Category Archives: Job hunter’s survey

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Anonymous 3

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. 

“Anonymous 3” filled out the original survey in late 2012 and her answers appeared as How About Not Discouraging People From Out of State.  At the time she was not employed and looking in multiple library types for entry-level or early career librarian positions. We followed up in early 2014, and found that she was doing government contract work while completing her PhD. Then, in the end of 2014, she had transitioned to full time work as a financial manager.  

When I checked in with her recently I learned that she has continued her shift to the Data side. 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 continued to embrace my love of data – the Information Science piece of my MLIS – over the librarianship side of it and moved further into the world of data analytics. I worked hard and became the first Chief Analytics Officer at my organization; near the end of the pandemic, I accepted a full time remote position at a global company. I work with many people who actually started as librarians and then realized that world wasn’t for them and shifted into data. If someone’s education had a solid foundation in databases and systems, but they’re not fully enjoying working as a librarian, data may be a world that they could explore.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Becoming a C-suite leader was not anything I had planned on, but it was a great journey that I fully enjoyed. It truly showed me that I had my feet on the right path for my career, and that path has taken me even further than I had ever dreamed would be possible for my life. I am so deeply grateful for where I am and what I have achieved.

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

My anger over not accepting out of state employees! The out of state employees anger was – and is – still valid in many ways; if someone is willing to move, don’t count them out. As a full time remote worker at this point, I think that the pandemic has further emphasized that you don’t need to confine yourselves to local resources, though I do realize that statement doesn’t apply to in-person librarians. Another thing that stood out were my comments about education not being valued as much as experience – looking back, that was definitely the frustrated 22-year old in me that could not find a job in a faltering economy in a very tight field. Experience can be invaluable, but I do think there are key aspects of hiring new grads that many hiring managers tend to overlook, such as the ability to train up and mold that person the way that you feel is best vs having to break bad habits.

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

I have hired multiple people throughout my career; there are so many great candidates that it really does come down to the interview. I rarely, if ever, looked at cover letters because those get screened before they made their way to me. The resumes usually have the key information for me – if there are certain skills or indicators that the person can learn what I need them to, they go into the interview process. I try to have as little bias as possible when I interview someone; if the candidates are polite and professional, that is what is important. Once I interviewed someone who refused to make eye contact with me, had an angry attitude, crossed their arms, and watched the clock the entire time. Needless to say, despite being immensely qualified, that person did not get a call back.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Ensure that you have quantifiable achievements on your resumes – e.g. “This analysis served 14K+ people and saved the organization $150K in labor per month.” These quantifiable metrics mean far more to a hiring manager than “I am a hard worker!” Think hard about how you can bring something new to the table and make sure that you sound organic in your responses when interviewing. I have seen people rejected for being “overconfident” and also “seeming scripted” – note that these were not positions for which I was hiring, but others that I knew.

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

It depends on the field. If hiring outside of librarianship, focus on their database skills, web development skills, and knowledge (all of which I had back when I graduated and I am certain are far more common in today’s programs). I’m afraid that I cannot speak to those within the library field as I have so thoroughly departed from it.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Never give up! There are a lot of opportunities out there; you just have to make yourself open to seeing them and developing yourself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Former (and current) Job Hunter Anonymous 4

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. 

This is another anonymous follow-up. This job hunter first filled out the survey in 2012 as a recent graduate, and her answers appeared as I Make Sure That I Qualify, First and Foremost. We followed up with her in November 2014 and found she had a part-time internship. Then in December 2015, we found out she’d landed a full time job in an archive. She’s still there, but looking again. 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’m still at my current position in the Midwest. The work situation has been both good and bad and it’s heading in the right direction but without more funding, I can’t really stay (hence the reason I’m looking). 

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

How long things take. Also that people are willing to help with things.

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

Nothing really has changed, except maybe the idea of posting salaries. That has definitely changed, and especially that some states are even requiring it.

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

Not me per se, but I’ve been in on the process of helping to hire student workers. It is definitely interesting being on the other side of things.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Have help going over your cover letter from someone in the same field. I had that and it’s helped tremendously! My cover letters before were okay but after this person helped, I saw an almost 90% return on getting interviews. Also, I know it’s hard but be willing to move. I’m open to moving for a full time position but only that. If you can swing to move for contract positions go for it.

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

Post the salary, and if not the salary, at least a range so people aren’t blindsided when they get an interview.

Anything else you’d like to tell us? 

Nope.

