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.