I’ve been looking forward to sharing this with you for a while! I caught the authors’ call for participants on the NMRT listserv – although I didn’t fit the demographic, I knew the results of their research would be fascinating. And they are! I think this will be very useful for job hunters across the board, but particularly for students looking to go into academic libraries.
As three recent Library and Information Science (LIS) graduates, we know finding a position in an academic library can be challenging for new graduates. LIS students are frequently encouraged to seek out experience, network, and improve upon their technology skills in order to have marketable skills when they apply for positions, yet little research actually supports such advice. We decided to test the advice given to students and determine what academic and work experiences of recent LIS graduates most significantly influence the outcome of their academic library job searches.
In 2013, we sent out a survey that asked questions about seven primary categories: basic information, job search, professional effectiveness, professional development, service, technological competency, and previous careers. We asked about student’s graduate program, parameters of their job search, their academic and work experience, as well as other skills or professional involvement that could influence their ability to land a first-time academic library job. The link to the survey was emailed to 2008–2012 graduates from the LIS programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, North Carolina Central University, and Dominican University. We also emailed the survey link to members of the ALA New Members’ Round Table (NMRT) listserv, distributed links on index cards to ACRL 2013 conference attendees during a related poster presentation, and electronically posted the link on the ACRL New Member Discussion board.
Our results included the expected and unexpected (from our points of view). There were 360 total respondents to our survey and 56% (N = 201) reported they wanted to work in academic libraries. These 201 respondents represented 33 different LIS programs with the highest number of students graduating from the University of Illinois (56) and Dominican University (39).
We used our results to compare successful and unsuccessful job seekers to discover trends. Overall, we found the two groups to be fairly similar. Only certain factors in job search, professional effectiveness, professional development, and service made a significant difference in improving the odds of success in securing a job. Briefly outlined below are our key findings:
- Applying for jobs four to six months before graduation were nearly seven times more likely to obtain a job than candidates who did not.
- Having any academic library experience increased the odds of success for a job seeker and those who had participated in an internship or practicum improved their odds of success by 2.75 compared to those with no internship or practicum.
- Attending conferences increased the odds of success by 3.33 when compared to candidates without this experience, attending workshops and seminars increased the odds by 2.05 and publishing increased the odds by 4.83.
- Completing committee service work increased an individual’s odds of securing a job by 3.
If you’re an aspiring or current LIS student, on the job market, or are looking to help out new librarians, we have some advice. Advice backed up by our research. Start applying for jobs around the start of your last semester in library school. While in school, look for any opportunity to get some experience in an academic library, even if you don’t get paid. Join some committees, and attend some local or, if you’re able, national conferences. And, even though it’s extra work, take that professor up on the offer to co-author an article with you
To read our full findings and analysis, please take a look at our open-access journal article published by The Journal of Academic Librarianship available here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0099133314000123
Ashley Rosener graduated with her Masters from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and is excited by all things related to library instruction.
Lindy Scripps-Hoekstra graduated from Dominican University’s Library Science program and, as a former high school teacher, is particularly interested in reaching students through library instruction.
Max Eckard is a [relatively recent] graduate of North Carolina Central University, and is passionate about digital preservation and librarianship as service.