Advice for New Librarians: Science Background

What kind of undergraduate classes & background do you need to serve as a (Science) librarian?

It depends on the requirements for the job position and flexibility of the search committee.  When you see a job advertisement that requires a particular background (e.g. an undergraduate degree in chemistry or two masters degrees), it is possible to negotiate the “requirement” if you are a very strong candidate for a position.

For example, if a job post says they require an undergraduate degree in chemistry or two masters degrees, the search committee may be willing to let you take extra classes to fill in your lack of experience or earn a degree in the first few years of your job appointment.  They may even help pay for your education!

Or perhaps a job description states that two years of experience is requested or required.  They may give you a test period (e.g. 3-6 months) to prove that you can handle the job.  They have several elements to balance when making a decision, so while you may be fresh out of graduate school some other aspects may balance your lack of experience.  It is difficult to land a job fresh from a grad school when the applicants are requested to have previous job experience; most search committees recognize this factor and are willing to negotiate.

IF YOU ARE AN UNDERGRADUATE and you want to become a science librarian, major in something that you enjoy and compliments your professional goals such as chemistry, physics or biology.  If you want to become a young adult (YA) librarian, you might consider English or literature as a major.  This will give you an edge above competing applicants who do not have a strong background in the job position.  Also consider working in the library and/or volunteering at your local public library (e.g. shelving books).  My point is to get as much practical experience under your belt as you can.

IF YOU ARE A GRADUATE STUDENT in library school and have no background in the areas that you want to enter, try to take graduate classes that compliment your interests (e.g. science librarianship or story time for children).  If you’re insecure about your education background, you could also take a few undergraduate classes in your area of expertise to help bolster your knowledge and education.  This shows prospective employers that your are serious about the job position, and you also would have more current education than, granted not as broad as, applicants who have an undergraduate degree in related fields of study.  Keep in mind that this is just one aspect that search committees consider when evaluating candidates.  Also try to get paid internships at campus libraries and/or consider volunteering as an intern at a public library.  My point is to get as much practical experience under your belt as you can.

From my perspective, I really want to see examples of your work that demonstrate quality and give a taste of what you’re capable of doing.  Consider making a digital portfolio if you haven’t created one already.

Next Topic:
Digital Portfolios: Tips & Tools for Creating One

Topic Series:
Advice for new librarians

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About repplinger

John has served as a Reference Librarian at Willamette University since 2002. He is the liaison to the Science Departments, and is responsible for maintaining the collections related to the life & physical sciences. His research interests range over the entire spectrum of libraries and information sciences, but includes: - Google and its influence on information & society - The Internet's influence on information seeking & sharing behaviors - Trends of scholarly communication - Electronic learning environments - Traditional pedagogy - GIS use in academic libraries

Posted on March 31, 2010, in Advice to New Librarians and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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