"You need to go to school for that job?"
November 20, 2022 10:00 AM   Subscribe

"Library school" is a nebulous way of describing about library and information science education. While early library schools in the US and UK were primarily vocational training for people to work in school or public libraries, iSchools cover a range of knowledge worker jobs in a variety of places. There are many places you can work with that degree.

- The archivist at Carhartt (part 2) focuses on brand history as well as acquiring an archive of historical clothing.
- The Calgary Public Library has an Indigenous Services team which has created, among other things, an Indigenous Placemaking project
- Social workers and libraries have been partnering for a while. Nashville Public Library system has an embedded health and wellness librarian who blogs and uses the library space for fitness classes. There are other kinds of embedded librarians including the ambulance riding librarian
- Cruise ship librarians get to travel while also working in a place-based library
- The LGBTQ Religious Archives Network has a team who help preserve materials and stories to help people understand broader social histories.
- Archives Aware maintains a blog tag called "there's an archivist for that" which interviews archivists for PBS, the Washington State Fair, the NAACP, and a few tattoo collections
- Book Riot has created TBR, a "tailored book recommendation" subscription service which tries to make Ranganathan's "Every person their book." edict into a reality
- Other riffs on the job title of librarian include Cybrarian, Shoebrarian, Techbrarian, Die-brarian (not an actual job) or even faux-brarians with different educational backgrounds who work in libraries (note: there's an ongoing debate about the use of the term librarian to describe some or all of the people who work in libraries and/or their schooling/background. No need to rehash here).
- The CIA is frequently recruiting at library conferences but many feel the agency's secrecy is antithetical to the profession's stance on intellectual freedom.

Indeed claims to have 9000+ unique librarian jobs but a cursory glance seems to indicate a fairly loose definition of the word "librarian," and their "unusual librarian jobs" seem pretty usual.

Fun fact: anyone on MetaFilter who has ever mentioned working in a library or going to library school is marked as a "colleague" on my profile page. And there is a Greasemonkey script where you can show a little book next to those people's usernames.
posted by jessamyn (67 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite
Is this a paid post or just a fan girl one?
posted by wheelieman at 10:07 AM on November 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Or why not both?
posted by wheelieman at 10:10 AM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

There are tool libraries and bike libraries both associated with and not associated with public book libraries.
posted by aniola at 10:11 AM on November 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

There are also prison libraries, which have produced some interesting memoirs.
posted by box at 10:33 AM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

are there little free library schools, perched in front of peoples' houses, filled with, i dunno, mice and birds and bugs studying ethics and classification systems? NO THERE ARE NOT BECAUSE THOSE ARE NOT LIBRARIES.
posted by not_on_display at 11:06 AM on November 20, 2022 [23 favorites]

I worked for several years at the Architecture Library at the University of Texas as an undergraduate. I also took several graduate level courses in Library Science: Reference Sources and The Dewey Decimal System. But that was as far as I got once life intervened...
posted by jim in austin at 11:34 AM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Shoutout to Rare Book School, which offers intensive week-long seminars on topics ranging from Manuscript Fragmentology to Identifying and Understanding Twentieth-Century Duplicating Technologies.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 11:38 AM on November 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

After raising five boys, my mother went back to college in 1969 when I, the last, was in 5th grade. After graduating and teaching parochial middle school for eight years (for literally like $6,800 / yr!), she proceeded to pursue consecutive master's degrees in library sciences while still teaching, driving an hour each way on weeknights to university. Her dogged achievements in her mid-40s allowed her to first land a decent paying job in medical library sciences at a regional hospital, and later to lead both the medical library and continuing education departments. But more importantly, they allowed her to survive and thrive with dignity as my father's alcoholism made him first marginally and then non-employable long before she was widowed at 68 - and after which she was able to build a new home, tend her beautiful gardens, travel widely, become a serial volunteer and otherwise enjoy the last two decades of her life, all buttressed by the value inherent in those library sciences and her single-minded play for self sufficiency as any/all promise of a secure, traditional future evaporated before her middle-aged eyes.
posted by thecincinnatikid at 11:47 AM on November 20, 2022 [36 favorites]

If anyone is curious about what a modern-day library school teaches, I teach in one and will happily answer questions about it.

