Full Time Work and an MLS: Will it Work for You?

20/02/2014 § 8 Comments

Like any graduate program, library school is a big time commitment.  Whether your program is online or in person, full time or part time, there’s just no way to get the education you need to be a librarian without putting in a significant chunk of your life.  But if time isn’t something you’ve got in spades, is it reasonable to think you can work full time and still do your degree?

My answer: very often yes, but it depends. Many of my classmates work, many are parents.  I have to travel once or twice a month for my full time job. Everybody has a life, and most MLS programs get that. That doesn’t mean that every MLS program is going to work with every full-time job though. So how do you go about answering this question for your own life? « Read the rest of this entry »

Language of Compassion: Multilingualism in the Library

17/02/2014 § 6 Comments

HeartbyhandPhoto credit: Wikimedia Commons

The month of February is most recognized as the time we celebrate our love. It’s a time when we speak the “language” of love as a means to show our devotion to that special someone. But what happens when the language we speak to express ourselves is not the same language expressed by others? How do we communicate to one another simple tasks that feel impossible when language becomes a barrier? What can we do as library professionals, to make expressing ourselves, not necessarily in the language of love, but of compassion for those whom English is their second language?

Quite simply, a lot. Let me share with you, my story…

English is my second language. When I was six-years-old my parents divorced and my mother decided to move our family – myself and my two younger sisters – to Florida from Puerto Rico. She believed that learning English would ensure our success as adults and decided that our new home would provide us with more linguistic opportunities than  in our home town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I had begun my elementary schooling there, but would continue the remainder of my schooling in Central Florida. When I was a first grade student, I had a hard time comprehending English. I pronounced words such as “chair” and “chicken” with a “sh” sound, rather than a “ch” sound. And I could not understand why it matter that the way I spoke was incorrect to others. I struggled a lot and did poorly in my school work. I would eventually be sent to a school for foreign language speakers, and after three days of horrific experiences (I didn’t know where my class was or how to get lunch, I was yelled at by a peer and a teacher when I couldn’t understand instruction, and I was physically pulled and tugged at when I failed to understand directions).

After many nights of crying and pleading with my mom, I was “dis-enrolled” from that school and the next best option was to return to my elementary school and take ESOL classes. It proved to be very successful and my teacher was extremely patient with me and my peers. By the latter half of elementary school, I struggled less and my grades significantly improved. It was a tough part of my early childhood, but I learned first-hand what it was like to speak a language not commonly expressed by others while trying to integrate into a new environment. I also learned what it was like to be bullied, talked down to, thought less of, and isolated from others.

So can you imagine, for a moment, when someone who does not speak or understand spoken English very well, be it due to primarily speaking a foreign language or an impairment such as being deaf, what they must feel when they need to communicate with you?

Now can you imagine what it must be like if you could understand them, their feelings, as well as, their language?

« Read the rest of this entry »

Committee Work: Not So Scary After All

14/02/2014 § 6 Comments

Here at Hack Library School we talk a lot about ways to further our LIS educations outside of the classroom, including pursuing part-time work, completing internships and practicums, joining student and professional organizations, and attending conferences. These kinds of experience are essential for shaping professional interests and developing skills. Throughout my time in library school I’ve tried to consider new opportunities to learn and grow as a librarian-in-training, and I want to share an option that I hadn’t thought about until more recently: joining a committee.

Initially, the idea of joining a committee sounded a little scary to me. Up until a few months ago, I had a fairly formal mental image of committees; I imagined intense, stately people talking about intense, stately things (when I thought about committees at all, which wasn’t too often). I hadn’t really considered the possibility of taking part in a committee as a student, so when one of my supervisors suggested that I join the conference planning committee for the librarians’ association at UNC, I was a little taken aback. But, not wanting to turn down an opportunity, I decided to give committee work a try.

My experience on the conference planning committee has been really great so far, and certainly not the intimidating endeavor I might have imagined. During our first meeting I realized that a committee can be as simple as a group of people trying to figure something out and get something done. Not scary, right? Too often I imagine that the professional librarians around me have everything together and know exactly what they’re doing all the time. Serving on a committee has been a good reminder for me that even the most brilliant librarians are constantly figuring things out. We all experience new challenges and problems to solve all the time and I think that’s a good thing.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Hack ALA: Accreditation Standards!

