Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Teen librarian interview

Okay, it's a one-branch library in a smallish town on the edge of a large metro area. Three person panel: the head of youth services, the library director, and the head of reference. I think we were on the phone for about half an hour.
  • What experience do you have providing reference services? Include job experience as well as courses and training.

  • Why are you interested in being a teen librarian?

  • The teen librarian is often called upon to assist with children's services. What experience do you have in that area?

  • What experience do you have with public speaking?

  • Give an impromptu book talk.

  • What are your goals for your career, how do you plan to accomplish those goals, and where do you see yourself in five years?

  • Why do you think teen volunteers are important to the library?

  • Scenario question: a father complains about a book that is inappropriate for his teenage daughter, say a graphic novel with lots of violence. What do you do?

  • How do you envision attracting YAs to the library, what are your ideas for developing programs and collections? Describe your philosophy of YA services.

  • Any questions for us?

I did something kind of funny for the book talk. I have a couple in my head that I've done before, and I'm always telling people about my latest favorites. I read mostly YA stuff, so there are plenty of books fresh in my mind, but I didn't feel like using recycled material. So I grabbed a magazine that was lying around at my feet and talked about it. My answer probably wasn't as good as if I'd used something I'd talked about before, but it was more fun for me because it was spontaneous. I think I've done so many interviews lately that I'm starting to get a very laissez faire attitude about the whole thing. I can't decide whether that's good or bad.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Assistant Director telephone interview

This time it's a public library in a small town about an hour away from a major city. No panel, just me and the director chatting for ninety minutes or so. In spite of everything they say about getting dressed up for phone interviews, I wore my pyjamas.

I was asked to prepare something for the interview:
Please bring one idea for a program aimed at an adult audience and an outline of what your plan would be for such a program, including everything from conception through marketing through execution. This only needs to be an informal project; notes and/or a bulleted list of your organized thoughts would suffice.

First off, she acknowledged that interviews are a two way process and encouraged me to ask questions at any point. Then came the questions:
  • Describe your favorite place that you have worked.

  • Why do you think libraries conduct adult programming? (This is also where I was asked to present my program ideas.)

  • A patron who is using the computer comes up to you and says the printer isn't printing. Describe the steps you would take to respond.

  • Talk about your philosophy regarding collection development and name three sources that you rely on for collection development.

  • Tell me about your experience with community outreach and working with community groups.

  • Why are you the best candidate for the position?

  • In terms of your qualifications, what are you most confident about and what are you least confident about? (I like this so much better than the "what are your weaknesses?" question.)

  • Describe your management style.

  • Describe a typical day at your current job and what you think a typical day would be like in this position.

  • What attracted you to this position?

  • What have you found out about this library that surprised you?

  • How do you enter into relationships with co-workers when you are new to a job?

  • Is there anything else that you would like me to know?

I must say, along with the questions I was asked in the teen librarian interview a while ago, these are the best interview questions I've run across. I found myself being really honest.

I was still pretty exhausted after all the excitement at Midwinter and didn't really have a chance to prepare. I've spent enough time preparing for interviews that I wasn't overly concerned, but I'm starting to think that for the right job, you shouldn't have to prepare too much. If it's a good fit, the questions should tap into things that you're thinking about all the time anyhow.

For the adult program bit, I emailed someone I know at a library that does great programs and asked her for ideas. She sent me a couple of events calendars, and I picked something that looked good. Then I spent five minutes drafting an outline of the steps involved: planning, promotion, evaluation, etc. Five minutes was really all the time I could spare. In that sense, I suppose this was a very realistic exercise.

p.s. In class yesterday, one of my profs referred to librarians as information alchemists.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Vaguest rejection letter ever

This was in the mailbox when I got back from San Antonio. From the Human Resources Department:

The Library Services Department has advised us that they have made a decision, and the individual they have selected will be made a job offer.

This would have been totally depressing (I was really excited about this one) if I hadn't run into someone from the interview panel at Midwinter. It was great to be able to talk to her without having to maintain the interview poker face. Turns out they liked me, they just couldn't hire me. After chatting for ten minutes or so, she recruited me to work with her on an article she's writing.

Moral of the story: sometimes you're not interviewing for the position you think you're interviewing for.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Nancy Pearl sighting!

I just shook hands with an action figure! And I was so excited, I forgot to tell her my name...

