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Career Strategies for Librarians
Which Side of the Pond Are You On?  Focus and Variety in Librarianship
by Regina Vertone

When I was in library school, I noticed that most of the students seemed to fall into two separate schools
– or camps – of thought.  One camp knew exactly what they wanted to do with their library science
degrees and even knew in which type of library setting their dream job would be found.  The other camp
felt that they did not know exactly what they wanted and would try anything.  And then there were the rest
of us, who would dance by the pond that separated the two camps and wonder which of them really had
the right approach.

Both camps had the right approach, and both camps are having a great time after graduation working in
the field of librarianship.  Professionally and personally speaking, learning from their differing lessons
enriched me so much through my different jobs and experiences.   

During Library School

Hopefully, you can always take the classes you need to graduate.  Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t
take the classes you want. Please don’t worry; you can make the best of every class you take, no matter
what it is.  The beauty of librarianship is that all aspects of library work (including reference, cataloging,
and technical processing) are interconnected.  Even if you know exactly what you want to do when you
graduate, try to take courses out in “left field” to give yourself a change of pace or scenery.  All of your
education is dedicated to the same purpose: obtaining your library science degree.  Even as early as
graduate school, you are making yourself unique and different from your classmates.  Variety helps
everyone in so many ways, and you might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.    

After Library School

What happens in library school can help determine what happens after you graduate.  For me, my first
full-time library job was as the Interim Assistant Director of a pharmacy college library, which was also
where I did my internship during grad school.  I was thrilled to be asked to come back as a professional,
and it was a wonderful example of the importance of networking; you never know where your experience
will come in handy.   

Try to find a job that reflects your particular interests or focus, but do not let other opportunities or
surprising job offers pass you by.  Apply for anything that you think you have a remote shot at.  The
interview experience alone will be worthwhile, and you have nothing to lose.  Nothing ventured, nothing
gained!

Importance of Mentors

In library school and in the workplace, it is crucial to have one or more mentors.  Mentors are usually
people who have been working in your field for quite some time and who have an abundance of
experience to share.  They can offer both sound advice and a sympathetic ear.  Library school professors
and administrators can be excellent first mentors.  Not only do they provide guidance in which classes to
take and what you need to graduate, their life experiences can generate discussions and ideas you
might have never dreamt were possible.  I used to get a kick out of professors who had led a completely
different life before becoming a professor or librarian.  In spite of their varied careers and life directions,
somehow they all found librarianship.  Through their roles as mentors to people like us, they are the true
picture of what librarians do: explaining where information can be found and showing it to people in an
accessible way.   

I strongly recommend having several mentors during school and after graduation.  Some employers
have a mentor/buddy system in which new librarians are paired with someone else who has been there
a while.  This is someone to ask as many questions as you can think of (remember: there is no such
thing as a stupid question) and to learn from by simply watching from the sidelines.  A good mentor
enjoys teaching someone else and never feels threatened.  In my current job at a college preparatory
private school, one of my mentors is a government teacher!  While he has shown me many things about
the school and where things are, we also enjoy talking to each other about information and magazines
in our fields.  He appreciates it when I set the latest issue of The Economist aside for him to look at
before it goes on the shelf.  Some of these mentoring relationships can grow into enduring professional
and personal friendships.  Many former students still keep in touch with their professors and there is
something rewarding in that.    

Your Future In Librarianship

At this point, whether a year or five years have passed since you earned your degree, you might be
wishing for all the answers and that “dream job.”  The beauty of librarianship lies in its ever changing
nature, and we must change with it.  There may not be just one “dream job” out there for you, but rather
several, just waiting for you to find them.  If you told me three years ago that I would be working at a
college preparatory school and working part time as a reference librarian at a college library, I might
have looked at you with a puzzled expression.  Working in different environments, enjoying it, and
embracing change enable all librarians to be the best information professionals they can be.  Being
between the two camps allowed me to obtain all information and experiences like a sponge.  That is a
life worth living.  

About the Author:

Regina Vertone is a full-time librarian for the Doane Stuart School, a private college preparatory school in
Albany, NY, and works part-time as a Reference Librarian and for Interlibrary Loan at the College of Saint
Rose in Albany, NY.  She is currently attending the College of Saint Rose for her second masters in
English.  

Article published June 2006

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