From Our Guest Bloggers
Thanks to the Port Washington (NY) Public Library for this photo of their book cart drill team in action! Gotta love that library spirit.
Librarians are some of the most passionate people I know. Most of us work multiple nights and weekends, answer any question put to us, and, when asked, dance with bookcarts. Indeed, one trustee in our area recently compared what we do to a religion, and there is some element of a calling to librarianship.
This passion can come at a price, though. The price of getting run down, burned out, or whatever other favorite term you have for just being bone tired and waking up wondering when you’ll be able to get back in bed and pull the covers over your head. I know that I have experienced this, especially in the past three months.
On the morning of July 31, I submitted my final project for my masters in public administration. It was the culmination of two years worth of Saturdays that were spent in class in Manhattan, plus evenings working on assignments, juggled with my work and home responsiblities. On that sunny July day, I finally felt free. For a few hours. I got home from work that night to find my wife lying on the floor in pain. She had fallen down the basement stairs and broken every bone in her ankle. As a bonus, she tore a ligament. She’s been home since and has not been able to walk. Did I mention we have three dogs and a kid who was about to start college?
Yes, it’s been rough. Autumn is an especially busy season for me, with multiple evening meetings. I love what I do, but sometimes the many demands have been hard to balance. I know that my other library friends experience this, too – trying to get all of your personal issues taken care of when you work two nights; trying to keep a smile on your face and provide excellent service when you’ve just been told to expect layoffs; trying to offer great programming without a budget.
So, in consultation with my outreach specialist, Andrea Snyder, and with a tip of the hat to the wonderful people who participate in #libchat on Twitter (Wednesday nights from 8-9:30 EST!), here are a few ways to find your balance and get your library groove back.
1) Take a walk to clear your head. This was mentioned multiple times during last Wednesday’s #libchat. A walk around the building works, but a brief walk outside is even better if you can swing it.
2) Try a deep breathing exercise. While it is hardly scientific evidence, I can attest that if you begin a regular practice of deep breathing for a few minutes every morning and evening, you will be able to go back to that happy place in times of stress.
3) Put the walk and breathing together.
4) Listen to music (if permitted). Whether you like Pandora, Spotify, Songza, or another service, working to a beat you enjoy helps improve your mood.
5) Take a break and learn a bit about the natural world at the same time by watching an animal cam. They’re all here, from honey bees to seals.
6) Librarians love projects! So participate in Project TP. Also, hurling virtual toilet paper is a great stress reliever.
7) Write a magnetic poem.
8) Coffee (Or tea. Or water.). As with the walk, sometimes this is more about getting out of your current environment than it is about the beverage.
10) When all else fails, wine. (Well, when you get home.)
I would love to hear more about your coping mechanisms – the things that help you find your balance.
From Our Guest Bloggers Creativity
My creativity toybox
One of my favorite workshops to present is on Creativity.
Admittedly, the first time I offered this, I was asked if I would be teaching crafts. Umm, not exactly. Crafts are great, but this is focused on creative thought.
I’ve also been met by some skepticism from people who believe that a workshop must be directly related to a library service to be useful; they do not see the connection between playing creativity games and front-line work in a public library. I would argue that the best library staff members, who provide the best service, are the most creative! It takes some out of the box thinking to help someone with a prickly reference question, find a novel for that person who seems to have read everything, or work with a patron who arrives wearing a tinfoil hat.
I came up with the concept for the workshop after I read Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. Pink describes six essential abilities – his Six Senses – for success in the future:
Design: The ability to create something that is not just useful, but beautiful.
Story: The ability to create a compelling narrative.
Symphony: The ability to see the big picture and put everything together.
Empathy: The ability to understand others and nuture relationships.
Play: Because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
Meaning: Dedication to a higher purpose, beyond the daily grind.
Pink offers fabulous exercises at the end of each chapter, and I highly recommend that you read his book. I am always recommending this book! But I also thought there would be value in bringing people together to explore their own creative process and learn from others (also, some people just aren’t going to read the book – but maybe I can change their minds about that). In the workshop, I set up six stations – one for each of the Six Senses – with activities available at each station that relate to the sense.
Some (but not all) of the toys and activities include:
Thinkpac: A Brainstorming Card Deck. I put this out with a copy of Michalko’s Thinkertoys.
IDEO Method Cards. A deck to inspire design.
