Tag Archives: new librarians

Further Questions: How can new hires start off right?

It seems to be a new hire focused week here at Hiring Librarians.  This week I asked:

After hiring, are your new hires put through any sort of probation period?  Have any of them been unable to make it through this period? Do you have any general tips for new employees, to help them start off on the right foot? 

J. McRee Elrod

There is no formal probation period, but failure to deliver quality records in a timely matter can result in getting no more work.

Best to double check quality of records, and complete work in a timely manner.

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

The state of Virginia has very specific timelines for classified staff. There is a one year probation period with an evaluation at 6 weeks, 6 months and one year. This is in addition to the annual evaluation that is also done during this time. This is the opportunity for their supervisors to identify issues and find a way to work through them in a clear plan and a time for both parties to determine if this is a good fit. After the 1 year probation, staff are given a performance plan that may just be position expectations or may have special things for the staff person to work on/learn. They are later evaluated based on that PP&E (Performance Plan and Expectations.) The PP&E can be changed during the year to reflect a new need or a change in duties. Once a staff person finishes the probation period, termination is much more difficult, if that is necessary.

I think the probationary period is good for the staff person and the supervisor because it forces both sides to be very clear about expectations and, the staff person knows if they need to change how they do something. It puts the onus on the supervisor, which is where is should be and, if the supervisor finds that their staff person is not responding appropriately, they had time to address it and give the staff person an opportunity to address it.  That is assuming those issues surface in the first year. But, the annual PP&E and evaluation can be beneficial in terms of getting a staff person back on track.

– Anonymous

Marleah AugustineWe have a six-month probationary period for all new hires (from part-time support staff to full-time librarians and all in between). At the end of the six months, the employee has an evaluation to determine whether employment will continue.
 
I have had instances in which a new support staff hire was let go during the probationary period. They received the same verbal and written warnings as any employee would. 

For employees in positions that include benefits (the basic support staff position does not receive benefits), their benefits kick in after the six month probationary period (sick leave, vacation leave, holiday pay, etc.). They do not accrue sick leave or vacation time during the probationary period.

 
In the hopes that all hires start off on the right foot, supervisors go through a thorough orientation process with each hire. It covers basic tasks and how-to’s, as well as just getting the employee familiar with different areas of the library and different people on staff. 

My general tips – learn as much as you can, ask questions any time they come up, and never say “No one told me …” (my personal pet peeve). If you make a mistake, be honest about not knowing how that works and ask questions so that you get it right the next time. If you really weren’t told about something, it’s much better for a supervisor to hear “I wasn’t aware of that” and have you recognize your own responsibility in learning some of those tasks. Librarians are in the question-answering line of work, so take advantage of that when you are a new hire.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch WoutersOur library has a six-month probationary period. I would not hesitate to let someone go in that time if they failed to meet the requirements of the job.  While one always allows time for new employees to gain their sea legs and become familiar with routines, procedures and policies, it is usually clear when a new employee is not up to the job.   My best advice for new hires is learn as much as you can as soon as you can and show your skills and talents in a way that supports your colleagues.

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

We do have a general probation period which is 9 months for librarians. At our institution the librarian and supervisor should be working together to create a job description and a performance agreement within the first month. The supervisor and librarian should be meeting regularly the first few months of employment to make sure they are on the same page and the librarian is meeting goals. At nine months the supervisor will write a review with a recommendation for continued employment or the librarian will be notified that their appointment will end at the 12 month mark.

If this is not the policy or does not appear to be at the place where you are hired, I would request something in writing regarding expectations for performance.

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

 

Sherle Abramson-BluhmAt University of Michigan Library – there are different probationary periods for staff and for librarians.
Staff have a six month probation.  I have not had any staff who did not make it through.  A staff member who was hired for a term (1 year) position was not renewed – and might have been let go durring probation if it had been a regular position.
 
my best tip – is to ask if you are not sure of something – much rather answer a question than fix a problem.
 
For librarians it is a two year probation.

Supervisor

  • Prepares a training program based on the new librarian’s job description.
  • Trains the librarian for two months.

Supervisor and Librarian

  • Meet to discuss the librarian’s progress to date at the end of the initial training period.
  • Prepare performance goals to be applied to the remainder of the performance appraisal year. 
I have not hired a librarian in my area since I have been here and have no direct experience.  I was very new to Acquisitions when I was hired and had a great deal to learn
and I believe I followed my own tip very well – and 8 years later I am still here
 
I do know of Librarians who did not make it through, but have no knowledge of the specifics. It is pretty rare.
– Sherle Abramson-Bluhm, Head, Print Acquisitions, University of Michigan

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!  Go to sleep little baby.  You and me and the comment makes three don’t need any other loving comment.