12/02/2014 § 3 Comments

Hello! Topher here, happy to introduce guest poster Elizabeth Lieutenant! If you’re like us, you followed all the advice out there and enrolled in an ALA-accredited institution. But what does that really mean? This is your chance to find out! We were fortunate enough to attend a session at ALA Midwinter about the changing world of LIS program accreditation standards. Here’s what we learned:

Meet the COA:

Accreditation has been a part of US librarianship since 1923. In 1956, ALA’s Committee on Accreditation (COA) became a standing committee of ALA. COA is responsible for the execution of the accreditation program of ALA, and to develop and formulate standards of education for library and information studies for the approval of ALA council. The mission of the ALA Office for Accreditation (OA) is to serve: “the general public, students, employers, and library and information studies Master’s programs through the promotion and advancement of education in library and information studies.”

One important thing to understand about the Standards for Accreditation is that they are meant to be qualitative, not prescriptive. The Standards are not mandates for programs to teach particular courses, or for all students to have a particular level of skill in a given aspect of the profession. Instead, the Standards are meant to ensure LIS programs are adequately preparing students to meet the ALA’s Core Competences of Librarianship. Their focus is not on training students for the jobs of today, but instead preparing students to be leaders in the field and carry the LIS profession into the future. If an ALA-accredited program fails to meet the Standards, they’ll be placed on conditional accreditation status, and if significant improvements aren’t made, COA will withdraw accreditation.

Why should you care? « Read the rest of this entry »

Alternative Careers for LIS Grads

11/02/2014 § 8 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Alex Berman.

Alternative careers for LIS graduates is something that’s not often discussed and, in classrooms, is often ignored. Yet you might be surprised to know that your LIS degree is good for more than just libraries and archives. In this post, we’ll look at LIS skills that are in high demand (almost all of them), what kinds of alternative LIS jobs are out there, and (using my own experience) how you can go about getting yourself one of these jobs.

It’s a tale as old as time: Go to library school, take a lot of classes in library school, get a job in a library. But what happens when this narrative goes off the rails? What happens if you decide that working in a library isn’t for you? Or if the choice is even tougher: what if you can’t get a job in a library? As the LIS field becomes more saturated with recent graduates and non-retiring librarians this scenario is becoming the new norm, not an exception. For people on the tail end of their LIS education this can be an extremely frustrating experience. You’ve taken out loans, put off a career, switched careers, and may even have a family to support – and now you’re confronted with an extremely tough job market. In this case, LIS school job boards aren’t much help since they aren’t really geared to helping graduates get non-library jobs. Professors are similarly of minimal use because the whole reason they are hired is because of their expertise in the LIS field. So is it all for nothing? Is your post-graduate life really doomed to be a series of part time low wage jobs? Nope. Although LIS schools are focused on giving you the skills needed by the library and archives professions, those same skills are in high demand in many other industries.

« Read the rest of this entry »

Top 8 Reasons to go to an International Library Conference

10/02/2014 § 8 Comments

I recently traveled to Barcelona, Spain for BOBCATSSS, a library conference organized by European library science students. Upon returning I realized that many of my peers were unaware of the variety of international library conference opportunities that students can take advantage of. As LIS students, we are frequently encouraged to attend conferences, create posters, and present papers. So why not do so in another country? It may seem scary, but attending an international conference can be a great way to open yourself up to new things, make new connections, and meet new people!



Here are some observations, gleaned from my BOBCATSSS experiences, on why you should consider international conferencing: 

  1. Language doesn’t have to be an issue.
    If you’re like me you studied a foreign language in high school, maybe some in college, but you don’t necessarily feel comfortable going to an academic conference and presenting in another language. This is fine! Many international library conference are in English and others offer translation services for the larger sessions and programs. This is, of course, something to look into before submitting a proposal; but it is rarely a true barrier to your conference attendance. International conferences want people from a variety of countries to attend, so they find ways to bridge language gaps.
    « Read the rest of this entry »

Phone Interview Strategies

05/02/2014 § 10 Comments

I recently began the process of applying for jobs. When I found out I was invited for my first phone interview, I was given a lot of fantastic Facebook-solicited advice: shut your (distracting) pet out of the room, ask “Did that answer your question?” after answering a question, dress like you’re going to an actual interview so you’re in the right mindset. I practiced a mock interview beforehand. I felt reasonably well-prepared. I had eager cheerleaders telling me I could do it.

