A friend of mine asked me to call his nephew who graduated six months ago from library school and had yet to find a job. After our conversation, I thought I would put my advice on my blog, hopefully to inspire new graduates who have no job offers yet. If you are unaware of the unemployment plight of librarians, please read Andy Woodworth’s Unemployment in Libraryland response to a reader’s email. He hits the nail on the head for the causes; this blog post, however, is designed to help you get through the drought.
Advice to current graduate students:
- Do a practical internship where you actually perform the duties of a librarian. Lack of reference experience is usually the number one reason for not making the first round of cuts in the job application process. At academic libraries, taking an information literacy course or having teaching experience is definitely a must.
- Take as many discipline-specific reference courses as possible. Taking the business reference course at my program was the reason I was hired for two part-time positions when I first graduated.
- Take the time to learn theory and stay abreast of new trends in the profession. Not being able to answer interview questions in a deep and meaningful way can kill your chances of being hired.
- Get a mentor who is already in the profession. This can help with navigating the hiring process and finding out what common issues occur in the daily functioning of a library.
- When you are applying for jobs, spend an insane amount of time on the library website: do a lit review of librarians (for academic positions) and make sure you address the required and desired qualifications of the position, as many libraries rank you based on demonstrating those requirements.
Four things to do to improve your chances of getting a librarian position OR ways to keep yourself occupied while waiting to get hired…
Join a professional association: Take advantage of student pricing and join an association. Getting involved in an association can help jumpstart your job hunt. It can be a way to meet your future employers or learn about job leads before they are advertised. Joining local associations will give you the best results because they are both cheaper than national association memberships and give you more opportunities to volunteer for committees or work on statewide conferences. Volunteering to report on workshops or sessions of a conference can help get your name known and bolster your curriculum vitae.
Consider Alternative Positions: Part-time, temporary contracts and project-based positions are other options to consider. While these are not full-time jobs, they will assist you in getting practical experience and a chance to develop specific skills that may be useful for full-time positions. Try for the library type where you want to ultimately work at first, but keep in mind that almost any library will help you develop your philosophy of reference, becoming familiar with cataloging, and using library technologies.
Volunteer or apply for a non-librarian position in the library where you want to work: Applying for a paraprofessional position may be the short term way to “break into” the library of your choice. It will allow you to get a feel for the library culture where you want to work and help you become a familiar face for any professional positions that arise. As a graduate student in library school, I got a position working in the reserve area of the university library for the explicit purpose of having an advantage when graduate student positions opened up in the reference area. I got the position because I knew the librarians and my supervisors put in a good word. This experience was vital for getting hired after I graduated.
Get on Twitter: Just as associations can help with networking, Twitter is great way to cast a wider net and “meet” librarians from all over the world. It serves the dual purpose of staying current with library trends and allows you to virtually attend conferences by following conference hashtags (for example #ACRL2011 and #ALAannual). I have had a number of professional opportunities develop by being active on Twitter and partnering with newer and established librarians.