Tag Archives: Library and Information Science

Stats and Graphs: 246 Responses on What Candidates Should Wear

The last time we looked at stats and graphs for what candidates should wear was October 2012.  We’ve had a few more responses trickle in, but mostly I just want to revisit these stats.

number of responses

I also want to add my standard disclaimer that I’m using Google forms, and the charts it generates cut off some of the answer choices.  It takes me a while to do a post like this, and even longer to make it prettier in Excel, so I’ll ask you to please just excuse how sloppy it looks.  This is a labor of love, and I’m a busy lady.

Also I don’t use probability sampling, so what happens in the survey can’t be assumed to be what happens in the larger population.  And this survey mashes together the responses of academic, public, special, school and other library organizations (although you’ll see that the majority of responses are from Academic librarians).

These responses have been collected between the survey’s launch, on 9/3/2012 and 11/30/2013.  We are still collecting responses!  If you want to take the survey, go to: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibOUTFITsurvey 

The survey was co-written by Jill from Librarian Hire Fashion.  Want to talk more about interview outfits?  That’s the Tumblr to do it on!

And now the


What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

wear a suit

Yes, absolutely! It shows respect and professionalism 48   20%
Probably, yes (but it’s ok if the candidate wears something a little less formal) 132   54%
Probably not (but it’s ok if the candidate does wear one) 36   15%
No way! It shows a lack of understanding about my library and/or the nature of librarianship 2    1%
I don’t care 12    5%
Other 16    7%


An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

blazer trousers

Counts as a suit 181   74%
Is totally different 22    9%
I do not know and/or care 30   12%
Other 13    5%

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

bare arms

True 99   40%
False 66   27%
I don’t care 46   19%
Other 35   14%


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


Never, pantyhose is for my grandmother 10    4%
No, but it’s not a dealbreaker 84   34%
Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate 49   20%
Yes, true professionals always wear pantyhose 11    4%
Other 92   37%

Women should wear make-up to an interview: 

make up

Always 13    5%
I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top 108   44%
I don’t care what’s on the face, it’s what’s in the brain that counts 103   42%
Never 0    0%
Other 22    9%


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


Yes, the higher the position, the more formal I expect the candidate to dress 190   77%
No 38   15%
I don’t care 9    4%
Other 9    4%


Which jewelry may candidates wear:


Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring 181   75%
A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings 177   73%
All of the simple necklaces, bracelets, and rings he or she can load on 43   18%
Arty or more elaborate necklaces, bracelets, or rings 139   57%
Nose Ring (nostril) 86   36%
Eyebrow Ring, Monroe piercing, septum piercing, or other face piercing 61   25%
Earrings 188   78%
Multiple Ear Piercings 136   56%
Large gauge ear jewelry (stretched ears) 49   20%
Other 76   31%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

hair colors

All of them, even pink 129   52%
Natural colors (black, brown, red, blonde, gray) 89   36%
Other 28   11%


The way a candidate dresses should:

neutral or personality

Show personality 60   24%
Be fairly neutral 99   40%
I don’t really care how a candidate dresses 26   11%
Other 61   25%

What the Library Wears

On a scale of  1 to 5, where one is too dressed up for your workplace, khakis and a polo shirt are:

khakis and a polo

1 –
Too dressed up for my workplace
1    0%
2 4    2%
3 177   72%
4 37   15%
5 –
Too casual for my workplace
15    6%


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

dress code

Business formal 8    3%
Business casual 146   59%
Casual 51   21%
I don’t even know what any of that means 2    1%
Other 39   16%

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

forbidden items

Jeans 65   28%
Flip flops 113   49%
Visible Tattoos 28   12%
Short skirts/shorts 94   41%
Tank tops 98   42%
Logos/band insignia/slogans 78   34%
Sneakers/trainers 36   16%
N/A: We wear what we want! 50   22%
Other 135   58%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

Librarians at your organization wear:

Name tags 102   61%
Badges 46   27%
Uniforms 1    1%
Shirt, waistcoat/vest, or other single piece of clothing issued by the library 6    4%
Other 57   34%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.


What type of institution do you hire for?


Academic Library 134   54%
Public Library 80   33%
School Library 2    1%
Special Library 12    5%
Archives 9    4%
Other 9    4%

Where are you?



Northeastern US 61   25%
Midwestern US 65   26%
Southern US 60   24%
Western US 37   15%
Canada 9    4%
UK 5    2%
Australia/New Zealand 1    0%
Other 8    3%

Where are you?



Urban area 80   33%
Suburban area 56   23%
City/town 74   30%
Rural area 31   13%
Other 5    2%

How many staff members are at your library?

numbers of staff


0-10 61   25%
10-50 115   47%
50-100 31   13%
100-200 22    9%
200+ 15    6%

Are you a librarian?

r u lib


Yes 222   90%
No 6    2%
It’s complicated 18    7%

Are you now or have you ever been:

r u now

a hiring manager (you are hiring people that you will directly or indirectly supervise) 179   74%
a member of a hiring or search committee 207   85%
human resources 8    3%
Other 6    2%
People may select more than one checkbox, so percentages may add up to more than 100%.

What do you think?  What should we have asked?  I realize we don’t talk about religious garb, or neckties… what else did we miss? Please comment below or email hiringlibrariansATgmail.



Filed under Stats and Graphs, What Should Candidates Wear?

Further Questions: Would Your Library Consider Hiring Ex-Felons?

This week’s question is one I saw asked by Lassana Magassa on the NMRT listserv.  The answers he gathered from this and some other listservs, as well as some thoughtful commentary, are posted on his blog.  Lassana’s question is:

I have received a question from a prison librarian in Ohio regarding the hiring of ex-felons by a public library. These individuals have been working as inmate library clerks. They have the skill-set for circulation desk and book shelving duties. Also they have entered new book titles into the library’s catalog database and managed circulation records. They have been dependable staff members. Would your library consider hiring ex-felons?

I don’t have any special problem hiring an ex-felon.  I would probably want to know more about their offense (e.g. were they convicted of stealing rare books from a university library?  Not good).  I would have to check and see what regulations the university and the state may have about this.  I do believe there is some mention of it on the application, but I don’t know what they do with that information.  We don’t require any background checks. Because we are a university, we consider our students to be adults and are not particularly concerned about work with children, as a school or public library might be.


Sherle Abramson-BluhmOur University policy does not preclude the hiring of ex-felons.
“An individual with a criminal conviction is not automatically excluded from employment. Appointing units, in consultation with the applicable Human Resources Office, will assess any criminal conviction history which is returned as a result of the criminal records check. The Office of the General Counsel will be consulted as needed. This individualized assessment will consider the nature and gravity of the offense, the time elapsed since the offense or completion of the sentence, and its relevance to the particular position sought. “
Obviously if a candidate neglected to include this information and it was discovered during a back-ground check, they would no longer be considered.
As a manager, I would not rule a candidate out for this reason.  With the help of Counsel I would want to know how much I can ask in an interview, and I would want to do that in a one-on-one conversation not in a group setting.  If hired, I would leave it up to the new hire to reveal any information.  I am fortunate in that I mostly hire entry level positions, so introductions do not generally include much background information and it need never be an issue.
– Sherle Abramson-Bluhm, Head, Print Acquisitions, University of Michigan

Thank you as always to the above 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.

