I was doing some cleaning around ye olde tags and categories last night when I came across an orphan entry, of sorts, that I wrote in the fall of 2008 – just when I started the MLIS program. I say orphan because while it was tagged to death, it was not put into any category (really) so unless someone was tenacious enough to go back several years (granted, there is not much in 2009, but still!), the entry was missed by anyone perusing my site looking for info on the SYWTBAL shenanigans.
The post, “To degree or not to degree: that is the question”, covers a lot of ground. It goes into my educational path (definitely not straight), choices and decisions on how I got to where I am today. But it also looks at, briefly, what a typical week for me was back in that first semester of school and the stress is so palpable in my words, my left eye started twitching in accompaniment as I read. Last, but not least, it discusses my choices for my first MA, my reasoning for getting a GED and outlines why I despise academic snobbery.
It’s a pretty raw but realistic read at some of the decision processes and as we know the outcome, my own predictions two years hence (“All that is going to matter is that I have them and the outstanding GPAs to back them up. (And the networking, professional associations, president of something or another by the time I graduate.)“) are also kind of amusing (since they turned out to be true!).
I’m highlighting this I think it’s a fantastic accent to the SYWTBAL shenanigans (and has been categorized as such so now it appears on the list), as well as I know numerous current MLIS students (really any grad students) now who could/can relate to the sacrifices we make for our education.
There is, though, one sentiment in my line of arguing that I would change and that is my appearing to be FOR online only distance ed. This change stems from bullocks approach of my MLIS alma mater, how they handled online only distance (badly) and also nearly two years of vaguely researching the topic. But that is a post for another day.
P.S. Yes, comments are closed as all comments are closed on entries older than 14 days, so if you wish to comment on that post, you must do so here.
P.P.S. No, I don’t remember what set me off to write the post nor who the friend I reference in that post either. Drats.
Since I’ve got a number of entries in draft format that are more or less about the same topic (various statuses/commentary of The Great Job Hunt, 2010 ™), I thought it would be easier to write one entry in bullet form then pontificate endlessly on. This is how I roll.
As I mentioned before, my “So, You Want To Be A Librarian/Archivist?” series is fairly popular. To make it easier to keep track of posts that fall under that heading, there is now a tab at the top of the header bar, SYWTBAL?, that will take you directly to a page with posts in that category that is automatically updated. For everything else relating to the library and archives world, there is a second category, Library*.*, that includes not only all posts on SYWTBAL? but everything else written on the topic.
I’ve been asked by a couple of people to share my spreadsheet for The Great Job Hunt, 2010™. Here it is. [JobTracker.xls] Most of the fields are obvious, however, here are the ones that may need a bit of explaining:
Job Ad: Location of where I found the job (LibGig, JobList, whatever). 80%+ of places require this information for the web based applications. Also handy to have when writing letters of interest.
End Date: Last day to apply for the position. If no date listed, I put in “Until Filled.”
Resume Type: How did I apply for the position? Via email/fax/snail or web? If by web, I also include confirmation number. Not all places email receipt that application was received.
This next serves more as a PSA: DO NOT EVER APPLY TO A JOB VIA JOBFOX.COM. In an effort to expand my job search, I started using general job search engines to look for jobs outside of the dozen or so specialized websites and mailing lists that I currently pillage. A job for a part-time reference librarian at a small state school on the East Coast popped up via one of those sites and when I clicked to apply, it took me to the Job Fox website. In another tab, I went to the school itself looking for information on the job and even an HR department and found nothing. This is not, necessarily, unusual: A lot of places outsource their application process via a 3rd party software site or post jobs ONLY on HigerEd or other professional websites, not necessarily on their website. In short: I thought nothing was terribly unusual about the job application procedure. I created an account and jumped through their hoops. Upon account completion and notification that my application had been sent to the school, that’s when the funny began:
Based upon my answers to their fairly lengthy “questionnaire,” Job Fox claimed to “match me” with other jobs based on my resume and near my zip code. All I received were sales and retail jobs, many from the same hiring company. The interesting part was that there was only 1 job in my last 10 years of work history that had anything remotely to do with retail and that was at $corporate_bookstore. No information professional, librarian, archivist or some mix were even in the listings.
Several days after I opened my account, I received an email from one of their “Resume Experts” that gave me a detailed laundry list of why my resume suckss. In fact, it was a word for word analysis IDENTICAL to this one. Swap out “Laura” for “Lisa” and “Mechanical Engineer” for “Librarian” and it was word perfect. As you can see at the bottom, after bashing you in and attempting to make you feel like a worthless human being, Job Fox will, for the low low price of $399 USD, make your resume stand out and shine! Laura, from Word Cynic, wrote a fanfuckingtastic response to her resume wrangler.
Having already had my resume poked at vigorously by professional editors and librarians and archivists in a variety of different fields AND based upon the fact that I’ve gotten more interviews then others I know who just got out of school, I KNOW my resume is da bomb shiz. Since I was getting that funny feeling when their bullshit emails started coming through, I started doing research on Job Fox and the results were highly interesting. It turns out Job Fox supposedly acts as an aggregator from other job sites, attempting to make it a one stop shop for job applications. Sounds good in theory, but in reality – it IS a scam. I read, horrified, of what people were saying about their awful experiences with Job Fox and their promises of getting you the job were falling really short and to the point that people were demanding their money back and in some cases, threatening legal action.
Further research also indicated that Job Fox is not current enough in that while it supposedly aggregates other job sites, it is NOT removing jobs that are long filled or past their application deadline. Many of the comments I read from other job hunters also discussed that a good portion of the companies and institutions do NOT accept resumes/CVs via job aggregation sites like Job Fox as they treat those application as recruiter applications. Additionally, it was also commented that Job Fox was asked by companies and institutions to remove job listings from their site since they do not accept 3rd party applications and it apparently took legal threats to get it done.
