Transitioning from Programmer to Librarian

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Comments (7)

Anonymous in Long Beach, California

55 months ago

I am currently a junior software engineer in my mid 20s. I have a four year degree from a very reputable university, but my focus of study was not in information system or computer science. I managed to teach myself programming and have been working in the web development/programming field for the last 2.5 years. I enjoy writing code, but lately I've begun to re-evaluate whether not I want a career in the field. I don't mind putting in extra time or effort to get a job done, but the average work week in the IT field is well above the normal 40 hours, and leaves very little room for a social/family life. Plus, I am a female and IT is a heavily male dominated field. I've noticed that as you climb the career ladder, your input and expertise seems to be valued less, as the whole filed becomes an Old Boys' club.

I would like to become a librarian. After a bit of research I was thrilled to find that modern librarianship relies heavily on database administration and programming skills. I have also researched some MLS and LIS programs in my area. My main question is what is the job market like? While I'm sure I would love the coursework, I would hate to invest so much time and money to obtaining a degree, only to find that I am unemployable. Can someone who has experience in the field give me some candid explanations on what to expect and what not to expect from this career?

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Former Librarian in Hudson, Ohio

50 months ago

You are crazy. Librarian are being laid off left and right, and branches are closing. For every library job, there are usually at least 800 applicants -- no joke. You will never find a job in this field in today's world, no matter what school you attend, it will not matter. Give it up.

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Anonymous in Westminster, California

50 months ago

Former Librarian in Hudson, Ohio said: You are crazy. Librarian are being laid off left and right, and branches are closing. For every library job, there are usually at least 800 applicants -- no joke. You will never find a job in this field in today's world, no matter what school you attend, it will not matter. Give it up.

Thanks for the response. Since my initial post I have researched the field a lot and have come to the same conclusion, more or less. The average cost of a MLS degree is $40,000, and from what I've been able to glean, jobs are few and far between. I would have loved to become a librarian, but there's obviously very little future in this field.

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Alli in Cary, North Carolina

49 months ago

Jobs are difficult to get anywhere right now. The Library field is no exception. Your computer skills will help you tremendously in finding a job. There is truly a future in this career, especially if you have the information systems skills that every librarian will eventually have to have out of necessity. I wouldn't give up if you are interested in library work. I quit a librarian job a few months back and was able to find a new one within 3 months. The jobs are there, you just have to go for them.

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Anne Shirley in Camarillo, California

46 months ago

Long Beach -

Don't give up so easily. I agree with Alli - your programming background will be an asset. There may not be jobs right now - but by the time you finish an MLIS program - there may be just the right job out there. There are a few emerging fields in librarianship - that are along the lines of digital and distance ed. librarianship - and your background would fit in with that. Many of the MLIS programs are online - so you could fit it in with your current job - but please be sure to pick a program that is ALA accredited. Look into the SJSU program and the Digital Services / Emerging Technologies concentration.

There are scholarships for MLIS programs. Also, if you could get an IT job at a university it might be easier to move into systems librarianship. Look into fee waivers - if you work at a CSU you can get a fee waiver for a state supported academic program.

What you mention about the IT field is true, and how long do you think you will last if you are not satified? We should be thankful to have jobs these days - but you really have to look beyond that. You'll make up the money you spend on an MLIS if you are truly passionate. Talk to librarians in the field - not just at your public library - go to a university library. Librarians seem to be always willing to help prospective MLIS students. The salary is just an average. There are many university librarians who make about $80K and administrators make even more.

I'm female and I've been working in IT desktop support for about 10 years - I like the work - but it doesn't make my heart sing. I've been working on my MLIS one class at a time for the last 5 years. There may not be jobs right now - but there will also be jobs somewhere in between an MLIS and IT - such as an instructional designer.

Librarianship is moving into the digital world - there will be jobs - don't give up!

Below is an example of some of the new librarian jobs coming up:

Librarian for Knowledge Integ

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Pigbitin Mad in Mount Vernon, New York

46 months ago

It may be different if you started before the year 2000. Nowadays, if you don't have the EXACT experience that they are looking for, you will not get the job no matter how smart you are. Librarians just don't have the creativity to see how experience in another profession could translate to libraries. Really, they are just too narrow minded to see it. And the only library experience that counts is post graduate (aka "professional") experience. You could have worked four years in an academic library as an assistant (while getting your degree) but it doesn't matter one bit as far as "counting" as experience. Also, you can forget about academic libraries unless you have a subject masters - preferably in science or engineering. English masters are a dime a dozen for librarians.

The people who tell you that you have a chance either got their jobs in the 70's & '80's or they are recruiters for a library school.

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Anonymous in Long Beach, California

46 months ago

I;d have to agree with Pigbitin. Really, Librarian is not a career field I would advise to anyone who does not have:

1) An exception desire for the career
2) Tens of thousands to invest in a graduate program'
3) enough money to survive long stints of unemployment/underemployment
4) A back-up plan

I started this thread eight months ago, and in that time all the research I've done just hammers home the point: you're going to have to invest a great deal of money and time into obtaining a professional degree for a field that is shrinking in jobs and salary, and is not likely to rebound as public funding and public reliance on library systems decrease, and free access to digital archives and works increases.

Only those who can manage to get a job in a private firm stand a chance, and those too are shrinking as more organizations transition to digital archiving and retrieval.

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