Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be on a panel at my graduate school alumni day, talking about working in a nontraditional librarian job. Now, anyone who compared the average job description of an Ex Libris Solutions Architect to that of your average public references librarian wouldn’t expect to see much in common.

However, Dr. Allen Benson from the Naval War College asked an intriguing question: if creating an elective to prepare students for these nontraditional jobs, what skills would be included, what skills are different from a “traditional” librarian? And that made me think.

Because communication, researching documentation, understanding library workflows, curiosity, marketing, building relationships… Well, they were all crucial to my being a successful librarian. And they are the pillars of my work as a Solutions Architect. My patron group has simply changed, as well as the technical level of the questions being asked. I don’t get to see them in classes or work on specific assignments, but the same issues of “system literacy” and search logic apply. I feel they same level of accomplishment on seeing that light of inspiration in a librarian’s eyes when she sees the connections from PO line to metadata editor or explaining how fulfillment and physical processing can be seamlessly informed of each other.

Later in the day, Dr. Benson gave a wonderful talk and emphasized that competency in a skill is useless if it isn’t utilized properly and that, with a little flexibility of mind and workflow, you can figure out a way to acquire or outsource anything that isn’t your strength, if it creates a better project outcome. To paraphrase Dr. Benson, You should know why do you your job before you can determine what your job functions should be. I left public relations for librarianship because I liked helping people find the answers they needed. I liked understanding where the information came from and how it was accessed. By that definition, my job mission, if you will, hasn’t changed since my tenure-track position at an ARL.

So, we joke about “going to The Dark Side” when working for a vendor, and opinions differ on whether or not one could ever transition back to a traditional library role.

But here’s my truth: My ALA badge may say exhibitor, but I’m a librarian – every day, in the grocery store, talking with friends, and especially at work.


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