And thank you for reading!  I was so touched, I was moved to kick the crutches from my comment.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions

Reader Response Requested: How Do You Stay in Touch after a Conference?

This week, you are the experts.  I’m asking people who read Hiring Librarians:

Do you have any tips for staying in touch with new contacts, for example potential future employers you might have met at a very large library conference?  What should you do, and how frequently?

Here’s a response to get you started:

I think LinkedIn could be a really convenient way to keep your name on their radar—post relevant, sincere comments or links at least weekly. I also have been able to stay in contact with a few professional contacts through the exchange of materials. Take advantage of what opportunities present themselves through our regular work. (These aren’t librarians that I’m looking at to hire me, but it keeps us working together.) Take the opportunity to request ILLs from a library more frequently, if applicable. I met one librarian who works at a tribal library and archive; I would send her materials that our patrons donated to us that weren’t of much local interest but would be of greater use to her patrons. I’ve developed relationships with other librarians elsewhere in my region and in my state by working at district-level and state-level committees, and by writing multi-library grants.

I think it’s important, for new or looking-to-move librarians, to be in touch with lots of library staff, no matter where those staff are in the hiring hierarchy. You might not be acquainted with the library director, but knowing the children’s librarian, or the head of AV, would give you a leg-up over other candidates.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian, Neill Public Library, Pullman, Washington

Please tell us your tips and strategies in the comments!



Filed under Further Answers, Further Questions

Job Hunter’s Web Guide: ACRL Residency Interest Group

It seems that each year, the number of LIS graduates increases, and the number of entry-level jobs decreases.  And the bar for those jobs is set higher and higher.  It is difficult for new grads to get their feet on the path to becoming future library leaders.  I’m interested in what we, as a profession, are doing about this problem.  

So I’m glad to present a resource which may really help new grads: the ACRL Residency Interest group.  Residencies provide a structured entrance into the profession, and the ACRL group, along with it’s associated website, provides some good insight into how you can obtain such an entrance.  Hannah K. Lee, who is the Outgoing Convener of the ACRL Residency Interest Group as well as Assistant Librarian, University of Delaware Library, Student Multimedia Design Center, was kind enough to answer my questions about the site and the group.

ACRL Residency Interest Group

What is it? Please give us your elevator speech!

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Residency Interest Group (RIG) is a group of library residents (both current and former), residency program coordinators, library administrators, diversity officers, and human resources professionals from across the country. A residency is post-degree work experience, often from one to three years, designed as an entry level program for recent graduates of library and information science programs. The aim of this group is to encourage interested parties to more broadly share their expertise regarding residency programs and to make it both available and accessible for future residents and coordinators. It was also founded as a resource for newer members, particularly library school students, who may be considering a residency program upon graduation.

When was it started? Why was it started?

In 2008, ACRL amended their bylaws allowing for communities to be created within ACRL that had a specific area of focus but that weren’t represented by Discussion Groups or Sections. They called these Interest Groups. An interest group is a network of individuals who have come together to share their knowledge and expertise with one another, and to help solve problems across organizational boundaries with those who may face similar challenges. The Residency Interest Group was the very first Interest Group to be formed by ACRL.

We have several goals:

  • To centralize information regarding residency program availability
  • To maintain a directory of past and present program participants
  • To garner interest and support for the group’s activities through the production of research projects related to residency programs
  • To serve as an information clearinghouse and resource for institutions planning, managing, or researching residency programs
  • To support potential residents, new graduates, and early career librarians in their professional development through a variety of resources including guest writers, podcasts, and downloadable documentation

Who runs it?

RIG is completely volunteer-based and is part of ACRL’s committee structure. ACRL, in turn, is a division within the American Library Association (ALA). RIG’s leadership includes the incoming convener, convener, outgoing convener, and web editors.

Are you a “career expert”? What are your qualifications?

I wouldn’t consider myself a career “expert,” and librarianship isn’t my first career. But I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’m always happy to give advice to new graduates and job seekers. As a college student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I dabbled in every possible field you can image– psychology, French, architecture, chemistry, history, photography– before eventually graduating with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Education. I started my professional career as a high school English teacher in Chicago, where I taught British Literature and Film Studies. I then set my sights abroad, and ended up teaching in the Paris, France region for a couple of years at the junior high level. I returned to the States—and to my alma mater– to continue my studies at the graduate level. While at the U of I, I taught various rhetoric and composition courses, including ART 250: Writing with Video. I received my M.A in English with a specialization in Writing Studies in 2008 and my M.S. in Library and Information Science in 2009. I have worked as a Substitute Adult Services Reference Librarian at the Urbana Free Library, as a Librarian Intern at Harper College Library in Palatine, IL, and as an Affiliate Assistant Librarian and Pauline A. Young Resident at the Student Multimedia Design Center at the University of Delaware Library. I’m currently an Assistant Librarian in the Student Multimedia Design Center. The Center is a one of the largest multimedia facilities in an academic library in the nation. During my residency, my responsibilities included assisting students in creating multimedia content, collaborating on interdepartmental library projects such as videos and interactive tutorials, digital literacy instruction, and staff and student training, among others. In my permanent position, I began a program for multimedia literacy instruction that was launched in Fall 2012. I work collaboratively with faculty across departments, consulting with them on assignment design and teaching class sessions on digital storytelling, production basics, video editing, etc.

Who is your target audience?

Our target audience is new library and information science graduates as well as people who are interested in starting library residency programs.

What’s the best way to use your site? Should users consult it daily? Or as needed? Should they already know what they need help with, or can they just noodle around?

For recent graduates who are looking for a job, the best way to use the site is to consult it on a regular basis to see if there are any new residency positions that have opened up. They can also subscribe to the Residency Interest Group listserv, because most of the jobs that are posted on the website also get sent out through the listserv. To subscribe to the listserv, go to http://lists.ala.org/sympa. We also have regular posts from current and former residents in our Residency Diaries series, and although we haven’t had a podcast recently, we also have a Newbie Dispatches podcast series on a variety of topics of interest to new librarians.

Does your site provide:

√ Job Listings √ Answers to reader questions √ Interviews
√ Articles/literature √ Links √ Research √ The opportunity for interaction

Should readers also look for you on social media? 

√ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/ACRL-Residency-Interest-Group/113621396297?fref=ts

Do you charge for anything on your site?


Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using your site?

I actually found my residency through the ACRL Residency Interest Group! I hadn’t even heard of residencies when I was in library school, and I stumbled upon a job ad for a residency program when I was searching for jobs. This piqued my interest, and I started looking for other residency programs. I came across the Residency Interest Group website and subscribed to the listserv, and not too long after, there was a posting for a job opening at the University of Delaware for their Pauline A Young Residency program. I applied for the position, and one thing led to another to bring me to where I am today. My residency was for two years, but they ended up offering me a permanent position midway through my residency. I’m still at the University of Delaware, and am very thankful for my experiences as a resident.