As for "you need a master's degree to..." here's the story I tell my intro students when we talk about stereotypes of librarians. When I told my buffoon Uncle Arnie that I teach in a library school, he snorted "What do you teach, shelving books?" in his typical buffoonish way.

I kept my cool. "This semester," I said, "I am teaching metadata and markup languages constructed with XML, as well as relational-database design and the SQL query language."

Buffoon Uncle Arnie, who is not technical, promptly shut up.
posted by humbug at 12:16 PM on November 20, 2022 [27 favorites]

Our public library has a great Library of Things which includes items for arts and crafts, baking and cooking, board games, musical instruments, outdoor games, telescopes, and more.
posted by neuron at 12:16 PM on November 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

I officially became A Librarian this year: I started work in a university library in February and in August, after five years of pandemic-interrupted study, I received my Master of Information Management.

I still get excited whenever I get to see a library's compactus: it feels like I'm in the secret part of a library.

If you're interested in what gets taught in a library school, the Alternative Basic Library Education program is free online at WebJunction.
posted by davidwitteveen at 12:36 PM on November 20, 2022 [8 favorites]

I met jessamyn at a meetup in 2008 the week I started working as a student assistant in a library and she gave me the "colleague" tag and it was the coolest. At that same event I met a bunch of peeps who are now my librarian colleagues, including my now-boss. I kind of owe my career to the people I met at that meetup! A decade later, while in library school, I wrote a paper that made lots of people Real Mad. Last month I gave a keynote at a library conference about how I don't want to be a librarian anymore. Now I'm trying to figure out what to do next.
posted by avocet at 12:39 PM on November 20, 2022 [11 favorites]

I went to library school at an interesting time and at an interesting place. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had long had rich computer resources--ILLIAC I, PLATO, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications--and I had regular access to computers for the first time in my life, since I hadn't been able to afford one of my own (I got my first Mac not long after I graduated). With the permission of the professor who taught the class, I turned in a class project--an annotated bibliography of sources on hypertext and hypermedia--as a HyperCard stack. Books still ruled the library world, though, and the U of I had a lot of 'em; at that point, they had gotten either their ninth or tenth million book, and there were dozens of departmental libraries (most of which no longer exist) as well as the monstrous main library.

Across campus, and only a few blocks from where I lived, Marc Andreessen and Eric Bina were writing Mosaic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:48 PM on November 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

There are tool libraries and bike libraries both associated with and not associated with public book libraries.
The Toronto Public Library has a tool library with an associated maker space. I availed myself of their services for the first time this year. I observe, with great love and respect, that the people who work there are nerds.

I first learned of the Special Libraries Association from a librarian who had previously worked as an Explosives Librarian for DuPont.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 12:58 PM on November 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

"Fun fact: anyone on MetaFilter who has ever mentioned working in a library or going to library school is marked as a "colleague" on my profile page."

Huh, guess I haven't said anything about either on here. Anyway, yes to both!
posted by indexy at 1:00 PM on November 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Fun post. At the end of March I'll be a retired librarian. Hard to believe I've been doing this work for over 29 years. I can't imagine doing anything else.
posted by zzazazz at 1:16 PM on November 20, 2022 [7 favorites]

I work in a library but almost never see any librarians. I'm sure they're in the back working on something important but they never seem to interact with the patrons except by email.
posted by one for the books at 1:21 PM on November 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

I've worked as an assistant librarian, a media archivist, a corporate archivist, and now I work with Enterprise DAM systems.

Never did get around to getting an IS degree -
posted by djseafood at 1:27 PM on November 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I went to library school to work in public libraries and have spent the last 7 years of my career as a collection development librarian for an academic publisher/vendor, so it definitely is a career that can have a lot of twists and turns. To be fair, I love my job now, so it all worked out.
posted by odd ghost at 1:30 PM on November 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

Never worked in a library with my MLS either. But then I always thought of it as a degree in information science, even though UMD hadn't yet rebranded their department as an iSchool. I sort of fell into it because at the time Maryland had a dual Geography/Library masters program that could either lead toward map librarianship or GIS, and apparently I was the sort of idiot who thought working on two masters degrees at the same time sounded "fun." And I was (and remain!) really interested in GIS.

