Earlier tonight a friend passed a question on to me from Aardvark in which the person asks, “What can you do with an MLIS other than become a traditional librarian or archivist?”

I think this is a very valid question so after I answered, I went to ye old Google1 to see what other people were saying and interestingly, I got more hits for online library school programs (reputability low), people asking/bitching/complaining at Yahoo! Answers, Twibes, Tribes, and other communities about where to go to school or why their existing school sucks then answering the query. Also interestingly, very few people praised their school based upon my ultra scientific skimming of the communities that I found. Even after changing the search query a bit, I still could not dig out from under the iSchool/LibSchool snow jobs that nearly EVERY school seemingly puts out on how SUPER CRAZY AWESOME THEIR SCHOOL IS. In short, I could not find a really decent answer.

So I’m keywording the hell out of this entry and hoping it helps gets indexed asap.

So, after reading Part the First on “So, you want to be a librarian?”, you’ve applied to library school and you realise, this kinda sucks! You don’t want to deal with the crazies in public OR academic (these are considered the “traditional paths” in librarianship), and by crazies I’m not talking about just the patrons. Or perhaps you’re doing your MLIS and getting an archival certificate (as I am doing) OR you’re doing your MLIS and subject specialization OR you have another masters/phd in another field (which I also have). So, what the eff can you do with your damn degree if you don’t want to go into “traditional” librarianship/archives? Actually, you can do a crazy amount of other careers without ever having to step foot in a traditional library. Here are some of the options:

  • Information Architect
  • User/Usability Experience Design
  • Datamining
  • Cataloging (Original and copy)
  • Web design (I mention this because a portion of MLIS programs now offer/require web design classes since so many “traditional” libraries need people with web programming background)
  • Taxonomy/Folksonomy specialist
  • Digital librarianship/archival work (working in mainly digital formats, for preservation/cataloging/creation/etc)
  • Conservationist
  • Project management
  • Content development
  • Knowledge management
  • Records management
  • Indexer
  • Consultation on any of the above

These are just the tip of the ice berg, but should be enough to whet your appetite.

You can also go into specializations, such as being trained specifically for youth orientated, urban libraries, etc etc. There is also special libraries, which tend to be libraries in hospitals, businesses, law firms, museums, historical societies to name a few that may require or will require additional education. For example, to work in a law library, many firms are now requiring a JD as well as the MLIS. If you have an additional masters/phd in another subject, you can easily teach at a university. A lot of academic libraries are looking for adjunct/tenure faculty/staff with additional specialization degrees to work as a subject specialist and/or teach in the field as well.

And another thing — don’t discount your passions either. A number of archival jobs I’ve started to apply to for when I graduate in May have been in the rock’n’roll business and one of the requirements was a love of pop culture. Who’d a thunk that all my years of listening to crap radio, watching trashy television, and overly copious magazine and website reading would pay off!?! But it does go to show that whatever you’re passionate about can also be translate into helping you find that dream job, preferably one away from the snot-nosed kids, the pushy patrons, and the crazies who may or may not be your co-workers.


1. Google is our overlords, I’ve drunk the koolaid — please take me to your leader!