Several other jobs I found via one of the aggregate sites also took me to Job Fox. I went directly to the institution and applied through the institution itself. It is also interesting to note that each one of those institutions have wording that specifically states that they do NOT accept recruiter or 3rd party submission/application sites.
Moral of the story: If you find an interesting job and the link for the application is via Job Fox, check the institution directly and apply through it. You’ll have a much better chance of your resume going to the right people instead into the bit bin.
As of today, I’ve applied for 75 jobs, 50 of which since June 14. There are some days I don’t know why I’m awfully proud of that number or if I want to weep. If I hear one more person tell me how lucky I am that I’m at least getting interviews, I want to punch them in the throat. When I also hear that the average time from ending of school to getting a job is about six months and I’m three months in and GEE, look at how great you’re doing! I want to punch them in the throat. The reality is that despite interviewing numerous times for numerous positions, I’m still passed over. I am three months out of school and still jobless. For positions where I’ve had only a single interview and was rejected, I’ve done postmortems on those interviews in an attempt to figure out WHY I’m not getting additional interviews. For positions where I interviewed multiple times and got rejected, when asked what I could do to better improve myself in the market, all I got was crickets. I’ve revised answers, created interview talking points and practiced speaking. I’ve networked like crazy. I made god dammed shirts that I wore through ALA10 to get people to notice me. I’ve made sure tattoos and piercings are neatly packed away for face to face interviews. I’ve cut back on saying the word “fuck,” talking about topics that would make a sailor blush on Twitter and any place where my actions are publicly online. None of those things have helped. I have a plan in motion (with Justin’s permission) that begins when I hit the magical number of 100. Some of you are aware of this plan, but I’m keeping it on the down low until 100 applications have been reached.
The great “baby boomer librarian myth” told to newbie librarians upon entering library school: That “baby boomers are finally retiring, thus the library market is wide open” is FINALLY happening. This is evident when I was at ALA10 and majority of the recruiters were looking for directors/heads NOT first years out, that looking through ALA JobList and LibGig also shows the same trend that majority of the jobs opening up and posting are also for Librarian III/Director/Head. This should all make me swoon with glee, but it doesn’t. An informal poll on the twitters asking people to PLEASE APPLY FOR PROMOTIONS to open up their positions for first years to get into was met with incredulousness. The responses as to why people were staying put were interesting: Many had the experience but no management responsibility to qualify for some of the positions, others didn’t want the responsibility/stress and lastly, there were those that loved their job security. So yes, jobs ARE opening up for librarians but only those with experience, thus there is a large gap of open jobs for librarians/information professionals with tons of experience, no one to fill them and loads of first years with very little experience and no where to go meaning that the work force is still remaining stagnant. Doesn’t this just seem FUCKED to you? Selfish gits.
In my last post, I ranted about the process – which is all fine and dandy because I’m sure more of that type of thing will pour forth from me as I continue on this job hunt. [Repeat after me: Student Loans Will Not Pay For Themselves.] But what I thought about on my way to work this afternoon was HOW I prepared for the job hunt. I got a plethora of ideas from friends who have already been through the process, but a listing of what I did could help someone else.
Get your resume together a month or two before you begin applying and have more than one person review it. In my case, I had two people who have professional editing experience and they were ENORMOUS help making sure my Is were dotted and my Ts were crossed. Regardless of your prep time frame, the idea is that you have enough time to write the resume, submit for editing and work future revisions.
Once the resume is more or less together, be aware of the fact you may have to change it as you hunt for jobs. I have caught grammar, spelling and other errors even after the final proofing because sometimes we just simply miss things. I also have updated sections when new things occur (giving a presentation, adding/removing software from my technology list). The .pdf version of my resume was uploaded a month ago and I’ve already made several revisions after that one. The idea in point number 1 is get 90% of it in shape as you will add/remove stuff as necessary. This point it remind you not to get too married to that “supposed” final version.
Confirm your references (professionally and personally) and then create a single sheet, separating them by professionally and personally. You should have their name, title (for the professional ones), name of company/library/whatever, work address, work phone number, and preferred email address. For personal, I have name, address, phone number and email. CONFIRM THAT WHO YOU PUT DOWN AS YOUR REFERENCES WILL ACTUALLY DO IT.
Use the same letterhead on your resume as you do for your references list. Keep it consistent (i.e. if you change one, change the other).
I have a .doc AND a .pdf version of my resume and references list, you should too. Word PC07/Mac08 and Open Office allow you to convert from .doc to .pdf seamlessly. There are also plugins and websites that will do this for you. And remember, if you update your resume/references list, make sure to update the .pdf version as well!
Create a digital portfolio that includes your resume, coursework, presentations, and other relevant stuff. (DO NOT PUT YOUR REFERENCES LIST ONLINE AS THAT IS JUST STUPID. ONLY HAND IT OUT TO EMPLOYERS IF/WHEN THEY REQUEST IT.) You can do this using WordPress, Blogger or even Tumblr. I had more than a few friends who utilized Google Sites to create their digital portfolio. This illustrates you know how to use “emerging”1 technologies, HTML (to some degree), and a CMS. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have be perfect. Keep the URL professional (not iizawesomsauce.tumblr.com) and ONLY use it for job hunting/professional stuff. Don’t post “OMG, James McAvoy is HOTTTTT!” on the same space you’re handing to future employers. Be smart.
On the digital portfolio versions of my resume, my address/phone are blacked out. Make sure to do the same. If an employer wants/needs that information or you are being headhunted, they can email you to ask for it. Do not be an idiot and willingly publish your home address/phone number online.
