or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Networking Tips for New Librarians

   September 12th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Hello my name is EXPERT badgeI thought this fit nicely with the job ad post from last week. A little while ago, a reader emailed me with this question:

I'm a recent MLIS graduate, and just moved to a new state. I was wondering if you could give me some job hunting tips? It's such a specific area, and well... there are really no jobs available that I'm qualified for (manager, coordinator, etc). How do I start the hunt and get my name out there? Do I visit libraries and drop off a resume? I know networking is huge in the library wold, I just don't know how to start.

I am certainly no expert, but I did come up with some ideas:

  • definitely find your state's online job boards and watch those. Also, if you're in a region or consortium or something, get signed up for their email listservs, as jobs are often posted on those too
  • I don't think it's a bad idea to drop your resume off to local libraries, but most of them probably can't hire anyone until there is an opening - so a lot of it might be a waiting game. But introducing yourself, telling them what you're interested in, certainly can't hurt - so long as you know there's not much they can do until a position opens up
  • Sometimes libraries will hire you just as a sub, and will call when they need someone to fill in for the regular staff. It's not steady in the least, but is a way to get your foot in the door and build your reputation
  • In the meantime, I would highly suggest volunteering at libraries - it's a good way to meet people and show them what you can do, as well as stay involved in the field. Volunteers are kind of a double-edged sword for libraries - on the one hand it's free labor which is great, but on the other hand it usually takes twice (or more) as much work to supervise volunteers as it does staff. So sometimes, libraries are reluctant to take on new volunteers (or just might not have anything for you to do), but it's good to let them know you can handle more sophisticated special projects (leading a book group or storytime, recataloging a section, working on the website) - but shelf-reading is always beneficial too
    • You can also suggest projects more in the community than in the library - like setting up a community events calendar, volunteer opportunities website, community Facebook page, local information wiki, or something like that - a role the library can play in the community, but might not already be doing. Just make sure something like this is sustainable after you leave, otherwise they might be reluctant to start it
    • Another volunteer opportunity is with other local groups doing things similar to the library - the local historical society, town hall, museum, whatever - if you can volunteer there and spin that into some kind of liaison-with-the-library or library-related project, it could bring you into contact with the right people. Also, push yourself outside your comfort zone - if you're a public librarian, remember to look at school libraries, universities, special libraries, corporate libraries, etc, for volunteer opportunities
  • Part-time or assistant jobs aren't bad while you're waiting for something more permanent to open up. Be honest with them in that you're looking for more, because it can be a pain to hire someone, train them, and then they leave a few months later for a better job
  • If you can, go to regional or national library conferences. Probably the more local the better when it comes to networking, and they'll also be cheaper too
  • Check out what the state library offers as far as training classes, and if you have any special skills (like really good with WordPress or Facebook or something), offer to give classes of your own (either to local libraries or through the state, or at the library for patrons to attend)
  • You could also always try to become a library trustee - that could be interesting

Taking that first step is tough. If anyone has any advice I missed, please post in the comments - thanks. And good luck to all the job seekers out there.

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