Category Archives: 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! 🙂

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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!

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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.
 

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Mark Hall

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

Back in 2012/2013 I ran a survey of job hunters (co-authored by Naomi House of INALJ). It had over 500 responses, including 117 people who were at least initially willing to be non-anonymous. In this series, we check in with these respondents to see where they are about a decade later. 

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

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

Where are you now? 

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

Were any parts of my journey unexpected? 

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

Was blood sacrifice actually necessary?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

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

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

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

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

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

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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.

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Dina Schuldner

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 now.

Dina Schuldner took the Job Hunter’s survey on January 4, 2013. Her responses appeared as The Renaissance Person. At that time, she was a recent graduate and a recently hired adult services librarian. We followed up with her in December 2014 and learned she was a Full Time Permanent Young Adult and Children’s Librarian.

When I contacted her this month to follow up, she asked if she could share advice and encouragement to people in the library profession, and that is what follows:


What I’d like to share is that dogged determination pays off.  After 6 successful years in public libraries in New York, my husband and I moved to Virginia to be closer to my family.

When we moved, I did not have a library job waiting for me in Virginia.  What I did have was a volunteer position with YALSA as the chair for the Community Connections Task Force.  This was a virtual position, which I managed through meetings on the predecessor of Google Meet (Hangouts), and ALA Connect.  I got experience leading a team in that role, and I am very proud of the toolkit we developed for YALSA.  After that ended, I applied for, and landed, a position volunteering with Virginia Beach Public Library.

I had set up my LinkedIn account back in library school, connecting with my classmates, many of whom I am still in contact with.  I kept it updated throughout my journey.  In 2017, I was contacted through LinkedIn by a recruiter for a college.  A couple of interviews later, I was an adjunct instructor and academic librarian.  I held that position for 4 years, where I managed the library and its staff, sometimes on my own, sometimes in conjunction with other librarians.

An opportunity to get back into public libraries presented itself, and because I had experience managing the academic library, I was taken on as an assistant manager in a library branch of a large city system.

Yesterday, a young boy around the age of 8 recognized me in the library, after I said hello to him and his friend.  He said to me, “Are you the one who helped my grandmother on the computer?”  I said I might be, because I help people on the computer all the time.  He asked me, “What do you do here?”  I told him that I am a librarian.  He asked me “What do you do?”  I told him I help people on the computer, I help order books for the library for people to check out for adults, and other people order for children, and that I help with library programs.

I realize now that in that moment, I was representing the profession to a young, impressionable boy, who may be in the process of searching for career paths even in elementary school.  Maybe I put a seed in his mind that the helping I do is something he might want to do, so he could help people like his grandmother when he grows up.

I got into libraries to make a difference in young adult lives.  I wound up excelling as a children’s librarian, a young adult librarian, a reference librarian, an academic librarian, and now as an assistant manager of a public library.

I would recommend to job seekers to follow your passion, and take any job in your field to get the experience you need.  Dedication in the job you currently hold, lifelong learning, and the willingness to try new positions offered to you may change your life.

Anyone interested in a career in libraries may connect with me on LinkedIn.  I will be happy to offer advice or answer any questions that I can, related to the profession.

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Laura Perenic

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. 

Laura Perenic completed the original survey in 2014 and her answers appeared as It is hard to imagine all the form completing and hoop jumping I have been doing really results in finding quality staff. We followed up with her in 2016 and learned that her job hunt (while unemployed) lasted four months and resulted in full time work in Children and Youth Services.  

I was really fascinated to learn she is no longer working in libraries! Laura has found a new career that seems really fulfilling – massage therapy. She works from a home studio in Springfield, Ohio (more info on Facebook) and also at Knot Your Average Massage in Bellbrook, Ohio with (more info here).

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?