Also make sure to include your digital portfolio URL in the letterhead of your resume/references and cover letters.
Resume is created, you’ve got your online portfolio created, so the next thing you need to do is create a spreadsheet to keep track of where you are applying. This will make it easier to see where you’ve applied, where you need to apply and when to do (if any) follow-ups. I have eight columns on mine in the following order: Company/Library, Position, Salary, Web Address, End Date, Resume Submit Date, Type, Status, Followup. Explanation of some of the ones I am using: Salary is to keep track of who is paying what (when mentioned), also helps me gauge what the market is currently paying out for certain types of jobs. Lots of positions are accepted via corporate HR sites and are assigned a position number – this include this as well in the Position field. Resume Type: Did I apply online, email it, fax it or what?
If you’re applying for the same type of jobs, after your first cover letter is written, you should then have a template for the rest of them. Make sure to change the addressee information, job title and do some tailoring to fit the specific job you are looking for. Also make sure to use the same letterhead you created for your resume and references list.
Also make sure fonts and stylistics are consistent across your materials. If you’re using Verdana in your resume, don’t use Comic Sans MS in your references list.
My reference list (professional and personal) have requested that I email them links to the jobs I’m applying for so if they get called, they can speak more intelligently about recommending me for that particular position. Since I’m applying for jobs in batches, they get regularly updated emails from with job titles and links.
This is enough for now — am I thorough? You bet. I just like making sure my Is are dotted and my Ts are crossed. Justin (TheFiance), however, likes to refer to me as being “anal retentive,” but if I have to get out there and get the ROCKSTAR LIBRARIAN/ARCHIVIST job, the only way to do that (other than with my sparkling wit) is to make sure I’ve got alllllllllll my bases covered.
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.
(As an aside, I recently became a member of a kind of small, specific professional organization. Discovered via my website logs that they not only had Goggled me upon receiving my membership form but before cashing my check, they passed along my website to other people in their office since I had log entries form each of their individual work stations. So I, in turn, Googled them. They were silly enough to name their workstations after their personal names, so that made it even easier!)
Don’t totally misunderstand me on this point: I get that employers really do want people who follow directions and that yes, people who send in resumes covered in clip art with a bright pink background should NOT be considered for the job or that people who routinely apply for positions they are certainly not qualified for should be rejected. I get that HR has a lot on their plate and that sometimes it does take the picayune points to separate the wheat from the chaff.
I’m venting because sometimes the ridiculous gets to be so, well, ridiculous! Especially when I’ve spent the last two days applying for positions and I felt like I spent more time jumping through arcane online HR systems, digging for HR contact info than actually spending time working on cover letters or compiling stuff for the application itself. I did a lot of cursing out loud today and vague venting on Twitter because this IS 2010 – shit should just work. What becomes even more stressful is when the employer has a listing for a “emerging/digital/technical technologies/project librarian/archivist/curator” and while one location might define it as X, another place will define it as Y and the requirements are TOTALLY opposite of what the title suggests and this is especially true when the job title is identical at multiple positions.
I realise that this is how the game is played and that while I’ve been out of the #biggirljob loop for nearly a decade, I had not realized that really was as convoluted and as much of a mess before. To help alleviate my stress levels, I’ve started doing the following:
Every single domain I own has an invisible counter on each of the landing pages (since sometimes the click-through on a domain is not necessarily accurate), and I just put one on my on resume page. If you’re finding me either directly by site, link, or keyword, I will more than likely know. I will also know if institutions are actually visiting the additional information at my resume page. I also have raw access to the logs if I wish to analyze traffic.
I’ve began Googling HR representatives/directors/whomever for each of the positions that I’ve applied for and tailored (when necessary) my cover letter to hit upon specific points of interest that not only reflect the job but also their personal interests (if that particular HR person is the direct contact, etc).
And this is what becomes even more frustrating – I can’t discuss on my own blog what I feel about X because I think X sucks nuts for requesting Y for their application process when Y isn’t really necessary. I can’t discuss why the HR system at S is redundant because it not only asks for upload of CV/Resume but also requires the user to transpose all that information into an online form. (This was even more frustrating when the directions clearly spelt out that uploaded CV/Resume would replace the filling of forms but nope, sure didn’t!) Or that numerous positions online application is nothing more than a PDF file and that they want you to fill it out (but it’s locked) and signed (you can’t sign the file unless you actually have it unlocked and the line available) and have it emailed. (Numerous places use the later technique for “online application” and I was just boggled by this – what’s the bloody point?!).
I don’t get it but I still must continue because the student loans will not pay for themselves.
Earlier tonight a friend passed a question on to me from Aardvark in which the person asks, “What can you do with an MLIS other than become a traditional librarian or archivist?”
I think this is a very valid question so after I answered, I went to ye old Google1 to see what other people were saying and interestingly, I got more hits for online library school programs (reputability low), people asking/bitching/complaining at Yahoo! Answers, Twibes, Tribes, and other communities about where to go to school or why their existing school sucks then answering the query. Also interestingly, very few people praised their school based upon my ultra scientific skimming of the communities that I found. Even after changing the search query a bit, I still could not dig out from under the iSchool/LibSchool snow jobs that nearly EVERY school seemingly puts out on how SUPER CRAZY AWESOME THEIR SCHOOL IS. In short, I could not find a really decent answer.
So I’m keywording the hell out of this entry and hoping it helps gets indexed asap.
