Uncle Sam wants you! Or at the very least, those excellent LIS skills you possess. In fact, military librarianship can offer opportunities for working abroad, a broad range of choices as to the type of work you might do, and a way to support American troops (and their families) both in the United States and in other countries.
What kind of opportunities exist, and where are they? The U.S. military comprises the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force, all under the auspices of the Department of Defense. Within these divisions, the diversity of military libraries reflects the same range of specialization as is found in non-military libraries: that is, public, school, academic, and special.
Public libraries – Sort of
The military’s version of public libraries are the 250 base libraries that support the reading, information, reference, and entertainment needs of the military families stationed on base (as well as the non-military personnel), and may offer story hours for youngsters as well as popular paperbacks, CDs, and DVDs, as well as access to electronic databases. In addition, as noted by Ron Chepesiuk in his “Mission: Access” article for the February 2006 issue of American Libraries, the Navy is charged with maintaining a general library for “every one of its 260 ships.”
School Libraries on Base
School libraries are found among the K-12 schools located on military bases where families may be present, especially those stationed abroad – the organization that runs the school libraries is www.dodea.edu.
And academic libraries can be found at all of the military training institutes and academies such as the Air Force, Navy & Coast Guard Academies, West Point, the Naval War College, the U.S. Army War College, Naval Postgraduate School, the Army Management Staff College, the Joint Forces Staff College, and the Air University.
Military Academic and Special Libraries
As in the non-military world, special libraries in the military support their organizations’ strategic missions, which may be medical and scientific research, historical archives, technology development, or management and leadership training, among others. Examples of these types of libraries are those of, for example, the Military History Institute, the Naval Operational Medicine Institute Library, the Pentagon Library, and the Naval Oceanographic Office. Others include the Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory Library, the Signal Corps’ Woodworth Library, and the Air Force Research Laboratory Research Library (focusing on such scientific disciplines as geophysics, astronomy, astrophysics, physics, and chemistry, among others).
Outsourced Library Services
Some military bases outsource the management of their libraries to contract firms that employ librarians on behalf of the base management, so that a job as a military librarian might entail working as a subcontractor for the contracting agency, rather than for the federal government. (For an example of one company that provides contract librarians for the military, see Information International Associates, Inc., at www.infointl.com.) Also, many military base libraries are subject to the same closure decisions mandated under the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) recommendations approved by Congress, so it is unclear what may happen over the coming years to those base library collections, and their librarians.
Despite this, many military librarians laud the stable job environment, decent pay, and excellent benefits of this career choice. In addition, for those who are interested in LIS opportunities outside the United States, military librarianship can offer a viable and rewarding path to international library work.
Army Library Program (ALP)
Check out the ALP portal to see how the Army’s librarians are delivering services and furthering their mission electronically. The ALP describes itself as “a strategic knowledge management resource that enables the Army to gain and maintain full-spectrum knowledge superiority while concurrently facilitating education, research, training, self-development, well-being, outreach, and lifelong learning for Army soldiers, civilians, and families.” From the menu, select “Army Libraries Directory” to see the many different types of Army libraries in existence, or explore the many resources listed under “For Army Library Staffs.”
Those interested in military libraries in general should sign up for the “Army Library Listserv.”
Navy MWR Library Program (NGLP)
https://www.navymwr.org/programs/libraries – For basic information on the program in three areas: Ashore Libraries, Afloat Libraries & our Digital Library.
https://www.navymwrdigitallibrary.org/ to access the digital library – validated access by Common Access Cards or DS Logon. Over 50+ digital services.
USMC MCCS Libraries
https://usmc-mccs.org/services/education/library/# – For general information on the base libraries and their digital library.
Air Force Library & Information System
http://www.myairforcelife.com/libraries/ – For general information on base libraries, their digital library and all other AF libraries.
Federal and Armed Forces Libraries Round Table (FAFLRT) – ALA Roundtable
Some 450 federal and military LIS professionals belong to FAFLRT. According to its mission statement, the roundtable’s goals are to 1) to promote library and information service and the library and information profession in the federal and armed forces communities; 2) promote appropriate utilization of federal and armed forces library and information resources and facilities; and 3) provide an environment for the stimulation of research and development relating to the planning, development, and operation of federal and armed forces libraries. FAFLRT hosts an electronic discussion list and publishes the quarterly Federal Librarian, whose current and past issues are available to the public at the roundtable’s website.
Military Librarians Division, Special Library Association
This SLA division provides “a forum for the exchange of ideas, opportunities for networking and career enhancement, and programs to develop specific and unique military interests.” Members include librarians and other LIS professionals from all U.S. military services, the Canadian Combined Armed Forces, international military services, Department of Defense agencies, contractors, vendors, academic institutions and anyone with an interest in military librarianship. Check out current and past issues of the division’s quarterly newsletter The Military Librarian, archived on the website, for a good overview of issues relevant to military librarianship.
“Mission: Access,” Ron Chepesiuk, American Libraries, v. 37, no. 2, February 2006, p. 24-29.
An overview of the broad range of roles and responsibilities currently being undertaken by American military libraries.
From the U.S. Army MWR (Morale, Welfare, and Recreation) site (the division under which the Army libraries fall), this is the starting point for information about how the Army libraries present themselves to their military constituencies.