Category Archives: Author’s Corner

Author’s Corner: Interviewing in an era of Zoom

Welcome back to Author’s Corner! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about LIS careers. In this installment, we hear from Meggan Press, who wrote Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian.  

In this piece, freshly written for Hiring Librarians, Meggan provides some excellent tips and encouragement for Zoom interviews. 

I appreciate both her goal of broadening access to insider information about academic hiring and the quality of her advice. I think you will appreciate it too. 

For more of Meggan’s insights, her book is:

Press, M. (2020). Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian. Association of College and Research Libraries. 


In July 2020, I published a book called Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian with ACRL Press. The timing was not ideal given that the final edits had been completed in April 2020. Given the way that the world shifted due the pandemic, I welcome the opportunity to offer a brief follow-up with tips on interviewing in an era of Zoom.

Get the Job: Academic Library Hiring for the New Librarian is the quintessential primer on the job search for librarians interested in a career in academic libraries. New librarians often seek information from more experienced professionals on the subject of the academic job search. As a form, the academic job search is a very specific process that has only superficial resemblance to a job search in other fields. Much of the practical information about the academic library job search exists and is communicated in mentoring relationships and informal communication. The informal and serendipitous nature of this informal communication reveals problematic constructs in the academic hiring process. Those who are lucky and privileged enough to find a supportive and enthusiastic mentor have access to information and resources that are not available to all, and the fact that much of the information communicated in these mentoring relationships is not formally communicated furthers the privilege gap. This book attempts to broaden access to this information by formalizing much of the practical and emotional assistance conveyed in a mentoring experience so that aspiring professionals will find the comprehensive support they need to launch a successful job hunt, thrive in the interview process, and transition to a new job. Although it is targeted to people looking to enter the academic library job market, much of the content can be useful to general job-seekers, regardless of library type. This book is primarily intended for people who are hoping to become academic librarians, either as new graduates of library schools or for those who may not be finding the success they hoped for in the academic job search. Though it is predominantly intended for relatively inexperienced job seekers, the advice contained within can be useful for anyone interested in the academic job market, regardless of experience level.

Two big things have changed in academic interviewing since the pandemic. Firstly, whereas before the pandemic job seekers could anticipate needing to travel for a final interview, now interviews may be in-person, remote, or even hybrid. An in-person interview may offer a Zoom option for attendees, or some parts of the interview may be exclusively in person and others exclusively via Zoom. This presents significant challenges for candidates in keeping track of and being present for all these modalities equally or even simultaneously. 

Second, increasingly interviews have become multi-day affairs. No longer confined to a one-day, 9-5, in-person interview schedule, you may find your interview taking place in 30-60 minute chunks across a week or more. This is advantageous for institutions in coordinating scheduling, but a disadvantage for candidates. Interviews are disruptive to a life no matter when or where they take place, but these days- or week-long interviews present a particular challenge, especially since as a new job seeker, you are likely interviewing at multiple places at once. Both these big changes have positives (mostly for the institutions who can make the interviews more widely available) and negatives (mostly for the candidates of whom more is expected under circumstances that already carry a lot of stress and high expectations.) Here are a few tips to help you navigate these changes:

Request a moderator and set communication expectations

You can’t moderate a chat, present, and answer live questions all at the same time. This is a recipe for disaster. Ideally, you will be assigned a moderator for a presentation or interview who will work with you to take care of these details. Clarify well beforehand if a moderator will be present so you know what to expect. If no moderator is assigned, set expectations early for the audience or committee by stating where your primary attention will be and when that will shift. For example, “Thank you so much for your time today. In order to keep my attention focused on my presentation and given the different modes of participation in this interview, I will ask you to hold your questions to the end. At that time, I will prioritize in-person questions and ask that someone in the room bring my attention to any questions that may have popped up via chat.”

Talking into the void

The very worst of Zoom is the feeling of disconnect and talking into the void. This is not a phenomenon new to Zoom; this is a very typical experience of a phone interview in the pre-pandemic days. It is easy to start talking and just not stop when you have limited feedback from others in the room. More talking is not necessarily advantageous. It rarely adds significant impact to an answer and it reduces the number of questions that can be asked, thereby limiting your ability to show the full scope of your skills. When in doubt, talk less and allow others the opportunity to follow up if your answer is incomplete or misdirected. The perennially polite conclusion, “Does that answer your question?” works for in-person, Zoom, or hybrid contexts.

Project professionalism

Put effort into arranging the surroundings within your Zoom screen to project professionalism, clarity, and approachableness. It is well worth your time to set up a temporary Zoom interview space that can be torn down when the job hunt season has passed. Consider the height of your camera and the sightlines. If you are using an internal laptop camera, as many of us are, consider propping your laptop on a stack of books so that the camera is comfortably at eye level rather than looking up at you from below, or above. Avoid using a camera on a second monitor unless it is the camera you are looking into directly. Cameras that are not centered on the face with the eyes looking directly ahead give the impression of disinterest. It is very hard from the committee’s side to feel connected to a candidate when you are talking to the side of their head via a screen. Be sure you are visible by considering your light source and background. Backlighting, such as that from a window behind you, makes it difficult to see your face and facial expressions. You don’t need to invest in special décor to make your Zoom office seem like a television set. It is often very effective to sit with your back close to a wall and a table in front of you. Add or remove art, posters, and other décor on a temporary basis for the purpose of the interview if it pleases you. While inviting your whole interview committee into your kitchen is very friendly, it’s not particularly professional or appropriate to the circumstances. If you truly have no other choice, the blurred effect Zoom filter can help to minimize environmental distractions. 