So, after reading Part the First on “So, you want to be a librarian?”, you’ve applied to library school and you realise, this kinda sucks! You don’t want to deal with the crazies in public OR academic (these are considered the “traditional paths” in librarianship), and by crazies I’m not talking about just the patrons. Or perhaps you’re doing your MLIS and getting an archival certificate (as I am doing) OR you’re doing your MLIS and subject specialization OR you have another masters/phd in another field (which I also have). So, what the eff can you do with your damn degree if you don’t want to go into “traditional” librarianship/archives? Actually, you can do a crazy amount of other careers without ever having to step foot in a traditional library. Here are some of the options:
User/Usability Experience Design
Cataloging (Original and copy)
Web design (I mention this because a portion of MLIS programs now offer/require web design classes since so many “traditional” libraries need people with web programming background)
Digital librarianship/archival work (working in mainly digital formats, for preservation/cataloging/creation/etc)
Consultation on any of the above
These are just the tip of the ice berg, but should be enough to whet your appetite.
You can also go into specializations, such as being trained specifically for youth orientated, urban libraries, etc etc. There is also special libraries, which tend to be libraries in hospitals, businesses, law firms, museums, historical societies to name a few that may require or will require additional education. For example, to work in a law library, many firms are now requiring a JD as well as the MLIS. If you have an additional masters/phd in another subject, you can easily teach at a university. A lot of academic libraries are looking for adjunct/tenure faculty/staff with additional specialization degrees to work as a subject specialist and/or teach in the field as well.
And another thing — don’t discount your passions either. A number of archival jobs I’ve started to apply to for when I graduate in May have been in the rock’n’roll business and one of the requirements was a love of pop culture. Who’d a thunk that all my years of listening to crap radio, watching trashy television, and overly copious magazine and website reading would pay off!?! But it does go to show that whatever you’re passionate about can also be translate into helping you find that dream job, preferably one away from the snot-nosed kids, the pushy patrons, and the crazies who may or may not be your co-workers.
1. Google is our overlords, I’ve drunk the koolaid — please take me to your leader!
Back in July, a slew of librarians wrote about their experiences covering one day (or some cases, several days) of their day to day life as a librarian. And by slew, I mean dozens and judging by the PbWorks page, maybe hundreds? Not only were the blogs collected into PbWorks, but they were also tweeted and reshared on Twitter with the hashtag, #librarydayinthelife.
The point of this exercise was to illustrate how wildly different the tasks and jobs were from a plethora of librarians and library staff, clearly showing that while the MLIS degree to some extent can be pretty generic, what is expected of us really varies on the location and job title we are given. And if this little exercise doesn’t showcase that we as a profession are beyond the bun-glasses-orthopedic shoes stereotype and the flexibility of the job really IS there, then I don’t know if anything really will.
With all of that being said, I wanted to desperately put my two cents in but at the time, didn’t think my life as a grad student then would prove to be that totally useful. Since the fall semester has started (and erm, is actually almost ending), I thought that now would be a good time to contribute.
My background: I don’t think I’m a typical student in that I’m also involved with lots of extracurricular activities outside of my classwork, with some of it mostly relating to my job and some do not. I’m currently taking a full load of classes, work 20 hours a week at the graduate library reference desk, work part-time for a professor as her social media specialist (hours vary), am involved in several organizations, also sit on a committee, and am working on my archival practicum. I live about 15 miles away from school, which also throws upto 30 minutes each way of travel time. Also, my weeks tend to fluctuate: Either I have all meetings and stuff inbetween work and classes or it is empty for me to do homework in. Sometimes there is a nice balance, but not always.
Tuesday, November 17
07:15 – 08:15 AM: Up, mainlining coffee and getting stuff together for the day. Leave the house at about 8:15ish to stop and get my daily Slurpee and drive down Woodward to Wayne State.
09:00 AM – 1:00 PM: Reference desk. What I can get done during this time period varies depending on how many questions are coming at me per hour. Today was an especially busy day with averages of about 10 questions per hour, nearly double of previous weeks averages for this time frame. I do face to face and telephone reference, most of it quick or ready-reference, with the occasional extended reference thrown in. Reference questions tend to be directional (aka quick), computer help, book search, or being asked for help on writing papers. I’m also typically logged in online via gTalk and Twitter and do homework when it’s really slow.
01:00 – 02:00 PM: Lunch break, read homework while I ate.
02:00 – 3:00 PM: Meeting with a professor about an upcoming large project that is due in December. I researching a local historical society and why (or why not) they are important not only to the community but to the archival profession. After that was done, we spent the rest of the time gossiping about music and MLIS accreditation.
03:00 – 04:30 PM: Virtual reference committee bi-weekly meeting. One of the senior librarians put together a staff meeting committee, with me being the only grad student, to research and explore alternatives to our existing VR software, Docutek. I was tasked with looking at IM alternatives, testing Trillian Astra and looking to the power of Twitter and GoogleWave to finding out what other people are using. I reported back and based upon my research, they will be testing out LibraryH3lp.
04:30 – 05:30 PM: Coffee with my friend Lauren. Lauren applied for an on-campus GSA position (graduate student assistant, a position I currently hold) and we were dissecting the interview before we headed to class.
05:30 – 8:15 PM: Intro to archives class, held every Tuesday. We had a speaker on Records Management come in and spoke for the entire class period.
09:15 – 12:00 AM: Went home and did several errands on my way home. Once I got home and out of my “oppressive clothes”1, posted weekly discussion summary to Blackboard for my online class, discussed the VR meeting with my fiance and then settled on the couch for a few hours with dinner, House and The Big Bang Theory.
Wednesday, November 18
07:15 – 08:15 AM: Same as the day before: mainlining coffee, showering and getting dressed to head out. I get to leave a few minutes early, which is always a bonus.
09:00 AM – 03:30 PM: My long day for reference desk pimping. Spent most of my downtime trying to hack stuff together for lib schooled., which was failing. The relief librarians were nearly 30 minutes late (I was to leave at 3pm). Only planned on spending a few hours working on my website but ended up getting sucked into spending most of my time at the desk on it. I caught up on some email, prepped stuff for the student chapter Progressive Librarians’ Guild meeting scheduled for tonight.