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Former (and Current) Job Hunter Michael Grutchfield

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. 

Michael Grutchfield filled out the original survey in 2013 and his answers appeared as I Want to Put my Training to Use. We followed up with him in 2015 and learned he had found not just one but two jobs! Since then he’s had an interesting path and is currently back on the job hunt. He 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?

Right now, I’m actually more or less where I probably was when this survey first came out: living in Portland and looking for a library job. I brought that on myself, however. My path has been a complicated one.

For the past eight years, up until the end of September, I’ve been living in Southern Oregon, working over that time in three different libraries. This began with a job offer from the library at Rogue Community College for a part time reference/instructional position. In order to sweeten the idea of moving for a part time job, the director mentioned that the local public library in Grants Pass was looking to hire a part time collection librarian.

I interviewed for that job in May, 2014 and got the job offer while I was down for a visit. So, I moved to Rogue River with two part time jobs – one in an academic library, one in a public library. The public library, Josephine Community Libraries, was at that time managed by a nonprofit after the voters had voted to shut down the County-run system in 2009. We were also heavily involved in campaigning for a library district, which finally passed in 2017. I was then offered the position of Collection Development Librarian full time, and immediately got to work heavily weeding a collection that had been sustained on donations for eight years and upgrading the collection.

Then, in 2019, I learned that the library in my town was looking for a manager, and the draw of being able to walk to work was too much to resist. In 2019, I got the job of Area Manager for Jackson County Library Services, supervising five of the branches in their 15-branch system and working from an office in the Rogue River branch. They were undergoing a similar transition, as they had been managed by the for-profit library company LS&S since a shutdown, and were just putting their district back in charge during 2020, which happened to be at the height of the pandemic. I got to do a lot of different kinds of management work during my time there, including managing the Sub Pool and being on the team to plan expanding hours across the system.

And then, towards the end of this Summer, I got the bug to move back to Portland, where an old friend had space in her house to rent to me. I made the move about a month ago, and have been actively searching for jobs in libraries since then.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Most parts! I never thought I would take to Public Libraries, customer-facing jobs, or managing lots of people. But, that’s how it has gone.

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

One thing that pops out is where I said I wanted a job in or near Portland! That hasn’t changed, but I spent 8 years building my resume to make it (hopefully) possible.

One thing that has changed is that I no longer find INALJ (I Need a Library Job) to be the most useful resource. Luckily, there are a lot of resources for finding jobs. In my area, being aware of the local library associations and their job listings and networking with friends are the most useful ways to proceed now. I never seem to lack job openings to apply for!

What I remember from those times is how often I had to re-type every part of my resume into an online application. More and more libraries and hiring institutions have software now that “grabs” the basic info from your resume and plugs it in automatically, which at least reduces this to an editing process, rather than data entry. This is good. It might not be a bad idea for someone to put together tips on how best to format your resume so that the software can recognize the data accurately.

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

I’ve been on quite a number of hiring committees, including some for my own direct reports. It does give you some perspective on why the process can take too long, and how hard it is for employers to get a handle on your qualifications, and who you really are, from the typical hiring process. It’s a huge leap of faith to invite someone into your workspace (effectively 1/3 of your life!) when all you have is some paper and a very contrived conversation to base the decision on.

The long process of hunting for work gave me (I hope) a good deal of empathy for the people on the other end of it. I tried to be respectful of their time and the stressful process they were going through.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Most of what you have already heard: really do craft your application materials (especially cover letter) to the specific job posting, really do follow all instructions and make sure your application is complete, and really do apply only for one or two jobs per employer at one time – it sends a message of “I’ll take anything!” if your name comes up for every open position.

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

Just remember what your applicants are going through. Looking for work is a full time job (and some of them are doing it on top of a full time job), and they will appreciate your consideration, even when you can’t hire them.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Just that I have loved working in libraries ever since I started, and it’s been a pleasure working with very different communities (and in different jobs!) than I expected to.

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Anonymous Job Hunter 1

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. 

This is our first check-in with a respondent who chose to remain anonymous, but let me check back in with them. They originally took the survey in 2013 and answers appeared as I was recently hired through a head hunter so I did not have to do this. We then followed up a year later. I was interested to hear that they are still in that same job! They were 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’m at the same law firm – it’s been about 10 years now.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

What has been unexpected was the pandemic and how my position has changed since 2020.  I have transitioned to remote work and I have relocated to the West Coast.  I chose my current schedule and am happy to work from home rather than commute. 

