Special Librarianship Panel: Highlights

SLA professional development panelOn Thursday, Feburary 12, SLA-UW worked with UW iSchool Student Services to host a SLA Professional Development Panel! The panel was a very informative discussion of what makes special libraries special, what kinds of roles and responsibilities special librarians fill, and what we as students can do to enter this field.

Mary Whittaker, Boeing Library; Vicki Valleroy, Boeing Library; Nancy Gershenfeld, UW iSchool and Microsoft; and Dylan Flesch, KEXP.

  • We have the panel in full here: https://ischool.adobeconnect.com/p6r7nfjew16/ ! But panel highlights include:
    Special librarianship is a broad field with many opportunities; you can act as a specialist in a discipline, focus on a specific user community, and be a solo librarian/information professional.
  • Its essential to prove your value as an information professional to your organization, both anecdotally and quantitatively. Advocating for your services, working directly with management, and consistently report out how the services you provide assist with productivity, workflow, etc. is crucial!
  • Your job title may not always “librarian.” For example, Dylan is a Licensing and Podcasting Coordinator at KEXP. Vicki noted an SLA report stating that there are over 200 job titles in special librarianship. Your duties vary from that of a traditional librarianship role, so your title may too.
  • Special librarianship sometimes necessitates breaking the rules of traditional library practice. For example, certain cataloging standards may not be applicable for your user group or information needs in a special library. Be flexible!
  • Its important to advocate for yourself and your services. Work across departments, connect with people, hear their stories, and share yours. These connections can lead to awareness about the help you can provide.
  • Our panelists recommended taking courses centered around technical skills, such as data analytics and data visualization. They also mentioned the importance of classes in copyright, statistics, and government documents. These skills will help you succeed in non-traditional environments.
  • Here are some ways to get involved in special librarianship or to learn more about available opportunities: read job postings often (iCareers!), volunteer (and if volunteer opportunities are not advertised, reach out to the organization you are interested in and create them for yourself!) subscribe to newsletters or listservs, and join professional organizations. Some of these include SLA (Special Library Association), AALL (American Association of Law Librarians), LLOPS (Law Librarians of Puget Sound), and ASIS&T (Association for Information Science & Technology).

We also discussed the upcoming annual SLA Conference taking place this June in Boston. SLA has several specialized divisions (yes– specialized special librarians!), so researching/joining groups that may be of interest to you can help you build connections and job search. Please also note that a stipend opportunity is currently available through the Engineering Division of SLA. Our panelist Mary noted how great it would be if someone from UW won this award, and we agree! See here for more information.



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