Category Archives: Topical Series

Reader Response Requested: The Tattooed Librarian Part III

This is part of the Topical Series: Interviewing while Tattooed.
I did a last minute call asking for people who Interview While Tattooed to get in touch with me.  I asked:

How tattooed are you? What types of libraries have you interviewed at? Did you cover your tattoos?
April Tattoo 1I have three tattoos. two of which are easily covered by normal work clothing. The third is a small tattoo on my inner wrist. I do not cover that one up (and I am going to be getting more tattoos soon).
April Tattoo 2
On library type: Law and Academic.
I am currently a Legal Librarian at a Law Firm in Los Angeles.
On covering tattoos: Not the wrist one. The other ones I do most of the time. I cover them because normal clothing covers them, not because the firm does not allow the exposure of tattoos.
– April, a Legal Librarian, Los Angeles, California
Amanda 1
I have tattoos on the inside of both wrists, and a large tattoo (the start of a half-sleeve) on my upper right arm.
Amanda Tattoo 2
I have interviewed and worked in public libraries.
On covering tattoos: I did not intentionally cover my tattoos, although long sleeves usually cover my larger tattoo. However the wrist tattoos are visible and I’m sure did not go unnoticed. My thinking was that if I covered the tattoos for my interview, I may have to cover them for my job and that wasn’t something I was willing to do. If the tattoos were going to be a dealbreaker, then it was better to know sooner rather than later.
Amanda Viana, Information Services Librarian (and as of July 1, Assistant Director), Norton Public Library in Norton, MA; Head Editor of INALJ MA
Claire tattoo 1I have two fairly large pieces, one on my back and one on my upper right arm. 
Claire tattoo 2
So far, I’ve interviewed at special libraries.
On covering tattoos: Yes, but not necessarily purposefully. The piece on my back is covered most of the time by clothing anyway, and I usually wear a suit to interviews, which covers the tattoo on my arm. That being said, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to show them off at an interview.
-Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey
Aliqae2I would consider myself to be heavily tattooed. That is, I have tattoos on my lower and upper arms, chest, and legs. To fully cover them all, I would have to wear a long-sleeved, crewneck shirt and long pants.
I have interviewed at public, academic, and special libraries, as well as archives.
On covering tattoos:  Yes. Always. I have a wrist tattoo that is difficult to cover, but I wear a bracelet or a watch when interviewing. I don’t worry about tattoos peeking out. I don’t hide that I have them on social media or at conferences. I consider my tattoos part of my personal life, much like my family or my hobbies, so I prefer to de-emphasize their presence in interviews (and on the job, if necessary) in order to focus on communicating my skills, experience, and ideas.

 – Aliqae Geraci, ILR Research Librarian, Martin P. Catherwood Library, ILR School, Cornell University

Amy Tattoo1 I have a half sleeve on my let arm and a few more medium-sized tattoos on the lower half of that arm. I have a large dewey call number tattooed on my left clavicle/shoulder and another medium sized tattoo on my right forearm. Most of the rest of my ink is on my back, so that wouldn’t really be visible either way.
I have really only interviewed at academic libraries (and honestly, they were both fine art focused, if that makes a difference).
I wore a suit to those interviews, so yes, my tattoos were covered. I have more recently been worried about my lip piercing and have considered taking it out for interviews.
Other thoughts: I have much more work planned, but I’m waiting to get hired into that precious first position. I realize I may not be as tattooed as others, sometimes I feel like I blend in at an art school library, but otherwise, I worry I stick out like a sore thumb.
– Amy Wainwright, Access Services Assistant, Columbia College Chicago

I have six tattoos: three on my left forearm down to my wrist, two on my back, and one on my hip.The arm tatts are flowers, names, and vines honoring my family. The back tatts are a largish cat and moon on my left and right shoulder blades, respectively. The one on my hip is a coffee mug with a kitten pattern on it. I’m planning to have two more tattoos done on my left upper arm in the immediate future, which would bring me up to a full sleeve.

I have only interviewed for professional work at academic libraries. That is my area of interest; it took me ten months and three on-campus interviews to find a job. I have interviewed and successfully been hired for para-professional public library jobs in the past.

I did cover my tattoos for my on-campus interviews. In fact, I designed my artwork on my arm so it could be concealed by a blazer. While my advisor said that I should only work in an environment that would accept my tattoos, I decided to play it conservatively. First, some academic libraries can be formal, and it is not necessarily reflected by their org chart, website, or the institution’s reputation. Second, some people do have unconscious biases against tattoos. I thought it would be better to give prospective employers the opportunity to be open-minded and gracious after they already had a good impression. They don’t know that they are okay with ink until they know someone with ink. “We love New Employee! And she’s covered in tattoos!”

After I was hired, I asked if I could have visible tattoos on the job. I can, and I’m glad for it. I work in a sub-tropical climate, so short sleeved shirts or slightly sheer layers are necessary in the summer. To the best of my knowledge, no one has given my tattoos as second thought.

Liz Scibrarian, blogging on librarianship, science, and science librarianship

I have one small tattoo, 5 medium sized tattoos, and one large tattoo. They are on my back, upper arms/shoulders, chest, and calf.

I have only interviewed at two libraries – and got jobs at both. The first was an arts college in an urban area. The second (my current employer) was a small, liberal arts college in a suburban-rural setting. My current job is as an arts librarian.

On covering tattoos: Yes, and I cover as much as I can daily. For my interviews I wore the same outfit – the only business suit I own (pencil skirt, fitted jacket). I wore grey tights and a high neckline. In both cases I used the interview to assess the attitude and dress code of the library staff. In both cases, they were very open-minded and no dress code enforced (other than the basic rules we hope adults adhere to without formal policy). I’ve been fortunate in both jobs; if I interviewed at a library that required business dress or seemed very socially conservative, I’d probably be wondering if I wanted to work there anyway, regardless of tattoos.

Even though my current employer has no strict dress code (I wear jeans most days, with a nice button-down or other blouse), I try to cover my tattoos. I have been told that it’s ok that I have them and that I can “get away with it” because I’m in the arts, but I’ve found talk of social acceptance disappears when actually confronted with a tattooed person. The drawback to covering up all the time? When a coworker finally finds out I have tattoos, they seem to feel I haven’t been honest which can lead to trust issues (it’s minor, but it’s there).
-Anonymous

I have four tattoos. One on my left foot, left hip, right rib cage, and middle on my upper back(between shoulder blades, but slightly higher.)

I’ve interviewed at two public libraries.

I covered my tattoos for both interviews. The first one, I asked about their policy on tattoos during the interview. I had noticed a few visible tattoos and piercings on a few of the workers there before my interview, so I felt more comfortable bringing it up. The second interview I did not ask, because I knew the library was in a more conservative area. Once I started work, I realized that one of the workers had multiple visible tattoos and an eyebrow ring, and the teen librarian had partially purple hair, so I didn’t really ever ask if it was okay, just kind of followed the lead.
– Ashley Jones, Librarian Assistant, Saline County Library, Bryant, AR

Lisa 1I am primarily tattooed on my back and shoulders. I also have a large piece on my upper arm, and small pieces on each foot. Basically if I had a t-shirt, jeans, and trainers on, you’d never know I had ink.

Lisa 2

On library type: Public, academic, private, non-profit, and museum libraries and archives.

Most of my ink is located on parts of my body that would be covered by the sort of clothing that I feel is appropriate for interview situations. The only tattoos that I have that could be seen in my normal interview attire are on my feet. These are generally covered by the bottoms of my pants or nylons, though I haven’t taken any further steps to conceal them (band-aids, cover-up, etc.). If someone was spending enough time studying my feet to actually notice my ink, I’d be more worried about how creepy that was and would wonder whether or not I’d want that person as my boss.

