I have had a few people email and tweet me lately about how I became a librarian and any advice for someone looking to get into the profession so I thought that I would do a little blog post to sum it up instead of regurgitating information all the time. (This post is going to be quite different to the usual posts around here)
Firstly, I will start by explaining that you need a degree to be a librarian. This can either be a bachelor degree or a postgraduate degree. I went down the postgraduate degree route because when I went to uni to study English I had no idea what I wanted to be. I knew that I liked literature but I didn't want to remain in academia. I had experience of working within the community, doing out reach reading groups with The Reader Organisation, so I knew the power of outreach work. I knew that I wanted to do a job that would help people and I loved the ideology of public libraries - free access to information for all. I researched into teaching at first, did some work experience in a school and found out that I hated it. So I registered for my MA course and started it in September 2009. During my course I had to undertake a 3 week work placement and this is how I got offered my first job - through working hard & impressing the managers in those 3 weeks with my enthusiasm, they asked me to come back to cover sickness and holidays and then the vacancy for my job came up, so I applied and luckily got it. I have been very lucky - I know many of my course mates haven't been as fortunate and it seems that librarianship is increasingly becoming a profession that is hard to get into (especially in the face of budget cuts after the recession).
This presentation below by the wonderful Ned Potter aka The Wikiman sums up the library and information profession more succinctly than I can :
Here are a few of my tips though for someone wanting to get into the library and information sector:
- Get work experience. You can get experience through volunteering or by arranging a work placement through Uni if you're still studying. You can get a job shelving books in your Uni library or apply for a graduate trainee librarian position - they are a very good way of getting experience after getting an undergraduate degree.
- Network. If you are 100% committed to the library profession, it may be a good idea to join your national association (in the UK, it's CILIP). They usually do discounted rates for students or the unemployed. When applying for jobs, this shows that you are seriously dedicated to the profession. They will also keep you informed of the latest news in the sector and help you network. I am on the CILIP north-west regional branch committee and that has been a really great experience to meet other professionals all at different stages of their careers and in different library sectors. Also, twitter is a hotbed of networking librarians. I use twitter to keep me informed & up to date with library news but also to learn about what colleagues in other libraries are doing. Also join LISNPN (a network for new professionals) where you can get great advice on how to start your library career.
(photo by Thomas Hawk - this is actually a 'gentleman's bar' called The Library, but it's still true! We are gorgeous)
- Research. Get to really understand what the profession is about, what it's doing at the moment and what the future of it is. It isn't all about books. In fact, there are some librarians out there who don't touch a book at all during their work day. The future of libraries is most certainly in IT. If you have a quaint image of a librarian reading books all day, this is not a job for you. Read librarians blogs because they will give you a real insight into the working life of a librarian. Read this blog post too, because Ned says everything pretty much that I wanted to say and more.