Monthly Archives: June 2013

Mid-Semester Analysis

I came into this class knowing I had little first-hand experience working at libraries. That’s OK – I want to be a librarian, which is why I’m earning my Masters in Library Science. Plus, I’m switching professions; my lack of library experience is understandable. Coming into my coursework, therefore, I expected that I would take a more “hard line”, academic approach to various issues and concepts, with ideas developed out of our readings instead of real-world experience.

And yet, I’m surprised that in a lot of cases this semester, those expectations have been flipped on their head. During our ethics assignment, I found myself thinking more like a librarian who’s been working at the circulation desk for five years and approaching ethical issues from a more practical standpoint. Some of my classmates, on the other hand, began taking the strictly theoretical approach and as I began discussing, I wanted to agree with some of them – but I just couldn’t. What was going on? I’m the one with no experience here – why are my thoughts so muddied sometimes?

Now, this hasn’t been the case for every assignment, but as the semester advances, I am finding that a practical, “working” perspective is incredibly valuable during these discussions of librarianship, working ethics and leadership. Even though my library experience is limited, I also find myself drawing on my experience in the working world as I seek to understand complex issues in leadership and management. It’s one thing to know the concepts after reading an essay, it’s another thing entirely to actually live the concepts in a real, professional setting. While library experience is definitely a plus here, and those current librarians in my class definitely have an advantage in some cases, I believe any professional experience is valuable.

Another trend I’ve noticed during this semester is that while I am still primarily interested in digital scholarship and digital content management, I’m finding myself increasingly fascinated by the issues facing public libraries. Public libraries have always meant a lot to me (as they do to any prospective librarian), but I wasn’t sure if I was suited to working at a public library, or if public libraries would present the challenges I crave in a career.

However, I’m finding myself drawn to them over and over again during our coursework, which doesn’t surprise me though it sure does complicate my career-planning. For this reason, I decided to explore a public library during my Library Visit project, instead of merely two academic libraries. I learned a lot about the public library system during that project and while I’m still not exactly sure where I’ll end up working someday, I’m glad I have options.

Moving into the second half of the semester, I hope that our coursework and readings focus on some of the issues facing modern librarians, and the profession at large. During my undergraduate years, when I was earning a degree in journalism, I took a class on “newsroom management.” The class ended up not being about management at all, but an open-ended discussion of the challenges facing the new industry, which I think could be valuable here. At any rate, I hope to do my own bit of research in this area.

Other subjects that could be of value moving forward: what it takes to land that “first” job as a professional librarian – it’s important to note that not everyone is working in the industry yet and we’re still trying to figure it out! Where are jobs posted? What should our resumes look like? What are good places to work in the meanwhile if you haven’t found your library job yet? I’m working at a bookstore at the moment – am I on the right track?

And finally, I can see the second half of the semester being the time for me to become actively involved in planning the rest of my academic career at Wayne State. Now that I have some sort of foundation in librarianship, I feel more confident about walking into an appointment with my academic adviser and discussing my options more in-depth.

Being Hired for My Dream Job, Part 2

As a reading assignment for another library science course earlier this semester illustrates, being hired into your dream job – even one you’re more than qualified for – is tricky.

Jacob Berg, who writes at the BeerBrarian blog, writes in May 2013 that when his library was hiring for a part-time position, he helped interview five individuals: “All looked good enough on paper; resumes gave the appearance of care and effort, cover letters discussed strengths and what one might bring to this position,” he writes.  Two candidates represented the “typical librarian,” one was so nervous she could barely speak. A fourth, however, was highly qualified – full of “frenzied energy and passion” in fact – but Berg still doesn’t hire them. Why? “I’d love to have you here, but I’d need to change my management style to do so, and that’s why I’ve been thinking about for the past week. I don’t know how to work with you, with someone like you, and that’s challenging.”

What this anecdote means to me is that sometimes, no matter how skilled or experienced you are, it doesn’t always land you your dream job. Still, the only way to get that interview in the first place is to make sure “you look good on paper” – you need that experience and those skills, if only to get your foot in the door.

When I last spoke about my “dream job” – a Digital Scholarship Librarian at Miami University in Oxford, OH – I noted several responsibilities for this position, including:

  • Consulting work with students and staff
  • Finding new ways to create, organize and deliver online content
  • Developing and maintaining the Miami Digital Repository
  • Serving as a liaison to the Center for American and World Cultures

So, what does it take to get there?

Skills, competencies and knowledge required

For a position such as this, I need make sure I learn as much as I possibly can (through coursework and additional research) about academic libraries and how they work. I have hopes of completing my practicum at a university library as well, which would give me valuable experience at a reference desk and working directly with students. I know that this job is not for the newly-minted MLIS graduate – it’s for the reference librarian who has worked hard for several years at a similar institution, gaining important knowledge about how academic libraries function and what is expected of librarians there.

