Anonymous asked: I've been considering becoming a librarian and I know I'd love it but I'm afraid about not getting a job after graduation. Can you explain how you ended up working for tpl? I live in Toronto too
Hi there, Anon!
Thanks for your question.
First of all, let me clarify that I don’t work for the Toronto Public Library (TPL) system; I’m just a huge fan! On that note, it’s been my experience that the TPL is a relatively impenetrable source of employment for new and seasoned librarians unless you’ve worked there as a page since you were a teenager. Many of the classmates that I met during library school who became librarians with TPL had already been working in the system for years before starting their MISt/MLIS/MI/MLS, etc. Further, upon graduating with their degree, they could only obtain part-time employment at TPL. For better or worse, it’s a heavily unionized work environment, and this presents challenges for newbie librarians both a) trying to get their foot in the door without previous TPL experience, and b) for newly hired librarians at TPL trying to get full-time-ish hours.
My best advice for anyone interested in pursuing a degree in librarianship is to get experience before starting school, and secondly, work your ass off to secure part-time library-related jobs while you’re studying. Both of these will really help you to find a job after graduation:
- If you have previous work experiences in libraries, information services, interacting with publishing models, or providing instruction services (etc!), you will have a better understanding of your career goals informed by your work experiences. You might learn what you’re passionate about, but equally as significant, what you are NOT passionate about. Consequently you’ll likely be able to focus your studies/coursework towards those goals, pursue specific professional interests in the area(s) that you’re passionate about (by joining professional associations, clubs, volunteer opportunities), and have an overall better experience at library school if you know what you want out of it.
- I realize that there are only so many student library jobs, but do whatever you can to score one, or two, or three, without sacrificing your grades. I honestly feel that these can make your career. By the time you graduate, you’ll be head and shoulders above your classmates in terms of employability, as you’ve already demonstrated your skills and knowledge in a real work setting. Also, the inherent networking you’ll gain from your work experiences can really pay off.
The job market for librarians isn’t fantastic, so that’s another consideration. However I’m a strong proponent of ways that librarians can (and do) fit into the job market in non-traditional roles. Job titles like knowledge analyst, information architecture specialist, GIS technician, and information systems coordinator are commonly held by graduates from library school. It’s not just about libraries anymore. Those kinds of jobs are growing, slowly, but I feel strongly that the need for those “library” skills is there, and will continue to increase.
If I were you, and since you also live in Toronto, I would watch job boards such as the following:
Read job descriptions that interest you, and contact librarians that have those titles. Learn about the kinds of requirements that employers want, and consider how you can get to that point of being considered for the job.
Being afraid of not finding a job is a reality of pursuing a Masters of Library Science (and equivalent degree titles), so you’re wise to question it. However, I don’t want to discourage you. It’s an exciting (and I want to say growing) field. It takes personality, creativity and creative thinking, and passion for helping people. Bottom line: if you have those, you have a good possibility of success (especially if every effort is made), and employers will want to work with you.
As a fellow Torontonian and Librarian, I can say that this is completely accurate!
If you are thinking about going this route, might I also add that the best way to really land a job out of school and in our field is to volunteer volunteer volunteer. It sucks, I know, as you don’t get paid and you cant feed yourself or pay the rent on kind words alone, but it’s how I proved my worth when I first got here and built up that vital social network.
Also: Start now! Most University Libraries have student / volunteer run libraries. I did my MLIS at Western, and there were many students who worked at the Gay Library (It’s a fantastic resource that is vastly underused).
Check out all the different volunteering possibilities at School Libraries (so long as you can pass a criminal background check, many school libraries are ALWAYS looking for volunteers), Academic Libraries and Public Libraries. Even just walking in and asking about a volunteer position is a great way to start. We’re all sympathetic to the job market, and nothing makes us happier than helping someone land that first job.
Hope I could help with this question that wasn’t even directed at me :P I just needed to add that.