Sunday, September 9, 2007

Need a Part-Time Job? Get Thee to the Library!

If you're in college and need to work a part-time job at the same time, I can highly recommend a stint working at the library. A work-study job in the campus library is convenient, but it might be easier to get a job at the local public library.

When I was in college, I spent over a year working behind the circulation desk at the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library system's Central Library (see photo at left). My job was circulation clerk. I helped people check out books, sign up for library cards, put materials on hold, and find older books that were hidden away in the scary "stacks" (think Ghostbusters). For variety, I was also responsible for reshelving returned books in the building's east wing, including philosophy, religion, politics, social science, and (oddly) test prep.

And since we were just converting to a computerized system (it was, after all, 1987), I got to enter thousands of patron records into the system. And if there was just nothing else to do, I could go to the workroom and wash books and repair them with tape.

So how does this help you get to a publishing career? I think it helps demonstrate that you love books, and is certainly more relevant than most fast-food or retail jobs. Also, I learned things there that have helped me identify with librarians, who are now our customers.

Although it probably won't pay more than minimum wage, it does pay. And although you'll work with the public, you likely won't encounter the kinds of unbelievably bad customer behavior that you would in restaurants and retail. It's less physically and emotionally taxing, and the hours are generally regular and sane.

If you find you like the library so much that you want to stay a while longer, you can get a master's in library science and become a reference librarian.

The American Library Association's website has a section about library careers. You can also browse specific job postings by state at, a site managed by former librarian Rachel Singer Gordon, whom I hired a few years ago to contribute to Best Career and Education Web Sites.


India said...

Yes! I did this when I was in college, and I loved it. If you're all interested in books, what could be more delicious than spending hours getting to know every part of your library? (Of course, it also helps if you have a bit of an OCD streak and like to put things in order.)

Did it help my career? Well, I later got a job in a bookstore, and I know I cited my library work as proof of my love of books and my experience in handling them. And my bookstore jobs then gave me more cred when I moved into the literary nonprofit world. And my nonprofit jobs gave me more cred when I went into publishing.

So, obviously, I'd be flipping burgers today if it hadn't been for that P/T library job.

Lori Cates Hand said...

See--I told you it was a cool job! I don't know whether I had borderline OCD before I got the job, or whether hours of reshelving books made me that way, but it's certainly a helpful skill for the job!