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On being an information entrepreneur


7 ideas for flexible LIS careers

Workforce experts are saying that by 2020 four of every ten workers will be a member of the “contingent workforce” – that is, freelancers, contractors, or temporary employees. How directly this trend impacts the LIS profession will probably in large degree depend on where you work and the type of work you do.

But in the meantime, what if you’d actually like to accelerate this trend and perhaps have an LIS career with a bit more flexibility right now?

These types of jobs exist, but finding them can sometimes be a challenge.

Defining “flexible”
There are several ways to think of flexibility when it comes to your LIS worklife.

For example, flexibility may mean portability – the ability to do your work from any location, with perhaps nothing more than a laptop and good internet connection. This might translate into doing freelance or contract work for clients, or working remotely (usually from a home office) for an employer.

Or it might mean being able to work off and on, interspersing paying projects or work gigs with personal commitments or time off.

Or it might mean being able to use your LIS skills for lots of different – if temporary – employers, sampling diverse work environments, meeting new people, and exploring different possible career options.

Finding flexible LIS positions
It can be challenging to find the type of flexible work you have in mind, but not impossible. Some steps to consider:

Work with contract firms. Firms such as LAC Group place information professionals in a wide range of contract positions, both short- and long-term. For other placement or temp firms, see No job-hunting traction? Consider LIS temp, staffing, recruiting, and outsourcing agencies.

Search online job sites for open positions.  The easiest way to find potentially relevant openings is to add a modifier to the work you’re looking for, such as business researcher or digital asset manager. Some of the modifiers likely to produce the best results for this approach: remote, virtual, distance, flexible, offsite, part-time (sometimes indicates a remote position), temporary, telecommute, telework, and online.

Every employer has its own way of naming these types of jobs, so it makes sense to try all of the variations. (Also keep in mind that if you’re searching a general, rather than LIS, job site, the phrase “library” is likely to bring up software development jobs rather than library-specific ones.)

Alternatively, check to see if there is a specific search filter on the job site that lets you restrict your search to the specific type of job. For example, the job site ArchivesGig is searchable using the “State>Telecommute” category.

Check in with The Traveling Librarian. This is a simply terrific site, brought to you by Sarah Gibson. In terms of flexible LIS jobs, a recent check of the site’s Virtual Jobs category brought up these options:

Sign up with a flexible-work job service. The one I’m most familiar with is Flexjobs, which specializes in all types of flexible work situations. Flexjobs also publishes an annual list of the top 100 companies for remote jobs, which brings us to the next suggestion….

Check employers’ websites. Most employers have a section of their company website that lists job and/or career opportunities, so if you have a specific employer in mind, see if it has any postings that fit your flexibility parameters.

Consider becoming a substitute. As in, substitute librarian. Similar to substitute teaching, substitute librarian jobs involve stepping in to temporarily replace a public librarian who for some reason needs to leave the job for a period of time. An example of a substitute librarian job posted by the City of Boulder (CO) Library System described this position as Library Specialist Substitute at an hourly rate of $10.90-$18.30. Similar to being a substitute teacher, in this role you’d be on call as the need arose, but unlike substitute teaching, the length of your assignment would more likely be weeks if not months, rather than a day or two. Also, you’d probably have substantially more advance notice than a phone call that morning….

Create a freelance/independent LIS service. This is the independent information professional option, which usually offers substantial flexibility in terms of working remotely and scheduling flexibility. The trade-off is that your income is completely dependent on your ability to find clients willing to pay you for your skills, so consider this to be the choicewith lots of flexibility but also lots of challenges. To learn more about working as an independent, check out the Association of Independent Information Professionals and Mary Ellen Bates’s Building & Running a Successful Research Business: A Guide for the Independent Information Professional, 2d ed. (Information Today, 2010).

Creating your own flexible future
The trend toward a contingent workforce  has yet to make significant inroads into LIS employment, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t. In the meantime, if you’re looking for more professional flexibility, you’ve got some options to check out!

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