LIS Job Searching for the Newly (And Not So Newly) Initiated

So you have your MLS/MLIS and you’re ready to look for that perfect job. With stars in your eyes and a skip in your step, you’re off to find where you belong. The only problem is, where do you look?

Recently, INALJ (I Need a Library Job) announced that it would be downsizing, stepping off social media, and really checking out of the information science/library game. For many this may have seemed like it was coming out of left-field, but the site itself had undergone massive changes and lost a large chunk of its volunteer base. On top of that, the creator of the site had moved on to “bigger and better things.” So while the…rebranding? of INALJ definitely left a hole in the library job search market, it wasn’t the only space devoted to helping new (and seasoned) librarians find the illustrious library job.

There are several places you can turn to in order to find information about library positions: Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Indeed.com, Glassdoor.com, State websites, local and regional government websites, and the direct website of libraries you are interested in.

Twitter is a great resource, especially if you’re trying to stealthily search for jobs while your soul is slowly being devoured at your current job. Some of the top Twitter accounts to follow (mostly US only):

There are also several hashtags and non-job search accounts you can follow on Twitter, that make it easy to stay up-to-date on LIS job postings, Twitter chats, and LIS resources:

If you’re looking at staying in a certain area, you should follow the Twitter accounts of libraries in your area of interest. By connecting with the libraries you are interested in directly, you can see the types of activities they are currently involved in, and you have the possibility of being notified about a position before it hits the job search sites.

When searching for jobs on job search sites like Indeed or Glassdoor, you should keep the following keywords in mind, and be open to working outside the MLS/MLIS box (taken directly from INALJ.com)

I linked a few of the keywords to specific job descriptions, so you can better see what you may be applying for before you hit the submit button.

 

For many, the job search may be a long one, especially if you lack the library experience that is often a qualification for a library position. And while I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I will offer advice to LIS job seekers.

  1. Do not be disheartened by the lack of response from a library you have dreamed of working at for years, or from the special collection library that seems too good to be true. It’s never out of reach, you just may need to work on becoming their dream candidate.
  2. Ask for feedback from recruiters when you aren’t offered a position. Not every job will give you the feedback you request, but it never hurts to ask.
  3. Look over cover letters of LIS professionals who were hired.
  4. Continue to evolve professionally. This means taking courses, getting certifications, participating in scholarly activity, and putting yourself out there.
  5. Make sure that you stay active within the community.
  6. Beef up your CV/resume with volunteer activities and organizations.

Best of luck!

A Very Literary Holiday Season

Every year I try to scour the Internet, independent shops, and even some big box stores, in order to find gifts for my book loving family and friends. This year has been no different, so I wanted to include some book-tastic ideas for those just starting their holiday gift hunting.

The Booknerd

The Busy Bee 

The Book Critic

The Wee Worm

The Librarian

The Novelist

The Grammarian

The Reluctant Reader

The Acquaintance 

 

55 Articles Every Librarian Should Read (Updated)

All links verified and updated as of 3/12/2016.

 
  • De Groote, S. L., Shultz, M., & Blecic, D. D. (2014). Information-seeking behavior and the use of online resources: a snapshot of current health sciences faculty. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 102(3), 169–176. http://doi.org/10.3163/1536-5050.102.3.006
  • Harder, R., Velasco, A., Evans, M., & Rockmore, D. (2015, September 18). Measuring verifiability in online information. Cornell University Library. Retrieved from http://arxiv.org/abs/1509.05631v1
  • Harris, T., & Wyndham, J. (2015). Data rights and responsibilities: a human rights perspective on data sharing. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics, 10(3), 334–337. http://doi.org/10.1177/1556264615591558
  • Linek, S., & Bäßler, J. (2015). The role of libraries in science 2.0: focus on economics. D-Lib Magazine: The Magazine of Digital Library Research, 21(7/8). http://doi.org/10.1045/july2015-linek
  • Maggio, L. A., & Kung, J. Y. (2014). How are medical students trained to locate biomedical information to practice evidence-based medicine? a review of the 2007–2012 literature. Journal of the Medical Library Association : JMLA, 102(3), 184–191. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25031559
  • Malik, C., Bogomolov, A., Chang, P., Cassin, R., Roosevelt, E., Dukes, C., … Humphrey, J. P. (n.d.). The Universal Declaration of Human Rights [Organizational]. Retrieved May 16, 2013, from http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtml
  • Percivale Productions. (2015). The crisis of our libraries: a talk by Alan Gibbons [Video]. UK. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/138455444 [13:23]
  • Rinehart, A., Sharkey, J., & Kahl, C. (2015). Learning Style Dimensions and Professional Characteristics of Academic Librarians. College & Research Libraries, 76(4), 450–468. http://doi.org/10.5860/crl.76.4.450