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Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

Researcher’s Corner: New Academic Librarians’ Perceptions of the Profession

What’s the point of all this relentless search for work anyway?  What happens once a librarian is hired?  How does this step change a librarian’s career, and how can hiring managers help new hires transition into work successfully?  If you’re interested in the answers to these questions, please keep reading.  Laura Sare and Stephen Bales have written a fantastic intro to some of their research on new librarians’ perception of the work.  


In a 2011 study we sought to identify concepts relevant to new academic librarians’ perceptions of librarianship as a profession. We used long interviews and document analysis to develop a grounded theory consisting of six categories that weigh upon novice librarians’ perceptions of the profession and how these perceptions develop:

(1) Deciding upon a career,

(2) Experiencing graduate school,

(3) Continuing education,

(4) Defining the work,

(5) Evaluating the work, and

(6) (Re)imagining the future.

We then analyzed the six categories to theorize how the new librarians’ perceptions shifted from the decision to pursue a new career through the first few years of professional work.

While we did not specifically ask about the job seeking process during the interviews, those hiring new librarians may be interested to learn what our participants found satisfying and dissatisfying about their first jobs so that supervisors can provide support in these areas for better retention and increased job satisfaction. These perceptions tended to appear in the emergent categories Defining the work and Evaluating the work.

What Our New Librarians found Satisfying about the Job

All of the interviewed librarians felt most rewarded through providing service to others, and especially through providing information to patrons, whether it be through reference interviews, instruction transactions, or back-end tasks that allow patrons to find information on their own. The most popular expression of job satisfaction was working with students. Several librarians felt gratified by engaging in transactions where their hard work for the patron was noticeably appreciated. Typical transactions included helping a struggling student get a better grade than he anticipated, helping a student during a library chat service, teaching students that there are better resources for their coursework than just Google, and preparing students for future research.

The study participants that were not on the front line or who rarely directly interacted with patrons also shared this theme of satisfaction through service. One librarian felt gratified after receiving mostly positive comments on the library website redesign project that he had recently completed. Another technical services librarian evaluated a neglected collection, and gained satisfaction from the fact that her efforts were recognized and appreciated by her peers who did not have the time or skills to complete the project themselves. One librarian’s work on completing cataloging enhancements satisfied her because she felt that she helped faculty and students find things they would not have otherwise know about.

Two of our participants were glad they worked at academic libraries that allowed them to be generalists and work in different areas of the library, such as in public and technical service.

Praise from or working with teaching faculty also brought satisfaction to a few of the participants. One librarian learned that the faculty she supported thought she “walked on water” when they sent a letter noting her hard work to her library director. Another found satisfaction when she was able to snare a faculty that was reluctant to bring their class in for instruction, and have a successful teaching outcome.

What Our New Librarians found Dissatisfying about the Job

Most of the new librarians in our study experienced three main themes of dissatisfaction:

(1)    Unsuccessful patron interactions,

(2)    Frustration with intra-institutional politics, and

(3)    Time management issues.

The public services librarians in our sample felt frustration when they were unable to help patrons at what they felt was an adequate level of professional service. One new public services librarian stated that researching and writing papers as a part of the tenure process took too much time away from her librarianship. An instruction librarian at another institution was greatly disappointed  when a patron did not get the instruction that the librarian felt that they needed. Another librarian dreaded having to tell  patrons things that that they did not want, such as no refunds.

Public service frustrations also frequently involved the new librarians’ interactions with teaching faculty. One participant met with a student multiple times for help on a paper, and felt that the teaching faculty was not doing their job, or should have been doing a better job at helping their students write papers. Another participant reported a frustrating interaction with a teaching faculty member over how to best provide library instruction for a class. She ended up feeling naïve and uncertain about where her job started and the instructor’s job ended. Some of this frustration might stem from the fact that participants sometimes felt that teaching faculty members treated librarians differently, i.e., not as full faculty members. Even some of the faculty status librarians felt that they  did not receive the same recognition and privileges as teaching faculty.

Several librarians were unhappy with the bureaucratic and political elements of work. A common complaint was that library administrators were not listening to the needs, and one librarian remarked that librarians “don’t put enough value on what they do, and they need to publicize it better.” Other librarians actively disliked committee work because of internal politics and/or hostility among colleagues.

Finally, time management was an issue for several of the participants. This manifested both on a work level, where librarians were dissatisfied with the amount of time they had to spend on job functions that they did not consider as important or as “real” (i.e., professional) library work (again, this “real” work was primarily the provision of service to patrons). One librarian had to supervise staff during a rushed institutional reorganization and found it hard to provide the same expected level of customer service to patrons. Time for reflection on their job, or looking into the future of their careers became hard to find due to constant change and a fast pace expected of the librarians.

