Career Q&A: A Librarian's Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career

Making the Transition from One Library Position to Another

Susanne is right—we had a wonderful time at the conference (#IL2013) and really enjoyed the programs and presentations, as well as meeting and connecting with other conference attendees. In addition to hearing a lot of questions about returning to librarianship, we also heard a lot from folks with questions that centered around moving from one type of library to another, or from one type of position to another. Law library to academic? Government docs to research and instruction? So here’s another Q and A from the conference…

Q: I currently work in a special library and would like to move to an academic library. Any tips on making this transition?

A: Of course we have tips! There are several ideas to think about and a lot of different ways to get started. First, start looking at vacancy announcements for positions of interest. Even well ahead of when you’re ready to make the move, look at the required and preferred qualifications of the positions you’re most interested in. This will allow you to assess your strengths and weaknesses in terms of the qualifications of the job, and will give you time to grow in areas that need development—you can take an online class, volunteer in another position to gain valuable (and required) experience, develop a stronger online presence, etc.

Second, when you’re ready to apply, present your application materials in a way that will make it easy for the reviewer to draw direct parallels between your experience and their desired qualifications. Although you’ve been working in a different type of library, the work experience is still applicable and transferable. Try to mirror the language that you see in the vacancy announcement. For example, if you refer to “customers” in the special library context, but the academic library refers to “patrons”, modify your cover letter and resume using “patron”. This will facilitate the reader’s ability to draw connections between your experience and their position.

And finally, be prepared to consider small steps to get to your final destination. Sometimes, when making big transitions, it’s not always a direct path. You may need to move sideways first. Be open to all opportunities and remember progress is key—find joy in the journey as well as the final destination.

For more career advice, take a look at our blog, Library Career People and check out our new book, Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career.

Thanks for reading!

About Tiffany Eatman Allen

Tiffany Eatman Allen is the director of Library Human Resources at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. She has worked in libraries for more years than she’s willing to admit, including in the catalog department of an academic library, the library of a pharmaceutical company, and a private biomedical research foundation library. This adventure all started with a job in the City and Regional Planning Library as an undergraduate student employee. She received her BA and MLS from the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. In addition to her on-the-job responsibilities, she recently completed a term as president of the human resources section of the American Library Association’s Library Leadership and Management Association. She continues to mentor and coach current School of Information and Library Science students, write a career column, and cheer for her two boys (soccer or basketball, depending on the season). In her free time (as if!), she enjoys spending time with friends and family, wine tasting, supporting local agriculture, wine tasting, cooking, and wine tasting. She is the co-author of Career Q&A: A Librarian's Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career.

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