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!

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Library School: A Look Back, Or Why You Should Do A Lot of Research on the MLS Program You Are Interested In

I started my MLS program at Emporia State University in January of 2013. I had just moved to a new State, started a new job, and ended a ten (10) year relationship. It was a time of extraordinary change for me and I was tentatively excited for what was to come.

One of the reasons I was originally interested in the program was due in part to the fact that they had electives that aligned with my interest in health science/medical librarianship. Even though it was part of Emporia’s nursing program, the courses were as close to medical librarianship as one could get (at least in the Midwest). It wasn’t until after I had been accepted to the program that I found out you had to physically be on the Emporia campus to take the courses. I had been lead to believe that the courses could be integrated into the hybrid face-to-face/online format the program had instituted, which was one of the main reasons I chose Emporia over The University of Missouri-Columbia. This left a bad taste in my mouth, but I was excited to start my program and as I progressed through the curriculum, I focused most of my research on aspects of librarianship that affected medical libraries.

The MLS program at Emporia follows a pretty standard format. The first two semesters are devoted to “Core Courses” and as you move further into the program, you are allowed more freedom when it comes to taking electives. In the first semester you are required to take Foundations of Library and Information Science and Information Seeking Behavior and User-centered Services and you have the option of taking Technology Skills for Graduate Students. I opted out of the technology skills class, and found the Foundations course to be very dry. Some of the history majors in my cohort said that they enjoyed the course, but overall I did not feel that the course was very challenging or interesting. While I understood the reasoning behind the course, studying the ALA Code of Ethics and learning about the history of libraries was not really my “cup of tea.”

Group Projects

It was also in this course that I had my first graduate school group experience and let me just say this…it was very unsatisfactory. My group mates did very little work and did not understand how to collaborate online. Further, one seemed to have a very difficult time coming to terms with the workload of a graduate program, and the other went on vacation halfway through the project without letting anyone know. In fact, we showed up at class to present and she wasn’t there. When we told our professor she said, “Oh, she didn’t tell you?” No…she didn’t tell us, but thanks. Needless to say, the experience was painful and I prayed I would never have assigned groups again.

In case you don’t want to read about my full experience…

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TL;DR

1. When considering a MLS program, make sure you really do some thorough research into the programs you are interested in. Email faculty, talk to recent graduates and don’t take the program directors word as law (i.e., make sure a course that they say is online is actually online and does not require you to be at a particular campus).

2. Do some general research into what type of librarianship you may be interested in and use the ALA’s Directory of ALA-Accredited Master’s Programs in Library and Information Studies to help inform your decision.

3. Once you have been accepted to your program, don’t be afraid to speak up when you find the experience less than satisfactory! During my program, I emailed the director of our program to let her know that I was disappointed by the decision to dismiss one of our professors, and I also made full use of the professor/course evaluations at the end of each semester. Make sure that you help shape the future of MLS/MLIS programs by voicing your informed opinion!

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The second (2) course, Information Seeking Behavior and User-centered Services was team-taught by two very different professors. One had a very laissez-faire attitude about the course and interlaced a lot of personal experiences into her lectures. I really enjoyed when she taught and looked forward to class when she was the main presenter. The second professor was incredibly dry and I found it difficult to pay attention when she was lecturing. However, when the course was split into two groups, I was in the group with the second professor and was pretty bummed out for the rest of the course. Overall, the course was actually interesting and I still utilize a lot of what I learned in the course when helping students/faculty.

Semester two (2) was also dedicated to core classes: Organization of Information and Research in Library and Information Science. This was by far my least favorite semester in the program. While the Organization of Information course had interesting content, the professor was the same dry professor from my previous semester and lectures were painful. Thankfully I had an amazing group for the group project and we ended up creating a Prezi about organizing shoes. This was also the first semester we were really introduced to literature reviews, and even though I had done a few in my undergraduate work, they were never as in-depth as the first two reviews we were assigned in grad school. I chose to continue my research into health science librarianship by focusing my literature review on Medical Information Retrieval SystemsEven though the review was drawn out over multiple weeks, I thoroughly enjoyed the research experience and was proud of the finished product.