03:30 – 05:45 PM: Planned on working on homework for the week but wanted to finish this entry. Continued to do prep work for the PLG meeting tonight. Did some quality web browsing. Caught up on more emails.
06:00 – 07:00 PM: Meeting with my advisor on course selection for next semester.
07:00 – 09:00 PM: PLG student monthly meeting. I’m the v-p and with the president having been MIA (deservedly so) due to her recent marriage, things have been a tad crazy.
09:00 PM – 12:00 AM: Head home, decompress from another 12+ hour day, get out of my oppressive clothes1 and sleep. Only to start over all again tomorrow.
So, You Want To Be A Librarian? is going to be a continual, on-going series on stuff that I should have known about before I applied for lib school. Stuff that I didn’t find out until AFTER I had applied and the rejections AND acceptances started rolling in. Stuff I generally felt would have been beneficial to me before I made final decisions to what schools and programs to apply to and eventually, what I wanted to do when I graduated (other than get a big girl job and pay off the massive student debt).
So the first question you must ask yourself is, Why? Why do you want to become a librarian? What is it about librarianship that you feel would make you an ideal candidate? Do you dream of working with kids? Working in a corporate setting? Working in a special library or archive? Teaching aspect? Collections? Fondling rare books? If you don’t know off hand, that’s totally okay — a lot of students in my first year program have various ideas of what they want to do but are being persuaded by new interests and technologies that they did not think were available to them or were not feasible with a MLIS degree and even more have no clue.
But that is what the beauty of the MLIS degree — unlike many other graduate programs — is that it is entirely flexible based up your desires and wants. And the other great thing about getting into a MLIS program now? Jobs are booming. The next decade or so is going to see more jobs and opportunities open for those in MLIS degrees not just in traditional settings but every where. The skills learned as a librarian are so completely flexible with the ever changing needs of current and emerging trends and technologies, what company wouldn’t want to hire someone who has this skill set? And oh yeah, most of the jobs that are coming open are not necessarily new jobs but the Boomers are finally beginning to retire, which means a mass exodus of people (who will begin to suck up Social Security, but that is another rant) are opening up existing job markets for new grads. So in short, a MLIS degree can be whatever you want it to be. Now that you have an idea that becoming a librarian isn’t just slinging books to snotty patrons who demand absolvence of 50 cent fines, the next decision is where do you go to school.
Like any other graduate program, where you opt to go to school makes a difference on how you want to jump start your career. BUT, and this is a big but, you could go to the right school and get the right degree and still not end up in your chosen career path or perhaps have difficulty finding a job. Grad school really boils down to what you put into it. While yes, some snobbery is looked upon in certain fields by where you choose to go to school, what really matters at the end of the day is how you choose to use the tools given to you. There are two types of library schools: theory based and practical based. Theory based programs are ones that will train you to work more in the research and academic fields of librarianship. These programs are geared more to the whys and hows over the actually working in the field. In U.S. News and World Reports rankings, a good portion (if not all) of the top 5 lib schools are theory based.
Clearly, not everyone who accepts and attends these schools will all go into academic research or want tenure track jobs in the academic field, but it is something to think about. If you’re not sure what approach to take, that is still totally okay. All of the schools do offer traditional teachings along with the rigorous work needed for the academic track. At this point, if you’re pretty sure you want to go to lib school, but you’re not sure what field yet and you’re even more confused on where to apply. Again, totally okay. Take deep breaths and lets look at some factors that one has to consider.
I knew I wanted to go to lib school for a number of years but wanted to test out the waters in other areas first. While working on my first Masters, I realized that I should have just applied and gone to school. But I don’t regret getting my first Masters because it gave me the self-confidence I needed to realize I could compete successfully in such a rigorous area. When TheEx and I started dating, this was a big topic of discussion between us. TheEx is one of those hyper-intelligent men that knew everything about anything and had started but never finished a grad program when he graduated from undergrad ages ago. At the time we were dating, he was working in the insurance industry and was his talents (and passions) were not being fully utilized. Our plan of attack then was for us to apply to graduate programs in our respective fields but at the same universities. As he was terribly close with his family, we choose programs that were mainly Big 10 and in and around Michigan.
In no particular order:
Kent State (The program is on OSU’s campus, where TheEx applied directly to OSU.)
I did not finish my application to UofI nor my application to SJSU. SJSU was picked AFTER the break-up between TheEx and I because California is a gazillion miles away from Michigan. Also, SJSU is moving to online-only program, which seemed to negate the whole point of moving away from Michigan.
UofM and UofW both rejected me and I was accepted to Kent State and Wayne State. I know why I was rejected from UofM and UofW: I got overly quirky in my SOP’s (Statements of Purpose) and my GRE scores were not the best. I take responsibility for that, wholeheartedly. To be fair, I was working full time AND doing another Masters program when I started working on my applications, so my attention was diverted towards other things. My choices then were based upon locality and where TheEx was applying for his graduate program, not based on what I wanted to do. This is not to lay blame on him or my choices, to be fair, I probably would have picked nearly all the same schools but I was not armed with more information at the time I picked the schools so that is the one regret I DO have. Also, three of my schools (UofI, UofM and UofW) are mainly theory based, not practical based.
Here are things one needs to consider when applying to lib school (again, in no particular order):
Location. Most people tend to choose schools either close to where they live OR in the area where they eventually want to work. This is a huge factor when considering schools for any program, so first make a list of areas you want to possibly be in when you graduate.