Ask for what you need

Your needs can’t be met if you don’t make them known. All polite and reasonable requests should be addressed by the committee or institution to the best of their ability. If you can’t see or hear people on the other side of a Zoom, ask them to move closer together or to repeat themselves. If an extended-day schedule isn’t going to work or is going to set you up for failure at your other responsibilities (school, work, family, likely other interviews), you have the right to respectfully request that the schedule be as compressed as possible. Carry your expectations loosely – it may not be possible to arrange every nuance to your needs – but a polite request will not be held against you.

Good luck to all you new job-seekers! I look forward to welcoming you to the profession!


Meggan Press is the Undergraduate Education Librarian at Indiana University – Bloomington. As the administrator of IUB’s information literacy grant program, she works closely with faculty and librarians to integrate information literacy throughout the curriculum in many different subject areas. She has a particular interest in developing librarians as teachers, from MLIS through professionals, and in that capacity facilitates a thriving professional community of practice as well as instructing library school students through IUB’s program. She writes and presents on topics related to developing librarians, library instruction, and instructional design. She can be reached at megpress@iu.edu.

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Author’s Corner: Hiring Systems Librarians

I’m so pleased to be able to bring back the Author’s Corner series! This series features excerpts or guest posts from authors of books about some aspect of LIS careers.

Today’s post is an excerpt from Systems Librarianship, written by Brighid Gonzales. We last heard from Brighid a little over a month ago, when she shared her research into a decade’s worth of job postings for library technologists. Among other things, it provides some insight into which languages folks are actually talking about when they tell LIS workers to “Learn to code.”

In this excerpt from Systems Librarianship, Brighid is again analyzing job postings. Read further to find out the skills and knowledge that libraries hope to find when hiring for this field. Or if you’d like to check out the whole book, the citation is:

Gonzales, B.M. (2020). Systems Librarianship: A Practical Guide for Librarians. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.


Systems Librarianship, published in 2020 as part of Rowman & Littlefield’s Practical Guides series, takes a practical and pragmatic look at the skills, education, and experiences of systems librarianship for new and early career librarians and LIS students. It contains informative chapters about the integrated library system, current and emerging library technologies, resources for support, and over a dozen interviews with various types of professional systems librarians. The book also includes a chapter on hiring trends in systems librarianship, which contains useful information about salaries, required skills, and job searching, and which is excerpted here. Systems Librarianship is available from Rowman & Littlefield in both paperback and ebook formats.


“Looking across a variety of recent job listings certain patterns in employer expectations begin to appear which can be a useful starting point. In the examination of 55 recent systems librarian job listings from the Code4Lib jobs website, a number of specific technology skills, as well as a variety of soft skills, emerged as important to employers hiring systems librarians today. [The table below] lists each of the required or preferred skills, knowledge, and responsibilities listed throughout the job postings and the number of times each was mentioned in postings for academic libraries, public libraries, special libraries, and overall. These job listings skewed heavily toward academic libraries, with 42 of the total, 10 from special libraries, and three from public libraries. While this likely skews the results somewhat, it appears that there is not a great deal of difference in the skills needed for systems librarians across library types.

Required or Preferred Systems Skills, Knowledge, and ResponsibilitiesAcademic LibrariesPublic LibrariesSpecial LibrariesTotal (Number)Total (Percent)
ILS/LSP/Discovery systems (Alma, Primo, SirsiDynix, EDS)35374581.8%
Programming/scripting languages (APIs, HTML, Perl, Python, XML)31494480.0%
Cataloging/Metadata standards or tools (MARC, Dublin Core, MarcEdit)29263767.3%
Communication Skills28163563.6%
Collaborative/able to work in teams27073461.8%
Authentication and/or proxy systems (LDAP, Shibboleth, Ezproxy)24232952.7%
Project management/planning skills18352647.3%
Training18252545.5%
Relational database systems and tools (Access, Oracle, MySQL, SQL)15262341.8%
Digital repository (Dspace, Omeka, Digital Commons, CONTENTdm)13072036.4%
Troubleshooting14131832.7%
Link resolvers (OpenURL, SFX)14021629.1%
Website development11131527.3%
ILL systems (ILLiad, etc.)12011323.6%
Content management systems (Drupal, WordPress)7141221.8%
Linux/Unix/Windows server administration8211120.0%
Analytical skills6041018.2%
Linux/Unix/Windows operating systems8111018.2%
Documentation701814.5%
Liaison to IT700712.7%
Problem solving skills502712.7%
Supervisory skills/experience601712.7%
Archives management system502712.7%
SpringShare/LibGuides600610.9%
Electronic resources management system50059.1%
Networking40047.3%
Traditional Library ResponsibilitiesAcademic LibrariesPublic LibrariesSpecial LibrariesTotal (Number)Total (Percent)
Reference9121221.8%
Instruction801916.4%
Collection Development800814.5%

From the job postings examined, the most important skills needed for modern systems librarians are a familiarity or experience with integrated library systems (ILS), library services platforms (LSP), and discovery systems, knowledge of or experience with some type of programming or scripting language, and a familiarity or experience with cataloging and metadata standards. In addition, soft skills such as communication skills and the ability to work collaboratively or with teams also ranked highly overall, along with project management skills and the ability to conduct technology training. Among the least mentioned skills were networking, experience with electronic resources management systems (ERMS), and experience with LibGuides.