– Lisa L., Local history specialist at a public library, and administrator of the tumblr Tattooed Librarians & Archivists

ElinorI am very tattooed–I have half sleeves and a scattering of other large tattoos in other places. I also have large gauge ear piercings and a few facial piercings.

I have only interviewed at public libraries, though I have interviewed for both rural and urban positions.

Covering my tattoos depends entirely on the weather and the seniority of the position I am applying for. At the height of summer I applied to be the manager of a small rural library, so I wore a stylish grey short-sleeved belted jacket over a black camisole, with matching grey and black striped pants, and black square-toed boots. I wore elegant understated jewellery in my ears. My arm tattoos were visible, as were my nose piercings and labret. For my most recent interview it was February, and it was a supervisory position in a large urban library. I wore black slacks and blazer, a pinstriped button down shirt, and my shiny pink metallic Doc Martens. My tattoos were not visible, but I also knew from interviewing with that particular organization before that it didn’t matter if they were. They already have numerous tattooed employees at their branches. When I go to work, I can pretty much wear what I want, and have had nothing but positive feedback from coworkers, management and patrons.

Elinor Crosby, INALJ.com Nova Scotia editor

dawn_tattoo_11I am really tattooed 🙂 I have half sleeves, a chest piece, a giant tattoo on the back of my neck, wrist tattoos, back tattoos, several on my legs and ankles.  (I am attaching pictures to this email. Let me know if you need any more).

I have worked at a public library, a big-ten university library, and now a small liberal arts college. Before I landed my current position, I applied at public and academic libraries. Both appeal to me for different reasons so I would have been happy at either one. My only requirement was that the job be in Massachusetts near Boston because that is where my husband and I wanted to live.
Dawn-neckI did cover my tattoos for my interviews. Not because I am ashamed of them but because I understand that people judge. I own a tattoo shop in Indiana with my husband, who is a tattoo artist. We have been in the industry from a business side for 12 years so I have seen all walks of life come through the doors for tattoos. Even today in 2013, there are judgements made on those of us who are tattooed and definitely towards those of us who are heavily tattooed. I chose to cover my work because I wanted my future colleagues to see me for me. To see me for the skills I have to offer, the talent I possess, the creativity and enthusiasm I have for the library profession. I did not want my tattoos to be the focal point for I am so much more than my artwork. When I get tattooed, I am always consciously placing them on areas of my body that can be easily covered. The neck tattoo, for example, cannot be seen when I wear my hair down. My wrists tattoos are the only ones that are visible and that is because I tend to talk with my hands. There is nothing I can really do about that. I figure if those little tattoos keep me from getting the job then it was not the right job for me anyway.
I, of course, would talk about my tattoos in an interview if someone asked. But I never go out of my way to draw attention to them. I also do not say what my husband does for a living. Again, I know the assumptions made about tattoo artists and the lifestyle. Instead I say he is an artist. It’s not a lie. In terms of showing off my artwork, I usually wait until people get to know me and I have seen and experienced the particular culture of the place I am working. I have never experienced any negative reactions to my tattoos in any of the places I have worked. I know that some people are definitely put off by them and that’s fine. As long as someone is not rude about it, I respect their wish to NOT be tattooed. I also think about my tattoos when I go to professional conferences and the like. Usually my tattoos are covered, again so that people see me. My social media accounts however showcase my artwork so those who follow me online are already aware of my tattoos. It is their prerogative to approach me or not.
Dawn Stahura, Research and Instruction Librarian, Wellesley College.

Sara leg frontI’m not super tattooed but I do have a few visible tattoos. I plan on getting a full sleeve in the future and extending my leg pieces. I have two thigh tattoos that cover almost the entire thigh, a calf tattoo, a small shoulder tattoo, small wrist tattoos, and two hip tattoos. I don’t worry about the hip ones because they are covered regardless.

sara 1I have interviewed at a corporate library, public library, and a membership library (Boston Athenaeum) I currently work at the Boston Athenaeum and a public library. I was offered the position at a corporate library but turned it down.
On covering tattoos: Yes, my interview outfit is a black pencil skirt, tights, blouse, and sometimes a sweater. After starting at a job, I ask what their tattoo policy is and generally I don’t have a problem with showing my tattoos. I would rather cover my tattoos then jeopardize my chances of getting a job. I feel like I interview well and don’t want the interviewers to think less of me because of my tattoos.  sara 3
– Sara, Digital Programs department, Boston Athenaeum.
Sara’s Note: We are in the process of digitizing a large amount of the Athenaeum’s collections. It was only started about a year ago so we are a work in progress, but here is what we have so far if anyone is interested: http://cdm.bostonathenaeum.org/

Now I want to hear from you!

If you want to show us your ink, you should be able to post html in the comments, or you can email a picture to me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thanks for reading and responding!

Read the other two posts in this series here and here

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Filed under Further Answers, Interviewing while Tattooed

Stats and Graphs: The Tattooed Librarian Part II

It’s Staturday!

Today I’m continuing our discussion on Interviewing While Tattooed.

Of 237 responses to the What to Wear survey, 27 indicated that their library (or organization’s) dress code specifically forbade Visible Tattoos.  These respondents included people from all response categories for library type, region, and area type. 20 of the free responses specifically mentioned tattoos, most either to explain that they did not matter as long as the candidate was neat, clean, and professional, or to say that they were a negative.  Only 4 of those 20 mentions also had a dress code that forbade visible tattoos.

So 43, or 18.14% of responses, mentioned tattoos, either by ticking the box indicating their library forbade it’s employees to have visible tattoos, or by discussing them in a free response.

I’m going to quote below all of the free responses that include a mention of tattoos.  The ellipse indicates that the following is the same subject’s response to a different question.

I don’t think professionals (or people who wish to be taken seriously in a job interview) wear nose rings or other facial piercings, visible tattoos, large gauge ear jewelry, crazy hair colors, etc.  If you’re applying for a job at Hot Topic or your local tattoo place – any of those would be acceptable; but they are not appropriate for a library (or most other jobs).

Unless it’s completely, insanely over the top, I don’t judge much on fashion. Some of the most brilliant people I know are the worst dressers or have large tattoos or multiple earrings, etc.. While I don’t expect people to cover all that up, I do expect that when they come to a job interview, they are well-groomed and their clothes are neat, and I do expect that they dress, at a minimum, business casual. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for someone to thrown on a pair of khakis and iron their shirt. They can be a slob once they get the job.

Given the fact that we’re an academic library at a fairly conservative university, obvious tattoos and body piercings would most likely be an issue.  Professional attire would be expected.

The biggest thing is that it would be an indicator of how much homework they’ve done to see who we are.  I don’t think any of the items listed in this survey would be an indicator of ability to do a job or not do a job, neither do I think they indicate quality of character.  In our particular library, though, showing up with super casual dress and tats and piercings would show me that they hadn’t been interested enough in the position to learn about their potential place of employment.  Though some of us are personally much more liberal than our environment, when we’re here we respect the tone of the university overall.

[listing dealbreakers] Visible tattoos of any type.  Piercings of any type.  Really low scoop neck top.  A t-shirt.  Flip flops.  Most show disregard or disrespect.

Clothing can be a distraction and candidates should be aware of that. While the ideal is a place that looks beyond clothing and hair, this is often the first thing people will notice and candidates need to be aware of how they present themselves. Sometimes a less-than-ideal appearance isn’t important when a candidate has other excellent points for them such as a stellar presentation. Also, in some places, a candidate with wildly colored hair, tattoos, and facial piercings may fit right in with the culture. All of this depends on the overall culture of the place where the candidate is interviewing.

