Careers in Rare Books and Manuscripts: Frequently Asked Questions / Skills / LIS Preparation
What can I do while in library school to give me an edge in the field?
Some ways to prepare for a career in rare books and manuscripts while in library school:¹
- Slant your work in your general library school classes towards special collections topics. For example, when you are assigned to write a paper, choose an issue related to rare books and manuscripts. When assigned to do a job-shadowing exercise, choose a special collections library as the setting.
- Take specialized classes related to rare books, archives and manuscripts when they are offered.
- Even if you are primarily interested in rare books, you should take classes in archives as well. Many special collections library positions involve at least some archival responsibilities, so skills and experience in archives will help you become a well-rounded candidate.
- Get work experience in special collections while you are still in school. Do an internship, volunteer at a special collection, or find an entry-level job. This can be crucial to getting your first professional job after graduation.
- If you work full time while you are in school, try to relate your work to the type of special collections librarianship that you would like to pursue. You do not necessarily need to work at a special collections library to do this: many competencies -- such as information technology or management skills -- can be acquired in other settings.
- Try to find a mentor who can counsel you in your career. This may be a professor at your school, someone you work with, or someone you meet through an internship. If you are an RBMS member, you can look into the RBMS Mentoring Program. SAA members can look into the SAA Mentoring Program.
- Attend workshops and short intensive classes on special collection topics. Several places to find these are noted on the Continuing Education page. Your library school may alert you to other possibilities in your region.
- Join RBMS as a student member. Consider joining other professional associations as well, such as the Society of American Archivists or a local chapter of a national association. Attend conferences if you are able. Hiring committees often look for evidence that you intend to be professionally active. Joining a professional organization will also help keep you abreast of current issues and will help you to network with other people in the field.
References / Notes
1. For additional suggestions see: Membership and Professional Development Committee of RBMS. “Educational Opportunities: A Directory,” http://www.rbms.info/committees/membership_and_professional/educational_... .