So now you’ve got that in-person interview!

Dear Internet,

Another institution contacted me today to schedule an interview. #fistpump Once I confirmed I was still interested, I started researching the location to see if it would be a good fit for me. Now you may be wondering why I’m doing this as it’s the “get to know you” interview. Simple: I applied for the position as it seemed like a good fit and now I need to see if the location fits me too.

Here are the questions I ask myself and how I obtain my answers:

  • How much are they paying me? You have a good chance of finding your potential salary on the call of applications and it will usually have a range. Because of my experience, I place what I should be commending between the median and high end of the range to give me a rough idea of what to expect. If I fall below that, I negotiate like heck. If they don’t advertise it on the call for applications, you can do one of two things:  The institution may require you meet the meet all the requirements of the union, whose website they gave me, to obtain tenure. I checked the union’s website and it gave the list of the pay ranges for each track of position, in this instance, full, associate, or assistant professor. Often, instead the pay ranges via the union, they will have a pay band, usually associated with a number or letter, so this job may fall into pay band of A21 which the pay is between $55K-$70K. University / college websites are so convoluted you’ll not be able to find this information easily so in google I use the search “salary site:nameofcollege.edu” to find the info. (As a rule, I do not use the college’s search box because it’s always terrible.) If none of this works, email HR to get the salary range. (One of my pet peeves is when institutions want you to provide your salary range. Don’t. This gives them the idea of what they can pay you versus what is available plus that number, for you, might be flexible. If you can live on $60K in one city, the cost of living in another might be low enough for you to live on $45K. So don’t tell them and it’s none of their business.)
  • Holy cats! Can I afford to move to XXX? Cost of living rules our daily lives. For example, we know living on the East Coast is more expensive than living in the Midwest. But just how much more expensive is it and can I use this knowledge to negotiate a higher salary? Let’s start by comparing your current location with the prospective one. For this I use Sperling’s Best Places to get that answer. For this example, I’m comparing moving from Grand Rapids, MI to Louisville, KY with a salary of $60,000. The increase to move is only 2%, which to me is negligible but depending on the pay range of the new institution, if I was near the middle, I’d probably negotiate higher.  If I were to move from Grand Rapids, MI to NYC, the increase is 90% and heck yeah would I be negotiating that salary. Remember this is an estimate and not an absolute number.
  • How much rent can I afford? Now that you have a rough idea of pay, and you have a rough idea of cost of living, let’s take a look at the biggest chunk of your paycheck: rent. To get this number, I head to Zillow’s rent calculator and use the following equation: $X (salary) x .75 (I am generous with taxes/SSDI and usually go 25%) / 12 = monthly take-home. For this example: $60K x .75 = $45K / 12 = take home of $3750. I plug that number in and leave monthly expenses at $0 to get your max amount of rent you can afford each month. (I leave the monthly expenses at $0 as they shift too much to get a minimum and I’m more interested in the max of affordability.)
  • Make an effing budget Now that you have a general idea of how much you’re making and what it will cost for you to live, how are you going to pay your bills? In December I had scored two second interviews with two institutions and I had to be prepared to make a decision so I needed an idea of what i’m looking for. I knew some things were constant (cell phone bill, car insurance) but others were going to be variable (gas, food, internet). I figured out what I was spending in Louisville and amped it up by at least 25% to give me an idea of what my disposable income would be. Make an effing budget.

You have your average salary, cost of living, and what you can afford for rent, the next step is to figure out where you want to live.

Let’s assume you’re moving to a new city and you don’t know anyone, so finding an area that fits your needs is going to be rough going but it’s not impossible. Just like the list I gave the other day on my requirements, for location virtual scouting these are the tools I use:

  • Walkability score  I am not and never have been by any stretch of the imagination a suburbs girl, so I always check the walkability of places I’m interested in. What this also gives you a good idea where neighborhood markets, coffee shops, bookstores, and the like are located. Check out Walk Score to see where your neighborhood lands and Walk Score also allows you to sort by the most walkable areas.
  • Google Maps  for anything I am interested in (coffee shops, trader joe’s, comic book stores, whatever), I use the search string “coffee shops near name of city” in google maps. Up pops a lovely map of all the coffee shops in that city, which I cross reference with my other requirements. Now I have a general idea of where I want to be
  • Google I use search strings like “best bars in X” or “best whatever in X” to also get a good idea of locations. This should also pull up local magazines, newspapers, and websites dedicated to the area since they typically run these type of listicles.
  • Wikipedia I use wikipedia to get an idea of what the town, overall, is like and get an idea of culture.

    Is this a lot of work? Yes — I can spend an afternoon or two just doing research but remember, you’re interviewing the city as much as you’re interviewing the instituion.

Good luck and may the gods be with you in your job search.

I Want To Be A XXX Librarian, Part IV

Dear Internet,

My writing about the job finding process, the frustrations, and how to plan when you don’t get a job is not a new thing. I touched about it in library school:

I wrote extensively about the process when I graduated from library school and applied for 110 jobs before receiving an offer:

With a follow up in 2012 when a friend pointed me to a forum question on a knitting social media site (Ravelry) whether or not someone should go to library:

Over the years these posts are the top most read in regards to my professional writing. The job tracker [.xls] (2010) I created as a complementary tool has been downloaded over 100 times and it’s been reported back to me how useful the spreadsheet is.

(I use a similar version of the spreadsheet except by creating tables in Evernote to track the job application process. Eff Microsoft.)

Now that I’m back in the saddle in the job market again, I figured it was appropriate to write about the process of what’s going on six years later. But please be assured the above posts are still fairly relevant today as when I first wrote them.

(Note: The following posts are designed with the thought you know how to put together your resume/CV,  references, and writing letters of interest. If not, may the gods have mercy on your soul (and this is not the place where I’ll be teaching those skills. Go forth and google!))

The name of the new series is I Want To Be a XXX Librarian and shares the same tag as the previous SYWtbaL posts so everything is one neat place. (Lucky you!)

Here is what has happened in the series so far:

(I purposely held out on posting anything on this topic for the last few weeks because I wanted to make sure the updated #teamharpy post was seen by millions. But thanks to widgets, I have a link in the upper right hand corner of this page as a constant reminder of the status of the case. Yay technology!)

Caught up? Good.

(Before I begin, there are going to be hiring managers who are going to disagree the hell out of my suggestions. But here is a wonderful thing to remember: no one hiring manager agrees with another. I’ve polled, with similar questions to each, those who do hiring at a variety of institutions and there was never the same answer. The below is what works for me and I tend to have a higher than average interview rate, so YMMV.)

Today we’re going to discuss the hows, whats, and whens for applying for jobs.