Depends on the position and branch location.  Someone with multicolored hair, and lots of tatts and piercings may not be a good fit for a rural branch, but would be unnoticed at our main urban branch.

no no no stilettos – heels are great but not stripper or clubbing shoes please!
take out facial piercings (nose, lips, eyebrows) for an interview.
lowcut or unbuttoned shirts that reveal tattoos are not for interviews. If you have ink on your legs wear opaque tights.

It really depends on the workplace – if you have time, check out the library and see what staff are wearing, and aim for a step or two above that level or formality. When in doubt, go more formal – you can always ditch the jacket/cardigan/ironic pearls once you’re there.

Don’t assume that because you’re interviewing for a children’s or a teen position you can throw formality out the window – yes, there is more latitude, but that’s not without limits.

Visible tattoos, facial piercings, etc., are not dealbreakers, but the interview is your chance to show folks (some of whom are going to be uncomfortable with such things) how “normal” you can present, and you should treat it as such.

I dont’ really care what people wear, but I want people to meet a minimum standard of cleanliness and neatness–plenty of people can do this with multiple piercings. And tattoos–you didn’t ask about those.

While I don’t care, I DO appreciate an outfit that isn’t over the top but that does show personality. There are people who manage to convey something about themselves without demanding that all of the attention be on them.

 The more the tattoos and piercings the more important to dress very professionally.

I cannot stand looking at people with piercings anywhere other than small earpiercings (no gauges).  I would never hire someone with a nose ring, eyebrow ring, and especially not a pierced tongue.   I am also very turned off by tattoos although I know a lot of professionals have them.  I hope they have the sense to cover them up for interviews, though.

I work in a corporate environment with a pretty formal dress code. If a candidate wears something too informal, it signals to me that he or she doesn’t understand the nuances of corporate versus nonprofit culture.

However, at my company we value a diverse workforce. This means I am not picky about people who may have piercings, dyed hair, tattoos, etc. Dressing formally is not at odds with this, in my opinion.

It’s not so much what they wear as how they present themselves. If you wear a suit but it’s rather sloppy, I’d rather see you in something a little less formal that you can pull off and feel confident wearing. I work at a state university but in a liberal town, so we’re more accepting of colored hair, piercings, and tattoos BUT, in general, it’s a good idea to tone it down just a little when interviewing.

I like to see someone who is dressed like they’re ready to work. Look clean, neat and show some of your personality. While I personally, don’t mind pink hair, piercings and tattoos, I have to think of our library user base who just might have an issue with trying to interact with a staff member who may seem “distracting” or “unprofessional.” I myself have 5 tattoos, none of which were seen my first few years at my current library. Over time, once people grew to know me and learned about my skills and professionalism, some of the tattoos started to be shown. Now, as Head Librarian, they will all be shown on an unusually hot day. BUT, they will still never appear in front of Trustees, Donors, etc…Be yourself, but you have to be realistic too!

Too MUCH Cleavage! One young, new librarian showed up at an interview with about 5″ of cleavage hanging out…I mean it was horrifying as I kept waiting for one to pop out of her too tight shirt.

Open toe sandals are a deal breaker for me as are flip flops and goes without saying jeans (though I’ve seen them worn). And anything showing off the candidates tattoos – these are too distracting during an interview.

Too casual – t-shirt and shorts. I would perceive a woman wearing a low cut blouse as trying to use sex appeal to get the job (I’m female, by the way).  Anything that is distracting around the face – noticeable tattoos, big, noisy, earrings, facial jewelry, such as tongue or cheek piercings would negatively influence my perception of them, even if they interviewed well. But it might be my age (47) and general conservative attitude towards dress.

Dirty, stained clothes would be a deal breaker.  Also, anything too odd or unusual.  I once interviewed a woman who wore a hat with a fake bird nest (complete with rumpled bird) on it.  I couldn’t hear a thing she said because the hat distracted me so much!  On the other hand, one of the best teen services librarians I ever hired came complete with a nose ring and  an “I ❤ the Dewey Decimal System” tattoo.  Personality makes all the difference!

My tattooed teen services librarian really nailed the interview.  He came full of enthusiasm and ideas about ways to interest teens in the library. It was clear he had thought about the job and really wanted to reach teens. He was respectful but energetic at the same time.  Just a dynamo!

Prefer that job candidates don’t have visible tattoos or piercings other than for earrings.
Too short skirts or too much cleavage revealed is a no-no. No flip flops or short shorts.
For men–no sandals.
Something dressier than jeans or t-shirts for both sexes.
No hats or caps during the interview.

extreme piercings or tattoos put me off

Neutral colors, usually all black, dress shirt and slacks, with a nice shoe. I have a nose ring, an eyebrow ring, gauged ears and tattoos in visible places, which I do not hide during the interview. I’ve learned the hard way that if someone is going to judge me based on my appearance, rather than on my work experience, talents, passions, and performance, then I’d rather not work for those kinds of people/ organizations anyway.

The questions seem more geared toward what women and alternative-type people would wear.
Is there the same concern over someone showing up to an interview wearing the traditional garb of a hasidic jew, the headdress of a hindi sikh, the muslim woman’s hijab, a male’s sarong, dhoti, chola, caftan, kanga or lungi skirt, the traditional facial piercings still found in India, Persia and Thailand, the traditional ritual facial scarification patterns or tooth modifications of sub-Saharan African cultures, or the traditional tribal face tattoos of Polynesian islanders, as there is towards westerners with tattoos, body piercings, unusual hair styles or dress? If not, our attitudes about dress and appearance are very likely discriminatory.

Since only a few select candidates are ever invited to an in-person interview, we expect them to be professionally dressed. I doubt anyone would be eliminated from the pool based on outfit alone, but t-shirts, jeans, visible tattoos, multiple piercings, etc would not go over well.

showing tats, inappropriate outfits suited to leisure @ home or weekend picnics. Professional and business professional is the rule for interviews, always!

Tune in tomorrow, when I’ll be polling YOU the reader about your tattoos and tattoo behavior.

The other two posts in this series are here and here.  One of those links will not be live until 06/23/2013 at 8AM.

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Filed under Interviewing while Tattooed, Stats and Graphs

Further Questions: The Tattooed Librarian

This week I have another question inspired by a reader.  This is part of a topical series on Interviewing while Tattooed. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink?  Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone?  How tattooed is too tattooed?

Emilie SmartArm and leg tattoos would go unnoticed in an interview.  Facial tattoos would be a problem though.  Our current policy doesn’t allow jewelry in facial piercings so I don’t see facial tattoos (especially large ones) going over here (a southern public library) unless the job was not in public services.

If a candidate is concerned that their tatts might negatively influence an interview outcome, then they should cover them up as best they can.

– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

I like people to dress like and be themselves.  Clearly we aren’t a buttoned-down place.  My hesitation in this:  if the tattoos displayed would be inappropriate for children to see (nudity, inappropriate language, like that). In that case, we would ask that those be kept covered while working in the children’s area.

In terms of how much ink is too much…if we think that kids will come in and be able to easily interact with the person beneath the ink, the candidate may make the cut.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Colleen HarrisAn interesting question – many of us at my current library have visible ink (sleeves, chest pieces that peek out of dress shirts, etc.) At my current and former institutions (all public university academic libraries), so this wasn’t an issue. (Full disclosure – I’m fully sleeved, and my hands are tattooed as well.)

When I have interviewed, I usually do so full suited or with a cardigan – folks can see the hand tattoos but I don’t put them out on display. When it’s warm, I have a tendency to push my sleeves up – I’m certain I do it in interviews, as well. I don’t advertise my ink, but I don’t actively hide it; I do try to dress to minimize its impact – in interviews, I want people to focus on what I am saying.  As I mentioned above, academic libraries in public universities have been very open to accepting tattoos on myself and colleagues. On the other hand, I was notified by a public library in a very diverse area that I would not be considered as a candidate because of visible ink, so your mileage can and will vary depending on where you apply.

