A recent survey conducted by LibGig, our staffing and recruiting division, resulted in some great feedback on what works—and what could be improved upon—in online job boards, recruiting and other career services for library and information management professionals.
One of the most commonly cited frustrations? Getting relevant search results when words like “library” and “librarian” are no longer sufficient for gaining access to the breadth of job opportunities available today.
Library job searches bring up unrelated and unwanted listings
This concern was cited by many of our participants, and the complaints fell mostly into two areas.
1. Inadequate search functionality within popular online job boards
People with current library training and experience know how to craft a search query better than the average job seeker. Yet even they experience frustration with the results they get, like this respondent:
For example, a library technician search will bring up engineering, health field and IT jobs, even using the “exact words” field. “Library technician” means just that, not “medical technician” or any other sort of technician.
While that may be due to search engine technology defects, it could be exacerbated by how the listings are structured. Meanwhile, it’s not much help, but all you can do is continue to craft the best query with the options available to you.
LibGig job board search options include:
- Job function: You will find a number of functions and titles that involve specific librarianship tasks (like metadata) as well as a few that don’t seem to fit at all, like advertising. We believe that library skills are transferable to many types of jobs, and encourage job-seekers to be open to all. (More on that later in this article.)
- Location: Most openings are in the USA and Canada, though you can search on other regions of the world as well.
- Keywords: We allow three keyword phrases along with the use of two Boolean operators—‘and’ and ‘or’. Based on the survey we are looking to add two additional operators—‘not’ to eliminate certain keywords as well as quotation marks (“”) for matching exact phrases—along with other search enhancements.
2. Many new job titles with no standardization
Perhaps more of a problem is that it’s hard to find relevant job openings with so many different titles and pseudonyms for “library” and “librarian”. Here’s what one survey respondent said:
Difficult to determine what job listings apply to librarians in corporate setting as they have so many alternative titles, information a specialist, knowledge manager, competitive intelligence analyst, etc.
This is a challenge that is likely to get worse.
It’s incredibly time-consuming, unproductive and frustrating but meanwhile, all you can do is keep calm and sift through the results.
Rather than looking at those ‘irrelevant’ jobs with annoyance, use them as a learning experience. Make note of job titles, functions, skills and other requirements being used. Find ways to incorporate the meaningful ones into your search strings, as well as your online resume and application.
Also consider, are they so irrelevant after all?
We encourage you to be open to most anything, because the truth is, we would address the following survey responses,
I get a lot of ‘library’ jobs that have nothing to do with libraries.
Non-library specific boards give really poor results. I don’t know what Indeed, Monster, or Simply Hired think librarians do.
with a few questions:
- What is a library job anymore?
- Is it really true that all of the postings being returned in your search have nothing to do with your skills, or are you dismissing them based on the title or something else you see at a quick glance?
Important career questions for librarians to ask, and answer
We’re going to encourage you to think about some basic considerations anyone should ask in a job search, but especially people with MLIS degrees and other library and information science credentials.
- What do you do? What CAN you do?
- What would you like to do? What interests you most?
- What kinds of organizations would find these characteristics meaningful enough to consider employing you? How and where could they put them to use?
Perhaps you need to shift your focus away from general libraries toward other topics and subject matter. What industries interest you—law, environment, healthcare, business, science, media? Unless you have your heart set on working in a traditional library setting, such as a public or academic library, your skills are needed everywhere.
Identify what you are passionate about or interested in and determine how your training and experience could fill a knowledge/information need in those areas.
What are you willing to do?
This is a final series of important questions.
- Are you willing to take on a job that doesn’t look interesting, but could be a stepping stone to something better?
- Are you willing to be open to different work situations, at least temporarily?
If you can get your foot in the door, meet the right people and demonstrate your abilities, it’s those less-than-ideal jobs that could jump-start your career and set it on the right trajectory.
We’re not saying you have to be stuck in a horrible situation for years and years. But if you dismiss opportunities because they don’t pay enough, aren’t interesting enough, require too long of a commute, or whatever else it is, you may never get to where you want to go.
Only you can weigh the upsides and downsides
All we are suggesting is that you go through this process of evaluation, and for an opportunity that doesn’t seem so great, ask yourself:
If I choose this for now, how could I parlay the experience into something better?
Answer all the questions we have posed in this article with as much detail as possible, based on your training, qualifications, desires and innate skills. View yourself from every angle.
It’s not easy, but creative, open-minded thinking will get you on the road to a career path best-suited for your needs, desires and capabilities—and it’s especially important when the field is changing so randomly and rapidly.
And we encourage you to bookmark LibGig as a resource for library and information science jobs and advice on interview skills and other career topics.