Many English majors struggle with what to do with their lucrative degrees. While the program has many benefits- effective communication, writing, and critical thinking skills, to name a few- it can be difficult for undergrads to choose a direction for their careers if education or academia aren’t necessarily appealing. With this in mind, Dr. Liz Ahl recently reached out to a few of our own alum, and discovered that quite a few found fulfilling jobs in the field of library science. PSU Graduates J’Lillian Mello, Caitlin Loving, Adam Di Filippe, and Natalie Moser share their thoughts and experiences with graduate school, community service, and job logistics.
Out of the four, three (J’Lillian, Adam and Natalie) had already made their homes in libraries, working their first jobs as library tech aides in their hometowns. Caitlin discovered this option for herself while working with PSU’s social sciences department liaison in Lamson. The consensus among all was how influential personal experience was in making the choice to pursue this career. She now has a job at her local public library.
When asked about how PSU prepared them for their careers, the graduates talked about how influential the English department was in preparing them to “engage with language” (Caitlin), “understand a diverse community” (Adam), and “develop a complex way of thinking and talking about books”, according to Natalie. Further, she says:
Critical theory and the contextualization of literature within history, the world, and diverse communities are things I think about all the time when developing library collections, planning book discussions, and providing reader’s advisory.Natalie Moser, Class of 2012
While each has a master’s degree to supplement their expertise, the alum regard their time at Plymouth State as essential to developing some of the foundational skills necessary in their careers.
Caitlin also makes a point about the financial side of Library Science: it is not a lucrative field. Librarians are motivated by passion and dedication, and not as much by financial gain… or sometimes even security. She has this to say on the topic:
It does not pay well, at least not to start, but the benefits are often very good, especially if you work for a town/city or state or federal government (and benefits can save you lots of money and be very helpful). […] A short-term internship is also a great option, and if you can’t get hired, try to volunteer in some way. You’ll learn about libraries/archives and get some experience. It’s not ideal and obviously a privilege to be able to work for free or volunteer, but it doesn’t have to be full time, and libraries/archives often have tight budgets. It doesn’t always but can sometimes lead to paid work, too, either at the place you intern/volunteer or through the network you’ll create from that work.Caitlin Loving, Class of 2007
When asked what they had advice to share with English majors interested in library or archive work, the alum recommended this:
Read the classics, and not just the ones they assign in class! Actually, that is advice I would give to anybody, but in particular to people going into library science. The classics will give you a foundation for understanding and evaluating all other books.Natalie Moser, Class of 2012
Real world experience is vital to finding a job that will provide a living wage. It’s also great for helping you determine if you actual want to do it as a career or go for a higher degree in the field.Adam Di Filippe, Director of Holderness Free Library
Also talk to people who have worked at your place longer about the benefits and ask them if you have questions–benefits can be very confusing, plus there are often hidden gem benefits like money for gym memberships from your health insuranceCaitlin Loving, Class of 2007
You can be a librarian! You will run into discouraging people, but keep your eye on the prize and don’t give up! Cliché as it may seem, you need to be optimistic and believe in yourself. At the end of the day you are in charge of your success.J’Lillian Mello, Class of 2017
The consensus between all of them seems to be that library science is not just a fun and rewarding career, but an obtainable one as well. What will help is the utilization of the fundamental skills learned in undergrad, an eagerness to continue to learn, and a passion for literature and community.
Thoughts or questions? Comment below!