As a hirer, I don’t mind what candidates do about their ink so long as they have a professional demeanor, and make an effort to be sure that it is themselves and their skills on display – I’m hiring for skill and growth potential, not to be inkshop buddies. That being said, my visible work is all pretty tame – it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and cover up naked ladies, penii, and other questionable/possibly-offensive images when interviewing, and checking the dress code, if posted, before applying.

As to whether candidates should hide their ink – that’s a personal decision. I usually figure if they’d cull me from the pool because of my ink, it’s likely not a place I would be comfortable working; on the other hand, if I were a children’s librarian, a face tattoo of a tarantula would make it more likely I’d use some serious cover-up so as not to scare the little ones. In short, folks should do serious research as to the cultural flavor of a workplace before deciding to hide – or flaunt – their art, and make sure their skills outshine their ink.

Would any tattoos make me think twice about hiring someone? Well, we’re a heavily public-service oriented library, so racist tattoos would definitely give me pause since we’re here to make our users as comfortable as possible. Aside from that? Probably not.

-Colleen Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library

My personal feeling is that tattoos are okay but to a limited extent. I think that they fine if they are small and/or are not obviously visible. I don’t think that tattoos are professional looking so if a person had them all over their arms, legs, neck, etc, it would make me think twice about hiring that person, not because I didn’t think that the person was not capable or qualified to do the job but because, unfortunately, of the view of someone with a lot  of tattoos has in our society.  Perhaps in certain types of libraries  it would not be an issue, but I believe that in some academic libraries it would not portray a professional image, in the same that dressing slovenly would be viewed negatively. Just my two cents.

– Anonymous

Cathi AllowayI am on the fence about tattoos, and can tell you that I am aware of a great range of policies regarding them.  In general, it is reasonable for every library to establish what is needed for each situation.
Community standards and environment play a big role in the tolerance level for appearance.  When a library needs to improve its reputation for credibility, reliability, and competence, then a “classic look” for employees may be warranted, especially in a more conservative community where customers and donors value conformity and a professional image.   In other communities that have a high level of diversity and are more liberal, like my current community (a Big Ten college town), we can offer a more flexible dress code that allows tattoos.
An additional consideration regarding tattoos is the nature of the job and the career aspirations of the person.  Library managers need the full business look for presentations, fundraising, networking, and special events.  Although I can’t exactly define “too tattooed”, a large amount of visible  ink may be an impediment to achievement.  I personally enjoy, but do not have, body art, but would have to tell a manager with a lot of tattoos that they may be expected to cover them for certain activities.
An illustration of this:   I once had a meeting with potential donors who quite openly appeared to be evaluating my appearance as I met them at a restaurant to discuss donations. I later received feedback that they wanted to give to a charity that “met their expectations” – and some of them gave.  I wore a moderately priced department store suit that contrasted with their designer clothes, but I guess the fake pearls worked anyway!  Appearance counts, while self-expression through body art and dress are important outlets for many of us.  Hopefully libraries will be open-minded and job applicants considerate of the wide range of public opinions they can encounter with a full body set of tattoos.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

What a great question!   My workplace does not have anything that says tattoos must be covered,  and I personally have nothing against them.

I recently hired an employee who interviewed in an outfit that hid his full-sleeve tattoo.  Seeing the tattoo would not have made a difference in my hiring decision, but I would have appreciated it if he would have let it peak out a little bit, or at least mentioned it.  It’s kind of like hiring an employee and having them show up the first day with a different, shocking dyed color of hair.  It was a bit of a surprise when I first saw it, is all.  It would also be to a prospective employee’s benefit to discover if the new workplace had anything stating tattoos must be covered: can you always work in full sleeves?

Any tattoo is tattooed; the only “too tattooed” or tattoo that would make me reconsider hiring  for the types of positions I supervise would be face/neck tattoos.  The rest of the body—the entire thing—is fair game.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian Neill Public Library

The short answer to the question of candidates with tattoos is, yes, they should hide their ink. For a job interview, I would always recommend covering up, which should not be too difficult since you would be dressed fairly conservative. I would encourage anyone considering a tattoo to be selective about where you put it since you will not know the policy of future employers.

The last two questions are tied together for me. How tattooed is too tattooed? Anything on the face, neck or hands would be too tattooed and would influence my hiring decision because those are areas that could never be covered up for formal presentations or meetings.

I am personally a tattooed librarian so this most likely affects my opinion on tattoos and the definition of what “too tattooed” is, but I am not on every search committee for my institution, others will have more conservative opinions.

When you do get a job offer, definitely ask what the policy is so you know if you can show off your “I heart Mom” tat!

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Toby Willis-CampAs a tattooed librarian (a frog above one ankle) with a very modified 20-something son, I know that one has tattoos and other modifications  for personal reasons.  However, the workplace is not always a place where one can simply let everything be on display.  It is not a personal affront to have to keep one’s tattoos and other modifications underwrap in the workplace.  Dark nylons or tights, long sleeves and modest necklines are useful tools for keeping the other side of your personality personal.  What I do and show when I am not at work is my business, not my employer’s.

This being said, prominent neck and facial tattoos are career-limiting in public service jobs. I don’t believe that this will ever change even with the openness around tattoos now.

As a former library director who had a “no butts, no boobs, no bellies” dress code policy, I think it is best to talk about these things when entering a new workplace.  Find out what the dress code includes and make it work for you. You may be working for a tight a$$, so be prepared to keep your art covered.  You might also be working for someone who has some modifications too, but knows when it’s the right time to have them on display.

– Toby Willis-Camp, a former Director of Libraries for a professional association 

Marleah AugustineTattoos don’t bother me – I have two myself, although they are not usually visible during work (although my next one likely will be). I don’t think candidates should try to hide visible tattoos during the job search / interview. That feels deceptive to me. I’d rather know they are inked up front (or at least not have something hidden and then suddenly see it on their first day at work). The only time I think I would think twice about it is if the tattoos are large and on the neck, or any tattoos on the face. I doubt I would have to worry about vulgar tattoos, but that would also give me pause.
About half of my part-time staff are tattooed, and only once in 5 years have I heard a patron comment about a tattoo in a negative manner (but I’ve heard several positive comments!).
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Ink is relative to location.  I personally don’t care, and my patrons don’t care.  In a smaller, more conservative, more rural library, everyone cared.  It was silly.  I hired and was hired anyway (I have what looks like very obvious piercings–I actually have none–but I always have worn the jewelry to interviews to see what comments might ensue).While hiring is supposed to be about skills, sometimes you have to worry about community fit.  I never have, and have never had problems.  If a candidate is worried–cover the tats.  The person will know soon enough if its an issue or not.
– Virginia Roberts, Director, Chippewa Falls Public Library

Manya ShorrWhen hiring, the most important thing to me is whether the staff person is approachable and neutral. Both of these things can be easily achieved even if the staff person is covered in tattoos. So no, tattoos have little to no impact on my hiring practices. That said, if an applicant (or staff person) has a tattoo that is political or controversial, I would ask them to cover it. We want to create an environment that is as neutral as possible, so that a patron feels comfortable asking any question of any staff person. Of course, this applies to clothing too and not just tattoos. Our latest dress code says, “Clothing or body art that can be reasonably seen as profane, political, or obscene is not to be visible.”

I remember having a conversation with my mom about 10 years ago about tattoos (I’m 38). She was convinced that the people in my generation who have tattoos would never be able to get jobs. I believed that the world would have to change to accommodate all the people with tattoos. I certainly saw more tattoos in Portland, OR than I do in Omaha, NE but even here, it’s commonplace for staff to have tattoos.