In addition to the more traditional systems and technology knowledge, many employers also wanted systems librarians who could take part in the more traditional librarian duties of reference, instruction, and collection development, primarily for positions in academic libraries. For students still enrolled in graduate school, this data suggests that while taking as many technology-related courses as possible, including at least one programming or scripting language, is important, those interested in working in academic libraries will not want to disregard the more traditional librarian courses offered, including courses in reference, instruction, collection development, cataloging, and metadata.”


Brighid M. Gonzales, Assistant Director of Systems and MetadataOur Lady of the Lake University

Brighid M. Gonzales is currently the Assistant Director of Systems and Metadata at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and previously served as the Systems and Web Services Librarian for seven years. She is the author of the book Systems Librarianship: A Practical Guide for Librarians (Rowman and Littlefield, 2020), as well as other articles and book chapters on library technology.

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Authors’ Corners: A Job Hunter’s Booklist

I’m so grateful to the authors on this list, who took the time to work with me to create a post that shared their views and knowledge (Just click the title).  If you wanted to create a library for LIS job hunters, here’s where I’d start:

de Stricker, Ulla & Jill Hurst-Wahl. (2011). The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create Your Success. Chandos Publishing.

Dority, G. Kim. (2012). LIS Career Sourcebook: Managing and Maximizing Every Step of Your Career. Libraries Unlimited.

Doucett, Elisabeth. (2010). What They Don’t Teach You in Library School. ALA Editions.

Kane, Laura. (2011). Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science. ALA.

Kane, Laura. (2003). Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science. ALA Editions.

Lowe-Wincentsen, Dawn, & Linda Crook. (2010). Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer. Chandos Publishing.

Luster, Celma Faria. (2013). Extra-Help Librarians . Open Vista Press.

Markgren, Susanne, & Tiffany Eatman Allen. (2013). Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career. Information Today.

Matarazzo, James M., & Toby Pearlstein. (2013). Special Libraries: A Survival Guide. Libraries Unlimited.

Monson, Jane. (2013). Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian: A LITA Guide. ALA Techsource.

Neely, Teresa. (2011). How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool. ALA Editions.

Shontz, Priscilla K. & Richard A. Murray. (2012). What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students. Libraries Unlimited.

Smallwood, Carol, Kerol Harrod & Vera Gubnitskaia. (2013). Continuing Education for Librarians: Workshops, Conferences, College, and Other Ways. McFarland.

Stickell, Lois, & Bridgette Sanders. (2013). Making the Most of Your Library Career. ALA Editions.

Woodward, Jeanette. (2011). A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market. American Library Association.

And now you tell me – what books have I missed?  

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Author’s Corner: Extra-Help Librarians

Today’s author’s corner is near and dear to my heart.  My first librarian job was as an extra-help librarian, and I still work one day a week in a temporary part time status.  It’s a particularly weird thing to be – you’re not quite in a place to claim that you’re affiliated with your work place, and yet you are a “real librarian.”  It also seems to be an increasingly common status, as libraries continue to try to do more with less, and extra help workers don’t usually get expensive things like paid time off or health insurance.  That being said, there are some real advantages to working in this classification, and Celma de Faria Luster has written a book that aims to help you be successful at it.  I’m so pleased to be able to present this guest post, which should give you an idea of the tone and content of her writing. 

(And to piggy-back: If you are interested in this type of work, I have a couple pet projects that you might check out.  First, there is a Facebook group, second, my research partner, Sarah Naumann, and I put together a website exploring the use of on-call library workers in the SF Bay Area, and third, if you work in the area, BayNet libraries hosts a discussion list for on-call issues.) 

 extra help librarians


Frankly, who can differentiate librarians’ categories when interacting with them in the workplace? Personnel departments have the key to this information. It is relevant to learn about the various employment categories when seeking opportunities in libraries. The Extra-Help Librarian position can be a good way to start out in a library or to stay connected to the profession. Fundamentally practical, it has its own characteristics, challenges and benefits. Some of these aspects are commented on below.

Who are they?

Librarians in this category are known as substitutes, on-call, temporary as needed, hourly, adjunct and a few other titles. The terminology varies, depending on the type of libraries as well as Human Resources preferences and the definition of classifications.  Labor Unions can also have an influence on how the category is structured. We can further divide the category into new librarians, retirees and transitioners. Each one of these groups has specific needs and goals.

What do they do?

A vast array of responsibilities is performed by these professional. Traditional library duties are commonly part of what Extra-Help Librarians do, such as covering reference desks, providing information and instructing patrons on how to use computers. It is very common for them to work on specific projects following clear guidelines, such as weeding and archives. A library’s mission and immediate needs determine the work delegated to them.

Why are they needed?

There are many reasons that Extra-Help assistance is required. Vacation, illness, sabbatical, maternity leave, the addition of new courses and yet unfilled positions generate a need for temporary workers. Depending on the nature of the need, the demand for Extra-Help Librarians can be short term- for a few hours or a few days- and also long term involving extensive projects, classes or unfilled positions.

What type of libraries do they work for?