Working Outside the MLS Box

Many of my library school classmates have been unable to find employment within a library. They have their MLS, they graduated with honors and 4.0 GPA’s, and many have library experience. When I started graduate school, there was the promise of an aging librarian exodus. We were told by professional organizations, graduate school professors, and fellow librarians that by graduation we should all find employment within libraries, especially since between 25-28% of “current working [ALA] membership base will have retired.”

ALA table

“You’re going to help fill the bursting librarian retirement bubble!” we were told, and darn it if we didn’t believe that! Then life happened, the increase in retirement age happened, and we began to slowly realize that the library jobs were just not there. Many academic libraries began cutting back on staff, school libraries began hiring part-time employees who barely had their GED’s to replace “card-carrying” librarians, and public libraries saw budgets slashed repeatedly. It was around this time that I began to notice that many of the librarians I had known were jumping ship to non-library jobs. Many of the academic librarians still remained within an academic environment, but they began to look at positions outside of the library-realm in order to remain employed.

I had never really considered anything outside of librarianship. I knew that health sciences librarianship was what I wanted, but I was finding it increasingly difficult to motivate myself in my position. In what I would consider a life-altering decision, I decided to leave the library and took a position in the School of Medicine instead. While my new position has been great, the decision to leave was not something I took lightly. I know that for many of my classmates, leaving the library after getting your MLS would be considered sacrilegious, but it is those people who really need to expand their professional horizons.

Many MLSers have begun to take positions in other organizations. While this doesn’t mean they have to give up on their dreams of becoming full-fledged librarians, it does mean that they may have to take a break from librarianing for awhile. These hiatuses can end up being far more positive than they originally thought, especially if they are able to find a position in an up-and-coming company peddling innovative ideas. On the INALJ site, the entire left sidebar is filled with “keywords for job searching.” Position titles like: User Experience Designer, Project Analyst, Digital Asset Manager, Content Strategist, and MakerSpace Facilitator may not jump out at MLS grads as positions they are qualified for, but they absolutely could be!

Let’s take the first position, User Experience Designer, for example. When looking at the “desirable skills” for a UXD, one might see:

  • research techniques
  • ethnography and discovery
  • user modeling
  • information architecture and information design
  • project/time management
  • stakeholder management
  • visual communication
  • public speaking and presenting
  • interpersonal skills (collaboration, team-building)
  • database principles, tools and technologies
  • understanding of software and hardware development processes
  • proficiency in PowerPoint, Adobe Creative Suite
  • knowledge of file formats
  • knowledge of existing and new technologies and constraints
  • understanding of basic computer programming principles, tools, and technologies
  • usability skills

Now, I only pulled some of the more general qualifications, but looking at this, one could very well assume that they were looking for someone with a library science background. While several of the other core skills listed: ethnography and discovery; user modeling; product design; interaction design; and interface design are not necessarily skills taught in library school, they are skills that can be acquired. Those who took graphic design, psychology, sociology, fine art, or communications as undergraduates would already have a solid foundation on which to build a solid career as a User Experience Designer. In fact, journalism undergrads may have knowledge of page layout and composition, and even Visio. All of the skills learned in library school, plus any additional skills retained from undergraduate courses would be ideal for UXD work.

