Davis Erin Anderson and Raymond Pun are coeditors of Career Transitions for Librarians (Rowman & Littlefield; LJ 9/1/16). Anderson, a 2012 Special Libraries Association (SLA) Rising Star and 2012 LJ Mover & Shaker (M&S), is the community engagement manager at Metropolitan New York Library Council. Pun is the First Year Student Success librarian at California State University, Fresno, as well as a 2012 LJ M&S, 2014 American Library Association (ALA) Emerging Leader, and a 2016 SLA Rising Star.
What inspired you to compile this book?
RP: The idea came from my own experience transitioning from a public library to an academic library in 2013. Many of my public library colleagues asked how I’d made the jump and if I could offer some tips or advice. I couldn’t find any literature in this area so I decided to create a volume to capture the voices of librarians who have successfully made similar moves. I also knew that Davis would be interested in this project, and I am thrilled she agreed to work on this with me.
Is it difficult to move among libraries?
DEA: We found there is no universal opinion that once you embark on a certain path you are expected to stay there. But I do think there’s a sense that when you enter a degree program of any type, you should choose courses that fit some sort of overarching narrative, and many job ads request a certain amount of experience in a similar setting. It’s easy to feel as though a life-defining decision needs to be made early on, although this isn’t necessarily true as our contributors showcase brilliantly.
Contributor Sarah Jewell shares qualities to cultivate a career: humility, confidence, etc. What would you add to that list?
RP: We should be honest with ourselves when assessing our strengths and weaknesses.
All skills are transferable, but we have to ask if the organizational culture or institutional context fit within our own professional interests and needs. For example, do you really enjoy publishing, presenting, or serving on committees? What about giving up tenure or faculty status or working with the general public? Can you handle and embrace these changes? When you’ve identified weaknesses, you have also identified opportunities.
How is librarianship evolving?
DEA: We are learning new things as a field and adapting to our cultural environments all the time. The great thing about libraries is that we are part and parcel of the communities we serve, and our evolution is tied directly to the world at large.
Many of the book’s contributors are accidental librarians. Why is librarianship often a second career?
RP: Those of us who enter the field as a second career may have realized that we enjoy supporting communities through information services. We love helping people. Librarians are passionate about finding ways to strengthen and engage with their communities. More and more people are seeing the value of libraries whether in an academic, public, or specialized context. Libraries are not simply spaces with books but rather places [where people foster the] intellect, vibrant environments of creativity and engagement [available] to all types of users.
Librarian Jan Chindlund suggests not fixating on professional titles. What are your thoughts?
DEA: It comes down to clearly sharing the story of your career in a way that maps to what your next employer has in mind. It’s important to be able to demonstrate that you have
the skills necessary for the job, if not the title itself. The cover letter is a great place to do this, and of course the interview.
Are library programs preparing people for non-linear careers?
DEA: Even in just the couple of years since I graduated from Pratt Institute, the courses on offer have evolved to accommodate larger trends in our society’s information needs. Of course there will always be, and should be, field-specific courses that fledgling archivists and librarians can dip into, but by and large it seems to me that our library schools and iSchools are responsive to shifts in what will be required in the workforce. And I’d argue that continuing education plays a role in our individual career paths.
What did you learn while editing the book?
RP: Our role as librarians will constantly evolve to meet the needs of all types of users across institutional contexts. We can and should reduce typecasting within different libraries and, instead, focus on the contributions of individuals.
DEA: There is no one precise career path laid out for each of us; all we can do is dream big and take things one day at a time.
What advice would you offer those interested in a career move?
RP: All of the book’s contributors took on some level of risk when changing direction. Their risks paid off because they were willing to step out of their comfort zones, learn something new, and embrace change.—Stephanie Sendaula