Hello and welcome to Stacking Up, a blog for the "modern" librarian! The great thing about today's librarians is that we are so diverse: different ages, backgrounds, personalities, looks... this blog is here to share this diversity with ideas, insights, stories, experiences and opinions for anything and everything having to do with being a librarian!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Public, Academic, or Special Libraries? I Can't Choose!

OK, so I must be the most indecisive person ever when it comes to picking a career direction. Back in library school I had this issue as well- which kind of library do I want to get into? At the time, I was all about the Special Library and Special Collections. I took classes on preservation and archives, and even considered adding on a second degree in Museum Studies. However, once I graduated, my first library job turned out to be in exactly the kind of library I had no interest in as a grad student: public libraries. Last September I started working as a substitute librarian for the city library branches and realized just how much fun it can be to work in the public library world!

About a month later I was lucky enough to get a steady, part-time job as an academic Reference and Instruction Librarian at a small satellite campus for a business-centered college. For the past 7 months now I have been gaining invaluable experience in library instruction, one-on-one reference, programming, marketing, and many other things.

So then yesterday I found a job opening for a librarian needed at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is a part of the United States Department of Defense, and I was just thinking, oh my gosh! How cool would that be to say I worked for the DIA? (Plus, it pays REALLY good.) Unfortunately, I'm under-qualified for that specific position at the moment, but who knows, maybe someday...?

So here I am, almost a year after graduating from library school-- working as both a public and academic librarian and looking into becoming a special collections librarian. Still haven't made up my mind! I love aspects of each type. Public libraries are great because I feel like both the people you work for and the people you work with are more laid-back, and the job gives you more flexibility to do things that you want. Like murder-mysteries? Throw a murder-mystery party. Like story-telling and playing Wii bowling? Become a children's or YA librarian. Like wine? Have a wine-tasting session at your next staff day (no, I am not making this up, we really did have one of these!) I like academic libraries because I really love working one-on-one with students and helping them do their research and citations-- I just get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when I know I have just helped someone to understand where to look for something or how to cite something. Plus I feel like I am getting experience in library instruction that I couldn't get anywhere else-- I'm still incredibly nervous when I have to teach, but I figure that goes away with time and practice. Finally, I love special collections too, because, well, they're just cool. I mean c'mon, who wouldn't want to work some place that has illuminated texts from the 12th century or first editions of Alice in Wonderland? Being that close to the physical remnants of history just sounds amazing to me. (And as I said, who wouldn't want to be like, "yes, I work in Washington D.C. for the Defense Intelligence Agency" at their next school reunion?) So special libraries are still on my potential list of places to work too.

Have you figured out where you ultimately want to be in LibraryLand? Have you realized where your niche is and have no doubt that you'll remain there for the rest of your career? Do you ever wonder what it would be like if you had chosen another direction? And is there anyone else out there who is still as indecisive as I am?

Just some thoughts I've been having lately! I really am happy that I have the opportunity to work in more than one type of library and to gain experience in each. Who knows where I will end up? As long as my job still involves books and helping people, I suppose I will be happy  :)


  1. I was the exact same way and I guess still am in a sense, Ms. Indecisive-c'est moi. I have gotten a taste of different libraries-in graduate school I interned at an academic library in the reference department and now for almost the past year I have been working at a special library (corporate company, oil and gas). I've always wanted to work in a public library but the far and few interviews I've had around here (Pittsburgh, I've never gotten them. At least here (namely because the city is host to an MLIS degree program so there is an overabundance of grads), public library positions are SO selective and difficult to get into, so if you've never had any public library experience before, you're not really even considered.

    My dream library job would either be somewhere where I could exclusively work with assisting Spanish speaking patrons or for the UN :)Either or...

  2. I wish I had some advice here. I just hope you find a place to work where you're happy, and don't mind going to work every day... thats what its all about, right?

  3. You stopped by my blog earlier and followed and I realized that you have two blogs. My daughter is a teacher in New York at PS51 Elias Howe School. She is a music teacher. Thanks for the follow. I am also following this blog and will be forwarding it to her.

  4. Red-headed traveler~ I have also found it to be near impossible to get a steady job at the public library- first, you have to be on the civil service list before they'll even consider you, and even though I was lucky enough to get a substitute job right away, I know there are many out there who are still trying to find something. I did interview for a part-time opening, but I didn't have much programming experience so that fell through! Still hoping though that something will come up, just have to stay hopeful even in our troubled economy...

    Jeff~ Thanks for the support :) I do love where I am now, but it can be tricky piecing together 2-3 part-time jobs instead of just having one, steady full-time one. Still, I am happy doing what I'm doing for right now, and gaining much-needed experience along the way!

    Donna~ Thanks so much for the add! Stacking Up is more of my professional blog, although I do include my own personal experiences here as well. I thought it would be a great way for me to meet other librarians, stay up-to-date on current issues in my field, and just have a personal account of my journey as a librarian :) So glad to have new followers!

  5. When I was an MLIS student, I wanted to work in a special library. Still kind of do (and I also looked into a museum studies degree!) Right now I'm in an academic library, and I really like it. I worked as a page in a public library for about 7 years, and that was enough time to know that I do not want to work in a public library ever again. EVER.

    But, yeah. Special library, that, I feel is my niche. Although it would have to be the *right* special library. Like, the Rock Hall here in Cleveland has a library. Um, hell yes. And I totally applied for a job as a CIA librarian. Um, again, hell yes (but they didn't call me back. Sad.) For now, though, I am okay where I am at professionally, but if the right thing comes along I might be convinced to switch.