Organize Something Presentation

At the same time we were completing the review for Organization of Information, we were also assigned a literature review in Research in Library and Information Science, except this was a group review. My group was amazing, and I had the best partners in crime a library student could ask for, and we worked really well together. Even though collaborative literature reviews are horrible, we were able to pull together a great review by the end of the assignment. Originally, I was excited to take a research methods course and was hoping that we would allowed to really dive into data-driven library research. Unfortunately, our professor was less than satisfactory and we ended up learning very little about utilizing data in libraries. I supplemented the course with Research Methods: The Key Concepts and Knowledge into Action: Research and Evaluation in Library and Information Science, even though I had taken plenty of research courses during my undergraduate education. Overall the second semester was rough, but I did complete several usable work products that added depth to my portfolio.

By the third (3) semester Emporia allows you to start taking some electives.I opted to “start getting technical” and took Introduction to Metadata and Advanced Metadata Applications. Both courses were beautifully taught and I learned so many things that I have been able to apply to my jobs. The courses were both very intense and you had very little “goof off” time. I was able to work with the same individuals I had been paired with for the collaborative literature review and we aced the final project by creating BGMAP (Board Game Metadata Application Profile). If you plan on taking a metadata course, I highly suggest purchasing the book for the class and bookmarking the schemas the class is covering. I also took Collection Development and Management, with a great professor who was originally from Florida State University. During the course she allowed us to participate in a poster presentation (a sort of mini-conference) and incredibly I was assigned medical libraries as the topic of my research!

BGMAP Landing Page Markup

The fourth (4) semester is similar to the third (3) in that you can take an elective paired with a core or two electives. You still have to complete Leadership and Administration of Information Organizations, but there is some leeway on the order in which you take the rest of your courses. I decided to take the Leadership course (to get it out of the way) and thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though I have never desired to be in a management position (Guru track anyone?), our professor was incredibly engaging and provided us with a lot of context for why managerial roles are so vital in organizations. Unfortunately it was this particular professors last course before he was stupidly (yes I said it) dismissed from Emporia State University. This particular management course had us create a strategic plan for a library, which is apparently something LIS graduates are normally not well-versed in doing. The second course I was enrolled in during this semester was Introduction to Informatics, which–while interesting–also provided an absolutely terrible group project experience.

My last two semesters were by far my favorite in the program. I was enrolled in a total of five (5) courses over the entire two semesters. The second to last semester I took Information Technology, which I will sum up by using a tweet from a group mate…

Kat Tweet

I paired Information Technology with Information Retrieval and Customization, both of which were taught by the same professor. I found this particular professor to be horribly disorganized, and I could not for the life of me tell if she was actually technically proficient or not. Since most of the work was completed online, I didn’t have enough interactions with her to see if she was really comfortable with technology. After taking three of her classes, my ultimate vote is no.

My very last semester in the program I enrolled in Teaching in the Information Professions (wonderful course that should be required of all librarians, especially those interested in academic librarianship) and Project Management in Information Organizations, as well as my Capstone. While I would suggest taking a project management course, make sure that your professor actually understands how to teach project management and that it isn’t just a hobby of theirs.

Every semester I could I tried to take Database Design, but every semester it was dropped due to low enrollment. This was a major drawback of the program! There was not enough variation among electives to satisfy those of us not on a track. I wanted to take the following (but many were never offered during my cohort):

  • LI844: Database Design
  • LI866: Intro to Copyright and Licensing
  • LI809: Introduction to Archives
  • LI827: Preservation Strategies
  • LI835: Information Services for Academic Libraries
  • LI840: Structure and Organization of Information Technology
  • LI848: Web Design and Development
  • LI890: Advanced Research Strategies

This lead to me really only getting to choose 5 (4.5 really) electives throughout my entire program. I would have loved to “test out” of Information Technology (which was required) and taken a course where I would have actually challenged myself instead.

Overall I would give the SLIM program a C+ (B- on it’s best day). They are way behind when it comes to integrating technology into their curriculum, and are still offering concentrations in Children’s and Young Adult Librarianship. 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). The school currently offers a completely separate informatics degree, but the program just came into existence in 2015.

