In the previous iteration of Hiring Librarians, I did periodic features on websites that supported LIS job hunters. You can take a look at the list here. I am planning to do updates on some of those listed, and I’m also hoping to feature new (or new to me) sites.
I’m really pleased to be able to feature Library Returners. It’s an excellent and much-needed resource for those returning to work after a break. This is a topic I had heard about a lot from readers; in fact we did a series on it back in 2013. In the COVID era, I think it’s even more relevant.
What is it? Please give us your elevator speech!
Library Returners is a site aimed at those returning to work in libraries after a career break. It contains a range of advice, guest posts and career break stories, that will also be of value to those changing track, sector, thinking of taking some time out, or just reassessing where they are in their career.
When and why was it started?
I entered the world of career breaks many years ago. But I didn’t find the information I needed or wanted when I wanted to re-join the profession and return to work. The blog was started to fill what I felt was a gap in career resources available for librarians who had taken time away from the formal workplace.
It went live in April 2018 but it really started with the release of a blog post written in September 16, 2018 called Getting back into the game: how to restart your library career after a break – Library returners This post provides a rather neat summary of some of things someone who in on a period of extended leave can do to kickstart their library job search. However, it was also a good ‘vision post’, setting out what the blog was really all about. I received such a great response to this post and people started to subscribe.
Now, I post a mixture of articles that I write myself or that are written by fabulous librarians working in the field with experience of career breaks or from wonderful library career and industry experts offering career advice. I am always interested to hear what topics readers would like to see tackled on the blog. I started to write about the things I wanted to hear more about, but as the site developed, ideas for articles have also come from readers directly, using the Dear Ms Library Returner, – Library returners box or via direct messages. The personal stories, like Guest post: Jessie – Library returners have a real and deep connection with people and I would certainly like to develop this in the future. Some are from librarians who have successfully returned to working at the level they want, while others are from people still working their first return to work job or ‘bridge job’. I am deeply grateful to everyone who has contributed because they’ve all given me their precious time for free.
Who runs it? Please tell us a bit about your background.
Library returners is run by Susan Mends from Wales, UK.
I have what might be described as a portfolio career!
I started in libraries in the early 1990s, initially working full-time in public libraries and then working full-time in teaching and developing open, distance and e-learning masters programmes (an early career highlight was setting up the Masters in Library and Information Studies by distance learning in Aberystwyth University Throughout this time I maintained a genuine interest in career education, guidance and planning to enhance employability.
I took a career break in 2013 after my third child was born. Around the same time, I was also engaged in caregiving to an elderly member of the family. Four years later I started my library returner journey, returning to work on a flexible basis and taking on a ‘bridge job’ with part-time hours in a public library as entry back into the profession.
I still work in the public library sector while also providing freelance writing services to a university department and have, for example, recently completed revising an open, distance and e-learning module in Children’s Librarianship.
Who is your target audience?
Librarians, aspiring librarians, library workers, returners and relaunchers and anyone who wants and needs to connect and interact.
The biggest audience are people taking a break from the workplace for a variety of reasons and finding ways to return. However, it is also read by other readers, e.g., those who are interested in part-time, flexible, professional remote work. I’ve been surprised by the number of new library professionals who’ve told me they access the site. A new development are readers preparing for their retirement.
It is accessed in many different parts of the world. Changes in the workplace and the wider profession in response to the coronavirus pandemic mean that everyone is considering their future.
What’s the best way to use your site?
Readers can check it out as needed. New blog posts are released around every two months. The bibliography and other pages will be updated on an ad hoc basis.
Does your site provide:
√ Answers to reader questions
√ The opportunity for interaction
√ Cover Letters
√ Other: Flexible working / Job applications / Career coaching / Mindfulness/Portfolio careers / Job shadowing / Volunteering/ Lack of work experience / Job skills / LinkedIn /
Should readers also look for you on social media? Or is your content available in other formats? Please include links, subscription information, or other details if pertinent
√ Twitter: @Libraryreturner
√ LinkedIn: Susan Mends
Do you charge for anything on your site?
Can you share any stories about job hunters that found positions after using your site?
The library returners blog is building a collection of real-life career break stories from people who have taken time away from libraries for all sorts of reasons. People on a career break find real value in reading other people’s stories, whether they record a return to the same field of librarianship or a career adjustment or change. They can be particularly helpful to read during a long, tough job hunt, the type of difficult search process being experienced by many at the moment. I am always looking for new stories as people find these really useful.
The stories collected so far can be found here Your voices: LIS career break stories
Anything else you’d like to share with my readers about your site in particular, or about library hiring/job hunting in general?
The hardest thing for a library returner to overcome is the perception that you’ve become stale and lost your professional skillset while you’ve been on extended leave.
If you can:
- Seek out networking opportunities while you are still on your career break – how can you connect, attend a conference, a virtual webinar?
- Keep your skills up to date – can you take a course?
- Maintain your LinkedIn profile – it is tempting to close it down but far better to hold it open and say why you are not available. Now it’s ready to update when you are!
The job search process can be daunting and anything you can do to make this a bit easier will help. But if you switched off completely during your break, don’t worry. Visit libraryreturners.com for more advice!