What should be ready before you start applying for positions

  • You resume/CV and references in doc and PDF formats. Why? Some institutions will only take one format over the other.
  • Your reference document should have three professional references and three personal references along with their job titles, where they work, business email and phone numbers, and how they are relate to you (e.g. colleague, employer, etc). Why? Some jobs will ask you to include the document with your applications, others will require you to input the information into their software. Some will require to have three professional references where as others will want a mixture of both. Obviously make sure all of your references are aware you are applying for positions.
  • Have a document with the name of the places you’ve worked, their address, and their phone number (typically the number to HR). Make sure to go back at least 7 – 10 years. Why? Many (okay most) institutions who use HR software will request this information when you put in your employment history so they can confirm you worked there. I use HR’s phone number because I know of some supervisors who have over stepped the bounds of what they can and cannot say and you also need to account turnover in your previous department.
    • This document is for you reference only and is not going to be given out publicly so you can format it however you want.
  • Your transcripts in PDF format from every institution you graduated from. e.g. Have a bachelor’s and two master’s? You’ll need three transcripts. You can request these, sometimes for a fee, directly from the college. To verify its authenticity, the document should be directly from your college and PDF format. Why? Because HR is too lazy to fact check this themselves? I’m sure it is to prove the credentials you claim to have is true. Now here is a twist in the process: Some institutions will state they want “official transcripts not given to the student” and then provide digital only applications. Now AFAIK, those type of transcripts, digitally, can be hard to obtain, so whatever the college sends on to me is the one provide to the hiring institutions.
  • Have multiple versions of your resumeWhy? Because you may be applying for more than just librarian positions and you’ll want to highlight different skills for those type of jobs. Obviously do not have multiple resumes for every job, rather if you’re applying for UX positions, have a UX centered resume.
  • Have a digital portfolio. Why? I cannot stress this enough. In 2014, I wrote about the art of keeping a digital portfolio, why it was important along with examples – that’s how passionate I am about this topic. (If you throw up your resume in pdf format (obviously), don’t forget to redact your contact information). Also keep in mind: Employers are going to be googling you thus by having a professional web presence will greatly enhance your awesomeness and higher up the rankings rather than just the tumblr you created for your favorite TV show.
  • Use URL shorteners to specific sections of your digital portfolio to illustrate examples of your work. Why? Because, more often than not, you’re going to need to illustrate your work via the HR software OR in your letter of interest OR in interviews. e.g. I use http://bit.ly/lrpresentations to go directly to my presentations page, http://bit.ly/graphicdemia points to my graphic novel project.  Be smart how you use these and don’t forget to keep a list of the ones you’ve created!

Search for jobs once a week and where to search for them Applying for jobs is a full time gig in and of itself. The other day I applied for four positions over six hours with only bathroom breaks. Calculate about 1-2 hours per submission and that time adds up quickly.

Looking for jobs is also a full time process. I have nine websites and four RSS feeds that push me jobs. By waiting once a week, I can spend a day going through all of the sites and compiling a list of positions (with their URL obviously) on what to apply for in the following days. Also keep in mind that many positions have an open call period of at least a month, so if you hit the sites once a week, you’ll still be able to catch the previous weeks postings.

Right now I’m only looking for straight library jobs that deal with digital / web / systems / online in the title. Once I gain more skills in other fields, I’ll be expanding my search.

(Also note I’m looking specifically for academic positions, though a few public positions and corporations have popped up in my search and I’ve applied to those as well.)

Addendum: Know where you want to live and what amenities you want as you search. I’m free as a bird so right now I’m looking at positions with the following criteria:

  • Within an hour of a MINI dealership. If you didn’t know, I drive a MINI Cooper, which is now produced by BMW. The twist here is BMW dealers will not fix MINIs. I could find a speciality shop that will fix Jeeves but I have a sweet deal with my warranty so I’d rather not.
  • Trader Joe’s / Whole Foods nearby. I’m not joking. Finding Lisa-approved food (I’m allergic to dairy) is difficult if there is not one of the above available OR at there needs to be least a good hippie store will do in a pinch.
  • Preferably on the East Coast. To be closer to Europe. Again, I’m not joking.
  • Locations as follows in no particular order: East of the Mississippi, Chicago, no farther south than Nashville and/or the Carolinas, Mid-Atlantic up through New England. I would consider New Orleans for the right job. (Not Ohio, Illinois except for Chicago, Michigan, Indiana, western Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, West Virginia, any part of Kentucky other than Louisville or Lexington, west and northwest of the following: New York, Vermont, or Maine. I’m sure I’m missing a few others. Yes, I’ve found quite a few jobs (20 so far) that meet my criteria.)

Keep track of where and how you’re applying for these jobs This is where using something like the job tracker [.xls] comes in handy. You do NOT have to use a standalone spreadsheet anymore as Google Drive keeps it in the cloud for you. I use Evernote (also a cloud software) and created a table with the following columns: Position title, location, URL of the job add, end date, date sent the app, how sent (login and passwords for HR websites), and notes. In notes I comment if I was rejected, interview dates (and rejections), and anything else I need to know about that job. You can set this up any way you like but just make sure you do one to keep track of your applications.

When putting together your letter of interest, copy the job description / qualifications into a separate document to check against. This is something I just started doing recently. I cut and paste the job description and requirements onto a blank doc page. I give it half a screen of real estate with the other half the letter of interest to the institution I am applying for. As I hit the point of addressing the description/requirements in my letter, I strikeout the item in the other document.

Addendum: When writing your letter of interest, make sure to use keywords or phrases they have used in their descriptions/requirements. Sometimes the letters go through a screen process that just picks up on those keywords. Plus it shows you have a strong sense of attention to detail.

Have multiple templates of letters of interest. This is where I’m going to get a lot of grief. You’ll here over and over and over again that each letter needs to be structured to address the requirements of the job you’re applying for. This I do not disagree with. However, you’ll be applying for so many similar jobs, there is only a few ways you can say, “In this regard I was fundamental in XXX.” So here’s what I do:

  • Find a letter of interest I have already written.
  • Click save-as and rename it for the new position I am applying for. (My example is lastnamefirstname_nameofinstitution_titleofjob.doc)
  • Update the to field, the subject line of the position I am applying for, and the date.
  • Update the greeting.
  • I have a standard intro paragraph that is the same for every letter, “I am writing with great interest for the position of XXX as advertised on the XXX.” and I update it with the new information.
  • Then I start rewording, adding paragraphs from other letters of interest and it becomes a matter of strengthening, clean up, and tweaking for the next position. Even starting with a pre-written paragraph / phrase, I am still spending upwards of two hours per letter of interest.

So that’s pretty much it. Other then one day I don’t look for positions, I knock out one to two applications a day. When I’ve made a dent into the list, I start the search all over again.

Have any more tips or tricks? Add them to the comments!

The Great Job Hunt of 2016

Dear Internet,

During the great job hunt, a million and a half years ago or 2010, I started a post with,

In the list of ridiculous things that I consider to be dehumanizing, job hunting is one of them. And by ridiculous I mean that I, myself, find this process ridiculous because the level of bullshit and hoop jumping and dehumanizing because I’m beyond irritated that we, the applicants, get judged by missed punctuation and our activities online. But we, in turn, cannot judge our potential employers (well, at least publicly) for the exact same things for the fear of their potential wraith.

Six years on that has definitely not changed.

If you’ve been following this blog in the last week, I ranted on job titles, job descriptions and “other duties as assigned,” and the fallacy of unicorn / blended positions. You’ll see much of my rant mimics what I wrote all those years ago under the auspice category title, “So, You Want To Be A Librarian.”

Almost nothing has changed. Scouts honor.

In 2010, I ranted about the man keeping me down, unable to find a position after library school (114 applications!), and the ridiculousness of applying for these jobs (the awful HR software — holy cats!).

Then I got a job. That contract ended. I started writing a book, the book stalled, and well, here I am.

It’s 2016 and the job application process is almost eerily the same. I’ve applied for 120+ library positions, the HR software still remains cagey as hell, I have had scores of interviews but no job offers. I’ve dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, I’ve done just about anything anyone has asked me to and yet…

Yet…

Nothing.

Those offering their (oft not asked for) opinion tout out the same reasoning why I’m not getting positions now as I was then such as: my language on social media, what I’m willing to discuss on social media / my blog, what I am / am not doing to make me more desirable. I don’t have enough experience/skills, I have too much experience/skills.

I believed enough in #teamharpy and I did not back down.

In 2010 I understood the high probability I was not getting positions, despite being the golden child of my graduating class, was likely a combination of everything and not just a single thing. Tie in coming out of a recession, the job requirements were in the process of shifting, and everything was possible. Nothing was improbable.

In 2016, much of this has has not changed. It seems to still be a sellers, not a buyers, market. I still have friends, as qualified as myself, who can’t find positions. Many have moved on to non-library positions in corporate or non-profit ventures.

The truths as I am being googled relentlessly and the case still figures prominently in the search results no matter how you spin it. As I wrote more eloquently the other day, “… prospective employees love the resume, letters of interest, my portfolio, and everything I stand for, but not me due to the case.