Rory’s Story Cubes. Can you create a story that links all 9 images?
Creative Whack Pack. A deck of strategies to help you think more creatively. I put this out with a copy of Roger von Oech’s A Whack on the Side of the Head and the Ball of Whacks.
Yamodo! Create drawings and definitions for made-up words.
Disruptus. This is a recent addition to my toybox. The idea behind the game is to disrupt your usual thought patterns and arrive at new solutions.
Do you have any games or exercises that you have seen unleash your staff’s creativity? Share them in the comments!
From Our Guest Bloggers
Here I am eating lobster at a conference! Thanks to Susie Brown for this photo.
Hi! I’m Elizabeth Olesh and I’ll be your Guest Blogger this month. I’m the Assistant Director at Nassau Library System, on Long Island.
I have many, many interests. Some say too many. In addition to my MLS, I have degrees in English, Photography, and an MPA (that’s a Master of Public Administration, if you’re wondering). I’ve worked as an adult programmer, young adult librarian, reference librarian, and outreach specialist. I recently served as chair of the ALA Notable Books Council, but I’ve also been president of the New York Library Association’s Ethnic Services Roundtable.
In other words, I’m not the librarian who is going to spend an entire month guest blogging about the best way to catalog 19th century dinner napkins. I’m just not that specialized. I could probably spend the month blogging about books, but I already do that elsewhere.
After a lot of thought and a few discussions with my muse, I have decided to focus the month on you, Dear Reader. Yes, it’s going to be Professional Development month at The Desk Set. Don’t worry – I’m not planning to read to you from PowerPoint slides and we won’t have any embarrassing role plays (well, probably not). I’m really passionate about helping people finding the best in themselves, so it is my intent to pass along some resources that might take you – and me – in new directions.
Really – you should!
So, grab your coffee, take a few doughnut holes, and get ready for our adventure. Before we start, take a look at a poster I have in my office. —>
Try to keep this in mind during the month. Because it’s true.
From Our Guest Bloggers technology, user experience, website
As an Emerging Technologies Librarian, I spend a lot of time refining and building out my library’s web presence. Some of that is exploring social media and other online venues, but quite a lot of my work takes place right on our homepage. We librarians come from an information science background, so we spend energy and time on making sure our websites are well-organized, usable, and get patrons to their resources quickly—and that should be a top priority. But I really believe that to be leaders in the information ecosystem, our websites must look and feel like we are.
As the designer Charles Eames said, “The details are not details. They make the product.” A great user experience means allocating time to the small stuff. And knowing which small stuff to attend to means observing UX trends and shifts. Here are a few things I’ve incorporated into my library’s website (and my own projects, too).
Responsive websites arrange their content dynamically based on the viewing device using smart CSS. Instead of having to maintain a separate mobile website, your website detects the user’s screen width and displays the page accordingly. A beautiful example of this is the library catalog page at the University of Technology Sydney. Make your browser window skinny and wide—see how things change subtly?
The seminal article about responsive design was written in 2010 by Ethan Marcotte. Since then, just about every major website has adopted this UX philosophy.
Flat design iconography
If you updated to iOS7 this week, you’ll notice that the heavy-gradient, photorealistic look of iOS is gone, replaced visually by a flat, poppy look. This flat design look is a recent UX trend and looks pretty fly, if you ask me. I coopted some flat design icons offered for free by Pixeden to spice up our services page and give some visual oomph.
Locally, METRO held a recent Iconathon with the Noun Project to develop free-to-use, GLAM-friendly icons. They’re clever, extremely useful, and free to use.
Any other useful resources, web-savvy readers?
Thanks for hosting me as your September Guest Blogger! If you feel like you’ll miss me, I also write an Emerging Tech in Libraries blog, post occasionally on my personal blog, and am constantly on Twitter.
From Our Guest Bloggers fun, makerspace, New York City
Happy Friday, librarians! As we get closer to a lovely autumnal weekend, I thought I’d present a small collection of cool places and spaces around NYC. Having been here for a year, I still feel like a relative newbie. Here are some things I’ve come across and liked.
Note: I work in Manhattan and live in Brooklyn, so these are mostly limited to those boroughs. Please comment with other recommendations!
