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Job Search Tips: Retooling Your Career

Article List
Academic Libraries
      Disaster Recovery at Rio Hondo Community College
      Serials Holding Display Project at University of Southern California
      Staffing Strategies in Academic Libraries

AIM in the News
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SBVC Fall Convocation
      Belinda Beardt, Speaker at SCALL Fall Meeting
      Linda McKell Awarded the Mark Baer Award

AIM Services
      AIM Outplacement Services

Job Search Tips
      Electronic Resume
      Frequently Asked Interview Questions
      Interviewing Tips & Techniques
      Interviewing: From Both Sides of the Table
      Networking Quickies
      Questions to Ask the Interviewer
      Resume Writing Tips
      Retooling Your Career
      The Ten Commandments of Interviewing
      What else can I do with my Library Tech degree or certificate?
      What NOT to ask during an interview?
      Where to Find Library Jobs

Professional Development
      SCHOLARSHIP TO ATTEND the Annual General Meeting of the Society of California Ar

Public Libraries
      AIM's Project Team tackles San Francisco Public Library Project
      Creative Staffing at Torrance Public Library
      Fresno County Partners with AIM
      Solano County Library Expands

Special Libraries
      Consultants Provide Solutions
      Law Libraries - Staffing Strategies
      Microfilming History
      Non-Traditional Libraries
      The Law Librarian Employment Market

Retooling Your Career!


There’s been a lot of talk in the news about adapting to the “new normal” of the current economy. People are adapting to the economic downturn by making long term life style changes versus short term changes. Perhaps this is not a bad idea, even if things were going well. It is a reminder to everyone to be more resilient in our lives whether we think we need it or not.


How we earn our living is a major aspect of developing resiliency. Three approaches come to mind in trying to earn income to provide for our needs:


  • Work in a traditional job: We can work for an employer in a traditional job when we have appropriate education or experience. Typically, for librarians, this is in public, academic, special or school libraries.


  • Explore a non-traditional job: We can apply our skills and experience to other jobs in different fields using the same or similar skills. For example, we can use our organizing skills in many administrative positions; online searching skills are needed in various research positions; customer service skills are useful in every industry; supervisory and management experience is applicable in every job.


  • Start a business: We can use our current skills and/or ones that we would like to develop to become our own employer. Our skills and experiences can be of value to individuals and organizations of all kinds. Rather than work for one employer, we can provide services for many.


Let’s explore these areas further:


Work in a Traditional Job


How can we be employable in traditional ways? In the library field, there are two primary educational programs: the Masters of Library and Information Science degree (MLIS) and the Library Technician (LTA) certificate. There are 4 traditional employers for these backgrounds: Public, Academic, Special and School libraries. Much has been written on avenues for finding and obtaining these jobs, networking still being the most successful approach.


Once we get the job, however, we cannot rest on our laurels. Making ourselves the most useful, valuable, necessary employee is critical. One problem that often crops up is becoming too one-sided in our experience. The first job that we fall into often determines which of these venues we will work in for the rest of our lives. Developing broad- based skills can be difficult because employers pigeon-hole people. With so many people to choose from, they typically choose those with targeted experience. We need to apply for jobs in other types of libraries in order to diversify. We need to broaden our horizons and our options and not passively allow our careers to continue in the same direction--even if we love it.


How can we do this? Whether you are working or between jobs, seek to learn more about other aspects of jobs in the field. Join a variety of library associations or just attend their meetings, even if you are not working in those environments. Visit various libraries and ask for a tour or informational interview. Volunteer to do projects or sign up with a temporary agency to learn more about different environments. Develop a network of contacts that you meet. Ask them to let you know of paid jobs, part-time or full-time or projects that might be coming up. Don’t think that because you have always worked in a certain area that you can’t work in any other or that you don’t need to worry about it.  Besides being more economically viable, you will also be physically and mentally more resilient! Change is good for the brain!


Explore a Non-traditional Job


Inventory the skills you have and want to develop. Try to make them as generic as possible, like “organizing” vs “cataloging” or “commercial database searching” vs “Dialog searching.”  There are many career guides that can help like Richard Bolles’ “What Color is Your Parachute?” Ask your local librarian for help!


Do online searches on your skills to see what other terms are used to describe them. See what other types of jobs and employers need the skills you possess. Attend career fairs and talk to employers about jobs and industries.


Allow your curiosity to lead you where it may. Apply and be confident. You have more skills than the average person applying for those positions. Don’t be snobbish. Be open-minded. There are more employers in the regular marketplace than just in the library field alone that will value your skills and services. 


Start a business


This may seem scary. But, let’s face it. Working for someone else is scary too. We have less control when we place all of our eggs in their basket. Working for yourself forces you to be aware of all of the factors in the marketplace that would affect your business and make changes before things get dire. 


Your skills can be applied to services that can be sold to either individuals or organizations. From freelance research, organizing private collections, website development to organizing garage sales, property management or eBay sales trader, you have more skills than you realize! And—the world is your customer base!


Learn as much about business operations as possible—from your current employer and from classes and workshops. Talk to people doing interesting business services or with products to sell. How did they get into this? What do they recommend as an entry point? Can you network with them to sell complementary services/products?


These approaches to earning a living are not problem-free—but they all can be useful at various times in our lives, as well as serve to make our lives more interesting. Being financially resilient despite changes in the economy is a mindset driven by personal goal setting.  The more you learn not to depend on others for your living, but to work with them in making yourself useful in a fee-for-service mode, the more you will be able to ride economic storms in a boat without holes. That is the new normal.



Linda McKell is president and founder of AIM Library and Information Staffing, headquartered in Mountain View, California. AIM focuses on providing qualified library staffing at all levels to public, academic and special libraries with either temporary, direct hire, contract or consulting services. Linda started the business in 1984 after graduation with her MLS and a background working in special and academic libraries. Her organization has now expanded from being primarily California-based to operating nationwide. AIM regularly recruits applicants with library backgrounds and their website offers many job search tips. Look them up at


 (This article appeared in Searcher magazine, May 2010)


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