Anything else you’d like to share with my readers about your site in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?

Hannah LeeDon’t get discouraged! It might take a few tries to get your dream job, but in the meantime, don’t be afraid of taking on positions to help build up your experience. If you want to work in a university library, you might have to move to a location you’re not familiar with. If you want to develop your career as an academic librarian, it’s something that you’ll have to seriously consider. Good luck!


Filed under Academic, Job Hunters Web Guide

Researcher’s Corner: Reference Competencies from the Academic Employers’ Perspective

In order to be competitive in our tight job market, I think that’s it’s not enough just to be able to describe one’s skills well.  Job hunters, both in and out of library school, need to be able to manage their own professional development in a way that the skills they gain align with the competencies required by their desired jobs.

This is why I’m really excited to present Laura Saunders’ guest post today. She describes research she conducted on people who hire academic reference librarians, in order to determine what the most important competencies are.  If you’d like to read a longer, more formal account of her research, please see:

Identifying Core Reference Competencies from an Employers’ Perspective: Implications for Instruction (2012). College and Research Libraries, 73(4)

Reference librarian was one of the top five job titles reported in Library Journal’s annual Placement & Salary Survey for 2012 , suggesting that, as with Mark Twain, reports of the death of reference have been largely exaggerated. Still, the fact that there are reference jobs to be had does not necessarily mean they are easy to get, and the same Library Journal’s article reports stiff competition for those jobs (Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science was number one in job placement!). One of the best ways for aspiring reference librarians to succeed in the job market is to have a clear understanding of job expectations, to develop the necessary skills and proficiencies, and be able to demonstrate and discuss those abilities on their resume and in job interviews. In this column, I share the results of a survey of academic reference librarians indicating what skills and knowledge they believe is important in the field right now.

The Study

In 2011, my colleague, Mary Wilkins Jordan and I developed and implemented a nationwide survey of practicing reference librarians to gather input on what competencies are most important for reference librarians in the field right now. While we used essentially the same survey, I concentrated on academic libraries, while Mary surveyed public librarians. In each case, we took a random sample of libraries from across the country, in order to get a broad and representative overview. We gave the librarians a list of 33 competencies that we had compiled using Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) guidelines as well as reviews of the literature, and asked the librarians to choose the ones they thought were important to reference librarians, and then to indicate the three most important. The survey closed with an open-ended question asking the respondents to describe any skills or qualifications that they found to be lacking in recent graduates or new hires.


The respondents chose competencies grouped into three categories: general skills, technical skills, and interpersonal skills, which are summarized in the following table.

General Technology Personal/Interpersonal
Second Master’s degree Online searching Verbal Communication
Budgeting Programming Written Communication
Foreign language Web design Listening
Marketing Web maintenance Working in teams
Supervisory experience Social media Approachability
Ability to conduct research/publish Hardware troubleshooting Comfort with instruction/teaching
Knowledge of cataloging Software troubleshooting Self-motivated
Assessment/evaluation Chat/IM Stress management
Customer service Building relationships with co-workers
Familiarity with Paper Sources Building relationships with other professional colleagues
Familiarity with Online Sources Conflict management
Search Skills Adaptability/Flexibility
Negotiating Sense of humor
Current Events Awareness Organizational awareness
Traditional Reference Interview

Throughout the survey, respondents emphasized skills and qualities that relate to the question-answering and customer service aspects of reference. For instance, general and online search skills, as well as familiarity with both online and print reference sources were among the top rated general and technical skills. Interestingly, valuing knowledge of print resources was not correlated with either the responding librarians’ age or number of years in the field. In other words, it is not just older librarians or those who have been out of school for a long time, but a wide range of practicing reference librarians who seem to believe print resources are still important. These findings emphasize that it is still important for reference librarians to be familiar with a wide range of resources, and to be able to search and use those sources efficiently and effectively in order to help their patrons find information.

While librarians certainly need the skills to search and use resources to find information, the survey also confirms that the patron is the heart of reference services. Customer service and interpersonal skills to be able to interact with a diverse patron base are among the most important for any reference librarian. Five of the interpersonal skills—verbal communication skills, listening, approachability, comfort with instruction, and adaptability/flexibility—stood out as especially important, having been selected by more than 90% of respondents. These five are closely followed by written communication skills and sense of humor. However, it is worth noting that every competency listed under interpersonal skills was chosen as important by more than 60% of respondents. Clearly, the ability to interact and communicate with a wide range of patrons is essential for successful reference librarians.

Similarly, under technical skills, respondents indicated that ability to communicate with patrons using chat and instant messaging is important. Among the general skills customer service was the second highest rated, selected as important by 94% of respondents. Similarly, although it was not one of the top three, the ability to conduct a reference interview was deemed important by more than three-quarters of respondents. Taken together, these results suggest that being able to interact effectively with patrons and to provide a high level of customer service are among the most important attributes of a reference librarian. This is not to suggest that other technical skills are unimportant. Software troubleshooting, web design and web maintenance are all highly valuable skills, according to the survey.

The following figures give a breakdown of the rating of skills in each category:

Saunders Fig 1

Figure 1
Percentage of Respondents Choosing General Skills as Important

Saunders Fig 2

Figure 2
Percentage of Respondents Selecting Technical Skills Important

Saunders Fig 3

Figure 3
Percentage of Respondents Choosing Interpersonal Skills as Important

In the final section of the survey, we asked respondents if they saw any skills or qualities lacking in their new hires. It’s important to note that many respondents indicated that their new hires were doing very well, and praised their knowledge and enthusiasm. That said, some respondents said that their new librarians seemed to rely on the same freely available web sources (such as Google and Wikipedia) that their patrons used, and if they were not able to help the patrons using those sources, they did not seem to know where else to go. These participants worried that their new librarians were not adding any value to the research process. Similarly, some respondents suggested that new librarians they worked with did not always have strong interpersonal skills, or were not adept at working with diverse or difficult patrons.


There may be plenty of competition for reference jobs in academic libraries, but applicants with strong interpersonal skills and solid knowledge of searching and sources will have an edge. There are several things a current student can do to strengthen her resume and gain more of that edge.

Many LIS programs offer, or even require, an introductory reference course, and while this will likely give you a good base of knowledge, it is important to remember it is just an introduction. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in reference would do well to take ‘advanced’ reference courses that delve more deeply into the resources and services in particular disciplines, such as the sciences, humanities, or social sciences, or in particular settings such as medical or law libraries.

One question students always ask me is whether they will need a second Master’s degree to work in an academic library. The respondents to this survey did not count a second Master’s as highly important, with only 28.2% of participants selecting that competency. It would appear that experience and background with sources and searching generally is considered most important, although it’s also worth noting that librarians at doctoral-granting institutions seemed to value a second Master’s degree more highly than librarians in other academic institutions.

This survey also confirmed the findings of many other studies, that instruction is becoming an ever-more central part of reference. Here again, introductory reference courses will probably address user instruction, but are unlikely to give students a firm grounding or much hands-on experience. Students should seek courses focused on user instruction, especially those that incorporate pedagogy and information literacy, and that give students plenty of practice in speaking in front of groups and actually teaching modules both in-person and online.