My thesis work, over a quarter century ago (ugh) was on using spatial interaction models to influence the results of full text search; a novel idea then that I've since seen used by every major search engine out there.
posted by jburka at 1:40 PM on November 20, 2022 [9 favorites]

Current librarians in my general vicinity at a federal science agency:
  • Me, a technical product manager for data engineering and public APIs
  • Our user research and usability specialist, who helps the whole product team work with our users and make sure that we building tools that are meeting our users’ needs
  • A member of the Project Management Office, building tools to help support project work across the organization
posted by rockindata at 2:28 PM on November 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

One nuance: not all Schools of Information have library and archives tracks. The UC Berkeley iSchool has degrees in Information Management, Data Science, and Security. The MIMs degree in particular is an evolution of what had been Berkeley's Library School, but while it still draws heavily on those roots in its curriculum and has faculty with library/archives background, it is not an accredited Library Science program.

I am an alumnus of Berkeley's iSchool and currently teaching product design there part-time. It's a fantastic multidisciplinary program that I entirely recommend ... unless you want to be a librarian or archivist. Which is why my wife ended up at Michigan.
posted by feckless at 2:30 PM on November 20, 2022 [8 favorites]

Adding nuance to the nuance: the American Library Association accredits library degrees. If it ain't accredited and you want to be a librarian, you probably shouldn't go there. (We had our accreditation site visit in October. Still waiting to hear results; our department chair is reasonably optimistic.) Because Berkeley doesn't offer a library degree, they don't have to deal with accreditation. We do, so we do.

Archives degrees aren't accredited as such (though many are lumped in with library degrees such that ALA takes at least a glance at them), but the Society for American Archivists has guidelines for what they should include.
posted by humbug at 2:56 PM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wow very excited to find out I am a colleague of jessamyn's!!! :)
posted by mostly vowels at 3:00 PM on November 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

I did my MLS at the University of Western Ontario between 1998 and 1999, which was in hindsight an interesting time because it was when the internet was really taking off in all areas of life and I suspect they weren't sure what they should be teaching us (I remember a prof telling us she wasn't sure print books would even *exist* in 20 years, which was a really hot take). So it was a mix of "traditional" library skills and duties, management courses (ugh), Computer Stuff (some of which was probably already obsolete as we were learning it) and even a required basics of accounting class. I think the concept was to give us the theoretical ability to run a small library all by ourselves; managing, budgeting, librarianing, etc..

After graduation I bounced around for a while, library jobs and non-, before I wound up at the Toronto Public Library, part-time at first (2006) and full-time as of 2014, IIRC. Public librarianship has had its real ups and downs over the years (the downs mostly consist of "problem patrons," an issue which has gotten much, much worse during my career, and the system's many, many managers, of which I will say no more in a public forum), and a few times I really thought hard about leaving the profession behind because I was getting so burnt out by the endless stress of dealing with troublesome - and occasionally physically threatening/dangerous - members of the public.

Fortunately, after a very long and convoluted series of events (one of which was the pandemic) I wound up at the Toronto Reference Library, first in the Arts department (which is where/when I once met jessamyn) and then in the TPL's special collections and rare books department. Special Collections, where I curate the photography, art and newspaper collections, is the best job I've ever had, in part because it's an area of the library where I can still be a librarian and do librarian stuff but with as little exposure to the public as possible (I've only had to write one incident report in three years, after working at branches where that was basically a daily occurrence). However, my wife recently got a new (dream) job, which means I'm looking for a job, too...
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:09 PM on November 20, 2022 [8 favorites]

Is this a paid post or just a fan girl one?

Both. Very excited to get to add some new folks to my "colleagues" collection.
posted by jessamyn at 3:10 PM on November 20, 2022 [9 favorites]

Love this post!

