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WORKING IN THE FIELD
The LIS profession is expanding into unexpected venues. As we did last year, we focused on whether graduates were employed in the LIS field or outside of it. Most graduates (71%) are employed in a library or information science institution, 11% are employed in a library or information science capacity but are working outside a traditional institution, and another 11% are employed outside the LIS field entirely. About 6.7% claimed to be still unemployed.
We also asked graduates to tell us about their assignments since job titles do not tell the whole tale. We found that salary levels varied markedly based on the primary job assignment. The top three average salaries are more than 20% over the overall average and included two that focus on technical components, information technology ($58,438), and data curation and management ($58,227), and one that is a foundation to the profession, teacher librarian ($58,148). The other assignments in the top five were also relative newcomers—data analytics ($56,793) and user experience (UX)/usability analysis ($55,167).
Other assignments that have salaries more than 10% higher than the average also reflect this mix of the traditional and the nontraditional—knowledge management and rights and permissions (both at $54,000) and school librarian/school media specialist ($53,478). There are six other assignments that fall above the average. One of them, emerging technologies ($51,800), reflects the nontraditional focus as well.
We asked graduates to tell us more about emerging library services. These included areas employing digital platforms such as scholarly communication, digital archives, data curation, digital humanities, visualization, and born digital objects. Graduates also referenced areas such as bibliometrics/altmetrics, business librarianship, early childhood learning, e-learning, custom information solutions, adult technology programming, and research management/research data management.
Core activities round out the list of items garnering above average compensation: administration ($50,636), outreach ($49,214), training, teaching, and instruction ($48,992), systems technology ($48,900), and reference/information services ($48,593).
Interestingly, among the assignments earning these top 14 salaries, only four represent more than 5% of graduates (reference/information services, school librarian/school library media specialist, administration, and training, teaching, and instruction). Other assignments with more than 5% of the graduates, but with salary levels below the overall average salary, are archival and preservation ($48,066), children’s services ($44,179), adult services ($44,255), and metadata, cataloging, and taxonomy ($45,041).
CHARTING THE JOB COURSE
The job search was not easy for those who were looking for a first position, or who did not stay with the organization they were working in while in school. Those who were looking for a position began the hunt about 5.5 months before graduation, and it took an average of 4.7 months after graduation to find a placement.
LIS schools are active in helping students with the job search, with most posting opportunities on Listservs (87%) or through social media (65%). Other common approaches include sending information through student groups (58%) or posting announcements on bulletin boards or in student areas (55%). Less than half offer formal placement services, but this has increased compared to last year.
A third of schools (34%) offer formal mentoring programs, a slight increase over last year. Schools have different approaches to these programs including involving alumni in ongoing programs or one-day mentoring events, having faculty advisors guide students, and using the services of a dedicated mentoring coordinator or a career services office. One school noted that its program includes workshops and internship fairs as well as coordinated posts on a career-focused blog.
Graduates also told us about the resources they used to help them during their search. Many used the school resources mentioned above. They augmented these with other resources including the American Library Association (ALA) job placement website, Archives Gig, Higher Ed jobs, online communities such as the federal libraries Google group, LinkedIn, job websites (i.e., indeed.com, glassdoor.com, monster), INALJ (formerly I Need a Library Job), regional job listing sites (i.e., usajob.gov, KDLA [Kentucky Department for Libraries and Archives]), professional society resources, and personal or professional networks.
Graduates said that searching was exhausting at times but that finding ways to maintain a positive attitude and to be open-minded was important. A recurring theme for success was gaining practical experience to augment coursework and to help develop professional networks. Students used a variety of strategies including gaining experience by completing practicums and internships, developing professional networks through tools such as LinkedIn, creating a portfolio/e-portfolio, and attending colloquiums. Some complained that online applications do not provide an opportunity for job seekers to demonstrate how they can fit a position, while some graduates noted that internships or practica provided an opportunity to become known within an organization that may have an open position in the future. Another suggestion was to find someone to practice interviewing skills with and to get feedback on résumés. Graduates also noted that it helped to look at job skill requirements rather than job titles, since titles can be misleading. A willingness to relocate can be helpful, too, although they acknowledged that this is not a possibility for everyone.
The basic tenets and skills of librarianship are the foundation of library work and a focus of LIS education, and they are being extended into different job titles in libraries and outside the traditional library organization. Finding the right place in this environment means graduates should prepare for their professional position during their education. This includes taking challenging courses that help students acquire the most up-to-date knowledge and skills, working to build professional networks well before they are in the job market, and gaining practical experience that will help with skills and networking.
It is important to take time to prepare for the search by acquiring skills that may not be part of formal professional preparation such as learning how to write cover letters and résumés and how to ace an interview. Even those students who are already working in the libraries that will be their home after graduation benefit from following this path. One key message emerged: stepping outside their comfort zone can help LIS graduates find their best fit in the evolving library landscape.