Interpersonal skills are a little harder to teach and assess in a classroom environment. Certainly, students could take classes that center on diverse and underserved populations. However, job applicants should also identify any co-curricular or work experience (including volunteering and internships) that involves communication, interpersonal skills, and customer service. Retail jobs and waiting tables, for instance, are both jobs that require a high-level of customer interaction, and could be highlighted for a potential employer.

As I noted earlier, the findings I report here are really only half of the story- the academic library side. My colleague, Mary Wilkins Jordan did a parallel survey of public librarians, and our comparison of the responses of the academic and public practitioners will be featured in an upcoming edition of RUSQ.

I want to finish this post by highlighting a few points. There is a tacit belief in the field that academic and public reference are very different—so much so that practitioners often have a hard time moving to one setting after having worked any length of time in the other setting. Our studies suggest that the differences between reference services in the two types of libraries is actually very subtle, and is more a matter of different emphasis than different competencies. Specifically, public librarians seem to put a little more emphasis on the ‘soft’ or interpersonal skills such as customer service and communication, while the academic librarians were somewhat more likely to choose as important ‘hard’ skills such as ability to engage in evaluation and assessment, or research and publication. However, as you can see here, academic reference librarians also value interpersonal skills very highly. So, the differences seem to be more subtle and the similarities more pronounced than is often believed. We hope that this research might spur further research and conversation about the topic.

Laura SaundersLaura Saunders received her PhD from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science in May 2010.  She holds an M.S.L.I.S from Simmons as well as a B. A. from Boston University in English Literature and Italian.  She worked as a reference librarian and branch manager of the Career Resource Library for Simmons College from 1999 to 2003, where she provided reference and instruction services, as well as participated in collection development, Web page maintenance, and marketing of library services.  While completing her PhD, she worked as an adjunct faculty member.  Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at Simmons College, teaching in the areas of reference, evaluation of information services, information literacy, and academic libraries. Her first book, Information Literacy as a Student Learning Outcome: The Perspective of Institutional Accreditation was published in June 2011. Her research interests include information literacy, assessment, accreditation, reference services, and the place of libraries in higher education.  She has had articles published in The Journal of Academic Librarianship, Library & Information Science Research, College & Research Libraries, and portal: Libraries and the Academy.



Filed under Researcher's Corner, UK

Author’s Corner: Continuing Education for Librarians

Today I’m happy to give you an excerpt from a new book on professional development.  The excerpt is from the preface by Dr. Robert P. Holley, Professor, School of Library & Information Science Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, and provides an overview of the scope and organization of the book, which incorporates the thoughts of a number of different authors, gathered together under the editing eyes of Carol Smallwood, Kerol Harrod and Vera Gubnitskaia.

The title of this book, Continuing Education for Librarians: Workshops, Conferences, College, and Other Ways, only hints at the cornucopia of practical advice that the reader will discover in its twenty-eight chapters. I discovered new information and, more importantly, fresh perspectives though I have been an academic librarian and library science professor for almost forty years and teach courses that include continuing education.

Most authors in the collection combine a general discussion of the topic with practical examples of their experiences. They avoid a Pollyannaish view that continuing education is easy in today’s age of reduced staffing, higher work expectations, and complicated lives; but they accurately point out that these factors require librarians to stay on top of developments in librarianship. The library science degree is only the beginning. Employers expect librarians to acquire new skills and sometimes secure additional formal and informal credentials. Some of the case studies don’t turn out exactly as planned, but the authors agree that surprises were part of the learning process.

The book is divided into eight parts of from two to eight chapters, but the parts are not mutually exclusive. For example, Part II, “Online Education,” deals with the delivery of the continuing education activities and gives advice on how to succeed in an online course (Francis). Similarly, the chapter from “Personal Life” by Ward, “Balancing Act,” gives her account of acquiring an additional degree but with the focus on how she managed to integrate the demands of her formal education into her personal life. While the content of some chapters overlaps, the authors emphasize different aspects and share differing experiences.

continuing education for librariansThe book covers all stages of a librarian’s professional career. The chapters on formal education include finding the right online library program for the MLIS (Jackson) and pursuing a certificate (McGlynn), a second masters (Rupp), or the ultimate achievement, a doctorate (Kimmel/Garrison). The reader also gets tips on how to make the most of workshops and conferences. Two authors (Mason and Butler) focus on learning more about special collections from workshops. The more adventuresome will profit from the experiences of Wise and Blackburn on attending an international conference where they discovered that different rules apply when varying library cultures come together. The two chapters on professional associations (Braccia and Farmer) straddle the line between formal and informal because these authors stress that as much continuing education occurs in the corridors as in the meeting rooms. Technology and Web 2.0 have a role to play in learning through Massive Open Online Courses (Bond) and in making contacts through social networks (Cooke and Goben).

For me, learning by doing is the most revolutionary aspect of the book. Effective continuing education is not passive but arises from actively teaching others. Three traditional ways are emphasizing the teaching function of librarians (Ross and Sweeney), becoming an adjunct professor for a library and information science program (Wright), or teaching an information literacy course (Storm). For an unorthodox challenge, Benson suggests volunteering to give a presentation on a subject that the librarian doesn’t know much about as a surefire way quickly to become an expert on the topic. Other examples of active learning include organizing a fellowship program (Mediavilla) or hosting a conference (Root).

The two chapters on mentoring (Creel and Zanin-Yost) take great care to talk about the continuing education value for the mentors as well as for the mentee. Money is the topic for two authors. Sheehan suggests casting a wide net to find scholarship funds to support getting the MLIS. From a different perspective, Soules looks at all the continuing education activities, many discussed in more detail in other chapters, that are free. Two chapters look beyond library skills. Marcus recommends acting training to improve personal interactions and to learn how to deal with unexpected situations. Similarly, Matthew Cook narrates how he profited professionally by integrating his interest in jazz into his work life.

These brief summaries cannot do justice to the richness of this book, but they will have met my goal if they tempt you to delve more deeply into this volume. Choose first the topics that interest you the most. Don’t forget, however, that many chapters weave together the multiple strands of continuing education and professional development and that you might find valuable insights in the most unexpected places.

Continuing Education for Librarians: Essays on Career Improvement Through Classes, Workshops, Conferences and More 2013. Edited by Carol Smallwood, Kerol Harrod and Vera Gubnitskaia by permission of McFarland & Company, Inc., Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640.  www.mcfarlandpub.com

1 Comment

Filed under Author's Corner

Introducing Sara

Hi Everyone,

Just wanted to take a minute to introduce our new Master Indexer/Transcriber, Sara Beckman.  Sara’s going to streamline our categories and create an index, in order to make the site better organized and therefore more accessible for you, our dear readers.  She’s also already transcribed nearly 20 surveys in her few weeks on board! We’ve got over 400, maybe close to 500 surveys that need to be transcribed, so she’s pretty vital in that capacity as well.  I’ve enjoyed working with her so far, and I hope you will make her feel welcome.  Her bio is below, if you want to get to know her a little better.

