From Library School to Tenure Track: The Resident Librarian Experience

From Library School to Tenure Track: The Resident Librarian Experience
By Beth Canzoneri
At the beginning Fall Semester at our university, I will exit my current position as a resident librarian and enter into a tenure track position. While the road from library school was filled with many positive experiences, the most rewarding has been my time as a resident librarian.
It all began at the ALA Annual Conference the summer I completed my MLIS. I met an academic librarian who looked at my resume, noticed my strong marketing background, and suggested that I apply for an upcoming marketing position in his library. This had not exactly been my plan, but I decided to give it a try.
A year after the accepting the marketing position, I learned that the library planned to hire a resident for the first time. Here was a chance to achieve the goals I had set for myself in library school. Long story short, I got the job and began the transition to resident librarian.
What is a resident librarian?
Resident librarian positions have been around for a decade, but the job title is still unfamiliar to many. The position is limited in term – anywhere from 1-3 years, typically – and geared to recent library school graduates. It offers an opportunity to learn the ropes of academic librarianship in a 
supportive environment before applying for a permanent, tenure track position.
There are many types of residency positions out there these days, and they can be found mostly at large research universities. Job titles range from Resident Librarian to Librarian-in-Residence to Library Fellow to Library Intern. You’ll also see Diversity Resident, which is created especially for new librarians from ethic or culturally diverse backgrounds.
Some library residency programs are designed to give a broad view of the profession; other programs give extensive exposure to a particular area of librarianship, such as instructional design, reference and instruction, or cataloging. Resident librarian positions are also designed to benefit the university because they bring the fresh ideas and enthusiasm of new librarians, as well as the option to hire the resident later in a permanent, tenure track position.
Pros and cons of the resident librarian experience
There are many positives about the residency experience, but some highlights are:
 It's a true immersion into academic librarianship. Although you might have had an internship during library school, internships offer limited experience. With a residency, you will have a chance to truly develop your new skills and knowledge. For example, as a reference/instruction resident librarian, I staffed the reference desk; delivered information literacy instruction in core courses; developed and implemented outreach initiatives to student groups; created research guides and other instructional materials; served on library and university committees; conducted tours and library information sessions; and in my final year, served as a library liaison to an academic department.
It offers valuable mentor relationships. You will have the opportunity to work alongside and collaborate with seasoned librarians. When the time comes to apply for a permanent position, you’ll be in great shape due to the rich networking experiences inherent in the resident librarian position. For me, this was one of the most positive aspects of the residency experience. I found our reference/instruction team to be extremely helpful and a few became true mentors. I always had someone to go to for advice or to make simple seemingly daunting new tasks.
It provides funding for professional development. Resident positions typically offer support for travel and conference participation that is similar to what is offered to tenure track faculty. This is actually one of the best perks of the resident librarian position. Take full advantage because conferences provide excellent opportunities to network, present your work, and develop leadership skills within the profession.
It allows time for research and writing projects. Resident positions only last 1-3 years, and before you know it, you will need to prepare your resume or CV for a job search again. You will be responding to jobs that require 1-2 years of experience, and that typically includes presentations and published articles. At our university, the resident librarian position offers faculty status but is classified as non-tenure track. This allowed me to develop skills and confidence as a reference librarian, build a CV, and take first stabs at getting published without the ticking clock of the tenure track in the background.
There are really very few negatives about the library resident experience, but some things to consider before taking a resident librarian position include: 
It can offer little in the way of structure. While my colleagues were always happy to help me fill knowledge gaps as a new librarian, sometimes I simply wished for a better road map for achieving success in the position. So if you find yourself as a resident librarian – even in a program that has been well established – just remember, the depth and scope of the experience you gain is largely up to you. 
It delays the start of a tenure track position. If a tenure track position is your goal, a resident position librarian will put that on hold for a while. Of course, you always have the option to seek a tenure track position at any point in your residency, but this tactic is not really fair to you or your library. Think long and hard about doing this unless you are applying for a permanent position that has opened up in the same library as your residency. 
It has an expiration date. By design, a library residency expires after a few years. If you are very lucky, a permanent position will open where you are already working as a resident. If not, you will find yourself back in job search mode. But a limited term position is a great way to find out if you are a good fit for the library. Do you really want to stay there, or would you be able to more fully realize your career goals at a different library? In my case, two years into my three year residency, a permanent, tenure track position became available, and I was fortunate enough to land it. By that time, I had fallen in love with the library, its wonderful community, and geographic location.  
Today you can find much more information on the resident librarian than you could just a few years ago. The {ACRL Residency Interest Group} has blossomed, as postings for resident librarian positions have increased throughout the country. The group’s website includes a list of active residency programs and a post feed of open positions. It even includes contact information for previous residents. Getting in touch with one is a great way to learn firsthand about the resident experience.
So if you’ll soon complete library school, be open to starting out as a resident. There is much to learn in your first year as an academic librarian. Serving a stint as a resident librarian will ease you into the profession, enrich your development as a librarian, and set the stage for a successful career. 
Contact Information: 
Beth Canzoneri, Assistant Professor, Reference/Instruction Librarian 
University of Idaho Library {}