Things to Do Before You Graduate from Library School

11/04/2014 § 5 Comments

My final month as a graduate student will be a whirlwind of activity, largely due to the fact that I am starting a new job just weeks after I graduate. Whether you have a new job, are still on the hunt, are moving or not – graduating from your program is undoubtedly a busy time. Here are a few things that are on my to-do list before graduating, in no particular order.

1) Write thank you notes. There are so many people I want to thank now that my time at Indiana University is over, including job references, current and former supervisors, professors, and department staff members. I want to make sure to acknowledge all of their help and kindness over the years.

2) Renew/begin professional memberships. You’ll be oh so happy later on that you did this at the student rate, which is fractions cheaper than the institutional rate. This is the last time you’ll be able to take advantage of your student status – go for it! I had diverse interests as a student because I didn’t know where I would end up in library technology. Now that I know the specific areas I will be working in, it’s easier for me to decide what organizations are most relevant to me.

3) Organize post-grad logistics. Are you staying where you are? Are you moving? If you’re plotting a move it takes a lot of work. Do some research. If you have a job, does your employer offer a relocation allowance? Sometimes this is available to all employees and other times it needs to be negotiated. Think through all of these details.

4) Understand my new job. If you’ve secured a job already, make sure you fill out all of your paperwork. Learn about your benefits, retirement contribution, and other real job stuff. As someone who has been an hourly worker for my entire life, these were all pretty new to me. I found it helpful to set a tentative budget and debt repayment plan, two things that become easier once you calculate the taxes, retirement contribution, parking, and other expenses associated with your position. If there’s something you don’t understand, consult the human resources department. In my experience, they’ll be more than happy to help you.

5) See the sights. I’m taking a southern road trip to celebrate graduation and have some fun before my impending move back to the frozen tundra that is Wisconsin. I am also planning lots of day trips and weekend trips to see nearby cities that I just didn’t get to over the past few years.

6) Try not to freak out too much about the future. Graduation brings with it lots of uncertainty, whether you have a job yet or not. There are so many variables; there is always a trade off. In my case, my partner of seven years and I will be be living in separate cities for the first time ever. Even though I am confident it’s the right choice for us and we are both excited for each other, it will be a hard transition. There aren’t easy answers. It would be so easy to move from a state of panic over what job I will get into a state of panic about how (if!) we will end up together eventually, but instead I am just going with the flow. I’m choosing happiness.

Graduates or soon-to-be graduates, what are your suggestions to wrap up library school?

Our Job Search and Application Processes

07/03/2014 § 3 Comments

This is a collaborative post by multiple Hack Library School writers who are currently on the job hunt. Inspired by Hiring Librarians’ job hunter survey, today we wanted to share our experiences.


Types of position I’m applying for: Digital scholarship, scholarly communication, and data management/curation jobs in academic libraries. Some are librarian positions; others are IT/alt-ac positions within the library (think coordinator, curator, or specialist jobs).

My job search process: I find jobs through the Code4Lib listserv, ARL website job list, and occasionally DigitalKoans. Sometimes I will check other sites like ALA JobList or I Need a Library Job if I want to make sure nothing has slipped through the cracks. I am flexible about geographical location though I am somewhat picky about which institutions I apply to.

My application process: When I find a job I want to apply for, I write my cover letter first then complete the application from there. There’s nothing too unusual about this part.

I maintain a folder on my Google Drive that contains all of my submitted cover letters. It also contains a Google spreadsheet where I track the job title, institution, link to the job description, link to the Google Doc version of my cover letter, who I used as references, date submitted, and any phone or in-person interviews resulting from the application. When I started my job hunt I gave my four references a link to this spreadsheet so that they could access these materials at any point. Having this spreadsheet has been ideal for my job hunting needs.


Types of positions I’m applying for: Teen/youth services and outreach in public libraries/non-profits.

My job search process: I am geographically bound to the Chicago area, which helps narrow down my search — but of course limits the jobs available. The majority of my job search is simplified by adding sites to Feedly that I can save for later within the application or bookmark in my desktop’s “Apply for Jobs” folder. Favorite non-library specific sites include Idealist and Link Up because I can refine my search and still get a broad range of job descriptions. Library job sites I rely on the most include Reaching Across Illinois Library System and I Need a Library Job (since INALJ is a static page, it cannot be added to an RSS reader). My school also has an “LIS Professional Jobs” forum that I subscribe too.

My application process: Like Brianna I always start with my cover letter to make sure it caters to the specific position; if I need to tweak my resume at all I do so afterwards. All my documents are kept in my Dropbox account, which includes two base resumes (library and non-library specific), three base cover letters (adult/teen, teen/youth and non-library specific) and an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of applications. The spreadsheet template I found by searching the Excel gallery for “job search log” and tweaked to my needs. Once I finish all application materials I send them off in PDF form, add the date and details to my spreadsheet, and bookmark that job as “applied!”.