See TL;DR for a concise summary.

But…why?

That is the response I get from many librarians when I tell them I’m interested in medical librarianship. Health sciences, medical and hospital libraries are the red-headed step children of the library world, apparently.

I began to notice a trend during the first semester of library school. When I would tell the other MLS students what I was interested in pursuing, they all seemed so surprised. It made me wonder what it was about medical librarianship that caused such a strong reaction. Maybe it’s the science and technology that is off-putting. I know that it’s hard to get a lot of English majors excited about data analysis, informatics, and databases.

While working in the public library, my basic work week included: cutting out a million + 1 construction paper stars for a preschool story time craft, perusing Pinterest for teen program ideas, creating interactive displays for my public patrons and general collection management/public services duties. I excelled in whatever I worked on, but it wasn’t necessarily challenging. Even if I had planned for 25 kids and 75 showed up, or someone challenged a YA book because of content, I never felt particularly overwhelmed. Even though by all standards, I was swamped with work, it was “fun” work.

The work that I do now is immensely more challenging and I actually go home at the end of the day with questions to be answered by Google (or more specialized databases). I no longer make crafts, rarely do I get to make a display, and the “advisory” lists I create are now literature reviews for clinicians.  Instead of reading books entitled ttyl, I’m picking up Health Informatics for Medical Librarians.

While a good majority of my classmates are taking “Designing and Implementing Programs for Children and Young Adults,” or “Resources and Services for Early Learners,” I decided to delve into the more technical world of library science. There are a few brave people who are following the same path, but when I talk to the vast majority of my classmates they appear to be interested in public libraries or just general “academic libraries.” Few are interested in health science libraries, and even fewer want to work in a medical/clinical environment.

So, to get to the point, why not medical librarianship? Because for most, it’s not seen as “fun.” Unless you already have an interest in the health sciences, it’s not an easy transition from children’s programming to literature searches.

I should know, I did it.

Thankfully, my background in the health sciences and my passion for medicine gave me a leg-up. However, for many would-be-librarians, the prospect of searching for the effects of ivermectin on geohelminth frequency, or using PubChem to resource bioactivity data for 2-tert0butylhydroquinone is not only daunting, but down right uninteresting.

What can we do to change the way future librarians look at medical librarianship? Marketing! Many of the library students I talked to didn’t actually know what my job entailed. When I started to explain to them that I was able to utilize emerging technologies in instructional sessions, interface with clinicians through electronic media, research elusive zebra diseases, and even create some dynamic displays that promote subsets of medical literature they became increasingly interested in medical librarianship as a potential field.

“But Aroundthestacks, why do you want more competition for those already coveted positions?!”, you may ask.

Because I want to see information professionals working with health professionals to provide the best possible care! I don’t want medical librarianship to be a last resort for unemployed MLS grads. Instead I want courses taught within MLS/MLIS programs that prepare students for work in healthcare. Without the proper preparation, new grads will be faced with unfamiliar medical terminology, over complicated scientific databases, and a dim view of the role librarians have in healthcare as a whole.

I want LIS students to be excited about medical librarianship! I want them to see how valuable they can be to medical professionals, researchers, and medical students. I want a new generation of physicians who are comfortable searching the literature and utilizing evidence-based medicine in their practices. Librarians can complement physicians, especially when helping them to navigate the murky waters of medical literature and they have to be able to see that this partnership can work, but that has to start in graduate school…

 

Supplementing Your Library School Education

If you aren’t overwhelmed by your library school classes, you may consider supplementing your education via a variety of alternate channels.

