For the new Library and Information Science graduate, the jobs market seems grim. New graduates are entering a market still impacted by recession. Compounding the slow job growth overall is the flooding of the market. Forbes’s Magazine lists a Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree as one of the worst degrees to pursue currently based on employment outlook and median pay figures Library Journal’s 2013 placements and salaries data reiterates the difficult job market for MLIS graduates. Overall, pay is flatlining along with job growth in our field, especially in the “traditional” public and academic library sectors. Librarians willing to apply their knowledge to other professional pursuits outside the library fare moderately better. A key feature missing from these figures is that job growth is slow everywhere and librarians don’t do it for the money (generally speaking).
How can current MLIS students apply this information? Should we all drop out and pursue a degree in one of Forbes’s most profitable fields? Resign ourselves to the current tough job market and pray the outlook gets better? Current MLIS students are in the propitious position of seeing the current outlook and being able to augment their education and skills to meet the needs of the market. The time to start looking for a library job is before you graduate from library school. While earning their degree students are also in a position to earn a standing in the field, however small. Securing the proper knowledge for a library job is only part of earning an MLIS. Students must also research the trends and exploit every resource available to them to put their resume on the top of the hiring manager’s pile.
One of the simplest steps any student can take is joining professional organizations. Every MLIS student should join the American Library Association (ALA.) The ALA allows students to participate in any of their subsections, divisions, and roundtables once you are a member (some divisions require additional fees.) Students can volunteer to be on committees (based on the divisions one joins,) and participate in discussions via the Library History, Intellectual Freedom, or Library Research roundtables (and others.)
Members can use the ALAJoblist, ALA online learning, and ALA Connect. The ALA is the first organization any MLIS student should join as it provides access to many other areas with which to network.
It would benefit most technophile librarians to join the Association for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T). ASIS&T offers networking for librarians who have a special interest in technology. Much like the ALA, ASIS&T can be an invaluable tool for current students.
Professional organizations also offer MLIS students the opportunity to attend conferences and keep up to date with current trends through professional journals. Members receive these as a benefit of membership.
Joining professional organizations is a no-brainer, as the benefits far outweigh the cost. In addition, it provides a shiny new entry on your CV for employers to see. Even bigger if you participate in subsections and roundtables and attend conferences. A major benefit of student membership is often reduced conference attendance fees. Sometimes students can attend conferences for free (less travel & lodging) if they volunteer at the conference, also a nice CV bump.