NYC Resistor Class (Photo by Zack Hoeken)
Hackerspaces & makerspaces
NYC Resistor: offers classes, throws an incredible party, and is open to the public on Thursdays nights (Boerum Hill)
Hack Manhattan: offers classes and workshops; open to the public Tuesday nights (Lower Manhattan)
Alpha One Labs: offers classes and workshops, many kid-friendly; open to the public Tuesday nights (Greenpoint)
There are also many other kinds of creative spaces around, like 3rd Ward in Brooklyn (which offers classes) and NYU’s ITP (academic program that puts on events).
Note: like to make things? Come by Maker Faire this weekend! I’ll be volunteering on Saturday afternoon in the Hardware Hacking Area at the Learn to Solder tent. Say hi!
“Anaglyph” from a stereograph in the NYPL collection. Cumberland House, New York. 1859?-1896.
Organizations doing cool things
NYPL Labs: Obviously. Recent cool things: Stereogranimator. Upcoming cool thing: Old New York.
Rhizome: They do lots of digital preservation work for digital art, especially with the New Museum. Keep an eye out for interesting panels.
CUNY Digital Humanities Initiative: I know a lot of librarians who are exploring DH. CUNY DHI is growing and puts on events and talks (some open to the public, some limited to CUNY). Theorizing the Web was a great conference that DHI put on last spring.
Unnameable Books: My favorite NYC bookstore. It’s in Prospect Heights.
Tender Buttons: If you’re looking for an interesting collection and highly specific metadata/organization schema, this button store on the UES is incredible. (If you’re looking for buttons: equally incredible.)
Nerd York City: A digital place of inspiration—the site aggregates the coolest (nerdiest) goings-on.
Where else should we go, readers?
From Our Guest Bloggers academic libraries, digital literacy, library instruction
Information literacy & digital literacy
For years, we’ve stressed internet information literacy in the academic library. Overall, we do a fairly good job. We academic librarians have taught many cohorts of students what a reliable web resource looks like. We’ve made a multitude of guides to finding articles and journals, and our students can generally describe what a database is. They get what they need and get on with their papers.
But many of our teaching resources don’t yet reflect how drastically and quickly the information field has changed. And I don’t just mean the data deluge or information overload.
Understanding search engines
Most of our information-finding is facilitated by search engines combing through enormous indexes, usually Google or academic options like EBSCOhost. We perform these searches on a daily basis, often not understanding the black box of the search engine. Moreover, we may not recognize that the search engine itself changes on a daily basis—its algorithms are constantly updated to better serve the user and the company. These invisible tweaks are determined by data- and opinion-based judgements, such as ranking eHow content lower or ranking an oft-cited article higher in search results.
A library instruction activity that intrigues me is asking students to talk through how a search engine works. How would they build and maintain a search service? What makes one resource more relevant than another?
In library school, a course assignment I enjoyed was writing a simple tf*idf script to classify documents as relevant or not relevant based on keyword. It was extremely helpful to have a hands-on understanding of simple document indexes. Librarians who program at least minimally, or who teach students who code, I highly recommend this exercise.
We have seen search engine algorithms get smarter, however. They know your personal traits and trends. As we know, by default, when you’re signed into Google, the search results will be “tailored” to you—affected by factors including the links you tend to click on. Even when you’re not signed in, results may still differ based on your location and other data points (including, for some companies, your operating system). This creates a filter bubble, which at best can deliver what you’re looking for immediately and at worst enables an echo chamber in which only one opinion or worldview is apparent.
Eli Pariser’s 2011 TED talk on filter bubbles is short but essential viewing:
Eli Pariser: Beware Online Filter Bubbles
One danger of these rapidly-evolving algorithms is that they change invisibly, frictionlessly. Things “just work,” though we don’t know what is changing or what we’re not seeing. That’s a serious amount of trust we place in an information-finding service we use daily and even hourly. During this summer of surveillance leaks, “serious amount of trust” in a tech company has to be a red flag.
As Pariser demonstrated, it is interesting to compare two sets of search results from two different individuals signed into Google. Ask students with active Google accounts to sign in and compare the same search term to someone else’s results. Specific current topics like “NYC mayor” or products like “smartphone” will probably net some differences, particularly in a diverse group. Mention to students that when signed into Google, they can compare their personalized search results to “global” results, which are ostensibly neutralized of any personalized filters.
Filter bubbles in academia
If you’re not worried about filter bubbles yet, watch this short promotional video about Primo ScholarRank from Ex Libris. (Primo is a popular discovery solution for libraries that utilizes a one-search-box entry point and faceted searching. ScholarRank is their personalization feature.)
