Thursday, April 8, 2010

Metro discussion on career options for librarians on March 18

Metro and SLA have recently hosted several presentations and workshops focusing on alternative career options for librarians and information professionals. A particularly useful session was held at the Metro offices on March 18. It featured Pam Rollo, Managing Director at BST America, Dr. Jeffrey Olson, Associate Vice President for Online Learning and Services and Director of the Division of Library and Information Science at St. John’s University and Jana Varlejs, Associate Professor at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information.

In addition to the usual advice about networking and expanding one’s skill set, several particularly interesting points were made about the need for librarians/information professionals to define themselves by what it is they DO – i.e. their specific skills and abilities - rather than simply by their “job title”. Specifically, it was said, it probably far more useful when searching for (or even defining) an appropriate or desirable position to define oneself not simply as a “librarian” but as a person who conducts research, provides analysis, or possesses any number of other relevant organizational and communication skills. Pam Rollo, in particular, exemplified the need to be flexible and open to a variety of possibly unexpected opportunities and locales (both geographic and occupational) when describing her own extensively varied occupational trajectory in the years since completing her MLS. What was most important, she emphasized, is to know who YOU are - e.g. do you prefer to “create” or to “execute”? Do you work best individually or as part of a team? – when deciding what positions you wish to explore as well as what unique assets you might bring to them.

Dr. Olson spotlighted many positions projected for “high growth” over the next decade − among them Records Managers, Web Developers, Knowledge Managers, Document Managers and Archivists. Each of these draw upon the skills of gathering, storing, organizing, analyzing, retrieving, and providing access to information most developed amongst librarians. He also mentioned the need to be creative in defining and marketing one’s “core skills”. Whatever position you seek or obtain, the greater your service orientation, the more successful you will be. Professor Varlejs completed the program by demonstrating several valuable career resources both in print and online; while several were already familiar, such as the USAJOBS website, others were new to me, such as the excellent publication “A Day in the Life” which contains a very useful section on “non-traditional” careers.

Sessions like this one – as well as similar functions held by SLA and the Metro Career Transition Special Interest Group (SIG) – serve a very useful purpose not only in terms of the information conveyed, but also in reinforcing the sense among “un” or under-employed librarians and information specialists that they are “not alone”. In addition to their obvious networking potential, they expand our awareness of the opportunities “out there” - even in this very severe economic downturn - and of the need to think outside the box. All New York area librarians and information professionals – whatever their current employment status – can greatly benefit intellectually and professionally by attending and participating in these events.
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