Nicola Franklin, owner of the Library Career Centre, has recently expanded her business to the US. In this blog interview, she discusses the reasons behind her decision and the practicalities involved.
Extending The Library Career Centre to the USA must have been quite a big step to take. What led you to this decision?
The initial driver to expand into the USA was a personal one; my husband is American and he’d been over in the UK with me for the past five years, but now his parent’s situation had changed and they asked him if we could go over. It was my turn to up sticks and get to grips with a new country! Fortunately, working for myself, this didn’t mean giving up work – just extending it to cover a new area.
What are the practicalities involved in this? What have been the biggest challenges in extending your business overseas?
The USA is a much larger market than the UK (for example, the SLA annual conference attracts 4-5,000 librarians while the ALA one has more like 15-18,000!). This gives a great opportunity for anyone offering services to librarians, but also a great challenge. There’s clearly no way for one organisation to work with everybody (even a large company would struggle), so the first issue is how to break this market down into more manageable pieces.
I’m living in California, so geography is an obvious place to start. I’ve already been to my first SLA event over here; the SoCal Chapter award dinner (blog and picture here), and I’ll be going to more local events as well as to the SLA annual conference in June (which is in San Diego). I’ll be returning to the UK to visit family & friends, as well as for work, and I’ll try and make sure I fit in conferences/events whenever I’m over. One of my first tasks was to compile a list of all the USA and UK conferences and seminars for the rest of this year and next and compare the dates!
Another option is to decide which kind of services to focus on (eg recruitment, career coaching, writing, etc), and whether to restrict this to certain industries or types of library role (eg academic, private sector, etc). Those decisions will have to wait, however, until I’ve learnt more about what librarians over here want and need.
Has anything worked out much easier than you expected?
The easiest things so far, surprisingly, have been those official bureaucratic things that you would expect to take ages – getting my green card and social security numbers through took only just over two weeks from arriving. The hardest thing has been sorting out my bank! Seven weeks and counting…. So, I can legally work over here but paying me is a bit more tricky at the moment!
What differences do you see in the library recruitment market between the US and UK?
The library recruitment market in the USA and UK seems quite similar so far; people I’ve met here have been commenting about the lack of jobs, how much more stringent and long-winded the recruitment process is nowadays – so much the same concerns. There is more recognition here of workplace, or ‘special’ librarians (including unashamed use of the word ‘librarian’ to cover business researchers, web content managers, etc, etc whether in the public or private sector).
Finally, what next? Do you have any other big plans we should be looking out for in the next few years?
I think for the moment I’ll be focusing on getting established over here, while keeping in contact with clients and candidates in the UK, and on building up a good reputation and providing a useful and valuable service to everyone in the library profession. Maybe I’ll be able to expand and take on more consultants later on, but that’s definitely something for the future!