Primo ScholarRank plain and simple (link)
To a large extent, any discovery service for any index is made in the image of its creators and will reflect certain biases, intentional or not. But I have to confess that I felt a special library-flavored horror watching this condescending presentation. The use of stick figures and dumbed-down dialogue hints that Ex Libris is trying hard to mask the worrisome yet vague nature of ScholarRank. If I have trouble understanding what my academic search engine is serving up to me, how will I explain it to my non-technologist colleagues? And then to our students?
Revising information literacy materials
ACRL’s Information Literacy Standard No. 3.2 reads, “The information literate student articulates and applies initial criteria for evaluating both the information and its sources.” As we revisit our information literacy materials in my library, I hope we’ll be talking about how to teach students to evaluate their information sources—and the sources of those sources. Part of me thinks that may be too high-level for students who just want to find an article, any article, for their assigned bibliography. But it’s essential that we teach students—and ourselves—to evaluate not just web pages or journal articles, but every level of the information ecosystem.
Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, recently penned an excellent column in Library Journal, Practicing Freedom in the Digital Library. A choice quote:
In these days of mass surveillance and the massive transfer of public goods into private hands, citizens need to know much more about how information works. They need to understand the moral, economic, and political context of knowledge. They need to know how to create their own, so that they make the world a better, more just place. I’ve long believed that libraries are important for personal growth and enlightenment, but since the National Security Agency revelations, I’ve begun to think we need to do more to help students explore the ways that information functions in our complicated, troubled world, so that they will be aware of what’s at stake and empowered to change it for the better.
This blog post was inspired by a spring 2013 presentation at CUNY by Kate Peterson (Information Literacy Librarian at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities) and Paul Zenke (DesignLab/Digital Humanities Initiative Project Assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Madison) entitled “Hats, Farms, and Bubbles: How Emerging Marketing & Content Production Models are Making Research More Difficult (And What You and Your Students Can Do About It)” (slides PDF—mostly keywords and examples). Maura Smale, the Information Literacy Librarian at NYC College of Technology, wrote a great write-up of the event.
Cited in post:
From Our Guest Bloggers academic libraries, CUNY, Librarians
Hello! I’m Robin Camille Davis, your guest blogger for September and the Emerging Technologies & Distance Services Librarian at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (CUNY), a position I’ve been in for just over a year.
I really love my job. It can be difficult sometimes to describe what an Emerging Technologies Librarian (ETL) does, partly because the vague job title can cover myriad duties. A recent study presented at IFLA breaks down ETLs by the numbers and is worth a read. I’ve written a bit recently about my thoughts on my job title, but it’s also useful to glimpse what one ETL actually does in her day-to-day. So I present my Tuesday.
Morning: Planning Projects
Murder Mystery Challenge
After scurrying through the library trying to hide my coffee cup from students (No food or drinks in the Library!), I met with our Information Systems Librarian and Systems Manager to plan out our projects this year. Here’s a selection:
- Launch digital collections site (built on Collective Access)
- Train web-devvy librarians/staff to use newly-migrated Github repository
- Build online instructional library for online-only students
- Research and implement reference chat web app
- Design and moderate usability study for new Ebsco Discovery Service
Later in the morning, I got a phone call from another faculty member who attended a Personal Information Management workshop I led last semester. He’d followed up on my recommendation to use Evernote and asked me for some advice on how to use it as an instructor. I’m a huge Evernote evangelist, so I was happy to chat.
I also met quickly with our Freshman & Instructional Services Librarian to plan our Murder Mystery Challenge (above), a new event we’re about to try this fall. In it, students will use basic library skills to track down an escaped murderer. Grisly, perhaps, but topical for a criminal justice college—and based on a real 1922 trial transcript held in our Special Collections!
Afternoon: Reference Service
I staffed the Reference Desk for an hour. It’s the second week of school, so we’ve seen a pretty incredible uptick in reference service. Over the summer, I designed and tested a simple web-based logger to track every reference interaction. When I had a moment to breathe, I compiled the stats from last month into a PDF to send around. (Tip: when asking your colleagues to contribute to a data log like this, make sure they get to see the output!) Here’s a snapshot of summer and start of school:
Reference logger, June through September
Confession: though I went to library school and earned a library science degree, I was actually surprised that I became a librarian. I studied data curation and digital preservation at UIUC, never registering for traditional librarianship courses like reference or instruction. (I did sit through a few sessions of cataloging class in an effort to better understand metadata, but the handouts were uniformly in Comic Sans and Jokerman, so I knew it was not the place for me.)
