Category Archives: Non-Anonymous

I generally see library school as a formality

cyndee landrum

Cynthia Landrum has worked in academic, health sciences and public libraries for over 20 years. She is currently both a public library administrator in Illinois, and a doctoral student in the Managerial Leadership in the Information Profession (MLIP) program in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Simmons College in Boston. She hires the following types of LIS professionals:

I am directly involved in the hiring of library managers, but may be involved in the hiring of frontline librarians.

Ms. Landrum’s library has 100-200 staff members and is located in an urban area in the Midwestern US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ No

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Research Methods
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

General management
Organizational development
Project management
Assessment & Evaluation

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Customer Experience

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

I’m partial to the iSchools, or programs that have a research component to their programs

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

No. I generally see library school as a formality. I look at the candidates overall experience, including their non-library experience.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Please take some classes outside of LIS if possible. Take courses in the schools of business, education, or social work. Even if you don’t intend on becoming an administrator or manager as a professional you need to have a fundamental understanding of management principles.

For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey, or specific analysis of the responses discussing online school, the amount of coursework students should take, and preferences/reluctances for candidates from certain schools.

Do you hire librarians? Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Midwestern US, Non-Anonymous, Public, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Don’t get locked into a self-defeatist rut while searching for your first job

aaron dobbs
Aaron W Dobbs is the Scholarly Communications, eResource Development, & Web Librarian at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural area in the Northeastern US. In addition to librarianating, he was elected to two consecutive years as University Curriculum Committee Chair, facilitating development and approval processes supporting the Shippensburg University curriculum. He has served on or led 11 hiring committees over 20 years in academic libraries and has presented on leveraging prior experiences when launching a library career. He hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Instruction and Reference Librarians (with an extra specialty or two). Everyone at MPOW is Instruction and Reference first, plus extra responsibilities as library needs change.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

2

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Programming (Events)
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√Field Work/Internships
√Instruction
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Other: The remaining category choices are also good, if one can fit them in somehow

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

For straight through school (UG straight to MLIS) grads, there seems to be some lack of perspective. Perspective meaning experience working a full-time, 35+ hour per week job. To anyone anywhere I would say work a job doing anything manual labor or customer service oriented. Work a crappy job and learn just how crappy it can be – and learn how to succeed on that job. It will suck, but that experience will help when you go for a library job.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as the applicant has the skill, and the drive to improve at it, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Customer service, treating people well, professional demeanor (not worried about looks so much, but hygiene and respectful/respectable public persona count for a lot). We will be happy to sharpen people skills, but the applicant also needs to bring some basic humanity to the position.

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Other publication
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Other: library experience and teaching experience (for academics) is a major bonus

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

It’s not so much the school as what the student can demonstrate understanding about and/or experience with through coursework and related experience. There are LIS school rankings available (take them with a grain of salt; “top 10” is more indicative than “number 5” for example). Ditto on coursework delivery mode (f2f vs online); it’s more about the understanding than the delivery mode. The student who is wildly successful at any library school will likely be wildly successful on the job, too.

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

I’ve met a billionty graduates from most (if not all) the LIS schools. Those from the “top 10” or upper half have generally been impressive, those from the middle and lower end of the pack have generally been quite good, too. There are exceptions in both directions – duds from top 10 schools and stars from the bottom of the pack. I believe it depends more the individual than the school.

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Take time to relax and socialize with your peers. Use the local public and your academic library. Join the student ALA chapter and the state library association. Go to the local conferences and the local extracurricular educational trips. Apply for the ALA Student to Staff program which gets you to an ALA Annual in exchange for 10-20 hours of conference-related work. Apply for travel grants from vendors. Work in a library somehow, if you can – internships, practicums, volunteering, job shadowing. Keep track of your class projects and see if they can become something publishable. Anything helps.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

“Librarian” jobs are increasingly hard to find. It’s easier if you can relocate (often to very “out of the way” places or to large urban areas) a couple times. “Librarian” skills are not limited to working in actual libraries – the skill sets are compatible with all sorts of information-industry jobs (which often pay more than library jobs). Don’t get locked into a self-defeatist rut while searching for your first job (I did this and it was really all from my perception of failure from not getting interviews nor offers – it certainly did not help me) the library job market is brutal – more brutal than it was in the mid-1990s which was bad enough.

For some context, take a look at the most recently published summary of responses to this survey, or specific analysis of the responses discussing online school, the amount of coursework students should take, and preferences/reluctance for candidates from certain schools.