Is it the case that’s holding me back? I think so: I’ve had job offers rescinded more than once after the the school googled me and got the details. Do I think it’s also has to do with what I’ve been writing, tweeting, Facebooking, etc online? I genuinely have no idea but I’ll hazard some places might see that as a liability.

(One person told me these places have a “right” to google their possible future employees. Sure. Are they are also googling their current employees? Because I can tell you with certainty I have and not everyone is coming up roses.)

So where does that leave me? Applying for jobs, writing the rocking letters of interest, work on adding more skills to add to my growing cadre of existing skills.

I just won’t give up. I love what I do and that is something you can’t take away from me.

As that stands I have to work two times, no a million times, harder to prove my worth. Is this blackballing, because let’s be honest that is what it is, ever going to end? Yes. When? No idea.

But it will at some point.

It has to.

I Want To Be A XXX Librarian, Part III

Dear Internet,

Monday, I discussed the ridiculousness of job titles and their descriptions.
Tuesday, I provided empirical proof of what job descriptions really mean, including examples and suggestions to make changes in this system.

Today I’m going to talk about “unicorn” and “blended” positions and how they are stifling the profession, not enhancing it.

Now I acknowledge I’m going to get some flack for this post — mainly because people will be clutching their pearls re: economy, location, cost of living, position within the library, and more. I get it. I do. Those are all valid concerns and statements.

But in the end, the argument remains the same: We’re expecting too much out of people and pay them too little for their expertise, knowledge, and education.

(I have a post brewing on the ridiculousness on interviews. Oh yes, yes I do.)

Unicorn jobs
When yesterday’s post was circulating the interwebs, numerous people commented it was an apt description of what a unicorn job looks like. I’m not one to disagree when people are commenting on my cleverness, but there is more to just the description alone that makes these positions “unicorn.”

Using my previous job as the example, I will dissect the job to discern how many positions one person was/are to preform.

  • Traditional library services – reference, collection development, etc
  • System administrator – ILS, unix/linux, Windows, and other back end
  • Database administrators – maintain the library’s various databases, including intranet
  • Web developer (all flavors) – Scripting, programming languages, web design, graphic design, etc
  • Social media / outreach / content creator / community manager – Maintain online presence, work with web developer on content creation, maintain analytics, SEO, UX/UI, etc
  • Accessibility manager –  Maintain accessibility standards not only in the physical space but also online space. They would work with the web developer and social media manager on content, library database accessibility standards, etc
  • Copyright manager – Work with staff (library / college) on all duties in accordance with copyright(ed) materials
  • Open source guru – Work with numerous previously related managers / professionals on curating, suggesting, maintaining open source software for the needs of the library
  • Project manager – Creates, maintains, and works with various aforementioned on coordinating workflows for projects

Nine separate jobs. NINE. All rolled up into a single position.

Yes. One position.

Not only am I to know how to manage library’s databases and backend servers I need to have an in-depth knowledge of UX/UI, copyright, accessibility, project management, and so on.

And you want to pay me HOW MUCH for that privilege?

Now another set of pearl clutching: “We cannot afford to hire more than X people.” “We don’t need a whole host of services such as mentioned, just a tiny bit.” And my favorite,

It’s always been this way.”

We used to use ice blocks for our fridges and sent conversations using telegraphs. No, it doesn’t have to be, “always been this way.”

You’re not a forward thinking library, you’re cheap, you’re expecting miracles to happen in too short amount of time span, and the big one: you’re devaluing your employees..

Basically you’re cheap. And not forward thinking.

There. I said it.

“Forward thinking” is one of the hot questions prospective employees ask you — what do you think is “forward thinking” for libraries? And the answer they want to hear is, “3D printers,” “makerspaces,” and “geospatial technology.” Because, you know, everyone does that.

I want to marry James McAvoy but there’s a snowball chance in hell that’ll happen.

(Hume was on point when he posited just because X happened over and over again, doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get the same result with X in the future. Inductive reasoning. In Lisa parlance: Just because I haven’t been able to marry James McAvoy in the past, doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future though experience tells me it will.)

Blended positions
Blended positions are the new hotness in library land and are incredibly similar to unicorns. In my understanding, a blended position is where not only you have your job but you’ll have basic knowledge/experience/etc for someone else’s job thus if said someone else calls out sick, and they were the cataloger, you could pick up their slack.

You know, while still doing your job.

Now I’ve heard this described as more as “helping” people, because everyone has a little bit of knowledge of the other, but the more I thought about it, the more convinced I became it’s another shot at keeping the budget in line.

Library administrators want people to have specialized skills while also being generalists.

Huh?

That is what it boils down to. They want someone who has a second master’s in X while having their MLIS, while also having specialized skills in another field, keeping up with all of that while adding new skills to their  resume.

Are you tired yet? I am. I can barely keep up with my areas of interest let alone pick up yet more interests.

Can you?

Again, I get it. Not everyone is an ivy league or a wealthy community who can command separate people for each of the above listed positions. That’s not unreasonable. But many of those positions don’t require MLIS degrees and nor should you require the candidates to have them. You’re watering down the profession requiring everyone to be everything.

And you know the hilarious bit?

Many of my friends, who have MLIS’ and were doing any one of the above, ended up moving out of library land and into a position that specialized in one specific thing (server admin, database admin, etc). And you know what else?

They got paid a whole effing more than what they were commanding at their previous library.

Sometimes as much as 50% more.

So here is a library begging for everyone to be specialized and generalized, who pay squat, and seem perturbed when their unicorns / blended people scamper off to other positions.

To put it mildly: We’re effing ourselves over.

I’m typically considered to be a unicorn as I have a long history of working in tech, I have two masters’ degrees, I’m trained as an archivist, and my professional interests are in a whole ‘nother area. (You may not agree to this, but you know, your opinion and all that rot.) And I’ve mentioned before, prospective employees love the resume, letters of interest, my portfolio, and everything I stand for, but not me due to the case.

Always second runner up, I am.

I don’t mind being all of those things. Previous skills learned in previous jobs means I’m a lot more able, and flexible, to pick up new things. e.g. During my first foray into college, I worked at a meat packing plant stuffing sausages into the bottom of their plastic containers before they were vacuumed packed and shipped. You know what that job gave me? A very good eye for detail (every sausage had to be just so), flexibility in working different shifts (my hours varied), and standing on my feet for long periods of time.

Many job positions require those three things and hey! I learned them at a meat packing plant.

I will admit I kind of love being a unicorn, I get to learn new things and exalt my awesomeness all over the place. The downside, however, is I got burned out fairly quickly, I lost my steam, and started hating my job.

My suggestions are to not require MLIS’ for every goddamned position in your library; be flexible on those position requirements; actually pay for your employees professional development; stop demanding 1000% when you’re only paying 69%.

Stop watering down the profession. Stop demanding more bang for your buck. Stop asking for things that are not a benefit to your library.

Ditch the goddamned team building exercises, Myers-Brigg tests, or any other bullshit. Everyone hates doing them, they tend to lie to make themselves look better, and things never change.

If you want to really change, start utilizing your existing staff on their skills and abilities. Start paying your employees more. Start giving them an opportunity to grow without planning to chop them down later. (e.g. Assume they will get bored and leave once they obtain said skills.) And most of all? Listen to your employees. Listen to what their wants and needs are and parlay them into your mission plan, or whatever buzzword filled thing that describes your library.

Change the “always has been” to actually be “forward thinking.”

P.S. If you are in a unicorn or blended position, and love it, great. I’m glad someone is getting something out of it. And to clarify, I get some library’s need backups as they are short staff, just don’t expect them to know everything about that other person’s job.


Did I get Hume’s meaning wrong? Am I incorrect about what blended relationships mean? Am I missing something? Comments are open! (Just don’t be an ass and effing it up for the rest of the population.)

Tomorrow, I will finally talk about pay and benefits. Huzzah!

