Here is this week’s installment of the Library School Career Center feature, which is presented in partnership with the folks from the blog Hack Library School. If you’re interested in library education, or in new ideas and the future of the profession, you should check it out.
This interview is with Tanya Cobb, Student & Alumni Services Coordinator, at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Ms. Cobb is a graduate of the SLIS MA program (2004) and has worked for several years at the UW-Madison campus in the areas of human resources, student services and research administration.
Career Center Information
Who staffs the career center? Please talk a little about how it is managed and run.
In my role as Student & Alumni Services Coordinator, I am responsible for coordinating career services and events for SLIS. This includes bringing in speakers and LIS professionals to do seminars, webinars and workshops about job hunting, applying, and interviewing; working with faculty who are incorporating career development exercises into their courses; partnering with our division-level career services office (Letters & Science) and meeting one-on-one with students (in person and via phone) to provide cover letter and resume feedback, interview practice, and general advice.
I would describe our career services more as a philosophy and a practice rather than as a “center.” Career-building is an ongoing component of our students’ graduate education, and is woven throughout the program through coursework, specific career development events, involvement with student and professional organizations, and hands-on experience through practicums, internships, volunteer opportunities and student employment. We offer the same resources and services to our students in the distance program as we do to our on-campus program. Distance students can participate remotely when events take place at SLIS (or access the archived recording later), and have access to individual feedback services via phone, chat or email.
Does the career center provide any of the following:
√ Job Listings √ General career coaching
√ Resume/CV Review √ Help writing cover letters
√ Literature/articles √ Interview Practice
√ Networking events (virtual or in-person)
Do you provide in-person services?
√Appointments √ Speakers, or programs that present experts
√ Mixers or other networking events
Done at the college or campus level:
√ Job Fairs √ Drop-in career center
Do you provide online services?
√ Website with resources √ Webinars
√ Twitter √ LinkedIn √ Facebook
√ Blog (includes internships, volunteer opportunities, student LIS jobs, conferences, professional association opportunities. Posted daily.)
√ Other: Career Services Wiki for current students and alumni
What do you think is the best way for students to use the career center?
Start your career planning before you even show up for the first day of graduate school! Use LIS job lists to identify positions you might be interested in, and review the skills and experiences the employers are looking for. Ask yourself, how will I get those skills and experiences in the next two years while in graduate school–through my coursework, my field placements/practica, internships and volunteer work, student library positions, involvement in professional organizations, etc? It’s OK if you don’t know exactly what path you want to take in the LIS field. Just look for job listings that catch your interest. Graduate school is a great time to explore multiple pathways through coursework and the many hands-on opportunities mentioned above. Meet regularly with your career services advisor and faculty advisor to talk about where you should be in terms of career planning, ideally at least once a semester. Attend as many of the workshops and seminars as possible, or view the archived recordings on our Career Services Wiki. If a faculty member or staff member offers you an opportunity to volunteer or work on a project with them, say “yes” as often as possible. This builds your network and your experience, and you may be surprised at what good opportunities saying “yes” may lead to!
May alumni use career center resources?
Are there any charges for services?
Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using the career center?
“SLIS provided a plethora of interactive workshops covering all aspects of the job hunt. I religiously attended every session that I could (and not only for the free pizza). My first year as a SLIS student I attended sessions to hear panelists talk about their recently successful job searches, to hear from library staff who regularly hire librarians, and to hear what is looked for in resumes, cover letters, and during the interview. I listened and asked questions so I could apply all that information while starting my job search in December of my 2nd year.
I had my resume and cover letter reviewed and revised by a few different people (through a formal review program SLIS offers, by SLIS faculty members, and from my current library supervisors) to get their different opinions. It must have worked as I heard back from every science librarian position I applied for. I also received assistance practicing my interview techniques and coming up with the proper scenarios to discuss for tricky questions. Although I was still super nervous during my first in-person interview, I knew what to expect from the wonderful work that UW-Madison SLIS did to help get me to that point. Interviewing became a piece of cake after 5 phone interviews and I was able to land an awesome job after my 3rd in-person interview (and then I was able to use the great negotiating skills SLIS taught me before accepting the offer). Although applying for jobs and interviewing is hard work, I felt that I was well prepared with all the opportunities that the SLIS Career Services offered.”
–Jonathan Carlson (2012), Science Librarian, Alcuin Library
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University
Anything else you’d like to share with readers about your services in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?
You are a unique candidate, and you have a lot to offer a potential employer. As you progress through graduate school, develop your two-minute story of who you are, and the key three to four skills/experiences you would bring to a library or information agency. Create a job hunt support team from your network of peers, advisors, program staff, and employers. They can help you create your two-minute story, provide feedback on job applications, and help you with interview practice and moral support. As mentioned before, build career development steps into each semester along with your coursework, so that when you are ready to begin your job hunt, you feel prepared.