As for knowledge, I will also need to intensely study the ways digital libraries work, database management and digital archiving, picking up as much experience as I can in this field through coursework, practicum experience  and time spent with various student and professional groups specially dedicated to digital librarianship. Promoting and working with digital scholarship at a college or universities is one of the main reasons I decided to enter the library and information science profession; I’m passionate about it and am eager to learn as much as I can so that by the time I get that “dream job,” I’ll be an expert.

Skills, competencies and knowledge I bring to the table

Though my practical experience at libraries is limited at the moment, I do have significant experience working in a digital environment, as well as knowledge about how the digital publishing process works. I’m also a very quick learner and am well-suited to experimenting with digital content models, having already done so several times as a journalist.

In addition, while this specific position serves as a liaison to the American and World Cultures department, my ultimate end goal would be to serve as a liaison to a journalism department. I’m ready (and would be excited) to step into this role due to my professional experience as a journalist, my journalism degree and my post-graduate work in publishing. I have first-hand knowledge about how modern digital journalism works, and various publishing models, and I think that “nose for news” will not only help me relate to students and their coursework, but give me the perspective I need to develop projects suited to the needs of modern journalism students.

And finally, while I definitely need experience working at a reference desk, I’m not afraid of working with people – it’s what I do everyday. As a bookseller and associate manager at a bookstore, I hone those customer service skills daily. You can teach someone what to say at the reference desk, but you can’t teach someone how to relate to people. That requires real-world experience in customer service, whether it’s at a library or in the retail sector, and I have it.

Steps and education I need to prepare for my selected job

First and foremost, I must earn my Masters in Library and Information Science and make sure that my coursework reflects an emphasis on academic libraries and digital content management. I must make sure that I gain the necessary experience – through practicums during school and then at a various academic institutions following graduations – so that by the time my “dream job” rolls around again, I’ll be ready.

I will also need to focus on continuing education, particularly in the realm of digital content management, as computing standards and software change year-to-year. I might also consider earning some sort of certificate in digital archiving, though that might depend if at my dream job, I’m working more with digital archives or with student-service. While I’ve always known that I wanted to work with academic libraries and digital content management (and my personal goals and objectives reflect that), this exercise has made me more aware of all I’ll need to learn to ultimately get that dream job, and how big a role continuing education will play in that journey.

Finding My Dream Job, Part 1

The problem with searching for my dream job in the library and information science profession is that even after a few minutes of looking, I found dozens of jobs I would love to either apply for (upon graduation, of course) or strive to work toward.

As stated previously, my professional goals are to eventually work at an academic library, working with digital preservation, database management and new technology initiatives. An ultimate goal would be to serve as the liaison to a journalism or English department, with the hopes of helping students explore new media.

Upon searching the American Library Association’s job postings, I found several jobs that I would jump at the chance of filling, and indeed, I want to tailor my educational goals so that by the time I graduate with my MLIS, I will be poised to either start applying for my dream job, or begin working to gain the experience needed to reach those career goals.

I found my ideal job, however, at a place where I’ve already spent quite a bit of time: my alma mater, Miami University.

Position: Digital Scholarship Librarian

Institution: Miami University (Oxford, OH)

Position Summary: Serves as a member of the new Center for Digital Scholarship and actively engages in support of faculty and students involved in digital scholarship. Teach credit/non-credit workshops and classes in the Libraries’ instruction program.

Responsibilities:

  • Provide consulting to faculty and graduate students in defining and implementing digital scholarship projects.
  • Investigate new and innovative ways to create, organize and deliver online content.
  • Serve as the developer in the building, maintenance and technical support of the Miami Digital Repository.
  • Participate in repository and technology development projects for the OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons.
  • Serve as the liaison to the Center for American and World Cultures.

Requirements:

  • MLIS or MLS
  • Two years working experience with digital repositories, digital libraries, metadata, scripting languages, etc.
  • Hands-on experience teaching and training

Working environment: Due to my working knowledge of this particular university library (I worked there for four years!), this position would likely work out of Miami’s main library, King Library, working with other librarians at the Center for Digital Scholarship and the reference desk. Interaction with students would be a daily occurence, though I assume a significant amount of time would be spent working with teams (made up of librarians, technology staff and other university administrators).

Skills/Competencies: For this position, hands-on experience working with digital libraries and digital material is key – this position is actively involved in maintaining an important resource for the university community, and knowledge of the appropriate programs, technology and preservation methods is absolutely necessary. However, there’s a lot of student interaction involved with this position as well, which I find particularly attractive; not only must you be a teacher, but this position serves as the gateway to library resources for the faculty and students in a specific academic department.

