Q: Do you have any suggestions for finding a job in a small market, finding an online job, or alternatives to library careers?

Q: Do you have any suggestions for finding a job in a small market, finding an online job, or alternatives to library careers?

Q: I am about to be a first-time mom. I have been looking for online library jobs, but have not had much luck. I’m not really sure where to look. I have a few years of experience under my belt (in public and academic libraries). I really love library user instruction, but I have experience with reference, instruction, cataloging, research, collection development, and much more. I might be moving to a smaller city where there are no librarian positions currently open. Do you have any suggestions for finding a job in a small market, finding an online job, or alternatives to library careers?


TA: Sounds like you have an excellent breadth of experience which will make you a really marketable candidate for in person or online jobs.  It also sounds like you’re thinking broadly about types of jobs, so that further enhances your ability to find work because you’re not limiting yourself to a narrow definition.  Check out the previous articles on finding online jobs to explore those options.  And a smaller city has benefits, with a closer community and an easier connection to other professionals.  You might want to consider volunteering at the public library or with town government to get to know others in town and as a way to make your skills known to others.

Q: Do I need to relocate to get a job?

Q: Do I need to relocate to get a job?

Q: Do I need to relocate to get a job?

We’ve been following a recent discussion on the NEWLIB-L list about the necessity to relocate for jobs. Relocation can certainly enhance your chances of getting a job, because it allows you to apply for more positions. We wrote a similar post a while back on the benefits of geographic mobility when job searching. However, relocation is not possible for some and not desirable for others who want to stay where they are. We have been on both sides of this “debate” and want to share some advice on this topic.

TA: Having moved around a lot when I was growing up, I would have never predicted that my perspective in this debate would be from the side of “staying where you are.” Of course, maybe some would argue that’s precisely why, but psychoanalyzing my childhood is a whole other discussion.  Anyway, here I am, sharing my thoughts with you about finding a job without relocating.

As we’ve said a number of times in our column posts, experience is a key factor to your “employability”. The more experience you have that relates to the job you’re applying for, the better position you’ll be in during the initial review of applications. There are a few approaches to gaining this experience, but the first four that come to mind are:

Get a library job while you’re in school—be sure to supplement your academic education with some real world, practical library experience. You’ll be surprised at how different these two can actually be!

  1. Take advantage of internships, practicums, field experienceswhatever your school calls them, be sure to make use of the programs where you are assigned to work on a real-life project, while earning classroom credit. Even though it’s not paid work, it still counts as experience and it is something you can draw on and discuss in your cover letter, resume and interview.
  2. If you are fortunate enough to work in a library position while also attending school, be sure to take advantage of professional relationships to build a professional network; remember that your experience on teams, committees, and other library work groups are all opportunities for you to demonstrate leadership, and effective interpersonal, communication, and project management skills, etc.
  3. Don’t undervalue any experience you may have had prior to library school just because you weren’t working in a library, doesn’t make the skills you’ve gained any less relevant. Managing (people, resources, budgets, etc.) in one setting can oftentimes easily translate to managing in a library context.

Personally, I tried to take advantage of all of the above, as well as the personal connections I built before, during and after the MLS. Undergraduate student library experience led to a support staff job in a corporate library after getting my BS. I then took a job back on campus that had tuition support as a benefit so that I could work full time and take classes toward the MLS (half of which were paid for by my employer). After graduating with the MLS, I applied for and was hired in a permanent librarian position, in large part because of all of the library experience I had as well as the professional network I had established through my employment and education. I had the good fortune to serve on library-wide committees, work with others throughout several library departments, and the opportunity to establish a strong and positive professional reputation.

If you’re planning on staying in a geographic area, be sure to remember that as you chart your course, every step builds on the next. The library profession is small, and we have good memories. A favorable impression from the beginning will only serve you well as you progress in your career.

SM: I did not move at all as a child and maybe that’s why I crave it as an adult. I relocated shortly after getting my MLS, which was always my intention. I had the advantage of being mobile, and better yet, I was working as a librarian in a temporary professional status which allowed me more time in my job search. I was able to get this position because I worked my way through library school –mainly in reference assistant positions, and even prolonged library school to work full time in order to advance within my (academic) library system.

I am a wanderer at heart. I moved to a different state the day after I got my BA. A few years later I moved across the country to pursue my MLS and to experience a completely different lifestyle in the South. However, it had always been a dream of mine to live in New York City and so, once I had my MLS, I knew exactly where I wanted to go.