Students’ Career Paths
Can you share any statistics about employment rates after graduation?
We are proud of our placement rates, which have been strong even in the past couple of difficult economic years in this country.
Please note: in this year’s LJ Annual Salaries and Placement survey some of our data was erroneously omitted in the Explore the Data section of the report, “Table 3: 2011 Total Graduates and Placements by School.” This omission is in the process of being corrected, but in the meantime numbers should be:
Employed Men: 9, Employed Women: 47 , Employed Total: 56 (of 59 graduates who responded to the survey).
A more detailed report focused specifically on our graduating class of 2011 will be coming out in February, and will be available along with past annual employment reports at: http://www.slis.wisc.edu/empdata.htm.
Can you talk a little bit about the school’s approach to internships, practicums and/or volunteering?
Applying what is learned in coursework is critical to becoming a competent professional and a competitive job applicant. Knowing this, SLIS requires all students to do a 120 hour, three-credit field placement their second year in the program, to apply what they are learning in class at a professional level and to build a solid working relationship with their field placement supervisor, who can then serve as a strong job reference.
Students are encouraged to do more than one field placement, to add on shorter practicums that are available with some of courses, to intern, to volunteer and to work. Internship and volunteer opportunities are posted regularly to our student daily blog. With 40 libraries on campus, students have a multitude of opportunities to work in a library while in school, and most of them do.
Does the school have a stated approach or policy on helping students to find careers?
Yes. At SLIS the faculty and staff understand that the job market is competitive. Opportunities to hone skills both in the LIS field and for the job hunt are integrated throughout the program, from practice job talks in classes, to workshops on writing winning job applications, to one-on-one career advice from professionals in the field, supporting students in becoming competent professionals and competitive job applicants.
Does the school have any relationships with organizations that offer fellowships or other post-graduate opportunities?
Yes, we regularly receive notices directly from organizations who have hired our graduates, which we post to our jobs listserv (soon to be a blog).
Are there any notable graduates?
This is a tough question, because with a program that is over 100 years old, there are so many alums that I could list! So, with the caveat that for every alum I mention there are so many more doing amazing things and working to make a difference in the profession every day, here are a few that come to mind (in order of more recent graduates to more senior professionals):
● Andrew Johnson – (MA ‘11 ), Metadata Librarian, University of Colorado-Boulder. See page nine of the Spring 2012 Jottings & Digressions (our alumni and friends newsletter) for his interview.
● Omar Poler – (MA ‘10) , Outreach Specialist at UW-Madison SLIS and Founder of the Tribal Libraries and Museums (TLAM) Project, which includes a community engagement group, service learning projects, a course, and a conference “Convening Culture Keepers”
● Caitlin Sticco – (MA ‘09, Specialist Certificate ‘10), National Library of Medicine Fellow
● Bonnie Tijerina (MA ‘03) – Head of Electronic Resources & Serials, Harvard University Libraries and President, Electronic Resources & Libraries, LLC, LJ Mover & Shaker Tech Leader (2010), LJ Mover & Shaker Challenger Buster (2005)
● Chris Wagner (MA ‘88)- Head librarian of the Goodman South Madison branch of the Madison Public Library (WI), and winner of the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times “I Love My Librarian!” award.
● K.T. Horning (MA ‘82) – Director, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center, SLIS Centennial Distinguished Alumna, (2006)
● Nancy Kranich (MA ‘73) – past ALA president, SLIS Centennial Distinguished Alumna (2006)
We have many notable accomplished alumni who are mid-career or later in their careers. Each year SLIS alumni nominate and award the Distinguished Alumnus/a Award to one of these professionals. The Distinguished Alumnus/a then presents the commencement speech at our SLIS graduation ceremony in May.
How many students in the library school?
What degree(s) do you offer?
Masters in Library and Information Studies (On-Campus and Online), PhD.
Is it ALA accredited?
Yes, continuously since ALA accreditation began.
What are the entrance requirements?
Please see our admissions information at:
When was the library school founded?
Where are you?
√ Midwestern US
Where are you?
Anything else you’d like to share that’s unique about the school?
Yes, in addition to some of the points I have already mentioned, our program emphasizes:
- Small class sizes, accessible instructors, individual attention
- Working with fellow students in a culture that is friendly, supportive, and fosters collaboration across the various specialty areas of study.
- Student Organizations and projects in Community Engagement that enhance classroom learning and build friendships that last beyond graduation
- Access to all the resources a Tier One Research University has to offer, including an outstanding research community that crosses disciplines and moves the field forward, and 40 libraries that serve the campus’ teaching, research and community service missions.
This interview was conducted by Brianna Marshall, who is a second year dual-degree Master of Library Science and Master of Information Science student at Indiana University’s School of Library and Information Science. She is Managing Editor for Hack Library School and a 2012-2013 HASTAC scholar. Learn more about Brianna through her blog and portfolio or by following her on Twitter @notsosternlib