I was nervous at first to sit at the Reference Desk. But in fact, I really value these few hours a week. I design systems and interfaces for our students—it’s just good ethnographic practice to get as much facetime with them as possible! For example, I was stunned at how many students (and, okay, faculty) approach the ref desk with an Amazon page on their smartphone screen. That’s an information behavior I wouldn’t otherwise know about, but which informs how I design students’ user experience.
When I’ve got a spare second, I upload a photo to the library’s Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram feed. I’ve been trying to figure out how best to use Instagram for outreach, balancing Special Collections content with shots of happy students in the Library. (It’s not very popular yet. I’m clearly our library’s biggest fan. I like everything we post.)
Instagram: NYPD, 1918
One great example of fantastic and clever web outreach comes from the Special Collections at U. Iowa, whose photos & .gifs of foreedge paintings went viral earlier this week. Awesome and inspiring!
Evening: Taking Classes, Planning Workshops
I headed downtown to 34th St-Herald Sq. I’ve just started a Computational Linguistics MA at the CUNY Graduate Center, so I’ll be a part-time student for a couple of years. My interest in CL stems from a text mining course I took while working toward my MLIS. Though the CL cohort is small, there’s actually another trained librarian starting his MA too. What better place to mine text and explore language than in the library?
After class, I shot a handful of quick emails to the other co-chairs of the Emerging Technologies Committee at LACUNY (the Library Association of CUNY). We’re planning an Intro to Python workshop for our fellow librarians. Other workshops I hope we put on this year include:
- CMS Tours: Behind the Scenes of Drupal, Omeka, & Collective Access
- SEO beyond <meta/> tags
- Makerspace Tours
- LaTeX Introduction
- Version Control Workflows (Git, Subversion)
- Tacit Knowledge: Keyboard Shortcuts, Efficient Workarounds, and More
- WorldCat API
Overall, that’s a pretty representative day for this Em Tech Librarian—though you didn’t get a good description of me banging my head against my desk when a piece of code I’m writing doesn’t work.
In next week’s guest blog post, I’ll be looking at teaching digital literacy in the library.
From Our Guest Bloggers
In recent months I have had the pleasure of talking with and advising new LIS graduates from a number of NYC-area library schools. I remember very clearly (it wasn’t all that long ago for me) what it felt like to be a new grad and I do my best to offer them a sympathetic ear, practical advice, and some encouragement. Here are some tips and, hopefully, some of the encouragement too:
Your network is terribly important; serve it well and down the road, it will serve you well. Trust is a big part of a healthy network, and it takes time, and a series of positive interactions, to build it. Your network is where part of your reputation resides: in the opinions other professionals have of you. You’ll also want to get your name out there and become known for what you can do; this is another aspect of your reputation, and offering your services is the best way to do this. Meet others, become active in info-pro organizations, write, present, and offer your advice and effort and expertise.
Experience is important too, of course, but being able to learn quickly is probably even more crucial, as what kind of experience is in demand changes regularly.
Flexibility/adaptability is necessary too for career success, but there are some situations you should walk away from rather than adapt to (if they involve illegal or unethical behavior, for example, or are harmful to you in some way). Sometimes what first brings your attention to a bad situation are physical symptoms of stress; your body may be protesting while your mind is rationalizing what is happening. Walking away from a toxic or unworkable professional situation is usually extremely difficult. It’s not something that people talk about very much, but it does happen.
Get yourself a mentor (or more than one, each with different experience and strengths), to advise you on various aspects of your career. When you are just starting out you’ll find that again and again you are facing things that are new to you, and mentors can be a big help to you in navigating these new situations and decisions. A level-headed, honest advisor who has “been around the block a few times” can be a great asset if you are facing one of those aforementioned difficult professional situations. Down the road, you too can be a mentor to a new information professional.
A career crisis will reveal who your allies really are. (This is true with personal crises too, of course.) Pay close attention and remember how others react when you are dealing with a career challenge or setback. You may be very surprised by who is helpful and supportive and who is not.
