How I Got My First Job: Lila Freeman

How I Got My First Job: Lila Freeman

Posted by Ellen Mehling

What was your first professional position after you got your MLS? After graduating from Pratt with my MLS in 2006, I transitioned to working as a librarian officially, and was assigned to a branch location, at Brooklyn Public Library. This was all planned, as in 2004 I had been the very first hiree in the first cohort of the PULSE (Public Urban Library System Education) Trainee program, an IMLS-funded grant partnership between BPL and Pratt Institute’s Library and Information Science dept. I had worked at BPL for 2 years already within that trainee program when I got my master’s degree completed.

How did you get it? I applied, I believe, for a librarian trainee position at BPL, just before they got the PULSE grant. By the time I was hired, BPL/ Pratt had received the grant. I don’t remember, but I probably checked the BPL website for open positions and saw the “trainee” one listed. At that point, I had already begun my LIS studies, but I didn’t know if I would proceed as Queens College was so hard for me to get to, but Pratt was too expensive compared to Queens. I didn’t want to go into debt for a “means to an end” masters degree, as I viewed it. Fortunately, the grant was awarded and the PULSE program commenced at the perfect moment in my life, providing funding for the majority of my tuition at Pratt, while allowing me to earn a salary and learn on the job/ work full-time in an urban public library system.

How long did you work there? I worked for BPL as a trainee for approximately 2.5 years ( I believe, can check this for you), and I’ve worked for BPL a total of 16 years this month.

To what do you attribute your job search success? A few years after graduating from art school – studying fine art – I got sick of patching together part time jobs – artist’s studio assistant, babysitter, life drawing model, etc – to pay the rent. I wanted a secure job with paid vacation, health insurance, other benefits, etc. Having a family which contained several role models who also were librarians was instrumental to my decision to go back to school for this degree, and my awareness that this could be a viable career for me. I needed a job that would work well alongside my art career, and I had a feeling this was it. (I was right!) I also credit the PULSE program, which I was so, so fortunate to participate in. It allowed me to shadow librarians in different roles for months at a time, and showed me how many diverse job opportunities there are within a large urban public library system. Learning on the job, and knowing I would HAVE a job at the end of my post-grad education, felt like an incredible privilege. I still marvel at my good fortune/ the good timing involved!

What advice do you have for librarian/info-pro job hunters? When people tell me they love libraries/ librarians or have fantasies of BEING a librarian, I tell them to pursue it! I say, if you have to have a job/ day job, this is a FANTASTIC one, and it’s never too late! I wish more folx knew about this career path, but I know little about the career outlook at this time. Certainly when I knew people pursuing a library degree, or trying to find a librarian position during so many hiring freezes over the years, I tried to reassure colleagues that the job outlook would improve, and tried to stay positive. I also tell people, because they often don’t know, that there are so many KINDS of librarians, and that there are librarian jobs for a great many diverse types of workers.

Lila Freeman is an artist and librarian living in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Thank you, Lila!

Interview with the Freelancer: Bayleigh Janusik

Interview with the Freelancer: Bayleigh Janusik

Posted by Ellen Mehling

Name: Bayleigh Janusik

Location: Brooklyn, NY

What is your side gig? I paint portraits of people and animals

How long have you been doing this freelance work? I’ve been doing this as a hobby for around 5 years, but recently started promoting it as a side gig as my skills have improved over the last year and a half. 

What are your qualifications for doing this kind of work (credentials, experience, etc.)? I am a self taught painter and I have a background in the arts.

How did you get started? Are there start-up costs for this type of work? I watched a lot of online tutorials and read books on techniques from the library. The start up costs depend on the quality of the supplies. The first few orders for oil paint supplies were certainly an investment. 

Is the gig work done for an employer or are you truly “your own boss”? I work only for myself at this time.

What is your primary reason for doing the side gig work? I love to paint and I wanted to share this with people who have lost someone important to them. Having a painting of a family member who passed away can be very powerful and I’m honored to do this for my clients.

