My first semester of library graduate school couldn’t have started better. I had a coveted internship working in the reference department at my alma mater university. I had moved away from a non-library job and was looking forward to one day working in a library full time. Then a depressive episode hit. The depression was nothing new; I had bipolar disorder and had endured many depressions before. But something about the acute crisis I was living through that fall made it clear working in a library full time likely wouldn’t be the best option for me. I would be permanently unable to work in person as my condition worsened. Still, I wanted to stick to finishing my degree, even if I had to get a little creative to use it.
This post was born out of my need for a Plan B. For me, my backup was working in writing and editing and finding gigs with companies where my Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS or MLS) was an asset. But you don’t need a major mental illness to need or want to look beyond working in a brick-and-mortar library once you’ve earned your MLS. The MLS is a versatile degree that intersects with multiple career industries beyond an in-person library. Whether you’re looking for your own Plan B to escape the brutal library science job search or are just curious as to where your degree can take you, I hope this post is helpful.
To research this post, I asked a large Facebook group of librarians the following question: “I’m doing research for an article about non-traditional careers for MLS holders. If you have an MLS and a career or job outside libraries, care to share what line of work you’re in?” From those responses, I organized real-life job titles of “non-traditional” careers that MLS librarians hold into different categories. I also added in adjacent careers to round out the fields profiled.
A quick note: Although I posed this question to MLS holders, this article is also relevant for non-MLS degreed librarians and paraprofessionals who also hold similar professional experience and are looking further afield.
Careers in Research
Librarians are at the heart of research. Library science requires special talent in searching, locating, compiling, and analyzing research information. Librarians are taught advanced searching and information retrieval tactics, making them great fits for research careers.
Here are some real careers of library science grads working in this field:
- Team Member and Library Liaison in a university’s research unit
- Corporate Reference Worker for an information services company in the healthcare industry
- Worker for an academic research consortium
- Research Assistant
Careers in Web Design and Computer Science
The structures of web design and computer science often overlap with library science. A librarian offers crucial point of view with skills in search design, function, and behavior. Librarians also have keen instincts in the best way to seamlessly organize content with information architecture (IA) for an intuitive user experience (UX).
- Digital Librarian
- IT Manager
- User Experience (UX) Analyst
- Information Architect
- Frameworks (knowledge, content, and standards) management and development for a supply chain and logistics trade association
Careers in Digital Data and Metadata
One of the things you learn in library school is the importance of organizing information effectively. An exciting career in the booming field of data science could be a great fit for a library science grad who loves collection, crunching, and analyzing digital data. Librarians also use their skills in characterizing data and metadata, the data about the data. Describing and working with metadata is increasingly being taught in library schools. Taking an intro to digital libraries course is a great way to learn more about metadata.
- Data Team Worker for a machine learning startup
- Data Analyst
- Data Librarian
- Business Intelligence Analyst
- Data Mining Specialist
- Global Information System (GIS) Technician
Careers in Records, Knowledge, and Information Management
If there’s one part of my library science program I didn’t expect I’d come to love, it’s information science. I started out the degree unable to manage a basic spreadsheet, but I found I really loved my classes about information organization, both material information and digital information. This opened a whole world of new career possibilities beyond a traditional library. In fact, information science is a field experiencing a ton of growth, and librarians fit right in.
For this category, I combined records and information management (RIM) with digital information science.
- Managing a Records and Information Management (RIM) team in a university
- Knowledge Manager
- Working for a county’s Register of Deeds
- Records Manager at a city government’s engineering department
- Digital Asset Manager for a corporate retailer
- Manager of a federal repository’s data taxonomy
- Database Manager and Trainer
- Information Policy Worker
- Abstractor and Indexer
- Content Curator
- Digitization Specialist
Careers in Project Management
Project Management is a great career for library science graduates. Librarians draw on their skills working on conceptualizing, organizing, and implementing projects in this field, which could include projects as diverse as within IT fields, the energy industry, or even construction.
- Project Administrator
- Project Manager
- Project Manager for a government’s visual information services
- Document Controller
Careers in Education and Instructional Design
This is a big one. Education and Industrial Design are natural fits for librarians. The education career prospects for librarians are almost limitless, with librarians at the forefront of educating, and its subfields, including training, and instructional design.
- Quality Control Specialist who works with instructional designers
- Academic Advisor in a medical school
- Professor in a library science degree program
- Corporate Trainer for a drug manufacturer
- Assistant Director at a university’s tutoring center
- Program Manager for Continuing Education and Professional Development
- Instructional Designer for online courses
- Director of Online Academic Engagement
- Leader of a College’s Institutional Effectiveness and Research Department
Careers in Development and Nonprofits
Librarians are no strangers to the world of nonprofits and development. In fact, librarians offer experience that nonprofits need. With this field, librarians can assist with marketing, development and fundraising, as well as serving nonprofits in traditional library roles, like archives, RIM, and research.
- Working in development for a small museum
- Prospect Researcher in a university’s development office
- Marketing Manager for a nonprofit
Careers Working With Library Vendors
Library vendors—and their competitive corporate salaries—are the perfect fit for librarians wanting the best of both worlds. Where there’s a library vendor, there’s a career for a librarian.
- Vendor Representative
- Vendor Sales Person
- Subject Matter Expert for a library software company
- Trainer, Documentation Writer, and Customer Success Specialist at a library software company
- Trainer of library vendor products
- Technical Customer Support
- Training and Consulting Partner
Careers in Writing, Editing, and Communications
My own career turned to writing, editing, and communications when I realized I wouldn’t be working in an in-person library anytime soon. Instead, I get to talk about books and libraries on Book Riot and other places, as well as do front-facing reader’s advisory through Book Riot’s Tailored Book Recommendations (TBR) service. The field of communications is a great fit for librarians who love to express themselves through writing and editing.
- Grant Writer
- Author of library science textbooks
- Freelance Writer and/or Editor
- Digital Marketer
- Content Strategist
- Alternative Text Writer
Miscellaneous Careers for Library Science Grads
Don’t think that the possibilities of a non-traditional library jobs are limited to the nine career fields this article has profiled so far. There are even more creative ways to use your library science skills in an exciting field. Here are a few miscellaneous careers that are also open to hiring librarians.
- Property Manager
- Quality Assurance Manager
- Paralegal Practitioner
- Public Broadcasting Worker
- Executive Recruiter
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