“The irregularity of our roles and the ever-changing nature of our profession can be a draw for those who crave variety and enjoy learning new things. Librarianship, thankfully, is rarely boring, and library professionals rarely spend their days doing the same tasks with the same routines over and over”S. Markgren and L. Miles, How to thrive as a library professional: Achieving success and satisfaction, p.58
When it comes to making plans for my future, I am a huge sufferer of FOMO (fear of missing out). There are just so many things that sound interesting to me, and it has always felt like to chose one is to decide not to pursue any of the others. As an undergraduate student, I managed to navigate this difficulty by taking enough classes to triple major. After college, this strategy quickly became not applicable, especially when it came to actually choosing a career path.
You might be wondering what this has to do with library school or being a librarian/information professional. In fact, it was coming to terms with my FOMO that led me to choose librarianship.
In her popular book Refuse to Choose! Use All of Your Interests, Passions, and Hobbies to Create the Life and Career of Your Dreams, Barbara Sher described the concept of an umbrella career, meant for those looking for a career that will allow for doing many of the things they are interested in. For me, I hope that librarianship can become such a career.
In fact, I think that the library and information professions are exceptionally well-suited to prepare one for an umbrella career. Here’s why:
- To be a librarian or an information professional means being an expert at managing change.
“While we may need core skills in traditional areas of library expertise, such as reference and collection development, we must move beyond those and add technology, business, management, interpersonal, attitude, and other tangible and intangible skills. Willingness to change is most important, for without it, we cannot move forward.”David Grossman and Deborah Hunt, The Librarian’s Skillbook, p.9
- Lifelong learning is a core value of the profession. According to the ALA, the SLA, and the ASIS&T, a commitment to lifelong learning is essential to the work of an information professional. By its very nature, lifelong learning helps to stave off boredom and feed an umbrella career.
- You don’t need to get tripped up on specific job titles. It’s common to emphasize skills and competencies, as I wrote about here, and you don’t need to feel tied to a particular title. In fact, the skills of librarians can be found in many professional arenas. In her book, ALA presenter and career coach Dr. Caitlin Williams advises:
- It is common to hold a variety of different positions within the information professions. Before and during my first semester of library school, I read a lot of interviews given by practicing librarians and information professionals. One common theme was that so many held varied jobs at different points in the careers. Although all fell under the umbrella of the information professions, the skills and job duties varied greatly. Catherine Lavallée-Welch’s 2016 interview in Information Outlook is an example of this common career trajectory:
If the idea of building an umbrella career resonates with you like it does with me, I invite you to reject the idea that you have to choose and that missing out is inevitable. It’s worth thinking specifically about how your career strategy can support this goal. As you go through your library school classes, be mindful of which specific activities, skills, or themes interest you, even if they are not limited to a formal area of focus in your curriculum.
Caroline Hron Weigle is a first-year student in Wayne State University’s online MLIS program. You can find her on twitter at @hronweigle. Connect with her on Linkedin here or check out her personal library school blog.