Gain Professional Experience Without Getting a Library Job

Erica Findley SLIM-OR SCALA President shares ways to obtain experience in the field:

When I began my MLS program I had no library experience. This lack of experience was making me nervous. Would I be able to get a library job after graduation without ever having the experience?

I waited for announcements regarding volunteer opportunities, internships, projects etc. I waited and waited for an announcement that fit my schedule, personal goals and level of experience. I work full time so I felt like I had to turn down everything that I suspected would require daytime hours.

I was not presented with a perfect opportunity so I decided to change my game. I started to say yes to things that were slightly outside of the small box I had created. Since then I have accomplished many things that have me recognized in the professional community.

If you want to get some experience under your belt I would suggest you do some or all of the following:

Find out what opportunities your school or program offers. I am on a student to dean council. This has helped me get to know students in my program and, most importantly, get to know our dean. Your school may offer student council positions, mentorship opportunities, workshops and/or career planning assistance.

Look to the professional organizations. ALA and SLA have student chapters. Become an officer. Chances are this will help you meet professionals. If your school doesn’t have a student chapter then start one. I beefed up our student organization and I tied it in with a class project to secure myself some hours to devote to the process. There is a lot of advice on how to do this on the association websites.

All libraries need volunteers. If you cannot easily find out how to become one then call the library and ask. I did a lot of this and now I am doing a project that has lasted for over a year. It is something I can do from home and I have developed a great relationship with the librarian. You would be surprised at what you find. Some libraries need help with special projects and this could translate to independent study credits or an internship for you. Sometimes these things even lead to permanent positions.

If your program offers a for-credit practicum or internship don’t miss the opportunity. This experience is invaluable. Emporia-SLIM will coordinate their students with placement in a library based on their interests. Again, doing this for school credit secured me some free time that I otherwise would not have had for this.

The bottom line is that almost none of these things will present themselves to you under a spotlight with loud music. You must make an initial time and effort investment. There is not a to do list for something like this. You will have to brave a little uncertainty to end up with the right opportunity. The payoffs are large. Don’t miss your chance!

Please leave a comment with questions or let us know about your experience with any of the above.

Author: esuscalaor

Enhance the professional development of students in the Emporia School of Library and Information Management - Oregon Cohort by supporting collaborative relationships with the professional community.

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