I Want To Be A XXX Librarian, Part II

Dear Internet,

Yesterday I discussed the ridiculousness of job titles and their descriptions. For empirical proof, I’m going to dissect my last position, where I worked for nearly four years as a Systems & Web Librarian, and what those responsibilities really meant.

Let’s look at the requirements for that job directly from the horse’s mouth:

  • Information Literacy: In collaboration with colleagues, classroom instructors, and the Information Literacy Librarian, design, teach, and promote general and subject-focused instruction sessions that support the academic curriculum; develop a personal teaching philosophy; contextualize instruction based on course learning outcomes; teach database and web searching and evaluation; understand and apply Institutional Learner Outcomes (ILOs); participate in the development and delivery of library instruction to online and distance learners; create and maintain SubjectGuides and other instructional materials using web, presentation, and course management software; and participate continuously in the development and administration of learning assessments. (You’ll note this is one sentence. Cut/pasted for its absurdness in length.)
  • Reference Services
  • Collection Development
  • Liaison Service
  • College Service: Participate in faculty responsibilities as described in the Faculty Performance Evaluation system, including student advising and campus-wide committee work; cultivate collegial working relationships within the LLC; collaborate with colleagues in local, regional, and national libraries to cooperatively develop and manage print and digital resources; promote awareness of the LLC’s mission, resources and services; collaborate with LLC staff in long and short term planning; and support the mission, vision, values and strategic priorities of the LLC and the College. (You’ll note this is one sentence. Cut/pasted for its absurdness in length.)
  • Professional Development

(Pretty standard stuff you’ll see on most academic librarian job responsibilities.)

Now on to the real meat of the job:

  1. Coordinate and trouble-shoot daily operation of the ILS
  2. Serve as liaison to  IT Department for the integrated library system, web page server, and setup of library PCs
  3. Serve on campus-wide teams relevant to web page services and other information technology tools and resources
  4. Manage, design, and develop library website for optimum exposure and ease of use. Lead library team responsible for the content and presentation of the web site, including the use of existing and emerging social media
  5. Compile statistics on use of library system and library web page
  6. Maintain library’s  collaboration with statewide collaborative resource-sharing initiative
  7. Use technical expertise to assist with implementing and maintaining digital library services, including OCLC ILLiad and instructional support materials
  8. Provide library staff support and training in ILS and virtual services
  9. Demonstrated experience maximizing the effectiveness, efficiency, and appeal of instruction and other learning experiences through intentional instructional effort
  10. Portfolio of web page design and implementation projects
  11. Knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm for evaluating and integrating emerging library technologies (They mean social media.)
  12. Ability to demonstrate the mental health necessary to safely engage in the librarian discipline as determined by professional standards of practice.

Now the job description is much longer, but I’ve weeded out the humdrum stuff. Let me now break down how I spent my 37.5 hour work week.

  • Reference desk: 10 hours
  • Instruction and prep for said instruction: 10 hours
  • Department and college wide meetings, including liaison departments: 10 hours
  • Fixing library computers, scanners, and related items: 5 hours a week

Number of hours to fulfill the listing of what I was hired, web and systems, to do: 2.75 hours.

A week.

Am I exaggerating?  Sadly no.

Let me break down what those job duties really meant:

  1. This was handled between myself and cataloging person, but mainly by me. I used lunch time and reference desk time to fix, update, and maintain the ILS
  2. The previous two librarians in the position burned bridges with the IT department and the library was on the lowest rung of the ladder for any kind of support. Because of that poor relationship, it took me six+ months to get into having weeklyish meetings with the various heads of the department and to get respect from those heads. The library has zero control over desktop environments, software updates and fixes, and so on. No one other than IT, including the Systems & Web Librarian had/has admin access. The best I could do is fix software issues (“I don’t know how to do headers.”), reboot machines, and fix student laptops because the library, aka me, was faster than the college’s open student lab. I doubt that has changed.
  3. The college’s website was handed over to the communications team, there is one person, in IT, handling/maintaining the college’s site and they have get “suggestions” from said communications team before doing any kind of work on the site. The systems and web librarian has zero administrative access.
  4. Library website is controlled by the college. Everyone in the library, per the library’s director, has access to update/manage/etc. It took me a year to get the staff to okay all changes I made for better navigation, usability, and other refinements before someone else in the library effed up my hard work, which I had to fix. In the nearly two years I’ve been gone, the site has remained identical to how I left it.
  5. As described for ILS and social media. Stats on the library’s website is controlled by the college and I had to make a formal request to get the analytics.
  6. As described
  7. More or less as described. The ILS is not hosted at the college, it’s managed by the ILS company. I could update and control the front end of the ILS for patron viewing but that’s about it.
  8. No one did this until I came along. So, as described.
  9. Buzz words
  10. I was the only person, confirmed by IT and the library director, who presented a web portfolio for tenure. Since the college runs the website, no idea why this was added since the person in this position would not have any control.
  11. They killed off half of my social media initiatives, the social media is rarely updated.
  12. About 12. YES, that was on the job description. YES, it was reference to me as I’m bipolar. YES, the college was bombarded with phone calls, emails, and so on to get that removed. YES, I was in process with talking to the college’s legal team on suing the college. Good times.

You may be asking yourself the following questions:

  • “Lisa, you do know while you’ve stripped this post of your previous employer’s name, it’s in your portfolio?”
    • Yes, yes I do. I figured since the college tried to eff me in a variety of ways, it was open season.
  • “Lisa, but future employers…”
    • Look, let’s be honest. Future employers love my interviews/resume/skills but once they do a Google search and see the #teamharpy case, I’m persona non grata. My skill set is highly desirable, I am, however, not.
  • “Lisa, everyone in nearly every librarian position is expected to handle multiple jobs. You’re not a special snowflake.”
    • I know this. I’m not so smug to think this was only me. But you know what? People who are ladled with this much responsibility are burned out. They work unpaid overtime from home or stay after scheduled hours. Self-care is a joke. They then cut ties and take their skills to other fields, mainly pure IT, to get the money they deserve. About 75% of my librarian friends who are IT nerds do exactly that.

How do we fix this problem? Here are my suggestions:

  • Stop requiring all positions to have “blended” relationships. You’re attempting to get more bang for your buck while your employee is getting burned out. Should they do some of these things? Sure. Have said employees work reference once or twice a week, or maybe be a liaison to a department that fits their background. But for the effing love of god, stop forcing them to do ALL THE THINGS and then start grabbing at your pearls when projects are not getting done.
  • Stop being cheap and break up the unicorn position (which I’ll discuss in another post) into multiple positions. Don’t give me the tap dance your budget cannot allow for it. If the college can pay the president and upper echelon management zillions of dollars, you can find the cash.
    • At a position I interviewed with recently, I was told by the director I could have any kind of computer system I wanted, two if desired; head to any kind of conference I wanted and the college would pay, and continued listing all these great, and costly, perks. But the college was absolutely adamant they couldn’t pay more than extremely low $40Ks. Extremely low. It’s bullshit. If you want me to stay, you want to me do my job and enjoy my job, pay me what I deserve.
    • Speaking of which, use money normally paid to adjuncts (and I’ve seen departments have up to a dozen adjuncts who did full time library work on part-time pay/hours) and funnel that into a second position. You’re wasting money.
  • Be realistic. Ask yourself what is it you really want from the position and the person. Don’t listen to bruhaha from college colleagues, not every library needs a goddamned 3D printer, or from other libraries what you should have as opposed to what you need. Not every library needs the same things. All libraries want to be forward thinking and relevant, which is also totally okay and encouraged. It’s totally okay to have wants, but while it would be great to have someone do geospatial work for your stacks, if you’re a tiny ass library, is that a bit ridiculous? (Yes, yes it is.)
  • Appreciate your employees. True facts: I loved working at my few bucks above minimum wage bookstore job rather than the $62K a year library job because I felt appreciated. I was encouraged to expand my horizons. I was told what a great job I was doing. At the library job? Not so much. I’m not alone in this thinking. Many will accept reasonable pay cuts or work that much harder for their upper management if they feel appreciated. And it doesn’t have to be big! A card, a lunch, a or cheap gift card somewhere, doesn’t matter — as long as the employee is feeling like they are doing a good job, they will stay. (This should be taught in management classes. It would do wonders for moral.)