The participants tended to be concerned with job advancement, so institutions hiring new librarians should show potential hires what advancement opportunities are available to them. Several of the new librarians did not see much opportunity for advancement in their current positions and were disappointed by this realization. Two librarians felt that the only opportunity that they had to advance was through the tenure process. One participant lamented that she wanted to obtain a supervisory position but the only one she would be qualified for was that held by her supervisor. Another librarian monitored other institutions for hoped job opportunities because he saw none where he worked. Other participants were more positive with one librarian aspiring to be an associate dean, one a supervisor, and one just wanting to, “move up one more rung.”

The tenure-track librarians that we interviewed were nervous about tenure and unclear as to how to incorporate their work towards tenure into what they considered to be their professional responsibilities; this feeling persisted even after being on the job for a year or more. Therefore, support in navigating the tenure process and mentoring is important.

For more about perceptions new librarians had of the library profession, please see our article,

Sare, Laura, Stephen Bales, and Bruce Neville. “New Academic Librarians and Their Perceptions of the Profession.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 12.2 (2012): 179-203.


Laura Sare

 

 

 

Laura Sare is an Associate Professor and the Government Information Librarian at Texas A&M University. She has worked with government information for 14 years. Her research interests include government information accessibility and qualitative research.

steven balesStephen Bales is Assistant Professor and Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Texas A&M University Libraries. His research interests include the history and philosophy of libraries and librarianship, librarianship and professional identity, and the political economy of the academic library.

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Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

Residency Run-Down: National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program

Applications are now open for this residency: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/about/training/associate/applicinfo.html

REPOST FROM June 6, 2013

Here is another post for you new and soon-to-be new grads.  Kathel Dunn was gracious enough to speak with me about the Associate Fellowship program at the National Library of Medicine.  If you’re interested in being a health sciences librarian, please pay close attention!


Can you give us a brief introduction to the NLM Associate Fellowship Program?

NLM FellowsSure! The Associate Fellowship Program is a one-year residency program at the National Library of Medicine on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The fellowship offers recent library science graduates the opportunity to learn about NLM’s products, services, and databases; its research and development areas; and its outreach to the public, particularly underserved populations; and to health professionals.

Why does the NLM continue to fund this program?  What makes it important to your organization?

NLM continues to fund the program – it’s over 40 years old – because of a strong commitment to training health sciences librarians. It’s part of our Long Range Plan.

What are the main job duties of  the Associate Fellows – do they differ from those of “regular” librarians?

The Associate Fellows’ main “job” is to learn. So their responsibilities are first to participate in a curriculum, taught by staff, which covers all of the work that NLM does. It’s extensive – lasting approximately 5 months. At the end of that time, the Associate Fellows then move into the project phase of the year where they work on projects proposed by staff. In addition, they go to conferences, visit other health sciences libraries, and present on their project to all NLM staff at the end of the year.

Are Associate Fellows paid?  Do they get any other special benefits?

Yes, Associate Fellows are paid $51,630 for the year. In addition, they receive:

  • An additional amount provided to assist in paying for health insurance
  • Up to $1,500 to aid with moving expenses
  • Full funding to attend local and national conferences

What would you tell a potential applicants in order to convince them to apply for the program?

Nlm_building_lg (resized)I usually don’t try to convince someone to apply.  If someone has to be   convinced, it’s probably not a good match. What I want to convey, though, is how exciting it is to be at the National Library of Medicine, where many of the products and services used not just by health sciences libraries and libraries but by researchers and the public across the United States and the world are created, maintained and reinvented. For a librarian in any stage of his or her career, NLM is an amazing place to be.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants must have graduated from an ALA-accredited program within the past two years. That’s the basic eligibility requirement. What we also like to see is an interest in health sciences librarianship and in leadership.

What does the selection process entail? How does it differ from the regular job application process?

nlm frontWe ask for a structured resume**, three written references, transcripts, and responses to two questions: What do you hope to gain by participating in the NLM Associate Fellowship Program and If selected, what will you bring to the NLM Associate Fellowship Program?

The regular job application process for NLM is through the USAJobs web site and does not usually require responses to narrative statements.

**Emily’s note: The structured resume in this context is a resume which is formatted and contains information as specified on page 6 of the current application.

Any tips for students?  Is there anything they could do to improve their chances of winning a spot in your program?

The biggest tip is to pay attention to the application instructions. We ask for a complete job history on their resume, to include library and non-library jobs. We respect the work and skills someone may have learned from another industry, including customer service, management, project planning, or marketing, as examples.

