Portable and Flexible LIS Work

There are several ways to think of portability when it comes to your LIS work-life.

For example, portability may mean the ability to do your work from any location, with perhaps nothing more than a laptop and good internet connection. This might translate into doing freelance or contract work for clients, or working remotely (usually from a home office) for an employer.

Or it might mean being able to work off and on, interspersing paying projects or work gigs with personal commitments or time off.

Or it might mean being able to use your LIS skills for lots of different – if temporary – employers, sampling diverse work environments, meeting new people, and exploring different possible career options.

Finding portable or flexible LIS positions

It can be challenging to find the type of portable work you have in mind, but not impossible. Some steps to consider:

Work with contract firms. Firms such as LAC Group place information professionals in a wide range of contract positions, both short- and long-term. For other placement or temp firms, see No job-hunting traction? Consider LIS temp, staffing, recruiting, and outsourcing agencies.

Search online job sites for open positions. The easiest way to find potentially relevant openings is to add a modifier to the work you’re looking for, such as business researcher or digital asset manager. Some of the modifiers likely to produce the best results for this approach: remote, virtual, distance, flexible, offsite, part-time (sometimes indicates a remote position), temporary, telecommute, telework, and online.

Each employer has its own way of naming these types of jobs, so it makes sense to try all of the variations. Also keep in mind that if you’re searching a general (rather than LIS) job site, the phrase “library” is likely to bring up software development jobs rather than library-specific ones.

Alternatively, check to see if there is a specific search filter on the job site that lets you restrict your search to the specific type of job. For example, the job site ArchivesGig is searchable using the “State>Telecommute” category.

Check in with The Traveling Librarian. This is a simply terrific site, brought to the profession by Sarah Gibson. In terms of flexible LIS jobs, a recent check of the site’s Virtual Jobs category brought up these options, among others:

  • Academic online librarian
  • Director of online librarians
  • Managing editor, blog index
  • Online instructor-archivist/librarian
  • Online librarian
  • Part-time liaison librarian
  • Reference librarian (remote)
  • Remote content curator
  • Virtual adjunct instructor, library media
  • Virtual contract catalogers
  • Virtual indexer for federal medical database
  • Virtual newsletter editor
  • Virtual reference librarian
  • Virtual researcher

Sign up with a flexible-work job service. The one I’m most familiar with is Flexjobs, which specializes in all types of flexible work situations. Flexjobs also publishes an annual list of the top 100 companies for remote jobs, which brings us to the next suggestion….

Check employers’ websites. Most employers have a section of their company website that lists job and/or career opportunities, so if you have a specific employer in mind, see if they have any postings that fit your flexibility parameters.

Consider becoming a substitute. As in, substitute librarian. Similar to substitute teaching, substitute librarian jobs involve stepping in to temporarily replace a public librarian who for some reason needs to leave the job for a period of time. An example of a substitute librarian job posted by the City of Boulder (CO) Library System described this position as Library Specialist Substitute at an hourly rate of $10.90- $18.30. Essentially, similar to being a substitute teacher, in this role you’d be on call as the need came up, but unlike substitute teaching, the length of your assignment would more likely be weeks if not months, rather than a day or two.

Create a freelance/independent LIS service. This is the independent information professional option, which usually offers substantial flexibility and portability in terms of where and how you work. The trade-off is that your income is completely dependent on your ability to find clients willing to pay you for your skills, so consider this to be the option with lots of flexibility but also lots of challenges. To learn more about working as an independent, see Independent Information Career Paths.

Creating your own portable LIS work future

The trend toward a workforce made up of “contingent” workers has yet to make significant inroads into LIS employment, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t. In the meantime, if you’re looking for more professional flexibility, you’ve got some good options to check out.