When I first started at my library job a few years ago I was flipping through some issues of Computers in Libraries (we circulate some relevant publications among staff and I handle IT for our library in addition to reference desk shifts) and saw articles written by jessamyn and had one of those Leo pointing at the screen meme moments
posted by jason_steakums at 3:58 PM on November 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

The script is so cool!

I fought going to library school for a while - my mother did most of an MLIS degree after my father died, my older sister is these day a LIS professor and at the time was working as a librarian in a special library. Then I was working for a year after college doing mostly tech-related work (this was 1998-1999, so things like getting department information into web pages), but I was working in the college library and my boss was half-time the Government Docs librarian.

Halfway through that year, I went "Ok, let me apply to library school." One of the things I liked about it was how many different ways you could go with the degree.

I started my MLIS in 1999, paused it in 2001, picked it up again in 2006, and got the degree in 2007. Most of that time I was working as a library assistant in a high school, kept doing that, had some health blips, worked as an information technology librarian, and ended up where I am now as a research librarian with an unusual and fascinating collection (there's two other libraries sort of vaguely like us in the US.)

I really love that my job can bounce between 19th century Boston gossip (because of where we are and how our various directors were connected to other people in the area), to helping someone with a question that is going to improve their lives, to helping a researcher working in the field get access to key sources to talking to absolutely endearing fourth graders. (Also, I totally lucked into this job, which has only had 12 people in roughly my position since 1880.)
posted by jenettsilver at 4:03 PM on November 20, 2022 [6 favorites]

Fun fact: anyone on MetaFilter who has ever mentioned working in a library or going to library school is marked as a "colleague" on my profile page.

I suppose that technically I might just barely qualify, though the last time I worked in a library was in college, nearing three decades ago.

I moved recently and just got my library card here and wow, I hadn't realized how much I missed going to the actual library and browsing. The libraries where I was living before were closed for a very long time due to covid (though they did all kinds of things to maintain at least a bit of accessibility) so I got out of the habit of going. I honestly got a bit chocked up looking around at all the people using the library -- what a loss to the community to have had that needing to be closed.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:18 PM on November 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

Can we have a little shoutout somewhere for the library technicians? Maybe we only have a 2 year diploma, but we also deserve some love and visibility, IMHO :-)
posted by Calzephyr at 4:52 PM on November 20, 2022 [17 favorites]

My local public library has a Homebound service delivering books to people who can't physically get to the library due to age/disability/chronic physical illness.

They also have a Books on Wheels service delivering books to residential care and retirement facilities.

They also have a Seed Library. "The Seed Library offers a collection of free seeds available to library members to plant and grow at home. Borrowers are encouraged to harvest seeds from their own gardens to donate back to the collection. The seeds collected will be vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers and natives. The varieties of seeds available will change throughout the year."
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries at 5:22 PM on November 20, 2022 [4 favorites]

I work in public library administration.

In my younger days I was very mindful of the distinction between library workers and MLS-having capital-l Librarians, but after spending twenty years in public libraries I just can’t do it—it’s a credential, and it’s jargon that means nothing to our patrons and is mostly meaningful to wannabe gatekeepers who want to keep people getting expensive degrees and paying dues to professional organizations.

Library technicians, library assistants, media specialists, even clerks and pages—you’re all librarians to me!
posted by box at 5:25 PM on November 20, 2022 [13 favorites]

I was up in north-central Wisconsin to do my usual spiel on preserving family and community history on endangered 20th-century carriers at a small-town public library. I was charmed to discover they'd turned their smallish card catalog into a seed library. Great idea.
posted by humbug at 5:31 PM on November 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

This is wonderful, jessamyn! The biggest surprises to me were the cruise ship librarian and those working in corporations in fashion (Carhartt and the shoebrarian). Definitely one of the most versatile degrees I'd never heard of when I was setting out in the world of work. Thank you!
posted by eirias at 5:51 PM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I remember seeing at least one library from the US southwestern region that had all their seeds in an online database, and you did actually check them out and return fresh seed at the appropriate time of year. My local library has a 4-drawer filing cabinet seed library that operates under the "little free library" model.
posted by aniola at 6:54 PM on November 20, 2022

