November 23, 2020
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Texas Woman's UniversityWebsite
Ling Hwey Jeng: The biggest revelation, since the beginning of the pandemic, is that librarians provide services and contribute to the local community with or without the physical building of libraries. This is evident in communities across the country and all over the world. As soon as many cities went into lock-down in March 2020, librarians promptly took on the role of second responders by actively joining the crisis response efforts. These include, for example, producing PPE's using their 3D printers, expanding virtual library services for residents stuck at home, providing instructional supports for K-12 virtual learning, and enhancing wi-fi services to those without broadband connectivity at home.
Ling Hwey Jeng: Librarians use information and communication technologies to facilitate positive changes in the community. The pandemic has heightened the devastating effects of the digital divide in many communities and the systemic racial, social, and economic inequities, especially among residents in underrepresented areas. For more than a century, librarians have been at the forefront of using technology to improve their own work in the libraries. The pandemic makes it clear that librarians are in the best position to take advantage of both information and communication technologies in community building. Technologies that are needed include not only those used to build systems such as library systems but also technologies that lead to solutions to individual problems and improve the quality of life of the community, such as broadband technology and personal devices.
Ling Hwey Jeng: A thriving community is one with (a) an employable workforce that allows all residents who want to work, can work, and earn livable wages, (b) healthy families where all residents have accessible and affordable healthcare, and (c) informed citizenship achieved through a full range of opportunities from early childhood literacy, to K-12 education, to higher education, to career development and retraining, to information services to seniors. Librarians play a significant role at each and every stage of lifelong learning for all residents. The need for librarians' knowledge and skills will continue even, and especially, during economic hardship.
Libraries and Online LearningWebsite
Kacy Lovelace: While it might seem like an obvious answer, make sure that you have experience working in a library (or information center)! Student experience, such as graduate assistantships, internships, and practicums, are invaluable because they let you experience the day-to-day operations of a library department and, to an extent, the library as a whole.
This experience shows prospective employees that you are familiar with library operations and probably enjoy working in a library. If you don't have library experience, start looking for it now! Check with your advisor, campus libraries, or local public libraries for volunteer or entry-level positions to gain you the necessary hands-on library experience.
Additionally, connect the experience that you do have to library and information science. Do you have experience with academic writing or editing experience? Show how these experiences are beneficial to positions that you apply for in library science.
Kacy Lovelace: Consider skills that directly apply to the job that you want in the future. Get creative with this! Improve your communication skills, cross-cultural understanding by working abroad. The hospitality industry offers many opportunities for improving these valuable skills while also teaching listening skills, time management skills, and collaboration skills. If working abroad is not an option, take a language immersion course (online or in-person) and increase your ability to communicate with patrons and colleagues and your attractiveness to potential employers.
Kacy Lovelace: Jobs in the library and information science constitute a mix of public-facing employment and those that are not. But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it's that our communication methods and, more specifically, that we have various ways to communicate are more important than ever. Platforms like Microsoft Office (Teams), Google Drive, Skype for Business, and SharePoint allow us to continue sharing and collaborating. Possessing a strong knowledge base about the communication tools that you are using makes you a better collaborator and makes you better at your job.
The University of Iowa
School of Library and Information ScienceWebsite
Lindsay Mattock: For students in Library Science, building a set of practical experiences to complement course work is critical. I always encourage students to consider listing service-learning experiences from their coursework alongside internships, practicum, volunteer positions, and professional posts. Staying active in professional organizations is another way to gain valuable experience and network with professionals in the field.
Lindsay Mattock: LIS is already a technologically-engaged field. So much of the professional practice relies on working with digital platforms, providing access to digital resources, and teaching patrons how to use these tools. It is essential to keep in mind that technology is always changing, but that skills translate across platforms. Many position advertisements request experience with specific software, but this doesn't mean that you need to learn a new tool to land the position. Professionals in the field are looking for candidates that can learn on the job, work with unfamiliar technologies, and apply core LIS theories in practice.
Lindsay Mattock: While the pandemic has exposed inequities in our profession and in the communities that we serve, I think that many libraries and collecting institutions have found opportunities to engage with people in new ways. I've talked to many professionals who have had opportunities to keep people employed and hire new folks to help build digital collections. At the same time, patrons cannot visit libraries, archives, and museums. The misinformation surrounding coronavirus (and the election) have only emphasized the importance of information literacy in society, creating additional opportunities to advocate for libraries in our communities and schools. I encourage students to reflect on their experiences during the pandemic and develop better services, collections, and programs that will equitably engage everyone in our communities. I do not doubt that future employers will want to know how your professional practice and perspective on the field have been affected by the events of 2020.
University of Central Missouri
Library Science and Information Services (LIS) ProgramWebsite
Dr. Rene Burress Ph.D.: Our graduates need to be completely digital literate when they enter the workforce. Librarians are technology leaders and should be ready to assist and train their patrons on all types of technology for people of all technical skill levels.
Dr. Rene Burress Ph.D.: Librarians are needed in all 50 states, in nearly every K-12 school, every university, and every community has a library. Bigger cities have more frequent opportunities, but there are regular openings for librarian jobs in every state, even in very small towns. I have received emails from library board directors of small towns begging for applicants.
Dr. Rene Burress Ph.D.: Technology has already had a major impact on the field and will continue to have one. Librarians have to stay up-to-date on their technical knowledge. They must attend conferences where they learn about new technologies, read journals, and professional literature about technology and use/purchase it for their libraries on a regular basis.