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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How Can I Get a Job? (Libraries, Archives and Special Collections)

Dear Readers,

I don't have to tell you that it's a tough job market out there.  The economy has been rough for everyone and museums, archives, libraries, and many other art and collection based jobs have been put through the wringer when it comes to budget cuts, layoffs, program cuts, etcetera.  If you're starting in the curiosity phase of pursuing a job and education in a libraries, archives, or special collections field it is good to be realistic when looking at what the job market looks like now, and in the future.  I have high hopes, history, and some factual based projection that the economy will continue to grow back, and the profession will continue to grow as it has been since its inception.  In fact, when looking at the Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010-2011 edition for Archivists, Curators and Museum Technicians, you'll see the profession is projected to grow a faster than average 20% by 2018.  The statistics for Librarians are also expected to grow at least 8% and job competition to be favorable to potential employees as many librarians retire in the coming years.

This post aims to educate and help provide you vital references no matter what phase of the profession you are in.

Would you like a job at the Smithsonian?  All Smithsonian jobs go through the website, where you will also find library, archives, and special collection jobs with the National Park Service, the Army, the National Archives, the Library of Congress and many other federal institutions. recent Search for Librarian recent Search for Archivist

Still in the education phase of the profession?  Check out internship opportunities at your local, state or federal repositories.  You can find Smithsonian internship opportunities here:

For historians, museum studies, public historians some of the best places to look for employment, networking and continuing education are:

American Association of Museums (AAM):

National Council of Public History (NCPH):
American Association of State and Local History (AASLH):

Most of the sites break the jobs into categories, for example archives or exhibits. The more advanced job searches also provide searches by locations. 

Interested in the profession and want to obtain your masters?  Check the Society of American Archivists' Directory of Archival Education for a list of accredited schools and programs.   In this job market you almost always need a master’s in the museum world and some type of specialized experience through an internship.

Additionally, taking a Digital History class that trains you how to use systems to create websites, blogs,  etcetera really boosts a resume.  You'll notice more and more of us in the profession are online and working our social media avenues to help create education and outreach opportunities.  Archivists, Librarians and Special Collections personnel are no longer in a dark corner of the basement.  We have to be able to present ourselves and our collections well in order to serve our public and communicate within our larger business/organization hierarchies.  With lack of resources for everyone paired with the forward momentum of the web, any HTML and social media skills you have will be an asset!  Pair your outreach and web abilities with a solid base of national standards like MARC, DACS, and EAD you'll be well on your way.

With your education and job search efforts, the last key step is the network!  Make sure you are a member with all pertinent professions and take advantage of their continuing education courses, networking opportunities, and job announcements.

Societies, Councils, Consortia
Society of American Archivist:
Northwest Archivists:
Midwest Archives Conference (MAC):
New England Archivists (NEA):
Society of Rocky Mountain Archivists (SRMA):

A directory of Archival Organizations: local, national and abroad as taken from the Society of American Archivists' Associated Organizations & Associations page.

Directory of Archival Organizations in the United States and Canada. This directory lists national, regional, state, local and provincial archival associations in the United States and Canada.

International Archival Organizations. A listing of archival organizations outside of the United States.

Associated Professional Organizations. A listing of organizations whose members share similar professional interests and job responsibilities to those of archivists.

Official Representatives and Coalitions. The SAA President or Council appoints members to serve as representatives to a number of important committees and bodies outside of the Society of American Archivists.

Repository of Primary Sources (maintained by Terry Abraham). 
A listing of over 3400 websites describing holdings of manuscripts, archives, rare books, historical photographs, and other primary sources for the research scholar.

United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Archives Portal. An international gateway for archivists and archives users.

Find your favorite museums, associations, and professional organizations on social media websites so that you can network with your peers and potential future colleagues and managers.  Just google job networking and you'll see a slew of articles on why networking and staying present in your professions' conversations and social media interactions will help keep you a step ahead of your competition and may even help you locate job opportunities as they arise. 


I will add to this post as more helpful sites come to me, and feel free to post your own findings in the comments below!

Best of luck and I look forward to working with you in the future,

Rachael Cristine Woody

Freer|Sackler Archives


  1. Thanks for this! I'm in my second semester of a museum studies graduate program and can't wait until I land my first paying museum job :)


  2. Dear Samantha (aka Museumgirl22)

    You are more than welcome! Best of luck on the NMNH internship and we hope to see you around campus. PS - we like your style and I've added your blog to links we love on the right.

    Thanks for reading!

  3. It's nice to see some positive stats about job growth. I'll have to share them with my uncle, who thinks I should become an engineer. I'm in my first semester in an archives program and wish I could have Samantha's internship - alas, I'm in Boston!

  4. Dear Stephanie,

    Thank you! I attended Simmons College in Boston - is that where you are? I remember people asking me what I was going to do with my liberal arts degree, with "helpful" suggestions. (Here's an article for more details: I think the best advice I ever got was to take the classes that interest me, participate in activities I like, and eventually I'll have the job of my dreams. So far my path is working out for me, and I wish you the best of luck on yours!