Here is my advice to those who are eager to relocate, and to those who are perhaps slightly less eager, but willing and able to relocate:

Before you begin:

Be choosy! Just because you are mobile doesn’t mean you should take any job anywhere. Do your research on places before you go there. Make sure you can live in an area before you agree to move there. If you are not happy living in a particular city or region, then you probably won’t be happy in your job for too long. If you are mobile, you can focus your search on any city you want. It might be tempting to send out resumes to every open job, in every state (or province), and see who wants you. I would recommend focusing your efforts on one or two locations. Interviewers will want to know why you want to move and you need to have a better answer than I’ll go where the job is. Show that you are committed to moving to that area, and talk about why. I know you are thinking “Now, now, I need a job now!” but try to envision the future, and picture yourself living there in 5 or 10 years.

While looking for jobs:

Use your current connections. As Tiffany mentioned above, it is important to be involved in the profession as much as you can while in library school. Once you know that you want to relocate, ask around to see if your employer, professor, colleague, or friend, knows anyone or knows of any libraries and/or library organizations in your target region. Ask advice from others who have relocated.

When you get the interview:

Find out about travel expenses for interviewing before agreeing to interview. If a place is not willing to reimburse you for coming in for an interview, how much do they really want you? Think hard before you spend your own money. I have turned down interviews because they did not reimburse for travel expenses.

When they offer you the job:

Find out about relocation money. Will they provide you with any money that will cover part or all of your relocation expenses (moving companies, rental vehicles, storage, etc.). Many places do not offer money or assistance for relocating, but it can’t hurt to ask. I know of places that were not in the habit of providing money for this purpose, but did so anyway after a candidate asked for it. Just as you might negotiate your starting salary, you can (at least attempt to) negotiate moving expenses. If they really want you, they will at least try to get you something. Relocation is a difficult and expensive process.

Finally, don’t rush into moving and don’t uproot yourself (and potentially your family) until you have done your homework on the area, have visited at least once, and have given a lot of thought to what the future might hold in a new setting.

So, after eight years, I am still in the New York City area, although no longer living in the city. I didn’t think that I would stay this long, but life happens whether you’re standing still or moving. Two kids and two jobs later, I am still thinking, or dreaming, of my next move.

If you’re looking for information on cities across America, check out these sites:

Q: I’m qualified. Why can’t I get a job?

Q: I’m qualified. Why can’t I get a job?

Q: I am progressive, a risk taker, and a change agent. I embrace technology and believe that libraries of all types have to provide access to it for the “have nots” of our society. As librarians, we have to dedicate ourselves to lifelong literacy. I have mentored four individuals who have become successful librarians – more so than me, actually.

I have made career decisions based on the needs of my family. As a result, I look horrible on paper. I am currently employed in a Michigan school district. The last two districts that employed me eliminated my library media position because of budget cuts. My current employer is also facing a deficit for 2006/2007, so I am only 50% certain that I have a job again in September.

I am willing and able to relocate to anywhere in the Southwest or Pacific Northwest. I have applied for countless numbers of positions but get no responses and no interviews. What am I doing wrong? I know other qualified, competent, and experienced colleagues who are also applying for positions and they are not getting interviews either. We are beginning to think that this whole shortage thing is joke.

TA: It sounds like there’s a lot going on here. Personal factors (family-based job decisions, potential layoff) as well as professional topics (impending shortage of librarians – fact or fiction?) make this a pretty complicated question. Since there is considerable debate about the librarian shortage – I’ve included several articles representing both sides of the topic below – let’s focus on your personal search.

It definitely sounds like you have covered all the buzzwords most employers are looking for in their perfect candidate: progressive, change agent, risk taker, embracing technology, dedicated to lifelong literacy. It’s easy enough to espouse these virtues, but you’re going to have to back this up in your application materials. If you say in your cover letter that you have a dedication to lifelong learning, be sure to also mention a specific example – for instance, a course you’ve taken recently on web page design, and a practical application in the workplace.

Additionally, a few of the comments in your question may be interpreted as a bit negative. Try to stay positive, not only in attitude, but in tone. In her article “Cover Letter Etiquette,” Kim Isaacs calls a cover letter “your resume’s cheerleading section.” She goes on further to say: “While a resume is generally a formal document, cover letters give you a chance to reveal your personality. Not only do you want to show that you’re a good fit for the position, but you also want the reader to like you. Appropriate use of humor, combined with a friendly and professional tone, can help endear you to the hiring manager.” For the full article, see: http://resume.monster.com/articles/letteretiquette/. (You should also take a look at her article “Resume Dilemma: Employment Gaps and Job-Hopping” at http://resume.monster.com/articles/weaknesses/.)