 – Manya Shorr, Assistant Director, Community Programs and Services, Omaha Public Library

Randall SchroederI have only one question from the other side of the table regarding tattoos or anything dealing with appearance. Does it affect approachability? If I am hiring you to be a public services librarian to work at a service desk, you can’t frighten the users away. On the other hand, if you work in the back, it probably isn’t that big of a deal. I want people to be comfortable at work but still be able to do their job. A librarian with great people skills and tattoos is still better than a curmudgeon with no skin decoration. Libraries are supposed to be an inclusive place.

This also works both ways on the fashion scale. I worked with a librarian who always wore a three piece pinstripe suit at the desk. The students wouldn’t talk to him either.

Personally, I have no issue with tattoos, but I cannot vouch for everybody on the hiring committee. It may even be a subconscious reaction. It depends on how important your personal style is compared to the job. The tattooed librarian may not want to work at a place where she or he is judged by skin art. In which case, show your glory within reason and taste.

If the job is really important, do your research. There may be a policy on appearance in some places, although that is increasingly rare. If not, what can you find out about the culture of the school? If you think it is an issue, cover until you get hired and then surprise them.

I have worked for a college where the tats would get a raised eyebrow from some of the staff. I have worked for a university where nobody would notice.

– Randall Schroeder, Director of Libraries, Archives and Media at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!When her muscles start relaxin’, up the hill comes Andrew Jackson. Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia. Oh Lydia The Queen of comment.

There will be two more posts in this series, which will go live on 6/22 and 6/23.  When live, links will be here and here.

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Filed under Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Interviewing while Tattooed, Public Services/Reference, Youth Services

Further Answers: Any other advice for someone preparing to be off work for a while?

This is the final post in a series of three about extended leaves of absence.

Here is what happened: a reader who is about to leave work due to the incipient arrival of twin babies wrote in to ask if people who hire librarians could give some advice to people in her situation.  I thought that this was the sort of thing where the experiences of people who had been in similar situations might be even more helpful, so I collected some respondents from various listservs and the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, and am now presenting them for your edification.

This week I asked people who had returned to work after a multi-year absence:

Any other advice for someone preparing to be off work for a while?

Kathy JarombekThe one thing that I wish I had done, which I didn’t do for financial reasons, was keep up my professional memberships when I was on leave. I would definitely do that if I had a “do-over” because I think it speaks to your professionalism to do so.

– Kathy Jarombek, Leave of six years.
Prior title: Department Head for Children’s Services, New Canaan;
Current title: Director of Youth Services and Member of the 2014 Newbery Committee, Perrot Memorial Library

Veronica Arellano DouglasI would advise anyone planning on taking some time off of librarianship to read! Our profession changes so quickly and the best thing you can do to prepare yourself for future employment is to stay up-to-date on library trends, practices and research.
– Veronica Arellano Douglas, Leave of two years.
Prior title: Psychology & Social Work Librarian at the University of Houston;
Current title: Reference & Instruction Librarian at St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Don’t discount the skills learned from being a stay at home parent. I feel that it has made me better at time management and juggling multiple responsibilities at work. Although I didn’t have prior work experience in doing storytime, having children was good preparation for my new role!
– Aimee Haley, Leave of three and a half years.
Prior title: Librarian (Public Library);
Current title: Librarian (Public Library)

Miriam Lang Budin I think it helps to remain active in the profession in some way while you are home raising children…even if you’re just going into libraries and schmoozing with librarians. And there are so many ways to stay involved through list-serves, chats, online courses, etc. Many more opportunities than were available back in the dark ages when I was staying home.

One of our children’s librarians is about to go on maternity leave and I tried to convince her to work for us just one night a week and/or one weekend a month, but she wasn’t interested. We would have held her job for her if she’d been able to do that, but now we’ll just have to say goodbye and good luck. I can certainly understand her not wanting to make the commitment to our library when she’s embarking on a demanding and unpredictable new chapter of her life, but I think it is a mistake if she wants to go back to work when her children are older. (Maybe she doesn’t want to…) I know I would be more interested in a prospective employee who found ways to keep her hand in. The job market is quite different than it was twenty-some years ago.
– Miriam Lang Budin, Leave of eleven years.
Prior title: Children’s Librarian, Larchmont Public Library;
Current title: Head of Children’s Services, Chappaqua Library

Cen Campbell

  • Maintain and expand your network. Visit a local library and make friends with people who are already working there. Tell them you’re a librarian and ask what’s going on in the library. Also maintain your old network, even if you think you won’t go back to your old library system. For me this meant keeping up with emails from the Eureka! Leadership Institute and keeping track of former colleagues on Linked In and Facebook.
  • Keep an eye on what professional organizations are doing. Follow listservs, attend networking events if you have flexibility with childcare, keep your membership up to date and flip through American Libraries orChildren and Libraries when they arrive.
  • Volunteer doing something you enjoy, even if it’s not directly related to your previous career (extra points for volunteering doing something that IS related, but it’s not necessary). You’ll do a better job, develop skills and probably get a good reference if you’re jazzed about what you’re doing.
  • Start an online presence. A good old-fashioned blog did it for me, but consider starting a group on Facebook in your area of interest, a Pinterest board, or Twitter account that you update regularly.
  • Serve on a committee or a board in a professional, service or non-profit organization. This can be library related or not. There are so many benefits to this; learn about board governance, network, develop programs or policy, work with other motivated individuals for a good cause etc. Meetings are often in the evening or virtual, and most boards or committees welcome new members.
  • Most importantly: DON’T ASSUME THAT A LIBRARIAN CAN ONLY WORK IN A LIBRARY. You may have to shift your expectations for what your ideal job is, but librarians skills are in high demand in many different places, especially in start-up land. Reach out to organizations who are working on products, services or tools in areas that you are interested in and ask to speak with them about what they’re doing. (I got a consulting gig that way! It works!)

– Cen Campbell, Leave of two years, and gradually adding more part-time projects bit by bit.
Prior title: Teen Services Coordinator/Youth Services Librarian, Stanislaus County Library;
Current title: Children’s Librarian/Digital Services Consultant, LittleeLit.com, Mountain View Library, Santa Clara County Library District

I think the main take away that I would pass along is to stay connected, stay in touch, maintain professional memberships, and do something while you are away.  In addition to the project and the leave replacement, I also wrote book reviews and volunteered in the library and classroom at my kids’ school, which were especially relevant given the position I left and returned to.  I would imagine staying connected is even easier today than it was then (pre ubiquitous Internet and email!).  And be open to opportunities or contacts that might seem tangential or not obviously super-relevant; you never know what can come of them.  Part time work evenings and weekends can help you keep your awareness and skills from getting too rusty, as does taking courses, or going to conferences.

– Ann Glannon, Leave of eight years.
Prior title: Curriculum Resources Librarian (college library);
Returned to work as: Curriculum Resources Librarian (college library) – same position

I would take complete advantage of all of the social networking media available to keep on top of trends and literature. But just by raising little kids yourself, you learn a LOT about kids—child development, different styles, different kinds of parenting, too. You will bring something new to the job by having that experience and paying attention.

– Susan Dove Lempke, Leave of ten years.
Prior title: Children’s Librarian I, Chicago Public Library
Current title: Assistant Library Director for Youth, Programming and Technology, Niles, IL

Jeanette LundgrenAny experience that can be used for a resume is valuable.  I volunteered in my children’s school library, helped run the book fair and became the webmaster for the PTO website.  I also kept my association membership active, that way I could kept abreast of what was happening in the field and stay connected.  There are some great professional blogs out there as well.