But after my first interview concluded, I felt ashamed. Like a failure. I recognized that I had had good answers to relevant questions about the specifics of what the job entailed, but I had rambled an incoherent mess of words in response to a simple question about a problem within a team and how I dealt with it. Oh, how I replayed those words over and over in my head after the brief interview had concluded. Someone I respected was on the search committee, a fact which further embarrassed me. It was a few weeks of near-constant cringing as I recovered.

Since that first phone interview, I have had additional phone interviews. I’ve learned something new from each one. Be reassured that it does get easier! Here are some of my tips for doing well in a phone interview.

Prepare. No, really prepare.

Before my first phone interview, I scheduled a mock phone interview with my career services office, which is staffed by students. When I got there, the person working (who I already knew) asked if we could just do a face-to-face interview because of the complicated logistics of setting up a mock phone interview. I said sure, thinking it was no big deal. We did the interview and it was fine. It wasn’t particularly nervewracking.

In retrospect, I should have had a mock phone interview that was a) With someone I didn’t know already – definitely not a fellow student, and b) It should absolutely have been over the phone. When I had my actual phone interview, I was way more nervous than I anticipated and felt totally unprepared. If doing a mock interview isn’t possible, you can at least check out the Hiring Librarians interview questions repository – don’t forget to sort by phone interview questions!

Anticipate and accept the awkwardness.

Phone interviews are notoriously awkward for all involved. You can’t read the search committee members’ body language, so you and someone from the search committee will likely interrupt each other. It’s okay. One thing that has been conveyed to me over and over again is that the search committee wants you to do well; they’re rooting for you. The best thing you can do when awkward things happen is just to have a positive attitude.

Have stories ready.

I don’t consider myself a very good storyteller. Speaking off the cuff is not my strong suit; I prefer time to think and analyze. But with interviews, reflection is key. You need to have stories focusing on a few predictable themes ready to go: a time when you dealt with a conflict, a time when you worked with a team, a time when you faced a conflict in a team setting. And of course, you have to be ready to answer questions about how your knowledge/experiences tie in with the job responsibilities.

Phone interviews made me recognize that I have been really busy over the past few years working in libraries, but I haven’t necessarily taken the time to reflect upon my experiences. It’s worth taking the time to really think about these broad themes and write them down. You won’t necessarily remember your stories off the cuff if you’re super nervous.

Try not to speculate too much about the interview.

As a job hunter, there’s a lot you may not know: who you’re up against, the salary, and often, when the institution expects the successful candidate to start the position. I’ve felt a level of vulnerability I didn’t expect when faced with all these unknowns. Adding a phone interview into the mix can be just another confusing aspect of the process, leading to all sorts of fixation and speculation about what it will lead to, if anything.

As much as you may want the position, don’t over-congratulate yourself or berate yourself about the phone interview after it’s over. Try to be objective: what did you do well, and what could you improve upon? The intelligent questions I couldn’t answer in phone interviews gave me clues as to what I need to learn to be competitive. Now that I’m past the embarrassment of not having a good answer, I can recognize how to be better next time.

Know you’ll get better with experience.

Once you know how phone interviews go, it will get easier. You’ll be less nervous. And in-person interviews are even better than phone interviews because you can make a real connection with the search committee.

Be nice to yourself.

Everything about applying for jobs is a humbling experience. If you’re on the job hunt, your emotions are probably all over the place: nervous, excited, depressed. You’re probably a bit crazy, right? It’s easy to feel that familiar sinking gut feeling: I will never learn everything I possibly need to know to be successful. How will I ever get a job? Be nice to yourself. Forgive yourself for making whatever mistake is hanging over your head convincing you that you’re 12 years old and nowhere near a hirable professional! (Hopefully I’m not the only one out there who feels like this from time to time.)

What have your phone interview experiences been like? What did you learn from them?


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