After 15+ yrs in public libraries, I went back to school for massage therapy and I now work in a massage studio 4 days a week. Massage school in Ohio was an 11-month part-time program that earned an associate degree.  Since school, I have also taken extra training to learn a variety of other skills such as therapeutic cupping and Thai-style massage.   I am an independent contractor which means I have a higher degree of freedom in my work than I would as an employee.  I also had to learn about how taxes are different for my work.  I now use a CPA instead of turbo tax because financially this job makes things a bit more complicated.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

After investing in an MLS and trying so many jobs under the framework of youth services I really thought I would never leave.  I began to find that a 5 day work week was too much for me and now have a totally different profession that’s somehow harder on my body but easier on my mind.   While I was in massage school I worked part-time at another library as a clerk instead of a librarian. This was a really nice downshift since I did very little programming.   It was easier than I expected to finally walk away from libraries after graduation since I had in effect been weaning myself off the work for a year. 

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

In reading my old answers my frustration is so plain.  I wonder if that came across as desperation in interviews.  I should have realized that my fixation on only working in a library was holding me back. 

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

Yes, I hire people like I buy umbrellas; one to use and one to lose.  I always assume at least one good applicant won’t make it through the month and purposely overhire.  

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

I think you can be broader in your thinking of where and how your skills apply.  Being a librarian and working a public desk gave me a great customer service background that makes me a better massage therapist.  I think I have better than average communication skills and while I hate making phone calls in my persoanl life I have good phone etique from working the children’s desk for so long. 

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

Stop asking people to do more with less.

Anything else you’d like to tell us? 

Don’t discount your intuition.  I looked at a massage school while unemployed years before I actually went to school. I didn’t trust myself and  I went back to libraries instead of giving myself a clean slate.  I ended up in a job that didn’t value my mental health or job satisfaction.   For me library work was great until it wasn’t and honestly, I’m grateful that I got out of the profession before the pandemic. 

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Maria Lin

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. 

Maria Lin completed the original survey in 2013 and her answers appeared as Hire for work ethic first, past achievement second. We followed up with her in 2014 and learned she had found a job about a year after she started looking. Then we checked in again in 2016 and learned she was still in that job, with increased responsibilities and having had the chance to do some exciting professional development, such as attending the international antiquarian book fair in Tokyo. 

She is still enjoying her career as a bookdealer, in that same job she had just found when we first followed up. She was kind enough to answer my questions below and to offer to answer your questions about the trade if you email her directly. You can also reach her on Tumblr or possibly via her little used Twitter account, @squeerocks.


Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

I am still working as a bookdealer. I ended up in this position because I was frustrated with the lack of engagement with actual books in my LIS program, and was met with complete silence from all of the libraries that I was applying to in the leadup to my graduation. I had already attended the Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS) (full disclosure: I now work for the Seminar) and had been doing part-time work in the trade while a student, so when a dealer offered me a job I thought it would be a good fit. I didn’t know if it would be a stop gap into the library world or not, but it turned out to be a great career all its own and I have just passed 9 years with the business.

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

I fully intended to be an archivist, but library school beat me down a bit and I realized that I had 0 tolerance for bureaucratic nonsense, which is not a good personal trait if you’re looking to work in institutions! Bookselling was always on my radar, and it became a good fall back for me. I wouldn’t call it unexpected since I was actively looking for options there but it wasn’t plan A. I didn’t expect to stay at the same job for so long though. I got lucky there.

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

If anything I’m more convinced that bookselling is a good career choice for library students who are looking for something different. A lot of booksellers were librarians or academics who wanted more independence or intellectual stimulation. And we need more people in the trade who are interested in many different types of books and collectors. There’s an active effort to make “rare books” more welcoming and a lot of training we get in library school is directly applicable. 

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

I typically don’t have a say in hiring, which happens rarely and on a temporary basis most of the time. Getting a job with a dealer is pretty hard actually because they are small firms who do not typically post listings. 