We also look for signs of leadership or interest in leadership in the resume, reference letters, or responses to the questions.

When will the next Associate Fellows be picked?

The next Associate Fellows’ application deadline will be in early February 2014. We then review applications and in late March ask between 10 and 12 applicants to visit us for an interview in mid to late April. We make our decision on who we’ve selected by late April or early May.

Anything else you want to tell us about the program, or about job hunting in general?

Kathel DunnYes. I’m happy to take calls or emails from students interested in the program or anyone who would like to work at NLM. Really. It’s my job and it’s a pleasure to hear from someone who’d like to know more about the National Library of Medicine.


Photos of NLM Fellows and Kathel Dunn by Troy Pfister, National Library of Medicine.

Thank you to Ms. Dunn for taking the time to answer my questions!

If you run a LIS residency program and you’d like to discuss it here, please contact me.  I’d love to talk to you.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, MLIS Students, Residency Run-Down, Special

Residency Run-Down: National Library of Medicine Associate Fellowship Program

Here is another post for you new and soon-to-be new grads.  Kathel Dunn was gracious enough to speak with me about the Associate Fellowship program at the National Library of Medicine.  If you’re interested in being a health sciences librarian, please pay close attention!


Can you give us a brief introduction to the NLM Associate Fellowship Program?

NLM FellowsSure! The Associate Fellowship Program is a one-year residency program at the National Library of Medicine on the campus of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. The fellowship offers recent library science graduates the opportunity to learn about NLM’s products, services, and databases; its research and development areas; and its outreach to the public, particularly underserved populations; and to health professionals.

Why does the NLM continue to fund this program?  What makes it important to your organization?

NLM continues to fund the program – it’s over 40 years old – because of a strong commitment to training health sciences librarians. It’s part of our Long Range Plan.

What are the main job duties of  the Associate Fellows – do they differ from those of “regular” librarians?

The Associate Fellows’ main “job” is to learn. So their responsibilities are first to participate in a curriculum, taught by staff, which covers all of the work that NLM does. It’s extensive – lasting approximately 5 months. At the end of that time, the Associate Fellows then move into the project phase of the year where they work on projects proposed by staff. In addition, they go to conferences, visit other health sciences libraries, and present on their project to all NLM staff at the end of the year.

Are Associate Fellows paid?  Do they get any other special benefits?

Yes, Associate Fellows are paid $51,630 for the year. In addition, they receive:

  • An additional amount provided to assist in paying for health insurance
  • Up to $1,500 to aid with moving expenses
  • Full funding to attend local and national conferences

What would you tell a potential applicants in order to convince them to apply for the program?

Nlm_building_lg (resized)I usually don’t try to convince someone to apply.  If someone has to be   convinced, it’s probably not a good match. What I want to convey, though, is how exciting it is to be at the National Library of Medicine, where many of the products and services used not just by health sciences libraries and libraries but by researchers and the public across the United States and the world are created, maintained and reinvented. For a librarian in any stage of his or her career, NLM is an amazing place to be.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants must have graduated from an ALA-accredited program within the past two years. That’s the basic eligibility requirement. What we also like to see is an interest in health sciences librarianship and in leadership.

What does the selection process entail? How does it differ from the regular job application process?

nlm frontWe ask for a structured resume**, three written references, transcripts, and responses to two questions: What do you hope to gain by participating in the NLM Associate Fellowship Program and If selected, what will you bring to the NLM Associate Fellowship Program?

The regular job application process for NLM is through the USAJobs web site and does not usually require responses to narrative statements.

**Emily’s note: The structured resume in this context is a resume which is formatted and contains information as specified on page 6 of the current application.

Any tips for students?  Is there anything they could do to improve their chances of winning a spot in your program?

The biggest tip is to pay attention to the application instructions. We ask for a complete job history on their resume, to include library and non-library jobs. We respect the work and skills someone may have learned from another industry, including customer service, management, project planning, or marketing, as examples.

We also look for signs of leadership or interest in leadership in the resume, reference letters, or responses to the questions.

When will the next Associate Fellows be picked?

The next Associate Fellows’ application deadline will be in early February 2014. We then review applications and in late March ask between 10 and 12 applicants to visit us for an interview in mid to late April. We make our decision on who we’ve selected by late April or early May.

Anything else you want to tell us about the program, or about job hunting in general?

Kathel DunnYes. I’m happy to take calls or emails from students interested in the program or anyone who would like to work at NLM. Really. It’s my job and it’s a pleasure to hear from someone who’d like to know more about the National Library of Medicine.


Photos of NLM Fellows and Kathel Dunn by Troy Pfister, National Library of Medicine.

Thank you to Ms. Dunn for taking the time to answer my questions!

