Wait, A Librarian Does That Job?

Librarianship isn’t just about reading books, but information sharing and access; those skills fit many roles. Back in the day, a librarian typically worked in a library building. The world has changed since then, and librarians work in different positions. They’re the mechanics of the information world and well-suited for many roles.

There are many types of organizations that have roles fitting for librarians. There are over 50 types of jobs a librarian can do, according to Bookriot.com. Those fall into the following industries:

  • Research
    • In this role, the librarian manages the research needs of a specific group or team. Per Chron, they “collect, organize and classify books, journals, audiovisuals, and other materials… May also work with outside groups or committees to determine the research library… Be adept at using computers, doing online research, and creating databases.”
    • The need for a dedicated research librarian depends entirely on the project and team needs.
  • Web design and computer science
    • A librarian in this role would maintain and improve the websites and systems of whichever organization they are employed.
    • Web design skills can be learned in online courses to supplement an MLIS. Many organizations need someone on-hand who can keep the website updated and computers running smoothly.
  • Digital data and metadata
    • Managing metadata is no small task. The skilled librarians must have a strong background in data mining, cataloging standards, record maintenance, etc.
    • These skills can be learned in an MLIS program, but it also takes a highly detail-oriented mind to handle the work.
  • Records, knowledge, and information management
    • This industry intertwines with the digital data and metadata field above. Maintaining everything from MARC records to tagging for a video series is work a librarian could do.
    • Many job postings for positions like these include desired qualifications that librarians would likely possess.
  • Project management
    • Every industry has project managers. It doesn’t take a library degree to do it, but a librarian could easily fit the role. Online courses and on-the-job experience can prepare a project-minded person for this job.
    • I previously worked with some project managers, and the one thing they had in common was the ability to empathize but push their team for results.
  • Education and instructional design
    • This usually requires a degree or at least some formal training in the field. A library degree would be a good background, especially if paired with an instructional design degree.
    • An instructional designer I know had a Master’s degree in Education, worked on developing his technical skills while at an information company, then earned a Master’s degree in Instructional Design to move forward in his career. He’d already been a teacher in his home country and wanted to continue that path.
  • Development and nonprofits
    • Part of library science is learning to develop a library into a thriving organization. These skills apply to other organizations as well.
    • Fundraising is a significant part of these roles, so effective grant writing is a valuable skill.
  • Working with library vendors
    • Working with vendors can be highly rewarding. Fostering a fruitful relationship between a library and its supplier is a delicate business that requires excellent communication and follow-up skills.
    • The skill set needed for vendor management isn’t necessarily something taught in MLIS/MLS programs. The people I’ve worked with who managed vendor relationships were highly diplomatic, communicative, and level-headed.
  • Writing, editing, and communications
    • Librarians, often seen as bookworms, also enjoy writing. These roles span from freelance writing (what I’m doing as I write this) to professional technical writing.
    • Editing is also an excellent job for librarians whose minds naturally critique the written word in all its forms.
    • Effective communication is a massive part of librarianship and many other jobs. A librarian with a communications background is suitable for any role where these skills are needed.

With so many career options available, it’s no wonder many librarians don’t work in libraries. Some have found their calling in one of the above industries, while others may still be searching. It can be challenging to decide what role you want as a librarian, but know that you have options.

By Gretchen Hendrick Gardella, MLIS

Gretchen Hendrick Gardella is a Librarian with administrative, research, and vast technical skills. Ms. Gardella brings over 16 years of experience working in academic and public libraries to the discussion.