You mentioned having applied for “countless numbers of positions.” I would recommend being more targeted and selective when applying for jobs. You don’t win the game by sending out the most applications, and employers certainly don’t like to hear that they’re just one in a hundred. People want to know you want their job – not just a job, their job. Be mindful of the job you want, and of the requirements of the job for which you are applying.

If you are applying for jobs that you aren’t really interested in, or if you don’t really meet the minimum requirements, you’re wasting a lot of time and energy. By being selective, you can put your effort, time, and energy into a position that is truly a good fit. You will feel better, perhaps even excited, about applying, and that energy and enthusiasm will come through in your letter and resume. You will also not be wasting time and effort on jobs that don’t spark your interest or that you don’t really qualify for.

Lastly, you said you were interested and able to relocate to the Southwest or Pacific Northwest. I would encourage you, if you haven’t already, to take a look at the Pacific Northwest Library Association (PNLA)’s web site, at http://www.pnla.org. Find job announcements, info on their annual conference, and an e-mail list with a policy of encouraging regional libraries to advertise job openings. You can also check out specific state chapters in the Southwest via ALA’s State and Regional Chapters page.

Other suggested articles:

“Reaching 65: Lots of Librarians Will Be There Soon,” American Libraries, March 2002: 55-6

“Start a Corps, Not a Corpse,” Library Journal, May 1 2006: 131

The Entry Level Gap

The Age Demographics of Academic Librarians

Q: I keep getting rejection letters. What am I doing wrong?

Q: I keep getting rejection letters. What am I doing wrong?

Q: I am currently working part-time as an archivist in the Chicagoland area and would desperately like to land a full-time job as an archivist. I am willing to move to a different state if necessary and I am willing to take public, academic, or special library jobs to bide my time too. The problem is that no matter how many times I apply for positions, I either make it to the interview stage and get rejected, or get no interview at all and simply a “thank you but we’ve hired someone else” letter. What can I do? This has been going on for 3 years and it is so horribly frustrating. Please help! – Desperate in Chicago

Dear Desperate in Chicago: We know this has to be a terribly frustrating time for you. Finding a job is sometimes a long and difficult process. We hope the information provided below will be helpful to you in your search. Above all, stay confident and hopeful that the perfect job for you is just around the corner.

Susanne and Tiffany

TA: Looking For a Job: Where to Look and What to Look For

When beginning any job search, you want to make sure you are looking for the right job and in the right places. Your ability to relocate is definitely an advantage; you won’t have to limit your searches geographically. Don’t limit your search by format, either: monitor lists, check web sites, and look at print publications. You may also want to consider looking at job boards at local LIS schools. In academic library circles, it is common to use the Chronicle of Higher Education (vacancy announcements are available both online and in print), the Association of Research Libraries site, specific institutions’ sites, and association lists. (Some specific sub-groups include the Hispanic Librarians Association, African American Library and Information Science, Asian Pacific and Chinese Librarians Association, and Black-IP (Black Information Professionals’ Network).)

For archivist positions, you will specifically want to look at the Society of American Archivists site, specifically the SAA Online Employment Bulletin. For general searches for librarian and information professional positions, also check out Lisjobs.com. Good research, careful selection and solid preparation are the keys to a successful job hunt.

While reading vacancy announcements, there are a number of things to consider. First, are you interested in the job? Read the duties very carefully and see if they fit your interests and experience. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, are you qualified for the position? Look closely at its requirements and assess how they match your education and experience. Your goal is to find a position that closely matches your background; the closer the match, the more likely you are to be a good fit. If the qualifications are broken into “required” and “preferred,” in most cases, you must meet the required, and it is helpful if you have some of the preferred. Be sure to be very clear in your cover letter and resume when discussing how you meet the qualifications of the position. Speaking of the cover letter and resume…

SM: The Cover Letter

The cover letter is an introduction, the first impression you make on a potential employer, and the document that could get your resume in the door. If your cover letter is terrible – or terribly generic – your resume – no matter how fantastic – may not stand on its own. The cover letter is the bridge between your resume and the position. Keep the tone friendly but professional. Do not repeat what is listed in your resume; rather, relate your experience and your skills to the requirements of the position. The cover letter is where you can discuss transferable skills, emphasize your qualifications, and make it clear that you are interested in the specific position. Look closely at the job description and use its terminology as you address how your qualifications match up. Do not forget to state where you saw the ad, and do not forget to spell- check the document. Read it out loud, and have at least one other person proofread it for you. The cover letter is an example of your communication skills, so allow your voice to come through and make it shine.