If you run a LIS residency program and you’d like to discuss it here, please contact me.  I’d love to talk to you.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, MLIS Students, Residency Run-Down, Special

Residency Run-Down: Los Angeles Public Library Innovation Leadership Program

I know a lot of you readers are new librarians or current students.  And we all know it’s a tough market for emerging information professionals.  That’s why I’m really happy to be able to share this interview with Dawn Coppin, Director of Foundation & Corporate Relations for the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.  Los Angeles Public Library has the only public library residency program that I know of.  In this interview, Ms. Coppin describes the scope and goals of the program, as well as providing a few tips for those of you graduating this year or next, who may be interested in this fantastic opportunity to get a comprehensive introduction to working as a public librarian. 

Can you give us a brief introduction to the Los Angeles Public Library Residency Program?

LAPL ILP 2013 cohortThe Innovation Leadership Program (ILP) is a unique approach to cultivating the next generation of library leaders by teaming ‘residents’ who are recent library school graduates with ‘fellows’ who are mid-career librarians. The two-year, full-time, program provides them with resources to develop new library programs and the opportunity to gain the skills necessary to lead the Los Angeles Public Library in the twenty-first century.

Why did LAPL decide to develop this program?

The original planning started in 2010 at a time when the Los Angeles Public Library was experiencing early retirements, layoffs, and a long-term hiring freeze that meant we were in danger of losing a generation of newly credentialed librarians who were dedicated to public service. The ILP is a way for the Library to benefit from the new skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm of graduates *and* develop the leadership skills and experiences of ambitious, talented, mid-career librarians to expand internal capacity to ensure the Library’s succession plan.

What will be the main job duties of residents – do they differ from those of “regular” librarians?

The residents’ experiences will change over the course of the two year program. Initially, they will spend the majority of their time doing usual entry-level librarian duties. However, their location will change every three months as they rotate to different libraries to see how parts of the whole system are the same and different from one another: subject departments and branch libraries; suburban and urban branches; poor and rich neighborhoods; public-facing and back-of-house departments; etc. Residents will also be involved with many ILP-specific meetings, workshops, and interactions with other major cultural and educational institutions.

Are residents paid? Do they get any other special benefits?

Yes, residents are paid full time employees of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles at the equivalent entry-level librarian rate for two years. Health insurance, sick and vacation leave, and 401(k) matching are standard, plus they get a travel allowance for professional conferences and other leadership development opportunities.

What would you tell a potential applicants in order to convince them to apply for the program?

Central Library - LAPLThe Innovation Leadership Program will provide the successful applicant with unparalleled experiences to understand how a large urban public library system operates, to obtain the skills necessary to be in a leadership position, and with networking opportunities that are essential to a long successful career.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants to be an ILP Resident must have graduated with an MLIS from a credentialed school within 12 months of the program start date. They must have a demonstrated commitment to public librarianship and be eligible to work in the USA.

What does the selection process entail? How does it differ from the regular job application process?

The selection is made by a sub-committee of the ILP advisory group that includes that cohort’s fellows. Initial selection is based on the written application essay and resume that show those with the best fit and strongest promise. The next step is an interview either in-person or via video conference, followed by background checks to the top candidates’ references.

Any tips for students? Is there anything they could do to improve their chances of winning a spot in your program?

Be succinct and don’t repeat in your essay what we can see in your resume. Instead, show us your commitment to public librarianship and innovative approaches to the future of the public library; that you desire to be a leader and know why that will make a difference to our society.

When will the next residents be picked?

We haven’t determined this yet but most likely it will be to begin late 2014.

Anything else you want to tell us about the program?

Please check in with the ILP online at http://ilpinfo.wordpress.com/ or follow us on Facebook or Twitter (@ilpLAPL). We will also be at the major professional conferences, including ALA in Chicago, so stop by and talk with us.

Thank you to Ms. Coppin for taking the time to answer my questions!

If you run a LIS residency program and you’d like to discuss it here, please contact me.  I’d love to talk to you.

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Filed under 200+ staff members, MLIS Students, Public, Residency Run-Down

Author’s Corner: Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian

Our friends at the Library and Information Technology Association have published a brand new guide to becoming a digital librarian. I’m very grateful to editor Jane Monson, who has written today’s guest post. Not only will you get a glimpse of some of the topics covered in the book, but she’s put together some great advice for library students and entry level librarians.


During the past decade or so, the job title of “digital librarian” has become increasingly common as more and more libraries move their content and services online. In my recently published book, Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian: A LITA Guide, the specifics skills needed to position oneself for a job in this brave new world of librarianship – among them, familiarity with metadata, digital preservation, and web development – are explained by a cadre of experienced professionals in the field. Jump start your career as a digital librarianHowever, when it comes to job searching, the would-be digital librarian faces the same challenges as any other new professional: namely, to stand out in an over-crowded field and somehow find a position that balances both desires (to land a dream job) and needs (to pay the bills).

