By April Grey and Rachel Isaac-Menard
Watching your library school classmates look for jobs, you must have realized that it is almost inevitable that new graduates relocate after graduation. Available library jobs are rare, especially in regions that have a library school. There is a lack of professional librarian positions available for recent graduates, and growth for the profession is slower than average. As the demand for employment greatly outweighs the supply of available library jobs, graduates increasingly have to compromise by working outside their desired area or finding temporary jobs to compensate for the lack of full-time permanent openings in libraries. Relocating for employment is a compromise that many of us have to make for the opportunity to work in our chosen career.
You have likely invested a lot of effort, money, and time to obtain your professional MLS degree, and may have already gained considerable experience through internships and paraprofessional work. Our advice to recent MLS graduates is to be willing to relocate for employment if you want to use your degree and get a job in librarianship. Due to the lagging job market and the slow turnover in the profession you may move to gain experience in a part-time position or a temporary contract. If fortunate, you will be moving for a full-time permanent professional position. Moving away may not be the final stop on your career path. Many people move to gain experience, especially while new to the profession. They are then in a better position to get the job they want, in the place they want to live, or to develop their skill set to seek promotion after a few years of experience working in a library.
Due to limited opportunities in the areas in which we lived, we had to move to small rural communities far from home for employment in the library profession. We both faced challenges in moving for career opportunities but found that years after our experience, we are grateful we took the chance to further our careers. We describe our experience:
“I was fortunate to find a local job using my MLS just a few months after graduation. I completed my degree in May and was working full time as a cataloger trainee at a library vendor by mid-July. Unfortunately, after 18 months with the company the whole office was shut down and all staff laid off. All at once 16 catalog librarians were looking for work in a metro area with a library school - not a good place to be. I struggled with the idea of moving away from home as I would be leaving behind family, friends, and my home, all of which I never thought I would leave. I know my husband and I could have survived on his salary and I could have found employment outside my field, or I could have stayed in the area with a part time library position, but I chose to take the opportunity to become a full time librarian. After the time and effort invested in obtaining my degree and gaining professional experience at a variety of libraries, I wanted to be a full time librarian, even if it meant moving away and leaving behind familiar surroundings. Through much heartache, we decided I should search for a library position outside the area.”
“Due to the economic downturn, there were very few opportunities near where I lived during my final semester of library school. There were many layoffs in my province due to the economic crash and there were a plethora of librarians looking for work. After working in part time positions in library school, entering the summer after graduating with my MLS, I was keen to become a full time librarian and use my degree and experience in a professional position. I made the decision to apply and broaden my search criteria to other countries besides my own. Within a few months of making the decision to relocate for work and accept a position outside of my region I was offered a temporary maternity cover position in a different country. I took the position knowing it was only an eight month contract but realized this would be invaluable on my resume. The university ended up extending my contract for a little over a year. After gaining a total of two years professional experience I was in a more competitive situation to find a job closer to home.”
Take the next step for your career. You already went to library school because you wanted to be a full time librarian. Moving for a professional library job in a new city will be a good move for your career goals. You will appreciate your job and the people you meet along the way. You may even see interesting parts of the world, and you will definitely learn more about yourself!
April Grey is Assistant Professor/Catalog Librarian and subject liaison for Psychology at Adelphi University. Rachel Isaac-Menard is Assistant Professor/Web Services and Reference Librarian at Adelphi University. She is also subject liaison to Anthropology; African/Black/Caribbean Studies; Levermore Global Scholars and the University College.