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?

T.T.F.N–Ta-ta for now!

06/03/2014 § Leave a comment

Hack Library School’s greatest strength, in my opinion, is its changing nature. As writers come and go, the blog stays current, and the new crop of writers take HLS into the conversations that are happening in library schools across the country and around the world.

This is a longwinded way to say that I’ve been around for a while, and it’s time for me to step down.

This is my final solo post for Hack Library School. I’m excited to be starting a new job, excited to move to a new area, and excited to watch HLS continue to grow. From writing an ebook to continuing a streak of conference presentations, I’ve seen Hack Library School do some great things in the two-years-and-a-bit that I’ve been here. I know that the trend will continue, and I can’t wait to watch!

I ALSO can’t wait to see what happens in the wider library-school world. I’m convinced that library/information students are far more powerful change agents then some librarians realize, and that there is incredible value in fusing the the weight of experience with the enthusiasm of fresh eyes.

When I started writing for Hack Library School, the blog was already a voice for a new kind of library education, one in which students could determine their own pathway, and push professors into a new type of collaboration. I tried to challenge myself throughout library school, taking classes in unfamiliar areas and hacking my program from the ground up, even when I wasn’t sure I wanted to end up in libraries. (Perhaps especially because I wasn’t sure I wanted to end up in libraries.) I wasn’t alone–other HLS writers and lots of commenters also talked about wanting to bring a new practice to library work. This sort of public, transparent information work is, in my opinion, what librarianship is all about–shedding light on any subject, in any field, and creating relevant connections for all to view.

Micah mentioned “commissioning disciples” in his farewell post, and I think he wasn’t far wrong–the HLS community has been a fantastic support system as we’ve all hacked together the programs we loved. When Annie left, she mentioned how those networks can keep growing. “Don’t be a stranger” is the watchword, here.

Hack Library School might focus on hacking LIS education, but I think that the hacker attitude toward life can keep on trucking, long past your graduation date. We all get busy–good librarianship seems to require it, though work/life balance is equally vital–and the networks we’re building can persist. Keep in touch, you wonderful people, and I’ll see you around!


High fives and cheers!

What It’s Like to Work Full Time in Library School

05/03/2014 § 7 Comments

In today’s post, several Hackers discuss what they have learned about the challenges and benefits of working full time while in library school. Whether you are wondering if full time work is right for you or struggling to balance your obligations between work and classes, it can help to know that you are not alone. Rebecca Katz, Kara Mackeil, Lesley Looper, and Samantha Winn share their experiences, coping mechanism, and productivity tips after the break. Do you have a story about working full time while in school? Join us in the comments!

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The Highs and Lows of Teen Tech Week

04/03/2014 § 9 Comments

If you work in teen services you are probably already elbow deep in programming, but for the rest here is a reminder: it is almost Teen Tech Week! Next week, March 9-15, libraries across the country will be celebrating YALSA’s “DIY @ your library” theme by providing programs on coding, knitting, music recording and everything in between. Unfortunately I do not (yet) work in a teen services department, but that does not mean I (or you) cannot join in on the celebration.


Miniature human face models made through 3D printer via S zillayali, Wikimedia Commons CC

As a young LIS professional it is easy to get absorbed in the biggest and shiniest trends: 3D printing! Tablets! Computer programming! It is even easier as a teen librarian-in-training to get overwhelmed by feeling the need to be an expert in all-the-things to land a job. Another common factor may be a limited budget and time; making programs like TTW seem out of reach.

In a previous post I shared resources on how technology can be used effectively in the classroom, but here I want to discuss how you do not need high-tech gear and excess funds to explore emerging technology trends.

First we need to step back and ask, “What is technology?”

When defining technology I initially think of computers, smart phones and gaming consoles — devices popular in the here and now. But what about cars, televisions, typewriters, pens… are these not classified as technology as well? By definition technology is “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” Breaking down TTW would mean YALSA is then taking a week to promote teens’ creativity and problem solving skills in a public service environment — and isn’t that what libraries should be about anyway?

From brainstorming with fellow colleagues in the real and virtual world, here are possible low and high-tech activities for TTW — or for your own personal creative downtime:

  1. DIY Crafts: Do not let the term “technology” scare you into thinking you need to dump out your wallet for a brand new 3D printer. Host a crochet-your-own phone cozy party or make jewelry from miscellaneous computer parts.
  2. Media literacy: Underneath all this talk about media and technology lies a very real issue needing to be discussed, most teens do not understand how mass media works or how to use technology wisely. TTW is a great time to facilitate a conversation by creating interactive media literacy lessons like analyzing photographs, creating media or watching a documentary.
  3. Gaming: If you already have a gaming system and videogames, plug it in and you are good to go. Otherwise, ask teens to bring in their favorite games to swap and play. For a more guided program see how you can use Minecraft as an educational tool.
  4. Learn to code: All you need is a computer, internet access and a program like Codecadmey, Code Year or Squeakland depending on the audience’s age and skill level.
  5. Visit a makerspace: Don’t have the tools to solder a portable USB charger kit? I bet your local makerspace does! These community centers invite people in to use their tools to the best of their imagination. Now plan a field trip to the nearest makerspace and create!