I'm not a colleague, but I did work at a library school (as staff, for five years.) I know a lot of librarians, including my mom :-)
posted by 41swans at 7:02 PM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I’m proud to be a colleague. I went to library school with Jessamyn, started a year after her. She was a big influence on me at the time, although for various reasons I went into a different field. I admire librarians greatly.
posted by matildaben at 7:34 PM on November 20, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've thought about being a librarian for a while - I was a student librarian while in primary/secondary school (mostly it involved watching over the space) and I do really enjoy research and organising information and a lot of other librarian-adjacent skills. I didn't know information studies was A Thing until I started my Creative Industries degree and my partner at the time had info science classes as part of his IT degree - I was way more stoked about his classes than he was!! Even so, I didn't even know library studies existed (much less that it was something you needed to get any sort of library job, especially in Australia) until fairly recently.

But urgh I just do not have the wherewithal (or funds) to go for Yet Another Degree/Certification, given how useless my existing Bachelors/MFA/Cert IV in Accounting and Bookkeeping have been (also, formal education and I don't mix very well). Probably if I'd known about library studies ages ago I would have gone for that instead, but it seems the job market at least where I'm at is still difficult to break into so there's no guarantee that I would have gotten those library jobs anyway.

If you have an interest in the library-studies skillset, are there ways to learn more about them in a less institutional setting? What other jobs employ similar skills (and are down to support artsworkers)? Are there still ways to engage even without a degree?
posted by creatrixtiara at 7:34 PM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

If you have an interest in the library-studies skillset, are there ways to learn more about them in a less institutional setting?

I came at the reference librarian part of my job completely sideways, in that my primary job is library IT but due to structure and budget reasons I'm part of the reference department and do the same job as the other reference librarians for about half my time, so I don't actually have an MLIS or anything, but the one part of that field of study I've been fascinated with in the course of my work with our ILS database and various other in house databases is taxonomy and I highly recommend the book The Accidental Taxonomist if you want to dip your toe into this one really cool aspect of library science. It definitely makes me want to pursue further education in the subject and it's hugely valuable for a lot of fields!
posted by jason_steakums at 7:54 PM on November 20, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm not a librarian, but I worked at an academic library for a bit, answering a lot of emails from faculty who didn't believe the rules about returning recalled items should apply to them. Or who thought that having our entire selection of books on their research area checked out for ten years continuously was a fair and reasonable use of library resources. Or acted like weeding the collection was basically murder. Yes, professors, our librarians are educated professionals who know how to run libraries!

This post has reminded me that I should consider info sciences as I research a career change, even though I don't wish to be a librarian. Thanks, Jessamyn.
posted by Hex Wrench at 7:58 PM on November 20, 2022 [3 favorites]

I went to library school, got my MLS, started a doctoral program in info science too, but left it to work at a nonprofit doing unrelated things, but that's how it goes sometimes. I do still use some of the database management stuff I was first exposed to in library school, though, so there is that!
posted by Pryde at 8:26 PM on November 20, 2022 [1 favorite]

I gained so much respect for librarians/information professionals from my wife, who got her doctorate in LIS because she wanted so much to teach others how to be librarians. She was at the Univ of Texas when it made the switch from traditional LIS to “iSchool”, and I remember it was a little tough for some of the traditionalists. But she was always forward thinking (her doctoral thesis was on adult information behavior in MMORPGs, and her research was in City of Heroes). She taught grad students for 14 years, everything from collection development to research methods. And met some of the most wonderful students and colleagues. I admit when I first met her I had the same “what do you want to teach, shelving?” idea about librarianship, but holy crap I learned how deep and interesting it is. Just hearing her talking about teaching something like cataloging gave me a huge appreciation for the work, and the time and effort it takes to learn it well. Not to mention everything from archiving to special libraries, etc. I attended a few conferences with her (ALA, SWPACA, TASP) and was just amazed at the research and work being done.

