Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thinking Outside the Library: Nontraditional Careers for Information Professionals

November 5 - Thinking Outside the Library: Non-traditional Careers for Information Professionals

There were three speakers

  • Terence Fitzgerald, Taxonomist and Content Strategist, Markit
  • Sari Harris, User Experience Designer, Scholastic
  •  Daniella Romano, Vice President of Programs, Research and the Archive, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation.

The crowd was very different than the one I am used to. Many were in business libraries, law libraries, and other special libraries. People were dressed more professionally focusing on business casual attire. There were a lot of people in their 20s and 30s and less middle aged people.  A lot of people were just starting their careers so their focus was more career exploration than looking for jobs. The session was presented as a question and answer session.

I learned a little bit from the different people. Both Sari Harris and Terence Fitzgerald were technology oriented librarians. Daniella Romano was an archivist. The presenters were talking about fields on the edge of traditional librarianship.  Most librarian jobs are in businesses, public libraries, or academia.   A lot of the technology was very new.

Sari Harris talked about User Experience Design at Scholastic which is designing web sites and  portals using information architecture. She basically worked in house for Scholastic providing different iterations and documentation for websites.  I learned later, that she worked more on the functional side than the content side of websites.  I am very much interested in the content side, especially econtent.

I found her discussion about her background in library science interesting. She talked a lot about taking information design and usability classes in library school. This was not around when I went to school for my library degree. A lot of her work was focused on design thinking.  Usability is a very interesting subject.  It is about how to make websites easy for people to do what they intended to do on the site.

 She works with people to solve problems. She is involved in how people use information. This includes ipads, ereaders, and mobile devices in addition to computers. Her personal networking is focused on user groups and communities through meetups and conferences that deal with applications and information.  She finds many of the conference she goes to through the New York Times or Google. I can identify with going to meetups.  Tech meetups are in such high demand that it sometimes is hard to get in.

Terence Fitzgerald had a very different focus on technology. His focus was not on design but making things findable through taxonomy and metadata. Taxonomy and metadata are fields that are in very high demand in the information industry. I liked how he described that library science create a framework to view information. It is not so much how to build information and databases, but how to use information and databases. Taxonomy translates what the user wants. He focused his coursework on metadata, information architecture, information policy, and information design. He mentioned that he wished he had taken xml in college. These classses also were not around when I went to library school. How people use information has changed considerably. He did a practicum in taxonomy.

Terence Fitzgerald described how he sold himself as being a person who made sense of information to the engineers and mbas at the  company he works for, Markit which is a financial information company. His job is tie the databases together and make them findable; to index, classify, and structure information. He also said that much of his personal networking came from working with standards bodies for information where other taxonomists worked.

He also described how technology is making taxonomy more relevant, because there is still a need to categorize things and make them findable. I liked what he said. I found it very technology oriented.

There were some things that tied together between Terence Fitzgerald's portion of the talk and Sue Harris's description. They both said that their skills were in very high demand. They got called once a week by recruiters for the technology skills that they offered. There were also some common themes between the two peoples talk; a focus on metadata and design, some understanding of web site design and markup language.

Also both of them worked in an office setting, not so much a library, but a work group.  This reminded me a bit of when I worked as a sourcer for recruiters. The one bit of advice which he gave was to learn budgeting, especially how to understand business numbers.

The third presenter was Daniella Romano from the Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corporation. She was developing documentation on the history of the Brooklyn Navy Yard. There are 243  businesses and 5600 employees at the navy yard. She works with the visitors centers and often works with maps and plans from the last 150 years.

Her job was very different. She kept the keys to the histories of the companies in the yard. She was focused on preservation and cataloging When she was in library school, she focused on technical librarianship, archives, and records management. A lot of her work is about administrative planning and grantwriting. Once again, I find many positions when I am looking at listings include requests for grant writing and administrative planning. A lot of senior public library positions now require fundraising experience.

She also does a lot of cataloging and accessing information. The new technology she works with is sustainable construction and environmental technology. She also does a lot of community outreach. This is also something I see which people want.

This is of course my own interpretation of what I heard.  People all see and hear things differently.  It is a kind of summary of what I heard.  I am always open to comments on this.

This was a very different experience. There were three people from the New York Librarians Meetup as well, but the crowd had a much more formal feel to it. A lot of the people were there to find out about a specific type of job, not so much to find a job.  Because it was tied to a school it also had a different feel.  It was at Pratt.  This is the web link. 

I am so used to the job board and go to career fairs kind of mentality.  This was not.  It was quite refreshing.  I am trying to look at doing things differently.  The kind of things which I might be interested in are not going to be part of job boards or career fairs.  I am very interested in large content sites like goodreads, librarything, shelfari, and complex ebook sites.

I may take some time to read up a little bit on the basics of metadata and some more on web design.  Not so much information architecture, but presentation design.  I am interested in content.

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