16/10/2013 § 14 Comments
“Job search prep” has been on my To Do list since mid-summer. I’m an aspiring academic librarian graduating in May and I know that the job hunt can be a very long and involved process. I’ve been updating my resume and keeping track of job ads that interest me in an attempt to prepare ahead of time. But now as fall whips by, “prep” is looking more and more like actual searching. I have Rafiki’s words from The Lion King echoing in my head as motivation: “It is time!”
There are so many resources available for job-seekers and, as with most things on the web, the volume can be pretty overwhelming. My aim here is to round up some of the tools and resources I’m utilizing so far, and to open the floor for more tips and sharing.
1. An RSS Reader. I did not fully appreciated the power of an RSS reader until I began to look at job adds. Essentially, RSS (rich site summary) readers allow you to aggregate “feeds” of content from various websites. So, instead of obsessively checking every site that posts jobs, you can check your RSS reader for new content in one place. I’m currently using Digg, which a friend recommended to me, and I think it’s clean and easy to use. There are, of course, lots of other options out there.
This page has information on library job sites. Try your regional ALA chapter and library school sites as well. Unfortunately, not every job site offers their content as an RSS feed, but it’s a great place to start.
23/09/2013 § 6 Comments
If you’re considering library school, if you’ve been accepted, and especially if you’re already there, I would strongly recommend getting hands-on experience as soon as possible. An internship or even just a bit of volunteering will help you to build a foundation of knowledge and skills as you pursue your degree. Other hackers have written on finding opportunities and making the most of them, but I’d like to address some key benefits of getting pre-library school experience in the first place:
Identifying Interests and Goals
Before starting library school I had never been paid to work in a library. However, I had spent considerable time interning and volunteering in them and had been an enthusiastic patron for as long as I could remember. During college, I spent two summers in a small academic library and one semester in my college archives, building an understanding of various kinds of library work. In addition to providing me with a basic ’how things work’ familiarity with many areas of academic libraries, my internships helped me to identify some of my interests and strengths, and to identify areas of librarianship I wanted to explore further. For example, after spending a lot of time by myself with boxes and files of papers in one internship, I decided that it would be important for me to pursue positions with more collaboration and patron interaction in the future. Figuring out what you don’t enjoy can be just as useful as discovering what you do.
05/09/2013 § 3 Comments
In an effort to tap into my happy childhood memories of summer reading and perhaps to evade some adulthood stress, I’ve been re-reading Harry Potter. It’s been lovely comfort reading and a very welcome frame for some of my library-related thoughts. You see, I’ve been thinking a lot about mentorship. The power of a great mentor like Albus Dumbledore has had me thinking about how to seek out mentors and make the most of their advice and encouragement during library school. What do we look for in mentors? What lessons and inspiration can they provide? A mentor can be a powerful motivator and guide. But now, as I begin my second year of a two-year master’s program, I’m also thinking about mentoring from another direction: the peer leadership of Neville and Ginny, and of course Harry, Ron, and Hermione. How can we, as students and budding professionals, be effective mentors for each other? What does good peer mentorship look like and involve?
Peer mentorship is especially useful within the context of a master’s program. The relative brevity of library school means that we’re put in a position of being “in the know” pretty quickly; whether we feel it or not, we have lots of useful knowledge (advice on selecting classes, navigating work opportunities, directions to various campus locations, library policies) to share with fellow students. Furthermore, learning doesn’t just happen in one direction within mentorship—taking on mentoring roles gives us opportunities to reflect on values and goals, to hone interpersonal skills, and to think about professional and academic questions in new ways. Being a good mentor doesn’t mean having all the answers and providing perfect guidance (I mean, even Dumbledore made some big mistakes). I like the idea of a “let’s figure things out together” form of peer mentoring; it makes sense to me within the collaborative context of library school and librarianship.
05/07/2013 § 1 Comment
In my program (UNC SILS), all master’s students are required to complete a capstone paper or project prior to graduation. Both options require students to approach a “problem” in information or library science in a “substantial and scholarly way.” No small feat, right? I bet a bunch of you out there are facing similar tasks within the next year and I’m hoping that we can begin to face them together. First up: how to get started? I’ve called on my friend and classmate, Robbin Zirkle, to add her insights. Robbin is working on her project this fall and is (hopefully!) graduating in December.
Robbin: I went into the planning stages of INLS 992 with the intention of writing a master’s paper, likely involving content analysis of collection development policies. When I was considering how to go about completing my paper, though, I realized that I wanted it to be a true deliverable that could help an institution. Thus, my simple master’s paper has morphed into a master’s project; I will have a concrete, practical deliverable at the end of my experience that will impact an institution.
Julia: As Robbin points out, a project has the potential benefit of yielding an institution-specific deliverable (for example, an evaluation of existing programs or policy). On the other hand, a paper or thesis is an opportunity to delve into research of a more traditionally academic nature. I agree with many of Rebecca Halpern’s points about the benefits of writing a master’s paper; among other things, this kind of writing provides a leg up for those hoping to publish or hoping to enter positions that require publishing. I plan to write a master’s paper, but I’ll have to see where my ideas lead. For those of you in programs with a portfolio capstone option, see also Madeleine’s advice.
29/05/2013 § 3 Comments
The end of my first year of library school has been a welcome reminder to reflect: to remember that, not so long ago, MARC and FRBR were meaningless acronyms, I had never answered a reference question, and I didn’t even know what half of my course titles meant. I’ve been sorting through notes from classes, panel discussions, and workshops in an attempt to mentally index the year and to check in with myself. In doing so, I have remembered some of the moments in which I felt especially excited about what I was doing and learning—e.g. hand-coding my first website, planning instruction sessions, and talking to librarians about the work they love. Honestly, I had forgotten about quite a few of my favorite moments; losing track of inspiration is quite easy amidst the anxiety and self-doubt that can strike throughout the busyness and unknowns of graduate school. In the face of these worries and doubts, reminding ourselves of what continues to draw us forward on our chosen paths can be incredibly powerful.
Today my library school (and life) ‘hack’ is to keep track of the things that inspire and excite you—things that can then serve as motivation, as a guide when picking classes and developing projects, and even as content for resumes, cover letters, and interviews. I think we learn and work best when we’re excited about what we’re doing. Keeping a finger on the pulse of what poet William Butler Yeats describes as the “rag and bone shop of the heart”—the often disorderly yet foundational deep structure of ourselves—encourages that excitement.