of a librarian’s duties was broad, my scope of the librarian field was very narrow.

Here are 10 things that I feel can help when trying to figure out your librarian flavor.

1. Find a mentor. Librarians tend to be very open to mentoring a future librarian.  They’ll answer your questions, help you understand the field better, and calm you down when the panic of finding a job sets in.

2. Ask questions. Don’t be afraid to ask veteran librarians questions about what they did.  They’ll share valuable information about their jobs, their patrons, and the future of the field.  Also talk with library students.  While they may not be full-time in the field yet, they tend to dabble, getting lots and varied information and experience.

3. Volunteer. Go to your local library and volunteer, especially if you have any inkling that you want to work in that type of library.  Libraries are always looking for young, enthusiastic volunteers.  It also looks good on your resume.  If you’re looking more academically, see if there are any job openings or volunteer opportunities by talking to the librarians.

4. Do projects. Yes, most classes require you to do projects.  Actually do them!  Put in some effort!  They do pay off in the end.  Again, ask your local librarians or academic librarians if they have any projects.  Even if you have an idea, go to someone and present it.  More likely than not, you’ll get a green light.

5. Join organizations. Joining ALA and other library organizations are beneficial.  You’re linked up with thousands of other librarians, have access to tools and training, and can do number #6.  Student chapters help you network on campus, meet students with the same goal in mind. Plus, you always get neat newsletters and magazines overflowing with information.

6. Attend conferences. Not always an easy thing to do as a student.  They’re expensive and normally mean missing class, but you gain insights that you may not have.  Try finding scholarships to go.  Everyone student I’ve talked to that has attended a conference has always loved it.  And you get free things too!

7. Pay attention in class. Enough said, just do it.

8. Read. Seems like a no-brainer.  You’re a librarian, you probably love books.  Don’t stop reading books for fun, even when you’re bogged down with all the school reading.  Read about your field (unassigned).  If another librarian/student suggests something, give it a chance.  Most articles aren’t as boring as their title may seem.

9. Look at job postings. Job postings are a wealth of information about what employers are looking for in librarians and they give you an idea of job descriptions and duties.  In those you can find your interests and tailor your education to match.  It’s amazing the duties you’ve never heard of before or even just the jobs.  Who doesn’t want to be a librarian at the Smithsonian or an archivist at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

10. Finally, know your likes and dislikes. When I asked my fellow classmates how they figured out what kind of librarian they wanted to be, it boiled down to their likes and dislikes.  Here are a few of the twitter responses I received.

@reluctant_gamer: I’m more interested in helping academic pursuits than leisure. I also prefer helping college age students over other ages.
@reluctant_gamer: & I’ve always known I wanted to help people. But I can’t be in front of people all day. Ref lib is a good balance of…

@reluctant_gamer: …public service & behind the scenes work.

@reluctant_gamer (1/2) honestly i like the moment when working with kids where you find something they’re interested in, and can show them..
@reluctant_gamer (2/2) ..the excitement of self-learning and self-empowerment. i’ve always believed we’re trying to make ourselves obsolete
(3/2) by teaching people to teach themselves and find information themselves

@reluctant_gamer I picked youth because I love working w/ kids & I love reading, so being able to combine both & help people is what I enjoy

I hope these are helpful out there to those struggling.  I know it’s tough right now (I’m still looking for a job myself).   If you have any questions, comments, or additions please feel free to leave them below!  Good luck everyone!

For those of you non-librarians, here are some library jobs!

  • reference librarians: work directly with patrons in helping them develop a strategy for their research needs
  • instruction librarians: teach users how to access materials
  • subject specialists: work with departmental representatives to help select materials for the library collections
  • acquisitions librarians: procure materials from vendors
  • collection development librarians: work with subject specialists, departmental representatives, and acquisitions librarians to develop the scope of the collections
  • catalog librarians: process the materials so that they are accessible to the public
  • systems librarians: manage behind-the-scenes network operations
  • digital librarians: dealing mainly with people on-line either through distance education, chat program, or email
  • personnel librarians
  • rare books and manuscripts, special collections, and archives: they deal with things that can be categorized into cool, old, dusty, rare, and expensive
  • law librarians: they normally know more about law than lawyers
  • area-specific librarians, such as: math, science, humanities, history, languages or area studies, government documents, geography, business, music, art and architecture, etc.
  • public librarians
  • school/media librarians
  • corporate or special (companies such as Time/Warner, government agencies, The Los Angeles Times, Microsoft, pharmaceutical companies, medical and/or hospital libraries–anywhere information is gathered and sought!)

From (http://libweb.uoregon.edu/admnpers/careersinlibraries.html)

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~ by reluctant_gamer on September 27, 2010.

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