Librarians at large: transferrable skills

Spa. Used under CC0

What do librarians do when they leave their sanctuaries of books and set out into the greater world? Regardless of why, it is always a challenge for a librarian who has dedicated years to their profession to make the mental switch from being the keeper of books and information, and undertake something else.

Yet, there are specific transferrable skills I have noted that follow us when we leave the library profession – one is a continued focus on customer service. For most librarians on the “front lines”, we understand how valuable having good people skills are. Once we move away from libraries to other desks and/or offices, this skill is something that remains. A few years ago I was between library jobs and as I was searching for my newest position, I took a job at my favorite salon/spa to run their reception desk. The learning curve was not an easy one – instead of books, I was dealing with beauty products; instead of helping people find scholarly sources, I made sure our clientele had the right information about the products and services they were purchasing. Throughout my days at work, my people skills were in constant use.

Other skill transfer as well: I have a friend who is thinking of leaving the profession and becoming a massage therapist – I know that her patience and listening abilities, along with her desire to help people will serve her well, as they have during her library career. Another librarian is a brilliant editor and uses her skills as an editor-for-hire with projects outside of the library world. She uses creativity, knowledge of the English language, human relations and precise attention to detail to work with clients all over the United States, and is quite successful. She could easily transfer her skills to a publishing company and I tell her all the time she will be my editor when I finally finish my novel.

I have also found that my technology skills are immensely valuable beyond the walls of our library. I have free-lanced as a coder for a web company for the last 7 years. In that time, I have not only enhanced my HTML, CSS and programming language skills, but have also expanded into new platforms, such as Bootstrap and other front end frameworks. These skills are not what I imagined learning, let alone using, when I entered library school, but they are valuable for the work I do in my profession. Even more important, they are invaluable if I ever were to transfer away from librarianship.

It was only when I stepped back, briefly, from working in libraries and found myself in that mirrored salon, that I realized the skills librarianship had instilled in me had not gone away: my customer service expertise has been formed by the work I have done for so many years in libraries; the technology knowledge I have developed outside of work is priceless, for the free-lance work I do, as well as adding to my library toolkit. Librarians use so many of their talents in other areas of their lives, both professionally and personally. Our profession is so diverse when it comes to what our job responsibilities ask of us. Instead of thinking that these duties are only applicable to the library world, sometimes we need a step back and congratulate ourselves with the fact that we have so many talents that we can contribute to other professions and other parts of our lives.

Molly Brown, ILN Content Officer

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016A and tagged , , , .


  1. In my country Uganda we qualify for a BLIS degree ie Bachelors of Library and Information Science and Masters of Science in Information Science. Therefore often times these people do not work in libraries due to the element of informationscience and related course units associated with information. I work in a University library but my work ios mainly on electronic related activises other than issuing and processing books

    • Thanks for your perspective Muhumuza. I think we’re seeing more and more “library” courses move into “information science” courses. Sometimes it looks a bit like they’re just trying to sound more modern, but when they adjust the curriculum accordingly it can be very powerful. -Alyson

  2. Hello friends
    Thanks for thinking about the box (aka books), and what happens when the box disappears, like Aladin’s Lamp. The Net gen is witnessing that disappearance, day and night, close and far. International librarians, local librarians and glocal librarians, all are in the same boat. And, when I say same boat, view the list of options, some have developed, of ways to survive outside-the-box:

    Let’s stay connected.

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