In order to have any kind of a satisfying career, you’ll need to summon real courage on a regular basis (for everything from interviewing for a job, to public speaking, running for office in a professional organization, or making a significant change in your career). Avoiding situations that put you outside your comfort zone will lead to boredom and stagnation at best, and unemployment at worst. It is better to make an attempt and stumble or even fail outright, than to refrain from trying new things. “Taking the easy way out”, in the long run, often proves to be extremely difficult.
Soft skills and “emotional intelligence” are very important. No matter how good you are at what you do, if you don’t get along with others or are difficult to work with you’ll be offered fewer opportunities. Those who mistreat others may thrive for a while, but eventually they’ll find they’ve burned every bridge and are without allies. I have seen this happen again and again. The best thing to do is just keep your distance as much as possible. Let them be and their karma will catch up with them.
I highly recommend doing some kind of public service in a public library at some point. Many of the things you’ll encounter or witness regularly there are not covered in library school – bizarre behavior or requests, drug use/selling in the bathrooms and other criminal behavior, violence or the threat of violence and more, on a regular basis. Some of it is just amusing or interesting, some of it is really scary. There are also everyday joys: assisting individual patrons at a reference desk, receiving a heartfelt “Thank you!”, or connecting with a group of patrons during a program, for example. There are even moments of pleasure to be had at the circulation desk, like watching an excited child get his first library card and check out his first books. This is nitty-gritty, get-your-hands-dirty front-line trial-by-fire library service work, especially if we’re talking about an urban public library. It’s not easy but it does, as Nietzsche said, “make [you] stronger”.
Dealing with the unpleasant things will gradually make you into a seasoned professional and give you greater confidence to face future challenges, and the moments of enjoyment and satisfaction will keep you motivated – celebrate all the experiences. Here is a bonus tip for public library reference – scammers will often approach you with a very loud voice or a very soft voice. The loud ones will act as if the two of you are best friends, while those who speak very softly may be almost apologetic and say something like, “I really hope you can help me; I’ve talked to five other people already and none of them could give me any assistance.” Recognize these tactics as manipulative and be on your guard. Some of most challenging patrons you will encounter are not the angry ones who complain and threaten.
Trust yourself and your judgment, your instincts, your “gut”. (Yes, this bears repeating.) Do your homework and consult others if you have a big decision to make, but don’t get so caught up in gathering information that you paralyze yourself and avoid action. While you are at the beginning of your career you may feel overwhelmed at times and unsure of yourself, but it is very likely that you are actually doing better than you feel you are doing and that you’ll look back on the early days of your career with pride.
From Our Guest Bloggers
I was asked recently by a new acquaintance how I came to work in library and information science. I’ve interviewed a bunch of people over the years for Metropolitan Archivist about why and how they came to be doing what they do, and have seen that for many information professionals the road to this field is not a direct one; many pursued other degrees or careers before getting their MLS. That is true for me too. Looking back on it I can see that LIS is a natural fit for me, but at the time, over ten years ago, my path to library work was not at all a clear one. So here’s my story, a bit abridged:
My first job in a library was as a student in an academic library. I was working on a Master’s in psychology and thought that was where my future academic and work career was headed; I wanted a job on campus and the library was hiring. Over time though, I worked in different departments and got to know the workings of the library and the people in it, including many librarians, and started to feel that this might just be the profession for me.
I have always been a natural researcher, seeking information about things that interest me. I’ve always been an efficient researcher, too, wanting to find the right information as quickly as possible. To gather information about librarianship, I figured the best and fastest way would be to interview some of the librarians and library students I worked alongside, to find out why they chose library and information science. I also talked to my boss, who happened to be the Dean of University Libraries, who was very generous with his advice and encouraging without trying to push me in any particular direction.
I decided to switch to library science and continued to work in that same library, part-time for a while longer as a graduate assistant, then full-time as a library clerk and later as a library assistant while I continued in graduate school, getting my MLS and also working towards an archives certificate. I volunteered and got library and archives experience outside of my full-time job while in grad school (which I highly recommend for those in school, BTW). Before graduation I had a full-time job offer as a librarian and archivist and I thought, “Perfect! This is just what I wanted.”