Not every library has a support system in place to respond quickly to their staffing needs. It is common, therefore, to find public, academic and school libraries using these professionals continually. Our research focused on these three specific areas. These libraries have established systems created to respond to foreseeable and also unpredicted personnel requests.

How to get this job position?

First and foremost, word of mouth still is a very predominant way to learn about openings. Networking and enlisting with personnel agencies serving libraries are useful strategies. Bigger libraries usually create an Extra-Help Librarians pool, releasing job postings and following regular hiring procedures. Ordinarily, one can seek job postings through job sites, listservs, association job lists, libraries website or in other ways. It is important to analyze the job description. Separate the required from desired qualifications and connect them to your skills when applying for the position. Check the documentation needed. These differ by the type of libraries. Public libraries often add a supplementary questionnaire while an academic library’s diversity statement is normally a standard document. Make sure the application is submitted properly, whether electronically or by mail. Applicants can be disqualified when they overlook instructions in the job posting.

What are the steps in the hiring process?

These depend on the type of libraries, their size and structure. Identify these factors and how they interelate to determine how hiring is done or call the library directly to find out. Public and School libraries links with the city or county can result in the use of their own employment department or the city/county Human Resources Department. Academic libraries occasionally refresh their adjunct librarians pool with the support of Academic Affairs/Human Resources Departments. Overall, the Extra-Help Librarians hiring process does not differentiate much from other librarian categories. Initial screening involve documentation review, then telephone interview followed by in-person interview – combined with presentations. The length of the process is commonly longer in academic settings. Wages are usually pre-set and non-negotiable, even though experience and field specialization should be emphasized and compensated.

What are the advantages and disadvantages?

As any other category, Extra-Help librarians offer advantages and disadvantages. It clearly offers a lot of challenges. To those candidates that handle unpredictability well it is a great position. Variety, flexibility, independence and broad learning opportunities are some of the positive aspects that it provides. On the other hand, it usually does not offer basic benefits such as medical and dental. It can be stressful to keep up with a job’s schedule and locations, especially when covering various branches. Income is not predictable since there is no guarantee of work.

Why consider this position?

It all goes back to personal goals. In a public library, there are opportunities to cover adult and children’s information desks. This can offer new graduates the chance to test these areas, acquire experience and sharpen their skills. Flexibility and additional income can be attractive to retired librarians and for those caring for family members. Those looking for permanent jobs can check out libraries from the inside and be able to apply for other internal positions. Extra-Help Librarians motivation, experience and work ethics make them desirable employees.

The Extra-Help Librarian category offers immense potential to librarians that have an interest in broader perspectives. It is a rewarding investment, trust me.


 

Celma de Faria Luster has worked in Northern California for over seven years as an Extra-Help Librarian and for almost two years as a part-time librarian. She is Brazilian and has lived in the United States for over two decades. In 2006 she got her MLIS from San JoseStateUniversity. Her book “Extra-Help Librarians: A Guide For Success At Public, Academic and School Libraries” was published last September. She just participated in the CLA 2013 Annual Conference in Long Beach, CA.

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Author’s Corner: Special Libraries: A Survival Guide

How does one become a special librarian, anyway?  What does it take to get there?  Once there, what are the issues to face? If you’ve ever asked these questions, you might be interested in this new book by James M. Matarazzo and Toby Pearlstein, Special Libraries: A Survival Guide.  They’ve very kindly provided the excerpt below, so you can get a feel for the content.

Special Libraries a Survival Guide 


Through a series of case studies of corporate library reductions and closures Matarazzo and Pearlstein …. suggest key strategies, tactics and survival tools that all types of special library managers can use to minimize their chances of becoming a victim and maximize their chances of succeeding by contributing to the success of their employer.  They underscore the collection of data as a survival tool.  Additionally, they identify what needs to be taught to students currently enrolled in Library and Information Science programs to give them a leg up in their careers.

Excerpt from Chapter 8:  Educating Special Librarians:  “The Past is Prologue”
by James M. Matarazzo, and Toby Pearlstein.

A “special library” is not an entity; it exists as an integral part of a highly specialized kind of organization whether it be an industrial corporation, research, or service institution, a trade association, a government agency or a museum. Since it exists to serve the members of that organization, it is necessary to provide in the training program an orientation to the structure, functions and activities of the varying types of organizations.  (Ruth S. Leonard, 1950)

Addressing survival lessons for special libraries brings up more questions than answers.  What we have learned is that there is no one “right way” to be successful as an information professional in a corporate or other type of special library.  Frankly, though, it was pretty straightforward to come up with several wrong ways to make being successful even more of a challenge.  Arriving at the right ways to succeed and thereby ensure survival is more difficult.  Nonetheless, we do firmly believe there is one generic formula that makes success more likely, strategic alignment with your parent organization or potential employer.  How you go about “doing the math” depends totally on figuring out how to achieve that alignment.  It might be useful to … look at the roots of how someone who wants to be an information professional in a special library would achieve that goal.  This led us to review some of our initial questions about the likelihood of special library or librarian survival in the context of library education, basically going back to the source of how information professionals learn about the profession and how to pursue it specifically when working in a specialized environment (corporate, medical, government, legal, etc.).  Here is where we might find the root cause of many of the obstacles to success with which special libraries and the information professionals who work in them struggle.

Plainly stated, the hypothesis of the authors is that if you want to be an information professional in a specialized environment…rather than in a public, school, or undergraduate academic library, or a scholar of library and information science, most…MLS programs provide little or at best inadequate preparation.  Graduates, therefore, especially in times of economic downturn, are left with a significant gap in relevant marketable skills that prospective employers in specialized organizations will find compelling.

