Rethinking Information Work A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information
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From: Stolyaren Stolyarenko
Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals
G. Kim Dority (Author)
Publication Date: September 30, 2006 | ISBN-10: 159158180X | ISBN-13: 978-1591581802 | Edition: 1
Today, information work offers you an unprecedented number of career options. Whether you are a student, taking your first steps in librarianship, a mid-careerist planning your next best professional move, or a seasoned information professional looking for new directions and growth; this practical guide can help you sort through the options. Leading you through a process of planning the information career of your choice, it shows you how to determine what type of work would be most fulfilling to you, explores what types of work are available to those with an LIS-based skill set, and helps you create an action plan for accomplishing your career goals and reaching your full professional potential.
The author discusses the entire spectrum of information work, revealing a wealth of possibilities you may have never considered. These range from work within traditional, facilities-based librarianship, working in library-related but not necessarily library-based jobs, and working in non-library related positions that utilize the traditional skill sets of the LIS degree, such as research, information organization, training and development, business development, non-profit work, and so on.
Designed as a text, this book can also be used as a self-directed guide. The author takes readers step-by-step through a fascinating process of career exploration and action. Taking into account the inevitable shifting priorities that occur throughout one's career, she emphasizes tools for lifelong career resiliency, rather than a rigid commitment to a single career goal. Thus, this is a book you will turn to again and again throughout your career. With numerous tables, worksheets, lists, and extensive bibliographies of recommended resources for further study, both print and on the web, you have everything you need to begin this exciting journey.
Using various tables, worksheets, lists, and extensive, current bibliographies of Web and print resources, Dority, an adjunct faculty member at the University of Denver's graduate library school, leads the user through the process of planning his or her chosen information career path. The range of possibilities in information work besides traditional, facilities-based libraries includes information organizations, nonprofit work in associations and foundations, independent business development, training and development, and many types of freelancing. Knowing that life includes shifting priorities, Dority emphasizes the tools readers can use to promote lifelong career resiliency. Whether readers are library and information science students, midcareer librarians, or seasoned professionals, they will refer to this title frequently to sort through their options. Well written, practical, and timely, this resource fits any personal, professional, or career collection.
Rethinking Information Work: A Career Guide for Librarians and Other Information Professionals (Libraries Unlimited, September 2006), a book written by AIIP member Kim Dority and based on a course she teaches on alternative career paths for the University of Denver MLIS program, takes a look at what those career paths may be, how to approach them, and how to decide which options might be best for you at different points in your life.
How to think about "alternative" careers, which for purposes of the book is anything other than school, public, or academic librarianship? In Kim’s class, and in her book, she identifies eight types of options:
* Doing nontraditional things within a traditional library setting (perhaps creating unique outreach programs for the local small-business community)
* Performing traditional library roles but within an organization whose mission is not librarianship or education (the traditional special library role)
* Doing non-traditional things within traditional special libraries (e.g., designing and running the company intranet)
* Doing these nontraditional activities embedded in operational units, rather than in a designated organization library (for example, being the researcher on a business-development team)
* Doing library-focused activities outside of - but for - libraries and librarians (think vendors, bibliographic utilities, etc.)
* Building on skills honed in a library-based job to bridge those skills into a new, non-library role (for example, shifting your reference librarian skills to competitive intelligence or prospect research);
* Creating your own job, either within a library or for a non-library organization; or
* Going independent, doing any of the activities that fall within the categories above on a freelance, contract, or project basis.
As an AIIP member, your work probably falls within this last category. But what if your life circumstances change and you decide you’d like to consider one - or several - of the other options? The book explores each one in depth with an eye toward what strategies will help you build a truly resilient - and rewarding - career. Think portfolio building, community building, career maps, transferable skills, and a host of other approaches that will help you build a lifetime of professional independence and contribution.
We do information work.
We may work with the public answering reference questions, work in corporations creating competitive intelligence reports, work for nonprofits doing development research, or work for clients doing industry trend analysis (among myriad other options). But in all cases, we are working with information on behalf of others.
When most of us graduate with our master's degree in library and information science, we view our possible career paths within the framework of jobs we might land within the traditional spheres of librarianship. Many of us head off for positions as school, public, or academic librarians, while a relative few go after special library jobs. And these are terrific career paths if they fit your skills, interests, aptitude, financial requirements, and life stage at the time you follow them.
These traditional paths of librarianship can provide extraordinary, richly rewarding careers. However, for those whose interests or professional circumstances dictate other choices, it's reassuring to know that the traditional path is but one of many open to information professionals. That familiar MLIS designation signifies that we possess a stunningly diverse skill set, one that can be deployed in an equally stunning number of places, positions, and opportunities. The challenge comes in rethinking how we frame what we know, and what we know how to do.
In my career, "doing information work" has given me the opportunity to set up a special-collection library for a nonprofit, write several books, create web content to support marketing and public-information campaigns, create a virtual library for online students, evaluate manuscripts for publishers, create an executive information service for a CEO, head up an LIS graduate program on an interim basis, create a course in alternative career paths for LIS students and professionals, do freelance research projects for a broad range of clients, and establish a consulting business focused on information strategy for businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits.
Many friends and colleagues have had equally diverse careers. Take Christine Hamilton-Pennell, nationally known expert in the sustainable economic-development practice known as "economic gardening." Christine has built a career that includes research work related to school libraries and at the Colorado Department of Education, teaching at the graduate level, freelance research, marketing consulting for libraries, developing web-based continuing education courses, developing a multimedia product, running a special library, and co-authoring a long-running online Internet review site. She has been a presenter at national conferences on the topics of competitive intelligence, planning and community development, and economic development, and currently works as the Economic Intelligence Specialist, Business/Industry Affairs, for the city of Littleton, Colorado.
Christine has done just about every type of information work available. Some of it has been within what we think of as "traditional librarianship," while other projects have been well outside of it. In all circumstances, however, she has built - and then expanded - on a core group of skills central to being an information professional, which includes being a librarian.
It's easy to assume that what we know is "librarianship." We may know cataloging, or readers' advisory services, or bibliographic instruction, or how to build a dynamic academic library portal. In fact, today's graduates probably know at least a good bit about each of these aspects of librarianship, as well as much more. They know how to "do librarianship."
But they - and we - also know something equally valuable. We all know how to do information. As LIS professionals, we know how to find it, evaluate it, organize it, maintain it, present it, and put it in play. We can create information and deploy it, align it with strategic goals, and use it to support individual, organization, or community development. And this is just for starters.
LIS professionals are managing complex information projects, designing community information systems, taking the lead on extraordinarily sophisticated digitization initiatives, running GIS projects, helping launch cutting-edge information products and services, and creating online communities of practice.
They're taking school libraries onto the web, embedding bibliographic instruction in online learning courses, and experimenting with virtual reference via podcasting. They're answering questions 24/7 for online, for-profit companies, organizing data networks for online auction businesses, and doing collection development for database developers. LIS professionals can be found throughout the nonprofit, for-profit, government, and library worlds - sometimes, but not always, being called librarians.
If we reframe our skill set from "librarianship" to the larger and more encompassing "information work," then we have choices that can respond to changes in job markets, personal financial requirements, living arrangements, and other professional and life circumstances. We may be information professionals who happily choose to spend our entire careers in the library field, in traditional libraries. But if budgets continue to be cut, staffs continue to be downsized, and jobs become scarce in times of economic crisis, information professionals can always deploy their skill sets in new directions should they need or want to.
And therein lies the key to a dynamic career. The more broadly you consider your career and your professional skills, the more numerous - and rewarding - your career opportunities.