Soldiers, At Ease: Finding Your Career in Libraries

I saw myself through to the end of my seventh year, and with reluctance and eagerness I retired my uniform, my rank, and my identity. I had aspirations to learn who I could be when I wasn’t Sergeant Roberts and opportunities to pursue that were polar opposite of my military obligation.

No stranger to commitment, I found the process of dedicating myself to the Library and Information Science field daunting. My trepidation of entering a new career where I did not know how to translate my experience and qualifications made me feel as if any respect and authority I had earned during my service was essentially void. I am now a year into the profession and it wasn’t until recently I was able to reflect on my experience and understand its worth.

Things you have to offer because you’ve served:

  1. Perspective – the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) recently awarded $488,501 in grant funding to Dr. Loriene Roy for her persistence in recruiting veterans into libraries. The perspective you can offer to LIS is one that is demographically under-represented. You will find that very few professionals in this field understand service in the same context as you but that a large population of library users are your brothers or sisters in arms. This is something you have to offers that others do not.
  2. I Will Never Accept Defeat, I Will Never Quit – We’ve sat through the briefings that lasted for hours where resiliency and dedication were drilled into our psyches. We’re not shy of difficult tasks that take months, or even years, to accomplish at a high standard. Do not forget this when you’re moving into this profession. You’ve been molded into a formidable force that can, and will, reach goals. Libraries are often under-valued and it takes command voice and a wicked fight to advocate for your existence.
  3. Leadership – It’s not a battalion, company, platoon, or squad anymore but you are leading your department, team, or organization in similar ways. The leadership you’ve developed under tactical and professional stress has a home in the field of LIS. Where management can sometimes feel lacking, you can offer your support and knowledge and even practice to help with personnel management and goal accomplishment.
  4. Global Mindset – In service you often think of your brothers or sisters overseas and how the mechanisms of your work keeps the mechanisms of their work strong despite the distance. Libraries operate in a similar structure where no part is greater than the whole and therefore teamwork and community alliance can transform the success of a library.

The transition is complex and every service member will experience this differently but know, and use, the resources available to you for developing your professional and civilian identity in Library and Information Science. At ease and rest, Soldiers. You’re in good hands.


Resources available to transitioning service members:

About the Guest Author:

Kimberlee Roberts is graduating from her MLIS program early but regrets not drawing it out a bit longer. She has studied the nexus between archives preservation and digital humanities, hoping to make rare and antiquated collections accessible and interactive. She’s currently an instruction librarian and archivist at Red Rocks Community College and a researcher with the University of Denver. When not applying for jobs, Kimberlee is a try-hard rock climber and slightly-better-than-average cyclist.


1 reply

  1. I have not served in the military – I am not an American citizen – but I have hired veterans, and can confirm that, in my (admittedly limited) experience, I have found veterans to be very strong-minded, dedicated employees who are great in the frequently awkward situations that come up in libraries.


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