Choosing a Specialization

by Annie Pho

Usually within the first few weeks of library school, you are asked what type of library you want to work in. If you’re like me, you might have had some vague idea of what you wanted to do before you started school. I had wanted to be an art librarian, and my first semester I geared many of my projects around art librarianship. Half way through my first semester, I switched gears and became more interested in digital libraries. You never know what will happen! However, not everyone has a clear idea of what area they want to specialize in and in reality, what you think you want to go into changes as you continue with your education. Many library schools offer specializations which can cater to your interests.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you figure out what interests you.

  • Be flexible – what your areas of interest are will probably change. Take classes in the subjects that sound interesting to you. It’s a good way to judge whether you’d really want to specialize in that or not. You might stumble upon a totally different path.
  • Interview other librarianstalk to someone who does what you want to do. My first semester, I talked to an art librarian and she gave me insight into her job duties as well as the types of reference questions she got. It helped me to see the difference in work settings. Most librarians are nice, helpful people and are usually willing to talk to students.
  • Test the waters – Try and get some experience in your area of interest. Think you want to be a children’s librarian but you’ve never worked with kids before? You should probably at least volunteer a couple hours to see if that’s what you really want to do. Perhaps you can do an internship. The more you put yourself out there, the more opportunities will pop up that interest you.
  • Check out professional organizations – There are tons of specialized organizations out there for different kinds of libraries. You can join them, sign up for emails, go to conferences, etc. They’re a good resource for finding out more information.

The best advice I have for those who are starting their library school journey is to just get your feet wet first. Get comfortable learning the librarian jargon and acronyms. Put your feelers out and see what might interest you. Nothing is final, you can always change your mind, but do remember that eventually you’ll want to focus your energy.