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When you think of a librarian, you might immediately picture a quiet, older person surrounded by countless shelves of books. Much like any other profession, librarians can branch out into many different industries. For example, take a look at what a corporate librarian does.

A corporate librarian is essentially a librarian who works privately for a business or corporation. They can do a wide variety of things for the company they support, depending on what’s required. Each industry has different requirements, so potential candidates must be dynamic to meet an organization’s specific needs. The unifying aspect across any industry, however, is that they always keep materials organized and ready for checkout to whoever may need them.

The fun part is those materials aren’t always books. They might be something as general as maps, digital records and video archives to industry-specific data such as blueprints, device schematics, or even shoemaking materials (yes, actually!). Read on to learn more about becoming a corporate librarian and what the job entails.

First: Get the Skills

One of the first things you’ll need to do to be a librarian is study information sciences. Most of the time, this means getting your Master’s of Library and Information Science (MLIS). While working for your MLIS, you’ll have a choice among several different concentrations: library and information science; data science; technology, information, and management; and archives and preservation. Each of these has various applications for corporate librarians, so you’ll want to base your decision on your projected industry of choice.

The perk of pursuing an MLIS is that you’ll learn the skills and techniques you need before diving into the job. Most programs now offer training not only in library management and organization but also in things like data analysis, developing technology, and project management. It’s the type of graduate degree you can apply to just about anything if you later decide you don’t want to work in a library.

If you’d rather not go to grad school, there’s always on-the-job training. If you’d rather learn hands-on in a library or an archive, there are a few positions you can apply for that don’t necessarily require an MLIS. Check your public library for job openings. Positions like a library aid or reading room attendant can help you get a taste of working in a library and learn a few trade skills along the way.

A Private Librarian

Most of the librarians you’ve met before or know about probably work with the public. This means they work with people who live in your town or city at the public library, or maybe they worked with your classmates at the school library. It’s important to understand that a corporate librarian works in a much more private capacity than this.

Usually, a corporate librarian manages materials for a select and private group of people. This means they organize and manage documents that a particular business may need, and they make it possible for employees of that business to check them out. Sometimes, corporate librarians maintain a collection of specialized marketing materials, company copies of books available for work projects, or they just keep a catalog of work materials.

Some more prominent corporations may also have internal private archives. Since archival work is a form of information science, corporate librarians may also work in helping to organize and maintain historical materials for businesses. This can be a unique way to be part of preserving a legacy for a company you care about, and also a well-paying way to get archival experience.

Given the sensitive nature of some of these materials, newly hired corporate librarians are often required to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) so that the company can protect any trade secrets, employees, and clients. This isn’t something to take lightly; breaching an NDA can lead to getting reprimanded, termination, and even (in the worst cases) litigation.

Businesses in Every Industry Needs One

Businesses in every industry need corporate librarians. Every organization, from shoe brands to oil companies to car manufacturers, will have archival materials and books they need someone to maintain. If you’d like to look into being a corporate librarian, it may help to start by searching in an industry about which you’re particularly curious or passionate.

If a specific industry doesn’t come to mind, ask yourself some questions:

  • What kind of feedback have you received in past jobs and internships? Are there particular accomplishments that you’d like to relive or further develop?
  • What do you consider to be your best skills? What type of business would most benefit from them?
  • Are there problems in the world that you’d like to fix? What industry could help you do that?

Assessing your interests and skill set should guide you when selecting an industry about which you can be passionate.

You may even want to branch away from cataloging physical materials or archivals and move into the tech world. An MLIS can also apply to data management and analysis. Major tech companies are always in need of someone to help their team better understand the numbers around their products and users.

Corporate librarian training can also parlay into marketing. Businesses have begun using data to help create targeted marketing plans. This involves using social data (derived from target market demographics and social media information) and refining your target audience so that you can track your organization’s performance within that market. The skills of corporate librarians — expertly cataloging, tracking, and archiving data — can prove to be invaluable in this context.

A corporate librarian is a librarian just like any other. The most significant difference is their work is highly specialized to the company and industry they’re working with. This can be a great way to enter the world of librarians, as the same skills can later be translated to a more public-facing job if you so desire — but you’ll never know unless you give it a try first.

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