Q: I have been a school librarian for over 15 years. I would love to work in the public sector and do have 10 years PT experience in a public library. How do I craft my resume to: (1) Show that the only difference between school and public libraries are the clientele? (2) Show that what I have done running school libraries are the same skills required for being a reference librarian? And (3) explain why I would accept such a pay cut? Any help or guidance would be greatly appreciated.
TA: Your full-time experience in a school library, as well as your part-time experience in a public library should position you well for making a transition. As we’ve discussed in previous articles, you’ll want to use your application materials (cover letter, resume and references) to address transferable skills (skills that you’ve learned in one context that will serve you well in another). Be sure your cover letter expresses a deep interest in and enthusiasm for the public library position and draws parallels between your experience and the needs of the position. Your resume should also do the same by highlighting experience and accomplishments that relate to your current and previous positions, as well as the position you are applying for. And finally, use your references wisely. Be sure to prepare them in advance for the fact that you are applying outside of school libraries and ask them if there’s anything you can provide that will prepare them to speak about your ability to work in all kinds of contexts.
Also in your application materials, you will want to talk about the core values and responsibilities of libraries (collection building, access, facilities, technology, instruction and research assistance, and connecting with a constituency)—all of these will be relevant regardless of setting (i.e. school versus public). Be careful to avoid basing your comments on assumptions; be sure to base your comments on data gathered via experience in both public and school libraries. For example, it’s really not well received when someone external to the operation makes a “Sure, I could do that” statement without any experience to back it up. So tread carefully with things like “the only difference between school and public libraries are the clientele.” I would bet there are many other differences (maybe funding, collections, access, and responsibilities) so go in with confidence in your experience, but also with an intellectual curiosity to explore those differences.
And about the salary issue, this seems like something you could address (lightly) in the cover letter. I wouldn’t advise making any firm statements about salary requirements in the cover letter, but in this case, since you have a concern about making it past the initial review due to the salary differences, you could use the closing paragraph of your cover letter to touch, reassuringly, on the subject. In the closing paragraph, reiterate your interest in and enthusiasm for the position, and acknowledge the obvious with something like “I’m also aware of the considerable differences in salary for public librarians as compared to school librarians, and remain interested in switching fields, particularly because this position, and the missions of public libraries, are so appealing to me.”