by Kathy Kelly, Washington, DC Chapter, Government Information Division
When Cindy Romaine visited the DC SLA chapter for our holiday lunch cruise during late 2010, she challenged all of us to gear up to post on the FutureReady blog. I told her I would have to do so from the standpoint of an unemployed librarian. So let me share my view of why we’re in a great profession in which to handle the challenges of joblessness or underemployment with resiliency. First, librarians are instinctive networkers. We are always learning, communicating, and sharing knowledge with our peers, via the many events and learning opportunities that are constantly pushed out to us by our collaborative networks. And we’ve all learned how critical networking is to landing jobs in challenging times.
Second, our companions in this profession are doing a great deal to address employment issues for both new and seasoned info pros. The DC SLA chapter is soon to launch an employment portal on its web site; this chapter provides discounts to unemployed members for its programs; and its long-term members are generous with mentoring those who are seeking jobs and in transition. In addition, SLA at the association level provides a reduced membership rate for the unemployed.
Third, info pros are used to juggling multiple priorities and using time well. What a bonus it can be to have ample time to attend free trainings on Thomas, Legal Research, and Business Research at the Library of Congress; Fedlink trainings at the same institution; database and legislative history trainings at the DOI Library; online trainings while at home; and the usual slate of intriguing DC SLA programs, book clubs, happy hours, and dinearounds. We really have an embarrassment of riches in terms of opportunities for staying active in our field.
Because of financial constraints, I had not been out of the DC area for a long time when I decided that the investment in attending the SLA 2011 conference in Philadelphia would be well worth it, and I was not disappointed. But even when we may not be able to travel to conferences, unemployment or underemployment cannot stop any of us from serving on various boards, doing volunteer work for chapters and other groups, and writing for our profession’s publications and blogs.
During an earlier period of unemployment years ago, I was attending a DC SLA dinearound when a librarian asked for my contact info in case her institution had any openings in the future. She assumed I did not have a business card since I was in between jobs, but I carried a personal business card, and pulled one out pronto. Within a few weeks, her library had an opening, and I had a job. I still carry those cards, and always keep ‘Librarian/Certified Archivist’ in my email signature block, no matter what my job status.
I’d say that info pros are not only always ‘employed’, in the sense of being engaged in a lively profession, but they are also always ready for future employment thanks to that present engagement.
Kathy Kelly most recently served as Librarian Project Manager and Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Librarian on the library support services contract at the NOAA Central Library. Previously she served as a Task Order Manager/Supervisory Librarian at the U.S. EPA’s Pollution Prevention Information Clearinghouse (PPIC), and before that as an Archivist/Delivery Order Manager at the EPA History Office. Prior to serving at EPA, Kathy worked as a Library Technician in the Library of Congress (LC) Music Division and an Archives Technician in the LC Manuscript Division. She has been a Certified Archivist since 1997, and is currently the 2011 Secretary for the SLA Government Information Division, and 2010-2011 Secretary for the Catholic University School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) Alumni Board.