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

Going into a new recession, I’m not sure what the market will look like but I was struck that 10 years ago I considered the legal market bleak.  It’s been a very successful 10 years for my employer and for my department and we have expanded greatly.  It’s been very hard to find library staff though our salaries are very competitive. 

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

No.  Though I have referred colleagues and friends to positions at my company and they have been hired.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Depending on what market you’re looking to enter it may be worthwhile to be flexible.  We have staff who have moved between departmental teams into positions they prefer.  Taking a position the firm needed at the time got their foot in the door so to speak even if it wasn’t their first option.  And again, like I did 10 years ago, taking a non-standard hours position can transition into a more senior position where you can set your hours to something you prefer, depending on how successful you are in your role.

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

Flexibility goes both ways.  Forcing everyone to head back into the office is counter-intuitive in my view.  Every time I’m back in a physical office location, whether it’s the home office on the east coast, or the west coast office, I get much less work done because we’re socializing so much and/or interrupted so often.  Hiring a remote employee may get you the perfect candidate.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’m really hoping the new New York law requiring disclosure of salary information will prompt other jurisdictions to do the same and I really hope it helps applicants negotiate the much needed salary increases our profession deserves across the board.  We have been critically underpaid for decades in my opinion. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Becca Tansey

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. 

Becca Tansey  filled out the original survey in 2015 and her answers appeared as More library school graduates are going straight from undergraduate into a library program, and might not have three-five years experience coming out. At the time, she was an aspiring children’s librarian, working as a page. When I caught up with her recently, I found that she had taken her career in a different direction! 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 work at the Newburyport Public Library as Head of Borrower Services. I’ve been here at Newburyport for the past 7 years. Shortly after the blog post I was hired as a reference librarian and after 5 ½ years in that position, a department head role was vacant and I was encouraged to apply. I’ve been in that role for a little over a year. I love working in circulation services because it’s often the most positive interaction you’ll have with a patron. I greatly enjoyed my role in reference as well and it’s been nice to have the opportunity to really experience all the different departments within the library world.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

I thought that I was going to be working in children’s librarianship. I initially saw my job as a reference librarian as a way to gain experience before moving into children’s. I ended up falling in love with adult services and the community so much that I’ve never left! Upon graduating I expected that I would bounce around from library to library, like many of my peers and never in my wildest dreams imagined I would still be working in the same library that offered me my first professional job. A huge part of the reason I stayed was the growth and learning opportunities that were available.

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

I would say that for the most part my answers have stayed the same. I have noticed a decrease in people who are interested in going straight into an MLIS program from undergrad. In my opinion, COVID really changed the landscape of acquiring advanced degrees. Many people are starting off in paraprofessional roles to get a feel for whether or not they want to pursue a library degree, and if they do decide to move forward they are mostly doing online programs and taking courses one or two at a time. I think it’s a smart and sensible way to approach the profession.

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

I have and it was an interesting experience for sure. As Head of Borrower Services all of my staff are paraprofessionals and the job posting only requires a Bachelor’s. This brings out some colorful candidates and I’m always amazed at how many people think working in a library will be a nice, quiet, easy job! Thus far, picking the right candidate has been easy, because they are a clear standout and the best fit for the role and community.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

I would say my advice is the same as it was years ago, but I would add that it’s important to maintain a professional demeanor during the interview. I don’t know if it’s people just being burned out after COVID, but in many of the interviews I’ve been in and from what I’ve heard from our administration, people are sharing things that are just not appropriate. Trash talking current co-workers, sharing uncomfortable and extremely personal information, and going into rants about unrelated topics. We’ve had a lot of job openings recently at our library, and many rounds of interviews and it just seems like there is an influx of unprofessional conduct that has shocked many of my supervisors who have worked in libraries for decades.

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

I still think it is really important to communicate at every step of the way with applicants. I’ve learned now that many libraries don’t have much say in scheduling interviews and communication with applicants, and that it often falls to town/city HR departments. Unfortunately, this can be detrimental to libraries in that someone from outside of the field won’t see past the black and white qualifications and discard a potentially excellent candidate. We are lucky at my library to have control over the hiring process, and it’s one of the things that impressed me as an applicant all those years ago. Prompt emails and phone calls to inform applicants where they stand at various stages in the hiring process is a courtesy that should be standard practice. I was getting rejection letters from places I’d applied to a year after I had applied! It’s inconsiderate at best, at worst it’s a red flag that the library and community don’t have their act together. If you have the ability to, I would recommend really pushing your town/city HR department to ensure that their actions aren’t creating a negative image of your library to applicants.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I just want to send good vibes and positivity to everyone who was working in libraries during COVID. I’ve seen a lot of people drop out of the profession because their experience was so terrible and I’ve seen people who have stayed become so burned out that they’ve lost their former passion for library work. It was a tough time and many communities did not handle it well. Also shout out to school librarians and anyone who is dealing with book challenges right now. The library world has been very crazy the past couple of years, but I have hope that we will get through these tough times. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Nicole Usiondek

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. 