– Jeanette Lundgren, Leave of nine years from LIS (five spent working in the tech industry)
Prior to leaving LIS: Information Center Specialist, American Society of Training & Development (ASTD)
Re-Entry position: Reference Librarian, Hudson public library
Current title: Systems Librarian, Becker College

cara barlow

Volunteer in your community. Serving on town boards is a *wonderful* learning experience. If you’re taking time off to be with your children enjoy them! They are young for a very short time, but you can work your whole life.  At the end of the day no one ever says they wished they had worked more and spent less time with their children. Write if you can – it clarifies your thinking. Pursue what interests you and what you love.

– Cara Barlow, Leave of sixteen years
Prior title: State Aid Specialist, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
Current title: Supervisor, Music, Art & Media Department, Nashua Public Library

Keep up with the library world as you can, think about how activities you do while staying home can translate to the work place (organizational skills needed with kids, participating in public library events as a parent and selecting books as a parent–these are good if you want to go into/back into children’s services).
-Anonymous, leave of eighteen months and counting
Prior title: Evening Services Coordinator at a University Library

And as a bonus, here is some final advice from a person who hires librarians, Mac Elrod:
J. McRee Elrod

Subscribe to and read the e0lists in your field, e.g., for cataloguers Autocat, RDA-L, and Bibframe.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

I’d like to say thank you again to everyone above for sharing their stories, time, and insight.  If you’d like to share your own experience in the comments below, or your questions, they are open and waiting for you.

Thank YOU for reading!  

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Filed under Academic, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Answers, Public Services/Reference, Topical Series, Youth Services

Further Answers: What happened when you decided to return to the workforce?

This is a companion post to this week’s Further Questions, and the second post in a series of three about extended leaves of absence. Here is what happened: a reader who is about to leave work due to the incipient arrival of twin babies wrote in to ask if people who hire librarians could give some advice to people in her situation.  I thought that this was the sort of thing where the experiences of people who had been in similar situations might be even more helpful, so I collected some respondents from various listservs and the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, and am now presenting them for your edification.

This week I asked people who had returned to work after a multi-year absence:

What happened when you decided to return to the workforce? How did you frame your absence? How long did it take to get rehired? Was the position you found similar to the one you had before you left?

Kathy JarombekI had always planned to go back to work full time when my youngest entered Kindergarten but, when the time came, neither my husband nor I were quite willing to give up the family time that we enjoyed. But we couldn’t afford the status quo either, so in 2000 I approached the head of Youth Services at the Ferguson and asked if I could work there part-time on a more regular basis. Since by this time she knew my work from the subbing and the storytimes – and since I had left the library on good terms in 1986 – she was able to hire me for 19 hrs/week. I worked at Ferguson 3 days a week from 9 to 2:30 and one evening a week – the other two days I kept my storytelling job at the Perrot. This way, I was able to work and still meet my children’s bus in the afternoon. The Ferguson also agreed to give me the summers off (except for the evenings when my husband could be with the kids), since there are school librarians who are willing to work extra hours in the summer. As far as “framing my absence” – well, they all knew me so they knew why I had been out of the workforce. But they also knew that I was still interested in my library career because I made a real effort to keep up with library friends and with the latest developments and, most importantly, with the books – because knowledge of books is so crucial for a Children’s Librarian. And I could be wrong, but I don’t think librarianship is the kind of career where taking time off to have kids is viewed as a sign of lack of commitment.

In 2004, my husband and I could see that my working part-time wasn’t going to put two kids through college and that we really needed to get some medical benefits – since my husband was self-employed, we had been buying our own and the rates kept going up. But my kids were still in elementary school so I didn’t think I wanted to work year round in a public library. I made the decision to go back to school part-time and get an education degree – keeping my job at the Ferguson, but giving up my job at the Perrot. In 2006, I got my degree and immediately found work with the Greenwich Public Schools as a School Library Media Specialist, which is a shortage area here in Connecticut. Both the head of Youth Services at Perrot and at the Ferguson gave me recommendations. My kids were both now in middle school and we were all on the same schedule. Then in 2009, the Director of Youth Services job at Perrot became vacant and the director here asked me if I would come back and head the department. By now, my kids were in high school and so I said yes. So I am basically back doing the same job I did in New Canaan – heading up a small but vibrant Youth Services Department in Connecticut.

So how long did it take me to get rehired initially? Not long at all – I think because I really made an effort to keep my hand in and to keep up with all my contacts in the library world. I think that the people who hired me felt as if I never really left the field and that I still saw myself as a children’s librarian – just one who was on an extended leave. As for the rest, I kind of made it up as I went along, taking on new opportunities when I felt the time was right for me and for my family. When I applied for the school job, although I was an unknown quantity as a school media specialist, my supervisor at Perrot gave me a reference and she knew the woman who hired me well since the school job was in the same town as the Perrot.

– Kathy Jarombek, Leave of six years.
Prior title: Department Head for Children’s Services, New Canaan;
Current title: Director of Youth Services and Member of the 2014 Newbery Committee, Perrot Memorial Library

Veronica Arellano DouglasI left a continuing appointment-track academic librarian job in 2009 and ended up getting a tenure-track academic librarian job again in 2011. The job I ended up getting after my absence was with the same library where I worked part-time in circulation and reference, which I know helped move my application up the pipeline. The people who hired me knew that my work gap was related to my husband’s relocation, my pregnancy, and a period of bereavement leave, so I didn’t have to frame my absence from the profession at all.

It felt good to have a CV that maintained my professional involvement in ALA and ACRL during a period of employment inactivity.

– Veronica Arellano Douglas, Leave of two years.
Prior title: Psychology & Social Work Librarian at the University of Houston;
Current title: Reference & Instruction Librarian at St. Mary’s College of Maryland

I had not planned to leave the workforce when I had the baby, so I knew that I wanted to go back eventually. I was happy to spend those years at home, but as my son approached preschool age I began the job search. I returned to work as a part time librarian six months after the search began. I work in a public library and had several years of experience in public libraries before my absence.
– Aimee Haley, Leave of three and a half years.
Prior title: Librarian (Public Library);
Current title: Librarian (Public Library)

Miriam Lang BudinI actually was contacted by libraries to come back to work before I’d intended to return. The first attempt (when my oldest was 15 months) was not a success. I was hired for a part-time position, was the only children’s librarian in the library, had no full-time staff devoted to the children’s room and felt that I was doing a half-assed job at work and at home. I resigned after six months (and promptly came down with mono!).

A few years later I worked about one weekend a month as a substitute reference librarian. I think that’s a good tactic for getting back into the workforce, as it updates your familiarity with new technologies and with the collection of wherever you’re working, but doesn’t demand much in the way of program planning and execution, collection maintenance and development and the other day-to-day or long-range duties of a full-time librarian.

When my youngest had just turned five another library asked me to fill in for one of their children’s librarians who had a serious illness. They were so anxious for help that they let me bring my five-year-old with me for two months on the couple of afternoons a week they needed me to work until he could go to a full-day day camp. That was a highly unusual arrangement! I increased my hours when the summer began, but was still part-time with no benefits.

When the youngest started full-day kindergarten I applied for the first full-time children’s librarian position that opened up in our county. I don’t know how many applicants I was up against or anything like that. I got the job. I would say that the position was comparable to the one I’d left when I went into labor with the first baby: the only children’s librarian in the children’s room of a public library.