This is getting ridiculous long so I’ll end here. Let’s give the lowdown on what I covered: Empirical proof of what job descriptions really mean, including examples. Suggestions to make changes in this system.

Tomorrow I’m going to dip my toes into franken jobs, what I mean by unicorn job positions, more thoughts on responsibilities, and pay wage/gap. Well, I hope to at least cover some of it. 🙂

I Want To Be A XXX Librarian, Part I

Dear Internet,

I’ve job hunted in the librarian world three times: first when I graduated with my MLIS in 2010, which took nearly a year and 110 apps before I was offered a job. Second when I was thinking of leaving my last position, applied for two jobs, interviewed at one, rejected by both. Finally, this last job hunt in which I’ve been hunting for a solid year, and half heartedly the six months before that, with 120+ applications in my field as an academic librarian, 40+ in other fields for a total of 160+ applications.

I feel like I’m a damned1 near expert in job titles and descriptions2.

Let’s look at examples of job titles for similar positions I’ve come across in the last year:

  • Online Learning Librarian
  • Digital Learning Librarian
  • Web Services Librarian
  • Community & Digital Services Librarian
  • Emerging Technologies Librarian
  • Technology and Social Media Librarian
  • Systems Librarian
  • Web Content Manager Librarian
  • Learning Commons Librarian
  • Cybrarian (Yes, this really was a job title)
  • Digital Initiatives Librarian
  • Digital Content Librarian
  • Digital Services Librarian
  • Systems & Web Librarian

Stop that. You’re effing confusing everyone.

This is not including positions marked Librarian I/II/III/IV and so on that required or preferred digital/technology/emerging/web job duties. (The notation of position was mainly in public libraries, but the requirements were nearly the same.)

You could weakly argue these positions were completely different. Someone who is a systems librarian is vastly different from a web content librarian which is vastly different than a digital initiatives librarian.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: That’s a bullshit lie and we need to stop kidding ourselves.

Now let’s look at these job descriptions written by our illustrious future employers (or their HR department):

  • Liaison to varying departments
  • Collection development
  • Library / student / staff instruction
  • Develops and updates online materials; knowledge of LibGuides
  • Participates in college and community services
  • Reference responsibilities
  • Participate in various functions for tenure

Now, I’ll concede this is pretty much standard across every academic librarian position regardless of job title. Now lets look at the other responsibilities:

  • Working, but preferred, knowledge of HTML / CSS / Javascript / Python / Django / Ruby / SQL / scripting languages
  • Working, but preferred, knowledge of OSX, Windows, and Linux platforms, including server side software
  • Project management
  • Knowledge of current trends in library and technology services
  • Liaison to IT and related departments
  • Maintains library’s web presence, including but not limited to: social media, website(s), and ILS and discovery layers
  • Pioneers experimental and innovative approaches to emerging technologies (direct cut/paste from a job description currently in another tab)
  • Working knowledge of assistive and accessible technologies
  • Coordinate workflows, set guidelines and ensure that the library’s web presence is accurate, up-to-date, user-centered and accessible (another cut and paste)
  • Manage interface customizations and the integration of commercial and open source library application (another cut and paste)
  • Working, but preferred, knowledge of open source software
  • Working, but preferred, knowledge of digital and physical copyright laws
  • Maintain and administer the library’s intranet
  • Lead and/or participate in processes for usability testing, analytics analysis and assessments of the library’s virtual spaces (another cut and paste)
  • Become resident resources/tools/databases expert (another cut and paste)
  • Maintain currency with web technologies, software, tools and solutions. Participates in training efforts (another cut and paste)

And there is a lot more.

(And I had to grammar and spell check a few of the cut/paste thingies.)

You’re probably thinking, “Holy cow! That cannot be all for one job.”

Yes, yes it is.


Join me tomorrow when I dissect my last position which as the same requirements as above, unicorn librarians, and the asinine pay scale for these jobs.


1. A swears in a professional website post. Yes, I know. Shocking. If you are focusing on the swears and not the content and subject matter for the post, you’re not someone I want to work for. It also shows you pay little attention to detail and a poor understanding of written communication skills.
2. You may wonder if the subject line of this post has to do with porn. The answer is no, but it does have to do with the wildly variating titles for the same or nearly same positions, mainly in academia.

So, You Want to Become a Librarian/Archivist: 2012 edition

Dear Internet,

In 2008 or so, I started writing columns on “So, You Want to Become a Librarian/Archivist”, which ended up becoming pretty popular. With as many domain shuffles I’ve had in the last four years, the content is archived but has not been put back on this current domain as of yet.

A few days ago, my friend Kate said, “Hey! There is a thread on Ravelry about wanting to become a librarian. I think you should chime in.” And I agreed. Below is my original post with some slight editing. Once I stop getting lazy, I’ll put up the older posts, but the below pretty much is succintly how I feel today.

Please, please, please use this to pass around to anyone who is thinking of becoming a librarian, please add in your own comments about your experiences with library school, education, job hunt, anything. I don’t know where the misconceptions are coming from, but if watching #libchat is any indication, a lot of n00bs out there still can’t shake the myths. I no longer care WHY the myths exist, I just want to break them.

—-

First, if you can’t find what you’re looking for via Google or any search engines, then you’re going to be a terrible librarian. Here is my point: I searched for “online library science programs accredited” in Google and the VERY FIRST item is a link to ALA (American Library Association – our professions largest professional organization) listing of accredited schools, which includes online programs. I know of four you can do entirely online:

There is probably others that do entirely online degrees, but those are the big ones. The number of library schools in the US is tiny (like 50?), so it averages one per state. Most, if not all schools, offer a blended degree of online/in classroom.

There ARE schools that offer library science or library tech degrees in bachelors or as certification programs. These are not the same thing as getting a MLIS. I want to make this clear because this is commonly misunderstood.

So WHY do you want to be a librarian? You only say, I think I would be good at this. But you don’t really clarify WHY you think you would be good at this. Here is a major site aggregator for library jobs that is compiled by ALA. Even if you see the same job title twice, you will hardly see the same job responsibilities, duties, or description. If you think the job is going to be standing around all day handling and reading books: Let me burst that bubble for you right quick. I barely have time to keep up with my professional reading, let alone personal reading. I was more cultured in topics and titles when I slung books at a bookstore then working in a library system.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: Who the hell is this person?

  • I’m a systems and web librarian at a community college
  • I have a GED, BA, MA, and now my MLIS
  • I graduated from Wayne State in 2010 with my MLIS and archival certification
  • I’m not going to be overly humble here: I was the golden child of my class. I worked through school at the campus library as a reference librarian, I was on many professional committees on and off campus, I started a new organization ON campus, I was active within the community, and I had a 3.85 GPA. It took a year and 114 job applications before I landed a job. I applied for EVERYTHING and EVERYWHERE.

(Also, I would highly advise you NOT to go to Wayne for your online program. This is the worst run school ever, the director is douchebag delight who is out of touch with the needs of the students — we tried to get him removed as head when I was there.  His main residence is in the southern states. Yes, he’s a director of a program in MI, but lives in the south. The programs are poorly coordinated and run. Stay the fuck away from Wayne.)

Let’s move on to your education: A lot of people say that having a degree in history, or English, or similar is extremely helpful in having a MLIS. This is true and this is bullshit. It’s bullshit because EVERYTHING you do outside of library school will be extremely beneficial to your career path. Those customer service skills you learned in retail? You will be a prince(ss) among the people for deft handling of difficult patrons. You’re interest in comics and gaming? You will soon be scheduling programming and events for teens and adults when new releases come out. Worked in housekeeping or similar detail while going to school? You will be the MASTER of unclogging toilets. There will not be one skill you have not acquired in your personal or previous professional life that you will not call upon at some point in your library career.