Your Pal,


Sara Beckman

Sara Beckman is earning her MLIS from the University of Washington with plans to graduate in June 2014. Sara’s interests lie in combining her love of history with the digital world. She hopes to find a job after graduation working in an archive or special collection helping to both digitize historical documents to help to provide wider access and preserving born-digital documents. She is currently working as a digital asset management intern at Sub Pop Records in Seattle, WA, but has also has worked as a cataloging, research, and archival intern as well as a bookseller at her undergraduate’s university bookstore.

In her free time she is also a librarian that loves to read. Most recently she has discovered comics and hasn’t looked back. You can check out Sara’s professional side on her LinkedIn profile. If you want to get to learn more about her journey through library school you’ll want to visit her blog, Local History Girl.

Photo: Sara Beckman by Flickr user Beckmanse via Creative Commons License

Leave a comment

Filed under News and Administration

Author’s Corner: A Hodgepodge of Tips for Applicants

Laura Kane has two books which might be useful for you library job hunters and career builders: 

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


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

So in today’s post, she offers general advice to applicants, what she calls ” What’s Funny, What’s Not, and a Series of No-Brainers.”  I hope from this post you will gain not only a sense of her writing style and viewpoint, but some wisdom for your application process.

I don’t like to think of myself as a Veteran Librarian, but with nearly twenty years in the field, I guess that’s exactly what I am.  Though the thought makes me feel old, I will admit that experience has made me wiser. Throughout my tenure as an academic medical librarian, I have been a member of numerous search committees charged with filling professional librarian positions.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there are certain aspects of a candidate’s application and subsequent interview that can instantly “make or break” them.  I will cover each of these topics here, and hope that this hodgepodge of tips will be helpful to those seeking employment in the workforce.

That’s Funny!

Did you happen to see the OREO cookie commercial during this year’s Super Bowl?  Set in a library, it’s all about the friction that exists between those who love the cookie part, and those who love the cream part of the OREO.  The commercial is called “Whisper Fight,” and though the fight between the cream lovers and cookie lovers turns into complete chaos, nobody speaks above a whisper.  Stacks are toppling, books are raining down, a fire starts, firemen arrive with hoses, and all the while a bespectacled, cardigan-clad librarian looks on in horror and then finally “shouts” a stage whisper, “I’m calling the cops!”  When the police arrive, they whisper through a bullhorn, “You guys have to stop fighting!  We are the cops!”

I could not stop laughing.  I was so tickled that I had to immediately find it on the Web and play it again.  And again.  My 13-year-old son looked on with concern.  “Um, Mom,” he said hesitantly.  “You’re a librarian.  Shouldn’t you be insulted?”  I sobered up immediately and cleared my through.  “Oh! Um… of course.  Yes, indeed.  I am terribly insulted!”  Then I doubled over in laughter again.

Should I have been insulted by the obvious stereotyping going on in that commercial?  No way.  It was so clearly over-the-top that you couldn’t help but laugh.  Yes, there is a pervasive stereotype in our field, but isn’t that the case for most professions?  Most of my fellow librarians have “gotten over” taking offense at the stereotypes.  In fact, many of my colleagues think it’s just plain funny.  My nine-year-old son (I have three sons!) likes to grab some fake glasses, slide them to the end of his nose, and peer down them, saying, “I’m a librarian.”  He’s trying to rile me but he just looks so silly that I end up laughing.

And that’s the point I’m trying to make here.  Librarians have a sense of humor.  I work in an academic medical library.  We handle some pretty serious stuff.  But you can always hear laughter in our meetings, in our offices, and yes – God forbid! – even out in the main library itself.  It’s wonderful to work with a group of people who can be lighthearted and fun when appropriate.

Working in the Virtual StacksSo what does this mean for someone applying for a professional librarian position?  It means that you can lighten up a little.  Don’t go overboard, of course, but let your sense of humor show.  Just two months ago I was on a search committee for a position that had around forty applicants.  I was given a stack of ten applications and had to pick the top candidates from that stack.  Only one candidate made it to the top of my list – the one who stuck a purposely amusing sentence in the end of her cover letter.  Guess what?  She’s the person we hired.  Her cover letter stood out for me because it made me laugh.  I thought, “This person is well-qualified AND she has a sense of humor.”  No matter how qualified a person is, nobody wants to work with a stick-in-the-mud.  A balance of skill, knowledge, and humor goes a long way in my book.

That Is SO Not Funny!

Check out this actual sentence from one of the cover letters in that stack I told you about:

 I saw your posting for a Research Lab Assistant and feel that I am well-qualified for the position.

Not bad, huh?  It might have been OK if that had been remotely close to the position for which we were advertising!  Clearly the applicant was copying and pasting and not checking his/her work.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I have seen this happen many times: we receive applications with cover letters that were obviously written in the past for completely different positions.  So here is a tip:  double-check your cover letter!  The cover letter, for me, is the top tool for weeding out candidates.  You can only get so much from an application form; it’s the cover letter that either allows a person to stand out, or causes that fateful toss to the bottom of the pile.


Here’s another tip about cover letters:  prove that you did some research about the position and show interest in some aspect of what you’ve learned.  Study the library’s website and see what kinds of programs and services they offer.  In your cover letter, mention one or two things that stood out or caught your interest.  For example, you could say, “I see that librarians at your institution are involved with developing LibGuides for library patrons.  I have a nursing background and would love to develop a Nursing LibGuide to direct students to authoritative resources.”  Prove in your cover letter that you have invested some time in determining whether you would be a good fit in the organization.  Don’t take the easy way out by using a generic cover letter for all your applications.  That’s the quickest way for your file to be dismissed.

Not So Smart

I always end an interview with the question, “Do you have any questions for me?”  I am flabbergasted and disappointed that many people simply answer, “No.”  Seriously?!  No questions at all?Straight from the Stacks

You should always be prepared to ask some intelligent questions during the actual interview.  I am impressed when a candidate has prepared a list of questions beforehand.  Here is another chance to show that you have given the position some thought and have done some background work to learn about the institution.  Questions like, “Can you explain the requirements for tenure?” or “How does your organization interact with the other campus libraries?” can open up an interesting conversation flow.  So don’t be afraid to whip out that notebook and say, “I’ve written down some questions about the position.”

Make a connection

My 3-year-old son has autism and rarely looks people in the eye.  On those occasions when he does look directly into my eyes, I feel it – ZAP! – an instant connection, no matter how brief.  I never knew the importance of eye contact until it was missing in my interactions with my son.  I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t explain why direct eye contact is so crucial during an interview.  I just know that when it’s completely missing, something is not right.  It can be tough, but be sure to make frequent eye contact with your interviewers.  I don’t mean you should stare continually into their eyes (that would be a little freaky), but just meet their eyes off and on as you answer questions.  It’s a subtle yet very important connection.

A Final No-Brainer

There have been several occasions when the search committee has had trouble deciding between two candidates.  Do you know what eventually tipped the scales in one direction?  A simple thank-you note.  Whether by email or snail mail, it’s always wise to send a letter of thanks to the members of a search committee.  Not only does it show that you appreciate their time, it gives you an extra edge over those candidates who don’t take this simple step.