Nicole, who is blonde and wears sunglasses, poses casually in front of the Sphinx

Nicole Usiondek filled out the original survey in 2012 and her answers appeared as Be Very Clear on What the Minimum Requirements are for the Position. We followed up with her in 2013 and learned that after 20 months she had found a law librarian position (and relocated for it). In 2014, she negotiated for a raise and a title change. When I caught up with her recently, I learned that she’s actually in a non-traditional role now! 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’m a Senior Knowledge Manager for Fragomen. It’s a non-traditional library role and I absolutely love it! I work for a global company and work remotely. 

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

I didn’t expect to stay in the legal arena, but I’m so glad I did. 

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

I am far more comfortable working in a non-traditional library role than I thought I would be and I don’t see myself ever going back to a traditional library setting. 

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

Yes, and it’s challenging. It’s not just about education and experience, but also about a cultural fit to ensure it’s a mutually beneficial relationship. 

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Don’t be afraid to change your vision of what will make you happy. 

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

LIS folks have great soft skills, curiosity and the ability to pivot – this is in addition to many other transferable skills.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’m currently on holiday in Egypt! 🙂

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Greg Bem

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. 

Greg Bem filled out the original survey in 2014 and his answers appeared as Full time schedule, room for innovation, digital responsibilities. At the time, he was working as a coordinator for a student media center at a college in Washington and looking for work as a librarian or digital preservationist. We followed up with him in early 2016 and learned he had moved to a part-time librarian faculty position.  

I was interested to learn he’s still at the same institution, but now with full-time work. He 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 currently the library coordinator at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, in addition to being tenured faculty. Since I last responded, I moved from part-time to full-time (annual renewable), and then entered the tenure-track process. The former library coordinator left the college and I inherited the role. 

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Everything has been unexpected. I didn’t think I would be in academic librarianship after a year or two. The journey has been rewarding. Every year I look back and think about how much my commitment to the role and the library I serve has also supported my growth and development.

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

I think I was very optimistic given my circumstances, but had little perspective on the flow of the job market. Now that I have been in the profession for almost a decade, I know how little changes across the most coveted (and best paid) positions in librarianship. It is a very challenging time for folks who want to enter the job market and get positions, both entry-level or otherwise. 

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

We have hired five people since I’ve been at the college and two were during my time as coordinator. It’s an engaging and important experience, one that asks a lot of everyone on the committee.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Volunteer, and try to get as much experience in customer service, technology, or education before it’s time to enter libraries. These skills translate directly and, in many cases, will put you above the rest. 

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

Be open to folks who are coming from non-library backgrounds. Be open to folks who bring new and fresh perspectives. Radical change is usually necessary in libraries. If you aren’t adopting that lens to improve services for your community, then you are missing out. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I hope that job-seekers continue to think about where libraries and library work is headed and find the challenges worthwhile. We are far from a golden age when it comes to fiscal support for libraries and library workers, but I think we will get there. Stay positive and keep growing!

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter George Bergstrom

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. 

George Bergstrom filled out the original survey in 2013 and his answers appeared as Doing the Research. At the time, he was a part time Instruction Librarian and Adjunct Instructor and had been looking for full time work for more than 18 months. We followed up with him in 2014 and found that he was still looking for full time work, but had slowed his search due to having multiple part time jobs. 

When I checked in with him recently I learned that he is currently working in professional development at his State library. He 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?

My current role is Southwest Regional Coordinator, Professional Development Office – Indiana State Library. I assist any library in my region of the state with professional development and other statewide services. All public libraries have to engage with myself and the other coordinators (since there are certification statutes in state law) and academic and school libraries can choose to engage with us. I also work with the correctional institutions in my region to provide services to the inmates. Since the last interview I have worked at a private for-profit university as well as the transition to working for the state library.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?
My time at the for-profit was a bit unexpected. For the first few years it felt very similar to both my past experiences in public and academic libraries, and it was different from my perceptions of what for-profits are like before I began working there. It was smaller (only five locations in two cities) and family owned/run, but after the first few years I began to notice/experience some of the negatives of the for-profit side of the industry. On the positive side I did gain experience in working with using games in education, which prompted me to join ALA GameRT and I am now the president-elect for the roundtable.