With that in mind, I would like to share a few kernels of wisdom that both the book’s contributors and I have gathered in our own employment searches, as well as our experiences serving on hiring committees. Much of this advice is specific to entry-level librarians, as they are usually the ones with the greatest obstacles to employment.

  1. Lay the groundwork during library school. In their chapter, “Getting the Most Out of Library School,” authors Micah Vandegrift and Annie Pho discuss ways that the savvy student can take optimal advantage of the opportunities available in library school and emerge as a desirable job candidate. They recommend surveying the job landscape early and often (ideally, before you even begin school); being creative with your coursework and fashioning your own specialty if your program doesn’t offer exactly what you want; putting in work through part-time jobs, practicums, internships, and volunteer work; and connecting with others through online and traditional venues. Knowing what skills employers are looking for by scanning job ads is a good way to target courses and part-time jobs that will give you the best experience in your chosen area. Some schools offer specialized tracks (for example, in digital libraries), but if yours doesn’t you can often create a close approximation using the DIY approach, cobbling together courses from other departments and initiating independent studies. Be willing to spend time outside of school teaching yourself relevant technology skills and keeping up on the latest journals and trade publications. Take advantage of any opportunity to attend professional conferences and workshops, and don’t be afraid to jump into online networking to get your face and name out there.
  2. Get as much work experience as you can while in school. Of the items listed above, “putting in work” may well be the most critical. It seems unfair, but the sad truth is that employment begets employment. Many a new librarian, digital or otherwise, has complained that employers seem unwilling to train new hires with little prior experience. Therefore, one of your main jobs while in library school is to train yourself, outside of the classroom. Don’t graduate without at least one volunteer gig, graduate assistantship, or other library-related job on your resume (and ideally several). If this isn’t possible for you to do, think carefully about your decision to enter library school – unless, of course, you already have significant library work experience prior to enrolling, or you don’t plan on using the degree to work in a library. When choosing a graduate program, weigh heavily the opportunities for students to find work in libraries on campus and in the surrounding area. These experiences are often more important than the classes you take.
  3. Be willing to relocate. There may be some fields that will easily allow you to go to school, undertake a career, and retire all in the same place. Librarianship, unfortunately, is not generally one of them. One important point that Elyssa Sanner and Catherine Wagner make in the chapter “Landing Your First Job,” is that unless you are willing to wait around for a relevant position to open up in your geographic area, the surest way to find a job after graduation is to cast your net as widely as possible. This is not to say that no one ever finds jobs within a targeted location, but these jobs are more likely to require a compromise – they may be part-time, or not in the area you trained for. Limiting yourself geographically may not allow you to make the best use of your library degree, and is bound to make the job search that much more difficult and drawn-out. A reality of librarianship today is that you may have to “pay your dues” by taking that all-important first job in a less than desirable location. But once you have those first years under your belt, you will have much more leverage to go after your dream job in your dream place.

The book has many more tips for navigating library school, applying for your first job in the field, transitioning from one area of librarianship to another, and further developing your career (Roy Tennant has some great advice in this chapter). It offers a wealth of information for both digital- and non-digital librarians alike, culled from the collective wisdom of more than twenty contributing authors – many of them hiring librarians themselves. I’m sure I can speak for all of them in wishing you good luck in your job search!


Jane Monson

Jane Monson received her MLS from the University of Iowa, where she was an IMLS Digital Libraries Fellow. She is currently Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Northern Colorado; previous to that she was Digital Projects Librarian at Truman State University. She has been published in Computers in Libraries, is a book reviewer for the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, and serves on various ALA editorial committees.

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Author’s Corner: A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market

Today’s post is an excerpt from A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market, by Jeanette Woodward (2011. Chicago,IL: American Library Association). It’s got some excellent, very specific advice about the work you can do to be an engaged and smart job hunter. I’m happy to be able to share it with you.


For Applications that Make the Cut, Do Your Homework

At some point in the near future, you hope to be sitting opposite a library administrator or search committee convincing them that you are the best applicant for the job. However, that meeting will undoubtedly be preceded by many, many small steps. The secret is preparation and that preparation must begin long before the interview.

