It’s election time! ALA presidential candidate Courtney Young has graciously agreed answer a few questions about their thoughts on ALA’s role in library hiring. Voting is open now through April 26th. Visit this page for more details.
Courtney Young is currently the Head Librarian and Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Pennsylvania State University’s, Greater Allegheny Campus. She earned her MLIS from Simmons in 1997. Ms. Young has demonstrated her leadership and commitment to the profession as a current member of ALA council, past president of the NMRT, and as one of Library Journal’s Movers and Shakers. Her focus, if elected ALA president, would particularly be on diversity, career development, and engagement & outreach. As for her thoughts on Hiring Librarians, I’ll let her tell you in her own words:
In broad strokes, what do you think the ALA’s role is in library hiring and employment?
This is a challenging, but crucial and frequently asked question. ALA works to attract people to the profession by getting scholarship sponsors for programs like Spectrum and by accrediting LIS programs so that students are graduating with the skills they need to be competitive. ALA advocates for libraries, and those advocacy activities ensure we will have libraries of all types to employ librarians. Informally, but perhaps, most importantly, it provides tremendous networking opportunities for those who actively participate in the work of the association. That, right there, is worth the price of admission. There are some things ALA cannot do–the association is not a job creator although it does employ many librarians. Something I would like to see more of from ALA: more training and other HR support for managers who are hiring, such as how to apply guidelines and best practices for creating job descriptions, advertising positions and conducting interviews. The association does some of this but could do more.
How can ALA serve unemployed librarians? Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.
ALA has a real opportunity when it comes to unemployed and underemployed librarians and should continue to be mission-focused in this area. A category of personal membership includes “Non-Salaried or Unemployed Regular Members” at a rate of $46 per year. This category “[i]ncludes librarians earning less than $25,000 per year or not currently employed. In a difficult economy this dues category can be helpful for those in career transition or for those just beginning their careers.” We want those who are struggling and seeking employment to stay active and engaged members, especially given the increased opportunities for professional development online.
The mission of ALA’s Office for Human Resource Development and Recruitment (HRDR) is to “facilitate the development of librarianship as a profession.” HRDR’s programmatic priorities and services include training and development, career development, selection and staffing, recruitment for library & information sciences careers, organizational development, and human resource management. HRDR has the potential to develop more strategic initiatives in these areas, which fits into my proposed presidential initiative related to career development. I’m excited about what we can do together.
An ALA member contacted me in 2011 about writing a resolution to do something for librarians who were furloughed or permanently unemployed. As we corresponded it became clear to me that what we really needed was to highlight resources and services already available from the Association as well as the need for more creative and collaborative thinking around an ALA-wide resource for members who are job seekers. Finally, ALA could collaborate more with state and local library associations to provide resources and advocacy for unemployed and underemployed librarians.
How can ALA support library students in order to help them be best situated for future employment? Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.
This is where ALA absolutely shines! New Members Round Table (NMRT) is a vital piece of ALA for those new to the field. NMRT offers the Resume Review Service (on-site at Midwinter and Annual for all ALA members; year-round via email for NMRT members), conference mentoring, and career mentoring. NMRT also provides opportunities for library school students to attend conference through the Student Chapter of the Year Award and hosting the Student Chapter Reception during the Annual Conference. It’s also, arguably, one of the strongest units for networking and models how to effectively work in an organization.
I have to put in a plug for the ALA Chapter Relations Office and Don Wood’s role with the Student Chapters listserv. Don does a fantastic job in communicating with affiliated student groups and ensures that they feel like real ALA members. The ALA Student-to-Staff program is another great initiative. Forty library school students are selected to work with ALA staff during the Annual Conference. Program participants receive free conference registration, housing, and a per diem for meals. The Association also provides numerous scholarships for students, most notably, Spectrum.
What do you think is the secret to getting hired by a library?
I do not think there are secrets per se. Keep your resume up-to-date. Make use of mentoring opportunities provided by ALA, its divisions and round tables. Use contacts you make within ALA as part of your professional network. Networking can be vital to getting hired, especially when it comes to selecting appropriate professionals to serve as a reference. Following directions in the application process goes a long way. I always suggest applying for the jobs you really want, rather than applying for every advertised position. Spend more time on fewer cover letters or packets to produce a better, targeted application. One thing I have found is that our profession is smaller than you think. Little things in the application process like sending a thank you note (either handwritten or via email), whether or not you are the successful candidate, can be to your benefit in the future. Most of all, be confident.
Any advice for people who are currently job hunting – whether for their first job, or just for the next step in their career?
Hang in there! You will be successful. I encourage every librarian and library school student I mentor to stay optimistic. Be patient both with the job hunt process and with yourself. Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in this process. Use your network to get the help and support you need. This includes working with a career mentor or two, telling people you are looking for a job, and taking advantage of face-to-face and online career development opportunities through ALA, your state library association, even your library school.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about ALA or your candidacy?
Even though my primary role is as a library manager, I am still very much a front-line librarian; still very much in touch, on a real and daily basis, with issues that are both dear and typical to many members.
One of the great joys of my position involves my work with the University of Pittsburgh’s Partners Program. Through the program, I interview, hire, and mentor a library school student for three semesters. Last year I successfully advocated for the internship stipend to be doubled, because we value the contribution of these students and are committed to giving back to the profession.
Career development is a major component of my platform. Keeping librarians current and equipped to serve their communities is one of the key roles of the association. Toward fulfilling this role, ALA must strive to be a leader in providing high quality, affordable, timely, and accessible professional development opportunities. I also envision ALA as a major hub that supports and facilitates substantive interactions: networking, conversation, collaboration, and learning.
I’d like to thank Ms. Young for taking the time to answer my questions! I encourage you to visit her website, or to use the comments section to ask any questions you might have. Most of all though, I encourage you to make your voice heard and VOTE!