Looking over your past answers, what pops out at you? Has anything changed?
I noticed one of the questions asked about salary listings in job ads, which seems to be an issue that is again in the job hunting zeitgeist. I still feel that these should be required, especially as I again begin to contemplate a new job search. In the past I had been unwilling/unable to move, but I am now very interested in moving and not knowing the salary range makes it a big gamble to apply for a job that might not pay enough to justify the move.
 

Have you had a chance to hire anyone? If so, what was that like?
While at my previous job (for-profit, academic) I was on a few search committees. This allowed me to work with a group of colleagues to do the initial review of applicants and make recommendations on which candidates to move to the next phase of the interview process. This is an interesting experience as it allows some input without having the responsibility of making the hiring decision. Knowing who this side of the hiring equation works has provided some valuable insights for my on job searches. It has helped reinforce the importance of customizing both resume/CV and cover letter to best match the position applying for.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?
As always, do as much research as you can about each position. Learn what you can about the library, the unit/department (if the library/system is large enough to have units), the larger institution the library is within (university or the like) if applicable, and any of the coworkers/possible supervisors. Knowing what they already do can help you position your skills and abilities within their situation and explain how you would benefit their institution. Now even more than 10 years ago, you will also want to research the area you might be working (city, region, state, etc.) to make sure you will feel comfortable in this new location. It may be a great job, but if you won’t feel comfortable in that location then ultimately you may not be successful. Work-life balance is very important and should be considered when job hunting.

Do you have any advice for people who hire LIS folks?
Same advice as last time, please communicate as much as you can with your candidate pool. Let them know when you are reviewing, let them know if they have made that first cut, and let them know after all interviews are complete as well as if they were selected or not.
 

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up

About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Jessica Olin

headshot of Jessica Olin, a white woman with long hair. She is smiling, but not broadly.

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. 

Jessica Olin filled out the original survey in 2013 and her answers appeared as Being Yourself at Every Stage of the Process, But the Best Version of Yourself. At the time, she had just finished her job search, landing in a position as Director of the Robert H. Parker Library at Wesley College in Dover, Delaware. You may recognize her name as she was also the author of the popular blog, Letters to a Young Librarian (2011-2019).

She is no longer in libraries, and her jump to project management has provided good work-life balance and a feeling of being appreciated. 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’m a project coordinator at a large-ish telecom company. I mostly work from home, using computer equipment that was provided by my employer. I work with some great people, but best of all: I’m not in charge of anyone anymore. I work with people who all seem to appreciate my opinions and the value I bring. Plus I only work 40 hours per week. It’s great! The path I took to get here consisted mostly of finding a tech recruiter who saw my transferable skills for what they are and then found an opportunity that suited.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

The part where I got laid off from libraries and needed to decide whether to move to stay in the same field or find a new career to stay in the same area.  

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

The biggest thing that’s changed is that I’m no longer in the field. I’m still a little bitter about how it happened (getting laid off the way I did, towards the beginning of the pandemic, was kind of a nightmare) but I’m much happier out of libraries than I had been for a long time. 

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

I was the director at two different academic libraries, and at one of them it felt like I was constantly in the process of hiring/interviewing/on-boarding. It’s a difficult process, especially when you’re not only dealing with the task of presenting the institution and yourself to best advantage but also the vagaries of internal politics.

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

My old advice still stands (“Being yourself at every stage of the process, but the best version of yourself.”), but also remember you’re interviewing the institution as much as they’re interviewing you. You should be looking for whether or not the place is a good fit for you, not just the other way around. True, it can be hard to stick to that when you really need a job and sometimes any job is better than no job, but toxic work environments can hurt you for years even if you leave. There are good, even great, libraries out there. You deserve to work at one of those. 

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

More transparency at every stage. I’m a huge fan of the trend of giving people interview questions to candidates ahead of the interview. Also, be willing to pay for transportation ahead of time instead of just reimbursing. 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

A librarian really is a project manager, and I know plenty of people who made the same or similar transitions as the one I made. Not everyone will see “librarian” on a resume and agree, but the right position will.

Leave a comment

Filed under Job Hunter Follow Up