Archive for the ‘altcareers’ Category.

Why I freelance, again…

Librarian by ethnicity

I quite enjoyed this “Ethnically Librarian” post over at Library Avengers.”

There are librarians who work in libraries, and there are librarians who just Are.

It’s the difference between being a Jew by Religion, and being a Jew by Ethnicity. Both groups contribute to the cultural whole.

While a Librarian by Profession is inherently a Librarian by Ethnicity, the opposite may not be true. A trained librarian can sport a different job title, but  her clarity and understanding will still contribute to her work.

My own answer to this question is still evolving — I had to look back to see what I said several years ago, but talking to so many libraryfolk working outside libraryland while writing What’s the Alternative? has helped bring my thinking on the subject closer to the “ethnically librarian” camp.

January 2009 Info Career Trends

Just published the January issue of Info Career Trends, on “alternative work arrangements.” Some interesting stuff in there for those of you interested in telecommuting or other flexibility.

I can’t stop playing with Wordle!

Here’s the cloud for chapter 1 of What’s the Alternative. Guess it’s pretty clear what the book is about!

Speaking of the forums…

I’ve added a new discussion board on alternative careers, in honor of my new book on the topic (out this April). Discuss nontraditional career paths and opportunities, and be sure to check out my new book: What’s the Alternative? Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros. (I’ll have some sample content up soon, if we ever get over the stomach flu over here… will post again when that’s done!)

If you’re interested in exploring nontraditional career paths, also don’t miss Kim Dority’s monthly “Rethinking Information Careers” column.

Take this job…

So I’ve now visited this LJ article on “Take this Job and Love it” several times, mostly because they are tricksy and keep sucking me in through different blurbs in every different email newsletter. This time around, this comment struck me:

The survey also suggests that as careers span, satisfaction levels rise. Of librarians in the field ten years or less, 23% were “very satisfied” compared to 39% of those in the field over 20 years. “As you get older, and are married with children, you do tend to invest more in family as opposed to your job,” says Kidwell, in his current post over 20 years. “Some of it, too, is that you come to accept that you’re in a profession that just isn’t going to offer those high salaries.”

Or…. perhaps satisfaction levels don’t rise per se, but it’s that those who aren’t satisfied, eventually, well… LEAVE. But I’m cynical :) .


Alternative Careers Survey: Reminder

If you’d planned on responding to my survey from a while back on alternative careers, but it kind of slipped your mind, here’s your chance! I’m still looking for responses, and would love to hear from librarians and info pros who have: moved into any sort of nontraditional career, are combining alternative work with library work, are working in nontraditional positions in libraries, are working in positions that utilize library skills but aren’t seen as or called a “librarian” by their institution, have taken IT or other skills picked up on the job and brought them to another environment… if you think you might in any way be following an alternative path, I want to hear about it — there’s still time!

And, thank you to everyone who’s already shared their experiences — it’s been fascinating to see people’s varied paths.

Not at Odds

Take a look at this interesting little article (via Bitch PhD) in the New York Times about op-ed writing seminars for women.

Ms. Orenstein asked: Could every woman at the large rectangular table name one specific subject that she is an expert in and say why? The author of “Little Red Riding Hood Uncloaked: Sex, Morality and the Evolution of a Fairy Tale,” Ms. Orenstein began by saying, “Little Red Riding Hood” and writing the words in orange marker on an oversize white pad.

Of the next four women who spoke, three started with a qualification or apology. “I’m really too young to be an expert in anything,” said Caitlin Petre, 23.

“Let’s stop,” Ms. Orenstein said. “It happens in every single session I do with women, and it’s never happened with men.” Women tend to back away from “what we know and why we know it,” she said.


After the presentations Ms. Orenstein returned to the orange-colored words “Little Red Riding Hood” written on the pad, saying that if she had limited herself to that subject, her contribution to public debate would be about the size of a tack.

“I would have to reframe myself,” she said, drawing a triangle around the words. At each of the three points she explained how she set about enlarging her area of expertise: from Riding Hood to female heroines to women; from fairy tales to myths to stories we tell and are told; from the nursery to popular culture.

