Making the transition - new roles for librarians

Jane Greenstein explores opportunities available for information professionals in the interactive multimedia industry.

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Troubleshooting and problem solving are among the most important traits in the business world as is the ability to manage challenging personalities. Librarians, particularly those that work in public libraries, are particularly adept at handling a variety of people and situations.  They are very organised and are knowledge experts. These traits make them ideal candidates for my industry.

Just as there are a variety of libraries to work at - academic, public, law etc - there are also many kinds of corporate environments. Many development and marketing agencies aim to keep a somewhat flexible structure to encourage creativity. Autonomy is valued.

Library schools such as the University of North Texas already tailor their curriculum to reflect the changing focus in the job market. Information organisation and theory are taught, with an emphasis on digital technology. Specialised classes such as those addressing data mining, information architecture and database development are part of the curriculum.

Below are a few jobs that library students and librarians may want consider:

  • The most obvious job for a librarian working outside a library is a taxonomist. The same skills used to classify terms for cataloging are needed to build information-rich websites. Any site that has a large amount of data that is updated frequently (a la utilises a taxonomy to ensure uniformity as new products or information is added.
  • Another logical career choice for a librarian who has a flair for writing and editing is a content strategist, who deals with both creating the words on a page and the rules that govern them. A content strategist is concerned with conceiving a site's tone and voice (what to say and how to say it) and making sure the credo is carried out through every word created. Depending on the project, this can require writing, editing, proofeading and organisation of content.
  • Information architecture or user experience design involves the creation of 'blueprints' for a website. This discipline requires the ability to envision how a website or app will function from a user's perspective and understand (though not execute) website or application development. User experience design is a very in demand skill, where demand outstrips supply.
  • Another sought-after skill is computer programming. Many information professionals already code or update their own websites or their library's. Knowledge of HTML, Content Management Systems and databases can be used in a variety of settings.
  • There are a number of other multimedia careers that librarians are qualified for such as a project manager who is responsible for budgets and schedules, and is the point person for the internal team and the client.

A great way to get your foot in the door in this new world is to become active on social networks. Librarians are great communicators and networkers. Tweeting and posting to Facebook and other sites is already de rigueur for many. Developing your virtual voice will help you understand how to market yourself and your clients.

Making the transition to a new field is always challenging. The steps required should be familiar to those who are seeking library work-research companies where you live in and pursue opportunities with them. Intern, network and post your profile to LinkedIn. Take courses in digital media.

This new career path may not have been the one you envisioned for yourself, but it will provide reward in unexpected ways. You'll likely earn a more than adequate wage, meet creative and innovative people and work on a variety of projects-no two are ever the same. And, most importantly, you'll continue to learn.

Jane Greenstein is a content strategist and MLS student at the University of North Texas. She can be reached at

Image courtesy of red11group via Flickr.

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