My name is Katie Giari and I will be your guest blogger for the month of June writing about alternative career options for MLIS graduates. I’m so excited to be working with the Desk Set folks and I feel very grateful for the opportunity to share my experience. In honor of graduation season I wanted to use this spot to talk about alternative career options for library science grads. So many of us are entering or navigating a shaky job market. While the employment climate is improving somewhat, we’re continually faced with scary news about shrinking library budgets and sluggish hiring. What can we do in the face of this problem except throw endless pity parties and curse our lack of options? Actually, it turns out there is some hope in related fields.
A sectional view of the New York Public Library (1911). From the NYPL Digital Image Gallery. This is basically the image I had in mind when I pictured my future as a librarian. Some years have passed and my expectations have changed, however this is still a pretty cool picture, and a timely one at that! Big plans are underway to do away with much of the century-old stacks below ground at NYPL.
I graduated from the Pratt School of Information and Library Science (SILS) program in 2010 and have been working for JSTOR ever since. For those unfamiliar with JSTOR, it’s a non-profit service that preserves digital scholarship and connects scholars, researchers, and students to archived scholarly content. My path to JSTOR has not been a straight one. I moved cross-country because I was interested in Pratt’s MLIS and Art History dual degree program. I imagined that after graduation I would work with rare books and manuscripts in an art or museum library where I would spend my days carefully cataloging delicate vellum-paged rarities. Luckily for me, I actually got to do that for a little while (and get paid for it)! All through grad school I worked as a research assistant and cataloger in a retail art gallery specializing in rare maps and books. So why would I ever choose to leave?
While I gained amazing hands-on experience with a collection ranging from fifteenth-century Dutch atlases to complete sets of Audubon elephant folios, I realized that I wanted to head in a different direction in my career. While the materials I worked with at the gallery were very special and cool, the working conditions were not so much. Also, it made me sad that the amazing books, maps, and paintings I was dealing with were being sold into private collections to be enjoyed by a tiny handful of people. I wanted to expand access rather than restrict it to an elite minority. Also, perhaps selfishly, I wanted job security. A move to a more tech-related field seemed appropriate for me, and the job market also appeared to be less saturated than anything having to do with rare books (at least in New York City, where competition is fierce and library schools are numerous).
While I was still employed at the gallery soaking up my last few months of rare-map cataloging, I began working as an independent contractor in JSTOR’s Licensing and Fulfillment department. Soon I was hired on full-time in the Outreach and Participation Services department as a liaison to international library consortia, where I coordinated JSTOR participation. About a year later I transitioned once again to work in the Content Development Unit, a team that builds the actual archive collections and works with publishers.
I’ll write more about my day-to-day responsibilities at JSTOR next week, and will follow with two additional posts exploring career paths for library school grads each Wednesday in June. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts, ideas or criticisms please feel free to comment and I’ll try my best to respond. Have a great week and thanks again for having me.