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!