Questionable Promotion/Advocacy

24/04/2013 § 8 Comments

I recently received an ALA Store catalog in the mail and was happily flipping through the pages, considering whether or not I should order my own supply of Love My Library buttons, when I stumbled across this t-shirt:

Sold by ALA Store, design by Andy Woodworth (Image source: ALA Store)

Sold by ALA Store, design by Andy Woodworth (Image source: ALA Store)

It has pictures of endangered animals (a giant panda, a mountain gorilla, a black rhino) and then the library symbol, the point being that libraries are endangered. I’m sorry to say it but something about this t-shirt does not sit well with me. It rings a little alarmist and reminds me of the Huffington Post “Libraries in Crisis” page which Turner Masland covered in an excellent Hack Library School post called HuffPo: Helping or Hurting?.

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How to Stand Out in the Job Search Crowd

30/03/2012 § 51 Comments

Over the last couple of weeks, we have brought you a series of posts about preparing yourself for the job search. Ashley gave you general advice she gleaned from an interview with a hiring manager. Rose brought you advice on filling out your job application and creating a cover letter. Then Laura talked about tips for how to dress when you go to an interview or job fair. Today’s post talks about a tool you can add to your job search toolkit to help you stand out: the eportfolio.

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The Suit

27/03/2012 § 26 Comments

Photobucket

Photo credit: Lifehackery

A few weeks ago, I signed up to attend McGill’s School of Information Studies’ annual career fair, which was held last week. Over thirty employers were going to be present from all over Quebec and Ontario. As the fair approached, the organizers began to send e-mails about how the attendees could prepare. One e-mail included the following:

“Last year we did get complaints from employers about some students who were not dressed appropriately. We hope that this will not be the case this year. Please, no ripped jeans, graphic t-shirts, hoodies, etc.”

Perhaps my shocked reaction to reading this demonstrates my conservative side. I am still getting accustomed to being back in Canada again after four years of living in South Korea, a far more formal culture where ripped jeans are still only barely considered acceptable street wear, never mind career fair attire. Nonetheless, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeonly old grandmother, I feel strongly that those who wore street clothing to the fair missed a crucial opportunity to make a strong first impression on potential employers.

As my previous boss used to say, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

After many years of a student life and a student budget, the idea of dressing up for potential employers is a bit daunting. Business suits are expensive, and if you don’t wear them regularly they can make you feel awkward and fake, like you’re trying to be someone you’re not. But you’ve just spent one or two years in library school building up your professional experience and credentials. Don’t undermine all your hard work by wearing inappropriate clothing to an interview!

Unfortunately, I did exactly that. A few years ago, when I was about to graduate from my undergraduate degree, I applied for an administrative assistant position and was granted an interview. Figuring that because I was still a student I would not be expected to dress up, I went dressed in a casual summer skirt and sandals. When I got there, I was horrified to discover that every single other candidate there was dressed in a business suit. As you might expect, I did not get the job. I learned my lesson. The next time I had an interview, I wore a tailored suit and new shoes. It was an uncomfortable drain on my budget, but it got me my first professional job. Proper attire is an important investment in your employment future. Even though I have zero interest in working in a corporate environment (I hope to become a school librarian), I found that wearing suits helped me to develop my professional identity and gave me a sense of confidence when I was a first year teacher.

Dressing well in any situation where you might encounter potential employers not only conveys that you respect them, but also that you take yourself seriously as a professional. Additionally, it is a very easy way to give yourself an edge over others competing for the same job (just like writing thank you notes after a job interview, a professional courtesy that shows you to be polite and considerate).

So, whether you’re looking for your first professional job or a summer gig, dress as professionally as you can. Here are some tips:

