Understanding Industry Jargon in LIS Job Ads

Career Blog
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Published: March 20, 2023 by Hannah Nguyen

Applying for jobs can sometimes feel like its own part-time job. Library positions are competitive and can be confusing for those unfamiliar with the process. Many library and information science (LIS) positions are in higher education or government, which often use specific industry jargon in their descriptions. Here is a list of explanations for some of the common terms found in library job ads to help those currently on the hunt.

Career vs non-career

Generally speaking, non-career positions are part-time and ineligible for full benefits, whereas career positions are full-time with benefits. You may need to look up what this job classification means at the specific institution you are applying to for a full picture.

Tenure track vs non-tenure track

Achieving tenure in an academic institution means that your job is no longer probationary. In a tenured position, you are essentially able to work there for as long as you would like to; however, this comes with high expectations. Being on the tenure track means that before the end of a fixed duration, you will be expected to apply for tenure. Generally speaking, to achieve tenure, you must be involved in research, teaching, and service, and be able to present your case to be approved by the tenure board. This can vary greatly at each institution, so it is important to read job ads thoroughly so that you understand what is required. You may also ask during the interview about specific expectations and how other faculty balance research projects with their work. 

On Call

On-call employees may not have regular schedules, but should be willing to work if contacted.


Paraprofessionals are also known as library support staff and are integral to library operations. The term could be associated with a variety of roles, but generally speaking it is used for roles that do not require a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree.

On-Site, virtual, hybrid

Today most people are aware that on-site jobs require you to work at a specific location, virtual jobs can be completed from home, and hybrid jobs offer a combination of these two options. The parameters for hybrid jobs are not always clear, and it is important that you ask questions so that you understand how much work is expected to be completed in-person versus virtually. 

Open and promotional vs promotional only

Promotional Only jobs are reserved for current employees exclusively, whereas open and promotional jobs are open to anyone who would like to apply.

Contract vs continuing contract

Contract positions hire people for a specific duration at a predetermined salary. When the contract is over, the position is dissolved. A continuous contract on the other hand, does not have a specific end date, so the position will remain filled until either party decides to end the contract.

Percent time

If you have ever seen something like “percent time: 40%” in a job ad, you may be wondering what that means. This is a way for employers to let job seekers know whether the position is full-time or part-time. 100% refers to full-time (which is typically 40 hours a week), and anything less refers to a percentage of that.

Bargaining unit

If you see language about a bargaining unit, this refers to a job that is represented by a labor union. You could research the specific labor union and bargaining unit to understand what it will mean for you in this position.

FLSA: non-exempt vs exempt

FLSA refers to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which is a federal law that sets requirements for minimum wage and overtime. Essentially, if the role is non-exempt, the employer must pay minimum wage and overtime, however if the role is exempt, they are not required to.

Hopefully this list is helpful in clearing up some of the confusion surrounding industry jargon in LIS job ads. Are there any terms that you think should be added to this list?

Additional Resources

Two More Things…

Here are a few job opportunities that might be of interest!

Remember that internships can be an especially valuable part of your learning experience at the iSchool while also helping you when it comes time to look for jobs. Learn more about the iSchool’s internship program here, where you can check out the INFO 294 Student Handbook as well as the Internship Sites database.


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