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

There are a number of orgs, like the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, and regional orgs that can help you announce your interest in a job. But rare booksellers generally have narrow margins and few can afford employees. The good news is this is a business that is easy to get into on your own, the bad news is it takes either great persistence or a lot of capital to make a killing at it. I also know of librarians who moonlight with booksellers to do research or cataloging projects. This is a possible avenue for either a side hustle or dipping a toe in for a later career change.

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

Post the salary. The degree doesn’t indicate competence one way or the other and I still think work ethic and attitude are the most important things.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Best of luck to my library land cousins!

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About a Decade Later: Former Job Hunter Amy Seto Forrester

Welcome to a new/old Hiring Librarians feature! From 2012-2016 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 doing a decade later. 

Amy Seto Forrester is our first check in. She completed the original survey in 2013 as she was preparing to graduate from Texas Woman’s University and her answers appeared as Creative Freedom/Independence. We followed up with her in December 2014 and learned she actually found her first librarian job about a month before she graduated! 

She is now in her second librarian job, and is supervising and hiring new library workers. She was kind enough to answer the questions below, but you can also learn a lot more about her work as a youth services supervisor, author, and advocate for diverse and engaging children’s books at https://www.amysetoforrester.com/.


Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take to get where you are?

I’m currently a youth services supervisor at Eugene Public Library (OR), a job I’ve had for a year now. I co-supervise a team of 12 library staff (librarians and library assistants) for our downtown location, including two separate spaces: a children’s center and a teen center. We serve youth 0-19 years old and the grown ups in their lives. I also oversee youth programming system-wide, coordinate Summer Reading, select early readers, and am currently coordinating several communal recruitments. Prior to this position, I was a children’s librarian at Denver Public Library (CO) for 8 years. My experience leading large system-wide projects, digging into new reader research, developing programs, doing outreach to schools, and taking part in EDI work laid the foundation for my current job. Additionally, the spaces and demographics are quite similar (large, downtown libraries serving a wide range of needs, including those of many experiencing housing instability and other factors). 

Were any parts of your journey completely unexpected?

Up until 2 years ago I didn’t even want to be a supervisor! But I gradually realized that I not only had the skills to do the job, I also had the drive to be at decision-making tables because I wanted to advocate for youth, especially BIPOC and marginalized youth, and youth farthest from educational justice. Even though I had an amazing supervisor who advocated a lot, I was becoming frustrated by the confines of my position. I was also rather bored and needed more challenges in my work. 

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

I’ve hired for 4 positions in the past year and am currently in the process of hiring 3 more for my department as part of 2 communal recruitments that will ultimately fill 9 positions across our system. The process is fascinating and hopeful and also sometimes very discouraging. Libraries and HR depts are built on white supremacist structures and it can be difficult to dismantle those structures and systemic barriers while also trying to hire staff in a timely fashion, especially in the current hiring landscape. If we don’t move fast enough, we lose candidates, but at the same time urgency is the enemy of EDI work. That said, I’m proud of the work I’ve done to make current systems more equitable, such as changing what we’re looking for/scoring for on supplemental application questions and interview questions, eliminating cover letters and resumes, and pushing to standardize having interview questions sent to candidates ahead of time. 

Do you have any advice for job hunters?

Do your research! Read the job posting and pull out key words and themes, explore the library’s website, look at their social media, if you’re in the area visit the library to get a feel for it, ask your library connections what they know. Then use all this research to inform how you write your cover letter, and answer application and interview questions. 

Connect the dots. People doing the hiring look at a lot of applications, we do our best, but we’re not always good at seeing how your experience/skills/passions can be directly applied to the position we’re hiring for. So it’s in your best interest to connect the dots so we can’t avoid seeing how awesome you’d be at the job. 

Experience counts. Don’t be afraid to highlight your non-library experience, in fact, it can often work in your favor! Part of connecting the dots is showing how your life/work experience applies to the position. Again, connect those dots!

Use your time well. This can go both directions. Don’t say so much for each answer that you water down your message, but at the same time your answer should be more than a couple of sentences. Many interview panels are not allowed to ask follow up questions in an effort to ensure an equitable hiring process. Don’t assume we’ll ask for more. 

