Trying a different path - working for a library vendor
I became a librarian because I wanted to help people, I enjoyed research and problem solving, and I loved finding and sharing information. And yes, also because I liked books ;)
Given these fairly altruistic reasons for choosing a profession, I didn't expect to ever find myself working for a library vendor. But I'm also the kind of person who loves taking on new challenges, so after several years of working in academic and government libraries I felt ready to step outside my comfort zone (again). Here is what I learnt ...
Vendors play an integral part in the library and information ecosystem. They're not the enemy, or the dark side. In fact, libraries and vendors have a symbiotic relationship, in which we both help each other to survive and thrive.
Working for a vendor involves collaboration with multiple libraries and librarians. So it's a great fit for people who care passionately about the industry and want their work to have a wider impact. By supporting many libraries to provide access and services to end users, our ability to help people is magnified many times over.
Working vendor-side is also a great way to learn about a wide variety of librarians, library and information services, library sectors, and other library vendors and products - without having to try on lots of different jobs to gain the same exposure.
Library vendors love hiring librarians. They bring really valuable context, knowledge, skills, and experience to their roles. Employing library professionals helps vendors to stay in touch with current issues in the library world, and ensures that their staff are able to empathise with their customers, and be genuinely engaged when seeking to find solutions to their problems.
Some examples of the types of library vendors that hire librarians are those who provide library software, library management systems, publications and content, discovery services, cataloguing services, hardware, educational tools, and digitisation services.
You don't have to “sell” anything. Unless you want to :) Most roles, however, don't involve sales – in fact the variety of jobs is just as wide as you would find in libraries. Roles for librarians within vendors include cataloguing, delivering training to libraries and/or end users, providing software support, project management, data verification, digitisation, collection development, and product development – just to name a few.
Just as I believe that librarians who work across library sectors gain valuable transferable skills that enrich their future roles and workplaces, I think it applies equally to working in the commercial sector. Bringing a new perspective (insider knowledge?) on vendors back to libraries can help us to build more realistic and cooperative relationships, and have a greater understanding of business processes, opportunities and limitations.
I found that working for a library vendor provided me with new challenges, and extended my career into the broader library and information industry. It's a great opportunity for librarians who are passionate about our industry to make a positive contribution, and both libraries and vendors should be the richer for it.