What is the approximate number of hours per week or month that you do the freelance work? It depends on the commission, but I average 10 hours a month of active painting time. 

How do you get clients? How much marketing/advertising/promotion do you do? What are the costs for that? I only have my art instagram: @bayleighart where I post my pieces. I usually get clients from word of mouth when they share the work I’ve done for them.

How do you set your fees? I set my fees based on materials used and time spent on the actual painting.

Is this work steady throughout the year or is it seasonal, or does demand vary? The work picks up around the holidays as portraits make for a unique gift. 

Can the work you do be done virtually/remotely? I can paint anywhere and my apartment has become increasingly taken over by art supplies. 

Do you get paid in advance or do you invoice after the work is done, or do you have some other payment arrangement? The price is set once the size and scope of the piece is determined in the beginning of the commission.

What do you like most about the freelance work you do? There is just something really special about having a painting of someone in your home instead of a picture. Often times, pictures don’t always capture the nature of a person that can come forward in a painting. The same goes with pets. It’s also really fun to paint pets that were a part of a family and deserve to have their spot on the wall, too.

What do you like least about the freelance work you do? I wish I had more time to do it! 

What is the biggest challenge of doing this side gig work? Being self taught, I’ve had to research and grow on my own and it’s been a challenge to expand my hobby into a side gig.

If someone is considering doing the same side gig work that you do, what would be your advice to them? Don’t doubt your talent and ability to learn and grow as an artist. Practice comes from dedication, not motivation. It won’t happen overnight, but honing a craft is worth it. Also, just because you’re a new artist doesn’t mean you should under charge. 

Bayleigh Janusik, MSLIS, is a Library Information Supervisor at Brooklyn Public Library.

Thank you, Bayleigh!

Q: Would it be unethical if I did not disclose future travel plans during an interview?

Q: Would it be unethical if I did not disclose future travel plans during an interview?

Q: I am interviewing for several public library positions, including one which will mean a 2,000-mile move if I get the job. Once I receive a job offer, I’ll be available to start almost immediately. However, I do have non-negotiable travel plans in three months. I am attending a wedding in Africa, and I will be there for seventeen days.  At what point should I disclose those plans? I want to be upfront about it, and discuss it when asked about my available start date, but a number of people have advised me to wait until I have a firm job offer. Is that unethical, and would it cause resentment to spring it on them like that, or am I jeopardizing my potential as a candidate by announcing it during the interview?

SM: Good question, and a bit of a catch-22. You are certainly not the first person, or the last, to have this dilemma. First off, that’s great that you are getting interviews and you sound so positive about your future career in public libraries! Second, I wouldn’t worry about your start date or the potential for your trip to jeopardize anything at this point. You haven’t yet received an offer, so in reality, there’s nothing to worry about. Lastly, if and when you do get that job offer, be honest and up front about your availability, your preferred start date, and your upcoming trip.

Notice, I say, “when” you get the job offer. During the interview process, there is no need to bring up your upcoming international trip or anything that may potentially cause a hiring committee to question your commitment to the job before you even get the job. Your personal life is personal. However, if they do ask you during the interview if you can start right away, then you have to be honest with them and say “yes, but…” and then also say that your travel plans are set in stone and if it is better for them, you could start upon your return. Also, there is usually some time (weeks or months) between getting the job offer and starting the job. Employers know that it may take time to move (especially long distance) or leave another job. Rarely are people available to start immediately, and rarely do employers expect this.

I would also say that if the job description has a firm start date on it, then it is probably going to be something they bring up during the interview, so you should be prepared to answer honestly, if asked. If they don’t ask you about start dates during the interview, I wouldn’t bring it up until you get the job offer. If they want to hire you, they will understand (everyone has family obligations, after all) and make it work. And honestly, if they hold this against you, would you really want to work there anyway? Good luck!