Job Search, Part 1: Library School, Work Experiences, & General Resources

As promised I’m finally doing a small series on my job search process this past year, in the hopes of providing a helpful resource to LIS students and emerging professionals.

Part 1 needs to be about library school and student work experience. These were crucial for my later success. However, I’m assuming most people reading this will already be into school and may be finishing soon. If you’re on the ball and still early on, I have a few pieces of advice:

  • Read job ads now. No, seriously. Even if you aren’t sure what you want to do. It will help you figure out what skills and experiences you need.
  • Read Hack Library School and their book. Read other library blogs. Follow librarians on Twitter. Start getting involved in the online library community.
  • Also, try to make it to a nearby conference – state conferences are a nice way to see what’s going on near you and to meet librarians from lots of different institutions. Take advantage of those low student registration rates – also look into getting funding from your graduate school for transportation, registration, etc.
  • Hustle, hustle, hustle. Try to find a way to get paid experience. If you can’t, try to find a way to get experience for academic credit (e.g. practicum). If you can’t, try to find a very structured internship where you can make connections and find people who care about your development. I fully recognize there’s a lot of privilege and socio-economic implications in this one. Not everyone has the time or money to do unpaid work while they’re in school. I get that, for sure. But experience, along with your degree, will be what you leverage to get that post-grad position. I worked through a number of positions during grad school, including: writing teaching assistant for an engineering course; graduate assistant at an agriculture/science library; graduate hourly at the main library virtual reference desk; graduate hourly at the health sciences library; volunteering and a practicum at the IL history library. The experience was great, but I would say the connections made were just as important.
  • Talk to professionals and mentors about which classes they found most helpful and which classes they wish they’d taken. For instance, the classes I found the most helpful were: Instruction, Reference, Info Services for Diverse Users, and Info Services Marketing. Classes I wish I had taken: Collection Development (I had to learn this entirely on the job, which was fine, but I feel like I could have benefited from a class); a class on Data Curation/Data Services (as a science librarian I’m focusing on data much more than I anticipated back in library school); a UX/User Design class (this is so much of what I do, and I’ve learned so much from colleagues and self-guided learning, but again, a class would have been cool).
    By Robin Davis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
    The University of Illinois, where I completed my Masters degree and graduate assistantship. (Image:By Robin Davis (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)
  • That said, don’t stress a ton about your classes once you’re in them. I always stressed about not having enough time to take all of the classes I felt like I needed. However, your experiences will probably be more critical anyways, and librarianship is a field of continuous education as it is. If you feel like you’re not getting a specific experience via coursework, seek out practical opportunities to learn it by doing.
  • Try to find ways to connect with your peers, both at your school and elsewhere. You can do this via student organizations, via Twitter group chats and other online communities (hey, Hack Library School!). Choose something that works for your schedule and commit some time and effort to it. Write for a blog, become a student chapter officer, or whatever speaks to your heart and passions. Find ways to engage with and reinvest in your community of peers. This can be difficult if you live away from campus (like I did) or if you’re in an online program, but it is totally worth it for the sense of camaraderie, the eye-opening effects of having friends with a variety of interests/passions, and the connections that will become increasingly important as you all become professionals.
  • There are so many library-job-hunt-specific resources out there! Find them! Do some searching! I’ll be linking to many in this series, but there are surely more! For example, this series was inspired by Brianna Marshall’s and Robin Camille Davis’ posts about their own job hunts. I highly recommend both!

Next post: searching and applying for positions…


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