Also, having a degree in the humanities such as English or History does not give you a leg up in getting a MLIS or working in a library. It is relevant if you want to specialize but if you are going to work somewhere and a specialization is not required, your degree in underwater basket weaving is just as useful as the one in physics. I am also going to strongly suggest you get, if you do not already have, heavy tech skills. I worked in the IT industry for nearly a decade before going back to finish my undergrad and then on my two masters degrees and having my background in IT  has been a boon to my job search and interviews

Next is job descriptions. My title is “systems and web librarian.” What does this mean? At my institution, it means that I am responsible for:

  • Maintaining our online catalog system (OPAC) in all capacities
  • I manage, update, create content for our library’s website and all social media accounts
  • I am a liaison to six departments on campus so I keep up to trends and info on all those fields
  • I do collection development for my departments
  • I teach information literacy classes 85 hours a semester
  • I am on the reference desk 10-15 hours a week
  • I am on numerous committees on campus
  • I participate heavily with the state wide library organization
  • I am the liaison to the institutions IT department and I work with them on many tech projects

Now I have a colleague who works at a local college here who does nothing but web development for the library. It was required he had his MLIS. Not that he does 1/6th of what I do, but that his job is 1/6 of what I do. Some librarians on this list may recognize that what I’ve listed is similar to their own lists of what is expected of them.

So the job market. Yes, it’s brutal. But so is it everywhere, it is NOT just in library world. I’ll reference my point above of 114 job applications and year before I landed my gig, but I want to stress I did NOT apply for positions only at libraries, I applied for any and all positions that I was qualified for in librarianship or as an archivist regardless of the sector. Just because you have an MLIS and/or you’re a certified archivist doesn’t mean you have to work at a library or at an archives. This seems to be a popular misconception that all n00b librarians/archivist seem to think is true. For example, Blizzard Entertainment is looking for an Associate Librarian & Archivist. I have many friends who have never set foot, professionally, in what is considered to be traditional librarian/archivist jobs. Other options are: Knowledge management, information architecture, UX designer, content producer, and about two dozen other fields you can go in with a MLIS.

So let’s talk cash. Yes, librarians are underpaid, I will not disagree with this. But the amount of cash you make is solely relevant to the type of job and where you live. I have friends in Chicago who work in public libraries who think $45K starting out is terrible, WHEREAS in Michigan (anywhere in the state really), that’s hooker and blow money right thar. I’ve applied for jobs, many with the same titles/qualifications/etc that ranged as divergent as $30-100K. It’s crazy with the lack of consistency, but I get super frustrated when people do not take cost of living and high cost areas into faction here. Another friend of mine, who is looking to move into becoming a director at a small college, found a gig in Maine that paid $32K. For a director’s job.

If you think librarianship is where the big rollers are, you are sorely mistaken. You can wage your MLIS into a field that pays you big money, but as a whole, librarians do NOT work for the benefits of fame and fortune.

We’ve talked school choice, getting an education, kind of jobs you can get, and your potential big bank.
Let’s talk about paying for this education.

I had $100K in student loan debt when I came out of my MLIS. (Had because it’s now down to $69K.) That money funded most of my BA and both of my masters. Knowing me, I knew that I needed to not work 40 hours a week while going to school because it would not work for me. I had tried that before many times and always ended up dropping out of classes (this is part of the reason it took me so long before heading back to finish my undergrad. I have transcripts in at least 6 colleges before I sucked it up and knew I had to put school as a priority). I knew that coming out of this, I was going to be heavily in debt and I was totally okay with that. Could I have made better choices with the funds? Sure. I could have done a lot more to save/grants/scholarships. But I do not regret getting my degrees. Not all people are like me. I have a friend who is doing her MLIS degree two classes at a time. I have another friend who did the program in 18 months (traditionally, it takes 2 years). Some are paying for it by themselves and others are getting loans. You need to do what’s best FOR YOU. Everyone’s experiences and expectations are different. There are a lot of options to finance/save/pay for classes. Research them. I was also lucky to land a job that pays me enough for hookers and blow, so I’m fast tracking my student loan payments and the entire debt will be paid off in 10 years.

Lastly, let’s talk about job titles. The field of thought is to be called a librarian is to have a MLIS. But, a lot of rural/small libraries are getting away with volunteers and/or long term employees who call themselves “librarians” (withOUT a MLIS) because they worked at that particular location for 900 years so they are the best choice. I do get that train of thought, I do. But it’s like calling ones self a doctor after reading WebMD. There is a lot more to the word “librarian” then just working in a library and I wish more people would see that.

Which brings me up to my last point: If you decide to go this route and you want to do this for a living, be prepared to defend what you do ALL THE TIME. Example: When I saw my orthopedic surgeon for the first time earlier this year, and he asked me what I did and I told him I was a librarian, he said, “I thought libraries are dead? Everything is on Google.” Uh, what? My retort was, “Do you stop using stairs because elevators come into existence? Do you no longer have an accountant because TurboTax exists?” He got my point real quick. People are often careless and dumb, but when it comes to the life of libraries, they are downright stupid.

This has been a production of “Lisa’s Quick Guide to Becoming a Librarian” in 10 easy steps. No warranties implied or assumed. Money back not guaranteed. Act now as this is a limited time offer.

So, why do you want to be a librarian again?

-Lisa

P.S. Every other Wednesday or so, there is a great chat on Twitter called #libchat, that starts at 8PM Eastern. You may want to check that out and consequently, you can find me on Twitter as @pnkrcklibrarian if you have any questions. Lastly, you can also email me if you have questions about Wayne, library school, or why the sky is blue!

P.P. S. Another niblet about Wayne:  I landed a job on campus as a reference librarian in one of their libraries in my second semester, which I worked at until I graduated 18 months later. As I was doing a dual degree of sorts (librarian AND archivist), I also won a scholarship that same semester. My final semester, I had a bill for the same amount of the scholarship. When I contacted the school’s office, I found out they revoked my scholarship 18 months later, because they felt it was “unfair” as I had the job on campus. The job paid me, but did not give me any tuition breaks. If my partner (now husband) at the time did not have a good job, I’d be up shit’s creek without a damn paddle.

So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist: A Portrait of the Librarian as a Young(ish) Woman #libday7

When I applied to library school several years ago, it was not because I specifically wanted to work in a library or that I had dreamt of becoming a librarian since I was a wee lass, or that I had to work with books in some capacity and becoming a librarian would fulfill that and other bookish desires.

In truth, I applied to library school because a lot of jobs I wanted to apply to when I was finishing my first masters were requiring a MLIS or equivalent and they were not in the traditional library setting. I saw obtaining my MLIS as a means to an end, not to fulfill long held craving.

Now, if you talk to my mother, she will tell you a different story. She will weave you a tale of my interest in libraries and books stems back to when I was knee high to a grasshopper, when during the summers I would pack my lunch, hop on my bike and ride to our local library, get my books for the day(s) and spend most of my time reading/writing on the banks of St. Clair River before coming back home in the early evening.

She will probably then go on how when I was footless and floundering about in my 20s that she knew I needed to go to library school and begged me to go because it was my destiny. During these stories, she will interject that my love affair with reading is generational and ordained and if my brother is there, he will pipe in that my world has always been in ink and vellum, never of this current plane.

In the ways of Rashomon, all of these stories are true. Reading and books, were (and on some levels, still are) these ultra sacred spaces for me and me alone. I’ve built up a pretty turret with my fine cavalcade of books and who are you to traspass, uninvited, onto my sacred space? I was deathly afraid that I might lose my passion for books and reading if I were to make a living from it in some capacity.

