Presenting at Conferences while in Library School

21/05/2012 § 27 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.

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Tips for your job or internship application

16/03/2012 § 18 Comments

CC image by isabisa on flickr

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.

Advice From A Hiring Manager

14/03/2012 § 8 Comments

Photo by Matt Wetzler

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 »

Preparing to job-search: Some considerations

28/11/2011 § 6 Comments

For those of us preparing to graduate in the next several months, it’s time.  Time to get ready to job search.  Or, as I’m known to do, it’s time to prepare to get ready to job search because, hey, you can’t be overly prepared, right?  This piece isn’t about applying for jobs themselves–for that, turn to Heidi’s post from earlier this year– but the few weeks or months of preparation before you start: the “holy crap where do I even begin to look or know what I’m looking for?” stage, if you will.

I am by no means a job-seeking expert, but I do have a running joke with my family that I collect part-time jobs, so I’ve been friendly with my resume and cover letters for a while.  Spending time tweaking and polishing your official application materials is important but I’ve found that the job search preparation process is just as important.  What am I talking about? Here’s a few tips to make your search a little more organized.

1)    Face the facts

For the last semester, I’ve subscribed to just abaout every relevant job-seeking listserv out there.  Among my favorites are I Need a Library Job because you can sort by state, Lib Gig Jobs because I don’t have to sort through dozens of non-relevent job openings, ALA Job List because even though they have a lot of intermediate and upper-level jobs I get a sense of where my career could be headed, and ILI-L, ALA’s Information Literacy and Instruction listserv because that’s the type of job I’m looking for.

The benefit of subscribing to listservs is 2-fold: first, you can get a sense of what’s out there now.  Do you really want to move back home to Ohio but in 4 days you only ever see 1 job opening?  You might want to consider another location, at least temporarily.  Do you have your heart set on cataloging in a special library? In a few days, you’ll see how many positions are out there.  It’s a good reality check.  And don’t forget: ain’t nothing wrong with part-time (for now)!  Second, you can see where your skill sets are useful and what needs to be improved on.  For me, after reading dozens and dozens of job descriptions, I have a pretty clear understanding where my shortcomings are and because I still have several months until I graduate, I can start working on them now.

Be warned: subscribe to the digest version if you can!  Because the last thing I want to do is get distracted by potential jobs during finals, I have a list-serv folder in Gmail, subdivided into the specific list-serv, and I have all the emails directly routed to the folder.  That way I can look at them when I’m ready.  Check out Lauren’s post on special libraries and Annie’s post about art libraries for resources.

2)    Get the word out

If you’re going to ask people to be your professional references, which, by the way, you should always ask, give them plenty of notice.  Some people want to be notified of every job you’re applying to so they can be prepared to be specific, others just want a sense of the types of positions you’re looking for, and others still might want to write you a stock letter of recommendation.  The point is, now’s the time to figure out who will be your references for what kinds of positions and to give those people a heads up.  Many academic positions want letters from your references and the more time you can give them to write it, the better the letter will be and the more your reference will like you (no one wants a 1 week deadline).  It’ll also open the conversation for your professional mentors to talk to you about their job search, what skill sets they see in you, and any tips they might have.

3)    Organize

I have a Google Calendar to keep track of deadlines, required application materials, and an estimation of how long the whole application will take me to put together (overkill? That’s my middle name).  Point is, figure out what works for you to keep up with deadlines and whatnot.  Now’s the time to nail down an organizational structure.  For example, I have a “job search” folder on my hard drive, and within that folder, I have folders for every position I apply for that includes the job description, any research I might have done on the organization, my resume, cover letter, references, and any supplemental materials they require.  I like to group them by type: academic, public, instruction, outreach, etc., but that’s just me.  Again: what works for you?

What strategies do you use for the job-search preparation process?

Why Am I Reading All of These Kids Books? A Year In Review

20/10/2011 § 3 Comments

During my first semester of school, and into my second semester I read children’s books because I had been told it was an important part of being a children’s librarian. Over the past year I have found that this is true—but it takes more than a belief in this theory to keep reading, to keep blogging and avoid burn out.

Semester One: The Rookie
A year ago I started library school. I began my coursework with a children’s literature survey to balance out the rigor of my metadata class in my first semester. “Literature for Youth” covered historic and current trends in youth literature while also discussing evaluation models for children’s books. Throughout the semester we read top picks across genres, eras and award winners. The class required me to keep an ongoing blog that discussed one or two books I had read each week. The class was great, blogging was even better, and I fell in love with children’s literature. At the end of the semester I made the naive vow that I would keep reading and keep blogging because it would make me a great librarian someday—and it was fun.

Semester Two: Payoff
My children’s literature class was over—finding time to read got a bit harder. In my first semester reading was built into my coursework—it was for school—I had to do it. In my second semester, my courses required a different kind of reading. Keeping up with my blog took time and commitment, but I was still eager and up for the challenge. Eventually my work paid off. At the end of my second semester of school I started part-time work in a children’s library. I owe a lot of the credit to my blog—it was a great source of conversation during my interview and my comfort level with children’s books gave me a lot of confidence in the process.

Semester Three: The Summer of Burnout
This summer I took two classes, I worked a full-time job and I started my part-time library job. I began the summer semester with the expectation that I would read and blog as I had in the previous semesters. I loved reading, I loved blogging, I had a new library job—I would make time for reading. What was I thinking? I’m not sure how other people do with summer courses—the two classes I took were beyond difficult on a 10 week timeline—especially with my workload. Reading and blogging began to feel like a burden.  Not living up to my expectations for myself felt worse.

Semester Four: The Rescue and Renewal
At the end of the summer work eased up and I had more time to read. However, I realized that reading children’s literature with the idea of being a better librarian was not enough reason for me. The theory made sense but it didn’t make sense when all I did was read in my “spare time”  or chastise myself for not reading. One of the adult librarians at my job recognized my burn out and she rescued me. I was expressing my frustration with adolescent protagonists–she asked me what kind of grown up books I like to read. I responded with David Sedaris. She stepped away from the desk and returned with a copy of Carl Hiaasen’s Skin Tight.  I read like a grown up for a while, when I didn’t want to read—I didn’t read. I took a break.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been faced with some serious readers advisory work. My patrons never cease to challenge me. During these readers advisory sessions I have discovered and internalized why I need to read children’s literature. There is a frustration on both sides of the desk when I can’t help a patron find the right book. Yet nothing feels better than a genuine book talk that leads to a happy patron.  In the practice of helping patrons, I have found the truth in the theory I learned in my first semester of library school. Being a great children’s librarian takes a commitment to children’s resources. Reading children’s literature is part of the job. At the same time, a job is a job and a work/life balance must be struck. I’m learning to identify when I am bored or bogged down with kids’ books or blogging about kids books. When that happens, I indulge myself with a mystery (written for adults)—or a break.

Photo by Nationaal Archief

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