Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see what they are doing, about a decade later.
Cristy Moran completed the original survey in January 2013 and her answers appeared as There is a “Black Hole” of Information After One Drops a Resume. We followed up with her at the end of 2013 and learned that after applying to over 200 jobs in 16 months (and a stint as a temporary reference librarian), she had found a permanent, full time position as an information literacy instructor (considered paraprofessional). When we followed up in 2014, Cristy had started searching for a professional librarian position and had a plan to consider work outside her geographic area if not successful. In our last follow-up, in late 2015, she had found a faculty librarian position within her region, which she described as, “the right one for me.”
Given that saga, I was really happy when she agreed to do this follow up. She’s in a new state and about two months into a super interesting new role. If you’d like to connect with Cristy or learn more about her career path, she has a website and is on LinkedIn.
She was kind enough to answer my questions below.
Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?
I am the Adult Library Services Senior Consultant at the Colorado State Library – which Google tells me is about 2,000 miles from the last place you found me in late 2015. Then, I had finally found a full-time job as a faculty librarian. Up until two months ago, I was still in that college, serving in the same role. It was an incredibly challenging and rewarding job that allowed me the opportunity and space to craft my own career. However, like so many others, my husband and I – two professionals working in public education in Florida – were among the many that re-evaluated our work lives during the pandemic. A lot of the decisions I had made to grow as a professional in certain areas offered me the opportunity and gave me the confidence to look for work that was a little different but played to my strengths and interests in librarianship.
Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?
At that job, I was based out of a joint-use library location – regional public library and college campus – where I ended up working with the public (non-students) a lot more than I ever imagined. My closest colleagues on-site were public librarians in adult services. Most of my days (until the pandemic) were a struggle to juggle responsibilities on a public reference desk and programming for adult public library users and a really long list of things in service to my actual employer: the college. It’s a unique condition that only my partner college librarian on my campus can understand – because he was there with me every step of my time there. For all the challenges – which are many – there were so many opportunities that I really benefited from and enjoyed. How much I enjoyed the job – despite those challenges and despite that situation for which no one can really prepare you – is perhaps the most unexpected part.
Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?
In 2015, I wrote, “It’s easy to box ourselves into a chosen profession because that’s what our job is. And I mean this for any job in any field. The most successful I’ve been at any job I’ve had is when I’ve thought back to seemingly unrelated past experiences and considered them in context of my current responsibilities – or the job description of a position that I want.” I stand by that. Fully. Wholly. Completely.
I have found librarianship to be rewarding because it’s dynamic. It’s wild to me to think back on what I thought a librarian did for a living. What I imagined my day would be like – even when I was getting my MLIS. The reality is that what prepared me for the career I have had was working at a CD store as an undergrad. It was the years of running a tutoring center and balancing teaching, budgeting, meeting with parents, reaching out to teachers at local schools, and managing a staff of professional teachers and recent high school graduates. It is all those experiences, I believe – far outside Library Land, where I discovered and developed the elements that have made up the version of librarianship that has been my awesome, rewarding, and never-boring career.
Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?
I’ve served on and chaired several hiring committees, both for the library department and for other academic departments. It’s given me insight into the academic hiring process – and the reality vs expectations of job seekers and people on search committees. The process is, largely, determined by the institution’s systems and, in my experience, while the committees can create thoughtful questions, the rest of the process is limited by HR policies. Also, it’s worth mentioning that committee members are fitting their committee work within incredibly tight schedules of primary responsibilities like teaching, reference, and institutional service. As organized and proactive as I am, I wasn’t able to add hours to my day and overlapping availability for interviews with my colleagues who were just as busy as I was. Suffice it to say, it’s a slow-going process and it’s not for lack of wanting to move it more rapidly. There are just a lot of obstacles – availability of busy people being chief among them.
Do you have any advice for job hunters?
For the ones new to the field… It is hard to be a librarian. Especially right now. And, more to the point of this interview: It’s harder to become a librarian – to find a job that gets you there. A lot of qualified, seasoned librarians are out there looking for jobs that would otherwise be entry-level positions. That’s the reality of the job market right now for us. I was just in it. I went for entry-level position openings. I didn’t get the majority of them. It’s hard out there. Extend yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. Consider what you can afford to do and the career you want to have. Don’t sell yourself short.
For the rest of us… for the librarian job hunters who are just looking for the next gig – for whatever reason… You’re not alone. It’s hard out there for us too. Play to your strengths. If you didn’t already engage in professional networks at the local and state level, start now. Listen to the chatter. Look for the next place to be better than the last one. Don’t be afraid to try something new. We need to change and be flexible because libraries, librarianship, and the communities we serve – and the world in which we serve them – are ever-changing. What it was like when we started, isn’t what it’s like now. Extend yourself some grace. Be kind to yourself. Consider what you can afford to do and the career you want to have. Don’t sell yourself short.
Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?
Hire people who look like, sound like, and are the people your library serves. Fill your library with people who understand and know and love your community because your library is a part of that community. If you want your community – be they students or neighbors – to love your library, then the library needs to be a place they see themselves and where they want to be seen. It is unreal that I was the only Hispanic/ Latinx librarian in an institution whose student body is 37% self-identified Hispanic/Latinx. It is even more unreal when I consider the racial make-up of the libraries where I’ve worked compared to the area demographics and the institution’s student demographics. We need to exemplify the values we espouse if we want to uphold them. People won’t come to libraries – thus, libraries will become obsolete – if we don’t fill our staff with the faces, voices, interests, and experiences of the world outside our walls.
Also, there’s no such thing as a unicorn. Looking for one among people who apply to your job opening at a library isn’t going to suddenly make them real.
Anything else you’d like to tell us?
I love being a librarian. It’s better than I thought. It’s also really challenging. It’s unforgiving in many ways. There are expectations of us coming from the institutions that hire us, the people we serve, people who don’t even know what we do for a living, people who hate what we stand for, and even from our own peers in the profession. And I still love it.
It’s not the job I thought it was and – perhaps – it’s not the job it was either. It’s changed since I wanted to be a librarian, and it’s changed since I’ve been one. That’s the kind of work that it is. That’s the gig. Reflecting on what librarianship is now, what it was, and what it needs to be in order to meet the needs of the communities we serve and to stay relevant in the world that is today, tomorrow, and the next is essential in Library Land. It’s hard work – invisible and visible – but it’s worth it.