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

Send the questions in advance. I’ve seen this make a huge difference for candidates because they’re able to process and develop solid answers that give you better insight then off the cuff answers. Also, don’t send them 2 hours in advance (this has happened to me!), give them at least 24 hours or even better, a few days. 

Consider who you’re centering in the wording of your questions, especially EDI questions. Could a question be potentially hooking/triggering for BIPOC and/or marginalized candidates? How might you reword a question to allow candidates to answer authentically? 

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

As someone who identifies as mixed race Chinese American, I want to acknowledge that there are additional concerns for BIPOC and/or marginalized candidates during the hiring process. I encourage you to ask the hiring panel questions about how the library system, as well as your prospective supervisor and their team view EDI work and what support for BIPOC and/or marginalized staff actually looks like. I also want to acknowledge that libraries are built on white supremacist structures and while some libraries/staff have done more work dismantling these structures, the structures continue to exist. There’s no magical utopian library system that I know of (if you find it, let me know!). That said, if your alarm bells are ringing at an interview, first day of work, or anywhere in your career, take note. Take care of yourself, advocate for yourself, and protect yourself (these are not always the same thing). Find your support systems (affinity groups, national orgs, allies within/beyond your system, etc.) and lean on them. I can’t promise your library will be a brave space for you, but I can promise that there are many of us fighting to carve out brave spaces and to invite others in so those spaces can expand. 

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Job Hunter Follow Up: Laura Perenic

We last heard from Laura Perenic on December 26, 2014, in the post titled,  It is hard to imagine all the form completing and hoop jumping I have been doing really results in finding quality staff.

Where are you now? What’s your work situation like, and what path did you take this last year?

I have been employed full-time since April 2015 after four months of unemployment. I work as the Children’s and Teen Services Librarian at the main branch of the Clark County Public Library in Springfield, Ohio. My work situation contains a variety of tasks and responsibilities. I have many opportunities to collaborate with co-workers and the public we serve. I plan and implement numerous programs for children, teens and families. I also provide outreach in the community. I am dedicated to youth services. The percentage of time I focus on kids or teens can change but I don’t see a time where I won’t be involved with the needs of the 18-and-under crowd.

Looking at last year’s answers, have any of your attitudes changed?

I was able to get through my unemployment with minimal harm to my career. When I read over my previous answers I feel frustrated that my experiences did not better equip me to help those who are currently unemployed. I feel more sad and jaded about the job hunting process. I see myself as having many desirable qualities that would make me an asset to an employer and it still took months to find a suitable job. As someone who still cannot get management experience in my chosen field, I wonder how newly minted librarians will ever break into the workforce if we hold their lack of library experience against them? I’ve seen quite a few cruelly funny memes indicating that to get a library job you need an Olympic medal. For those trying to land or change library jobs this black humor is all too accurate.

What’s your best advice for job hunters?

My best advice for the unemployed is to treat your helpful friends and family, who often have job advice that isn’t practical, as if they are offering you an opportunity to practice your elevator speech. Rehearse your answers to questions such as: Why are libraries relevant? Why are you relevant? Convince those around you of your value and worth. Sell yourself at every turn. This will allow you to interview with extreme confidence. In the really dark times, when your ego cannot take one more rejection letter, you can remind yourself what you are fighting for. Being unemployed was one the hardest things I’ve ever survived and I wouldn’t wish it on most people.

Anything else you want to share with us?

My job hunt showed that networking was the best tool I had. Surround yourself with people of all skills set as if they are your office. Create a team that cannot and will not let you down. You are going to need them and someday they might need you. Don’t do this alone. Take time to craft an online footprint that will attract employers to you. Also take time for yourself. I had to remind myself to stop job hunting sometimes. Running was the best, free activity I had and it was also the most enjoyable part of my day.

If readers ask questions in the comments section, Laura is willing to answer them.

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