Focusing On the Job and the Employer

Actually, it all begins as soon as you discover the job announcement. Once you’ve decided that this is an opening you may want to pursue, immediately begin learning more. You’ll need to investigate not only the job itself but also the library and the people, especially senior staff, who work in that library. All of us, I suppose, tend to focus on ourselves. The people to whom you are sending your application are thinking not about you but about themselves and their library. They have a problem- in other words, there is work that’s not getting done and plans that are not being implemented. They are interested in how someone might solve their problem and how well that someone might fit into their world. Your task is not so much to tell them about yourself as to focus on their need.

What the Ad Really Says

Begin by examining the job ad carefully. Check to see if there are other versions online (the library’s own website may have a much longer and more complete announcement since some job lists charge by the word). You can do this by taking an exact phrase from the announcement, enclosing it in quotes, and pasting it into a search engine. Assemble all the versions you can find and keep your fingers crossed that they were written by a librarian and not a human resource professional. What do they really seem to be looking for? How is this announcement different from others you’ve seen for similar jobs? In one sense, your challenge is to become a mind reader.
The job that’s open in this particular library is unique. In many ways, it’s unlike other jobs with identical job titles in other libraries because this library has evolved differently. It has different goals, different needs, and a different cast of characters. Can you read between the lines to discover what these people are really looking for? Focus on them, not yourself. Don’t begin comparing your skills and experience with their requirements until you really understand what they are looking for.

Obtaining More Information

How can you find out more about this position? What do you already know about the library? Your friends and colleagues usually provide the best insights so ask around. Use your social network to get all the information you can. Is this a new position or is the opening the result of a recent resignation? It’s helpful to know whether you will be following in someone else’s footsteps or will help create a new position. Have two positions been merged and would you be expected to do both? These situations have their advantages and disadvantages but it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into.

a librarian's guide to an uncertain job marketWhen the Library is Far From Home

At the moment, the job market is far from sunny so you may be applying to libraries far distant from home. If this is the case, you’re going to have to do some real detective work and as a librarian, you’re better equipped for the task than job applicants in other fields. Use the Internet to find out all you can about the libraries in which you’re interested, in other words the staff size, names and titles of senior librarians, budget, etc.
If the announcement asks you to reply to someone other than a human resource administrator, find out who that person is. You can probably gather enough information to make some educated guesses about the people who will make the hiring decision. Learning about the human side of libraries will help you better understand what they’re looking for. LIS professionals are so well represented online that you can often learn a lot about them as individuals including their perspectives and preferences. Some of the information will be useful in the cover letter and if you make the cut, it will be invaluable in the interview.

Investigate the Community

Also gather enough information to decide whether this is a place where you’d like to live. Find out about the cost of living, especially the cost of housing, the unemployment rate, the schools if you have children, and other quality of life indicators. As we all know, statistics can be boring and seemingly meaningless. Don’t just look up numbers. What do the numbers really say? Compare them with your home community. Consider whether unemployment numbers are improving or budget cuts have been so draconian that basic services like education and police protection are inadequate. Be sure to bookmark local newspapers to get a feeling for how residents view their area. Though you may be feeling somewhat desperate, you don’t want to have to go through this again. Job hunting takes a lot out of you both financially and psychologically. You’re looking for a stable, supportive environment where you can recharge your batteries and grow professionally. There really and truly are jobs that you should avoid.


Jeannette Woodward is a principal of Wind River Library and Nonprofit Consulting. After a career in academic library administration, most recently as Assistant Director of the David Adamany Library at Wayne State University, she began a second career in public libraries as the Director of the Fremont County Library System in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming.

Woodward is the author of several books including “The Transformed Library: Ebooks, Expeertise, and Evolution,” “Countdown to a New Library, 2nd Edition” (ALA 2010), “The Customer-Driven Academic Library” (ALA, 2008), “What Every Librarian Should Know about Electronic Privacy” (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), “Creating the Customer Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model” (ALA, 2005). She is also the author of “Writing Research Papers: Investigating Resources in Cyberspace”(McGraw Hill, 1999) and “Finding a Job after 50: Reinvent Yourself for the 21st Century” (Career Press, 2007). She holds a masters degree in library and information science from Rutgers University with doctoral study at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Author’s Corner: What They Don’t Teach You in Library School

Here’s what I think: getting your MLIS is like earning your black belt. What it really means is not that you are an expert, but that you have mastered the basics, and now you’re ready to get down to the serious business of developing library skills. In this guest post, Elisabeth Doucett describes the book she’s written to help with that post-black belt library learning. This piece has also been cross-posted to her blog, If you’re intrigued by her perspective you should check it out!


When I started working after I graduated from college I had no idea of how much I didn’t know. I happily jumped into my first job, assuming that my good education had prepared me to deal efficiently and effectively with anything. Boy, was I wrong!

