Take a Look at Your MLIS Skills at Work

Career Blog

Published: November 11, 2020 by Jillian Collins

The puzzle of finding a job. We’ve all been there, searching for that missing piece: the words that make sense; sighing at results that require experience we don’t know or have. The options, though, are more than you would think. The MLIS Skills at Work: A Snapshot of Job Titles report takes a look at current trends, needs, and actual job postings broken down to show you what is out there and what career might be looking for you.

MLIS Skills at Work: A Snapshot of Job Titles is a report completed every spring by the iSchool, containing job postings and correlating breakdowns of what positions really mean. It includes hard and soft skills employers want from MLIS students or graduates. The purpose of the MLIS Skills at Work report is to help you succeed by highlighting the value of you, your skills, and the knowledge and interests you gravitate to. These days that’s no small thing: in times of uncertainty, the career that changes your life may also change the world.

These Skills You Speak of…

…well, remember when your math teacher said, “You know, you won’t always have a calculator in your pocket!” – and then cellphones happened? You always have a calculator in your pocket. Sadly, that calculator runs out of battery or can let you down. The same applies to a soft skill.

Soft skills. Check out page 12 in the Spring 2020 Snapshot. Statistics and data have been broken down that show that the top three attributes an MLIS-inclined employer wants in their employee:

  • Communication
  • Collaborative 
  • Values diversity

Specialized skills. Page 13 in the Spring 2020 Snapshot focuses on the specialized skills employers are looking for. The top three are:

  • Technology
  • Instruction and Training
  • Research

Employer-in-demand skills. If I were an employer, this translates into an employee who:

  • Makes teamwork easy, and brings as much to the table as your co-workers. You can work in a team, and thrive with others who have different stories from your own.
  • Understands how to use a computer. As in, you know the fundamentals of software (from Microsoft Suite to a field-specific digital platform). You also know that an email must be proofread, that you shouldn’t press “send” before making sure that it’s going to the correct people and has the correct attachment. You should be able to explain concepts to clients, patrons, students, and/or colleagues in a way that they can understand.
  • Knows how to independently find evidence and convey referenced ideas. You should know how to use an online search engine, search a database, and perform tasks requiring research. You should have a grasp on your niche, as well as related or emerging topics in that field. That niche might be digital humanities, the pharmaceuticals industry, information literacy for community college students, or some other area of LIS work that speaks to you.
  • Be able to take in the importance of learning. Being able to engage with attention and focus when your boss or your boss’ staff are training you…and you should have an excellent ability to create and execute meetings or other workshops to provide experience in the same vein.

If you excel in these areas, it’s likely that potential hiring manager is going to want to hire you! Interesting to note that the most in-demand skills, both hard and soft, are oriented toward an environment that values input and further exploration.

Word on the ‘Sheet’ is…

…different than “Librarian” or “curator + archives.” The career development team really excels when it comes to finding out the titles that match up with MLIS skills you’ve been gaining.

While the myriad of positions open to you may seem daunting at first glance, I’ve broken down some job titles included in the Spring 2020 version of the MLIS Skills at Work report. I sincerely encourage you to take the opportunity to look through the entire publication. Here are three random job titles, from different areas of the LIS field, I found interesting. They’re broken down into the page/section, title, and an interpretation of what is needed.

  • Digital Initiatives, Integration and Management (page 27), “Digital Media Assets Manager”: person who curates, catalogs, and acquires digital content important to their company. Like clicking “Save As,” but more in-depth.
  • Business and Non-Profit Organizations (page 37), “Knowledge Manager”: person who understands and synthesizes a variety of data sources, information sharing, and other areas to get “the inside scoop” that benefits their organization, then communicating these insights to co-workers. So, when someone asks to speak to your manager, you can respond “I am the manager…the Knowledge Manager!” Totally cool, and totally you!

  • Archives, Museums, and Cultural Institutions, “Acquisitions and Collection Development Librarian (Page 35): the person who brings in items for a library or museum, that enhances a collection with unique, diverse, and interesting material. If you’ve seen any movies involving a certain archeologist who is adamant that many items belong in a museum, wears a fedora, and doesn’t quite like snakes…well, a bit like that, but more emphasis on preservation and exhibit curation. Still cool!  

Bottom line: yes, the MILIS Skills at Workreport has more to offer than three random picks from your career blogger here; the descriptions of positions are catered to you and professional skills (hard, soft, specialized) and are real. There is way more information on all aspects of the current market.

But, hey, no problem. We’re info geeks. We love this stuff.

Quick Jot from Jillian

I always hated when some adult asked me: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Any answer I gave was followed up with an interrogation-esque interview on my qualifications as to that position.

No kindergartener has any idea of the interstices of paleontology, just because they like dinosaurs. A teenager who just answers that they like history does not want the adult to respond with the “Oh, so you want to be a lawyer!” line. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is a senseless question, and always dented my self esteem.

What I ended up doing, inadvertently, was creating a strategy. I picked up knowledge I could loop back to prior knowledge to pragmatically solve a problem, make it through any task given to me, knocked down, got up, found somewhere new. Simply put, I made do with what I had, acquired new and relevant knowledge along the way. As for my last point, I cite this line from If  by Rudyard Kipling: “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster, and treat those two impostors just the same […]”

Most importantly, I learned from my friends, my family, random strangers from random places, one of my professors from college, people who are friends of friends of friends, managers from past positions, co-workers, and customers. I learned that information comes in many forms, from comforting words, odd conversations, instruction, anecdotes, and motivation. All said and done, I can find more helpful information in my rolodex mind from people met, than books or essays. Combined with the MLIS Skills at Work, I can find how experiences lead to different types of career options.

All of that time spent not knowing what I was going to be, I actually found that if I roll with the tide, develop contingency plans, and become comfortable with change, it will all be just fine. When you get knocked down, get up, learn something, and remember why. Value the encouragement to explore your potential. Even now, as the new normal can seem hopeless, you and I have a unique opportunity to change the tide. 

We’ll have the tools we need to help shape that new normal into a better place for everyone, especially ourselves.

Find Out More

Selected Career Opportunities

  • Law Librarian at Kent Daniels and Associates, Inc., Los Angeles, CA. Remote position. Apply on ZipRecruiter
  • Digital Librarian at E.&J. Gallo Winery, Modesto, CA. Apply on Indeed

Mark Your Calendar!

Building Career Opportunities in Grad School – SLASC Program

  • Date: Monday, November 16, 2020
  • Time: 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. (Pacific Time)
  • Location: Zoom

Applying LIS in Alternative Career Paths – ASIS&T Student Chapter

  • Date: Thursday, November 19, 2020
  • Time: 6 p.m. – 7 p.m. (Pacific Time)
  • Location: Zoom


My thanks

This article speaks to me and others about the issues in applying for jobs especially during these covid times. Think you for taking the time to give us all or at least me things to think about and to incorporate in my job searches
A fellow traveler

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