a librarian, in front of a card catalogue

The American Library Association (ALA) posted ads for 2,386 library jobs in 2015. 

Now granted, the ALA does not post every library job available. But with the National Center for Education Statistics reporting that 6,983 people graduated with a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) degree in the 2012-2013 academic year, it would be safe to assume that there is an imbalance between the number of MLIS graduates and the number of traditional library jobs available to them. 

Did this imbalance contribute to Fortune magazine including MLIS on its worst 15 graduate degrees for jobs in 2016 list? 

Maybe, but all hope is not lost librarians. 

If you have modern library skills like taxonomy development, web system management, data analytics, information architecture, and information literacy, you’re qualified to work in many marketing departments. 

People with MLIS degrees are managing content, shaping marketing strategy and organizing digital assets for companies around the world.

How to Land a Marketing Job with Librarian Skills

The best advice for librarians looking to get into marketing, or any role, comes from Etsy taxonomist Jenny Benevento.

“Companies need a certain set of skills and it just so happens that those skills are what you get when you get a library degree — but they don’t necessarily put the word library in a job listing. A lot of librarians wait until someone asks for a librarian or something very specific,” she explained.

“A major library skill is coming up with keywords and searching. My recommendation is to use those skills and search job listings for keywords of things that you are good at on job sites — not on library job sites, but on general job sites."

Another benefit to keywording your skills is that you might start to see skills that you don’t have — especially if it’s an industry new to you. For Benevento, it’s an opportunity to expand. “Maybe you won’t get that specific job, but use job ads and look at what skills are clustered together. If there are complementary skills that you don’t have, learn them.”

She takes keywording a step further and uses keywords that represent her skills in her LinkedIn profile. 

“I put maybe five terms for what I do in the first paragraph of my LinkedIn profile, like taxonomy, thesaurus and metadata, just describing my skills in as many keywords as possible .... So many people contact me on LinkedIn, and if you think about who’s searching LinkedIn, it’s recruiters who don’t necessarily understand metadata or taxonomy. They just search those three terms and they call the first person who comes up. Basically what I’m saying is use your library skills to make yourself SEO-able.”

Benevento’s talent for optimizing herself in recruiter searches has led to an enviable career in marketing, content strategy and taxonomy.

Thinking Outside the Library Box

Benevento isn’t the only person with an MLIS degree to develop a career outside the traditional librarian role. During a roundtable discussion held at the Special Libraries Association (SLA) 2016 annual meeting, three librarians discussed their careers as content creators and publishers. Let’s take a quick look at their careers.

Caitlin Nitz is the director of content marketing at digital strategy agency Blue State Digital. Nitz started her post-MLIS degree life in advertising, working for the Association of National Advertisers. There she captured and compiled marketing presentations to share as part of the 9,000-item-strong Marketing Knowledge Center. She later managed the Center before moving into content strategy and eventually, her current role.

Liz Aviles got her start in the marketing and content world in 1999 with "potty postings" at the marketing agency Upshot, where she still works. The potty postings were one-page info sheets that she and her team shared in the bathrooms. Aviles' skills for curating, analyzing and identifying important information secured her her current role as vice president of market intelligence.

Hillary Rengert began her career as a librarian at the 96th street branch of the New York Public Library. After two years, she became a research librarian and in 2004 she joined eMarketer as a senior researcher. She is now the organization’s Vice President of Research.

Where the Jobs Are Today

Still stumped where to begin your search? The following job opportunities offer good opportunities for librarians to move into marketing. While all of the jobs were listed recently, I've included a short description in case the listings close.

  • Media Manager, Branded, BuzzFeed — This position is a great example of what Benevento calls a skill cluster. BuzzFeed is looking for someone with library experience in digital databases, archives and tagging — plus knowledge of video-specific data standards and file options. If you have the library skills and interest in video, look for training opportunities, internships or freelance jobs to prep yourself for a job like this.
  • Digital Asset Coordinator, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center — A classic digital asset management (DAM) administrator role, the Digital Asset Coordinator is responsible for managing copyrights and rights management guidelines, determining and applying metadata to assets, and supporting DAM users. The skills required are in line with library professionals, like information management, communication and organization.
  • Digital Content Specialist, Dignity Health — This position combines several skill sets: systems management (DAM and content systems), analytic review, archival abilities, project management and marketing. With a few additions, library training in taxonomy, cataloging and system audits is a great place to start adding additional skills in content development and metrics.
  • Digital Asset Coordinator, New Balance — The main responsibility of the Digital Asset Coordinator is to keep the DAM system running. That includes user administration, managing assets in the system, maintaining brand quality, attending to the legal rights of assets and analytics reporting. 
  • Imaging Technician Assistant, The Getty — Though technically not a marketing job (and with a museum), I include this limited-term position with the Paul J. Getty Museum because it’s an example of how to gain complementary skills. Major tasks include things like gathering digital files, cataloging them, applying naming conventions, and post-processing tasks. Though knowledge of Adobe Photoshop and digital color correction are listed, no experience is necessary. A great job to start professionally building a new skill.

The reasons why librarians on the market for a job should look in the marketing section are clear. Skills in taxonomy, metadata, web systems, data analytics, information architecture and information literacy are just a few of the skills you bring to the table and that are in high demand. 

If you're an information professional involved in a job hunt or thinking about changing careers, let us know in the comments what skills you can keyword on yourself.

Title image "Librarian" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by valkyrieh116