About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Mark Hall

headshot of Mark Hall. He has brown hair and beard, and wears a maroon shirt with suspenders.

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 where they are about a decade later. 

Mark Hall filled out the original survey in 2014 and his answers appeared as At this point, I’m leaning towards blood sacrifice. He was working as a Library Service Specialist and had been looking for positions which better suited his MLIS for about 18 months. 

Mark is still in libraries, and has found that librarian title in a new location. He was kind enough to answer my questions below. 

Where are you now? 

I have since changed cities, working for a public library as an Adult Services Librarian/Assistant Manager, under the job title “Librarian II”. For a time at Houston Public Library, I was one of three degreed librarians in my branch working as “Library Service Specialists”… essentially, non-degreed librarians, working on a non-leadership track, for a lot less money. For 2017 and most of 2018, I worked in the Pasadena Public Library as the Teen Services Librarian, but left that and eventually came here in September of 2018. I’m now at my second branch in the system; the new one was much closer to home.

Were any parts of my journey unexpected? 

Pretty much all of it. In 2014, I assumed that getting a degree in Library Science would allow me to move up in HPL, my organization at the time. I left HPL because they were unwilling to promote from within; as mentioned, we had 3 of us getting underpaid for Librarian work, with Librarian credentials. Pasadena was a poor fit; incredibly long commute, and a system that did not support professionals, nor acknowledge infrastructure and demographic changes (i.e. they stopped having busses to get kids from the high schools, and cheaper internet meant fewer kids drawn there after school). My new city was hiring, however.

Was blood sacrifice actually necessary?

On the advice of my attorneys, I am invoking my 5th amendment rights against testimony that may incriminate me.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed? 

I don’t think much has changed. I’ve said for years that librarianship is, in many ways, a gerontocracy… It’s the kind of job you can do into your 80s if your mind stays sharp, and so getting a new job is pretty much a matter of waiting for someone to die… or get hired elsewhere. One thing I did not note was how big of a place governmentjobs.com played in my application process… I know I was reluctant to apply somewhere I had to fill out a paper application and mail it in.

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?

I’ve been involved in a couple interview panels; you read your assigned questions (assigned within a group, in a round-robin situation), and make notes, then collaborate with the panel as to who should be hired, and why, and by whom. Since we’re a good sized city, it’s a matter of doing an interview then making a recommendation, rather than direct hire. Also, as a city, all of the salaries are relatively accessible; jobs have a job code, which corresponds to a salary range.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

You want an r-selected strategy… throw out TONS of resumes and applications for any library job that meets your needs. Most will not get back to you. Don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments and hobbies in “professional” language… there’s nothing wrong with calling D&D an exercise in strategy, tactics, and logistics. When they ask about experience, interpret broadly if the requirement is 3 years or less. Worked as a sub? That’s education. Take some kids to the library while subbing? Shoot, that’s some library experience. Your purpose is to get to the interview.

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?

Be honest about experience requirements and salary. We may like the work, but we’re here for the money.  While salary codes are great, numbers talk better. Realize that some people are going to be entry-level, with little experience. Promote from within; I know it means you then need to fill the vacant slot but, for fucks’ sake, your internal hires know the system, and promoting from within breeds loyalty.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

  • Join a union. Public Library work is usually municipal, and a union will protect and promote you. 
  • Make sure to know your policies, and where they bend and where they break. 
  • Never piss off your city’s fiscal department.
  • Document the fuck out of everything you do; when reviews come around, be able to say “I ran this program and collaborated on these things.”  
  •  Don’t kill yourself for work; there’s a job posting next week if you do. 
  • Don’t tug on Superman’s cape. 
  • Don’t spit into the wind. 
  • Develop strong opinions about one or more parts of the Dewey Decimal System; I love that 973 is often code for the US, even in other sections (i.e cookbooks are 641.5973 if they’re about American cuisine), and think the 200s need to be aggressively reorganized, no matter the manpower cost. 
  • Don’t pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger
  • Have a signature program that works everywhere; mine is D&D. 
  • If you’re a public librarian, remember that is ALL of the public. If you think you can’t put books on the shelf about trans people, if you’re not willing to look for diverse fiction, go fuck yourself, and find a church library to rot in. You have no place in public libraries, and everyone else makes fun of you.
  • It is impossible to be moral and a Republican (or Tory, or insert-your-country’s-ethnofascist-party here).
  • Always smile at babies and wave. Not only is it good practice and makes them happy, it makes parents happy, and they’re the ones who vote and write glowing reviews to your supervisors.

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