These are only a few options of how you can get involved in Teen Tech Week, but you can find more resources at TTW’s website in the forum discussions, event toolkits and free webinars.


How is your library celebrating Teen Tech Week? What low-tech/low-cost programs have you facilitated for patrons of any age?

Producing and Performing Skype Interviews

27/02/2014 § 5 Comments

Skype interviews are my favorite! Lo and behold my supplement to Brianna Marshall’s exceptional Phone Interview Strategies. The genesis of this post is when I presented a paper via Skype at the Graduate History Forum at UNC Charlotte in April 2013. It was a great experience! I’ve been Skyping ever since.

Talking on the phone can disorient me because I like to see people’s nonverbal cues and adjust my own communication accordingly. On the other hand, in-person interviews are strenuous situations in which your every move and word will be scrutinized and your ability to navigate unfamiliar physical and social spaces will be tested. But as fewer employers can afford to fly candidates around, Skype is displacing F2F interviews at all stages of candidacy. (So no pressure!)

With Skyping, you need not worry about traffic, handshakes, hard chairs, or what to order for lunch. Skype interviews place you in control of your environment and performance to a significant degree—and this is pressure of the productive sort.

My advice for acing your Skype interviews? Approach the entire process as if you were producing and performing a pivotal scene from a play or film.


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Hack Your Scholarship Essay

21/02/2014 § 1 Comment

If there’s one thing library students are familiar with, it’s writing. Research papers, discussion posts, slide presentations, blogs—you name it, and we’ve written it. But wouldn’t it be nice to get paid for writing papers? Fortunately for you, you can!

Scholarships are a great way to secure funding for tuition, conference travel, textbooks, software, and other school-related needs, but in order to earn these scholarships, you first have to conquer the scholarship essay. You will be hard-pressed to find a scholarship application that does not require an essay or personal statement of some sort, so it’s important to be prepared. And as a person who has written approximately 2.2 million of these essays in library school alone (and earned 2 scholarships in the process), I’m here to help you crack the code.

My system isn’t guaranteed (note the aforementioned ratio of scholarships applied for and scholarships earned), but it is definitely confidence-boosting. If nothing else, you’ll send in your application with the knowledge that you did your best and that you have the same chance of winning as everybody else, and that can be a victory all its own. Here are my tips:

  1. Follow the instructions. Take care to stay within the limits of word count and essay length, format the paper in the requested manner (APA, MLA, etc.), and submit the application on or before the due date. This tip seems simple, but a hastily put together paper with good ideas may not go over as well as a less interesting paper that follows all the rules. Also, if you mention in your paper that you’re organized and pay attention to details, and then you fail to follow any of the directions, what does that really say about you? Be conscious of the message you’re sending out. It’s not just what you say—it’s also how you say it.
  2. Write about something that interests you. Most of the essay topics are fairly open-ended, so there’s an opportunity to inject some of your own flavor. My favorite topic to research and write about is the digital divide, so I usually find a way to weave a discussion of accessibility and computer education into whatever prompt I’m given. I’m not advocating that you dump in a bunch of unrelated information about your passion for AACR2 and clowns—I’m simply saying that if you have an opportunity to discuss your relevant interests, you should go for it. Your passion will influence your tone, and the scholarship committee will be able to sense the honesty and sincerity of your words.
  3. Read essays from those who have won in the past. Often, organizations post an excerpt of the winning essay in a press release, and in some cases, the essay is published in its entirety in an academic journal or professional newsletter. Read it, and figure out what made it a winner. Is the writer’s tone enthusiastic and persuasive or scholarly and informative? How many sources did he or she use? Is the essay significantly below the word count, or does it meet it exactly? Something about this essay was right—it’s your job to figure out what, and to implement those same strategies in your own paper.
  4. Google the names of previous winners. This is mainly a confidence booster because it helps you realize that the people who have won in the past aren’t really that different from you. And then you’ll start to believe that you have what it takes to win, too. A lot of library students have an online presence via LinkedIn, Twitter, or personal blogs, so it’s relatively easy to take a peek at their résumés. I wouldn’t contact them one-on-one, especially if they’re complete strangers, but my logic is that people post résumés online so that others can read them, so what’s the harm in indulging?
  5. Get feedback. Whether it’s yelling into the next room to ask your sister if something makes sense or emailing a copy of the finished paper to your advisor, a second set of eyes and ears never hurt when writing an essay. Something that sounds clear to you may prove to be confusing to others, and since you won’t be there in person to explain your essay to the scholarship committee as they read it, it’s important to be sure that your essay makes sense to someone other than yourself.

Writing a scholarship essay can be scary—you’re putting yourself out there and saying, “Pick me, pick me!” But with practice (and a healthy dose of confidence), this process becomes easier and easier. And who knows, you may find yourself a few dollars richer in the process.

What do you think, fellow hackers? Do you have any tried and true rituals for acing the scholarship essay?



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