Career Panel, November 4, 2008
Last Friday’s Career Panel was a rousing success with roughly fifty students attending the event! Thanks to SGB, ARTiFACTS, SLA, ASIS&T and the ALA Student Chapter for sponsoring the event (and providing snacks!). All the panelists were kind enough to give us the inside scoop on what classes they thought helped them, what the field is like now, what it may look like in the future and general wisdom about getting through library school. But if you couldn’t make it, don’t feel bad, just read on…
Each speaker talked for ten minutes followed by an open forum for questions. The following is a very simplified breakdown of what the panelists had to say followed by some questions and panelist bios.
Cindy Mediavilla – Public Library
Public libraries range widely in size and scope. California alone has 181 public library jurisdictions, mostly city or county. There are pros and cons to working either a large or a small library system.
Small: Example - Downey, Monrovia, Moorpark have one city library each.
-Experience everything that happens in public library (reference,
children’s programming, grant writing)
-Glass ceiling, less opportunity for advancement once a certain level is
Large: Example - L.A. Public Library has 82 branches
-Room for promotion
-Room to move around, transfer, try new things while staying within
the same library system
-Lots of rules to follow in order to implement change
Entry level positions/tasks you might find/be doing as a new librarian:
-Adult services, youth services, grant project, mostly youth services or adult
-Public service desk time
-Maybe a bit of collection development for youth or children’s or specific
-Outreach at community fairs, schools, even rotary clubs
-Helping with grant writing
Joys of being a public librarian:
-Never a dull moment!
-Get to help people with all kinds of life situations
Challenges of being a public librarian:
-Never a dull moment!
-May work nights, weekends, longish hours
-Public libraries class this winter
-All/any youth services classes
-At least one internship in a public library
-Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles County all hiring
-Unfortunately, all other systems experiencing layoffs or pay decrease, hard
times but there are some hopeful situations
Lynn Boyden – Informatics/Information Architecture
How is a job in informatics different than one in libraries and archives?
-Usually work a corporate setting
-You still organize information so people can use it but the information being
organized is different, as is the environment you do it in.
Job titles for informatics professionals:
-Information Architect, Interaction Designer, Taxomomist, Usability
Researcher, Ontologist, (“Analytics Maven” is Lynn’s official title!)
-Real life example: Lynn is an Information Architect/Analytics Maven which
entails looking up ways to improve user experience while improving the
bottom line for the client
Some of the many informatics environments:
-Small startups, larger agencies with twelve offices in eight countries,
Why have a library degree?
-You have a baseline set of skills which make you desirable above and beyond
-When you tell clients you have trained as a librarian, people get very excited
-Masters definitely gets you respect out in the field
Pros (Right now its all pro!):
-Starting salary of $50,000-60,000 moving on up to $100,000
-Lots of need, jobs galore!
-Information Seeking behavior
-Internship in information environment (Disney, Comcast have info
*BUT: Don’t intern for free at a private company! You are doing work for
them so make sure to GET PAID!
-Management of digital records
-Programming NOT necessary but useful
-Ethnographic research outside department (observing people in the field)
Info architects interested in people’s behavior in their work environment
Classes at Anderson business school - finance, management, analysis
-Get involved in professional organizations
*ASIST, Usability Professionals Association, IA Institute,
*Meetup.com “UX” website place to meet people, learn about jobs,
-Mentoring REALLY HELPFUL!
*Not just with a professional but with your peers
*“Everyone’s problems are more interesting and easier to solve than your
-IA Summit in Memphis this year, Spring. End of November is deadline for
Brena Smith – Academic Library
As with public libraries, there are small and large academic institutions. The size and type of institution will determine the types of positions available. Some different kinds of academic institutions are community colleges, state schools, public universities, and private colleges.
*You do everything!
*Cataloging, outreach, programs
*You work in a certain department
*Reference and/or instruction
*Access services (aka collection development)
*Cataloging and Metadata
*Subject specialists: Advanced degrees in an specific area
*At UCLA they are in charge of outreach, education and the collections in
that area (ex. Arts, Music)
Some things Academic Librarians do:
-Outreach with students/faculty
-IS 448 Information literacy!