This seems to be the opposite advice of what most will tell you when they start sprouting those pithy, borrowed unoriginal commentary of “DO WHAT YOU LOVE!” when it comes to job advice. I didn’t necessarily want to share my passion with the world, when along with my Ted E. Bear, had been my sole companion and comforter since I was young. 1 On some levels, these are lines of bullshit. I did toy with going to library school several times during my undergrad and during my first masters, but it was not at the top of my list of future career prospects.

I did not find, as I may have previously suggested, that working in a bookstore for four years to diminish my love of books and reading. It, in fact, enhanced it significantly, more specifically when my employee discount was applicable to bargin and used books. Connecting people with new authors, new ways of doing things was terribly exciting. I loved doing Reader’s Advisory on the book floor because I often got an education myself from my customers, which in turn allowed me to enhance the stores fiction collection with titles that were previously not stocked. I met a lot of amazing people. I was able to create programming that was geared for our community and those programs were well attended. And lastly, working in a bookstore (sans all the bullshit body politic) was fun and on a lot of levels, I miss it greatly. So when people come to me and ask me about whether or not they should attend library school, I get this awkward feeling inside. Who am I to dispense myths and wonder when my own myriad of job career paths was hardly the place for attribution. I love the idea of library school as a figurehead but the actual going to and ultimately obtaining the MLIS degree?

It’s a joke and here’s why:

  • As academia moves slow, so too does library school with their course structures – therefore many of what is being offered is either no longer relevant or is losing relevancy to the real world; education is fast tracked on the job or in addition to it
    Almost every librarian I have talked to on this subject over the years has said that most of their education was done on the job or in relation to their job in some capacity, and was not necessarily obtained in the library school environment. Several had said privately to me that their own degrees were, on the education received, worthless. These same individuals also conferred that they only reason why they had attended, and eventually graduated from, their institutions was because having MLIS after their name gave them better recognition professionally and a pay boost to do essentially the same job they were doing before.This is of course not to say that this affects ALL programs, but it is to say that there is much to be said for the splitting of library programs from the traditional to iSchools. In my experience where iSchools tend to concentrate more on theory and research, traditional library schools are still lagging in the days of card catalogs, paper indices and manual typewriters. There does not seem to be a program, that I have found at a least, that offers a blend of the cutting edge with relevant theory and practical application.My alma mater attempted this blend, as they needed to stay relevant to compete with a huge iSchool located on the same side of the state. But wehre as the iSchool might teach human interaction and computational behaviors in relation to user searching behaviors, we got classes that taught Silverlight and using Microsoft Office. On several mailing lists I’m on, a recent conversation took place on Lita-L within the last year, there is loads of posts on this topic as more and more hiring managers and directors were getting frustrated with the lack of quality students being churned out – namely because what libraries seek (across the board) for new employees is NOT being produced by these programs. This does not mean that students, new graduates and the currently employed should not be doing professional development – far from it, but it DOES mean that library schools needs to start taking responsibility for what they are producing in terms of graduates, concentrate more on quality over quantity and putting together comprehensive programs that blend theory with relevant course applications that can be applied to the real world.
  • Chances are the professors who are teaching you the ways of the library have probably never worked in a library themselves 
    Now I will freely admit this may be something that is more of a Lisa-quirk rather then a legitimate complaint, but I don’t really think so. When I started looking for mentors within my program, with my particular interest in technologies, the advisor I was assigned to was absolutely nice guy. Very lovely man – but his interest and expertise was specifically with Microsoft Development software. He had never worked in a library, had no (to my knowledge) interest in working in a library but yet he was teaching at a library school. Hired, I would assume, for his technical expertise in a specific subject rather than that expertise as applied to libraries. Nice man, very lovely but had no clue about what libraries were dealing with in terms of technology needs or requirements.2


1. This also applies to writing, in some capacity. It is not that I do not handle rejection well, but, that perhaps I get defeated far too easily.
2. He was the reason, I believe, behind why Silverlight was being taught in the web development classes geared for libraries.

So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist: Plan

The first thing I’m going to do is warn you that this post is going to be fairly lengthy. I’ve been attempting to outline it in my head for nearly a week now but it is going to be a brain dump; this is not going to be as organized or methodological as the prior pieces in the series.

Second thing I’m going to tell you is that this is going to be probably fairly raw and really personal. Last thing I want to point is that I’m not bitter or cynical.

Really.

I’m just incredibly frustrated.

Based upon my vast academic experiences since obtaining my GED in 1991, I’ve known what works and what doesn’t in order for me to succeed in the academic arena. I knew, for example, when I was attending GRCC in the early ’90s that my heavy involvement on campus with the college newspaper, attempting to start a campus radio station, and other things I threw myself into were great for professional and personal networking but not so great for my academic standing.1

When I went back to finish my undergrad in 2003, I did a 180 by eschewing campus involvement to concentrate on grades. This proved to be successful as I was able to raise my overall GPA from 1.7 to a graduating GPA of a 3.3, but the downfall of that move was that I missed the action of being involved on campus and I hardly knew anyone upon graduation. You cannot reach the age of 36 without knowing a thing or two about yourself.

Thus I knew based upon said stated prior experience that the best way for me to succeed in library school was to do a combination of campus involvement AND concentrate on my grades. I also knew from research and people networking that librarians were incredibly, heavily involved with their profession. In order to succeed after lib school, I’d have to get my little tush involved in everything and anything related to the profession while still maintaining the grades. Not a problem. My resume is a good indicator of how involved I was on campus during my two years at Wayne State and my grades? Overall GPA is a 3.89. Not only was I involved with various associations on campus2, but I was also presenting at professional conferences while still in school and working with senior librarians on a variety of projects. Coupled with my library experience, finding a job should have been a snap.

In the fall of 2009, TheHusband and I sat down and figured out our plans. We knew coupled with my rock star3 status on campus, experience, and the fact we could relocate4 anywhere in the lower 48, we assumed I was a very attractive candidate for positions when I would begin to apply for jobs in spring of 2010. I vainly assumed, “Who wouldn’t want me?” Since May of 2010, I’ve submitted 100+ job applications/resumes and had dozens of interviews: not a single job offer. In that interim, I’ve been given scads of advice from the pithy, “Chin up, it’ll get better” to “It’s not you it’s them” with the reverse, “It’s not them, it’s you” also thrown in anytime I start getting depressed about the job market.

In the rejection department, I’ve been rejected for my writing style in my cover letter to my resume had too much information on it(!) to I was too overly ambitious to I presented myself in a negative light5 on the social media sites I was active on and so forth. I’ve received conflicting advice from librarians AND hiring managers AND HR people in a variety of fields of librarianship. Every time I shucked for one company/institution, my jiving (apparently) irritated another. I wrote about the reality of the situation back in August and now that it is mid-November, everything I mentioned before? Nothing has changed and the market is only getting worse.

In the fall of 2009, TheHusband and I sat down and figured out our plan of attack. We decided (then) that if I did not obtain a position by mid-August 2010, we’d move to Chicago and settle there. We reasoned if we were living in Chicagoland area, I would have greater access to jobs/opportunities than staying in Detroit. This plan was modified by mid-summer of 2010 when it became clear that it would take longer than a few months to obtain a job due to slowness of institutions/etc responding to applications and coupled with the piling rejections. We also realized that living in Chicago was awesome if we both had jobs, but with my almost crippling student loans AND a mortgage, we’d be eating ramen every night.

A new amendment was interred to our plan which then stated after 100 job applications submitted, if no job offer, relocate to a city and start nesting. This would, obviously, limit my opportunities significantly but really? I’m awesome, who wouldn’t want to hire me before then? Right? I hit the 100 mark at the beginning of October. TheHusband and I have both gained at least 15 lbs each since the job hunt started. We have competitions like who can go the longest without bathing to who can wear their pajamas the longest. In the last several months, when it became clearer that I was not going to be working in a big girl job anytime soon, we talked a lot about my options. What the hell can I do to make a living AND contribute to society AND utilize the skills that I have just earned? It became abundantly clear to me that if someone was not going to offer me a job, I was going to have to to create one.

