Then I have the job for you. If you are a scientist, but you want to get out of the lab, want to have a little more variety in your life, like helping people and finding information, but still want to use your science degree and be part of the scientific enterprise, then you might want to consider becoming a librarian.
You know a little about what a librarian does and if not you can see my recent post. Don’t worry, though, all of those functions are not typically done by the same person. You don’t have to be in public service, actually, you could deal with metadata or building discovery tools. You could even be in some sort of informatics.
So how do you know if you want to become a librarian? Why not set up an informational interview with your favorite librarian? Or just cold call or e-mail the librarian who is assigned to your subject area. Or hey, leave a comment here or with John.
Once you’ve decided, then you need to pick a school- real librarians have masters degrees. You’ll want an ALA-accredited school, and they are listed here. Some offer online only degrees or mixtures between online and in person. Almost all teach classes in the evenings and maybe only one day a week, so you can take classes while you continue to work (most professionals returning to get MLS degrees do continue to work).
What’s school like? Certainly it depends on what flavor of librarian you want to be. Most programs could possibly get done in a year, but it’s more typical to take 2 or 3. You’ll have some core courses that everyone gets, for me these were reference (aka access), organization, intro to information science (information seeking processes, information behavior, what is information), technology (way easy, don’t sweat this). Then I took courses on finding information in science, business, and government as well as advanced searching and information retrieval on the internet. I also had the amazing opportunity to take a course on legal issues in managing information from Lee Strickland, a former CIA lawyer, right after 9/11. You could browse the catalog at a couple of schools to get an idea.
I was very nervous returning to school after 6 years – I hadn’t written a long paper since I finished up the liberal artsy classes I took early on in college. I rocked the math portion of the GRE (of course), but my school didn’t even look at that number! It turns out that I really, really loved the coursework. It was difficult to get back writing again, but it was worth it. And hey, if you blog, then you might be ok with writing papers!
There might be scholarships specifically for scientists to become librarians, I know it’s been discussed, but I don’t know if they’re around yet.
There are hiring freezes at a lot of state universities right now, but there are a ton of openings, particularly in science, so by the time you get done, should be perfect. You could also work for the government or for a company or hospital. Library jobs in universities are pretty stable, but a lot of corporations are closing their libraries. The government, well, you know, up and down.