This is true for professional writing, as well — not to mention true of our larger careers. When we negate our own expertise, we become less effective in imparting our importance as professionals, and our self-effacing attitude hurts us in areas from salaries, to promotions, to our ability to grasp new opportunities.

As I’m going through the responses to the alternative careers survey, it’s becoming clear that the ability to claim, reframe, and broaden our knowledge bases and skillsets is essential, not only when moving to a nontraditional setting, but in responding to both internal and external changes.

Alternative Careers Survey

I’m working on a book on alternative careers for librarians, and am looking for input from folks who have pursued nontraditional paths.

I’m interested in hearing from a broad variety of people, including: those who have embarked on a new career after working for some time in libraries, those who earned an MLS but never worked in a traditional library setting, those who pursue alternative opportunities as a supplement to a traditional library career, those who work in a traditional setting but do nontraditional work, and those who do library work in nontraditional settings. Basically, if you think you might have/had some sort of nontraditional career, I’d love to hear from you — thanks!

A few survey questions follow. Please feel free to distribute widely.


Alternative Careers Survey

Thanks for taking the time to talk about your alternative career experiences. Your answers may be quoted and/or used as a sidebar interview in a forthcoming book from Information Today, Inc. If you formerly had a nontraditional career, but now have moved back into library work, please answer the questions as they pertain to your previous career.

Please e-mail your answers to

E-mail address
Job Title
City, State (or equivalent)
Do you have an MLS? If yes, when and where did you earn it?
Would you like to remain anonymous if quoted in the book? Y/N

Had you worked in libraries before pursuing an alternative career? If so, for how long, and in what type/s of institutions?

Can you talk a little bit about the path you took to your alternative career? Why did you choose this particular type of work?

Can you give me an overview of what you do in your nontraditional career? What are some typical daily tasks and responsibilities?

What do you like best about your alternative career? What do you like least?

In what ways do you see this career as being related to librarianship?

In what ways have your library skills/knowledge and/or LIS education transferred?

What new skills/knowledge did you need to acquire in order to be successful? Were there ways in which your previous non-library background came in handy?

What advice would you have for someone interested in pursuing a similar path? Is there anything you wish you had known prior to making the leap?

In what ways do you keep up with the library field while pursuing a nontraditional career path?

What do you miss most about libraries/library work? What do you miss least?

If there is anything else I should have asked, please ask and answer it.

May I contact you via e-mail for clarification or additions?

May I use your answers in a forthcoming book from Information Today, Inc., tentatively titled: What’s The Alternative: Career Options for Librarians and Info Pros?

Would you like to be notified via e-mail when the book comes out?


If you have moved back to librarianship from a nontraditional career, please also answer the following two questions:

Why did you decide to move back to a more traditional library career?

What do you bring back to the field from your experiences in your alternative career?

Neither Fish nor Fowl nor…

Am I still a librarian?

When people ask what I do, I can’t say I’m a librarian, because the next natural question is: “So, what library do you work at?” The conversation only devolves from there. I can tell people I’m a consulting editor with ITI Books, and they nod: “Oh, so you’re in publishing.” I can tell people I write for library-related publications, and they say: “Oh, so you’re a freelance writer.”

So, does my MLS make me a librarian? Does the fact that I worked in libraries for 10+ years make me a librarian? Does the fact that I write for the library literature and acquire manuscripts for an LIS publisher and speak at library conferences make me a librarian?

I was talking with Meredith at the CIL conference a couple of weeks ago, and she mentioned several people (me, Michael Stephens, Jessamyn West) who no longer work in any particular library, yet still do work related to libraries. A few examples don’t make a trend, but this is somewhat interesting. It’s also interesting in terms of all the talk about upcoming retirements. Were I a library administrator, I’d start thinking pretty hard about what I could do to retain good people, attract good people, and prepare them to take over the zoo at some point. (Although, the fact that I’m not a library administrator says something in itself!)