A resume needs to reflect your work experience, your education, and your skills. It is a work in progress, keep it handy and update it regularly as you gain more experience and learn new skills. Make sure that all of the job requirements, and ideally some of the preferred qualifications, are not only reflected, but accentuated. If transferable skills or experience come from non-library jobs, be sure to list those jobs in your resume as well.

Content is definitely king, but formatting, organization, and wording are also extremely important when it comes to building your resume. Look at examples in books and on the web to get formatting ideas. Before sending it out, have your resume reviewed by colleagues or a friend. If you are a student, use your career services office. Or, have a library professional review your resume using the NMRT (New Members Round Table) Resume Review Service.


Your references are a very important part of your application, so choose them carefully. They should be able to talk positively about your accomplishments and provide details about your current, or recent, job activities and duties. It is your responsibility to keep these people updated on your professional or academic life, your current activities and your job search. Make sure that you ask permission to list them as a reference. When you apply for a position, let them know about it, provide them with your updated resume and a description of the position, and notify them if you expect that they will be contacted by the search committee. Having professional contacts who can speak well about you and your work activities is a considerable asset, no matter where you are in your career.

The Telephone Interview

If you are looking to relocate to a different city or state, then the first interview you have will probably be done over the phone. Even though telephone interviews are not as long or intense as in- person interviews, they can still be extremely intimidating.

Prepare for the phone interview as you would for an in-person interview. Have a copy of your resume, your cover letter, and the job description in front of you (it helps to be in a quiet room with the door closed). Do your research ahead of time to gather information about the institution. Have your questions written down, and make sure that you arm yourself with pen and paper to write down additional information or questions while talking. Do not be afraid to ask an interviewer to repeat a question, or ask for a minute to think about your answer. With no visual cues, phone interviews are awkward for everyone, including the interviewers, so try to be as natural and personable as possible and show your enthusiasm for the position.

The On-Site Interview

Prepare, prepare, prepare! Even if you are not asked to do a presentation or instruction session, be prepared to talk about aspects of the position, librarianship, and the future of libraries. Show the search committee that you care about the profession enough to keep up-to-date on new technologies, concepts, and issues. If you need to do a formal presentation or instruction session, get some help from current colleagues, friends, or a professor, and make sure that you practice – a lot! As with the phone interview, do your research, visit the library’s web site, and find out as much information as you can about the library, its employees and the larger institution. Have a list of questions to ask your interviewers. Be professional at all times, even during dinner, and even if you are exhausted. Remember the little things that make a big difference: shake hands, smile, be charming, treat everyone equally, dress and act professionally, answer each question as it if were the first time being asked, interview your interviewers, and send thank-you letters. For tips on interviewing, see the interviewing advice section on Lisjobs.com and the job hunting section of LIScareer.com.

TA: Following up

Now that you have mailed out dozens of cover letters and resumes, and survived a few telephone and/or on-site interviews, what’s next? If you get a job offer, great! All is right with the world. If, however, you get the letter or telephone call from HR to inform you that they have offered the position to someone else, what do you do? First, always remain gracious. Thank them for the opportunity to meet with them and to visit their library. You want to always leave on a good note; maybe you weren’t the perfect candidate for this job, but there may be another in the near future, and you want them to remember you (in a good way). And while this may not be the easiest thing to do at a somewhat emotional time, you have the right to ask the HR person how the other candidate was a better fit for the position and if there are things you could do to improve your standing for the next interview.

Outside of the context of a formal interview, there are also things you may want to pursue to improve your marketability. Continue to build on current strengths and develop areas that need improvement by taking advantage of continuing education and professional development opportunities. As we have discussed in previous columns, you might want to conduct an informational interview or two. Meet with people in a job that you are interested in and ask them how they got there. Attend professional meetings and conferences to meet people and network with colleagues. Talk to a mentor or supervisor about your job searching experiences; maybe they can provide some support, insight and guidance.

SM: The application and interview process can be a long and arduous journey for many people. Take time in the beginning to narrow your search and focus on specific jobs, areas, and types of libraries and institutions. Be picky, but be comprehensive in your job hunt. The pieces listed above are important parts of a whole package, and with preparation and confidence, along with the right skills, experience, and timing, they will eventually lead you to a job. Keep in mind that the search itself is a learning process that will allow you to refine your interview skills, your cover letter voice, and your resume. It is also a great way to see what types of jobs are out there as you meet and interact with library professionals. In the end, be patient and optimistic, even if it takes an appallingly long time to get the job you want.