Author’s Corner: Career Q&A

Do you read Career Q & A with the Library Career People? (It was featured on our Job Hunter’s Web Guide here). Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Eatman Allen have been answering readers’ questions for ten years.  Imagine if Dear Abby and Ann Landers joined forces, and then specialized in LIS career worries.  We’re lucky to have this resource – and we just got even luckier because they’ve released a book!  They’ve put together several excerpts in the post below, so you should be able to get a good feel for the quality of the content.


Susanne Markgren and Tiffany Eatman Allen are thrilled to announce the release of their new book, Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career.In the book, the authors examine the transitions, struggles, and advances that encompass and define a librarian’s career, answering a range of important questions library professionals face as they move through the various stages of their working lives. For more than 10 years the authors have collaborated on the popular online advice column, “Career Q&A with the Library Career People.” The book blends their own best advice with tips and ideas from a number of their savvy peers, and includes responses from a nationwide survey.

These are a few excerpts from different chapters of the book:

On Setting Goals…

“It’s easy to tell people to set goals and work hard toward achieving them, but doing so isn’t a simple process. Achieving your goals involves planning, reflection, and introspection—as well as setbacks and frustration. When you plan your career path and think about what you want to achieve and where you want to end up, you need to consider other life goals as well, such as your family, location, personality, and abilities. It’s kind of like writing a book: You need to figure out what you want to include, attempt to organize and make sense of the various parts, gather external data and information, and start writing. And don’t forget to give yourself a deadline. Panic may set it: Who are you to plan out your life and have such lofty aspirations, to think you can achieve your dreams? Our advice is to own it, live it, learn from your failures or setbacks, and keep going.”

On Cover Letters…

“In the hundreds of cover letters we’ve read during the years, the No. 1 thing that job candidates fail to do is convince us that they really want the job. It seems so basic, right? Of course you want the job—you’re applying for it! Why else go to the trouble of sending in your application materials? This may be true, but try to think, or read, from the perspective of someone who doesn’t know you: the hiring committee. They read through dozens, sometimes hundreds, of resumes, looking for a good match to a specific job or role. When a candidate does not show interest in a specific job and relate his or her experience and skills to that specific job, the committee most likely will come to the conclusion that this candidate just needs a job, any job, not necessarily the job at hand.”

On Resumes…

“Don’t undersell yourself. Be sure to highlight any experience you’ve had in library school, as well as transferable skills from previous work experience during or after college. Make sure you include student memberships, activities, and committees on your resume. List responsibilities and accomplishments from your work experience and professional activities. Look for job opportunities that match your skills and experience. Be selective about which positions to apply for, and put your energy into positions that best suit your experience and interests. Seize any and all opportunities to gain experience (paid or unpaid) and to build your expertise and professional networks. Rely on your professional networks to learn about positions and opportunities and to cultivate excellent employment references.”

On Online Identities…

“We now live in a world in which people we’ve never met seek out information about us using search engines and social media sites. These people—potential employers, colleagues, review committees, supervisors, patrons or clients, curious admirers, even strangers—not only expect to find us online; they might reward us or penalize us because of what they discover. What used to be considered private or personal is now transparent and social, which means that we need to be aware of how we conduct ourselves online and be proactive in how we market ourselves online. In other words, we need to be online, and we need to be smart about it.”
On Interviewing…“Just remember that the purpose behind every interview is to give the hiring committee a chance to meet you (the candidate) in person, to see whether your skills and experience really match what was described on your application materials, and to see if you are a good fit with the existing personnel and organization. There are several types of interviews and different ways to prepare. However, knowing the fundamental purpose of the interview will help you keep the process in perspective. And just know that, no matter what type of institution or position you are applying for, the interview fundamentals are essentially the same. Be prepared to present yourself and your qualifications for the position in the best way possible. Knowing more about the different types of interviews and ways to prepare will position you well for success.”

On Writing and Presenting…

“Not everyone wants to put themselves out there. Not everyone wants to present, write, speak in public, or do anything that might mean opening themselves up to possible scrutiny and judgment. Some would rather avoid these projects at all costs, some are content working by themselves in their back offices, and some are extremely intimidated by any form of public communication. Who can blame them? Putting yourself out there can cause anxiety and make your heart race and your palms sweat. We get it. We’ve been there. We’re not saying that everyone needs to put themselves out there in this manner; we are merely suggesting that it doesn’t have to be as frightening or as formal as you may think and that it might be (and most likely will be) good for your career, your self-confidence, and your future job prospects.”

Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career (240 pp/softbound/$39.50/ISBN 978-1-57387-479-3) is published by Information Today, Inc. (ITI) and is available wherever professional books and ebooks are sold.


Susanne Markgren is the Digital Services Librarian at Purchase College, State University of New York. Previously, she worked in public libraries, a theater library, a government library, a seminary library, a university library system, and a medical school library. 

Tiffany Allen

Tiffany Eatman Allen is the Director of Library Human Resources at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill. She has worked in libraries for more years than she’s willing to admit, including in the catalog department of an academic library, the library of a pharmaceutical company, and a private biomedical research foundation library.

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