Apologies for just rambling reminiscences, my wife retired a little over a year ago, was diagnosed with cancer shortly after and passed away at the beginning of this month. I’ve been reliving so much of our life together in my head and hearing from her former students, this post just hit me in the feels.
posted by gmatom at 9:30 PM on November 20, 2022 [15 favorites]

"You need to go to school for that job?"
Nope! My daughter the librarian never went to school but haunted the library as she read herself an education. She left home and country before she cd vote and returned 5 years later all grown up. She applied for her dream job in the Big City library service despite having zero paper quals. Coincidentally, coming out of an austerity hiring-freeze, the library was actively diversifying their staff, because their clients are no longer exclusively white and Catholic. She passed the many aptitude, 3Rs and drug tests and was on 3-month probation as an asst librarian within a year. But you need an MLIS to grade up from Asst.Lib to Librarian and a career, so she started doing a BA in the evenings . . . paying particular attention to the intake requirement "bachelor's degree or equivalent experience". She did one year of the BA, applied and was rejected. But after two part-time years and two more years librarianing she was accepted on the MLIS and graduates next year. Her thesis is going to be on making libraries more useful and inclusive to teens & YA . . . with a side-order of signing. [Matt 3:17 etc.!]
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:16 AM on November 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Another librarian checking in here. I'm a Systems Librarian for a 59-member library consortium. I remember the shock from some of my now-colleagues when they found out I have an MLS. Librarians don't expect geeks to be one of them.
posted by arancidamoeba at 5:45 AM on November 21, 2022 [4 favorites]

I started a grad program at a library school last year (after some helpful advice), and it's been a great experience. There is indeed a huge variety in what my classmates are doing, or are planning to do, and it's super interesting seeing what they're all working on. I'm more involved with the data management and research side of things, but have never really felt out of place among the more library-focused part of the group.

(And now back to filling out applications, in the hope that they'll let me stick around for a few more years...)
posted by quizzical at 5:52 AM on November 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

I started a grad program at a library school last year

Dalhousie? One of my early mentors in the profession was Norm Horrocks who basically owned that place back in the day.

Can we have a little shoutout somewhere for the library technicians?

Yes! Like box I am of the opinion that if you work in a library in any sort of information-or-patron facing role (i.e. maybe not the HVAC techs but i could be convinced) that makes you not only a librarian but someone integral to the library. One of my favorite local conferences was the NETSL conference which was for New England Technical Services Librarians. So much interesting stuff going on there.
posted by jessamyn at 7:12 AM on November 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

I love this post! I have my MS from UT's iSchool and it was always a pet peeve when people would ask, "oh, are you just learning all about the Dewey Decimal System?" I didn't take any straight-ahead "library" classes in grad school, went down more of an archives and museums track. Now I'm working as a fine art specialist at an insurance company. My classmates went in very different directions with their degrees - it's a shockingly diverse field!
posted by rabbitbookworm at 7:42 AM on November 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

My late dad, who had an MLS, spent 25 years as the corporate librarian at Con Edison in New York. He always said that people don't set out do this work, but just sort of fall into it. He seemed to love it, and I've always been a big fan of libraries and librarians!
posted by AJaffe at 8:38 AM on November 21, 2022 [3 favorites]


One of my early mentors in the profession was Norm Horrocks who basically owned that place back in the day.
Ah, cool! He definitely left a mark here, based on how people in the school talk about him.
posted by quizzical at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

When I finished my undergrad and was looking to go to grad school, the prevailing wisdom here on MeFi was “don’t get a MLIS.” So I didn’t, and ended up getting a terribly useless degree in something else even though the whole point of me going back to school in my late 20s was because I wanted to be a librarian.

Last week, I got my acceptance letter to a MLIS program, almost fifteen years later.
posted by Ruki at 9:02 AM on November 21, 2022 [7 favorites]

I, too, am a librarian. I am also in grad school once again, looking at a clinical mental health counseling degree. Can I be a Wellness Librarian?
posted by yamel at 9:33 AM on November 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Another Librarian here, and so's my wife. No sign so far of our children inheriting the genes. I've also seen Jessamyn in the wild, speaking at the Ontario Library Association conference a few years back.

Like my good friend and colleague The Card Cheat, I attended library school in the late 90's as everything in the profession was changing. It was the dotcom boom period and librarians were in demand; of my graduating class of 30, most went off into techy, online positions and only a few of us went into public librarianship. I spent a few years working in small, rural systems around Ontario before landing at Toronto Public Library in 2002.

