29/08/2012 § 29 Comments
As a second-year SLIS student, I’ve talked to quite a few new students in my program who are anxious about securing library jobs. I can understand how they feel; after all, one year ago I was a freshly minted SLIS student. I had never gotten paid to work in a library. I came to library school with the sage advice of my mentor, a very recent library school grad, ringing in my ears. She had conveyed to me in no uncertain terms that I should work as much as I could while going to school to build my resume. Because of her, I came to library school knowing I needed to jump right in—-but that didn’t make the process any easier.
By now I’ve held several jobs and it has led me to realize that my real education happens when I go to work every day. I view my coursework as something to get through; if my classes are enjoyable it’s a plus. I have taken enthralling classes, practical classes, boring classes, and enragingly irrelevant classes. They’ve fallen all over the spectrum. So while I attempt to do well in them, my main priority is working as much as is feasible. I firmly believe that library jobs should always trump coursework because if you do not work, you will not get a job in a library upon graduating. We could squabble about the particulars (maybe you could get a paraprofessional position without experience) but I don’t think it’s contestable. The library job market is intensely competitive and the more library experience you have, the better off you will be.
With that said, the following are a few tips I have for new students looking to work while in library school.
21/05/2012 § 23 Comments
There have been some terrific posts about conferences on HackLibSchool in the past: Chris recently wrote about unconferences and Joanna wrote a post earlier this year encouraging students to attend conferences as a library student. Today I want to take these posts a step further and encourage other future librarians and information professionals to not only attend but also present at conferences while in library school. I concluded my spring semester with a panel presentation at a state conference (Society of Indiana Archivists) and a poster presentation at a national conference (LOEX), where I had such great experiences that I want to encourage other library school students to take the plunge and do the same.
To reiterate some of the reasons Joanna mentioned in her post, attending conferences is a valuable part of your library school years because of the networking opportunities, educational takeaways, and considerably lower student registration costs. When you present at a conference you get all of the same benefits of attending while also gaining valuable experience for your resume/CV. After presenting at a conference, you will have documented evidence of contributing to the profession (a great way to prepare for those job postings that say “demonstrated commitment to professional development” preferred/required!). It also shows that you are comfortable with public speaking, which I guarantee will make you stand out on the job hunt.
There are multiple types of presentations at conferences (poster, panel, and paper) and conference sizes (local, regional, state, and national). They each have their own culture and provide different opportunities for student presenters. Poster presentations are usually the format students are encouraged to take up at larger conferences (a pretty low-pressure introduction to conference participation), whereas smaller conferences will likely accept paper sessions from students and working professionals.
So, why don’t all library school students present at conferences? I’ve determined a few main barriers to conference participation and thought I’d offer up my tips on overcoming them.
16/03/2012 § 18 Comments
To follow up on Ashley’s post earlier this week on advice from a hiring manager, I thought I’d share my own perspective. I recently served on a search committee for a tenure-track academic librarian position and reviewed applications for a paid (!) summer archival internship. Nothing I’m going to share in this post is groundbreaking, but I just want to reiterate some key points to keep in mind when sending in applications for jobs and internships.
1. I really appreciate when your file names include your full name and what type of document (resume, cover letter) it is. While a file that’s named after the place you’re applying to is helpful for your own reference, it’s not helpful for mine.
2. This is definitely a personal preference, but I really love when application materials are sent as .pdf files. Never trust Microsoft Word to keep your formatting true. You also take the risk of leaving track changes on (oh, it’s happened — and yes, it looks bad).
3. One way I can tell if you’re detail-oriented is if you actually send in everything that’s asked for. If the job/internship posting asks for your availability, be sure to include it.
1. Tailor your cover letter. Show that you looked at the organization’s website and know something about it, and specify why you want to work there. You will especially stand out if you discuss why you are interested in performing the type of work explicitly listed in the job description. If you talk about how you’d love to learn about digitization when it’s not described in the position description at all, it’s a clear giveaway that you didn’t read it thoroughly — or that you’re just recycling an old cover letter without much editing. Oftentimes, I’ll see a resume that looks good but change my mind after reading the cover letter.
2. Think of your cover letter as exclusive from the resume. Please don’t just repeat what’s on your resume, but really explain why your past experience is relevant to the position.
3. Write clearly in your cover letter. If I need to read a sentence multiple times to understand it, you’ll stand out for the wrong reasons. One sentence does not need to take up five lines.
Of course, most of these are just my personal preferences. Be sure to check out the blog Hiring Librarians, which provides many different perspectives from hiring managers on what they look for in a candidate, and Open Cover Letters, which publishes cover letters from librarians and archivists who got hired.
14/03/2012 § 8 Comments
Last semester I took an Academic Libraries class that required me to interview an academic librarian. I reached out to Courtney Young to help me complete this assignment. Ms. Young is Head Librarian & Associate Professor of Women’s Studies at Penn State Greater Allegheny and serves on the ALA Executive Board.
The goal of the project was to get a real world perspective on some of the special academic library issues we had discussed throughout the semester. While I drafted interview questions to address this objective–I couldn’t help but see the interview as an opportunity. I was pretty confident that my interviewee had a hand in hiring at her library. Getting an interview can be tough, getting feedback from a hiring manager can be even more difficult. Knowing the struggle that many of my peers are facing in the job market, I thought it would be a good idea to ask her what she looks for in a job candidate. Courtney Young had some brilliant and unexpected advice that I hope you can put to use as you look towards the future and begin your job search. « Read the rest of this entry »