Careers in Federal Libraries – So you want to be a Federal Librarian?

By Kim Lyall

Have you ever considered a library or information management career in the federal government, but weren't sure where to look, how to apply, or what kind of opportunities might exist?  The Federal and Armed Forces Libraries Round Table (FAFLRT), in cooperation with the Government Information and Military Librarians Divisions of the Special Libraries Association, has created a new online resource that may help in your quest to land a federal position.

FAFLRT President Nancy Faget began this effort earlier this year by setting up the Careers in Federal Libraries Google Group.   The idea for an online space was conceived after the successful Careers in Federal Libraries events that took place at ALA conferences. According to Nancy, the organizers “wanted a way to continue the discussion between library school students, job seekers, and federal librarians.  Federal employees know that finding a federal job is sometimes a long and tricky process.  We want to help those with an interest in serving as a Federal information professional."

Groups are one of the many free services offered through Google.  They allow users to join, participate in discussions, and post documents to one shared online space.  The Careers in Federal Libraries Google Group acts as a collaboration tool that connects federal librarians to current library school students, recent grads, and those interested in pursuing a federal library career. 

Collaborative online spaces facilitate open communication, knowledge sharing, and networking. Joyce Lee, a current student involved in the initiative notes that, "Social networking tools really help overcome geographic boundaries and enable people all over the country and world to communicate quickly and effectively.  People expect to be able to find and share information online and communicate with others through discussion boards and social networking sites."

Although this group is only in its beginning stages, there are already over 100 members and 20 discussion threads.  We are currently soliciting feedback and ideas in order to improve the user experience with additional online functionalities and programming of interest to the users.

Michelle Chronister, another student involved in the initiative, believes that a "mentorship program would be great for students who are interested in this field.  Applying for federal jobs is a process that is unlike applying for most other library positions.  It would be nice to talk with someone who has gone through this process and can provide insight into federal opportunities."

Other suggestions include a series of interviews with federal librarians, in-person events and a shared online calendar function to support tracking events.

The Careers in Federal Libraries site not only provides a forum for members to suggest ideas, but also serves as a place to ask for career advice from seasoned federal librarians.

A current online member who is a federal librarian provides the following practical advice, “Look at to get all the information about an application under the 1410 series….  Also, have patience.  Although they are trying to stream-line the process for applying for any federal job, it can takes months to hear back.  It can depend on the agency, the clearance needed, and the person applying.”

A Marine Corps Station Librarian offers this encouragement to federal job seekers, “…the opportunity for travel and advancement is second to none. There are federal libraries worldwide and openings are continuously posted via the federal government’s jobsite. Europe, Asia, Pacific Region….these are just a few of the places a federal librarian can live and work.”

By harnessing the power of the social web and the interest of the library and information science community, the Careers in Federal Libraries group may one day become the “go to” resource for federal job seekers and information professionals.

For more information or to join the group, please visit the Careers in Federal Libraries Google Group page.

Kim Lyall currently works for a government contractor that manages a scientific and technical information database.