– Miriam Lang Budin, Leave of eleven years.
Prior title: Children’s Librarian, Larchmont Public Library;
Current title: Head of Children’s Services, Chappaqua Library

Cen CampbellI wasn’t even looking for a position when I saw a recruitment for an on-call librarian position open up in my neighborhood library 2 years after I’d quit my full time job, but I thought I’d give it a shot. In the interview I addressed the fact that I hadn’t been working full time since my son was born, but the combination of my strong resume from before I quit, and the initiative I’d shown developing and implementing Book Babies was enough to convince the library to hire me. I was also told later that one of the reasons they hired me was because I’d had experience working with adults and teens as well as kids, and was therefore more flexible when it came to working in different departments within the library.

Just after I started working in my new part time position I began a blog (LittleeLit.com) where I began to document my interest in incorporating digital media into children’s services and programming. Another very part-time position opened up at another local library system, and I was hired to begin piloting some technology-based children’s programs, which I also developed and documented. That work caught the attention of other library systems, library advocacy groups and children’s content developers, and I have been implementing programs, training staff and developing reading platforms ever since. I have since begun serving on the ALSC Children & Technology committee, I’ve presented at a number of different conferences and I’ve been hired by a number of different organizations to develop professional development materials for training children’s libraries in the use of emergent technology.

NEVER in a million years could I have foreseen though that I’d someday be an “expert” in the use of technology with children in public libraries, but the time that I took off gave me some perspective on the nature of my job. When I returned to the workforce, I had a more objective view of the services that libraries offer, and that they need to begin offering. There was no one developing the kind of guidelines and content that I was looking for, so I began to do it myself. Now I enjoy the flexibility of choosing the projects I work on, having a flexible schedule to hang out with my son when he needs it, and knowing that I’m helping to build a community of knowledge that can guide the development of best practices for the future when most of the content we deal with in libraries is digital (yes, even with children). I don’t think I would have started walking this career path had I NOT taken the time off and then had to be creative about getting back in.

– Cen Campbell, Leave of two years, and gradually adding more part-time projects bit by bit.
Prior title: Teen Services Coordinator/Youth Services Librarian, Stanislaus County Library;
Current title: Children’s Librarian/Digital Services Consultant, LittleeLit.com, Mountain View Library, Santa Clara County Library District

I went back to work initially working a couple of evenings a week and every other weekend for a suburban library, and by the time they needed a new head of youth services, I was ready to come back to work part time. It all worked out extremely nicely for me!

– Susan Dove Lempke, Leave of ten years.
Prior title: Children’s Librarian I, Chicago Public Library
Current title: Assistant Library Director for Youth, Programming and Technology, Niles, IL

Jeanette LundgrenI started to worry about the length of time I had been away from the workforce and knew that the longer I was out, the more difficult it would be to find a full-time job when I wanted one.  After being out for about five years I decided to apply for a part-time Reference Librarian position at a public library.  I sent out a few applications and did get an interview at about the third job I applied for.  I was honest about why I hasn’t been working.  I had been working as a software developer and been laid off about the same time we started a family.  While I hold my MLS, I hadn’t worked in the library field since graduate school, about 10 years prior.  It took a few months to get an interview and I was offered the position.  The position was entry-level and very different from where I had been working when I left.  I went from there to a part-time Reference Librarian job at Becker College in 2006, a job that could grow with me and offer more hours.  This year I accepted a full-time 10 month position as the Systems Librarian.

– Jeanette Lundgren, Leave of nine years from LIS (five spent working in the tech industry)
Prior to leaving LIS: Information Center Specialist, American Society of Training & Development (ASTD) 
Re-Entry position: Reference Librarian, Hudson public library
Current title: Systems Librarian, Becker College

Theresa AgostinelliI have been working as a librarian for almost seventeen years. Back in 2004, while working full-time as Electronic Resources Librarian at the Monroe Township Public Library and serving as vice president/president elect of the NJLA Reference section, I became pregnant with my first child. After the birth of my daughter, Natalie, I stepped down to part-time employment so I could spend time with my daughter, while keeping my hands in the profession. A few months after my daughter, Natalie was born, I assumed my role as president of Reference Section, emailing my members and potential speakers with a lively baby in the room. I was fortunate to have an incredibly helpful and supportive vice president who I could rely on to pick up the slack when I could not find childcare. I also attended a few meetings and planning sessions with Natalie when she was a few months old. My employer was supportive of my choice to stay home for a few months before returning to work part-time. They allowed me to complete some tasks from home to keep thing running. Since they were so flexible with me, I made sure that I returned every email and completed each assignment as quickly as I could.

– Theresa Agostinelli, Leave from full time work of seven and a half years and counting
Prior title: Electronic Resources Librarian, Monroe Township Public Library 
Current title: Instructional/Educational Services Librarian, Monroe Township Public Library

cara barlowI decided to return full-time to the workforce when my oldest daughter (who was 16 years old at the time) told me that she wanted to graduate high school and get her cosmetology license. I needed to find a full-time job in order to pay for her drivers ed, to help her with a car and to pay the school tuition. I graduated Anna in Spring of 2012 and she’ll start her licensing program in Fall of 2013.

I was truthful with everyone who I interviewed with for the part-time and full-time jobs, though I downplayed or didn’t mention that I homeschooled my daughters – even just a few years ago (it’s better now) there was a stigma surrounding homeschooling your children.

I told interviewers that I made the decision to stay home with my children when they were young, but that (when applying for part-time work) I felt ready to begin re-entering the library profession. When I was searching for my full-time job I told them that I my oldest daughter had graduated from high school early and I was looking for full-time work to help her pay for what she wanted to do next – cosmetology school. I also emphasized that I was looking for new challenges and would love to work for them.

I found a full-time job within weeks. The position I have now was posted a few days after I started searching. I interviewed and was offered it within two weeks. It was at a library where I had filled in for a reference librarian’s maternity leave and medical leave, so they knew me.

My current position isn’t like any other library position I’ve had before, but my time working on boards, in small-town politics, on the newspaper and homeschooling my children along with my BFA in fine art, my MLS and library experience gave me skills that made me a good fit for the position – they needed someone with an arts background, with connections in the local arts community, who had communication skills, people skills, could build community and was comfortable thinking outside of the box.
Cara Barlow, Leave of sixteen years
Prior title: State Aid Specialist, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
Current title: Supervisor, Music, Art & Media Department, Nashua Public Library

I have applied for jobs periodically in the last year and a half–we toy with me going back to work now and then. In my most recent job applications, I both emphasized the professional experiences I had before my gap, and talked about what I’ve done to stay relevant.

-Anonymous, leave of eighteen months and counting
Prior title: Evening Services Coordinator at a University Library

I’d like to say thank you again to everyone above for sharing their stories, time, and insight.  If you’d like to share your own experience in the comments below, or your questions, they are open and waiting for you.

Thank YOU for reading!  

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Filed under Academic, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Answers, Public Services/Reference, Topical Series, Youth Services

Further Questions: Are Gaps in a Resume Really a Red Flag?

This week we have the second in a set of reader questions. This person is preparing to leave work for an extended period of time, due to the incipient arrival of twin babies. I’m asking questions of people who hire librarians, and I’m also running companion posts with people who have returned to work after an extended leave. Last week I asked for advice on staying professionally relevant during a leave of absence (and the companion post is here). This week’s question is: 

Are gaps in a resume really a red flag? Have you ever hired someone who has been unemployed for an extended period of time? If so, can you provide any details about how this person discussed his/her absence on a resume or cover letter, or in an interview?

