As you've wended your way through this packet, you've gotten a quick view of the diversity of the library/information profession. Even if you think you know where you are headed, you will find it interesting to see what a wide range of opportunities there are. In fact, during the course of your future career, you are quite likely to move through several settings and functions as your knowledge and skills grow. The library/information field is so varied and so dynamic, that there is no excuse for ever getting bored or stale!
In addition to using this Web site, I urge you to also start reading ads and position announcements. This will give you an idea of the qualifications that are sought, salary ranges, etc., and might help you to decide which courses to take, and even which career direction to pursue, if you are undecided about that. Don't just think about the "job" you might get when you graduate, think in terms of career. Consider the Webster definitions of job and career: A job is "a regular remunerative position," while a career is "a field for, or pursuit of consecutive progressive achievement, esp. in public, professional, or business life...a profession for which one trains and which is undertaken as a permanent calling."
If you think of work as just a job, you will be cheating yourself and the profession. People who want just to work 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday, who never read professional journals nor attend conferences, may be adequate searchers or catalogers or whatever, under someone else's direction. But these are people who are simply doing a job, not building a career. More importantly, they are not advancing the profession. They are in fact undermining it by setting a bad example and failing to contribute to the effort to move us ahead. We cannot advance as a profession unless each person assumes responsibility for taking a critical and analytical approach to what they do, with the aim of improving the quality of library and information service -- this is our professional role in society.
How will you choose your particular career path?
First, you need to consider your own background--what knowledge and experience do you have already that will combine well with a particular setting and specialty?
Second, consider your likes and dislikes--do you prefer to work independently, do you like being your own boss, do you like to be an expert in some one area? Or, are you happiest having a variety of responsibilities covering a broad spectrum of knowledge areas? Do you like a lot of interpersonal interaction? Do you like or hate computers?
Third, where do you want to be five and ten years from now? Don't think just in terms of your first professional library/ information position -- try to picture a sequence of positions, each one giving you scope to grow and learn, so that you can make a difference, and become a leader in the profession.
There are some constraints that limit career development. Geography is the most obvious. If you are interested in school librarianship, you need to know that in New Jersey you must first be licensed by the state (School Library Journal publishes an update on certification state-by-state in the June issues, even years), which means that you need some education courses in addition the the MLIS. In most states, public librarians must also be certified. In municipalities under civil service regulations, you must have specific courses and pass an exam. Many academic libraries require a second master's in a subject field. Where librarians have faculty status, they are expected to be productive scholars as well as good librarians. In special libraries, a specific academic background may be required--art history, chemistry, etc. Make sure now that you do not have unrealistic goals. At least, plan how you will overcome whatever obstacles lie in the way.
I strongly advise you to visit as many different kinds of libraries as you can while you are pursuing your degree. Meet people in various kinds of positions, and try on roles. Ask yourself how you would fit in a particular setting. And, I urge you to get some experience if you do not have any. Consider part-time work, volunteer work, or field experience for credit.
I also urge you to join one or more professional associations, as soon as you have an idea of what your direction is. Membership forms for most can be found on their Web sites, and more are found on the information table outside the LIS office. If you join an association with a local chapter, you will be able to attend meetings nearby, to make contacts, and to see and hear much that will be useful to you.
Joining an association is not merely self-serving, however. Associations are the voice of the profession. They are a forum for debating issues, a lobby fighting for the improvement of information services for the public, a mechanism for advancing the profession. When the 61,000-member ALA speaks in Washington, legislators listen. When NJLA sets minimum salary standards, employers listen. Associations allow us to develop technical standards, to have input into the revision of cataloging codes, to protect intellectual freedom, to promulgate codes of ethics, to accredit MLS programs. They are also vehicles for the advancement of the profession by providing continuing education -- through publications, conferences, and workshops, and especially through the involvement of members in committee work.
We constantly refer to the changing environment in which you will be practicing. There is no way that 36 credits of course work can give you what you need to know to succeed in this volatile environment. The best we can do is give you a foundation, and direct you to the tools you can use to continue to learn on your own throughout your career.