This week I asked people who hire librarians:
How long did it take for you to get your first professional, full-time job in the library field? Would you please tell us a little bit about your search for that job?
My situation is somewhat unique. I had been working at a public library in a part-time position for two years when our director retired and my boss, the adult department librarian, was hired as the new director. He knew that I was currently working on my MLIS, and he knew that I was married and my family was in this area and I could probably be talked into not moving off to the big city like I had originally planned (ha!). He encouraged me to apply for the position; I did, and after about a month of the application and interview process, I was hired as the adult department librarian.
So, I ended up starting my “search” sooner than expected, and it was a much different process than I expected. I had the benefit of having first-hand experience working with the new director, and I knew all of the current staff and procedures/processes that already existed. I knew the negative areas of the library that could use improvement, and I spoke about those things in my interview.
While my experience is quite specialized to my situation, I think it’s good for new graduates or job searchers to be flexible. Even if you know what your post-graduation plans are, be aware of situations that come up prior to graduation – some libraries may be willing to hire you even though you haven’t completed your degree yet, as was the case for me. Additionally, know your environment and, if you are already working in a library setting in some capacity, ask your supervisor questions. Know what kinds of changes could be made in the future. All of this information is indispensable and can be helpful even if you are interviewing at a different library. It shows that you are attentive and aware of the field.
- Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
I began my job search during a time when budgets and staffing were in crisis, as now. It took three years for me to get a full-time professional position. After searching for almost a year I was offered a nonprofessional position in a library and took that job. I worked in that position for a little over a year and was offered the first professional opening at that location. It is easier to get a job if you have a job. I am convinced of that. And experience, any kind of experience helps – not only on the résumé but also in doing the job better and more effectively when you do get it!
- Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System
I graduated with my MLS in May 1990 and started my first professional, full-time job as a librarian about a month later. I think I started applying for jobs in January of that year because I knew that the academic process was much slower. There were a couple of jobs that I targeted and I interviewed at one very prestigious university and, when I didn’t get that job, I applied for about 10 jobs in a day. That was probably in March. My academic library management class closely monitored my progress and critiqued my cover letters and my interviews (and interviewers!) when I returned, so that was fun.
At any rate, Loyola was closer to the end of their application period and they decided to accelerate things. Of the applicant pool, there were only two of us who fit exactly what they were looking for. The other person dropped out because he wanted to live closer to family in Texas, so they decided to bring me in for an interview without any preliminary interviews.
I knew very little about Loyola, but a friend of mine from junior year abroad went here so I called her and she said I should at least come for the interview. If they hadn’t liked me in the interview, they would have gone back to the pool and done phone interviews, etc., but they did like me, so they offered me the job and it was pretty quick and they wanted a decision. I decided to take a chance on coming here to New Orleans (from Pennsylvania, by myself) and 22 years and a few promotions later, I’m still here and still loving my (very different) job.
- Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
I got my MLS in the mid-70s and jobs were tough to get. Those darn “Greatest Generation” people were closing up the job market by refusing to retire and step aside for all us young turks! Really, not kidding. Many of my graduating class took jobs all over the country and far, far away (waves sadly). Others left the library field and developed careers in other areas because of the library job scarcity (freaks out- wow, their pay ended up waaaay better!).
I always considered myself one of the lucky ones because I got a job in state – as a para-professional. I used the job listings at our graduate school and in professional journals. This was all before email, listservs and websites. I saw the job opening listed at my SLIS for a para-professional full-time job in my area of concentration – children’s services. I applied for and got that in-state job within a month of graduation. I was also hoping that I might get lucky and that a full time professional position might open up there. And it did! Seven months after I started in the Children’s Department a professional librarian job opened up. I applied, got it and never looked back.
I launched my career here at La Crosse, oh so long ago, and in a fun twist of fate, returned four years ago to a place I hope to finish my career at. Ain’t life funny?
- Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Subsequent jobs came through networking, sometimes at library conferences.
- J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
After I graduated from library school, I put in my application to work in
the East Baton Rouge Parish Library system — the system I will soon be
retiring from. I graduated at the end of the summer and there were no
openings at EBR. The Dean of the Library School got me a temporary PT job
creating a library for the administration of a local hospital and that
took me through the fall. In the spring, finding I was still unemployed,
she offered me a fellowship to go back to library school to do
post-graduate work. I also got a Graduate Assistantship. During the
spring semester, two of my fellow post-grads got jobs in the EBR system (I
was very sad), but I continued on through the end of the semester as a
student. During the summer semester, there was some turnover in the
university library and I was offered a FT job in the Reference Dept. It
was temporary, contract work for the summer, but it was professional level
and the pay was real money, so I took it.
The end of the summer semester found me negotiating with the Library
School to get both my fellowship and assistantship back since my job was
over and I had no prospects yet. Just before agreement was reached, I
received a call from EBRPL and interviewed for a job as Teen Librarian at
a community branch. I was offered the job and accepted. That was 19
years ago and I haven’t looked back.- Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.
What about you? How long have you been looking?