The library is dead, long live the librarian.
Libraries are not dead, of course. Or, to paraphrase another popular expression, “The reports of the library’s death have been greatly exaggerated”.
Yet the confusion and even fear I am seeing in current and recent MLIS (Master of Library and Information Science) graduates has motivated me to weigh in with some reassurances and ideas on jobs to pursue with an MLIS degree.
Rest assured, your MLIS training and skills are valuable
The amount of new digital content being created every day is beyond human comprehension. Book publishing stats are mind-boggling; with e-books and self-publishing, it seems like everyone is an author these days. Digitization has blurred the lines between data and content. Technology does a lot, but now more than ever, there’s a need for human guidance and intervention.
The letters “MLIS” may not directly connect you to job opportunities and that credential on its own may not mean much to some employers. Your job search won’t always be easy, and it will require thinking outside the box and self-promotion. But jobs are out there, and the training and capabilities your MLIS degree has given you are valuable and needed. Go forward with confidence in your ability to find the right opportunity.
Getting a job with an MLIS degree
There’s a need for your capabilities across a variety of careers, some that may require or prefer MLIS degrees and training. For example:
- Project manager
- Knowledge manager
- Data analyst
- Records manager
- Fact checker
- Trainer and guide
- Information broker
But, I also encourage every job-seeker I work with to open their view to a wider perspective, so I’m going to present five ideas for you to consider, or to jump start your own creative thinking:
Technology implementation and utilization
Information technology tools and systems are frequently implemented with poor results. Not because of the technology itself but because the processes, workflow, user requirements and other utilization needs are not considered.
With your MLIS training, you can connect systems to users, especially in a handful of areas where the match is particularly strong, such as:
- Communication and collaboration systems like Yammer and Slack
- Knowledge Management (KM) systems like Wikis, discussion forums and intranets
- Digital Asset Management (DAM) systems like Bynder
- Learning Management Systems (LMS) like Litmos
Organizations spend tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement these “soft” information systems, often to see them fail or not live up to expectations. You can bridge the gaps that exist between implementation, acceptance, utilization and maintenance.
Online shopping has been growing annually and the upward trend line is going higher and steeper. According to Internet Retailer, Amazon alone now counts for 1 in 3 shopping transactions in North America! (Internet Retailer, U.S. E-Commerce at a Glance, April 27, 2016)
All those items from all those online retailers, large and small, need organizing. They need metadata and taxonomies. User interfaces need designing and constant tweaking. Browsing structures need creating and supporting. Customer and site visitor data need managing, interpretation and reporting. What else?
Marketing and business development
Sales and marketing are vital functions in any business, and as business becomes more competitive and selling becomes costlier, companies are getting more systematic. They are less willing to throw mud at a wall to see what sticks, or to hire expensive, top-gun sales reps without supporting them. And, marketing departments require ongoing information support.
Here are just a few areas where you can fit in:
- Market research
- Competitive intelligence
- Client research and monitoring
- Research and writing for content marketing
- Social media networking and monitoring
- Public relations research and writing
- Event planning
- Sales presentation and proposal support
- Marketing data analysis and reporting
Healthcare and medicine
Healthcare is a growth industry in the United States, and as our population ages, it has nowhere to go but up. According to the NHEA (National Health Expenditure Accounts), health spending in this country reached nearly 18% of the nation’s GDP in 2015, or nearly $10,000 per person.
Following are some ways you can apply your MLIS training in the medical industry:
- Health sciences librarian
- Research and data support for doctors, researchers and other medical professionals
- Consumer health advocate
- Patient safety advocate
- HIPAA specialist
- Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system and other medical informatic specialists
- Genetics research
There’s even something called bibliotherapy, which is an adjunct treatment technique that uses guided reading for therapeutic purposes, to help people gain understanding and insights into solving problems.
Interpretation and translation
This last suggestion is limited to MLIS degree holders with foreign language skills, but if you are at least bilingual and fluent in another language, this is another area with high growth and interesting career potential. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 46% increase in job opportunities for interpreters and translators in the coming years through 2022. Compare that to 11% average growth for all careers.
Translators generally work on texts, which requires the kind of research and writing skills that all MLIS holders possess, while interpreters do simultaneous, in-person verbal translation at meetings and events. Other than working in government or for translation/interpretation agencies, you could work for a multinational business or be a freelancer.
Look beyond the library for MLIS jobs
The traditional library as a space dedicated to books and other materials is not dead, but it’s not a growth industry either. I mentioned earlier the 11% average growth rate for all careers – for librarians in traditional settings it’s only two percent, and probably the reason for MLIS anxiety.
If your goal is to work in a public or academic library, surrounded by paper books, that goal is a lot more difficult today than it used to be, and it’s never going to get easier.
But if your goals are related to information and knowledge, you have many options, especially if you’re willing to immerse yourself in the world of digital information.