Q: What can I do to better my chances at landing a job in a library? Is there a way I can get more library related experience to put on my resume that would possibly help me in the future? Sincerely, Bummed Bookworm

Q: What can I do to better my chances at landing a job in a library? Is there a way I can get more library related experience to put on my resume that would possibly help me in the future? Sincerely, Bummed Bookworm

Q:  In December of 2008, I completed an MLIS degree from a fairly well-respected state university. The whole time I was in library school (2.5 years) I worked as a circulation clerk in a medium-sized public library which is part of a three county system. When it came close to graduation, I started applying for professional jobs in that system. I got interviews, but no offers. At least once, I was never extended the courtesy of a phone call to tell me I had not been chosen. I ended up getting a good job with a five county library system in a small town an hour south of where I had been living. Reluctantly, I moved there. I am used to living in a vibrant college town which is full of culture and stimulating activity. I was bored and lonely in the small town. The library’s director was a tyrant who treated her employees in a condescending manner. I quit in three months after an unexpected personal tragedy, and moved back to the town where I went to college.  Since, I have been doing some teaching, receptionist work, bartending, and working in a greenhouse. I want to be a public librarian. I wouldn’t mind working in children’s, teen services, circulation, or reference. I am confused as to why the system I worked for during school won’t hire me, and no one else will either. I don’t think it’s my resume, which has been looked over at state conference by a library branch manager and met with approval. Maybe it is my interview skills. Maybe it is the fact that I quit the job in the small town so suddenly and it has affected my reputation negatively. My question is two-fold. What can I do to better my chances at landing a job in a library? Is there a way I can get more library related experience to put on my resume that would possibly help me in the future?  Sincerely, Bummed Bookworm

TA:  Dear Bummed Bookworm, I am sorry you are feeling dissatisfaction with your current situation.  I hope that I will be able to assist you in moving forward with a few thoughts and action items. 

First, you need to lose the negative attitude.  I can certainly understand your frustration at not having a library position, and having to make ends meet by teaching and bartending.  You did have a librarian position, but quit after three months in the position.  You described the library director as “condescending” and “a tyrant” and you added that there was also a personal tragedy that influenced your decision.  I acknowledge it may not have been perfect, but it’s time to get angry and get over it, because your negative feelings about the past seem to be influencing the present.  You need to find a way to describe your previous experience in a concise, honest, positive and professional way.  If you disparage one employer to another, their fear is that you’ll do the same to them when you’ve moved on.  And it’s just not professional. 

You’ve got a lot of things working for you, and that’s what you need to focus on.  First, you have a couple of years of solid public library experience.  Second, you’ve had your resume reviewed by others and feel pretty good about it.  Your interests are also wide (“children’s, teen services, circulation, or reference”), which broadens your opportunities. 

Your “To Do List” from me also has a few items to consider.  First, look at your cover letter and make sure its tone is positive and professional, and that it ties your experience to the needs of the position.  Your cover letter should project enthusiasm and confidence, and should be tailored to each position you apply for.  Second, you should consider going back to your supervisors at your first library system and asking them what you can do to make yourself a more competitive applicant for their positions.  Do you, for example, need to brush up on technology or repair any relationships from your previous employment?  If you ask someone to serve as a reference for you, be sure you ask them if they can be a GOOD reference for you for a SPECIFIC position.  Ask them to discuss with you their assessment of your strengths and weaknesses for the position, and ask if there’s anything they need from you to better prepare for the reference.  Make it easy for them to talk well about you.  Third, work your professional network to see if there are any volunteer positions available.  You will need to work carefully to build this into your already-busy schedule, but a volunteer position will allow you to keep your skills current, build a wider professional network, and rebuild a professional reputation.  Prove yourself to be trustworthy, reliable, professional and invaluable as a worker and a colleague.

Top 5 Tips for Job Hunting in Tough Times

Top 5 Tips for Job Hunting in Tough Times

In case you haven’t heard (or experienced first hand) we’re in a tough economic period and that has people looking for jobs, or rethinking the one they have.  We’ve been getting a lot of emails recently asking for very specific help on finding jobs.  Unfortunately, we can’t answer each and every individual email, but we can offer some general advice and guidance.  We are also hoping that our readers will join the conversation and offer their advice.  Who knows?  Maybe you’ll meet someone, who knows someone, who knows someone with a job…

Top 5 Tips for Job Hunting in Tough Times

1.  The best way to get a job is to have (or have had) a job
Employers want someone with experience.  We are looking for someone who can take what they’ve learned somewhere else and apply it (maybe even build upon it) in our position.  So be sure to take opportunities to develop your professional experience.  While it may not be the best job in the world, or your ultimate dream job ever, any work experience you have will help you build skills, a resume and a professional network.  So be sure to carefully consider any and all offers of employment (including temp, contract, volunteer, intern, entry level, etc.)

