Are you Cascading Into Librarianship?
The most recent episode of the Freakonomics podcast (“It’s Crowded at the Top”) discusses how unemployment has forced highly educated individuals who can’t find jobs in their field into professions that don’t require as much education or expertise. They begin with the example of the college grad who ends up as a barista, but then explode the cliché by discussing how this can have beneficial side effects. For example, many highly educated people are being rerouted into teaching. Teach for America has had a record number of applicants.
I think we already know, anecdotally, that information professions are popular with people who are transitioning to a career that better matches their disposition. However, we should also think of this as an opportunity to engage individuals with skills or expertise that could fill critical gaps in our teams, but who, in a different economic environment, would otherwise be difficult to hire or retain.
For example, many job listings require an ALA-accredited MLIS or its equivalent in theory or practice. I think we need to push that boundary, and identify related skill sets that can then be augmented by library coaching/continuing education.
So for your next library position, do you need a librarian, or do you need a project manager who can work in a library environment? Do you need a metadata librarian, or a computer scientist/programmer who can apply those skills to our records/systems? Do you need an instruction librarian, or do you need an instructional designer who can teach while also transforming your unit’s approach to teaching? Do we need a scholarly communications librarian, or someone who’s worked in publishing and can get Open Journal Software up, running, and sustainable?
It’s time to explode the MLIS echo chamber we’ve created and infuse our libraries with varied skill sets. Doing so doesn’t mean that traditional library roles aren’t important or valued, it means that we need a diversity of skill and disciplinary expertise to best serve our user populations and support top-level library goals.