Job Hunting Techniques for Public Librarians

Here I will present an overview of my job hunting processes and wisdom in the hope that my experience can be adapted to the processes of other public library job-hunters for greater success. I graduated with a master’s degree in 2011 and was able to find a job through connections I had made while volunteering when I was still in school. I found myself jobless in March of this year, having about two years of experience as a full-time librarian to show for it. I was offered a new full-time position in late June and started in July. Those four months were not easy, as we all know. Often the hardest part was staying positive in order to have a higher chance of doing well in interviews and presenting an employable impression on resumes and in cover letters. I thought about running away to the hills several times. All of the observations and techniques I will present here are purely based on my own experience and may be contradicted by hard figures.

    Here are a few basic tips for getting hired:

  • Most job announcements are online. There are several types of sites where you can look. Libraries can hire from civil service lists but if they advertise a position you can take the test after you are hired.
  • Talk yourself up. Believe in your training and skills. Set yourself up to succeed by doing research and thinking about how you can use your skills and experience to make their library better.
  • Employers will always take longer to get back to you than you think is appropriate. It is an employer’s market at the moment and there is nothing you can do about that.
  • You must continue doing what you love. This will boost your morale and can show potential employers where your skills and interests lie. Remember: you are a librarian even if you are not working in a library.
  • Don’t be afraid to show you are interested in a position by communicating that politely and professionally to the person in charge of hiring, especially if you may soon be snagged by someone else. Do not do this as a tactic just to get an interview; phoniness and manipulation are usually obvious to employers.
  • Your greatest weapon in your job-finding arsenal is the people who will encourage you through the process. Cultivate them. They are friends, family, mentors, teachers, co-workers, ex-co-workers, perhaps even people you admire. If you are having a lot of trouble, these are the people who will give you great advice.

I know you have probably read about a million “tips for getting hired” lists so now I offer a discussion of the techniques I used while job-hunting. The facts above will show up here so watch out for them. Also keep in mind that I suppress anxiety through organization so my method is highly organized which may or may not appeal to you.

1. Have some parameters for acceptable jobs.
Jobs are not cookie-cutter and many have variations that can help you narrow down your applications beyond just: full-time/part-time or public/academic/school/special distinctions. This may seem like a bad idea if you are a new graduate looking for your first full-time position in a public library but it will help you focus your search for job announcements that are a good fit. You have to weigh your experience and your interests. For example, there were several full-time children’s librarian positions open while I was looking. Technically, this is a full-time librarian position and fits two of my criteria. However, my patience with children is limited so I know that the position would not be a good fit for me. A position with some technology requirements or cataloging components would suit my interests better. This eliminates many positions to which I could otherwise apply, and this is not a bad thing. It shows that you know who you are and what you want.

2. Have a Routine.
If you are out of work, you will have many hours to obsess over finding a new job. It is more important to continue living a healthy life, both physically and mentally. Scheduling some time each day to go outside or play with your pets or watch a movie will help distract you (as much as possible) from your situation and will encourage productivity when something arrives that you should act on. My routine consisted of walking or doing sit-ups in the morning, catching up on YouTube channels after breakfast, perusing the job announcements mid-morning (and acting on any that fit my criteria), going for a drive to visit a local library or park in the afternoon, and watching some Netflix at night. Admittedly, I did catch up on many TV shows and developed a preference for long-form YouTube channels that would eat up empty time more efficiently. Have you seen Sherlock yet? What about TableTop with Wil Wheton? Now is the time to catch up on all those shows, movies, and books you have been putting off.

3. Organize Folders. Rework application documents. Keep a spreadsheet.
Now we are getting down to the nitty-gritty of my job-hunt strategy. The typical steps for finding a job go like this: 1) Look at announcements from places that are most likely to post positions that fit your criteria. 2) Update your cover letter and resume to fit each job description and requirements to the best of your experience. 3) Apply to the positions. 4) Wait for a response. 5) Interview. 6) Accept or decline. Yes, you can still decline. Picking the job that is right for you is your responsibility. Although an employer may think you fit what that are looking for, they still do not know you and you must follow your instincts. To keep track of my applications and statuses, I kept a spreadsheet which lists: institution, position, full-time or part-time, date applied, review start date, interview, offer, and whether I accepted or declined.
I keep shortcuts to websites where I look for job announcements every day in categorized folders by type of organization that is keeping the list (see picture).
So I have a folder for systems and I have links to the job announcement pages maintained by all of the systems that meet my location criteria (e.g. New York: MYLS, FLLS, WLS, UHLS, RCLS, etc., etc.).
I do this for counties, cities, and towns using civil service announcement pages, as well as library councils like SENYLRC and CLRC. Check out NY3Rs for a complete list of councils in New York.
Job lists can be redundant if you are looking at all the other places but INALJ (I Need a Library Job) is fabulous for getting new announcements because it is updated daily and it is the most comprehensive list I have seen. Other good lists are state associations like NLYA’s JOBline and specialty-specific lists like LITA for library technology positions.

4. Send PDFs always. Consistently name your application documents.
I tend to rework my cover letters more than my resumes. Use previous cover letters as templates but interrogate them thoroughly; if you got an interview using one cover letter, great. Figure out what worked with that letter. Discard or seriously rework letters that got no responses with a mind to improving them. Be warned: even after applying to six places, you will still find a typo on your resume or cover letter. It happens, don’t beat yourself up. I have individual cover letters for each application that I call CoverLetterXYZ, the XYZ are the initials of the institution to which I am applying. When I am finished working on my cover letter, I save it as a PDF called Cassidy_CoverLetter which I then email to employers. Cassidy is my last name. This will save over previous cover letters which is why I save them separately as .docx files. I do the same with resumes but often I will just send the PDF file Cassidy_Resume.pdf. I also have Cassidy_References.pdf with three or five references. If other application forms are required I call them Cassidy_ApplicationForm or whatever they specify that they want it to be called. I send these as PDFs whenever I can.

5. Have a folder or binder for interviews with research.
When I do get offered an interview, I find as much information about the institution as I can that is related to the job. The purpose of this is to anticipate questions that they may ask me and also to identify areas where I can apply my skills to improve the work of the library. I print the information out and put it in a binder that I take to the interview. I also have a sheet outlining work I have dine in previous positions to jump-start my memory about fun projects, or meaningful projects or hard projects that I have worked on in the past to demonstrate my skills and how I deal with tackling new assignments or how I have learned from failures. I will include other relevant documents like a graphic of management styles for management positions on which I will circle which styles I use.

6. Interact with people in the community, both the library community and the local community.
Schedule some time in your routine to follow twitter accounts of people that are doing what you want to do or are doing interesting things that are related to things you might want to do, or accounts of organizations where you can keep up in relevant topics and trends. Stay in touch with friends from school or work who may be able to pass on job announcements or provide advice or references. These people are your best bet in finding a job. Volunteer at your local library, firehouse, church, etc. Getting out in the community will help you meet people who will learn your abilities and may hear of a job they think you might be good for. Being part of talking to and helping others will also maintain your confidence and morale.
Similarly, you may also want to consider taking a free course (like a MOOC) or iTunes U class in an area that interests you that you can also add to your resume as additional professional development.

I sincerely hope something here helps you find the job you want.

Post by Erin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s