So, the midwinter blogging begins. I'm also blogging for PLA, and there's already lots of interesting stuff over there.

p.s. My UBC email is currently broken (aargh!) and I don't have a cell phone, so if you're trying to get in touch, email me here.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Interview: to join or not to join?

Turnabout is fair play, right? I've been answering so many interview questions, I thought I'd try asking a few. This is the first in what I hope will be an occasional series of informational interviews loosely related to my candidacy for ALA council. The little survey I did a few months ago suggests that a lot of folks out there feel disconnected from ALA. So, I thought I'd talk to someone who is very involved in libraries, but not active in library associations, and try to figure out what is going on.

Meet my pal Steve. He's a good friend, but he's also a library buddy, which means I can call him up when I'm being a big library dork and say things like, "OMG, I visited this library today, and you wouldn't BELIEVE their circ policies..." Steve knows more about libraries than just about anyone I know, and he keeps me from getting too uppity about library school.

Heidi: For your age, you've already had a remarkably long career in libraries. How long have you worked at the library?

Steve: I volunteering for the library when I was ten. I continued volunteering until I graduated [high] school, and then I got my first job as a library page in 1995. So it's been ten years of employment, but almost 19 total with the library.

H: What kind of work do you do at the library?

S: I'm a library assistant, which means I do reference work with librarians but get paid less. It's paraprofessional I guess.

H: Do you think you'll stick with the library gig, or do you have plans to move on to something else?

S: Right now I'm gonna stick with it. I have plans to finish up my BS and after part-timing school AND work for ten years, I'm ready to get more involved at work (i.e. full-time, more projects, moola, etc).

H: Any interest in getting an MLS? Why/why not?

S: At this point in time, I'm not sure. I've been in school for ten years, and just want some time away from it for a while. I might consider it after a couple years, but just don't know. Also, what I'm wanting to do at the library doesn't necessarily require an MLS, so I'd need to weigh the benefits later on if I do decide for more schooling.

H: I know you're not a member of ALA. Why not?

S: I'd ask you "Why?" I don't know what the benefit of it would be. I'm not a librarian, and even some librarians I talk to don't know what the real benefits of belonging to it are. I guess I see it as way too much money to spend on something that I wouldn't get any use out of.

H: What's your impression of ALA? Its purpose, goals, structure?

S: I guess you could say I have a negative impression of ALA. I know they're around to fight for libraries, freedom of information, etc etc, but I also know that for such a progressive organization, they can be a little...for lack of a better word...unprogressive. I read a lot of blogs. I've seen Michael Gorman stick his foot in his mouth more times than needed. It's almost embarrassing to have a leader of such a potentially great organization talk smack about technology that he clearly has no idea about. Shouldn't we be embracing change? Shouldn't ALA work towards helping backwater libraries come into the big 21? I think so. I also think ALA should be working to help educate the American public on what a fantastic idea the library is. There's something for everyone at the library, public or private. Wouldn't it be great if every single citizen realized that? Perhaps these are things that ALA is doing. Perhaps they've already done them. I guess I don't know because I'm only familiar with ALA in terms of banned books lists, and Gorman's comments. Oh, and occasionally fighting against the Bush administration.

H: Is there anything that would convince you to join ALA?

S: I really doubt it. They'd have to put on a great campaign to win my support, and I'm sure what I'd expect would cause other people to have the opposite reaction that'd I'd have. They'd also have to really lower the cost of [membership]. I already spend too much on causes that I have a greater interest in. Why put money I don't have into something that almost seems "work-related"? Perhaps if they had some way for my employer to contribute money (like the "$3 to the presidential campaign" thing on tax forms where I don't have to spend money)...

H: Even though you're not a member, as a library worker do you feel a connection to ALA? Do you feel it represents your interests?

S: Again, I feel I keep in touch with the library world, but ALA for some reason just isn't a part of what I see when I'm looking. I read Library Journal, about ten library blogs, articles concerning libraries, etc. Occasionally I see they're in court, fighting for something I believe in. Or they are working to educate some school board about why a certain book shouldn't be banned, but other than that I rarely see them. I know they exist, as I know that my library probably wouldn't be as great if ALA weren't around. But I don't see them.

H: You've been super involved with committee work at the library (staff day, training, summer reading), you've even presented at a national conference (you presented at PLA, right?). But you're not really involved with library associations. Why is that?