Just One More

If you only remember one point from this post, remember this one:  don’t ever say, “I became a librarian because I love to read!”  Nothing shows more ignorance about the profession of librarianship than that short phrase.  Enough said.

Laura KaneLaura Townsend Kane, MLS, AHIP, is the author of “Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science” (ALA, 2011), “Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science,”(ALA Editions, 2003), and co- author of “Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries: A Medical Library Association Guide” (Neal-Schuman, 2008).  She is the Assistant Director for Information Services at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine Library in Columbia, South Carolina.  She has also written several book chapters about librarianship career opportunities and several peer-reviewed journal articles on various issues in librarianship.  She is an active member of the Medical Library Association (MLA) and its regional Southern Chapter, and is a Distinguished Member of MLA’s Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP). 


Filed under Author's Corner

Hiring Librarians: Now We Are One

Someone is having a blog-birthday…it’s Hiring Librarians!

Here are the first posts, from one year ago today:

Relate Past Accomplishments to What You Would Do in the New Position

Be Open and Honest, Listen and Ask Questions

Why Are We Here

Helen Marie GunzWhen I started the blog, I thought we would get one or two responses per week to the survey, which I would leisurely post.  Instead, it got something like 80 in one day!

I remember the first day we got 400 views – Naomi House from INALJ had posted and tweeted about it, and sent a lot of you readers over.  How exciting!

I hadn’t planned on doing more surveys, or getting authors and researchers to do guest posts, or really understood how many readers might find their way here and share their stories.

Thank you!

This is what I wrote one year ago:

The goal of this blog is to facilitate communication between job-hunters and hiring managers in the library and information professions.  Although these two groups seemingly have a common purpose, honest interactions are often restricted by pressure, fear, and the mysterious codes of the hiring process.

What do you think, dear readers, is it meeting that goal?  Should we articulate something new for the upcoming year?

Leave a comment

Filed under News and Administration

Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You?

This is a long post, but hopefully you’ll be as fascinated as I am.

I graduated in May of 2011, for a while I felt like I’d landed in the worst possible job market for a new librarian. Entry level positions are scarce, and there seems to be a ravening horde of experienced librarians so desperate for work that they’re taking these precious few spots.

Things could never have been this tough, right?

Then I started working in substitute pools for three different public library systems. Librarians are generally nice, and I began to hear, in each system, sympathetic stories from those who empathized with new grads, because they’d been through the aftermath of Prop 13.

In 1978, Californians engaged in taxpayer revolt. More than 60% of the state voted for Proposition 13, which decreased property taxes. This legislation made it so property value (the amount used to calculate property tax) is assessed at time of purchase, and can not increase more than 2% each year. For both personal and commercial property. It also requires a two-thirds vote for increases in both state and local taxes. I read a lot about it on the librarian’s dirty little secret, but there have been recent murmurings about reform, so you can find some good news articles about it right now as well.

It has had some pretty disastrous ramifications for schools and libraries. Before Prop 13, California was one of top school systems in the country. Now we are ranked 48th. I don’t have a neat statistical fact to describe its affect on libraries (and really, correlation is not causation, so theoretically our school ranking could be the result of other factors). What I do have, are some stories collected from librarians affected by Prop 13. I asked them:

Can you describe how you were affected by Prop 13? Were you laid off or did you have hours reduced? How long did it take to return to work? Did you return to the same level and hours as before you left? Can you see any similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today?

I couldn’t resist sending my experience. I applied to library school in 1980, I think. I wish I still had the letter I received from UC Berkeley’s School of Library and Information Studies. As I remember it, the letter implied ‘if you are even accepted to this graduate program, you will be even more lucky to get a job due to Prop 13.’ I was accepted to the MLIS program and graduated. My first job in records management was followed a year later by my first librarian job as a children’s librarian. I did have to move to southern California for the public library position. I remember that Oakland Public Library was recruiting substitute/temporary librarians around the same time but I didn’t qualify for their list.

– Julia Reardon, Branch Manager, La Palma Branch, OC Public Libraries

blairProp 13 caused a bump down effect at the library I worked at.

I began working in the library field in 1959 at a Los Angeles County branch as a page. Moved to another branch as a library aid. From there to the Pomona Public Library as a circulation clerk. During those times I was going to college part time and doing a lot of the work as a professional librarian without the benefits. Finally got my bachelor’s degree & enrolled in library school at USC while working at San Bernardino County branch as a librarian trainee. Finally got my MSLS from USC & went to work at the Indio Branch of the Riverside City/County Library System. That is where I was when Prop 13 hit. I as a children’s librarian filling the last created Librarian position. When Prop 13 came, my position was the first to be eliminated. As I stated earlier, this caused the bump down affect. I finally moved on to the Colton Public Library where I retired from in 2000.

I loved working in the library field. The one regret I have is not having gotten my MSLS earlier.

The only similarity is the loss of staff due to the loss of revenue. I had to move in order to keep my job.

People today don’t realize the tremendous affect Prop 13 has had over the years to library services.

– Blair Holm, Children’s Librarian

The effects of Prop 13 on me were several.

During all this I worked as a Library Assistant II for the Alameda County Library. LA II’s then were more like librarians than clerks, except we were paid less than genuine, certificate-bearing librarians.

Lots of anxiety before passage of Prop 13. After passage, feelings of resignation and then registering for unemployment benefits. Some relief when rehired (only about one month after being rehired). Resentment, directed (only in my feelings) at the public and those who fought for passage of Prop 13.

I worked half-time for a few months after being rehired, at the Castro Valley branch of the Alameda County Library. More staff (most of those laid off) came back to work and I then worked full-time, as a Branch Manager (Library Assistant III) at a small branch of the Alameda County Library.

I was also studying at San Jose State for my library degree (MLS), which I received in 1980.

I see little difference in the library job market today and before Prop 13. It’s still hard to get a job as a librarian. ( I believe the 1990’s was an easier time to get a library job.) I got my first full-time job as a librarian (with San Mateo County Library) in 1985 after five years of searching. I worked
as a part-time librarian before that (starting in the early 1980s) at the Weekend Library Line (Late-night telephone reference service for the Bay Area, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I worked one night a week. A story for another survey.)

-Jay Smith, Reference Librarian, San Carlos Library 

I worked in a rural county library in northern California when Prop 13 passed in June, 1978.

Our main library (in the county seat) had been open 6 days a week, and was immediately reduced to 4 days a week.

Our county library (main library, three branches, and a bookmobile) was funded by a dedicated tax rate. Before the June election, we did an analysis with the County Auditor and estimated that we would lose more than 20% of our funding, if the measure passed.

Later that summer/early fall, after the State Legislature released additional state funds to the counties, we were able to re-open the main library to 5 days a week.

All the staff took a 20% pay cut during this time (I recall it lasted a few months), except for me. I was the County Librarian and, apparently, there was some section of the state law that prevented the county from reducing my salary, since I was a County officer.