Cost. If you choose an out-of-state school, your first years tuition is going to be significantly higher than if you are an in-state student. This is a given for any program in any discipline. Wayne State will cost me about $10k a year in tuition. UofM would run me about $18k a year in tuition (though both are state schools). If I would have gone out of state, the cost is even higher. More money spent means more loans or other methods of funding your education have to be considered.
Type of programs available. Do you want to go to a theory based school or a practical school? Do you plan to specialize? Is there a school that is general enough that you can get what you need without having to transfer? Do you want to enroll full time or part? Do you plan on working while going to school?
Lecture delivery. A lot of programs now offer online only or mostly online programs. There has been a lot of discussion whether or not such programs are actually viable and worth the time and energy. There are a lot of pros and cons with this issue and not just in the librarian community. This also comes down to your own learning style: Are you a visual or a lecture type person? Are you self-motivated enough to keep up with the demands of a online only program OR do you prefer to be in a classroom environment? Do you want a mixture of both?
Internships/Practicums. Some schools require them, some do not. Some schools will help you find them, others require that you find them yourself. Let me add that in my current experience, if you do NOT have any library experience in any field or setting, internships and practicums are fantastic for gaining the experience.
Job Placement. Some schools, like Wayne, have a general discussion list that every lib student is subscribed to and everyday I receive dozens of emails of available jobs ranging from director positions in major library systems to internship and volunteer work. Wayne has career advising appointments available, a career center and they work with you from your first day in the program to making sure you are successful. Wayne is not alone in this, but it is telling to me that they want their students to succeed in every way possible. Just because a college or university boasts a high job placement rate does not necessarily mean they have the tools to do so. I’ve heard from many a librarian via interviews and message boards that have felt their school could have done a better job in preparing them for “real world” and given them more “real world” experience. This may be true (and some of the schools that were rebuffed for this include UofIllinois and UofMichigan), but it all comes down to you. How much are you going to hustle when you’re competing for jobs with dozens of candidates?
Application process. A minor yet important part of the search process, the application process. A lot of schools have rolling admissions, some do not. Others only accept applications in the fall/winter while others allow you to enroll for either the fall or spring programs. Some applications may be due as early as December and others as late as March. What this boils down to is how much time (and money) do you have to spare and how prepared can you be to get it all done in time?
ALA accreditation. This is the MOST important part of the process — is the school ALA accredited? Nearly every job posting I’ve seen, regardless of where, will require that the applicant either be near completion or have finished their program from an ALA accredited school. The number of ALA accredited schools is seemingly shrinking (there are less than 50 in the U.S.) and many are currently in review or have lost accreditation. Even IF you have a MLIS degree from a university/college, if the school is not ALA accredited, your chances of finding a position will be extremely slim. On many message boards I’ve read, schools that are in ALA review are not worthy of consideration for application. Why? Because if the school loses ALA accreditation, you will NOT have an accredited degree from the university. My understanding is even IF you started the program before the review, the school MUST maintain its accreditation for you to have an accredited degree.
This information should give you a good foundation when searching for library schools. Also keep in mind that you will hear wildly disparaging advice from current and post MLIS students on the application process, especially when concerning if the school is “good” or not. What I’ve presented are basics that should help any navigate the world a bit more easily than I did. Next in the series: The application process and the dreaded GRE test.
I couldn’t resist posting this image — I was originally going to use it for another post I’m working on but fuck it, this works just as well.
For anyone that has spoken to me lately, I’ve become a homework recluse. I work, eat, occasionally knit, occasionally dream about sex, even more rarely catch up on Tivo and but read voraciously. But the bulk of my time is spent with my nose in books doing homework or doing “something” related to what needs to be done for class. My work load has gotten so heavy that I’ve dropped my job hours from 40 to 32, freeing up that one extra day a week that I can actually breathe. I’ve also had to stop hanging out so much with friends and had to give up the Walk For MS that I was planning on in a couple of weeks.
That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to come to make a decision on and while my partner in crime, Steph, totally knew this was going to happen far before I did, she graciously knew that my education comes first before anything else. I know that for the next 2+ years, I’ll be married to the program. It is not just the work load but the accouterments, if you will, of everything else associated with becoming a librarian that surrounds it. It is the networking, conferencing, professional development and hopefully at some point, a pint or two of Guinness. It is also the research on other topics that will be happening that also coincide with all this work that is making it worthwhile.
I’ve never been so exhilarated, frightened or have wanted something so badly as much as I want this degree. There are so many possibilities and opportunities that have arisen since I’ve started this program that I’m absolutely spell bounded by it all. But I need to address something due to a remark that was made to me tonight because I’m highly sensitive on the topic of education and the paths one takes to prepare oneself for the future.
In conversation tonight with a friend of mine who is also a graduate student, I was lamenting about the amount of work that had to be completed, in general. Her response to me was, “No offense to your old program, but welcome to a real Masters program.” She is, in fact, referring to my humanities MA from CMU, of which I finally received the diploma for several weeks ago. From her tone, you would have thought I would have sent in five cereal box tops and $5 dollars. And viola! Several weeks later, a freshly minted, laser printed degree was on my doorstep.
My educational background is not a straight line (and may I remind her, neither is hers). I did not graduate from high school, I in fact got my GED. I have never been ashamed of this fact (though for some reason, the fact that I am not ashamed constantly surprises people) nor do I regret my decision. It is what it is. I made some bad choices in high school, some other things did not work out and I obtained my GED one year from my “official” graduation date. I went to a local community college several years later, did well on a number of things and not so well on others and discovered technology.
Left the CC and worked in the technology sector for almost a decade before applying to, and being accepted by, a number of colleges and universities up and down the east coast and in Michigan. Left my fiancée, a job that would have been made redundant at some point or another and moved back home to finish my B.A. I was 30. Completed my B.A. at Aquinas College, a fairly presitigious school I might add in the Midwest, in May of 2005. My overall GPA walking in? 1.7. My GPA on graduation? 3.3. Not too shabby for a high school drop out.