S: I guess you could say I've been involved in almost everything the library does. I've held varying positions in a number of locations, been involved in committees that helped shape and mold our own organization, and yes, even presented at PLA back in 2000. I enjoy a challenge, and [the library I work for] continues to encourage me. I recently joined the Virtual Reference team that provides statewide chat reference (email ref too!). It's the first statewide project that I've been a part of. I've also looked into what my options would be if I were to join a committee or team through ALA, but paraprofessional opportunities are few. Maybe in the future...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

ALA job placement center: before the conference

This is my first time using the placement service, so I'm still learning how it works. I logged in, created a profile, and posted my resume last month. Nothing really happened, so I sent a few messages to recruiters through the website mentioning that I'll be at the conference and am interested in speaking with them. Some replied, some didn't. I figured I should try to set up meetings in advance, but the replies I did get made it seem like I should just show up at their booth at the conference. Then today, out of the blue I got an email from somebody I hadn't contacted before. Very exciting. The job looks pretty interesting, so I agreed to meet for a chat at the conference. I'm not quite sure what to expect. I don't anticipate a full-on interview, more of a screening/get-to-know-you conversation, but really it could go either way. Fingers crossed!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Mid-job hunt update

jobs applied for: approx. 30
interviews: 5
rejections: 11

It feels like I've applied for a lot more. Four of the interviews didn't work out (one because I couldn't start soon enough), and I'm waiting to hear from the fifth. Three of the interviews were for management positions.

The interviews have tended to be in places that are geographically closer, and the rejections are mostly from far away. More rejections on the academic side, which is interesting because I've applied for more public stuff.

I'm still fairly picky at this point, I'm looking for the magic combination of a job that interests me in a place I'd like to live. I've applied coast to coast, everything from entry level to director. If it's a big system, I apply for entry level, but if it's small, I'll shoot for more responsibility. My goal is to have something lined up before classes are over.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

ALA Election Candidate Information

Here's all the info that ALA asks for election candidates to submit. Do I include this blog under publications? You'll notice I tend to come in under the word limit. Whaddaya think? It's a bit dull, but judging from the recent election debates here in Canada, I think that's how candidates are supposed to be generally. I find it a bit odd that they ask for dates of degrees. That feels like they're asking my age, which is really nobody's business. And besides, if you did the math according to normal conventions, you'd get my age wrong. My list of accomplishments and activities is a bit slim, but I feel like that's part of why I'm running in the first place. You shouldn't have to have a 25 page CV in order to participate.

EDUCATION: Please give, in this order, College/University, Graduate or other study indicating field such as MSLS followed by DATES of degrees:
Bryn Mawr College, BA 1999
Washington University in St. Louis, Graduate Fellow, 2002-2003
University of British Columbia, MLIS Candidate 2006

ALA ACTIVITIES: Please give, including DATES, in the following order: ALA Council, ALA Committees; ALA Division/Committee Offices; Round Table/Committee Offices (specify member or chairperson); representative to other groups:
memberships held: Public Library Association, Library Administration and Management Association, Young Adult Library Services Association, New Members Round Table, Social Responsibilities Round Table, and the Canadian Library Association

Offices held in state & regional library & other associations (including DATES):
Representative to the Library and Archival Studies Student Association, University of British Columbia, 2004-2005

Honors and Awards (library and non-library, including DATES):
BA received cum laude, Bryn Mawr College, 1999
Suhrkamp and Heller fellowships for graduate study in German, 2002

Briefly indicate major accomplishments that are to be included in the biographical sketch accompanying the ballot, including outstanding publications, professional contributions, etc. Please limit to NOT MORE than 175 words.
My experience in libraries includes positions at Multnomah County Library (Portland, OR), North Vancouver District Public Library (BC), and the University of British Columbia Library, in addition to collaboration with librarians at the Missouri Botanical Garden on a museum exhibition and catalog. In 2004, I received a grant from Arts in Transit (St. Louis, MO) for a community outreach project promoting public transit and urban renewal. Currently, I am an MLIS Candidate and contribute reviews of young adult and children's books to the publication Canadian Materials.
Current Word Count: 87

