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Formerly, Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian. She founded INALJ (formerly "I Need A Library Job") in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. She continues to run INALJ and has recently launched a social purpose corporation, T160K.org, which crowdfunds for cultural, heritage and library projects across Africa.
Q. It’s easy to understand wanting to help librarians and others in the information field find jobs, but how did the idea to create a website come about? What drove you to push it to the success it has become today?
A. It all started in 2010, about a month after I was hired as a Reference Librarian through a federal government contractor. The goal was to save time for job hunters, specifically, my own classmates. I was actually hired halfway through my MLIS at Rutgers, but people kept sending me job openings. I thought, there must be a way to share all of the job opportunities that people send to me and that I find through listservs all in one place. I never dreamed it would become an international resource with upwards of 180 volunteers.
What drove me to push on with INALJ was how people were having success with the site. I believed strongly in not only what I was doing, but how I was doing it, and when I asked for help growing it, the response for volunteers was overwhelming. People finding LIS jobs through this site has really made all the difference.
Q. One of the first things you see on the website is “Why I Quit My Library Job and Why I No Longer Want One.” As a website that focuses on helping information professionals find employment, that is both interesting and ironic. How have you remained relevant and credible since you left the field?
A. It was an intentionally intriguing title, but I was careful that it was not misleading. I really did cover why I quit my particular job and why I no longer wanted a traditional “librarian” job. I left because during the government furlough, we were unceremoniously fired, and then rehired. In that two-week span, I made a life choice not to be at the mercy of an employer. I found a house to renovate in a new city and came back only to find a replacement. I love the work librarians do, but felt strongly that being a consultant, running INALJ, and being an advocate in other fields was a better fit for me. There are so many talented LIS people who are unemployed and underemployed that I believe should hold those traditional jobs—not me.
I remain relevant through my work on INALJ and speaking and presenting to the LIS community. I am also working as CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) at T160K.org. One of the many projects we partner with is crowdfunding to catalog the rescued Timbuktu manuscripts, which were rescued by librarians in Mali from certain destruction a few years back.
Q. What originally inspired you to pursue a career in library and information?
A. I have majored in everything from film and TV production to history, and never had a clue what I wanted to do. I was working at World Market managing their collectibles and gourmet food departments when I was scouted by a recruiter for a temp agency. After a few office placements, they placed me in a science library, and the rest is history. I was never a cataloger at heart, but what drew me to the field was research and reference work. That placement by an agency is what got me started. One of my first bosses and mentors was DC/SLA president at the time, and got me active in that association.
Q. Would you share the reasons why you “no longer want” a career as a librarian?
A. I prefer spending my time doing other things, is the best answer I have. Traditional librarian jobs often do not offer me enough time to travel or do speaking engagements. I hate being tethered to a physical job where I cannot telecommute. I also know first-hand how few positions there are available, and think that I would rather see others gainfully employed doing something they love, instead of me holding that spot and not wanting it.
Q. What is the best piece of career advice you ever received?
A. Think about out-of-the-box jobs! The MLIS does not define or limit me; rather, it opens doors. This is more of an observation of all the interesting careers that LIS professionals do hold that I learned from SLA and Careers in Federal Libraries. Generally, I am more likely to remember bad advice than good. I feel I have a well-established sense of my own goals and priorities, and can sniff out when someone is advising me versus advising a generic librarian. If they aren’t asking me questions, then their advice is usually bad.
Q. Where did you find the courage to make such a drastic career change?
A. Let’s just say being fired was a good push in the right direction. We can blame my home renovation career on HGTV and DIY television. I guess, like with INALJ, it came down to still shopping around for a house/job. We purchased our first house, never intending to flip it, and within a year, I had convinced my husband that this would be a business we could learn and do well at. I do the paperwork and he designs and does all the contracting. He is amazing.
It means that INALJ has been done almost constantly in dirty houses with plastic over the doors. Because we live in the renos while doing them. Often the view from my laptop is holes in drywall (or worse)!
Q. You commented that librarians are being considered for a wider range of job titles now because the field and skill sets are better understood. Could you elaborate on some of the “out of the box” careers librarians are finding?
A. I have a list of over 50 or so on the left sidebar of all pages of INALJ.com, called “Keywords for Job Searching.” I also link to an article by Mia Breitkopf of 61 job titles for LIS grads. We all know that after graduating with an MLS, MLIS, or equivalent, that you can become a librarian. However, there are many job titles and careers that share the same duties and skillsets of librarians, but are simply called something different.
Prospect research/development analyst are two titles used for researchers that uncover donors to help organizations reach their fundraising goals. Marketing firms will often employ research analysts, and competitive intelligence is a related field, usually in the business world, where librarians can be employed researching competitors.
Q. What do you find most exciting about the future of role of the librarian?
A. That libraries are adapting to serve their community’s needs, versus perceived wants. I think that libraries that will succeed and be trendsetters are also ones that understand that their staff’s experience and vision. That is key—tapping the human resources you have, versus what communities say they want. I think that the vital advocacy we need to be focusing on is our personnel and staff within the field. I think the librarian can and should be central and pivotal in all decisions about information within libraries, and it has not always been that way.
Q. What do you see as the main issues facing librarians today?
A. There are several critical issues, such as Open Access. For me, having understaffed, poorly-funded libraries is a huge issue.
Q. We can’t let you go without asking: What is your job hunting advice for librarians and information professionals?
A. Job hunting is very personal. Only you know what is best for you. Not one piece of advice fits everyone. Put yourself first; you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Life is short and your time is valuable.
Q. Is there anything else that you want our readers to know about INALJ?
A. INALJ has been all volunteer-run from the beginning and we are continuing through 2015 as well. We are always looking at the bottom line, and for us, that is helping information professionals of all types find job openings. As long as we have enough willing volunteers, we will continue to do so!