Being such a big system - 100 branches, 2,000+ employees, there have been a lot of opportunities and roles to try out. Like others have observed, librarian positions that directly serve the public are increasingly uncommon to find and many of the best ones end up getting promoted into support roles. I moved into management about seven years ago and my connection to genuine librarian work slips further away with each year. It feels like I'm a middle manager in a public sector organization that just happens to be a library.

I am heartened by the new grads, the library workers who decide to invest the time and money to get their MLIS and continue this old tradition. Good luck, next generation!
posted by Paid In Full at 9:58 AM on November 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Law librarian gang rise up!!
posted by orrnyereg at 10:10 AM on November 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

Apparently I too have never mentioned here that I went to library school and have spent more than ten years in a small research library turning print into pixels.

The library is currently in the process of moving to another state, and I have recently earned a certificate in digital asset management, so if anyone knows of any openings...
posted by Devoidoid at 10:16 AM on November 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

Librarian here! Came to librarianship late after an attempt at making a go of it as an academic in another field. Love teaching students & faculty how to find things and working to make sure my friend circle, and my kid's friend circle, are information-literate.
posted by catdapperling at 10:38 AM on November 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

I do open-access repository management (Repo Man lol) and scholarly communications...i know there's another one of us around here, is that humbug?

I was supposed to be on a panel with mostly vowels back in March 2020, and one day it'll happen for real!
posted by avocet at 11:31 AM on November 21, 2022 [2 favorites]

I'm also bummed that jessamyn and I were presenting at OLA at the same time because we wanted to attend each other's talks
posted by avocet at 11:33 AM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I love this thread! Pardon my reminiscence, but it tangentially involves Jessamyn. I worked for a few years as the IT manager & sys admin of a regional library consortium in rural upstate NY. I already had librarian friends and family (and I myself had worked & later again worked in a related role as an information architect), but I gained a whole other level of respect for librarians through my job. I taught web design and web accessibility classes, circa late 90s to early 2000s, to librarians from large outfits like Cornell to the much smaller Chemung County public library. We also ran a very small ISP so that the small specialty libraries (which I didn't know existed until then) could get online, like the NYS Fire Sciences Library. My job even sent me to OCLC in Ohio to learn some kind of markup language that I no longer remember.

It was during my time at this job that I encountered your sign guidance, Jessamyn, about the Patriot Act and libraries. So I knew you were a badass before I ever came to Metafilter and later learned about your affiliation here.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:39 PM on November 21, 2022 [6 favorites]

i know there's another one of us around here, is that humbug?

Scholcomm was what I did when I was full-time librarianating, yeah. For my sins, when I was young and foolish I apparently somehow managed to write a scholcomm classic in the LIS literature.

Not that it accomplished anything for scholcomm generally. I'm still salty about that.
posted by humbug at 12:47 PM on November 21, 2022 [3 favorites]

I bet I'm not alone in this: I discovered Metafilter as a librarian in training. Part of the curriculum for my very well regarded MLIS program involved visiting Ask Metafilter and responding to questions there for "reference" practice. Ask Metafilter, Yahoo Answers, or Quora dot com. So obviously, anyone with a bit of taste and discernment went the Ask Mefi route.
posted by knotty knots at 1:31 PM on November 21, 2022 [5 favorites]

I was a library aid in high school (in which I learned that the high school had an entire room behind the counter dedicated to magazines I wanted nothing to do with and that nobody knew about or read, yet had to be shelved as they arrived), and that libraries can have really old books, like 100+ years old, and this is apparently mundane. I was excited to learn about all things library, but it turns out they didn't know what to do with me other than have me reshelf books. So what I learned in that period was the alphabet backwards to make it easier to reshelf the tiny handful of books that needed reshelving. Oh, and to never build a library over a cafeteria, which is an excellent source of water, because the silverfish will be delighted. I basically just spent the period reading whatever looked interesting near whatever I was reshelving.

I was also a core volunteer organizer at a tool library for a while.
posted by aniola at 1:44 PM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I basically just spent the period reading whatever looked interesting near whatever I was reshelving.