-Three quarter internship in Reference at UCLA
-Descriptive cataloging ! (over Subject) Learn to understand a record
-Take advantage of internships
-Make sure to get at least one internship in Academic librarianship, 1-3 year
requirement for hiring, many will count internship
-Great to be a RDA! Try to get in during the summer if you aren’t now
-Teaching is actually a big part of the job. Get teaching experience somehow
(teach a workshop, lead a panel, give a talk, etc.)
-Sort or grim. Budget cuts at all California colleges right now
-Getting your foot in the door can be difficult
-Hiring process can be from 3-6 months, lengthy
-Start looking after the Winter holidays (in your second year)
Liza Posas – Museum/Special Collections Library
Liza is the Reference Librarian at the Braun Research Library for the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the library section of a small museum with only two full time librarians
Typical day for Liza:
-Check in/work with artists
-Exhibits team meeting
-Coordinate volunteers for “LA as subject”
-Work with researchers
Working in a small library:
-Lots of outreach, collaboration
-Grant writing a big part – need to try to find ways to make grants work for
How Liza approached library school (and it worked for her):
-Took the classes interesting to her
-Took classes where she heard instructors were good
-Wasn’t afraid to take courses outside the department. (Says: “Do what
-Focused on two things in her studies: reference and archives
-Holistic approach to information management, hybrid studies
-Research skills courses
Liza found her internships “invaluable”:
-She worked at the Clark library
-Special Collections internship
-College library internship
Liza found a job which fit her experience!
Dave Farneth – Archives / Special Collections
Somewhere between libraries (sharing all resources with users) and archives (providing very limited access to rare, unique materials) is special collections where the goal is to provide as much access to materials as is possible while still protecting the resource.
Two different mindsets among “archivists”:
-Interested in historical things
-Rare, special collections
People who want to be active in the institution/company they work for
Lots of change in the field:
-Move to electronic resources/records has had huge impact
-Can’t wait anymore to archive/collect records
-Almost 100% managing electronic records
What kinds of collections might you work with?
-Getty has six miles of paper records
-Managing active records in offices, retention center, Knowledge
What jobs are out there?
*Archive of University
-Large Public University
*Managing their intellectual property, products, marketing efforts: Ex.
Film Studio, Historical Society, Museum
“Pros” of being an archivist:
-Librarians/Archivists have great skills to transfer!
-You really get to know the collection
-Your collection may only be a small part of the world but you are the expert
-Strong connection to researchers.
-Get to see the results of your efforts in the form of people’s published works.
-Lots of different functions, multi-tasking
Dave Capolli – Specialist Libraries
How is a specialized library different from a “regular” library and what are the benefits?
-You may not be working in a traditional library
-May work in teams to understand overall information needs of organization
-See more immediate results of the work you do
-Situated where you can build relationships outside of your team, seen as an
asset within the organization
-Collections (print or digital) are focused in the area of expertise of the
organization you work for
You may not be the gatekeeper for the collections:
-Collections are pushed out to the end users at their desktops
-You may be a trainer
-You might work with vendors
Some examples of specialist library jobs:
-Lost of different arenas – corporate, public, academic
-Cataloger for food and nutritionist, law firm, research analyst
pharmaceudical company, development researcher, aerospace researcher,
knowledge analyst for organization, medical librarian
Recommended coursework (“Be proactive!”):
-Internships!!! Be flexible when looking for internships. Even if not exactly
what you want you may be able to transfer the knowledge.
-Directed study – Create your own internship/project
-Systems analysis course really helps to envision a project from start to end.
-Technology oriented courses. Be able to talk the talk! (Don’t necessarily have
to know exactly how to walk the walk).
-Cataloging and metadata
-Look outside department for specialized courses related to special libraries –
for instance Anderson School of Business
-Information literacy course – Learn to train people
-Storytelling – Learn to present, become comfortable speaking in front of
-Networking is KEY!
-Participation in associations
-Advocate for yourself, give yourself credit
-Be flexible, take on new challenges
-Once you are a professional continue your education, take workshops, stay
-Experiment with new technology
After the formal talks, the panels fielded questions. Here are some of the questions with a quick rundown of answers. I haven’t attributed the answers, most were answered by more than one person.