[A] situation of fewer jobs and limited preparation is exacerbated when the client population being served has an increasingly sophisticated information literacy level so that an information professional must be prepared to add value beyond the basics almost immediately upon being employed.  This is nearly impossible, even with a subject specialty bachelor’s or master’s degree, unless relevant specialized courses have been taken during the MLS program.

…[T]he core concern still remains true: whether or not there will be enough [MLS] graduates who “understand the value system unique to special librarianship” (and correspondingly who know that working in a special library is quite different from public or academic service) who will be qualified to fill those jobs that do remain….

Some of the most helpful guidance a prospective special librarian can receive to define what skills they will need to succeed in a specialized library environment comes in the form of “competencies documents” developed by various information professional groups.  Associations such as the SLA [Special Libraries Association], AALL (American Association of Law Libraries), MLA (Medical Library Association), SCIP (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals), and specialized sections of ALA have published such documents in order to provide guidance for individuals as well as library school curriculum committees.

A much more dynamic integration of the various competency documents into library school curricula and with a continually reinforced understanding of the value of aligning with an employer’s vision and mission incorporated into coursework, our profession can reinforce the value special librarians can contribute across all sectors, especially in for-profit organizations, and can create a more pragmatic path to employment for MLS graduates.  These ideas may well be too blue sky for the realities of today’s library school budgets and employer appetites for hiring special librarians.  Regardless of the prognostications of some, however, the authors do not believe that special librarians, particularly in profit-based organizations, are headed for terminal irrelevance.  With that baseline in mind, more discussion resulting in concrete actions around these topics could finally lead to making some progress….


James Matarazzo

 

 

James M. Matarazzo, PhD, is dean and professor emeritus at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College, Boston, MA.  His previous books include Closing the Corporate Library: Case Studies on the Decision-making Process; Corporate Library Excellence; and Knowledge and Special Libraries.  He holds a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh School of Information.  Matarazzo is a Fellow of the Special Libraries Association.

 

Toby Pearlstein

 

Toby Pearlstein, PhD, is retired director of global information services for Bain & Company, Inc., a strategic management consulting firm.  She recently coauthored a series of articles in Searcher magazine on survival skills for information professionals.  Pearlstein holds a doctorate from the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College. She is a Fellow of the Special Libraries Association and a member of the SLA Hall of Fame.

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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.

Career-QA


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_color

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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Author’s Corner: Making the Most of Your Library Career

This excerpt is courtesy of Lois Stickell and Bridgette Sanders, the editors of Making the Most of Your Library Career (available Fall 2013 from ALA Editions).  If you’re looking to expand your focus from getting a job to building a career, you might want to check it out:

MAking the Most of Your Library Career Cover 


This book explores how things work in the real library world in chapters written by practicing librarians in stages of their library career from new hire to manager to director.  The chapters cover first impressions on a job, ways to distinguish yourself from the herd, assessing the job, the lifecycle of a librarian’s year and, finally, what to do if the job just doesn’t work out. In this excerpt, two library directors talk frankly about what they look for on a resume and during the interview.

Excerpt from Chapter 2: The View from the Top

By Theodosia Shields of North Carolina Central University and Annie Payton of Alabama A&M University.

Good library directors pay close attention to the résumés of the final candidates. Unfortunately, most MLS (master of library science) résumés read very much the same. While it can be hard to distinguish yourself in a résumé, try to include some significant aspect about yourself or your work experience. We look for candidates who stand out with unique skills that could be beneficial to the library. For instance, a candidate for reference who also has public relations experience has assets that make us take a second look. The candidate does not need extensive experience, but something as simple as an internship or course work in a desired area could precipitate an interview.

On the subject of résumés, long ones are never advisable. These do not impress the committee and are not likely to get passed on to the library director. Rather, they send a signal that the applicant is not able to be concise and cannot highlight his or her most significant achievements succinctly. We have read résumés where a candidate lists achievements from 15 and 20 years ago or lists far too many accomplishments. Including too much information may cause a reader to miss something important in your résumé that would give you an advantage over other candidates. Be judicial in what you choose to include. It is also helpful to group experience and skills under subject headings rather than placing them together. Remember, you want to present yourself as positively and simply as possible. When there are many applicants for a position, even the smallest misstep can lead to your being eliminated from consideration.

In today’s world, every library director is looking for an individual who can be flexible. The job that you are hired for today will probably change, sometimes drastically, over the next three years. Libraries are changing very rapidly and every part of the library is changing with them. While we are not going to make new IT (information technology) person work on the reference desk, we will expect that they are able to rethink their position as the needs of the library change. It is therefore important to show that you possess flexibility in your résumé, so be sure to include past examples of this on your résumé.

Up until this point, the only knowledge a library director receives about a candidate is information presented on the résumé. Be neat, concise, and informative. Easy, huh?

If the resume works and you are contacted for an in-person or phone interview, start preparing early. There are certain time-honored questions most candidates are asked at every interview. Although it can be tempting to regard these as “boilerplate” questions, most library directors take them seriously and listen closely to the responses. Library directors have heard these questions answered a number of times and look for certain key elements. As a candidate, try to avoid a canned response to these standard questions. Instead, make the answers your own while still addressing the question. Short, targeted examples are always helpful. A certain amount of library jargon is expected but don’t go overboard with it.