Statement of Professional Concerns (Council: 150 words maximum; President: 300 words maximum):
As one of the nearly 10,000 student members of ALA, I'd like to see strong student involvement throughout all levels of the association. I am a soon-to-be MLIS graduate and can provide a recent perspective on LIS education. As a resident of the west coast, I will contribute to the geographic diversity of Council. I began my career as a paraprofessional and I've worked in variety of library settings − public, academic, special, and school. I can approach the issues facing libraries from a variety of perspectives. I'm passionate about libraries, fascinated by discussions of policy, planning, and governance, and look forward to channeling my enthusiasm into service to the profession.
Current Word Count: 111

Saturday, January 14, 2006

San Antonio

It's my first Midwinter conference! I'm off to 80 degree weather on Friday. I had no idea it would be so warm, I have to completely rethink my wardrobe. How does one look professional, yet not sweaty?

If anyone wants to say hello, I'll be at the blog salon on Sunday evening. So you can recognize me, here's what I looked like at the last salon. My hair is a bit different, but you should be able to spot the glasses. I'll be the one wearing the FOR HIRE sign around my neck.

I'm keeping my schedule fairly open. I'll be volunteering at the NMRT Resume Review Service booth, but mostly I'll be lurking around the Job Placement Center. I'm also blogging for PLA. I think I'll go to the NMRT Social on Saturday evening at the Hard Rock Cafe. I can't remember, is there a nexgenlib-l gathering, too? And if I have time, I'd really like to squeeze in a visit to The Alamo. Did you know admission is free?

I tried the trip planner on the San Antonio public transit site, and it told me I need to take four buses (!!!) to get from the airport to my hotel. Don't believe them! I spent an hour figuring it all out, and if you don't mind walking a half mile or so, the #2 Blanco will be your best friend while in San Antonio. It goes right from the airport to St Mary's and Market, a few blocks from the convention center. It takes a little under an hour, and it only costs 80 cents!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

How I find out about jobs

I subscribe to a bunch of listservs and RSS feeds. Actually, I started subscribing in my first or second term of library school. Back then it was only one or two lists. Subscribe to a couple a few months before you're ready to start applying to get a sense of what's out there, what regions are hiring more heavily, what types of jobs come up more often, what qualifications employers are looking for, and salaries. You'll notice that some libraries constantly have openings, and you might start to wonder about their high turnover. You also get to see what kinds of jobs have to repost or extend the deadline.

There's the old standby, the IFLA jobs mailing list. But don't forget to cast the net far and wide...

Library school job listservs

You don't have to be enrolled in a particular school to subscribe to its jobs listserv. (At least, nobody's given me the boot yet.) Most of them get national postings, but of course there will be some regional focus. Pick schools in places you'd like to live. Here are the ones I watch:

UT Austin iSchool JobWeb National listings. Nice daily digest with links to full listings. If you only subscribe to one or two listservs, include this one. They get the job categories wrong sometimes, so sign up for a bunch.

iProJobs Univ of Washington Some national, but heavy on the Pacific Northwest. Lots of special library/techie jobs.

UNC Chapel Hill SILS-jobs National listings, with some southern focus.

San Jose State slis-job National, with lots of California.

Regional library associations

If you're interested in jobs in a particular state, the state library association listserv will have job postings, and it's a good way to get a feel for what's going on with libraries in that region.

I subscribe to the California Library Association (CALIX), the Oregon Library Association Hotline, and the Pacific Northwest Library Association listservs. The Mountain Plains Library Association stopped posting jobs to its listserv and the Washington Library Association is members only. Bummer.

There's also the New York Metropolitan Area Chapter/Association of College and Research Libraries list. Mostly New York, but some national. Not just academic jobs.

RSS feeds

lisjobs.com This one's great. National listings. Again, if you only monitor one or two sources, be sure to include this one.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed has feeds for library jobs. National listings, academic only. They have three or four categories for libraries with a lot of redundancy, I forget which one gets the most traffic.

Metro Magnet (NY) New York metro area. You also get emails about workshops on this one.

So you want to become a Canadian...

Don't forget there are 6 schools in Canada, and provincial library associations to boot. The SLAIS jobs listserv is mostly BC and lower mainland stuff, but quite a few national listings.

Admittedly, this means I get a LOT of email (I'd guess in excess of 100 a day), and quite a few duplicates. But I'm pretty satisfied that I know about almost every job that I'd be interested in.