Tag Archives: new professionals

Further Questions: What advice do you have for job seekers, particularly those new to librarianship, looking to build professional networks?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What advice do you have for job seekers, particularly those new to librarianship, looking to build professional networks? What are some appropriate ways that networking can be used in the job seeking process? Please share your best tips for networking and professional etiquette.

Definitely get involved in your state library association (or if you are wanting to move to another state, get involved with that state library association) as well as the American Library Association. If you have a specialized area of expertise, such as genealogy, there are groups within both that you should consider joining. If you do not know how to get involved or feel like you cannot get your “foot in the door” by all means, just show up to a meeting of your round table and let them know you are interested and that you would like to be involved in a committee, these round tables are always looking for help! This will help you build up your professional networks and you may meet future employers, coworkers or job references in those meetings. In addition, make sure you have a 30 second elevator speech prepared so you can make a good first impression, tell everyone who will listen what your career goals are, if people know what you are looking for they are more likely to help you by introducing you to people that may be hiring.

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

Cathi AllowayOver 4 decades as a librarian, I have built my network slowly but surely through professional library organizations and, particularly, NON-library groups and organizations.
My launch into public library administration was totally due to networking. I was an officer in the local Special Libraries Association chapter and got recruited and offered a job because of it.  It was a career-changing moment for me.  Ironically, I was in SLA to make friends and get some professional support when times got tough.    SLA was my social life as a young mother and full-time working librarian in a city where I had no family and few acquaintances.  Hint:  if you join an organization simply to get job leads – it tends to show and can be a turn-off to other members. Make sure you have some real passion and alignment for the group’s activities.  Networks help you solve work problems, not just the unemployment problem.  I have many contacts who can help me with personnel, strategy, IT and other issues, and when that happens, you become a valuable asset to an employer.
I have made great community contacts through two different metropolitan community “Leadership” programs.  The training and networking and friends were priceless and gave me skills and contacts that were long-lasting and beneficial.  I continue to volunteer for the one in my community.
In one of my previous library director positions, the library was building a controversial new building.  By joining the local and influential Rotary club, I was able to get to know many community leaders and slowly but surely change their impression of the project and libraries.  Rotary is a huge commitment – weekly meetings – and by rotating around to different tables at each meeting I learned how to introduce myself, converse, convince…and even offend….some people.  It was a great learning lab for professional etiquette.
I recently heard a talk by Renee DiPilato, who is Deputy Director at Alexandria (VA) Public Library.  She is doing a dissertation on library leaders and has found that most of them belong to Rotary clubs and have utilized NON-library networks and conferences to advance their skills and networks.
Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library
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 us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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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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