Almost every interviewer asks a candidate if he or she is a team player. We want to hear the interviewees articulate philosophies about how they work with others. “Yes, I am a team player” is not a sufficient answer. How? Give examples. The responses help a library director determine if candidates have personal agendas they are seeking to advance. We generally pursue the “I am a team player” answer with additional questions to ascertain whose team you are on; that is, whose agenda will receive focus—yours or ours? Since each library entity is dependent on the others, it is important that everyone works together to fulfill library goals. In a well-run library, employees share interdependent goals. This helps ensure that the employees and library directors navigate on the same agenda. If we determine a candidate has a different focus and will not be able to fully engage in the library’s goals, it is a clear signal that this is not the right person.

You will be asked several times throughout the day if you have questions. Often you will be asked the same question more than once. This is not designed to trip you up to see if you answer the same each time. The questions are probably from two different people. It’s fine to say, “As I told Sally earlier . . .” and then include something more: “I’d also add that . . .”

If you have questions, by all means ask them. This is not just about people making decisions about you. You are the primary decider here and should be determining if this is the right job for you. If you don’t have questions, say politely, “Not at the moment.” However, anyone who goes through the entire day without asking questions is sending a signal that he or she is not very interested in the position. If you believe you are interested, or even if you are not sure, ask some questions. Maintain a calm, friendly demeanor even if the interview does become tiring. Everyone there has been through the process and they empathize, but they also want to see how you perform under a certain amount of stress.

In the end, making a determination about a candidate comes down to a gut reaction for most library directors. We ask ourselves, “Do I believe that this person has the skills and traits I am looking for in a particular position? Do I believe this person will work well with others?” Working well with others really supersedes all other characteristics. The most brilliant subject specialist who is difficult and who will bring a lot of high drama to the library is simply not going to work. This doesn’t mean we demand an extrovert. Introverts are fine as long as they can fulfill the requirements of the job. We are looking for the individual who will bring the least amount of drama into the workplace. We are here to accomplish a job and have our antennae up for those who will make accomplishing that job more challenging.


bridgette SaundersBridgette Sanders is the Social Sciences Librarian at Atkins Library, University of North Carolina Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received her MLS from Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. Her areas of interest are Africana Studies and Diversity. Bridgette recently added managing the Information Desk to her duties. She and Lois Stickell have presented at several conferences, including the Southern Historical Association’s annual conference and ASALH (Association for the Study of African American Life and History).

lois stickellLois Stickell received her MLS from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. She has written about a slave revolt in South Carolina and contributed a chapter about grants to The Frugal Librarian: Thriving in Tough Economic Times. She has worked at Indiana University, Winthrop University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

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Author’s Corner: Looking Beyond the LIS Universe

Kim Dority is a fount of knowledge about non-traditional (and traditional) LIS careers.  You may remember her as the brain behind Infonista, featured on this blog back in February. Reading her bio just now, I was also reminded of the wonderful group she manages on LinkedIn, LIS Career Options.  If you’ve been looking for a place to discuss the twists and turns in your career path, look no further. She very kindly wrote this post about what looking for outside-the-box information can do for your career.  In addition to this wonderful strategy for resilience, I hope you will enjoy getting a taste of what you can find in her most recent book:

LIS CAREER SOURCEBOOK


How do you navigate all of the challenges, changes, and opportunities – both anticipated and unforeseen – that comprise a typically dynamic LIS career? Given how unpredictable the profession has become, trying to gain firm footing on our shifting career sands can be both an adventure (good day) and crazy-making (not-so-good day)!

One of the things I’ve found most useful in attempting to create a resilient career is to learn not only from thought leaders and experts within the profession, but also from those outside it.

At an early point in my career I worked as an executive information advisor for a corporate CEO and developed the habit of doing a monthly “magazine cruise” to expose myself to emerging ideas in multiple areas of research and endeavor. I’d hit my local bookstore, start with art, and happily make my way through magazines devoted to art, foreign affairs, history, military strategy, science, sports, technology, travel, and all the topics in between. My goal was to look for developments and insights outside the usual information we’d automatically be exposed to within the industry, and then reframe those developments and insights into a meaningful context for our work.

Adding online resources, I’ve continued this environmental scanning habit ever since. Yep, I monitor all the key LIS information sources, but I also scan tons of other non-LIS information sources at least once a month so that my thinking – and career framework – is broadened beyond the traditional LIS field.

Although I sort of fell into this process and then realized later how powerful a broader information universe could be to my career opportunities (read: I can’t take any credit for this being a brilliant career strategy on my part!), it has, in fact, been incredibly helpful in building a resilient career. Here’s why I’d recommend this type of information monitoring for your LIS career as well:

  • You’ll usually know at least a top-level something about nearly every topic a patron or client might bring up
  • In an LIS environment, you’ll be able to bridge concepts and solutions between libraries and, say, the corporate world (or military strategy!)
  • You may often help patrons or clients spot new opportunities outside their usual information universe
  • It’s a great way to stay intellectually engaged with the world outside the library, which will make you a better librarian or information professional for your entire career
  • It’s a great way to take charge of your career by developing the habit of looking for and often finding emerging opportunities for information skills

In 2012, I wrote LIS Career Sourcebook (Libraries Unlimited), which addresses each of the career stages LIS professionals are likely to encounter and the recommended resources for navigating those stages effectively and successfully. For example, there are chapters on the LIS career universe, education options, job hunting, professional development, building a professional network, establishing a professional brand, managing, leading, going independent, and dealing with career transition points. As I began putting the materials together, I tried to take a similarly inclusive approach to help readers expand their frame of reference beyond the library discipline.

