Get Involved and Reap the Benefits: Advantages of Professional Library Membership

19/03/2014 § 6 Comments

Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Sara Kelso.

This is the post where I convince you to get involved, if you aren’t already, with professional organizations as a library or information professional.  “But I don’t have time!” you say.  “But it’s expensive!” you protest.  “And what do they ever do for me anyways?  I mean, it’s great to have conferences, but those are expensive too!” you lament.

Dear reader, I hear you.  But I’m here to tell you that there are enormous advantages to professional organization membership and involvement that you may not have yet discovered.  Fellow MLIS students, I’m particularly talking to you.

Early on in my life in the library world a few years ago, when I landed my first student position, I made it a point to shell out the hundred or so bucks to get that ALA and local OLA membership.  I wasn’t making much, and this felt like a lot of money to give to an organization I knew nothing about, but I am so grateful I joined.  I have reaped so many benefits from it, I can’t imagine how my life as a library professional would look without these experiences.  Thus, this is my call to all of you to get involved and to do it now.  Organizations like the Oregon Library Association are working hard to represent and to connect library professionals on a regional and a state level, and despite all the amazing work being done and the fantastic developments that have emerged even just this year, like a mentoring program and the Passport program, membership is suffering and round tables, committees and task forces need more heads and hands to help out.

At my first ever retreat, I got a chance to see the big picture and to better understand my role in the organization, how others depend on me, how I depend on them, and how all the puzzle pieces fit together to make a group dedicated to helping libraries all over the state, and even form partnerships with other states.  It was the most supportive, collaborative, open-minded, and focused professional experience I have ever had.  It gave me the opportunity to see just how dedicated people are to the library profession, how much it really means to them and how generous people are in this profession.

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The Scariest Things We’ve Done In Library School

17/03/2014 § 5 Comments

When I was a freshly-declared English major, just beginning to flex my college reading and writing muscles, one of my professors told me something that has stuck with me ever since: “If you feel like you’re out on the tightrope and it’s swinging, that’s good. That’s where life is.”

As I recall, she meant that specifically in relation to making strong arguments and taking intellectual risks; if you feel like what you’re saying is risky, that’s good because it means you’re really making an argument. But I think we can jump easily from writing guidance to life advice (and my professor did so often). When you step out onto uncertain ground—take a risk, that is—you open to growth and new experiences. If it feels scary, good, you’re doing something important and it’s called living.

I’ve felt like I was “out on the tightrope” many times during library school and, as uncomfortable as it is, I’ve tried to embrace the feeling. Instead of letting fear cripple me, I try to use it as a motivator to find some extra courage within myself and continue on whatever nerve-wracking track I’m currently on.

Sharing the things that scare us, while adding some initial vulnerability, can be motivating and empowering. And so, some fellow hackers and I would like to share the scariest things we’ve done in library school and what we learned from the process.

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You, Too, Can Be a Change Agent

13/03/2014 § 10 Comments

With the annual release of Library Journal’s “Movers and Shakers” awards, there seems to be an attendant wave of discussion about what, exactly, it takes to be recognized and praised in our field. This year’s Movers and Shakers were just rolled out this week, so the think-pieces haven’t quite started yet, but many of last year’s posts are worth revisiting. Critics of the awards argue that lots and lots of librarians make a difference in day-to-day activities that are never valorized in the press. Like the M & S awards themselves, however, these posts are all geared toward “in-the-trenches” librarians who are already established in their career paths. The discussion left me wondering, “What about students? In what ways, big and small, do we make our mark on the field?” « Read the rest of this entry »

Library Buildings

12/03/2014 § 6 Comments

This semester I’m taking a class on library buildings. “Library buildings? Is that a class?” you ask? Indeed it is! Taught by Fred Schlipf, an LIS professor, library buildings consultant, and former public library director, the course is an introduction to the physical spaces that LIS institutions occupy. One of the most practical courses I’ve taken in library school, it is less focused on the history or culture of library buildings and more on the actual working parts of library buildings and their renovation/construction.

While slightly geared towards public library structures, the class offers information that would benefit any specialization/path. As Fred said on the first day of class, “you will almost certainly be part of or affected by a library building project at some point in your career.” This has been true for many of the practicing librarians and archivists I know. The further we get into the course, the more surprised I am at its uniqueness: according to Fred, very few other library schools offer a comparable course. I have found it immensely helpful to learn about everything from reading blueprints (not as scary as it seems) to arranging bookstacks (good sightlines mean less theft!) to heading off suggestions of “couldn’t we turn that building into a library?” (most buildings do not have the structural strength to hold books unless they are specifically designed to do so).

The Geisel Library at UC San Diego certainly *looks* cool... But future expansion is going to be tricky... (Image Source)

The Geisel Library at UC San Diego certainly *looks* cool… But future expansion is going to be tricky… (CC 2.0 liscensed image from Flickr user ewen and donabel)

While very few people *plan* on being part of a library building project, it seems almost inevitable, and the knowledge required is very niche. Being comfortable with renovation/construction topics and vocabulary can be a major asset, especially in a smaller/more remote environment (apparently one of Fred’s former students was able to shine in an interview by pointing to redesign blueprints taped to the director’s office walls and commenting on them with some fluency). Thus, in light of the revelation that Library Buildings classes do not exist at most schools, I’ve pulled together a few resources to share with the Hack Library School community. I know that “free time” is rather scarce as a grad student, but if you have some and feel so inclined, take a look at some of these; the resulting know-how will probably be useful sooner than you think!

State of America’s Libraries Reports – 2013 reportArchived reports
Published annually, this report contains a section on library construction and renovation, which can be a great way to dip your toes into the recent challenges and issues.

American Libraries Design/Buildings supplements – 2012 supplement 
Every so often publications like American Libraries will put out special issues on library facilities, construction, renovation, and/or design. These are also fun, low-stress ways to acquaint yourself with new developments.

Webinars – e.g. “Constructing the Future Library: Architectural & Digital Considerations” (free recording of a 2011 ALCTS webinar)
Webinars are your best friend when it comes to topics your school doesn’t have classes on. Do some searching and you’ll often find recordings of past presentations for free!

Books on library construction! 
When you’re ready to bite off a bit more, there are a number of fabulous, recent books on library construction and renovation projects. The two we’re using extensively in my class are: Managing Your Library Construction Project: A Step-by-Step Guide (2007) and Checklist of Library Building Design Considerations (2008). I’ve also come across many others that look equally informative.

Got any other great library building resources? Or have you been part of a building project at some point in your career? Share your advice and thoughts in the comments!

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?

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