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Stanford librarians on the "alt-ac" path

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Alternative Academic Career Paths for PhDs: logo

On April 10, three Stanford librarians will talk to Stanford graduate students about their experiences moving from PhD programs into library work.  This event, titled “Alt Ac @ Libraries,” will feature Chris Bourg, AUL for Public Services (PhD in Sociology); Matt Marostica, Subject Specialist for Economics and Political Science (PhD in Political Scicence); and Regan Murphy Kao, Japanese Studies Librarian (PhD in Japanese).

Matt, Regan, and Chris will engage with soon-to-be Stanford PhDs on what it means to support research through curation, collection, and other library work, instead of taking more traditional PhD paths into tenure-track faculty positions — positions that are both increasingly scarce and not necessarily the right fit for all academically-minded people.  They will likely address both the challenges and the rewards of their careers in an academic library such as Stanford's.

The perhaps odd-sounding "alt-ac" moniker gained prominence a few years ago as a Twitter hashtag marking conversations among and about "alternate" career paths for people with academic dreams (and credentials).  In 2011, an unusual (and fascinating) collection of essays called #alt-academy, edited by University of Virginia digital humanist (and fellow library worker) Bethany Nowviskie, was published by MediaCommons.  This path-breaking collection describes itself as being

by and for people with deep training and experience in the humanities [and other fields], who are working or are seeking employment — generally off the tenure track, but within the academic orbit — in universities and colleges, or allied knowledge and cultural heritage institutions such as museums, libraries, academic presses, historical societies, and governmental humanities organizations. 

Like all institutions of graduate education, Stanford has large communities of both PhD-bound students nervous about future employment, and PhD-educated, untenured, academic staff who love their careers.  Surprisingly — shockingly, really — these two communities rarely gather to discuss what will inevitably unite many of their members: an "alternate academic" professional career.  The Alt Ac Speaker Series, of which this Stanford Libraries panel is part, is sponsored by the Vice Provost for Graduate Education, the Career Development Center, the School of Humanities and Sciences, and the Humanities Center.  The series is designed to give Stanford graduate students the opportunity to explore "a range of rewarding alternative academic (alt ac) career options within colleges and universities." 

The Stanford Libraries, meanwhile, are a haven for people who have chosen precisely such careers.  Our colleagues Chris, Regan, and Matt will be proudly representing the dozens of us who have chosen this path, which they'll generously share with our graduate student colleagues on campus.

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Glen Worthey (Tui, Spain, 2011)
Digital Humanities Librarian, Head of the Digital Initiatives Group
(650) 213-6759

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