So, for example, the chapter on management recommends not only Curzon’s Managing Change: A How-to-Do-It Manual for Libraries, but also key management books from Peter Drucker (Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices), Marcus Buckingham (First, Break All the Rules), Robert B. Cialdini (Influence: Science and Practice), and Daniel Goleman (Working with Emotional Intelligence). Although none of these thought leaders had libraries or information organizations in mind when they wrote these landmark books, their lessons and insights are nevertheless highly applicable.

When it comes to creating a resilient career, I’d strongly suggest that one of your goals be to create a broad knowledge base, both inside and outside of the LIS world. My recommendation: go for a magazine cruise once a month and look at all the different topics (scanning the tables of contents usually suffices), set up an online environmental scan using the reader that works best for you, and follow thought leaders in non-LIS disciplines using your favorite social media tools. Because in my experience, the broader your information universe, the broader your career opportunity universe.


Kim DorityKim Dority is the founder and president of Dority & Associates, an information strategy and content development company. During her career, she has worked in academia, publishing, telecommunications, and the library fields, in for-profit and nonprofit settings, for both established companies and start-ups. Kim created and teaches a course on alternative LIS career paths in the University of Denver’s LIS graduate program, and is the author of two books on LIS careers, Rethinking Information Work (2006) and LIS Career Sourcebook (2012), both published by Libraries Unlimited. In addition, Kim created and manages the LinkedIn “LIS Career Options” group, which now includes more than 6,000 members from 60 different countries commenting on roughly 575 discussions. She received her MLS from the University of Denver.

 

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Author’s Corner: Launching Your Career through Professional Service

After so much recently for new graduates, I’m pleased to present today’s post by Linda Crook and Dawn Lowe Wincentsen.  They are the editors of Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer, a resource which might be of interest to those of you who have established a toehold, and want to know how to get even further up LIS mountain.  In this post, Crook and Wincentsen each share a personal anecdote, which should give you a feel for the style of their book: personal and easy-to-read.

Mid Career Library and Information Professionals


Linda Crook: My Time as NMRT President

As I prepared to write about my involvement with NMRT, my first thought was “I’m getting tired of telling this story.” Upon reflection, however, I realized that it’s the story itself that is the key. By launching my career through professional service, I have given a shape to my career. I have created a narrative that illustrates my growth and accomplishments.
Although I earned my MLIS in 2000, my career didn’t start until 2007, when I went to ALA Midwinter. I shyly attended the New Members Round Table informal “meet and greet,” and it was love at first sight. I participated in two committees my first year in NMRT, and chaired a committee the following year. I was elected NMRT Networking Director, a 2-year board position, which was one of the ways I made a connection with Dawn. As I completed that term, I was elected to a three-year NMRT Presidential term (one year each as Vice President, President, and Past President). As my past-presidential year winds down, my NMRT service demonstrates my development in the profession, and it’s a great stepping-off place for the next adventure.

Around the central narrative of my career are the hundreds or thousands of connections I’ve made with library workers and library students. Any of those relationships could become a bigger part of the story as I continue on my way. I met Dawn through NMRT service, and that connection and our conversations created the opportunity to co-edit a book together. All of the NMRT Board members for the past several years have had the opportunity to work closely with Courtney Young, who launched her career with professional service in an epic way. We all have the opportunity to shape the narrative of our career through professional service, whether we want to go straight up the ladder, specialize in one area, or explore a range of options. I am proud of the career I have shaped with NMRT, and I know that relationship will continue to nourish my soul long after my term in NMRT has ended.

Dawn Lowe Wincentsen:What I Have Learned by Saying Yes

It was a sunny day in Louisiana (as many days are,) and I said yes. No, it was not a proposal, it was a volunteer opportunity.  That first time was to be part of the Graduate Information Science Student Association (GLISSA) in the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at Louisiana State University (LSU). The next time was a to a colleague who suggested I volunteer for an NMRT committee.  It all began to snowball after that. I would see an opportunity on a listserve and I would say yes. A colleague would mention a committee in need and I would say yes. I have gotten better, and more selective since then, but along the way I have learned quite a lot.

It was a warm summer day in Chicago a few years later. I was at the American Library Association Annual conference. Linda and I were having a conversation that led to a twitter discussion on a book idea. In that case we both said yes, and co-edited, “Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer.” The connections made through saying yes are just as important as the skills developed, if not more so.

Earlier this year I put together my promotion portfolio, basically a review of everything I have done over the last five years. In this review included all of my committees, from those on campus to national organizations, each one doing something a bit different. This review reminded me that I have worked on many different projects from developing policy to allocating funds to event planning. Each of these builds a bit different of a skill set. Each of these skill sets is then something I can come to when needed, either in my professional life, or my volunteer life.

I no longer wait for opportunity to come knocking. I go out to find it. I look on listserves and web pages of associations. I send letters to people putting together committees, I show up to meetings and events – even if only virtually when travel is a barrier. I put myself out there. This is something that employers look for, people who are willing to come to them, and put themselves out there, to develop new skills, and adapt to new situations. All of this makes me more marketable as a librarian.