If you’ve been following me via Twitter for the last few months, I’ve been vaguely mentioning this on and off. I’ve got numerous projects that I have seeds planted for that are creating opportunities for myself in this profession but none are outright paying gigs (yet). To build this up, it’s going to take time, coupled with a few consulting gigs here and there, I’ll make something. But here’s a comparison: this year I will make slight more than I did at the age of 14, making $3.35/hr while working at Sbarro’s at the local mall.6 People have read SYWTBALA and have asked, “What’s next? I’ve done everything and then some and I still don’t have a job.” to “Why aren’t you writing more SYWTBALA?” Because I don’t have an answer AND to write SYWTBALA sends me into a crying jag every single time. How can I advise YOU when I myself do not have a job? But I’ll do it anyway:

  • Create a back-up plan. Then create another one. And then one more. And then another. Several positions that were 90% guaranteed for me fell through before graduation. I don’t blame anyone, it’s just the way it worked out.
  • Pay off all your debt. Even if it means creating a budget and it sucks because you have to give up weekly beer. One of the smartest things TheHusband and I did in the course of my lib schooling was to pay off all extraneous debt (except for student loans).
  • Be fucking flexible.
  • Create another back-up plan.
  • Save money. Yes, it sucks and means giving up more beer or a CD or whatever, but create a savings account.
  • Continue to be active in the profession and if this means attending local meetings, virtual meetings, collaborating with colleagues on projects, whatever. Keep your skills fresh. Just because you do not work in a library does not mean you’re not a librarian.
  • Make decisions for your long term goals, not just your short term goals. I had to turn down an interview recently because the institution wanted me to pay out of my own pocket to fly there AND were not willing to do a phone interview before hand. This was too risky for us to consider financially AND the timing was bad since it was almost certain we would not hear back before our lease was up.

Here is our plan of attack:

  • Our lease runs up on December 31, 2010. Therefore, jobs I have interviewed for have until that date to make up their mind on whether or not to hire me.
  • We have decided, based on location, housing inventory and cost, that if no job materializes between now and then, we’re moving back to Grand Rapids and buying a house.
  • I have been applying to positions in the GRR area and will continue to do so upon arrival. I will also volunteer at local libraries to keep my skills fresh.
  • I will use GRR as my home base since I will be doing a bit of traveling across the state for my library related projects. I’m also looking into consulting gigs and other opportunities I can do from home/virtually.

I will be the most connected, hard-working, project wrangling but unemployed librarianista EVAH. Now if you will excuse me, I have a cake to go bake.


1. I never graduated from GRCC, but I was president/founder/editor of a lot of things. My grades? Yeah – my overall GPA was a 1.7, but what did my 22 year old self care? I got to go to gigs, meet bands, and hang out with celebs! 2. A few of us also founded a campus student chapter of the PLG, which turned out to be the most successful student org on campus for the 2009-10 academic year.
3. I ran into a few of my mentors at a recent (last week) conference for the state library association and was told by a senior librarian I was the sure thing, the “golden child against the recession”, in getting a job. I was extremely touched by her comment but um, yeah.
4. TheHusband telecommutes for his position, which is super awesome.
5. It was suggested that since some of my commentary was risque or that I swore a lot, I was getting rejected from positions. Based upon the responses I’ve heard from HR people, the sheer number of applicants is at LEAST 200:1, that’s a lot of g-d googling for each and every candidate.
6. $3.35/hr was the minimum wage in 1986, when I was 14.

So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist?: Getting “Developed”

Image used by permission from the lovely John Kirriemuir.
Image used by permission from the lovely John Kirriemuir.

One question I am asked in almost every single interview is how do I keep up with the profession? Recently I started thinking about framing this question back when I started my MLIS in 2008. I remember in those ye olde days I had a very difficult time finding blogs, wikis, podcasts or anything really by library students or librarians themselves on the intertubes that discussed librarianship in any format.

That has changed significantly in the last two years since I started my journey down this rabbit hole so I thought it would be a good idea to put together a thorough resource encompassing how librarianating is done as well as include resources for free or cheap on professional development to develop ones ibrarianating.

Blogs
While plowing through mailing list emails one day, a conversation erupted on the “value” of professional journals and magazines, meaning that what is the point of spending several hundreds of dollars for a personal subscription to LibraryJournal when a print subscription to Wired, which some consider more relevant for librarinating, is only $10? Fair point. Bottom line: what is relevant to one’s profession is dependent on their interests. With that in mind, I created gReader bundles that pulls top libraryesque blogs by the rock stars as well as blogs by friends of mine who are librarians as well as one specifically on social media, web design and other similar flavors.

Journals
There are loads of free-access journals and magazines on the intertubes dedicated to librarians and other information wranglers. Here is a smattering of them.

Podcasts
I really got into podcasts while I was in libschool and if there is a dearth of anything in this profession of ours, it is the lack of librarian produced podcasts. When I lamented about this on Twitter one day, Jason said, “Hey! I have a podcast that you can find in iTunes called Adventures in Library Instruction. And a girlcrush was born.

Webinars

What you learned or will learn in libschool is a drop to what you need to know to or get a big girl/boy job in librarianating. Why? Internships, practicums and volunteering are all well and good, but most of the experience or skills are learned on the job. Learning theory and how to catalog is one thing, actually being able to do it is another. The secondary problem is that if you went to libschool for every skill set needed or required, the degree would take a decade to complete. This is where workshops and webinars come into play. There is a PLETHORA of free or super cheap webinars that cover everything from academic instruction to using Zotero.

  • ALA’s Online Learning: Sorts by topic, subject or ALA unit (LITA, ACRL, RUSA, etc), with many of the offerings reasonably priced or free.
  • Cisco’s WebEx Free Webinars: Done by another tech industry leader, Cisco, these webinars cover management, leadership, information management and additional topics.
  • Emerging Technologies Summer Institute: I was asked by ever awesome Rochelle to participate in a one month only crowd sourced prof development blog. Unfortunately, that one month was in July and I spent most of it driving/flying hither and tither to job interviews and other fun things, so I didn’t get to add to the content. But I love this idea and she’s kept up the site, so while it’s not a webinar exactly there is loads of videos on how to do/use variety of different stuff.
  • InfoPeople: Provides fairly extensive on specialized topics by tons of names I recognize. Many of the webinars I selected to check out were free, so this resource is definitely worth checking out.
  • New Horizons Computer Training Centers Webinars: Concentrates mainly on Office based training, but that can be useful if you’re looking to brush up.
  • North East Florida Library Information Network Webinar Blog : Maintained by NEFLIN for area library professionals and originally intended for the locals, it’s become wildly popular go-to source for webinar roundup.
  • O’Reilly Training: Listing of free or nearly free tech training from the masters.
  • Techsoup For Libraries
  • WebinarListings.com: While some of the calendaring functions are slightly buggy, the “by category” and “search webinar” options are fantastic. Deals mainly with PR, marking, social media, best practices and some technology. Best of all: Most of the webinars are free.

Misc.

Anything that doesn’t fit in the above.

  • To:Librarianate – Amazon WishList This is NOT a ploy for you to buy me something, rather it’s a save-hold for books on topics that I think are important to becoming a librarian. Easier to create an AMZ wishlist than to list them out one by one.
  • The Library Route Project: Interested in medical librarianship? Music librarianship? Librarianship in another country? This project, started in October 2009, has librarians and info professionals from around the globe detailing their experiences. What makes this a great resource is not only to see the paths that others took to get to their career/jobs, but they are also choke full of resources for their particular position.

Please let me know, via comments, email or Twitter, any blogs, podcasts, journals, webinars or misc that I’m missing and should be included here. I’d like to keep this as complete as possible!

Updates:10.15.10 – Updated with two new webinar sites and book list for librarianating.