External Library Experience Opportunties

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Greetings iSchool Scholars, this is Melony del Real! Welcome to this collaborative post that explores the many professional experience opportunities that we, at ALASC, would highly recommend pursuing while studying for your MLIS or MARA at SJSU. Gaining practical experience in a work environment is not only helpful for your resume/CV but can be used as a supporting competency in your eportfolio. These opportunities are all external (not affiliated directly with SJSU) – if a position description sounds appealing to you, a quick online search of that position and your city name may lead to exciting opportunities that you may want to explore! 

Volunteer Work: 

Volunteer work at libraries is perhaps the most broadly accessible opportunity in libraries due to the flexibility they oftentimes allow. The type of volunteer work that is expected ranges from general volunteers that help with shelving and programs to literacy tutors. While volunteering at a public library, Claire (ALASC members) recounts how invaluable her time has been as a FOG Reader Tutor. She describes the program as a one-on-one program where she meets with her learner once a month; while this was usually done in person, it has been conducted via Zoom since the pandemic hit. Public libraries across the country have indeed paused in-library volunteering, but several libraries are re-opening or extending their literacy programs to an online platform, so be sure to check around! 

Part-Time Library Work:

What about part-time Library work? If you have 20- hours to spend each week, I’d highly suggest seeking out part-time paraprofessional library employment opportunities! Amelia (ALASC member) and Claire (ALASC member) have both been part-time Library Aides, and they describe the position as great for garnering experience at the circulation department and facilitating basic library operations; Emily E. agrees with this description, sharing that her roles as Library Assistant and Library Page are both very fulfilling as they contribute to the larger-scale functioning of libraries. Especially if you are unsure of which type of library you hope to foster a career in one day, exploring your interests through part-time work can be an invaluable vetting experience! 

Full-Time Library Work:

If the part-time work in roles mentioned above are so exciting that you want MORE, you can always consider full-time work as a library paraprofessional! Searching for full-time Library Technician positions after you’ve completed 1-2 years of increasingly responsible part-time work can really come in handy for networking and building experience. Currently, I am in my third year as a Library Media Specialist for a K-8th grade school. This experience has been very rewarding for me, as it gives me a small-scale sneak peek into the responsibilities that are commonly affiliated with full-fledged librarianship. 


Library Technician certificates are great undergraduate programs to acquire if you are seriously considering vetting your library interests while pursuing your MLIS. The Library Technology certificate that I earned from San Bernardino Valley College is now 100% online, and there, you can learn invaluable, practical skills to prepare yourself for vocational library work.

Carlos (ALASC member) supports that – whatever experience and opportunities you pursue whether or not associated with libraries – you are bound to acquire skills that will be transferable to the scope of libraries. Just make sure to never stop growing professionally while also watering that academic root! 

In conclusion, these opportunities can really help as you navigate which field of librarianship you’d like to pursue. Many of these positions enable you to go “behind the scenes” at how libraries are run, which is great for orienting yourself with the type of work libraries do, and the kinds of interactions you can expect there.

Thanks for reading and “see” you next time!