The word librarian isn’t in the job title

Jennifer BRidgensJennifer Bridgens is a search architect for the eBusiness department of Ferguson Enterprises Inc. Ferguson is headquartered in Newport News, Virginia, and is classified in the wholesale supply industry – perhaps best known for plumbing products but also catering to a variety of businesses in multiple industries. Here is how she describes her background and current work:

I have a master’s of science in information and library science from the graduate school of library and information science at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Illinois, and I received my Bachelor’s degree in English at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe, Kansas. I like to think that, while I learned a great deal about library systems and information theory from GSLIS, I really learned my analytic skills from my undergraduate degree. Nothing teaches you to analyze so well as parsing out the phenomenological meanings of Virginia Woolf’s works or the hidden biographical traces in Ernest Hemingway’s books.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on various projects, both here at Ferguson and previously at Yellowbook.com. I am proud of my achievements in both places, and none of them could have been done without the amazing development teams with whom I worked. Perhaps the hardest but most rewarding one in the past occurred while at Yellowbook. I and several others spent hours analyzing data comparison reports, making sure that businesses would show correctly in accurate search ranges. All the prep work that went into that first release was hard; I would close my eyes and see Excel spreadsheets floating in the air. But the search experience was so much better that it was worth the blood, sweat, and tears.

Currently, I’m buried in Ferguson product data, looking for methods to optimize the content for the search platform we use. It is again, like Yellowbook project, one that requires hard work and meticulous scrutiny, but having been down this road before, I know the reward will worth the work. My hobbies of coloring and crocheting keep me sane while I’m in the middle of these types of projects. My desk is quite messy, to be honest, with books, Stickie notes, and my Supernatural Pop Vinyl figurines. And Legos. I sit with the UX Design team—none of us would survive without Legos.

Ms. Bridgens is team lead and has been a member of a hiring or search committee. She person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Catalogers
Taxonomists
Reference Librarians
Collection Specialists

Ferguson Enterprises has more than 200 staff members and is in an urban area of the MidAtlantic US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√ 25 or fewer

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ more than 75 %

And how would you define “hirable”?

they have organizational and analytical skills and come from a variety of undergrad degrees and backgrounds

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

HR weeds them out, so I tend to hunt them down myself and pull librarians into corporate jobs

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

disinterest in working in a corporate setting–if they won’t be happy outside of a library, there’s no point in trying

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ Other: if they ask

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

tailor their application to the job, this is so unbelievably important; also do some research about the company you apply to–even knowing the basics like how long the company has been in business is good

I want to hire someone who is

Curious

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 200+

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ Other: the word librarian isn’t in the job title

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 7 or more

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are more positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ No

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ No

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

We look for talent (self-taught) for entry level and do temp to permanent (1st 90 days is temp). For positions needing more experience we will look for the MS in LIS as preferred. Data curation wasn’t always taken seriously, but it is now.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

“Information that cannot be found may as well not exist.” Nancy Mulvaney wrote that, and I learned it in “library school.” Search logic is only as good as the metadata that describes the thing. Without curation of the data, there is chaos, and finding the thing becomes more about treasure hunts with poorly marked maps than coordinates and GPS telling you in fractions of a second where the thing is.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

If you are looking for a librarianish job that isn’t in a library, the corporate world needs librarians. Some of the companies don’t really understand the value librarians have, but most librarians have this unique trait of staring a large problem in the face (like a large truck of books that needs to be cataloged) and working out in their head from start to finish how it will get done. This is a critical analysis tool. If you know how to research, you can analyze. If you know how to catalog, you know how to handle product data. If you can learn MARC…seriously, you can handle any backend system anywhere.

Do you hire librarians? Take this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibjobmarketsurvey or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.

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2 Comments

Filed under 200+ staff members, Special, State of the Job Market 2015

2 responses to “The word librarian isn’t in the job title

  1. Thank you for describing a job in the corporate environment that values the analytical skills one may acquire from studying for the MLIS.

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