Corporate Librarianship: Selling Out or Buying In?
posted June 13, 2012 7:38 AM by Sarah Barton
Goodness gracious was that one-week “Corporate Libraries” course a blur. In five days I
had to do two short papers and two group presentations, so there was no time for “I’ll do
this later.” Maybe that was a sneaky introduction to the “I’m asking you now, but I needed it
yesterday” corporate library culture. Based on what I learned from the course, that theory
doesn’t seem too far-fetched.
[Before I get started, so as not to confuse the “Corporate Libraries” title with the
many different types of libraries we learned about, this course could very well be
renamed “Special (With a Large Emphasis on Corporate) Libraries.” Just doesn’t have a
very nice ring to it.]
Two of the most useful things about the course were the field trips and guest speakers. (I
know I sound like a middle schooler, but bear with me.) Over the course of the week, we
visited three different special libraries and had a number of guest speakers. We also had
in-class lectures, PowerPoint presentations, handouts, and readings, but the visits and
speakers were immeasurably useful in seeing the real deal. Hearing about special libraries
from special librarians (many of whom are GSLIS alums) was much more insightful and
personal than reading a textbook. Similarly, the professor has an arsenal of personal
experience from working as a consultant for dozens of corporate libraries across the world.
In terms of subject expertise, I was overwhelmed (in a good way) by the professor and the
So, do I want to be a corporate librarian? In Corporate America, the hours, the people, and
the work can be demanding. There is a joke in the library world that librarians who go
corporate are “selling out,” but I don’t necessary see it that way. Our professor told us that
salary is the least important thing for most corporate librarians. Some librarians, it seems,
actually seek a potentially stressful, fast-paced, need-it-now work environment, and I
daresay that I am one of them. I don’t consider a corporate library job as selling out; rather,
as buying in to a non-traditional type of librarianship.