So I would come to work on Fridays, when the library was closed, and do the regular morning tasks (clear the book drop, process the mail and magazines, search for books which had been requested by patrons in other libraries in our 6-county system–these requests came to us every morning on a TWX machine–etc.)

I would also do whatever administrative paperwork (paying claims, reconciling expenditures, etc.) that had piled up during the week, and would walk up to the court house (which was open on Fridays) to make the cash deposit, file the claims, etc. And chat and listen to those county officials who were closer to the powers-that-be to find out what was being discussed and considered as options for all the county departments.

The cuts of Prop 13 were very demoralizing. They were demoralizing to our staff, some of whom left library employment altogether (the bookmobile driver was laid off, because the bookmobile service was eliminated when Prop 13 passed. When the bookmobile service was restored, he declined to return to his former position.)

They were demoralizing to the public, because the county library system was a recently created service, and they appreciated the resources of a system, the access to books outside of their library, the helpful staff, the decent hours of service, etc.

It was demoralizing statewide in a variety of ways. Prop 13 de-stablized funding for a number of the rural county libraries, many of which were funded from their County’s general fund. (Remember: we had a dedicated library tax rate. Not every county library was funded in this way.) One county library–Lassen–later closed down completely. Another county was so pruned back that they later turned to a private operator to offer a modicum of better service.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: In 1978, with the passage of Proposition 13, almost every library in California was facing a cut in revenue, and the uncertainty was spread throughout the state. As background, you have to understand the differences in how libraries were governed and funded. California law provided for county libraries, city libraries, city-county libraries, special district libraries, school district library districts, and joint powers agencies that provided library services. Some county libraries were considered special districts for funding purposes and had a separate library tax. Some county and city libraries were funded from their jurisdiction’s general fund, which meant that they were in competition with many other programs, including law enforcement and fire services, for a share of that money.

In today’s environment, we have some jurisdictions that are doing better than others in terms of recovery from the recession. A jurisdiction with a lot of high-priced homes, an auto mall, and a regional shopping center with a Nordstrom’s as an anchor store is probably doing better than a jurisdiction with a lot of 99-cent stores and store-front churches on their Main Street.

In addition, the number of library school graduates in California in the class of 1978 is different from today’s picture. In 1978, there were ALA-accredited library schools at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Southern California. The program at San Jose State was focused on training school librarians. At that point, they were not engaged in the distance-education programs and large enrollments that are the hallmarks of their operation today.

There are hopeful signs for library service (and for hiring new librarians) in my opinion.

Librarians are doing a better job in their communities demonstrating the value of what they offer. We are using social media to our advantage in reaching those who are informed by those methods. The move to electronic books is an opportunity to promote our collections to new users who may rarely set foot in the library building. The renewed emphasis on services to children is a good hook to lure in the next generation of adults who may not have been regular library users in many years. Robust services to immigrant populations are showing parents about the importance of reading and libraries for their children, especially if they are from countries without a tradition of public library services.

The two library bond issues that passed in California raised the bar on what a modern library building should look like, and the application process introduced a number of best practices to any community that is looking at new construction or remodeling projects.

That said, I am concerned about the library school graduates who are still looking for work. I hope that they remain involved in the profession, even if their employment takes them to something other than a library-based career. I hope that they are flexible and are willing to gain experience in a community that is not on their radar screen at the moment, or take a position where they will be challenged in ways that are different from their “ideal” job.

Brian ReynoldsI was working as a Reference/Catalog Librarian at the Shasta County Library in 1978. Pretty soon after the passage of Prop. 13 my work week and pay was reduced by 20%…a five-day week became a four-day week. This reduction lasted for only a few months, fortunately. I retained my rank and salary throughout. To maintain my income, I went back to waiting tables at a local restaurant…a job I had done in college.

I see similar conditions today where many public libraries have had their budgets cut…due to shortfalls in local funding and reductions in State funding. Our own Library has lost about a dozen positions via attrition but has been fortunate not to have to lay off any staff. Many other public libraries in California have not been so fortunate.

There is a strong perception that public libraries are obsolete, nice but not necessary. I believe this falsehood affects staff morale, staff recruitment, and customer attitudes…especially for people who use a public library only rarely. Why support an agency that is, or will soon become, obsolete? Of course, none of this is accurate but the perception is widespread nonetheless. Many people with whom I have spoken who are interested in librarianship as a profession wonder if it’s a good choice. I assure them that it is, but sometimes it’s an uphill battle.
-Brian A. Reynolds, Library Director

In 1978, I was working half time at Santa Clara County (Los Altos), 18 hours a week (so they didn’t have to pay benefits) at Sunnyvale, and on-call at Mountain View Public. Election Day was June 10th and Proposition 13 passed by a wide margin as I recall. I was one of six librarians laid off at Sunnyvale (case of “last in, first out”). Since I needed a full time job to support myself and my daughter, I had to resign my half time position at the County. Prop 13 went into effect on July 1st so I needed to find ANY job fast. From 1978 to 1992, when I became full time at Mountain View, I worked as a Secretary, at a Sales Order Administration position for a laser company ( Coherent), and as a Technical Documents Librarian at an aerospace company (Lockheed) while continuing as an hourly librarian at Mountain View.

I graduated from SJSU in 1975 and through a personal connection, got the hourly job at Mountain View, which was very lucky. It took another 3 years to find the other positions. It was the old story – without experience, you couldn’t get a job and without a job, you couldn’t get experience. Santa Clara County at that time was giving THE test and you got on a list. They finally got to me 3 years later. Once I had that job, the Sunnyvale job came almost at once. These days, I gather, things are much the same, in that openings are few and far between. Public libraries have had to cut hours and positions and salaries, and cutting staff by attrition and not filling vacancies because of the economy.
-Betsy Carlson, Adult Services Librarian, Mountain View Public Library

In 1993, after a series of annual false alarms, a change in statewide funding protocols called the “ERAF shift” led to funding shortfalls at a number of county libraries in California. This was basically a delayed reaction to Proposition 13. I was laid off from Contra Costa County Library after having worked there full-time as a Library Specialist (roughly equivalent to a Librarian II) for over four years.

On returning to work: I was fortunate and was able to return to full-time work (at Oakland Public Library) after just a couple of weeks of unemployment. It was a very competitive hiring environment, since I was competing against other laid-off experienced librarians from other county systems. I was hired into a comparable classification (Librarian II at Oakland, Library Specialist at Contra Costa) but I took a significant pay cut because I was back at Step 1 pay. Some time later, Contra Costa offered to hire me back from their layoff list, but I decided to stay at Oakland and I’m still here.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: I’ve been in the field long enough now to see the job market go up and down several times. I’m not following it as closely as I might be these days, but my sense is that things are a bit better for applicants now than a couple of years ago, though it’s still a better market for employers than for applicants.

– Daniel Hersh, Supervising Librarian for Support Services, Oakland Public Library

I can tell you that Prop 13 meant that my first job was a very low paying private school part-time gig, and that when Prop 13 hit city library budgets (a year or two after it passed), I was laid off from a city library. I was rehired a few months later when someone left.

