Career Pathway: Library & Information Sciences

Library and information science (LIS) is a constantly evolving and multifaceted field. By earning a degree in this discipline, individuals are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively handle and make sense of data for various types of organizations. Those focusing on library science can apply IT skills in academic, community, and law libraries. Meanwhile, those in information science will learn to improve business strategies for people and organizations.

What can I do with library & information science skills?

LIS professionals perform a wide range of tasks depending on their specific roles and expertise. Let’s delve into several key responsibilities typically associated with individuals possessing LIS skills.

Entry-Level

This position serves as the subject-matter expert for all services related to their area of study, and provides general reference and information services to a university at large. They interpret and analyze the information needs of students, faculty, and other library users. They also direct users to appropriate sources of information, including special collections, databases, and digital collections and employ new technologies to enhance reference and instruction services (e.g., social networking tools, multimedia, and learning management systems) to reach users in an increasingly online environment.

Tags: Academic Librarian, Law Librarian.

Future roles: Librarian II-III, Acquisitions Librarian, Research Librarian  

Law firms typically seek librarians to develop and maintain internal knowledge sharing resources, analyze research results, and answer specific research requests. Law librarians promote effective use of department and firm resources; collaborate with staff to collect, organize, and update information on intra-firm platforms; partner with attorneys, paralegals, and case teams to promote knowledge sharing and research best practices; monitor, curate, and share current legal trends with legal professionals and administrative management; conduct cost-effective and time-sensitive research and analysis using a variety of resources; work collaboratively to ensure continuity of operations; train attorneys and staff on department tools, research resources, and best practices; and evaluate, test, troubleshoot, and deploy department and research technologies with library staff, third-party vendors, and firm IT departments.  

Tags: Law Librarian

Future roles: Sr. Data Analyst, Consultant, BI Developer, Data Visualization, Data Engineer

Data curators ensure best practices, consistency, and standard operating procedures in the cataloguing/curation of data assets, and provide input to updated training offerings. While specific experience in client curation tasks or tools is not required, some level of expertise in the discipline or foundational concepts associated with curation is required.

Tags: Data Curator

Relevant certifications: Occasionally Minimum Clearance FS Poly Required

Future roles: Data Scientist, Data Curator II

Mid-Level

Level II-III librarians provide and grow library services while developing innovative information solutions to serve the faculty, staff, and students of a university. This informationist works as a subject-matter expert alongside faculty, staff, fellows, residents, and students in their areas of expertise.

Tags: Academic Librarian

Previous roles: Youth Services Librarian, Legal Reference Librarian, Library Technician

Future roles: Director/Senior Architect, Project Manager

 

Reference and research law librarians offer knowledge and experience in multiple areas, including research and development, database management, web design and content management, library product evaluation, independent research, and project collaboration. These positions also require strong interpersonal and communication skills and the ability to both lead and work as part of a team.  

Tags: Law Librarian

Previous roles: Librarian, Library Technician

Future roles: Data Scientist, Project Manager, Senior Business Analyst/Developer

Mid- to upper-level data curation positions generally involve managing a team of associates or freelancers collecting data across multiple domains. They review and modify large datasets of images and videos, test neural networks, and support QA/QC efforts. They also provide feedback and support development of data management tools and research domains.

Tags: Data Curator

Previous roles: Data Analyst/Engineer

Future roles: Senior or Director of Data Science

Senior-Level

In senior roles, data curators support expansion of research programs and mold company research policy through superior data science. Research is driven by ever-growing datasets gathered from a variety of internal efforts and external providers. They collaborate closely with teams to categorize samples, experiments, and data using systematic nomenclature. Depending on the industry, they may also collaborate closely with scientists or developers to build out tools for data analysis and  contribute to new data visuals for publications and presentations.

Tags: Data Curator, Senior  

Previous Roles: Data Scientist, Business Intelligence Analyst

Directors of the library lead and manage development and operations. They are responsible for staff, collections, services, systems, facilities, and budgets to support the mission and goals of a university. The director formulates  strategic direction for the library by providing resources and services for faculty and students, and liaises with subsidiary campus libraries to ensure access to such resources and services. They should be aware of current and emerging trends in academic libraries, as well as in other areas of academic research and scholarly publishing. The director’s key responsibilities include gathering and analyzing information using bibliometrics and other relevant tools, and organizing external outreach and professional development activities in support of the local library community. Other key activities include advising faculty and departments on preservation and storage of physical and digital archive materials; acting as a key member of academic and operations committees; and managing the implementation, development, operation, and use of the library’s integrated software system and technical infrastructure.

Tags: Senior Academic Librarian

Previous Roles: Librarian, Research Librarian

Pro tip:
This is a basic guide to kick-start exploration, not a complete list of all paths. See specific job descriptions for more details.

How can I acquire library & information science skills and turn them into a career?

Take time to identify the specific areas of LIS that you’re most interested in and skilled at. Whether that’s cataloging and metadata management, information retrieval and search, or archiving and preservation, honing in on those areas of interest will help you focus your efforts on acquiring any useful expertise. 

Ask yourself which type of work you’d like to participate in, and always make sure to consider the skills that align with your career goals and the demands of the shifting job market. Here are a few LIS skill sets that could directly apply to your career:

Transferable skills

  • Schedule-Oriented
  • Microsoft Office and Productivity Tool Proficient
  • Social Media Savvy
  • Customer-Service Oriented
  • Data-Driven 
  • Deadline-Driven
  • Organized
  • Presentation
  • Adept
  • Solution-Oriented
  • Management-Minded
  • Quality-Assurance
  • Proficient
  • Self-Development
  • Driven
  • Communicative

Field specific skills

  • Library and Cataloging
  • People Management
  • Budget Management
  • Teaching/Instruction
  • Project Management
  • Data Storage
  • Public Relations
  • Archiving
  • Database Administration
  • Content Development and Management

What could my career look like with a library & information science skill set?

Library and Information Science offers numerous compelling reasons to consider it as a career choice. One of its key advantages is the flexibility it provides, allowing individuals to explore a wide range of specialization areas to match their interests and expertise. Furthermore, this field offers substantial room for professional growth and advancement, ensuring that you can continuously develop your skills and knowledge. Additionally, LIS careers often come with desirable salary prospects, making it an attractive option for those seeking financial stability and fulfillment in their work.

What are my next steps?

Learn more about library & information science:

Register for a course on edX to learn about a variety of topics within the field of LIS.

Watch a session

Watch a relevant session on our Events page to learn more about the industry and other professionals’ experiences within it.


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