Where this would take me: Part of what I imagine an academic librarian to be I learned during my undergraduate years at Miami’s King Library, and the thought of being at that library yet again, working on projects that I’m professionally and academically passionate about, as well as interacting with students on a daily basis – well, it’s definitely a dream job.

On top of that, the thought of being part of the new Center for Digital Scholarship (which did not exist when I was in school!) and working directly with the Miami Digital Repository is an exciting opportunity I’d be loathe to pass up. In this position, you would have the chance to explore the yet-unexplored territory of digital scholarship at Miami, laying the groundwork for new methods of teaching, researching and learning.

In addition, I would be anxious to get my hands into the Miami Digital Repository and look for new (and better) ways to make that information accessible to students, staff and the Oxford community at large (where the university plays an important role in local history).

Though I call this my “dream job,” I also believe that experience gained working with students, technology and digital preservation as there  would position me well for other jobs in the digital librarian marketplace. These include positions as the emerging technologies librarian at the College of New Jersey, a digital collections librarian at James Madison University, and a digital archivist position at the prestigious Princeton University (a girl can dream!).

Professional Organizations

While I’m still learning about many of the professional organizations available for librarians to join, there are a few that I’m eyeing for membership – that is, outside of the American Library Association.

Association of College & Research Libraries

Mission: The largest division of the American Library Association, the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) is “dedicated to enhancing the ability of academic library and informational professionals to serve the information needs of the higher education community and to improve learning, teaching, and research” (About ACRL).

What they do:

  • Provide academic and research librarians with various tools and “toolkits” they need to best do their jobs.
  • Helps librarians connect with one another and discover new job opportunities.
  • Advocate for various issues regarding higher education policies, the rights of academic libraries and information access.
  • Create and host various resources on information literacy as part of the ACRL Information Literacy Coordinating Committee.
  • Recognize outstanding academic librarians with a variety of awards, including awards for achievement and distinguished service, research grants and publications.
  • Host various conferences and educational programs throughout the year in order to promote continuing education and professional networking, including the upcoming ACRL 2013 Annual Conference this June 27-July 2 in Chicago.
  • Provides consulting services to assist librarians in strategic thinking, planning, managing change, accreditation and more.

Membership benefits: The ACRL boasts an impressive membership base, with a network of more than 12,000 members – accounting for almost 20 percent of all ALA members.

In addition, an ACRL membership dues includes two free Communities of Practice memberships, as well as a variety of interest groups. These groups include African American Studies Librarians, University Libraries, Women and Gender Studies, Health Sciences and Digital Curation.

Requirements: The ACRL has several levels of membership, including memberships for first-time members, renewing members, international members and memberships for retired librarians, students and library support staff. There is also an associate membership for those employed in the library and information science profession. Students must be at least enrolled half-time a library science program. Membership dues range from $60 to almost $200 a year.

Publications:

  • College & Research Libraries News
  • College & Research Libraries
  • CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries
  • RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage

Why the ACRL?

I picked the ACRL because I am looking forward to a career at a university or small college library, where I can work with digital curation and database creation. The academic library world is a large one, and membership with the ACRL will help guide me to the resources I need regarding finding a job, meeting other professional librarians with similar goals and learning about the field.

Progressive librarians guild

Mission: 

Founded in 1990, the Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) is comprised of librarians “concerned with our profession’s rapid drift into dubious alliances with business and information industry, and into complacent acceptance of service to an unquestioned political, economic and cultural status quo” (Statement of Purpose).

“A progressive librarianship demands the recognition of the idea that libraries for the people has been one of the principal anchors of an extended free public sphere which makes an independent democratic civil society possible, something which must be defended and extended. This is partisanship, not neutrality” (Statement of Purpose).

What they do:

  • Provide an open forum for “radical views on library issues”.
  • Advocate for progressive and democratic library activities locally, nationally and internationally.
  • Support activist librarians throughout the country.
  • Bridge the gaps between school, public, academic and special libraries.
  • Monitor the professional ethics of librarianship.
  • Award the annual Miriam Braverman Memorial Prize, which awards papers on the social responsibilities of librarians, libraries or librarianship.

Membership requirements:

PLG members need to be affiliated with either a library or academic institution. Memberships are $20 a year, $10 for those with low income. Members can also offer up their expertise in their respective area of interest.

Publications: 

  • Progressive Librarian
  • PLG Bulletin

Why the PLG?

At this moment, I’m still on the fence but strongly leaning toward joining the Progressive Librarians Guild. While generally shy of overtly political groups, or groups that make politics their primary focus, I respect the PLG’s mission to promote social responsibility in the librarian and information science profession. These ideals are one of the biggest reasons I’m joining the profession, and I want to be connected with those that also believe that librarians – and libraries – are good for society and democracy. In particular, I am passionate about the fight against censorship and literacy efforts, and I think the connections I would make through the PLG would lead me to projects in those arenas.