Further Questions: What about part-time work for MLS degree holders?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

In a tough job market, flexibility is important for applicants. Many LIS blogs/websites suggest exploring part time work, even post grad school, as a way to gain experience and enter the library world. Sometimes this means multiple part time jobs. Do you have MLS degree holders in part time positions (professional or paraprofessional) in your library? Would you hire MLS degree holders for part time positions? What would your advice be for these part time job applicants, and how would you advise applicants for full time jobs to sell any part time experience they may have?

We have, in the past, hired MLS librarians for 20 or 30 hour a week positions. It’s not ideal. I think we’re trying to move away from doing that because it’s difficult to find qualified candidates who are willing to accept part-time employment, especially since PT work doesn’t automatically translate into future FT work here. I think any library experience, whether it’s part time or volunteer is a plus on a resume, especially in a crowded job field; so if your choices are limited to PT, take it, learn everything you can from it and use that to move up.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzI currently have two adjunct library faculty members whose contracts identify a specific number of hours per week/semester they work and not number of credits which is the basis of all other adjunct faculty contracts.  I also have a full-time staff member in a non-librarian position who has a MLS.  The part-time adjuncts are getting teaching and other experience (one is assistant archivist).  They attend library faculty meetings when they can.  Both are geographically tied to the area so there positions are helpful for them and for us.  Both continue to look for full-time positions.

There are many reasons people might be seeking part-time employment and I would consider a MLS holder for a position and consider that they might continue to seek full-time employment.  The nature of part-time work is that we hope to get people to stay but they often do not, and our budgets are sometimes unreliable enough that we cannot offer a lot of job security.

>Part-time experience is experience – period. Anything you learn at a job is worth thinking about and using when you prepare for an interview.  What did you learn about the challenges of being a part-time employee?  What did you learn on the job that was new and enhanced your skills?  Your work experiences in and out of libraries can make you a stronger candidate so use all of it!– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

At my former place of work (FPOW), when I was a director, we often had MLIS degree holders in part-time positions. Often it was a way to supplement income and/or gain experience on their part, and it worked out well for us. They got pay and experience, and we got their labor. In fact, they continue to employ MLIS degree holders in part-time positions. Some have been there for years.

I don’t think there is, and if there is there shouldn’t be, stigma around working part-time doing the same tasks as full-time, employed MLIS holders. You’re doing the same work, just less of it. Where I was director, it was never a consolation prize; we never offered a PT position to someone who applied for an FT one, for example. And based on the number of people with MLIS degree who applied for PT work, I don’t think they felt that stigma either. Thus, if you’re an MLIS holder working part-time and reading this, I’d sell that job like any other, be it FT or PT.

– Anonymous

angelynn kingI have and do work in places with numerous part-time employees, both professional and paraprofessional. It is not unusual to have MLS-holders in library assistant positions, but it’s important for such colleagues to understand that the job description is different and that they will not be functioning as “librarians on the side” — any more than they would be dispensing legal advice or diagnosing engine trouble if they were qualified in those fields.

If you are a degreed librarian in a paraprofessional position, my best advice would be to keep your eyes and ears open and try to absorb the culture and learn as much as you can. Then, if a professional position later becomes available, you will be familiar with the policies and procedures and “speak the language,” which could give you an edge.

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Laurie Phillips

I am more likely to hire a library school student for part time work than someone with an MLS. In the past, I always felt that it was taking advantage of someone with an MLS to hire them for a staff position. I also don’t want people to assume that it’s getting a foot in the door for a faculty librarian position. It’s generally not. That said, the current job market has changed my previous thinking. We currently have one or two MLS holders in part time positions in our library. For one of them, it’s been difficult because she’s capable of doing more and does higher level work (although by no means what we expect of our faculty librarians) and she can’t stay in this position long-term. That’s the difficult thing for us – how long will someone with an MLS stay in a part-time position and will they be miserable? I think, if we’re honest with each other from the beginning, it can work. As for selling part-time experience, you can certainly pull out skills learned or experience gained and apply it to the requirements for a full-time job. We wouldn’t care how you got the experience – full time, part time, librarian or staff. Just that you had it and could apply it.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.


Filed under Further Questions

3 responses to “Further Questions: What about part-time work for MLS degree holders?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

  2. pigbitinmad

    The one thing about part-time work in public libraries is that it is impossible for me to work it in conjunction with ANOTHER part-time job. This is the entire problem, the whole problem and nothing but the problem. These hiring managers will not even guarantee more than 10 hours a month, yet you have to be on-call 24 hours a day.

    If the hours could be, say, only on weekends, early mornings or late evenings I could work it around my 1-5 job. But you cannot, and therefore you will get people who will quit at the first opportunity (assuming all opportunity is not dead, which I personally believe it is).

    There is also the question, if the job only pays $8.00 why don’t I just work at McDonalds for $15 and a better schedule.

    You could hire older people whose tech skills are just as good as younger people (BTW), but I don’t see that either. The average age of an MLS graduate is 45, but the only people I see getting hired at the public libraries (at least in NY) are all young girls. I have been compiling statistics on this and it is absolutely true.

    Most of us went into this job because we were booted out of our last profession for being too old. If you want a former liberal like myself to vote Trump, keep doing what you are doing.


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