Do you hire librarians? Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Non-Anonymous, Northeastern US, Rural area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Get Involved in Student Organizations and National Organizations

Terry Ann LawlerThis interview is with Terry Lawler, who is a Children’s Librarian and and the Assistant Manager at a branch of the Phoenix Public Library, a system with more than 200 staff members in an urban area in the Western US. Ms. Lawler was a 2011 ALA Emerging Leader. She has been a hiring manager and a member of hiring committees.  She was a featured respondent to our original survey, and is a regular contributor to Further Questions.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ No

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Portfolio/ePortfolio
√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Programming (events), Outreach, Reader’s Advisory, Library Management, Dealing with difficult customers

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

task prioritization, our website/software/ etc., storytime, class instruction (computers, etc)

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Other presentation
√ Student organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

none

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

no

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

you will learn most of what you need on the job, so: intern, volunteer, get involved in student organizations and national organizations, try new things, present, present, present, get a portfolio, learn new things, publish your school papers

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Non-Anonymous, Public, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School, Youth Services

…”I’ve Only Done That in a Class” — Instead Say “I Had the Opportunity to Do That in a Class”

Anne BarnhartThis interview is with Anne Barnhart, a librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee. She is the Head of Instructional Services at the Ingram Library at the University of West Georgia (UWG) an academic library with 10-50 staff members. Librarians at UWG are faculty members and Instructional Services librarians teach a credit-bearing course as well as requested one-shots and workshops.

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Intellectual curiosity
Enthusiasm
Student-centered

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Typos are an instant dealbreaker as are chaotic application materials. Getting the name wrong of the institution will also get an application packet tossed aside.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

I’m tired of seeing generic cover letters in which the applicant does not mention anything about our ad or our institution. So many candidates write something like “I was excited to see this position” or “I am perfect for this job” or “I bring the skills you need” but they never refer to anything specific about us to substantiate that claim. Don’t include random paragraphs telling us about all the other skills you have — leave the skills that aren’t sought for this job in your CV (or resume) and we’ll find them if we need them. The cover letter needs to be tailored for our position, our ad, and our institution.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

It’s hard to have a blanket response for this one. Some people have job-hopped a bit or taken time off and I’d like to see why. If someone took time off to be at home with kids, that should be indicated on the CV or resume with something like “household management”. When I have questions about where someone was for a 2-year period or why they moved so much, I’m inclined to set that person’s packet aside because I usually have enough applicants whom I do not question.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, I want to look at every accomplishment

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

We don’t bring people to campus who do not have the required qualifications for the position. When you come to campus, we want to see how you work with others and how you will represent us on campus committees and at national conferences.
Be professional and personable. No one wants to work with someone who is robotically professional with no personality.
Be enthusiastic about the position and what you would be doing.
Show us that you care about students and student learning (I hire instruction librarians).
Ask questions and LISTEN to the answers.
Do your homework and show that you’ve spent some time thinking about and researching the place, your potential colleagues, etc.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Asking no questions. Seriously. I’ve interviewed people who ask no questions in an all-day interview.
PowerPoint Karaoke during the presentation (please do NOT read your slides to me!).
Not sending a post-interview thank-you.
Wearing shoes that you cannot walk in (high heels).
Belittling their experience (“I’ve only done that in a class” — instead say “I had the opportunity to do that in a class”).

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Our interview process includes collaborative exercises during the day so we can see how well the candidate works with other people. This is a huge change over previous hiring practices. We also do not include a fake library instruction session as part of the interview process.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

You should be looking for a place where you want to work, doing a job you want to do. Don’t just look for anyone who will pay you. I know the market is tight and the thought of unemployment (especially for recent grads) is terrifying. However, make sure you think about whether you want the job before you apply. If you decide you do want it, why? Communicate with the search committee why you want that job. Start that communication in your tailored cover letter. Then, if you get a phone interview, continue to impress them with your personality and experience. Ask questions. Make sure you still want the job. Then, when you are invited to campus, remember that you are also interviewing them. The “fit” needs to go both ways.

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Non-Anonymous, Original Survey

Skirt or Dress, Jacket–I Dress Nicely

Cheryl BeckerThis interview is with Cheryl Becker, who is a retired/free-lance library consultant.  Ms. Becker is proud to be able to advise and assist others in the profession, from her work consulting and presenting workshops (sample list here: http://cherylbecker.wordpress.com/workshops/ ) to advising individual job-seekers with things like resume revision and interview tips. She has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee, primarily in public libraries in an urban area of the Midwestern US.

