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Economic Downturn & Job Opportunity

Will students graduating in the current economic environment be confronted with fewer opportunities professionally? Unemployment has continued to rise, increasing from 8.9 to 9.4 percent in June 2009. (US Department of Labor)

 But are there some indicators that are positive? In terms of employment, are there sectors of growth in information, knowledge management and the many related employers that infomration science students pursue?

The ALA has recently introduced a new Get A Job toolkit to help job seekers in a difficult economy.

And the news is that a wide array of opportunities to buy book reports do exist.

According to the Department of Labor, you can expect a surge in jobs in two key areas: professional service industries and information technology. Over the 2006-2016 period, a 16.7-percent increase in the number of professional and related jobs is projected, and will net nearly 5 million new jobs. Professional and related workers perform a wide variety of duties, and are employed throughout private industry and government.

Almost three-quarters of the job growth will come from three groups of professional occupations—computer and mathematical occupations, healthcare practitioners and technical occupations, and education, training, and library occupations—which together will add 3.5 million jobs.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the unexpected findings.

School library media positions are among the most difficult to track, and often there are very few openings early in the summer. Yet through myspace, a limited search using the term ‘library media specialist’ for New York led to three pages of leads. In a search of  OLAS, the online application portal listing teacher openings was less productive, twelve jobs were listed at this early stage in the school hiring process. School librarian is a title that is still used by area BOCES and it may be wise to do some related keyword searches using alternate titles. A growing number of school-based positions now request language fluency and/or a second master’s degree in a subject specialty which can elevate your application.

Many types of positions are available outside public schools and public libraries. The New York Chapter of the Special Library Association, for instance, noted 129 positions in May and June 2009, many of course, in metropolitan areas. The area of digitization and managing digital records offers an opportunity to learn the key elements of metadata systems as well as the important work of making collections more accessible to a wider public. In the field of digitization, positions may be situated in a museum or archive or hospital. At first blush, these may not seem library-related. But the information-sharing aspect of digital records and digital imaging is the touchstone of archival enterprise and a dynamic field –  with growth opportunities in many industries.

What other areas in the information science arena have the potential for career growth and opportunity? Many information and library services are delivered in web-centered environments. This has realistic implications for job preparation, training and library management. Some of the terms that describe the way users relate to a web environment include: user-centered design, usability, information design, interaction design, and goal-oriented design. Experience in  a usability lab or design group could very well assist you in a  web-management position.  Or could you imagine becoming the information architect of your technology center, library, company or archive – someone with the information and skills necessary for the adoption of newly available technologies and management practices. With the development of many open source projects and systems for library management, understanding the applications in view of service needs is a critical skill in information environments. Information and data centers must anticipate robust rates of access and an understanding of new models of information architecture that  could help your job success.

You may ask what is involved in information architecture? Some of the skills would include framing a view of  the data to be managed, evaluating  the information lifecycle, determining the need for e-commerce or enterprise transactions, creation of and integration of records, migrating historical records,  and management reporting. Are these areas where you excel or areas in which you can develop a specialty?

An area of growth somewhat outside the typical library graduate’s area of study lies in web semantics and search technologies used by major information providers Elsevier, Pro-Quest, Google, Blackwell Publishing and many database information vendors are challenged to continually review their mechanisms for searching. A background in computing may boost your comfort level in reaching for this type of position. The Department of Labor forecasts that this area of growth will outstrip almost all other growth sectors. Occupations using a computer science background including network and database administration are expected to grow 37 percent from 2006 to 2016, much faster than average for all occupations with salaries that are projected at rates starting one-third higher than those of less technical positions in libraries. Some skills and keywords that may come into play in positions in this arena include programming techniques such as parsing, syntactic analysis, semantic analysis, the use of thesauri and ontologies; query processing and query understanding including question/answer paradigms, question extraction, multiple-constraint search paradigms and the ability to work with large and diverse data sets.

So you may ask, how do these types of positions serve  patrons? A simple answer is that the building connections is the key element of the profession in a field increasingly dependent on remote access and assistance.


Many librarians are blogging about their careers. A few examples are listed here.

  • Confessions of a Science Librarian
  • ACRL Blog - Blogging by and for academic and research librarians

Professional Associations

  • Association of College & Research Libraries (American Library Association)
  • Academic & Special Libraries Section (New York Library Association)


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