“Not so fast!” said fate, as it will. I thought I’d be a librarian/archivist for the rest of my career, and I thought that’s what I wanted. I was wrong, but I am very happy to have been wrong, and to have had the not-what-I-had-in-mind career I’ve ended up with. Due to circumstances beyond my control (at times) and my own decisions (at other times), I have worked as a special librarian, public librarian, academic librarian, archivist, instructor/adjunct, writer, academic advisor and career advisor (among other things). If I had continued on the path I thought I was on when I first got my degree I would not have done many of the things I’ve done, and would have missed out on many opportunities and experiences. I would not be writing here now.
I’ve watched this profession change and struggle in recent years, mostly due to the state of the economy and rapidly evolving technology. Sometimes these changes leave me apprehensive; I don’t know what the future holds any more than anyone else. At other times I am more hopeful and positive. I know that I must change and adapt myself and indeed, I just started an internship, which I am enjoying immensely, in order to gain new skills. I also know that changing and adapting have always been necessary and are required in every profession and in any economy; stepping out of one’s comfort zone again and again is the only way to avoid stagnation and become stronger, better, and less fearful of change.
It has not always been easy. I’ve been laid off more than once and have had to resign from other positions; there have been disappointments and toxic situations along with the successes and triumphs. There’s been more positive than negative, to be sure, and I’ve learned that whatever is happening at the moment, good, bad, or neutral, is temporary.
I regret none of it, though: not one day, not one decision, not one word or one moment. I have had doubts here and there but they never lasted very long. I am looking forward to the future and seeing what happens next in this story.
From Our Guest Bloggers
The last time I participated in speed mentoring was at NYAC’s conference in June, and each mentoring “session” was four minutes. Not a lot of time, to be sure! But it does force both the mentor and the mentee to be succinct and focused, and there’s something to be said for that. Keeping that in mind, here is a distillation of some of my best quick tips and words of advice for the job search.
- No more than two pages (edit and customize it each time you submit it).
- Editing is much more difficult than including everything, but is necessary – take care to include certain words and phrases to emphasize what you know the reader will be seeking. You must capture the reader’s attention quickly; don’t make it difficult for him/her to find the relevant information.
- Include accomplishments rather than just listing duties to distinguish yourself from the other applicants.
- Font and formatting matter – you want the resume to be easy to read, professional in appearance, and don’t make the font too small (no smaller than 11 pts.). Use the same font and font size for the resume and cover letter.
- Don’t reiterate resume, give additional information and details.
- Be sure you are addressing things the reader is interested to know about, and make it clear how well your skills and experience match what the employer is looking for. Always refer back to the job description.
- Show some of your character and enthusiasm in the cover letter. This is not really possible or appropriate on the resume but can win over the reader and make you stand out from the competition in the cover letter.
- Prepare, prepare, prepare – do your homework on the employer, have responses ready for questions you are likely to be asked, know the job description thoroughly, and be prepared to convey why you believe you re a strong candidate for this position specifically.
- Do at least one mock interview beforehand, ideally with an interviewer who has done real job interviews.
- Smile, and start by thanking the interviewer(s) for taking the time to meet with you.
- Don’t worry about being nervous, this is normal, and the more preparation you do, the less nervous you will be.
- Have your own questions for the interviewer(s) about the position and its responsibilities. Remember you are learning about the job and workplace too, as they are learning about you.
- Trust your judgment and impressions of the interviewer/hiring manager and the workplace – if you have a bad feeling (or a good one) about the job and employer, you are picking up on something and would be wise to attend to that.
- After the interview: send “thank you”s to each person who interviewed you within a day or two. Follow up in a week or so (or follow instructions from interviewer re: when you should be in contact).
- If you are *mostly* qualified for a position (if you have, let’s say, 80% or more of the requested skills/experience), apply. Know that education requirements are usually not flexible, though.
- Once you’ve applied or interviewed (and followed up as appropriate) put the job out of your mind, as it is now out of your hands. Ruminating won’t increase the chances that you’ll be called for an(other) interview or be offered the job, but it may distract you from finding and applying to other positions.
- Apply for many positions, but not anything and everything. Remember that the quality of your applications is going to get you better results than quantity; customize application materials carefully each time. Follow application instructions carefully too.
- Remember too that networking is your best bet for getting a job, and some of your networking should be face-to-face.
- Patience and positivity are needed, but there are going to be times when it will be difficult to be patient and positive.
- Take some time for rest, relaxation, recreation and exercise when job hunting, to avoid burnout. Spend time with people who are supportive and encouraging. Take care of yourself.