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Counts as a suit

Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer.

√ True

If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?

√ Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

√ Always

Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?

√ No

Which jewelry may candidates wear: (Please select all that are acceptable)

√ Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring

√ A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings

√ Earrings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray)

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Be fairly neutral

What This Library Wears

How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?

Skirt or dress, jacket–I dress nicely.

On a scale of one (too dressed up for my workplace) to five (too casual), khakis and a polo shirt are:

3

What’s the dress code at your library/organization?

√ Other: I am retired so n/a

Are there any specific items of clothing, etc. that are forbidden by your dress code? Please check all that apply

√ Other: see above

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply:

√ Other: none of the above

This survey was co-authored by Jill of Librarian Hire Fashion – submit your interview outfit to her blog!

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Filed under Midwestern US, Non-Anonymous, Public, Urban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

Californians, Have you voted? Julie Farnsworth on Hiring Librarians

Voting is currently open for the California Library Association’s 2012 election.  If you’re a member, cast your ballot by October 15th.
This interview is with Julie Farnsworth, who is a candidate for President-Elect. Ms Farnsworth began her library career as a page at the age of 15. She has worked as a public library director at various systems in Utah, as County Librarian for Santa Clara, and since 2003 has been the Director of the Pleasanton Public Library (which is in the 50-100 staff members category). She has also been both a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.

Questions about CLA:

In broad strokes, what do you think the CLA’s role is in library hiring and employment?

CLA exists to help its member libraries and librarians.  Hiring and employment is one of the most important and most popular roles of the organization.  Whether through the actual job listings or through the opportunity to network and work together, CLA is a very useful tool for job seekers.

The most important role of CLA is library advocacy which, when successful, means more funds for libraries and more available jobs.

How can the CLA serve unemployed or underemployed librarians?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers mentoring – both long-term and short-term – for new librarians, an online job listing service, job advertising and interview services at the annual conference, programs designed for aspiring job seekers and opportunities for networking.

How can the CLA support library students in order to help them be best situated for future employment?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers resume evaluation at each conference as well as programs on how to enhance job seeking skills and knowledge.  CLA was instrumental in starting the Eureka Leadership training which has assisted many librarians to progress in their careers.

I would like to see more programs or individualized feedback on interview skills and self-presentation.  I would like CLA to facilitate paid and unpaid internships by collating the opportunities and distributing the information to job seekers.  CLA could also create a best practices internship plan and train librarians on giving interns the best, most useful experience.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about CLA or your candidacy?

It can feel as though the job search is hopeless or you have no control or influence over your future.  It isn’t true – there are always ways to improve your future prospects. Getting involved with CLA or any other professional or non-profit group can grow your skills, give you experience you can use to illustrate your talents in interviews, teach you about advocacy and introduce you to many other professionals would can assist your efforts to build a career.

Let CLA help you while you search for a job.  It will be useful.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Good judgment – the ability to assess a situation and respond wisely in the best interest of the organization and staff

Dedication to customer service with real respect for the work we do and the people we work to help

Balance – the ability to see beyond the emotion of the moment to the bigger picture, often using humor, self-acceptance, a sense of the absurd and/or acknowledgement of the faulty nature of all humans, including yourself

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Yes.  Wanting to censor what we have in the collection in order to “protect” the community.  Being offensive about patrons of a particular age or national origin or disability or any other group status.  Making multiple derogatory comments about different co-workers and bosses.  Stating that you want to leave your current public library job because you are afraid of the patrons.  Criticizing the receptionist in a loud and angry manner for not telling you about the traffic that made you late.

Yes, these are all from my personal experience.  See, you are a better interviewer than you thought!

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Nothing, really.  They are pretty utilitarian and appropriately so.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

I’d love to see something they particularly liked or learned in each experience, but that wouldn’t be typical.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Other: Yes, so long as it is true/real and relevant to the position

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be comfortable with yourself (not the situation, no one is really comfortable in an interview), open and accepting of your strengths and weaknesses.  Be calm.  Be honest about yourself, your hopes, your interests.  Do you really want a job where they are looking for the person you faked being in the interview or a job where they want the real you?  See the people across the table as people and take an interest in what they care about, what they might be feeling and how you can help them be more comfortable.  Understand that an interview is not the measure of your worth, just a chance for those with a job opening to learn more about you while you learn about them.  Do your homework on the organization – it shows preparation and thoughtfulness.  Think what the interviewers might be proud of and bring it up.  You can always call and ask the staff what changes they have made lately that have been successful.

