Sarah Houghton-Jan recently conducted a survey over Twitter about why people continue to work in libraries. The results were interesting, but also thought provoking. It made me think about my own career as a librarian and the skills I’ve developed. One of the reasons that people gave for continuing to work in libraries was “Fear that I’m not qualified for anything else.” I tried to be honest with myself and question if that was a reason I’m a librarian. The answer was a resounding no.
Not just me, but librarians in general have a lot of skills that can transfer well to other fields. Houghton-Jan in her post mentioned project management, information architechture, and writing. After some thinking about myself and a lot of other librarians I know, I recognized there are a lot of trasferrable skills that we librarians have.
Much of what we do involves large scale projects. Whether it is redesigning a website, weeding the reference collection, or digitizing a collection of rare materials, librarians have experience in planning and managing projects.
Librarians understand information and how to organize it like few others. This skill is needed a lot of places due to the terabytes or exabytes or yottabytes (it’s a thing, look it up) of data than is constantly being created. Librarians understand ways to get to information quickly and how to select which information is important. Librarians understand indexing, search, or semantic data. The future needs minds like ours to make sense of this wealth of information.
Our profession is filled with constant writing. Writing grants, proposals, scholarly articles, blog posts, web copy, emails, marketing materials, newsletters, etc.
It’s necessary for librarians to promote themselves and their services in order to get used and stay relevant. Librarians create paper and electronic newsletters. They use services like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare to engage and interact with users. They create marketing materials, whether they’re signs, ads, or banners. They network in the community spreading their messages via word of mouth.
This is (or should be) our bread and butter. Librarians have superior customer service skills. They want to make sure that their patrons are pleased, have a good experience, and get a sufficient answer to their questions. I can recall many instances of librarians chasing after people with one last resource that they found, or librarians who rush catalog a book to get it into someone’s hands. Librarians aim to please, and this translates to the for-profit world well.
There is no shortage of events that librarians plan and organize whether it’s a summer reading program, conferences, crafternoon, or gaming events at the library. Librarians know what it takes to make events successful.
It might not always seem like it, but librarians are probably one of the most tech savvy groups of people outside of Silicon Valley. Librarians, for the most part, understand the web and how it works. They’re curious about new tools and like to experiment. Being able to adapt to the changing technological landscape is a necessary skill to have these days. Librarians possess this skill in spades.
Out of necessity librarians have learned to be very creative. Budgets are constantly getting cut, and funds are almost always tight, but librarians find a way to do a lot with a little. We implement creative solutions on a shoestring budget, whether it’s running Linux on public workstations or finding more efficient ways of managing our collections. This could be very useful in places like the non-profit sector or start-ups.
I work in libraries because I really love learning. I love the idea of learning and I like helping other people learn. But I could see why someone might want to try something other than libraries. I don’t think that we should fear about not being able to do other things. We have skills that can be transferred to a lot of other fields. The ones I listed above are just a few. What other transferable skills do you think you have?