NMRT October Online Discussion: Finding Your Fit

The October discussion focused on a topic of deep importance to any librarian – how do you find where you fit in the profession? Should you be a public, academic, law, medical, or other librarian? Do you have to be a librarian or are there other places you could go? What steps should you take to figure out where you belong? This month’s discussion provided plenty of advice and stories from soon-to-be and current librarians. Plenty of good advice was shared as were struggles in the job market.

Internships and Volunteering
One of the biggest obstacles to finding your fit is finding opportunities in the first place. Internships and volunteering are a great way to test out working in a particular position even if you only do it for a handful of hours a week. These types of opportunities are low risk and a great way to test the waters of a particular type of librarianship. Approach libraries that you would like to intern or volunteer for to see what is available. It is important to note that these kinds of things may or may not be advertised on the library’s website, so it is best to ask. The worst they can tell you is no and then you can move on to the next library. These are also a great way to get your proverbial “foot in the door” somewhere. These kinds of
opportunities can be a pathway to getting hired at that library and, at the very least, you have networked and made professional connections with the people you worked around.

Taking the Plunge
As discussed by some of the participants this month, sometimes you just have to take the plunge and give a job a try. Apply to everything you can. Perhaps you walk into a library looking for a job and get hired on the spot or you come across a job opportunity that you feel some hesitance about but you give it a try anyway. Sometimes taking these kinds of risks may land you in a position you wind up loving. You may discover a passion for something that you never knew you had.

On the flip side, you may also discover that you hate a particular job, but this is okay too! At the end of the day, the experience you got and the things you learned in the position and about yourself are what’s important. Sometimes we have to be willing to take some risks to determine what kind of librarian we should be.

Another important aspect is the concept of networking. Taking on an internship or volunteering is one way of meeting other people in the field and getting involved. But there are other ways to get your name out there and meet other professionals. Sign up for your state library association and get involved in volunteering on committees or other projects they have available. You could even attend social events organized by your library association to meet other professionals who are at various stages in their careers. Talking to your college professors is another great way to network. As they handle a lot of students who have gone through their library science classes, they can be useful in helping to connect you with others that may share similar interests or struggles. They have also likely
worked in the field themselves and can provide invaluable advice. Even if you haven’t been in library school for a while, reach out to a professor.

Struggles in Finding Work
While the above information is good advice for finding a position, a common thread throughout this month’s discussion were the struggles in finding a job at all. One thing that cannot be ignored is that the job market is tough for librarians – even more so if you are dedicated to finding a job in a particular type of library. One particular thing that was noted was the difficulty in finding full time work. Part time jobs abound, but this means that librarians are lacking benefits and the stability that comes with full time work. Not to mention that attempting to coordinate schedules for different jobs can be exhausting and bouncing from one job to the next can cause burnout.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the lack of full time work. All we can do as librarians and library school students is keep pushing forward the best we can and hold out hope that there is light at the end of the job search tunnel. Following the above advice that was provided by many of our participants this month is one way to improve our chances at landing a library job we want and finding out fit in the profession.

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