March 2023 | Volume XLI, Issue 1 »

Creating the Career Pathway Talk Series

March 8, 2023
The Students and New Professionals Forum

In February 2020, the Illinois Library Association (ILA) created the Students & New Professionals Forum with the goal of prioritizing the interests of library & information science students and new professionals. Before then, there was not an ILA group that specifically served students and new professionals and offered a place for their voices to be heard. What students and new professionals are looking for in a professional organization can vary drastically from what a seasoned professional is hoping to gain from that same organization.

As someone new to the field, navigating professional organizations can be a difficult feat because the question is often “where do I start?” There’s a plethora of committees, forums, events, etc., that can be a starting place for those new to a professional organization, but oftentimes it becomes overwhelming and difficult to find your place amongst all the moving pieces.

The Students & New Professionals Forum, also known as SANP, is striving to become that hub for students and those who are new to the library workforce. One of SANP’s main goals is to invite students and new library professionals into the forum and allow their voices to be heard. There are often opportunities to gain new skills and to share ideas with the group. Beyond that, the forum often surveys members and non-members to understand the interests of its desired demographic.

One of the ways the forum has accomplished this goal is through the creation of the popular Career Pathway Talk Series, which kicked off in November 2020. The Career Pathway Talk Series was created to invite emerging and established library professionals to discuss various topics of interest to students and new professionals. The first edition of this series highlighted traditional library pathways including academic librarianship and public librarianship, with a special webinar on nontraditional pathways in librarianship. The purpose was to highlight the various careers in the library field, and to give attendees an answer to the common question, “what does a typical day look like for you?”

Some students know what they want to specialize in, but others may not. Through this first series, SANP wanted to provide exposure to different career paths within librarianship, hoping that students and new professionals would better understand the job responsibilities, expectations, and career trajectory. The series also served as a chance for students and new professionals to be directly connected to established library professionals and have the opportunity to ask questions about their career field.

Our panelists in the webinar series come from a variety of educational backgrounds, various-sized libraries, and vastly different experience levels. The same applies to our attendees. Our outreach efforts include accredited MLIS programs, Library Technical Assistants (LTA) programs at junior colleges, and prospective library science students. The forum also prioritizes building relationships with library programs in Illinois to encourage membership and to share information about what resources are available to students.

The forum also wants this series to support library science students outside of Illinois. This is accomplished by sharing the events with library schools all across the country. Regular reposts of the webinar recordings serve as a refresher for old members and an introduction for new forum members.

After the initial success of our public librarianship, academic librarianship, and nontraditional librarianships webinars, we expanded our efforts in the following year to focus on specific areas of development. The Spring 2022 edition of our series highlighted career changers, networking, and BIPOC retention and recruitment in library science, which was our highest-attended program that year. These topics were of interest to our members and responsive to ILA’s equity, diversity, and inclusion efforts.

The insight gained during these webinars has been valuable for forum members and students. The series has been so popular that even library directors and senior library staff have attended the webinars, although our focus is students and new professionals. The forum is continuing this series and planning on hosting new events and programs for students and new professionals as SANP continues to grow.

SANP’s Spring 2023 season of the Career Pathway Talk Series kicked off in January, with a panel on salary negotiations. The next webinar, “Nontraditional Pathways in Librarianship Part II,” is on March 15. This webinar will again focus on careers in libraries outside of the traditional public and academic specialties. The Spring 2023 series concludes on May 17 with a webinar on experiences as a first-year librarian, intended to cater to graduates transitioning from school into their first professional library job. SANP wants to spread the word about this series, so new library professionals and students can be informed of our initiatives.

The forum hopes to continue growing membership and reach students and new professionals who are looking to learn more about librarianship and expand their network. To register for an upcoming Career Pathway Talk Series webinar, view past webinars, or learn more about the forum visit the ILA SANP webpage at

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