Types of position I’m applying for: Reference and instruction positions in academic libraries, with possible additional duties including liaison work, outreach, access services, and/or digital resources.

My job search process: I check a bunch of job list RSS feeds on the bus every morning using Digg Reader (thanks to many previous classmates). ALA JobLIST and HigherEd Jobs are the ones I tend to pay the most attention to. I also check I Need a Library Job every few days, and search the human resources pages of a few individual institutions whenever I’m feeling particularly thorough!

My application process: Before beginning a cover letter or adjusting my resume, I like to do a bit of a close reading of the job ad. For example, I highlight key phrases and summarize responsibilities and requirements. Taking the time to do this first helps me to focus on what makes each position unique and what excites me about each in particular. Then I move on to writing my cover letter, tweaking my resume, and writing any other required documents. Like Brianna and Casey I keep a spreadsheet to keep track of documents, submission dates, search committee contact info, etc..


Types of position I’m applying for: Academic instruction and outreach positions, especially in the sciences; Digital project management and data presentation work leading to library administration.

My job search process: I picked a number of geographic regions in which I’d like to live, and started looking for institutions in those areas. Syracuse’s career center provides an excellent listserve for LIS students, with lots of job listings, so I’ve used those resources as well as many of the other sites already mentioned above.

My application process: When I’ve found a job that looks good, I also start with my cover letter. I try to address all of the requirements mentioned in the posting, but also to introduce myself, especially when the job is more entry-level. (I tend to think out loud/on paper, so drafting and re-drafting a cover letter may be a long process.) After I have my cover letter, the resume/cv I’ll use for the posting (Yes, they should be tailored), and my references prepared, I’ll finish whatever application the institution uses. After that, I use a spreadsheet to track the institution, the job posting, and my application date, so that I can keep in touch with an organization if I haven’t heard from them in a while.


Types of positions I’m applying for: I’m a little bit of an odd duck here, I am a recent MSIT grad. Here are some job titles I’ve applied for: Blog Content Coordinator, Online Forum Manager, Virtual Community Organizer, Education Technology Consultant and Librarian (in schools and on US bases overseas).

My job search process: I am incredibly open in terms of location which is both wonderful and daunting. Like Topher, I have narrowed down to a top few just to have some structure to my search. I have a list of sites I visit regularly like idealist, usajobs, and the university websites in a few cities where I might like to live. I’ve honed my search terms but sometimes will just do a “search all” and see what comes up. When I read or hear about an interesting organization, I check out their site to see if they are hiring or what jobs do they have available – some will even just keep resumes on file. I also just put it out there to my social network (and reminded people at intervals) that I am looking — I’ve had a few very promising things come to me that way.

My application process: I usually see an interesting ad and then research the organization. The posting will sit in a browser tab for a day or so while I percolate on the position. Then I’ll craft a coverletter to highlight specific skills that are relevant and present what I can offer. Application submitted, have a spreadsheet of where and for what I’ve applied (and where I found the opening). Most importantly, I stay positive and repeat my constant mantra: it only takes one.

Job hunters out there, what’s your process like?

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?

What You Should Know About HASTAC

24/01/2014 § 1 Comment

By Brianna Marshall and Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet

HASTAC, or the Humanities, Arts, Sciences, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, was founded in 2002 to serve as a community of “humanists, artists, social scientists, scientists and technologists working together to transform the future of learning for the 21st century.” It’s an incredible online portal that manages to encompass all the odds and ends related to digital scholarship and alt-ac careers. As two current HLS writers who have been involved with HASTAC, today we wanted to share our experiences with the community and tips for getting involved!


I was lucky enough to be selected as a HASTAC Scholar during the 2012-2013 school year. The HASTAC Scholars program focuses on bringing together undergraduate and graduate students working with digital scholarship projects across all disciplines. Scholars must be sponsored by their home institution, which will provide a small honorarium to the Scholar.

I first heard about the program through my boss, who had received an email through a digital humanities group on campus. He forwarded it to me and I applied to a group on campus who sponsored Scholars. Soon I found I wasn’t accepted, but the professor who had agreed to recommend me offered to see if my LIS program would sponsor me. They agreed, and in this roundabout way I became a Scholar.

As a Scholar you are encouraged to be active on the HASTAC website: to contribute content and give feedback to others. I found that I didn’t do this as much as I could have, though there is a lot to benefit from on the site:

The main way I ended up participating as a Scholar was through the 2013 conference held in Toronto, Ontario. When the conference was initially advertised, I decided to brainstorm possible proposals. I ended up submitting a panel proposal with two other LIS types as well as a panel focusing on digital publishing with a group of non-LIS Scholars.