For me personally – hey, I always like people who laugh at my jokes.  😉

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Most common of all, they get so nervous that their personality and skills are obliterated.  Interviews are important for functional reasons, not for referendum on the worth of your soul reasons – so learn whatever skills you need to be calm!

Another very common mistake is to focus so much on the perfect answer to the questions that you lose track of the people in the room.  Communication is more about body language and tone than words and that’s very much true in an interview.

The third mistake I see is not engaging your audience.  Ask questions.  Ask follow up questions to their answers.  It’s often said that whoever talks least in any interview wins.  This isn’t so true in an oral board, of course, but in the personal interviews its a big mistake to do nothing but answer.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Not at all in the mechanics.  Those are dictated by the organization and the public hiring legalities.

We’ve done a better job on getting the word out and certainly I’m fond of my hires and think they are the bees knees, but no functional differences.

Of course, we’ve been doing NO hiring for years and only now allowed to replace key positions.  So I guess that’s a change.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Don’t give up!  Being a librarian is a great career that I highly recommend and I do believe that jobs will come back.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Elections/Candidates, Non-Anonymous, Public

Retail Experience is Underrated

Jacob BergThis interview is with Jacob Berg, who is the Director of Library Services at Trinity Washington University.   The Sister Helen Sheehan Library has fewer than ten staff members, and supports the diverse community at Trinity with materials and instruction, nurturing lifelong learning skills and intellectual freedom.  Mr.Berg has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.  He blogs at Beerbrarian, or you can follow him on Twitter at @jacobsberg

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Initiative – Has a candidate identified a problem, found something lacking, and then worked on a solution?

An ability to learn – Has a candidate found her/himself in unfamiliar situations, then adapted or evolved and flourished.

Personality – A sense of who the candidate is. The job search, including resumes and cover letters, can be a very dehumanizing process. If a candidate can somehow rise above that, it’s a plus. It allows us, the hiring committee, to picture the candidate in our organization.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Typos and poor grammar, people who take the process too casually. I was once on a hiring committee that interviewed a candidate for library director who wore a t-shirt. Don’t do that. I want applicants to very badly want a particular job.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Platitudes about enthusiasm, hard work, and teamwork. Everyone writes this, which is in many ways the same as nobody writing it. Show, don’t tell, and please don’t use those words, especially the first one.

I am not a fan of passive voice, either.


Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Retail experience is underrated. Librarianship is about customer service, so prior experience in a retail or a service industry is a plus as I see it.

People also skimp on the computer skills. If a candidate knows html, or even their way around a database, say so. Even applicants light on library experience have been a consumer, a patron, a customer of libraries before, right? Put that to work, though it probably works better in a cover letter.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ As many as it takes, but shorter is better

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√  As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Other: No. I do not understand objectives at all. If you’re applying for a job where I work, isn’t your objective a job with my organization?

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√  Other: I definitely want an attachment, but putting it in the body of the email in addition is fine.

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be confident, come in prepared, and have a sense of humor.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Too many applicants come in unprepared. They haven’t done, or haven’t articulated that they’ve done, background research on the library, on the institution. Please please please go to our website and poke around. Tell us what you liked, what works, as well as what doesn’t.

Look at the mission of the institution; it’s something we take very seriously, and there are hard days when that mission, those goals, seems like all we have. Let us know how you can help us with that mission, and achieve those goals.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

We’re looking more for “fit” now. We’re a small library, and we’re looking for people who can learn, bonus points if it’s quickly, and get along with us. I think in the past we’ve been more focused on skills, but many of those can be taught, and experience happens along the way. This isn’t to say we don’t want strong personalities, or people who are the opposite of us, but we want a good mix. Much more of the interview is now about finding that fit.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

The jobs are out there. I know the market stinks, and it might take longer than you’d like, but please do stay positive. I just had two part-time staff members leave to become school media specialists, which is why they got MLISs in the first place. It took them many months, but they got there. On the other hand, I had another part-time staff member leave librarianship to teach English. It happens. But overall, keep the faith. Please.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Non-Anonymous, Original Survey