1. MOOCs

What is a MOOC? If you’re a gamer, you may be thinking of certain MMORPG’s right now, and you wouldn’t be completely wrong in doing so. A MOOC, or massive open online course, is an “online course aimed at large-scale participation and open access via the web…[usually through the use of] interactive user forums that help build a community for students, professors.” Finding out about different MOOCs for MLS/MLIS students can be difficult if you don’t know where to look, but fortunately there are a few MOOC providers that make it easier. The first of which is Coursera, an education company that partners with universities and other educational organizations to bring free courses to the masses. Another MOOC provider is edX. Though edX has some really interesting courses, many are not aligned with what you will be learning in library school. If you are planning on working in a specialized library, however, taking some of the courses available through edX could help prepare you for types of instructional literacy you may be required to understand. One of the very last MOOC providers is Udacity, whose catalog is currently very limited. Most of what they have to offer is more aligned with the hard sciences, but it can provide a welcome break from reading about information retrieval systems.

Another excellent way to find out about MOOCs is through your university. There are lots of top universities offering free, open access courses. Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, Duke, Harvard, UCLA and Yale all over some form of MOOC content. There is even a University based in the UK called The Open University, that offers all of its courses through distance education.

File:MOOC poster mathplourde.jpg

2. Free-to-View Webinars

Librarians love webinars and library school students are no different. If there is a way to make a presentation a webinar, librarians will find it. One of the best sites for finding free webinars is Webjunction. Webjunction maintains a list of current webinars and has links to archived sessions as well. Another site that you can find information technology webinars on is Cisco’s Webex. Webex contains webinars that you can even view on your iPad, so if you’re not at a University or don’t have access to a computer capable of running a web session, you can go mobile!

Checking with your local university or library is a great place to start too. Many academic librarians offer webinars for new students, or as a resource to students unfamiliar with library resources.

You should even consider creating your own webinars via screencasting if you have learned something of interest in class. This will help you solidify the ideas and concepts you learned, as well as disseminate that information to others. The video below will show you some screencasting basics!


3. Podcasts

Podcasting has been around for awhile, but it’s still an excellent way to disseminate information. If you have a long commute or need something to listen to at the gym, a library science or information technology podcast may be right up your alley.

A list of podcasts you may find interesting:

4. Self-paced Learning Modules (eLearning)

If the speed of MOOCs are a little too intense, you should consider an online self-paced learning module. These learning modules offer interesting courses, which you can take at your own pace. This means that you can finish the course in a weeks’ time, or over several months as you have free time. One of the benefits of these self-paced courses is that you are not at the mercy of others!

The Library of Congress (because it is amazing) offers a few online modules and so does the National Library of Medicine. Another option that you can always look into are the resources available to you through your university. Some colleges and universities have created simple modules to assist students in finding resources, but they can also be helpful to library science students!

A great list of free library-related eLearning sites can be found at Library 2.0.

5. Professional Development Programs

If you are already working at a library, your professional development team should have a list of opportunities for you to check out. Local libraries can also be part of exchange programs, which would allow you access to libraries you may not know much about!

Check out a short list compiled from neflins23things professional development list:

  1. Start your own blog
  2. Learn about new technologies (Web 2.0)
  3. Start a library science RSS feed to keep current
  4. Explore social media sites and familiarize yourself with new media
  5. Experiment with photosharing and editing
  6. Understand how to utilize current web tools and communication tools
  7. Browse collaboration tools and consider starting your own Wiki
  8. Build your own search tool using Google Co-op
  9. View videos related to library issues, create your own
  10. Subscribe to a podcast, or two…or three!

Check out more of the list from Neflin23things

Your library doesn’t have a professional development team you say? Consider starting one! What better way to learn than through your own actions!

6. Subscribe to listserv’s and RSS feeds

If you’re short on time, consider subscribing to a library science listserv or curated RSS feed list. Creating a list of RSS feeds in The Old Reader is easy (similar to Google Reader), or even check out Feedly if you prefer a different view of your RSS feeds. Most of these RSS readers are available on a mobile device, so even if you’re on the go you can still be connected.

Email may be more your thing and if that’s the case, subscribing to listservs allows the information to be delivered “right to your front inbox.” The Library of Congress (did I tell you how awesome it was yet?) has a wonderful list of library related listservs for you to peruse, as well as some other LIS resources to get you started.

7. Leisure Reading

Last, but not least, read about what interests you! Check out the 50+ Articles Every Librarian Should Read and curate your own list of articles you think would benefit other MLS students.

LibSchool Texts

The shelf of a library school student