1. Invest in a quality suit in a conservative colour that fits you properly. Get it dry-cleaned several days before your interview. If you choose to wear a skirt, look at yourself in the mirror while sitting down to make sure nobody gets an accidental glimpse of something they shouldn’t!
2. Wear clean, polished shoes. Ladies, go with flats or low heels, and make sure that you can walk comfortably in them. Also, pantyhose. I hate them too, but they’re an unfortunate necessity.
3. When you choose a shirt to wear under your suit, select a solid colour (no patterns) and make sure that it is pressed.
4. Go with a conservative hairstyle, jewellery, and makeup. Ensure that your hair is out of your face. (There is some debate about visible tattoos and facial piercings; personally I think that depends on the organizational culture of the workplace that’s interviewing you. If you’re not sure, call ahead and ask the administrative assistant what he or she would suggest.)
5. If you need a briefcase, take one. If you don’t, leave it. Also leave any bulky bags or purses at home. You want to convey an aura of organization and efficiency.
6. If you’d wear your outfit to a nightclub or a pub, it’s not job interview attire.
7. Be comfortable! When I went to the career fair last week, I saw that my classmates had all followed the advice of the e-mail and were professionally dressed. However, it was clear that some of them were extremely ill at ease in their formal attire. Employers will be able to pick up on your discomfort. So if you’re not used to business suits, wear one to class or the library or the coffee shop until you start to feel more comfortable. (I like to wear my suits while I write cover letters!) Sign up for a mock interview at your university’s career centre and wear it to the interview. Soon it won’t be so uncomfortable.

Once you actually start working, of course, take the organizational culture of your new workplace into account. After I wore a full business suit to a job interview for a part time student job at a local public library, my new employers laughingly told me that suits wouldn’t be necessary on the job. These days, I wear business casual clothing to work, but I’m still extremely glad that I wore a suit on the day of the interview!

I’d like to hear from you. What is your favourite professional attire? What professional attire do you hate? Do you have any stories about clothing that got you (or didn’t get you) the job you wanted most? I look forward to hearing your stories and comments!

Marketing in the library

02/03/2012 § 15 Comments

Picture thanks to thenovelworld.com

One concern that has been mentioned in many of my classes is the lack of marketing about the library. Librarians and libraries perform vital services but many people are unaware of what these services are. This affects all kinds of libraries. One professor, who also worked at a public library, felt that outside of hardcore library patrons, most members of the community had no idea that the library provides services such as free internet access, medical reference and programming.  Another professor talked about how City University of New York schools had been given a grant to create better reference resources for students. The result was a comprehensive group of online reference guides by subject and including links to encyclopedias, databases and journal articles. The problem? They weren’t being used because very few students knew they existed; including almost everyone in my class, a reference class where we should be most informed about research resources.
      As search engines and databases make it easier for users to answer reference questions on their own  the way that librarians can stay relevant is to market the amazing work that they do. But what are effective ways to do that?

  • Thinking like a business- Though librarians and libraries perform services for the public at no cost, my public library professor suggested that libraries, especially public libraries, start thinking more like a business.  He paraphrased another professor in saying libraries could increase their number of patrons by being open longer. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble are open until 9:00 PM so that customers are able to stop by after work. Most libraries however, are usually only open until 5:00 or 6:00 and paradoxically cutting library hours seems to be the first cost saving measure that many libraries take. Librarians can also meet patrons where they usually spend time, for example opening library branches in malls and other retail outlets to increase visibility in a community.
  • Embedded librarians- Where libraries in shopping malls create better visibility for public library services, embedded librarians create better visibility for academic library services. Embedded librarianship and online reference resources allow librarians to leave the library and go to places where students work, to introduce research strategies and resources. Three out of four classes I have taken in my LIS program have been at a computer lab and this is where I do most of my research for assignments. This has made me see the value in having librarians available in spaces like these, outside the traditional domain of a librarian.
  • Blogs- You do not have to look very far to find blogs written by librarians about the great work they are doing. Just take a look here. These blogs give librarians an opportunity to promote the work they are doing and share ideas with other librarians. Though librarianship is not always thought to be the flashiest of professions, blogs give us a chance to showcase the innovative work we do and advertise this to others.
  • Twitter- Beginning my LIS program, I was anti-Twitter, believing that a 140 character tweet was doing the exact opposite of what I wanted to do; encouraging patrons to read and love books. My attitude changed when all my classes stressed the importance of social media and Web 2.0 to librarians. I decided to open my own account, which gave me information about many opportunities, including the opportunity to be a Hack Library School blogger, that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. One of my favorite twitter feeds is that of the New York Public Library.  The NYPL tweets an interesting or thought provoking line from a book, well-known or obscure, with no title or author information. The link at the end of the tweet brings the user directly to the catalog where the reader can find out more information about the book and can request it to be held at any of the branch locations. These tweets recommend good books and encourage patrons to visit their physical library branch in a few short lines.

This list leaves many holes, including how to market the library to those who have never used it. Chances are users who are following library twitter accounts and reading librarian blogs are not first time library users. In our LIS programs we have the unique opportunity to share and discuss marketing idea that work in libraries, so what has worked for you?

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