So, don’t wait for sunny days, and opportunity to come to you, go find it, and say yes.  Build new skills, and make new connections.


Linda CrookLinda Crook is Reference Team Leader & Science Librarian at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. She earned her MLIS at the University of Washington in 2000, and earned a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Health Sciences Librarianship at the University of Pittsburgh in 2011. She is current Past President of the ALA New Members Round Table, and co-editor of, “Mid-career library and information professionals: a leadership primer.” She has recently started job hunting in Eugene, OR

Dawn Lowe WincentsenDawn Lowe Wincentsen is the Wilsonville Campus Librarian at Oregon Institute of Technology. She graduated with her MLIS from Louisiana State university in 2003, has previously worked at Florida State University, and Louisiana State University, and is the co-author of “A Leadership Primer for New Librarians“ (2008) and co-editor of, “Mid-career library and information professionals: a leadership primer.”

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Author’s Corner: Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian

Our friends at the Library and Information Technology Association have published a brand new guide to becoming a digital librarian. I’m very grateful to editor Jane Monson, who has written today’s guest post. Not only will you get a glimpse of some of the topics covered in the book, but she’s put together some great advice for library students and entry level librarians.


During the past decade or so, the job title of “digital librarian” has become increasingly common as more and more libraries move their content and services online. In my recently published book, Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian: A LITA Guide, the specifics skills needed to position oneself for a job in this brave new world of librarianship – among them, familiarity with metadata, digital preservation, and web development – are explained by a cadre of experienced professionals in the field. Jump start your career as a digital librarianHowever, when it comes to job searching, the would-be digital librarian faces the same challenges as any other new professional: namely, to stand out in an over-crowded field and somehow find a position that balances both desires (to land a dream job) and needs (to pay the bills).

With that in mind, I would like to share a few kernels of wisdom that both the book’s contributors and I have gathered in our own employment searches, as well as our experiences serving on hiring committees. Much of this advice is specific to entry-level librarians, as they are usually the ones with the greatest obstacles to employment.

  1. Lay the groundwork during library school. In their chapter, “Getting the Most Out of Library School,” authors Micah Vandegrift and Annie Pho discuss ways that the savvy student can take optimal advantage of the opportunities available in library school and emerge as a desirable job candidate. They recommend surveying the job landscape early and often (ideally, before you even begin school); being creative with your coursework and fashioning your own specialty if your program doesn’t offer exactly what you want; putting in work through part-time jobs, practicums, internships, and volunteer work; and connecting with others through online and traditional venues. Knowing what skills employers are looking for by scanning job ads is a good way to target courses and part-time jobs that will give you the best experience in your chosen area. Some schools offer specialized tracks (for example, in digital libraries), but if yours doesn’t you can often create a close approximation using the DIY approach, cobbling together courses from other departments and initiating independent studies. Be willing to spend time outside of school teaching yourself relevant technology skills and keeping up on the latest journals and trade publications. Take advantage of any opportunity to attend professional conferences and workshops, and don’t be afraid to jump into online networking to get your face and name out there.
  2. Get as much work experience as you can while in school. Of the items listed above, “putting in work” may well be the most critical. It seems unfair, but the sad truth is that employment begets employment. Many a new librarian, digital or otherwise, has complained that employers seem unwilling to train new hires with little prior experience. Therefore, one of your main jobs while in library school is to train yourself, outside of the classroom. Don’t graduate without at least one volunteer gig, graduate assistantship, or other library-related job on your resume (and ideally several). If this isn’t possible for you to do, think carefully about your decision to enter library school – unless, of course, you already have significant library work experience prior to enrolling, or you don’t plan on using the degree to work in a library. When choosing a graduate program, weigh heavily the opportunities for students to find work in libraries on campus and in the surrounding area. These experiences are often more important than the classes you take.
  3. Be willing to relocate. There may be some fields that will easily allow you to go to school, undertake a career, and retire all in the same place. Librarianship, unfortunately, is not generally one of them. One important point that Elyssa Sanner and Catherine Wagner make in the chapter “Landing Your First Job,” is that unless you are willing to wait around for a relevant position to open up in your geographic area, the surest way to find a job after graduation is to cast your net as widely as possible. This is not to say that no one ever finds jobs within a targeted location, but these jobs are more likely to require a compromise – they may be part-time, or not in the area you trained for. Limiting yourself geographically may not allow you to make the best use of your library degree, and is bound to make the job search that much more difficult and drawn-out. A reality of librarianship today is that you may have to “pay your dues” by taking that all-important first job in a less than desirable location. But once you have those first years under your belt, you will have much more leverage to go after your dream job in your dream place.

The book has many more tips for navigating library school, applying for your first job in the field, transitioning from one area of librarianship to another, and further developing your career (Roy Tennant has some great advice in this chapter). It offers a wealth of information for both digital- and non-digital librarians alike, culled from the collective wisdom of more than twenty contributing authors – many of them hiring librarians themselves. I’m sure I can speak for all of them in wishing you good luck in your job search!


Jane Monson

Jane Monson received her MLS from the University of Iowa, where she was an IMLS Digital Libraries Fellow. She is currently Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Northern Colorado; previous to that she was Digital Projects Librarian at Truman State University. She has been published in Computers in Libraries, is a book reviewer for the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, and serves on various ALA editorial committees.

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