Let’s try another one shall we? How about Content Strategist! Some qualifications are:

  • Understanding how to create a search optimization plan for content
  • Create taxonomies/nomenclature lists and definitions
  • Perform gap analyses
  • Help with CMS selection
  • Experience with content management systems and databases
  • Fluency in Microsoft Windows-based desktop applications
  • Write web content
  • Develop, maintain, and enforce editorial style guidelines
  • Assess, catalog, and organize web site content
  • Search engine optimization research
  • Content aggregation and data sourcing
  • Editorial skills
  • Understanding of general information architecture
  • Copy writing, proofreading, editing and fact checking
  • Tagging and classifying
  • Accessibility optimization
  • Social media savvy
  • Outreach and promotions oriented

Wow! That sounds like a job a tech savvy librarian could totally do, and do really well! If I didn’t know any better, I would think that this was a position within a library. A career as a content strategist was never discussed in library school, neither was user experience designer or project analyst. However, the degree I received in library school does prepare me for careers in those fields. It can seem rather blasphemous to say that someone with an MLS shouldn’t work in a library, but with the limited number of library positions available it can be beneficial for a library school graduate to work in a related field under a position within a library system comes along.

I was lucky enough to start out in libraries, but have since moved on to medical education where I use the skills I learned in graduate school almost daily. I have applied, been interviewed, and been offered several library positions, but none of them have been the perfect fit. I have found that the current state of libraries (especially academic) is a little scary, and I would rather stay in a stable position that I really enjoy than leave for an unknown.

Most people go to graduate school for library and information science because they want to work in libraries, but I think this can be incredibly short-sighted and often misguided. Having an open-mind to other careers that utilize similar skill sets would provide MLS grads with a plethora of opportunities and would, perhaps, help to revamp MLS courses. In the future I hope that LIS schools show students that there is a world of career possibilities, and that the library isn’t their only option.

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Sister Hood Award

Thanks http://conciergelibrarian14.com/ who nominated me for the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award.  I have enjoyed her blog immensely and you should definitely check it out! In fact, you should follow, subscribe and regularly read her blog!

[Taken from http://conciergelibrarian14.com/ Nomination Post]

Here are the rules for this award:

  1. Say “Thank You” to the person who nominated you & link their blog to your post.
  2. Answer the 10 questions given to you.
  3. Pass the award on to 7 other bloggers (only nominating 2) and let them know they have been nominated.
  4. Include the Award Badge in your post.

10 Questions for my Nominees

1. If you could do it over again, would you select the same profession?

If I could do it all over again, I would probably finish out medical school. I would still work in the university library as a student worker, but I would pursue my MD.

2. What is your ideal vacation spot?

A big city, with lots to do! I love New York City, Chicago, Seattle etc…

3. What was your favourite subject in high school?

Science! In particular I liked the biological sciences and chemistry.

4. Mascara or eyebrow pencil?

Mascara. I don’t even own an eye brow pencil…

5. How long does it take for you to get ready for the day?

Depends on what I’m doing. If I’m getting ready for work, it normally takes me about 45 min- 1 hr. If I’m just running errands, I can be ready in about 20-30 min.

6. Where are you from?

The Midwest

7. Lipstick or lip gloss?

Lip gloss, preferably one that tastes good.

8. Who is your favourite singer?

Elliott Smith

9. Netflix or Hulu?

Normally I would say Netflix, but I have really been on a Hulu kick lately….

10. How many hours do you spend per week blogging?

Not as many as I should. I definitely have a lot of draft posts started though!

I am nominating:

https://dorkchopsworld.wordpress.com/

https://phantoness.wordpress.com/

Questions for my Nominees:

1. What is your favorite book? Have you read it more than once?

2. Do you have a favorite word? What is it?

3. Is there a place that you eat often? Do you always order the same thing?

4. What was your first thought when you woke up this morning?

5. If you could have personally witnessed anything, what would you want to have seen?

6. What/who can always cheer you up?

7. If you could create a job title for yourself, what would it be?

8. What website do you visit every day?

9. What is the most random thing you’ve ever watched all the way through on Netflix/Hulu?

10. What drives you to do what you do? What motivates you?

Reinventing the MLS

On LinkedIn there is an ongoing discussion that revolves around reinventing library education. The specific question is:

“If you could reinvent library education how would you start?” 

I have been following the discussion and considered posting a reply directly to LinkedIn, but remembered that I had yet to write a blog post this month and thought this might be a good topic to cover.

Awhile back I wrote about how we can attract more LIS graduates to the dark side of medical librarianship and I more recently wrote an update about my library school experience in which I said:

In order to stay relevant in today’s tumultuous world of library and information science, they need to start offering an MLIS, as well as concentrations that integrate informatics and computer science into the MLS curriculum track (perhaps offering a Systems Analysis and Design track, a Knowledge Management concentration, or even a Digital Information Certificate).