Q: In the case of Specialist Libraries, how important is it to know about the specific field before you apply there?
A: It does help, for instance, in law. It’s easier to get internships while at school than learn on the job so that’s a good place to start learning about the field you want to work in. Good to have
Q: (To Brena) What kind of teaching do you do in Academic Libraries?
A: At the peak time in the quarter, she teaches 4 to 10 sections per week - teach literacy, doing workshops for a certain class. Some librarians offer for credit courses but it is becoming less and less common.
Q: What kind of teaching experience is useful?
A: Good to show that you can put together a program or a lesson plan.
Q: As a librarian at a museum, do you get involved in exhibition design?
A: Not exhibition design. The museum library does suggest objects to go into exhibits such as rare books.
Q: Is there anything you wish you had known when you were in library school?
A: Liza -- Paid more attention in management class! Sometimes you don’t
know why you are learning something until it comes up later.
Cindy – Management single best class she took! Still memorable many years
later. Even if you don’t think you will be a manager, you will.
Brena -- Public service very important! Understanding what it means, how
to interact with people.
Dave F. – It’s a whole new world! It’s fun and exciting that there is always
something new to learn to keep up. Technology is huge. Take
every tech course you can. All these information worlds are going
to start meshing and technology will be the means to do this.
Q: How do you continue your education once you are a professional?
A: Attend professional meetings, read journals and blogs, network with colleagues! A shortcoming in profession is lack of support for continued learning. Once again “be proactive”.
Lynn – Corporate sector will often reimburse for new training. Don’t be
afraid to ask for it. It demonstrates that you want to improve your
Liza – Good thing to ask when interviewing. Ask about opportunities for
professional development. Required for Academic librarians, esp. if
you are faculty and tenured. Attendance to conferences often
Dave C. – Sometimes you can attend workshops on the company’s bill if you
agree to share what you learn or take a leadership position.
Dave F. – Directly tie the training to your position.
Q: Do internships count as “experience” for all fields represented?
A: Often they are considered. Make sure you have a “deliverable”, a product from your internship to show employers (finding aid, report, etc.).
Q: Is it still viable to work part-time as a librarian?
A: A lot of the Cal States have a part time pool. If you can get on a part time position for community colleges, cal states, get on it! Good pay. No benefits, but you get to try out other things it keeps you knowing what’s up in the library world.
Dave F.: Lots of people’s first time jobs are projects funded by grants. These are
great because you get training, payment, mentoring and great leverage
for a “real” job.
Lynn: Grant projects are a great way to get your foot in the door.
Here are the panelists, their spam-deterrent emails, and short bios (they’ve all done way more than what I’ve included):
Cindy Mediavilla (cmediavi at ucla dot edu) - Public Librarian
Current Library Programs Consultant for the California State Library with 18 years experience as a public librarian.
Lynn Boyden (lynnboyden at gmail dot com) – Information Architect
Teaches information architecture in the UCLA IS Department. Has practiced for agencies, institutions, and corporations. Published widely, most recently on the subject of information architecture as a career choice.
David Cappoli (dcappoli at ucla dot edu) - Specialist Librarian
Current Digital Resources Librarian for the UCLA IS Department overseeing instructional technology needs for departmental courses. Teaches courses. oversees IS web content, and administers the department's series of continuing education workshops. President of the Southern California Chapter of the Special Library Association (SLA).
David Farneth (DFarneth at getty dot edu) – Archives/Special Collections
Head of Special Collections and Institutional Records at the Getty. Oversees management of rare books, manuscript collections, archives, rare photographs, prints, and the photo study collection as well as Getty’s Institutional Archives department.
Liza Posas (lposas at autrynationalcenter dot org) – Museum/Arts/Special Collections
Reference Librarian for the Braun Research Library (a special collections and research library for the Southwest Museum of the American Indian). Worked as Reference Librarian and the Native American Studies Collection Manager at UC SantaBarbara.
Brena Smith (brena at library dot ucla dot edu) – Academic Librarian
Currently Information Literacy Operations Librarian for UCLA’s College Library responsible for outreach to faculty and student groups. Sole librarian for Westwood College for 2 ½ years.