During my senior year, while looking at graduate schools, I was torn by all the programs and choices that were available. It was suggested to me via several faculty members that I look into a general M.A. in Humanities to help narrow down my focus. Central Michigan University offered such a program, I applied to and was accepted to begin several weeks after my graduation date from Aquinas. Yes, weeks. The program, in cohort design, is set up that each class is done over weekend periods. So for my first class, American Art History up to 1960, I went to class every Friday from 6pm to 10pm and every Saturday from 8am-5pm, alternating weekends for 4-8 weeks. When that class was finished, another one would begin. Was the work load intense? Yes. You try cramming in two weeks of lectures into a single weekend. Social life? Out the window. Now, I joined the cohort in progress that summer and that was one of their last classes. When I started classes again in the fall, my mother found out she had cancer and a few other things were going on. I left the cohort and rejoined in the fall of 2006. I followed through for two years and finally completed the program in May 2008.
During this time, a lot of things happened in my personal life. I fell in love, I was working full time, my then boyfriend and I moved in together, we were quasi-talking about marriage. And I also started thinking about graduate school for something else, as was the then boyfriend. I had done a lot of serious thinking from May 2005 to fall of 2007 about what I wanted to do with my life and realised that I wanted to become a librarian. Becoming a librarian had been simmering in my brain for years, this was not a one-off decision (such as I am prone to make). A lot of things fell into place during that time frame that made the decision more concrete and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, this is what I wanted to do with my life. Going back to the CMU program, I had often joked that it did not feel “real.” The set up, as it is, is not conducive for someone who is interested in doing serious academic work. Have people gone on to Phd programs from my program? Yes. But for the most part, many of the people in my program already HAD Masters degrees in something else and most of them were teachers.
All part of their enrichment process and professional development were the reasons why they were doing the program. But the work was real, the grades were real and the degree is also very real. Over the several years that I worked towards this program, there has been a number of times that people, not just my friend, who have made commentary to the fact that this degree was less valid than a “real” Masters. The now exboyfriend was one of them and so were several others.
I’m not sure what it was about the set-up that seemed to make them THINK that this degree is any less valid than any other Masters degree (especially coming from a highly accredited university), but nonetheless, the snobbery stings. So you know what? Fuck you people. The simple fact that I have to defend my decision or my choices is insulting enough, but to insinuate that my first Masters is not “real” is beyond reproach. I graduated out of that program with a 3.6 GPA. Just because the program did not follow “traditional” guidelines, did not adhere to the “rules” of traditional programs does not make this degree any less valid. If I went to a shoddy, fly-by-night university or took a class in underwater basket weaving, THEN you would have room to complain. But seeing as I am the one who willingly gave up social life, money, and time to obtain this “worthless” is my decision and my choice. You may not agree with how I did or do things, but you know what, it is not your life or choice to make, it is totally mine. And simply by suggesting that what I did was not “real” is not only insulting to me but shows me how very little respect you have for me.
At the end of the day, when my resume is printed and it showcases that I have a B.A., M.A. and a M.L.I.S. degree, not a single, solitary employer is going to question me on the method of how I did my classes or what I did to obtain my degrees. All that is going to matter is that I have them and the outstanding GPAs to back them up. (And the networking, professional associations, president of something or another by the time I graduate.) In short: Fuck you and the horse you rode in on.
I have to warn you that I’m currently battling laryngitis, I had a root canal finished today and I’m also PMSing. To say I’m not in a good mood is an understatement. I am also existing on only several hours of sleep at the moment as for some reason I could not get to bed at a decent hour last night AND had to get up at 5:30 AM to boot. So, there is that. So this post is more of a reminder of stuff I want to write about over a real “content” post, but it still has content, with most of it stemming from my first month in lib school.
The work load is enormous. When they said that each class requires 3-4 hours of study time per credit hour (and I’m taking nine credit hours this fall), I thought they were joking. They were not, it seems, joking. The sheer amount of reading and participating is so overwhelming that it seems that all I do is homework. When ever I can get a free minute to study, I grab it. Except for tonight, with the whole root canal/laryngitis thing going on, totally understandable. And coupled with the reading is the projects and not only the projects but the side work that is to be completed as well (and observations and interviewing and so on). I’m so overly stressed right now that I have cut back my working hours from 40 to 32, effectively immediately, just to get a breather in. I don’t think I’ll ever really get caught up. I mean, I know I will if I continue on the path that I am on but seriously, I’m just like say whoa.
This blog isn’t just about lib school, it is also about other diversions that I have going on right now that I have yet to write about (shame on me). Two of the main ones are going gluten-free and knitting. Several years ago, I discovered I was sensitive to a large number of foods. After going on a fairly strict diet for a few months featuring the foods I could eat, I felt a tons better and lost nearly 20lbs. For the first time in a long time, my stomach wasn’t giving me shit anymore. Then I met TheEx and I forwent my diet for love. Well big mistake on the forwenting part, because I’ve been feeling physically awful (more or less) for the last six months (longer but more noticeable shortly after the ex and I split) and of course the weight steadily came back. One of the big sensitivities was gluten and things have been MUCH better since I went gluten-free, again. More on this later.