Now, this was about my own graduate program at Emporia State University, but I do think it is relevant to many of the graduate LIS programs in the United States (I will be honest and admit my ignorance regarding international LIS programs). Many of the graduate programs I have looked at tend to have a very overarching approach to teaching information science. You learn about the foundations of library science, information transfer and all those delicious information science tidbits that come with the degree. Most of these programs offer basic concentrations, but I have found–albeit my experience is limited–that these concentrations are often too broad to provide in-depth training. The difference between the “Leadership and Administration” concentration and the basic library MLS curriculum is 9 hours (3 courses). In fact, at Emporia, the difference between all of the concentrations and the standard curriculum is 9 hours (3-4 courses). I don’t know about most of you, but to me that seems like a fairly shallow difference between a general degree and a concentration. I know most Master’s degree programs average between 2-2.5 years, but perhaps vamping up the curriculum to 2.5-3 years would be beneficial to LIS graduates. If you look at the first 1.5-2 years as the foundation years, you are then giving students the opportunity to really invest themselves in a concentration over the next 1-1.5 years.

In order to garner interest in the concentrations, they should be focused on specific areas of librarianship or on building technical skills. Web authoring, database design, information literacy education, and data management are all areas that librarians could excel. While there are many areas where LIS education could be reinvented, concentrations (and specializations) would be the beginning of the reinvention of LIS curricula (1).

Other ways we should consider reinventing LIS education:

2. More stringent admissions requirements. 

One suggestion was a “5 year moratorium on Library School matriculation,” and while many librarians would probably jump for joy at having less competition for positions, I think that this would be a terrible idea. Turning people away from a career just to make it easier on those who have already graduated is not fair in the slightest. What is fair, is to produce the best possible candidates for the positions that are available in order to strengthen our profession across the board.

Instead of a moratorium, library school programs should consider:

  • requiring at least 2-3 years of library experience prior to acceptance to a program
  • letter(s) of reference from an LIS professional
  • GRE score of (the school would decide)
  • either a written essay and/or;
  • face-to-face interview with the candidate

Library experience should be a top priority for acceptance into a graduate program. I’m not saying that the candidate should have a full-time (or even a part-time) job at a library, but volunteer experience at least shows interest in library science and provides an applicant with some basic knowledge before applying. This would weed out those people who are just “going back to school to get an ‘easy’ masters for career advancement.”

3. Greater emphasis on field-work and internship opportunities.

This really depends on the library experience of each LIS graduate. If a library manager is pursuing a MLS degree, they probably don’t need a summer internship at the circulation desk. If, however, a graduate is only coming into a degree program with 2 years of volunteer experience or a library page is accepted, an internship (or practicum) program should be a requirement in order to graduate. Now I know this is difficult. While librarians are constantly championing collaboration, it’s incredibly difficult to find libraries willing to take on a practicum student or a summer library intern. This has got to stop! If we want competent–and confident–individuals graduating from our programs we need to provide them with the experiences they need to make professional decisions.

Library programs should look at medical schools for inspiration. In the 3rd year of medical school, students rotate through multiple “core clerkships.” Library programs could consider placing students on rotations in a similar fashion. Consider the following:

Suzie Librarian has completed her first year of library school. She has a fairly solid LIS foundation, 1 year of library page experience and 1 year of volunteering as a library “teen wrangler.” Her LIS program wants to help her make an informed decision about the type of librarianship Suzie may be interested in, so they send her through 2 months of professional development training at multiple libraries. During this part of her schooling, Suzie will get to experience a (1) week in an academic library, a (1) week in a public library (either rural or urban), 2-3 weeks in a special libraries (location dependent), and 1 week in an archival setting. If Suzie is interested in school librarianship, she can add an extra week of shadowing a K-12 librarian.

This may not be done in two consecutive months, but shadowing for a few days throughout the program would definitely be beneficial to library school students.

As someone who has already graduated from library school, I wish this had been something offered to me. Even though I knew going in that I wanted to do something in the medical sciences, it would have been an invaluable experience to learn about other librarianship opportunities.

4. More intense focus on research methods and statistical analysis.

Everyone that graduates from library school should be able to not only provide assistance to researchers, but to also conduct their own academic research. In order to further the field of library and information science, we need to produce graduates who are interested in contributing to our field of study. Doctoral research isn’t for everyone, but those with MLS degrees can still provide valuable insight into information science theories, user services, and pretty much any aspect of modern librarianship.

