Prospective employers speak to students at library career night

Andrew Schiller

With bubbles hanging in the air above the exhibits and a glass Darth Vader mint holder adorning one booth, the library career night wasn’t without its quirks.

“We are the most risk-averse profession, short of anesthesiologists,” discussion panelist George Needham said. He urged librarians to not be afraid to take a risk every once in a while.

“As Gary Houk once told me: ‘No one ever died of bad cataloging,'” he said.

The School of Library and Information Science’s Library Careers Night 2007 began with a seven-person panelist discussion that covered the many fields in the library profession. Each person talked about his or her experiences and gave both general and specific career advice.

An hour later, everyone moved to the Ballroom – some to talk with students and prospective employees, and others to network with exhibitors and explore the library profession.

Rollie Welch, young adult librarian at the Cleveland Public Library, said this was his third time at the annual event and it had gotten better over the years.

“I remember there were a lot of public libraries and not other libraries, so I think there’s more representation of the spectrum of librarians.”

Welch said he was there to promote young adult librarianship, but a lot of students were asking “what the difference between an urban library and a rural or a small-city library would be – or a suburban library?”

“The students seem to have good questions,” he said. “One year it was like, ‘How do I get a job?’ and then this (year) is more like ‘I’m interested in this’ – they’re more prepared it seems.”

Charles Brady, a part-time graduate library and information sciences student who has about a year before he graduates, said the career night was “a good sample of the possibilities in the profession.”

“I’m just exploring. I heard this is more sort of an advantageous way to get internships – we have to do a practicum for graduation,” he said.

Beth Reith, a graduate library and information sciences student said she was looking for a place to complete her practicum. She said she’s leaning toward working at a public library in adult services.

“One table I went to had two job openings, but it seems to be more about talking to people about what you need, what you can do to make yourself more marketable,” Reith said.

It didn’t seem like a lot of the exhibitors were hiring, she said.

The Online Computer Library Center, a non-profit computer library service organization, was one company that was.

With about 1,200 employees in about eight different countries, there is a lot of turnover in his company, said Needham, vice president for member services.

“I’m meeting a lot of really interesting people,” he said.

“One of the great things about being a librarian is how varied the people in the profession are. Doctors can be great, but it’s like they always wanted to be a doctor,” Needham said.

“In our field we get people who this is their second career, or they’ve been something else – they’ve been a musician, they’ve been in the military, they’ve been a teacher. They’ve been any kinds of number of things and now they’re librarians.”

Contact libraries and information reporter Andrew Schiller at [email protected].