Workplace vs. Skill Sets | Placements & Salaries 2018

An axiom of the Information Age is that LIS skill sets are versatile and valuable in a wide array of work environments, in addition to libraries of all kinds.

An axiom of the Information Age is that LIS skill sets are versatile and valuable in a wide array of work environments, in addition to libraries of all kinds. For the fourth consecutive year, the survey included questions to document the extent to which graduates of ALA-accredited LIS master’s programs are initially employed by LIS institutions or are applying their training and knowledge to other contexts. Reversing a three-year trend, 2017’s placements show an increase in employment in library settings (70%, up from 63% last year), paired with a small decrease in positions that apply LIS skill sets in other kinds of organizations (14%, down from 17% last year). Eleven percent reported that they are employed outside of the LIS field, consistent with results from prior years. Only 6% indicated that they were unemployed, which is down slightly from last year. Of graduates who are not employed or are employed outside of our field, more than two-thirds reported that they are actively seeking a job in the LIS field.

To refine our understanding of the interaction between graduates’ skill sets and their positions and work environments, a new question was added to the 2018 survey. Employed graduates were asked to categorize their current position using one of four descriptive options. Two-thirds of employed graduates described their position as a “librarian working in a library.” Equal portions of the graduates described their job as a “nonlibrarian working in a library” or a “nonlibrarian not working in a library” (both 15%). Only 4% described their position as a “librarian not working in a library.” Some may interpret these results as inconsistent with an earlier question describing positions; however, this question allowed graduates to decide how to interpret the term librarian, applying it as either a job title or as a broader indication of LIS skill sets or training. It is valuable to learn more about how graduates describe their position in their own words.

Graduates who said they were a “librarian not working in a library” described how they used their LIS degree skills in their position. Sixty responses outlined a wide-ranging litany of classic LIS skills. The most frequently mentioned were based around metadata and cataloging, reference and research, and collection development and management. These skills were often paired with corporate environments, IT firms, and managing some form of assets or collections. Many graduates also noted the value of LIS skills such as archiving techniques, (organizational) management/project management, creating thematic programming for audiences, digital resource and data or database management, records management, ontology and taxonomy, and technology skills such as web design and coding, or working with systems, such as content management systems or integrated library systems. A few graduates noted information behavior or literacy and user instruction. A wide array of work environments were mentioned, including nonprofits and private collections, prisons, start-ups, educational institutions, and booksellers. Records management skills were applied in medical research or medical technology firms and government agencies. Most graduates said that they regularly apply multiple LIS skill sets to their particular work setting. Some responses seemed to indicate that they self-identified as “librarians” based on their training alone, even when they felt they were not using their LIS skills in their nonlibrary workplace.



Two standard survey questions explored the range of job assignments for which these newly hired information professionals are responsible. In the first, graduates could select any applicable items from a list of 37 duties. The results confirm that their positions are often multidimensional. Each item was selected by at least 3% of graduates. The most-cited assignments were reference and information services (53%), collection development and acquisitions (42%), outreach (37%), patron programming (33%), circulation (32%), readers’ advisory (30%), and training, teaching, and instruction (30%).

Graduates were also asked to identify their single primary duty. The top four were reference and information services (13%), children’s services (10%), school librarian/school library media specialist (7%), and archival and preservation (6%). The responses on these two measures are consistent with 2016 results.

Working graduates also provided their full job titles and their assessment of whether their position is in an emerging area of LIS. The most unique titles were Cloud Consultant, Discovery Librarian, Creative Technologies Librarian, User Experience and Digital Scholarship Librarian, Data Indexer, Digital Preservation Librarian, Digital Forensics Lab Assistant, Analyst Collection Workflow Consultant, Digital Asset Librarian, Digital Asset Management Fellow, ­e-Content Analyst, Open Education Librarian, Data Analytics & Visualization Librarian, Intellectual Property Manager, and Tween Librarian.

Relatively few graduates (14%) believed that their job is in an emerging area of LIS practice. Areas mentioned include management and curation of all kinds of digital content, assets, and collections, including data and data sets, and customized database configuration and data transformation. Several graduates mentioned identifying, managing, and providing instruction about new technologies. Many noted scholarly communication activities, including accessioning publications and managing institutional repositories. Other activities included managing technology for user experience testing and artificial intelligence; researcher support through data analysis and visualization/GIS; support of open education resources and access; transitions from physical digital media to cloud-based media and streaming services; metadata and machine auto-indexing; using digital forensics tools for archiving and preservation of digital assets; and automated data risk classification for storage and access.

Some graduates occupy positions that have a traditional title, but their job duties include emergent areas in the field. Some examples are a medical librarian in charge of 3-D printing, a reference assistant who is responsible for digital curation of local history collections, a teen and technology librarian who manages and develops programming for a Maker/innovation space, an outreach librarian who performs digital outreach through social media, and a reference and access services associate who does social media curation.

Suzie Allard ( is Professor of Information Sciences and Associate Dean of Research, University of Tennessee College of Communication & Information, Knoxville. She is Principal Investigator (PI) or co-PI on grants funded by IMLS, NSF, and other foundations. She is a member of the DataONE Leadership Team and the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations Board of Directors and winner of the 2013 LJ Teaching Award.

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