I kept getting caught doing this (how could you resist, when you are surrounded by books?) until finally they threatened to fire me unless I focused more on shelving rather than browsing, so I shaped up and thereafter only read in extra-secluded spots.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:11 PM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I kept getting caught (reading)... until finally they threatened to fire me unless I focused more on shelving rather than browsing.... posted by Dip Flash
I was reprimanded for reading through breaks... and lunch... and before and after clocking in.... That was three years at the department of libraries as a summer clerk while getting my first college degree, which oddly enough was not in library science.

Life-long learner and occasional librarian. M.Ed. in library media education, several years as a public librarian and additional jobs at public schools, the state dept. of libraries, and as a volunteer.
posted by TrishaU at 2:18 PM on November 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty sure the whole reason I found Metafilter is because of you, Jessamyn. I saw you give a talk at a library conference in Michigan back in the day. I worked at a small liberal arts college as a library parapro and I was able to attend a conference along with some colleagues. I'm sorry, I don't recall the topic of Jessamyn's talk, but I remember being extremely impressed by it. I totally fan-girled when she happened to sit at our table for lunch. Of course, it was easy for me to remember the website she mentioned in her presentation (librarian.net) and from there, I found Metafilter.

Went on to obtain an MSI from University of Michigan while continuing to work full-time, and went on to work in both public and academic libraries. Libraries and Metafilter are my two havens.
posted by BeBoth at 9:14 AM on November 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

In high school I "borrowed" my dad's community borrowers' card at the local University until I got caught. I mentioned that in my application to be a student assistant and they hired me! I spent the next couple years admiring the reference librarians and discovering that I actually loved shelving books - every shift I'd discover an odd book or two that I'd check out for myself.

After some detours into music and to Japan, I got my MLIS at UCLA in 1998. I did a short stint at the Japanese American National Museum digitizing their first exhibition, tried and failed to get into film archiving, and ended up at a game software company where I learned to program and run Linux servers. When the dotcom bubble burst I reconnected with JANM people and got a job maintaining and extending their web presence. Later I was hired away by Densho.org, where I write our archival management software, develop web sites, and administer servers.
posted by technodelic at 9:44 AM on November 22, 2022 [2 favorites]

My journey to librarianship runs through a failed philosophy PhD, and eventually ends up in lib tech circles. Was an academic librarian during the "blog people" phase of librarianship in the early 2000s, which is when I met Jessamyn, who I've considered a good friend for very nearly 20 years now (OMG time wtf).

I'm now a director of strategy for an international non-profit that deals in standards for research and publishing (NISO). While not IN a library, I'm still librarianing every day, making sure that the ideals behind open and free access to information are foremost in the world we do. I'm always interested in meeting new members of the cult...I mean, profession. Thanks for this thread, Jessamyn.
posted by griffey at 10:33 AM on November 22, 2022 [5 favorites]

I got my MLS in 1997, which, as others have noted, was an interesting time to do so. My SUNY Buffalo program was LS then, and later became IS and some other things. I started out as a document indexer of tobacco industry documents at a cancer research center; from there I went on to become Director and builder of what was then the world’s largest digital library, also of formerly secret tobacco documents. I freelanced in public health and tobacco control, doing research and creating metadata around specialized collections.

When funding ran out (under Bush II), I did ten years as a reference librarian in various college libraries before landing as cataloger /library instruction coordinator/archivist (yes, that’s all one job where I was! Yikes).

Longing for more metadata, I then took a job as Research Librarian for a small pharma startup. Over time I became Regulatory Operations Manager, which is sort of like being an indexer, cataloger, document manager and web publisher (health authorities like FDA ingest submissions on an XML backbone they view as a website). I also still do intensive research into medical literature.

On the side, I coordinate projects through which old high school yearbooks are digitized and published on NYHeritage. I’d like to do more community archives sorts of projects but I think I’d have to invent the model. I still might.

ETA: Jessamyn and I went to both Hampshire and library school, around the same time! Pretty cool cohort!
posted by Riverine at 4:01 PM on November 22, 2022 [5 favorites]

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