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Alt-Ac Careers: Academic Librarianship

Exploring career possibilities.

April 17, 2017
 
 

Regina Sierra Carter received her Ph.D. in Educational Policy Studies from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She currently works as a Teaching and Learning Librarian at the University of Virginia.

 

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Have you ever considered an alt-ac career in academic librarianship?

 

If you answered in the negative, do not worry. I am not offended.

 

If you are currently conducting a career search, I would like to direct your attention to alt-ac careers in library and information science (LIS) and, more specifically, academic librarianship. In this post, I will speak about opportunities available within the profession, share resources about where to find positions, and hopefully sway you to consider a career in LIS.

 

Out of all the alt-ac careers available, academic librarianship is one that is most often underexplored and misunderstood. I hope to clear up some confusion about how you can find fulfilling work in this profession.

 

Before delving into the beauties of academic librarianship, allow me to take a step back and say that academic libraries are not the only libraries where you can embark upon a fulfilling career. There are many, many types of libraries. You are probably very familiar with public libraries. However, I would be remiss if I did not disclose that there are “thousands of libraries in schools, colleges and universities, hospitals, law firms, businesses, armed forces,” museums, etc. (American Library Association, “Oh, the Places You Will Go,” n.d.). There are equally (if not more) types of positions within LIS in addition to serving as a librarian. For purposes of this post, I will speak specifically about jobs within academic librarianship within the context of the University of Virginia (UVA). Please note: Positions vary by institution size, type, need, etc.

 

There are 200+ professionals who work within the UVA Libraries. Here is a brief snapshot of the job titles of a few of those professionals:

 

Archivist

Assessment Librarian

Curator

Educational Technologist

Event Coordinator

Geospatial Consultant

Instructional Design Librarian

Project Manager

Reference Librarian

Software Engineer

Teaching and Learning Librarian

User Experience Designer & Developer

 

I bet some of you didn’t know that there was such a diverse array of skills represented within the LIS profession. Moreover, it may also come as a surprise that as a professional working in an academic library, one may have an opportunity to earn tenure, attain faculty status, teach, conduct research, and publish. However, this varies by institution. Not all LIS professionals have faculty status or work at institutions that grant tenure.

 

In case you are thinking a career in academic librarianship is impossible because you don’t have a master’s degree in LIS, don’t be dismayed. Although it is true that many position announcements do state that you must have a degree in LIS, not all of them do. So please read the position description and ask questions. Sometimes there are opportunities for you to attain employment within academic libraries if you have expertise in a subject area. There are also instances where you may receive an offer for employment and have an opportunity to obtain a master’s degree in LIS while you are working. For those concerned about the cost of attaining another graduate degree, please understand that funding is available. The American Library Association has compiled a list of scholarships for those who desire to become credentialed LIS professionals.

 

You now know about careers in academic librarianship and funding opportunities to obtain a LIS degree. Now here are some resources that you may use to view academic librarianship job openings:

 

ALA JobLIST

Association of Research Libraries

 

You can even find positions in The Chronicle, HigherEdJobs, and yours truly… Inside Higher Ed.

 

For those who will be searching for jobs in the distant and not-too-distant future, consider an alt-ac career in academic librarianship. You might be pleasantly surprised to find a job, if not a career, of a lifetime.

 

Are you open to considering an alt-ac career in academic librarianship? If yes, please share.

 

[Image by Flickr user GotCredit and used under Creative Commons licensing.]

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