At SLA’s Annual Conference in Boston this past June, I had the opportunity to moderate a career panel. Kim Dority spoke, and also provided SLA’s closing keynote address. Both inspiring and practical, Kim provides the kind of advice that motivates each of us to find our most rewarding career path and be our true selves. I reached out to her recently to discuss her forthcoming book, Rethinking Information Work, 2nd edition.
Dee: The first edition of Rethinking Information Work is a highly holistic approach to career planning. What updates did you include in the new edition?
Kim: The updates I made reflected the substantial changes the profession has undergone in the past ten years, both contracting and expanding. For example, school librarianship has taken a terrible employment hit in recent years as more and more school administrators decide that having a knowledgeable, trained teacher-librarian working with students is no longer a budget priority for them. It’s a terrible decision for many reasons (all highly documented), but it’s the new reality. So when I wrote about school librarianship as a career path, I tried to be as honest and factual as possible about the career realities.
On the other hand, the emerging opportunities in disciplines like data management, digital asset management, embedded librarianship, user experience design, data visualization, instructional design, and digital content creation and marketing (to name just a few) are expanding like crazy.
The challenge for LIS professionals is to 1) figure out what these jobs are called, since the titles and job descriptions are still sorting themselves out, and 2) effectively “map” or translate their LIS skills into language that aligns with the hiring organization. So I’ve tried to include useful, actionable information about new types of LIS work, job titles, and skills translation.
My July visit to Washington, D.C., combined a great DC/SLA Chapter program, several library visits, and a quiet dinner with a friend and mentor.
I began my tours at the U.S. Department of Education, National Library of Education, where I met with Karen White and Pamela Tripp-Melby. The Library has a total staff of thirteen. Director Tripp-Melby works with White on outreach efforts, including presentations on services and resources for the evidence-based research that is conducted across the agency. The Library serves Department employees and the public. A major project is the cataloging of a textbook collection that dates from the 1830’s to the 1940’s and includes 28,000 volumes. This project highlights the extension of traditional library competencies into areas of special collections and digitization. Pamela leads Open Access for the Department of Education, and worked with other Department employees to draft their policy. A challenge in the Ed policy is the definition of research. Much Department funding goes to programming that may or may not produce a scholarly paper. Data and data storage also present unique policy challenges. With no central education data repository, researchers will need to store data in local repositories. Education data includes a significant amount of human subjects data, which must be handled with care.
Turning to SLA, we bridged the open access and data discussion with career opportunities for data librarians. Researchers need people who can manage this information. This is a career development opportunity for SLA and its units. Other emerging careers for information professionals include user experience and information architecture professionals. Indexers and catalogers are re-imagining themselves as metadata specialists. Special librarians have skills and knowledge of organizations that can be leveraged for new career opportunities. Understanding emerging fields and practices is critical, and our conference programming must reflect this content. A shift in our conference planning cycle to a competitive programming model could assist in delivering fresh, broad content.
Late in July I spoke to the Association of American Publishers, Professional & Scholarly Publishing Division (AAP/PSP) in New York City. While in town to discuss scholarly publishing, our work at Los Alamos and developing tools, I had the opportunity to visit with SLA New York Chapter members.
I began my visit at the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO), where my fellow SLA Board candidate Tom Nielsen and SLA member Davis Erin Anderson work. METRO is a library membership organization that provides services and training to regional information professionals. In addition to locally produced training and an annual conference, access to external training such as Library Juice Academy and Lynda.com are provided. METRO serves as a regional service hub to the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). A METRO project, Culture in Transit, brings scanning equipment to smaller institutions to assist in getting collections online. These collections will eventually become part of the DPLA. Tom and I discussed the role of library organizations in advocacy and advocacy training, both of which are critical to the current and future success of information professionals and centers.
I recently traveled to the United Kingdom to deliver a talk to and visit with Institute of Physics staff and leadership. While there, I attended an SLA Europe, BIALL*, and CLSIG CILIP^ event: Open day for new professionals, as well as made several site visits. My entire week was full of conversations with thoughtful and passionate members and professionals. I learned a great deal, and came home with fresh ideas, new and strengthened connections, and excitement for potential future engagement.
First up in my site visits was the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. Neil Infield and Seema Rampersad greeted a group of us from the chapter, and Seema provided an overview of the Centre and its services. Staff hold workshops and clinics for entrepreneurs, providing group and individual guidance. Amongst workshop topics are pitching your product and lean planning — great content for today’s information manager, as well! Industry guides and an e-newsletter are available online, and a wealth of databases and content is available for those visiting the library. In terms of outreach, the Centre has partnerships in South Africa and with the New York Public Library
This past week I traveled to Seattle, WA and Portland, OR to attend ACRL 2015. Flying into Seattle, I had the opportunity to make a few site visits and attend a Pacific Northwest Chapter (PNW) Board meeting.
Liz Doyle and Mary-Thadia D’Hondt met with me at the Region 10 EPA Library. Inside the space was a blend of new technology and traditional collections that serve both employees and the public. A highlight was a collaboration table that allowed groups to plug into a shared interface with individual computers and jointly work on projects. With government dollars being stretched ever further, Liz and Mary are seeing an increase in interlibrary loan. There is also a movement toward a more centralized look-and-feel amongst EPA sites, as well as shared development and information opportunities such as webinars.
Mentoring has been a passion of mine for nearly two decades. In the May 2002 issue of Business Information Alert, I published an article on mentoring: A Call to Mentoring. The books referenced are now from a previous decade, yet their messages stand.
In addition to the article, an SLA mentoring list was created in 2002. The list no longer exists, but as we begin to partner and work across units, perhaps the time has come to renew this effort?
Looking for a great, current mentoring resource? Try one of these!