As it turned out, both proposals were accepted and I went on to present at HASTAC 2013. You can read a bit more about my experience here. It was unlike any conference I’ve been to before, bringing together people of all disciplines, interests, and levels of experience. This conference more than any other helped me recognize how important it is to break free from the library silo to find innovative ideas and perspectives. The 2014 conference is in Peru, with the 2015 conference slated to return to the US (to my knowledge).

I hope you’ll consider exploring HASTAC. I came to library school preparing to be a librarian and aiming to work in an academic library, but over half the jobs I have applied for don’t have librarian in the title; instead it’s coordinator or curator or specialist, with a lot of the requirements being skills I would never would have even heard mentioned in a classroom. HASTAC is valuable because of the multitude of perspectives it draws together and for the welcoming, open arms toward all of us who aren’t quite sure where we fit. Library students can use it to grow a much-needed non-traditional skill set befitting the needs of modern librarianship – and any of the other alt ac careers we may find ourselves in.


To save the humanities, we need to get out and bust some moves pal.

— Save the Humanities (@SaveHumanities) December 10, 2013

Like many other parody Twitter accounts and bots, the Save the Humanities bot occasionally drops some serious truth bombs.

As our social horizons expand and our economic horizons contract, reinvigorating the academy, traditional scholarly disciplines — and indeed the library and information professions — is going to require busting a big move. Plenty of ink has already been spilled arguing that we (insert academics/ librarians/ humanists/ alt-acs here) are important for society. What we need now are strong, persuasive examples of exactly how we are deploying digital tools to change scholarship, and the world around us, for the better.

Luckily, there are communities of support for incubating and showcasing this kind of work — and HASTAC is a premier example. Like Brianna, I’ve found that the blogs and communities are an extremely important aspect of HASTAC for me, and these are things you can benefit from even if you aren’t a Scholar! The HASTAC website functions almost as a “world-brain”, with the collective knowledge of scores of bright people who are thinking and working around the scholarly use of digital tools. While the site is not easily searchable and the floods of content can be overwhelming, I subscribe to several groups and receive blog posts and comments in digest form. This helps me keep my finger on the pulse of emerging trends, vocabulary, and projects without feeling the need to constantly comb through the whole site. I probably miss a lot of great stuff that way, but this approach keeps it manageable. I haven’t been a very active commenter, but I am writing a book review for the Digital History group and have been interacting with fellow HASTAC scholars quite a bit on Twitter (follow the current HASTAC Scholar Twitter list here!)

One important aspect of the HASTAC community that’s a special perk of being a Scholar is the formation of interdisciplinary Working Groups, or “research nodes”. For example, I am a member of the Archives and Art History working groups; other working groups run the gamut from Critical Code Studies to Post-Colonialism to 19th-c English Literature. Each working group completes a collaborative digital project, which can include an online exhibition, a digital edition, an app, a robot, or anything else the group members can devise! The 2013-2014 Working Groups are just getting started, so I don’t have much to report yet, but I am really looking forward to this opportunity to work with other scholars across the country and develop a different type of project than I might otherwise create for an LIS course or internship.

In his introduction to the outstanding collection Switching Codes: Thinking Through Digital Technology in the Humanities and the Arts (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011), Thomas Bartscherer writes that “[t]o understand how digital technology is transforming thought and practice in the humanities and the arts, it is necessary to cultivate cross-cultural communication, to establish points of reference, and to develop a shared vocabulary. Given the globalized and decentralized nature of digital culture, this cannot be mandated from the top down, as it were, but must be cobbled together from the bottom up and on the fly.” At HASTAC, this kind of cross-communication is the name of the game. Sooner or later, what we now call “Digital Scholarship” will simply be the way we do scholarship, and the conversations that will get us there are happening right now among academics, programmers, poets, and students — with or without us. I firmly believe that library and archives professionals have an important role in shaping this critically engaged future, and I would love to see more LISers get involved. If you want to bust a move and save the humanities, pal, consider joining HASTAC, start participating in the site now, and apply to be a Scholar around August-September of 2014!

Are you involved with HASTAC or another DH-related group? What has your experience been?

Digital Humanities Week, 1/20-1/24

15/01/2014 § 1 Comment

We’re excited to share that next week Hack Library School will feature an entire week of digital humanities-related content – we’re dubbing it “DH week.”

Here’s what you have to look forward to:

1/20 – An introduction to DH for library-dwellers, Ashley Maynor
1/21 – From an undergrad digital humanist, Grace Thomas
1/22 – DIY DH+LIS, Dana Bublitz
1/23 – DH and open access, Courtney Baron
1/24 – What you should know about HASTAC, Brianna Marshall and Anna-Sophia Zingarelli-Sweet

Don’t see a topic you’re curious about? Feel like you have something to add? We know we’ve only scratched the surface of possible DH-related content so we’d love to feature your ideas. Contact us at hacklibschool [at] gmail [dot] com to propose a guest post.


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