Dr. Sue Alman & Taking Charge of Your Career

Career Blog

Published: October 14, 2016 by Kate M. Spaulding

Some words of wisdom from Dr. Sue Alman on careers for information professionals.

Today I am pleased to present some words of wisdom from Dr. Sue Alman. As you will read, her career has covered a lot of ground! She is currently a full-time faculty member here at the iSchool, where she teaches four courses. If you’re anything like me, you are probably most familiar with her name from seeing it on iSchool emails; she’s the contact for those students needing real-time captioning or other accommodations at events like Career Webcasts.

It’s so nice to be able to put a (virtual) voice to the name! Dr. Alman was gracious enough to respond to some questions from me, and I’m thrilled to share her thoughts about making the most of your career and planning for the future. 

Thanks for asking me to discuss careers for information professionals. It’s an exciting time full of many possibilities, and students need to explore all of the various paths in order to select a starting point. I want to emphasize that where you begin in this profession is not necessarily where you will stay. 

Flexibility is Key

My career is an example of the types of experiences and opportunities that led me from high school teaching to my present position as a full-time instructor at our iSchool. In between these positions I have been an academic librarian for rare books, periodicals, reference, and instruction at several undergraduate institutions. At the University of Michigan, I served as the principal investigator for a time and cost study in a major research organization, the director of a research-based MLIS program, and I developed and taught graduate courses.  My skills and responsibilities changed throughout my career at the University of Pittsburgh where I held several different positions that included teaching, administration, public relations, recruiting, and the development and oversight of the online MLIS program. Additionally, I have published monographs and research articles, consulted in many types of libraries, and developed new areas of specialization.

All of my experiences are the result of being flexible to change and willing to learn new skills along with the support and encouragement of colleagues and mentors. It’s critical to have mentors or advocates who will provide advice and make introductions that will open doors; however, mentorship alone will not guarantee your success. You must have the inner desire and motivation to work hard and take the extra step(s) to earn the respect and confidence of your employer and colleagues.

While there are formal mentoring programs like these available there are also informal mentorships that are formed from relationships built with faculty, professional association members, and employers. Make an effort to know iSchool faculty personally, get involved in school, local, regional, or national professional associations, and take advantage of internships.  Become an asset in every endeavor you undertake.

You Are in Control

Take charge of your career by learning about the trends for information professionals. This is so easy for any iSchool student to accomplish because the Career Services provided are the best you can find. There are boundless resources for you to peruse, webinars to attend, and assistance for resumes, cover letters, and interviews. Take advantage of it early in the program so you have a clear view of the emerging trends and their basic requirements.

Make it a point to enroll in courses or attend webinars that focus on the expected changes for the information professions. The SJSU iSchool offers the Library 2.0 webinars with knowledgeable speaker on current topics and courses such as Library Services in the Digital Age, the Emerging Future: Technology Issues and Trends, Managing Information Technology in the 21st Century, Marketing Your LIS Skills in a Networked and Changing World, and many more. 

The Center for the Future of Libraries has excellent resources that can lead you to new paths. Also, keep up with new trends that are referenced in many places.  Try the Harvard Library Innovation Lab or the SXSW Conference, and be on the lookout for other organizations that are focused on the future.

Information professionals will need to be savvy about strategic planning and outreach, in touch with new technologies, and effective communicators. There are an increasing number of roles and positions that require the skills learned in the MLIS/MARA programs so I urge you to be informed about the career possibilities and the ways you can prepare yourself to pursue your goals.


Exit sign photo courtesy Buck under Creative Commons


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