I found in that first job (I was a receptionist for six months) and the next job and the next job (and every job since then) that every workplace has all sorts of unwritten rules, expectations, and required skills that no one ever tells you about when you are interviewing. And, even when you figure out all of that for one job, the next job generally is completely different.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this is why a mentor is such a powerful tool in helping you be successful in your job. A mentor can tell you what those rules and expectations are so that you don’t have to make yourself crazy trying to figure them out. A mentor is someone who becomes your “path-finder” to an organization, helping you discover the best ways to get work done, interact appropriately with your co-workers and, in general, be successful at your profession.

The only problem with mentors is that good ones can be hard to find (not everyone is willing to dedicate personal time to helping someone else be successful in their job) and when you do find them, they don’t always know how to be a good mentor. Over time I have had several mentors who were all very successful in their own jobs but weren’t sure how to help me with mine. Since I wasn’t sure how they could help me either, things went nowhere pretty quickly!

What They Don't Teach You in Library SchoolLearning from my own experiences with and without mentors is what led me to write What They Don’t Teach You in Library School. I wanted to write a book that would essentially be a mentor for new librarians, sharing with them some of the “secrets” to being successful in their new profession that they might otherwise only discover through painful trial and error.

I wrote the book with three goals:

1) the advice provided had to be very practical and down-to-earth. I wanted to identify work practices that were easy to understand and simple to try-out;

2) the book had to be supportive, just like a real mentor. I wanted readers to walk away feeling like they had been talking to a supportive friend and now had some good ideas that they could try out;

3) the book needed to be informal because I thought that would make the information more accessible.

To support these goals I start each chapter with a statement that describes what you will find in that chapter. This preview statement makes it easy to determine if you want to keep reading or move on to a different topic that might be more relevant to you personally.

The preview statement is followed by an articulation of why you should care about the topic. Again, this is meant to help each individual figure out if the information will be useful. I don’t want readers to waste their time going over information that they already know or don’t think will have value to them professionally.

The book is short, on purpose. I know librarians are generally loaded up with work the minute they walk in the door of a library and personal development time is hard to come by. So, my goal is to share information that the reader can go through quickly and is easy to read. There are lists and summaries and a few other resources that I’ve found helpful. None of this is meant to be exhaustive in nature. It is meant to be more like a conversation between two individuals in which one is sharing information with the goal of helping the other.

Several of the chapters in What They Don’t Teach You in Library School focus on very standard librarian development opportunities: how to manage problem patrons, promotional marketing strategic planning, and facilities management (written by a library director who has been a great mentor to me in this profession, Bob Dugan). In those chapters I’m providing information that you would probably learn over time on the job. However, I included them because sometimes as new librarians we get dumped into situations right off the bat that require more experience than we have, fresh from library school. These are meant to prepare you in case that happens to you.

The remaining chapters present information that I garnered from my business career. I’ve included them because they are not always thought of as skills that are necessary to be a successful librarian but I have seen first-hand how much mastering them can add to a librarian’s professional capabilities. So, you’ll find chapters that tackle topics like networking, managing confrontation productively, public speaking and thinking like a retailer. None of these chapters will make you an expert on the topic but they will give you some common-sense ideas about how to approach the matter at hand in a positive, constructive way. That attitude, in turn, will help your manager to see you as a professional who is doing a great job.

My hope is that over time librarians will start to see the high value of these (and other) business skills and embrace them as being just as important as knowing how to catalog a book, or do a story-time, or conduct a reference interview. I very strongly believe that the more skills we can provide to our communities, the more our profession will stay valuable and relevant as we move into the future.


Liz DoucettElisabeth Doucett is Director of Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, ME. Previously, she was the Assistant Director of the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield, MA. Liz holds a MLS from Simmons College; an MBA in marketing from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and an undergraduate degree from Smith College in art history and classical Greek.

Professional Career
Prior to her library career, Liz specialized in consumer marketing, working at Kraft Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts and Quaker Oats. She then consulted in the same field to multiple Fortune 500 companies. Before getting her MBA, Liz worked as a fundraiser in the development departments at Harvard and Boston University.

Liz is the author of Creating Your Library Brand published by the American Library Association (ALA) in 2008 and What They Don’t Teach You at Library School, published in 2010. She has done presentations on marketing and branding to many different library groups including the Massachusetts Library Association, the Ohionet library consortium and the Maine Public Library Directors’ Institute.

Liz is sure that she has the best job in the world and loves going to work. Every day brings a new challenge and ensures that boredom is never a problem! She believes that libraries have a vital role in today’s communities as focal points of community life, creativity, and learning.

Liz and her husband have three dogs (they rescue older dogs). To relax she loves to read (of course!), enjoying mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and history. She also recently started rug hooking and loves the process of designing a rug and picking the colors to make it come alive.

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