Dating. Last week I had a number of people attempt to fix me up with guys they think I may find interesting — which is all well and good but where is the freakin’ TIME to date these wundermen? There isn’t any, is the problem. If I can’t find time to shave my legs, then how am I supposed to work in these said dates? Last night I was mulling over this problem (i.e.: I’d like to start dating but when do I have the time conundrum) and realized that while I may feel pretty good overall, I don’t feel particularly sexy. I live in jeans, t-shirts and cardigan sweaters (of which I have a plethora). And while I may feel awesome about my self-image, not feeling sexy means I don’t want/think anyone will find me sexy in said wardrobe. This was a startling revelation to me last night and right now I’m not about to start getting out the hooker gear to get a man. The man can wait until I’ve progressed more in this degree. Also, I browsed through match.com a week or two ago and went, “Ew.” So, there is that.
I’ve taken up knitting in a big way again, after finding a number of projects via Ravelry that are not scarves. I’ve only knitted two projects and I’m so every looking forward to creating something new.
I’ve also been itching to work on some new pop-up ideas. I’ve been thinking about creating pop-ups for family and friends for the holidays but I can’t remember where the hell my stuff is at — other than packed in one of the gazillion boxes in the basement.
To your left you will note a brand spanking new, ink barely dried diploma with my name on it. And it is NOT photoshopped. One MA down, one MLIS to go. Not too shabby from someone who did not finish high school. (I obtained my GED one year after I was to have completed high school. Statistically, I do not exist, imagine that.
I haven’t been to the library in ages.
Years, even. It had been so long that the information that the downtown main branch had on me was from several moves ago (i.e. years); I had $7 dollars in outstanding fines and I had to replace my library card as my old one was outmoded. Now I have a swanky, trendy library card and a key fob card. I’m not quite sure what is wrong with me, but I’m vaguely obsessed with key fob cards, especially when they are lime green!
When I was a kid, I used to haunt the library every day during summer vacations. In Port Huron, the main branch was located near the St. Clair River so each day would begin as thus: Get up, get dressed and have breakfast. Pedal my bike the few miles to the library with a knapsack on my back filled with water, snack foods, small blanket, pen and notebooks. Get to the library, drop off read books, check out new books; head towards the river where I had found some shady coves from prior visits, lock up bike, climb down path to said secluded spots, lay down my blanket and read all day long. I would do this, weather permitting, nearly every day. I never took anyone with me, and I don’t think anyone really knew where the hell I was or what the hell I was doing with my time every day.
This was in the early ’80s Midwest when one could leave their doors unlocked, cicadas seemed to sing louder and stronger, my favorite ice cream from the ice cream man was the red/white/blue rocket ices and I biked around town on my baby blue, boys 10-speed Schwinn. When we moved to Grand Rapids in 1985, the ability to get from one place to another was not as easily accessible as it was in Port Huron, despite the abundance of public transportation that Grand Rapids has to offer. Not knowing the street layouts, locations or places, for the better part of my early years in G.R., I was more or less library-less. In high school, I did take advantage of the school library, apparently so much so that my high school librarian remembered me after 15 years and did not seem that surprised that I was working at a bookstore OR that I was a MLIS candidate.
When we would later move several years later after our first foray to the area, I was within walking distance of our neighborhood library; a library so tiny that it would fit into the first floor of our then house. (Nearly a decade later, they razed the old library building, knocked out the gas station next door and did a complete rebuild.) And the one year that I lived in Toronto, working on my final year of high school, I championed the school library so much that the librarians knew me by name and began to recommend other reads or asked me questions about the authors I was inhaling. (This was the year that I fell in love with F. Scott Fitzgerald, began to detest D.H. Lawrence and read the entire Stephen King back catalog up to whatever was the most current tome at the time.)
My library-fu was strong, but as I got older and became more interested in boys, booze and clubbing, my interest in hanging out at the library wanned. It was not that I stopped reading, no, I was still inhaling books by the pound like I did as a kid but this time around, I bought them. Why be the 23rd person on hold for a book when I could go to the bookstore and buy it? After years of using the library system for everything from movies, music and books, the concept of purchasing said things just seemed weird and downright foreign. But the lure of having a job, disposable income (when you’re a teenager, every dollar you make is disposable income) and the ability to CRACK THE SPINES OF MY BOOKS, was even greater. No worries about late fees or not getting the book back in the condition I received it and I could highlight and write in books to my little hearts content. This to me was a stupendous revelation!
And as the years went on, I spent that disposable income on books (and shoes, clothes and make-up, but mainly books) and at the start of the internets thingy, when it came to looking for information, why one could it with a few clicks of a button! What’s this call system thing? Dewey decimal who? And the first thing I went looking for on the internets in 1995, something that I don’t think one could FIND in a library, were the words to R.E.M.’s It’s The End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine), using Veronica and Archie. I pretty much ditched hanging out in the libraries after that. Why wait for cranky Miss Kerfuffles’ to query my inquirer when whatever I needed and wanted as available online and could be accessed while sitting in my jammies!
And even though I brag that I have library cards from two different countries, three states, numerous cities and a sprinkling of college systems, it just isn’t the same. Or at least it didn’t use to be. Throughout my undergraduate and graduate career, whatever I wanted informationally has been available online, mostly via online editions of journals and periodicals. And if I couldn’t get it online, then I used ILL (inter-library loan), but that too was done online. I didn’t have to step foot in a physical building other than to pick up the books that I had requested, online.
Wandering around the downtown library the other day, I realized just how much I missed being there. I love the periodical room, with the long oak tables, comfy chairs and gazillion magazines and newspapers. The set up of the place, the smell of the printed paper after its been fondled a few dozens times. Just the essence of the library itself kept pulling me in. I wandered up and down the aisles, looking for reads and grabbing audio books for my trips to Detroit. I suppose it was then, that without a doubt, that I knew getting my MLIS degree was the utmost right thing to do.
I belong here, the library is my home and like a home, it will always be waiting for me no matter how long I’ve been gone or where. And no matter what happens, no matter where I may end up, I will always have my beloved books.