J. McRee Elrod

No.  We don’t even check for gaps in dates.
For those prospective employers who do, one might insert something, e.g., “Rearing children.” That too takes skill and provides experience.
To cover a prison term, perhaps “Volunteer work in an institutional library”?
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah Augustine

Gaps in a resume are not necessarily a red flag, but it is nice to have some sort of explanation as to how that time spent. A simple mention in a cover letter about taking time off for family, travel, education suffices.What gets my attention more as a red flag is if an applicant has had many many jobs that were held for only a short time, and again in that case a short explanation usually takes care of any concern on my part. It’s not a dealbreaker outright.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

Gaps are a red flag if the applicant doesn’t address them in some way in the cover letter (out of the country; position cut during budget cuts; raising a family; unemployed due to the recession). If I don’t see anything it makes me wonder whether the candidate was fired or let go for some reason. This concern is allayed if a reference from the manager at the last place of employment is included.I have hired someone with a substantial gap – she wrote in her cover letter and discussed at her interview that she was raising a family and was now ready to come back into the job market. That person was ready and she was a great addition to our staff and has gone on to an excellent career.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Manya ShorrThe term “red flag” has a negative connotation that doesn’t express how I react when I see an extended leave on a resume. I notice it, but it doesn’t make me question whether the person is qualified. What it does it create a space to have a conversation about the leave. In other words, it would absolutely not preclude me from wanting to interview a qualified person. That said, I think the applicant should come to the interview prepared to talk about how they stayed current in the library world while they were on leave (or how they’ve caught up since they’ve been back). Best practices in public libraries seem to change frequently and the last thing an applicant should do is talk about an outdated program, policy or practice. A leave is fine but falling behind is not.
– Manya Shorr, Senior Manager, Branch Services, Omaha Public Library

Terry Ann LawlerNo.  Unless you were fired from your last job and did absolutely nothing for the last year.  I think over all experience in the fields which I need are more important than a gap in employment   I have, several times, hired people who had gaps in their resume.  People will usually explain a gap in some way, like that they started a family, went back to school, took care of an aging or sick family member, etc.

I  have seen this addressed in the cover letters, which, I think is appropriate.  I think it is not important to give too many facts about a gap, but it is important to address it in some short way.  Maybe a line or two to state why there is a gap and to state how you have kept professionally relevant during that gap. If you spend too much time explaining yourself, you take up valuable page real estate that could be used to talk about your awesome skills.
I think the same goes for a resume.  If you have a chronological based resume (although I would recommend you don’t), you could address the gap with its own date and a brief explanation.  For example:
Nov 1994- Aug 1999 – Electronic Resources Librarian, XXX State Library
Aug 1999-Feb 2000 – Long Term Relative Home Care
Mar 2000- Present – Cashier, Barnes and Noble Book Store
Again, I don’t think it is as important to explain a gap in employment as it is to highlight your skill sets and why you are the right person for the job.  Don’t lie about it, but don’t over stress something you can’t change. Focus on what is positive about you and your employment history and what you learned during that down time.
– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Alice the camel has TWO comments.

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Filed under Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Topical Series, Youth Services

Further Questions: How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant?

This week we have a new set of reader questions. This person is preparing to leave work for an extended period of time, due to the incipient arrival of twin babies. We’re going to talk about leaves of absence for the next three weeks – I’ll be asking questions of people who hire librarians, and then I’m going to also run companion posts with people who have returned to work after an extended leave. This week’s question is: 

What do you recommend that a person on an extended leave of absence do in order to stay professionally relevant?

Petra Mauerhoff

We had a staff member from our cataloguing department start an extended leave (maternity leave) at the beginning of this year and before she left she expressed concern about “staying in the loop”, professionally as well as being connected to our organization. Her supervisor gave her homework to do while she is on leave (exercises from the cataloguing course) and will invite her to participate in any professional development activities we might be offering during the year. Of course her participation will be voluntary, but it will be a great opportunity for her to stay connected to the profession and continue her connection to staff as well.
I recommend staff who are planning a leave speak to their supervisors about what the expectations are and what the supervisor would recommend in order to stay professionally connected and relevant while away from their job.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
J. McRee Elrod
Read the appropriate e-lists, e.g., cataloguers should read Autocat, RDA-L, and Bibframe
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah Augustine

This question is close to home, because I recently took maternity leave. I expected to be gone during the months of August and September, planning to take 6 weeks off and then work the next 2 weeks on half-time basis, using vacation time as needed (our policy follows FMLA, and employees are expected to use their sick and vacation time). However, my daughter arrived 8 weeks early, so I ended up being gone in June and July instead. This threw quite a monkey wrench into my work plans, as the day I gave birth was the same day that I had planned to orient my assistant department head to my files and where everything was.

My recommendation to others is, if you are taking an extended leave of absence from a job that you currently hold and will be holding upon your return, stay in touch with those folks that you work with. Make yourself available via email or phone if possible. Even if you aren’t doing the actual work, just staying in touch and keeping up with issues that happen means that you will have less catching up to do when you do return.

If you are working with your supervisor to try to find the best solution for both you and your work, and you have an idea about the time off that you want, just ask. A friend of mine was unsure about whether she was going to go back to work after the birth of her daughter, and she told her supervisor that. Her supervisor worked with her and just hired someone on an interim basis so that my friend could have a year off and her position would be held in the event that she came back to work. You never know unless you ask!

If you are between jobs but are taking an extended leave of absence, keep up with professional developments as much as you can. Read blogs, keep browsing Library Journal.

All of this being said — take time for yourself and focus on the reason you are taking that extended leave in the first place. If you are on sabbatical to work on a dissertation, do that work first before you check in with your job. If you have a baby, that is your first priority and no one should discourage you from recognizing that.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

Keep up on blogs, twitter feeds and, if you don’t already, ask to have remote access to your institutions email system.  Ask a willing colleague to forward meeting notes or policy changes or news that are posted on internal communication networks – wikis; blogs; etc – just so you stay slightly in the loop. Ten-twenty minutes a day spent perusing what’s up will make it feel like you are aware of what’s happening without needing to stress over it. And again, if you have a willing colleague who would drop off  professional print journals after they’ve been routed to the rest of the staff so you can keep up (kind of like homework being dropped off!), that is a way to stay connected.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
I really believe that whenever possible, the person on leave stay in touch with their library, either through listservs and other email methods, occasional phone conversations, conference calls for committees or other pertinent professional events that the person would have attended or in which they would have been involved.    Offer to have those at work call you at home when something of importance is about to happen–more of an FYI or courtesy than actually asking for input or opinions.  I say all of  this, because it the person is truly planning to return to their jobs, it is best to keep abreast of what is going on, rather than have to play major catch up upon one’s return.    The person should also read the literature also, just to make sure that you don’t completely remove yourself from the profession in your absence.  ALA members receive American Libraries, and others may subscribe to that or Library Journal, etc.  And of course there is the web.
Some colleges or universities may frown upon, or just plain not allow active participation in committee work or conference calling.  If that is the case, then I would recommend doing the other things I mentioned above–staying abreast of things on listservs, webpages, occasional phone calls to friends/colleagues just be kept up to speed.  Some people like to just “unplug” when they are away from their jobs, but if one is only on leave, and plans to return at some point, I don’t think that is a good idea for more than a couple of weeks.  In addition to the person on leave remaining informed, it is good for he/she to be remembered by colleagues, not out of sight out of mind.
– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands
Samantha Thompson-FranklinI have some personal experience from 2 short term maternity leaves. So here are a few suggestions that I have:
*Keep up as best as you can with the professional literature, either via online or in print publications
*Become involved or stay involved in any professional association committees at the local or national level
*Take advantage of any professional development opportunities, either face-to-face in your local area or online through webinars
*Continue to keep in touch and network with colleagues
*Look for opportunities to contribute through writing for a blog or a professional publication, if that’s of interest to youSome of these suggestions will depend upon how much time and resources/funding you have available to you, but they should help to you keep you involved and stay professional relevant.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. 

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer, by your comments.

*Edited 2/3/2013 to add in answer by Samantha Thompson-Franklin

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Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Topical Series