Pursuing a Career as an International/ Area Studies Librarian

by Chellamal Vaidyanathan

Pursuing a career as International/ Area Studies Librarian can be an exciting and a great opportunity to study intensively in a particular discipline of your interest. In the current age of globalization, international/ area studies have become increasingly important as scholars are engaging in interdisciplinary research. Therefore, specializing in a specific area studies program would be a good start to begin your career in this field of librarianship. If you have always been interested in getting a master's degree in a particular area studies program, now is the time to enroll in that graduate program.

International/ Area Studies Librarians are subject specialists whose jobs include responsibilities such as reference, instruction, and collection development. In general, these librarians have a graduate degree in their field of specialization and a degree in library science. Sometimes, these subject specialists also have a Ph.D. in their specific discipline. Moreover, they have additional language skills which help them in evaluating and purchasing research resources in their disciplines. For example, an East Asian Studies Librarian usually has a graduate degree in East Asian Studies as well as in library science. Additionally, s/he will also have a working knowledge of the East Asian languages.

There are separate associations/round tables/committees and sections of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) that focus on specific areas. The ACRL has four sections: Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Studies Section (AAMES), African American Studies Section (AFAS), Slavic and Eastern European Section (SEES), and Western European Studies Section (WESS). Each section focuses on issues of interest to librarians specializing in these areas. All the sections also have listservs that you can subscribe to. If you would like to learn more about any of these sections, you may wish to e-mail the Chair and perhaps volunteer to serve on section committees that are of interest to you.

Links to their websites are as follows:

Asian, African, and Middle Eastern Section (AAMES)

African American Studies Section (AFAS)

Slavic and Eastern European Section (SEES)

Western European Studies Section (WESS)

WESS Section has a New Members Page and an Academic Librarianship & Foreign Languages Recruitment Page. They also offer an extremely useful Job Shadowing Program, which offers a great learning opportunity for potential academic librarians interested in WESS. The links to these pages are provided below.

New Members Page

Academic Librarianship & Foreign Languages Recruitment Page

Job Shadowing Program

Apart from the ACRL sections, there are other associations and committees that you may find very useful. Some of these are the Africana Librarians Council (ALC), Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA) which is an affiliate of the American Library Association, the Committee on Research Materials on Southeast Asia (CORMOSEA), the Middle East Librarians Association (MELA), and Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation (CONSALD). All these associations and committees hold their regular meetings and discuss issues pertinent to their areas of specialization. All of them also have listservs that you may wish to subscribe to.

Africana Librarians Council

Asian Pacific American Librarians Association (APALA)

Committee on Research Materials on Southeast Asia (CORMOSEA)

Middle East Librarians Association (MELA)

Committee on South Asian Libraries and Documentation (CONSALD)

There are several area studies programs that you can choose to specialize in and simultaneously develop your foreign language skills if you are interested in working as an Area Studies Librarian. There are numerous opportunities to network with colleagues in the field and to develop yourself professionally. Thus, if you are interested in learning more about this field of librarianship, contact the respective associations/ committees/sections.