Is becoming an outreach librarian right for me?

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What do outreach librarians do?

Still unsure if becoming an outreach librarian is the right career path? to find out if this career is right for you. Perhaps you are well-suited to become an outreach librarian or another similar career!

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How to become an Outreach Librarian

Becoming an outreach librarian involves a combination of education, experience, and a passion for community engagement. Here are the general steps you can follow to pursue a career as an outreach librarian:

  1. Educational Background: Begin by obtaining a Bachelor's Degree in Library Science, Information Science, or a related field. Alternatively, you can choose a subject area of interest, but a degree in library science or a related field is advantageous.
  2. Gain Experience: Gain practical experience by volunteering or working in libraries, especially in roles that involve community engagement, outreach, or programming.
  3. Pursue a Master's in Library Science (MLS) or MLIS: Obtain a Master's in Library Science (MLS) or Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from an American Library Association (ALA)-accredited program. This advanced degree provides the necessary knowledge and skills for a career in librarianship.
  4. Specialize in Outreach: During your master's program, consider specializing in community outreach, engagement, or a related field. Some programs offer concentrations or electives in these areas.
  5. Gain Practical Experience in Outreach: Seek internships or practicums that focus on outreach and community engagement. This hands-on experience will provide valuable insights into the specific demands of the role. Actively participate in library outreach projects or initiatives during your graduate studies.
  6. Develop Essential Skills: Hone your communication and interpersonal skills, as outreach librarians need to effectively connect with diverse communities. Develop cultural competency to understand and address the unique needs of different communities.
  7. Networking and Professional Development: Become a member of library and information science professional organizations such as the American Library Association (ALA) or the Public Library Association (PLA). Attend conferences, workshops, and networking events to connect with professionals in the field.
  8. Build a Portfolio: Create a Portfolio: Develop a portfolio showcasing your experience, outreach projects, and any initiatives that highlight your commitment to community engagement.
  9. Job Search and Application: Look for entry-level library positions that involve outreach responsibilities or community engagement. Customize your resume and cover letter to emphasize your experience and skills relevant to outreach librarianship.
  10. Professional Certifications and Additional Education (Optional): While not mandatory, certifications related to community engagement, outreach, or specific library skills can enhance your qualifications. Consider pursuing additional courses or certifications related to outreach, community development, or relevant areas to stay current in the field.

Helpful Resources
Outreach librarians can benefit from a variety of resources to enhance their skills, stay informed about industry trends, and connect with colleagues. Here are some helpful resources for outreach librarians:

  • American Library Association (ALA): The ALA's Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services focuses on promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in library services. The Public Library Association (PLA) offers resources and support specifically tailored to public librarians.
  • Urban Libraries Council (ULC): ULC's Knowledge Center provides research, publications, and tools to help libraries address community challenges and opportunities.
  • WebJunction: WebJunction offers a variety of online courses and webinars designed for library professionals, covering topics ranging from technology to community engagement.
  • Project Outcome (Public Library Association): Project Outcome Resources by the Public Library Association provide tools for outcome-based evaluation, helping librarians measure the impact of their programs.
  • Harwood Institute for Public Innovation: The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation Resources offers tools and frameworks for building stronger connections between libraries and their communities.
  • International Association for Public Participation (IAP2): IAP2's Public Participation Tools and Resources provide resources for effective public participation and community engagement.
  • Public Libraries Online: Public Libraries Online is a platform that publishes articles and resources on various topics relevant to public librarianship, including community outreach.
  • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship: The Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship publishes scholarly articles on community engagement practices and strategies.
  • Library-Related Subreddits: Library and Information Science Subreddit and Librarians Subreddit are online communities where librarians share insights, ask questions, and discuss various topics.
  • Twitter Hashtags: Following hashtags like #LibraryLife and #OutreachLibrarian on Twitter allows librarians to participate in real-time discussions and stay connected with the library community.
  • Local and state library associations offer region-specific resources, workshops, and networking opportunities. Check with your local association to stay informed about events and initiatives.
  • "Outreach Services in Academic and Special Libraries" by Linda S. Katz: This book provides insights into creating effective outreach programs in various library settings, including academic and special libraries.
  • "Beyond Book Sales: Raising Real Money for Your Library" by Susan Dowd: This resource discusses fundraising strategies, offering valuable insights for outreach librarians seeking to secure resources for their programs.