Librarianship is a broad field, delivering all kinds of information to all kinds of people. Library work is possible in schools and colleges, hospitals and government agencies, museums and theaters. Libraries come in all sizes and a range of systems. Galesburg Public Library has a staff of fifteen full-time and thirteen part-time positions, and if you’ve ever considered working in a library like ours, some of the steps below can help prepare you for a role in public librarianship.
The American Library Association (ALA) currently accredits sixty-six programs leading to a master’s degree, frequently referred to as Master of Library Science or MLS, although the name of the degree varies among programs. A couple of the management level positions at GPL require an MLS, and for other full-time librarian positions, it is strongly preferred. Other positions require a bachelor’s degree, some require a high school diploma, and shelver positions have no degree requirement. Library and information studies programs are also offered at the undergraduate and associate level, although these programs are not currently ALA accredited.
Follow the Industry
Like any field, the library world grows, evolves, and experiences trends. Stay up-to-date with library news by following libraries and library associations on social media. Some of the pages I follow include the Illinois Library Association, Champaign Public Library, Scholastic, and many of my favorite authors. Keep up to date with local developments by subscribing to your library’s newsletter, following their social media pages, and visiting their website often.
Get your foot in the door and experience under your belt by volunteering at your local library. Volunteer opportunities at the Galesburg Public Library include the Adopt-a-Shelf program, maintaining the library gardens and landscaping, and folding newsletters. Students in grades 7 thru 12 can volunteer with the Teen Advisory Board. Serving your community in a volunteer role allows you to get a behind-the-scenes look at library operations, gain skills and knowledge which can then be applied to the workforce, and build relationships with current librarians and library staff. Many public libraries, including GPL, have a Friends of the Library group who volunteer and advocate in support of the library. Consider joining and getting connected with other library supporters.
I know, I know…you need a job to get experience and you need experience to get a job. It’s the ultimate conundrum. However, a history of working specifically in libraries is not required for some of our positions. Other life and career experiences can translate quite well to the public library world. Customer service skills are essential for all public facing positions. Youth department positions serve infants, children, young adults, and their families, so working with babies and kids now can prepare you for a youth services position in the future. Many successful librarians have a background in education; it’s essential to be able to share information in clear and creative ways, so teachers and other educators are always welcome additions to staff. Other fields that can be applied to roles at the Galesburg Public Library include computer and information technology, history and preservation, event planning, grant writing, bookkeeping, management and many more.
Commit to serve
GPL is a service organization. We serve all Galesburg residents as well as anyone who walks through our doors. We often hear job candidates tell us how much they love books, and that’s great; we love books too! But more than anything, we look for applicants who love people. Service requires patience, empathy, understanding, and thoughtful communication. If you’re ready to join the team, take a look at our job opportunities page!