2.  Seek and ye shall find (but it also helps to know the best places to look)
Even if you’re currently in a job, don’t forget to keep an eye on the market to see what’s out there.  And if you’re currently without a job, you’ll definitely want to be on the lookout.  Check all the standard places (employer websites, library-related websites such as LISJobs.com, LIBJobs.com, etc…) but also be sure to check with local government agencies, regional consortiums, large local employers and online nationwide job-hunting sites like Monster.com.

3.  Keep your tools sharp and ready to go
Always, always, always have a resume.  Even if (maybe especially if) you’ve been in your current job for a decade, have a current resume and make sure it’s perfect.  We’ve written several articles on resumes, so refer back to those for the how-to’s and must-have’s of resume writing.  Also be sure you’re comfortable writing a cover letter and asking for employment references.

4.  Practice, Practice, Practice
If it’s been a while since you’ve interviewed, you’ll need to practice to make perfect.  Practice with friends, family and colleagues and ask for direct feedback.  Practice telephone interviews, practice giving a presentation, even practice shaking hands and introducing yourself.  The more practiced you are, the more comfortable you’ll be.  The last place you want to “refine” your interviewing skills is actually on the interview!

5.  Use your (social) network
We all know it’s a good idea to use your professional network when exploring or seeking new opportunities.  But I would encourage you to think broadly about that network.  It extends beyond those for whom, with whom, or over whom you’ve worked.  If you’re in the market for a new opportunity, be sure to utilize all of your resources: professional colleagues, neighbors, the other dads in the daddy playgroup, or the moms at Little League.  And don’t forget social networking.  The Linked In site is built around the principals of networking and recommendations.  And, if used appropriately, Facebook is an option.  Look for professional-affiliated groups to join on Facebook or other profiles that post job information.  Just be sure to use caution when posting personal and private information together.  It’s a very careful balance, but it can be done successfully.


Readers, what do you think?  For those who’ve been there (or are currently there) do you have other tips to share?  We look forward to hearing from you…

Q: How do I stay up-to-date with the profession?

Q: How do I stay up-to-date with the profession?

Q: I don’t have time to read the library journals and I don’t have access to many of them. Can you recommend some online resources, that I can read for free, that will keep me informed and up-to-date with the profession?

SM & TA: Good question! With so many library-related blogs, on so many different topics, written by so many engaging and knowledgeable writers, it is surprisingly easy to keep up with the profession. You can find blogs and online newsletters (such as this one) that will keep you entertained and informed, as well as update you on library careers, technology, higher education, conferences and events, resources and tools, and much, much more. We have listed just a few that we (or our colleagues) read regularly.


ACRLBlog: http://www.acrlblog.org
“Blogging by and for academic and research librarians.”

Beyond the Job: http://librarycareers.blogspot.com
“Professional tips for librarians: Articles, job-hunting advice, professional development opportunities, and other news and ideas on how to further your library career.”

The Distance Education Librarian: http://distlib.blogs.com/distlib/
“Comments on the world of distance librarianship.”

The Kept-Up Academic Librarian: http://keptup.typepad.com/academic/
“Helping Academic Librarians ‘Keep Up’ With News and Developments in Higher Education.”

Librarian.net: http://librarian.net
Jessamyn West’s blog.

Librarian Central: http://librariancentral.blogspot.com
“Your official site for Google tips, news, and updates.”

LISNews: http://www.lisnews.org
“A collaborative weblog devoted to current events and news in the world of Library and Information Science.”

LISNews – This Week in LibraryBlogLand: http://twil.lisnews.org
A roundup of blog posts from around the library blogosphere from the previous week.

Resource Shelf: http://www.resourceshelf.com
“Where dedicated librarians and researchers share the results of their directed (and occasionally quirky) web searches for resources and information.”

The Shifted Librarian: http://www.theshiftedlibrarian.com
Jenny Levine’s blog.

Stephen’s Lighthouse: http://stephenslighthouse.sirsidynix.com/
Stephen Abram’s blog.

Tame the Web: Libraries and Technology: http://tametheweb.com
Michael Stephens’ blog.


FreePint Newsletter: http://www.freepint.com/issues/
“FreePint is a global network of people who find, use, manage and share work-related information. Members receive this free twice- monthly newsletter, packed with tips, features and resources.”

Jinfo: http://www.jinfo.com/newsletter/
“The twice-monthly Jinfo Newsletter contains advice and tips from recruitment consultants and information professionals.”

MLS: Marketing Library Services: http://www.infotoday.com/MLS/
“MLS will provide information professionals in all types of libraries with specific ideas for marketing their services.”

Staying informed about the profession and current with new trends and resources will also help you when you’re looking for a job, or just looking to further your career. E-mail us at librarycareerpeople@lisjobs.com with your favorite library-related blog or newsletter, and we will list them in a future column. Enjoy your reading!