In general, because of Prop 13 and strained state budgets, cuts came to libraries in bad times. My next layoff was from a county system in 1993. Incredible numbers of branch managers like myself were laid off and then competed for the few jobs left. (I was rehired within a month by a CITY library, as were several other former experienced librarians from affected counties.) I’d have hated to be a newly-minted librarian at that time!

Cindy MediavillaWhen I graduated from library school in 1977, I was immediately hired by the Glendale Public Library, where I had interned as a student. My job, which was funded by the Comprehensive Employment & Training Act (CETA), consisted of working part-time as the “services to shut-ins” librarian, where I took books to homebound community members. The rest of my 40 hours a week were spent working on the various branch and central library reference desks.

Prop 13 passed at the end of my first year working as a professional librarian. Since I was in a grant-funded position, I was the first person in the library to be laid-off. Another entry-level (non-grant-funded) librarian was also laid-off.

On returning to work: After maybe 3-4 months of being unemployed, I finally got a job in downtown L.A. at Price Waterhouse, where I worked part-time as a cataloger. I had interned at Glendale as a cataloger, so was familiar with the process. At that time (1978), Price Waterhouse had a one-room special library filled with monographs all classified according to Dewey (mostly in the 600s). I was hired to reclassify the books according to a customized system created by Price Waterhouse. I was not enamored of the work, but it was a job, so I didn’t complain. The worst part was commuting to downtown L.A. from Long Beach, where I was living at the time.

In late spring 1979, I applied for a full-time Librarian I job at the Alhambra Public Library. The head of reference there knew my former boss at Glendale and so I was hired roughly a year after being laid-off. I no longer remember, but believe the pay was about the same, but I had much more responsibility at Alhambra. I stayed there for three years.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: I see lots of similarities between the job situation in the late 1970s and the situation today. I was also laid-off in 1993 during our last economic recession. Personally, that was a lot more devastating in that I had a lot of family obligations, plus we lost our house. Still, professionally, I was able to find temporary employment right away and was back to full time within 6 months.

Today, the employment picture is lot more bleak. Many of my students end up being unemployed for one or two years after graduation. This is the worst it’s been since Proposition 13. In fact, it may even be worse today: lots of competition for so few library jobs. It breaks my heart that my students–many of whom are stellar–can’t find jobs.
– Cindy Mediavilla, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library, and Lecturer, UCLA Department of Information Studies

Maybe this way; I watched it happen, and it was gradual as the state slowly contracted; first nothing then on and on with cuts. The unfinished highway projects, like in front of SFO the freeway to nowhere for years. The state robbing the counties and the cities for property tax money and the different impound accounts…sigh.

The school librarians were the hardest hit, but it was not overnight. So the statue law says the schools have to have a library, not that they have to staff it. If you live in Chappaqua, New York you pay $ 12,000 property tax on a $200,000 house in the 80’s and a further $18,000 in school taxes(no I didn’t make a mistake). Property owners don’t want to pay for things they don’t decide on, or they don’t perceive as value for money. I was the last generation where fiction was put around non-fiction on the shelving because it was worth less, and the librarians told you what you could take out-literally the public librarians told an older teen that book is not for you.

Whole generations were alienated at the library and then by Pat Brown’s then Regan then Jerry Brown’s public policies and wanted spending to stop so then you had Prop.13. By the way I am very liberal, but I saw how it went down. I heard people complain; people who spent $55,000 on a house and all of sudden after 6 years were paying $4,000 a year taxes a percentage lower than New York, but still high compared with the value of the house, and salaries here were lower on the left coast.

Joni BodartI was a YA librarian in the Bay Area when Prop 13 was passed. I had been fortunate to change jobs just six months before, going from Alameda County Library to Stanislaus County Free Library, and as a result, did not lose my job when ACL closed all its branches. The director in Modesto was determined not to lay off any full time professional staff, so did other cuts. But I can still remember how devastating it was for my friends still at ACL, and how they struggled to support themselves.
-Joni Richards Bodart, Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University

In February 1977 I started graduate school to become a librarian. In March 1977 I was hired as a librarian for the Buena Park Library District. At the time they did not require a library degree for librarian but they were looking to upgrade the standards. I was very fortunate to be able to work as a librarian during library school and being able to apply what I learned. I was also very fortunate working for BPLD. As and entry librarian, they had me working in every department giving me well-rounded experience to go with the degree. After Prop 13 passed, I was one of the first to be laid off. I still had a year of library school to finish, but need to work full-time.

I had a friend in library school that had already graduated and was running a small business setting up libraries for business. She also maintained these libraries. She hired me as a cataloguer. This was part time work that I did at home and I was able to speed up my graduation by taking more classes a semester. Later that year I was able to get a part-time reference librarian job at Santa Ana Public Library. I worked both part-time jobs until I graduated in 1980, the last graduating class from the Cal State Fullerton Library School.

It was a difficult time to start this career, there were hundreds of applications for new jobs. So I count myself very lucky to have gained the experience I did while going to library school.

After graduation I moved out of state and worked in a small community college library for about 5 years before moving back to California. I worked for the same library company. This time actually going to the libraries to maintain them. Later I taught at a small Christian school in San Clemente, setting up a library for the school that help get the school accredited. In 1994, someone took a chance on me, once a again, and I started work for OC Public Libraries as an extra help librarian and then as a children’s librarian. In 2004 I promoted to senior branch manager. In 2008 started my current position at the El Toro Library.

My advice to students working on a library degree is to get library experience, even if you have to volunteer. This gives you the edge when you send in an application and/or resume and go to the interview. It will show you if you will like this work. The more experience you have, the easier it is to find a job.

I have been a librarian for 38 years now and have never ever regretted it. I became a librarian because is knew I would be challenged, learn something every day, and provide an essential service to people. It has never been boring and to this day I never know what the day will hold.
– Grace M. Barnes, Senior Branch Librarian,El Toro Library, Laguna Woods Library

If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure we could be twinsies, politics generally put you straight to sleep. But here’s the thing: our work, even if we are academic, or special librarians, is so dependent on the political system. Not just for funding, which is our life blood, but in order to fulfill our missions of promoting things like intellectual freedom, and literacy. I’m trying real hard to keep my eyes open.

I want to take this opportunity to share a few pertinent links with you:

  • Everylibrary is a Political Action Committee (PAC) for libraries. They are running a summer internship, in partnership with Hack Library School. Deadline to apply is March 15.
  • National Library Legislative Day is an ALA event in Washington D.C. that seeks to drum up federal money for libraries. If you know a non-librarian library supporter, they can win an award to attend on a travel stipend.
  • Finally, March 15 is also the deadline to apply for ALA’s Google Policy Fellowship. The Fellow will spend 10 weeks in Washington D.C. researching library and information policy.

If you were affected by the passing of Prop 13, or the ERAF shift, please feel free to join the discussion in the comment section.

If your state has had a similar experience with crippling legislation, please contact me – let me know if you’d like to put together a post about it.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Today’s other post is a discussion of “Is it the worst time ever to be a new library grad?” so if you’ve got opinions about that, please click through and comment there.

1 Comment

Filed under Further Answers, Op Ed