To add to this, librarians should be graduating with a basic understanding of statistics and a rudimentary understanding of how this applies to research methodology. This may not be as relevant to public librarians, but it should be incredibly important! Their understanding of how to produce actionable research could possibly be tied to funding for their library, and could save them from having to shutter their doors/windows in the future. The designing and assessment of patron surveys could prove to be an incredibly valuable skill, and this skill should be taught in library school.

5. Increasing alumni participation in graduate courses

When you’re in library school, you can develop a sort of tunnel vision regarding employment after graduating with your MLS. Bringing alumni in to lecture, present, or even just network with current students can be invaluable to the success of the student following graduation. After I received my MLS, I continued to work in a medical library until a better offer presented itself. In library school, any one trying to change my mind about medical librarianship would have been hard-pressed to do so. This was because my mindset was, “If I get my MLS I have to work in a library…” While I understand this is the goal for many people, it can be difficult for those with just the MLS and limited/no library experience to find jobs after graduating. I now know MLS grads that work within academia as instructional designers or technologists, or in non-profit organizations, consulting firms, web development companies, research facilities, and even marketing for corporations. In all these instances, they graduated from library school expecting to work in a library. What happened, however, was that they realized the skills they had learned in their graduate program prepared them for numerous positions outside of the library environment. Bringing in a diverse group of MLS alumni would serve to help students see that there are many different avenues to employment.

While I would love to see library programs adopt these initiatives, I understand that higher education–and this includes graduate library programs– still need to make money. By accepting fewer applicants to programs and increasing the number of faculty, schools stand to cut profits or they might just increase tuition to offset this loss. This is obviously not what they, nor future applicants, want to happen. If even one of these initiatives could be implemented across the board, I really think that MLS programs could help prepare the future workforce and increase the number of competent LIS graduates.

I do look forward to the future of LIS education, but I also hope that changes are made in the present that propel libraries and the study of information science,  into a more stable future.

Program Positives

After reading through my last post, I realized that it could be seen as a rather negative review of Emporia State’s Library Science Program. I wanted to write another post that highlighted some of the positives of my graduate program as well.

____________________________________________________________________

A bulleted list of things Emporia does really well for those who don’t like to read long blog posts:

  1. Networking Opportunities
  2. Asynchronous Learning
  3. Cohort Bonding Experience 
  4. Basis in Theory

____________________________________________________________________

1. Networking Opportunities

Emporia employs faculty from around the globe, which means that the opportunities for networking are fantastically varied. During my time in the program they had professors from Finland, Florida, Texas, India and Indiana. They also had adjunct professors from a variety of backgrounds (Health Information Management, Law, Informatics, etc…) that supplemented the learning experiences of students throughout the SLIM program. I was really impressed by the wide variety of faculty teaching at Emporia, and they made sure to let students know when positions became available at institutions were they had connections.

2. Asynchronous Learning

Most of the faculty at Emporia were well-versed in using the LMS to facilitate asynchronous learning. There were a few who had migrated directly from face-to-face instruction that had some difficulty, but overall they provided resources that allowed students (especially those that like to work ahead) with the ability to set a comfortable pace throughout the program. There were only a few times that I felt like I was behind in the program and it was mostly due to waiting on group members or waiting on the professor to provide further instructions.

3. Cohort Bonding Experience

After talking with friends who were in other LIS programs, I definitely think that Emporia provides a support network better than almost any of the other graduate programs. The program provided plenty of opportunities to get to know your fellow grad students and even though I began to loathe the “Introduce Yourself Hour,” it helped me remember all of the students in my class and ultimately I appreciated the fact that this was a requirement. I definitely came away from the experience with AWESOME friendships, and I miss seeing some of my classmates!

4. Basis in Theory

Emporia’s curriculum is heavy on theory which, while it can be a bit dry, is helpful to those thinking of pursuing a PhD or teaching. Each course had a section devoted to the theory behind the particular course and every professor was comfortable discussing the theory (or theories) behind a particular topic. The focus on theory really provided a strong foundation for ESU-SLIM graduates and the theories played a major role in the completion of our ePortfolios.