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


A Cloud of Cover Letters

   September 19th, 2012 Brian Herzog

This week we started the first round of interviews for my library's Head of Reader Services position. Which means, I've been reading a lot of resumes and cover letters lately.

Since we advertised for someone who is really into books and reading, many of the cover letters included more colorful adjectives than usual: passionate, voluminous, enthusiastic, voracious.

That got me thinking about mean cover letter word distribution, so I ran the text from the 26 leading cover letters we received through Wordle. I removed any identifying information (current/previous employers, phone numbers, emails, urls, etc), and Wordle also removes some words, and the resulting cloud is interesting:

Cover letter Wordle cloud

View the large size to see some of the smaller words, but overall, a lot of the most common words were what we were hoping to see ("love" ranked well).

Here's something else in this process I found interesting: This is the first time (for me) that every single resume was submitted electronically. They were all sent to the Library Director, who then forwarded them to those of us doing the interviewing.

To keep them organized, I created a "Jobs" folder in my inbox:

Emailed applications in my Jobs folder

The red boxes cover peoples name, but looking at the contents of this folder really shows how alike and "just part of the crowd" applicants can seem. From now on, I will always include my name in the subject line when I submit a resume.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



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.



Tags: , , , , , , ,



Great Job Opening: Head of Reader Services

   September 5th, 2012 Brian Herzog

Recommended Reads signThere are two job openings at my library right now: Head of Reader Services and Circulation Desk Manager.

The Circ Desk Manager will do all the circ staff scheduling, work at the desk, but also manage ILL, book club kits, museum passes, and hopefully be the lead on our Evergreen ILS.

That's all well and good, but just look at the description for the Head of Readers Services:

Do you love answering that age-old question "Can you recommend a good book?" When you sit on an airplane do you find yourself giving unsolicited reading advice to the person beside you? Do you always have a book in your car for emergencies? Are you up on the latest reading devices, social media, book blogs, websites? Do you love to talk about books, write about books, listen to books? Did you go to library school because you love to read?

How about that?

Our Head of Circulation is leaving, and instead of just hiring a straight up replacement for her, we decided to split the position to create two jobs (because the work was more than one person could handle anyway). This new Head of Readers Services will focus completely on encouraging and supporting the use of our entire collection (books, audiobooks, DVDs, etc), through social media, programs, desk coverage, a personal shopper-like reading suggestion service, and anything else we can do.

We're accepting resumes now, so check out the job listing. The Circulation Desk Manager hasn't been posted yet, but should be soon on the Massachusetts Library Job Board. General employment information is also on our website (and I still like my unofficial rules for resumes, too).



Tags: , , , , , , , ,



Reference Question of the Week – 9/4/11

   September 10th, 2011 Brian Herzog

This week's question is one we get asked many times a day - it's not difficult at all, but this time had a sort of heart-wrenching twist.

A woman in her early twenties walked up to the desk. Very politely, and with a little hesitation, she asked:

I just printed something for my school, but I don't know where to pick it up. Can you please help me?

For public printing in my library, we use Envisionware's LPT:One, which works well for us. All the print jobs from our public computers go to a central print release station, where patrons pay for their job before it actually gets printed. So that patrons know which print job is theirs, when they print they get prompted to name their job:

Envisionware Print Box

Once a patron goes through this once, they understand how it works. But the first time isn't totally intuitive, so we do get asked for help in printing frequently.

My personal rule is this: if someone asks me where they pick up their print job, I take that to mean they've never printed here before, so I go with them over to the print station and walk them through the steps to pay for and release their print job.

That's what I did in this case, and while walking over to the printer, I asked the patron if she had entered a name for her job. She replied,

Well, a little box asked me to name my job, so I typed in "waitress."

I don't know why this struck me as so sweet and sad - maybe her innocence and naivety, maybe the idea of someone working their way through college. Maybe I'm just getting sentimental in my old age. She didn't mean anything by it though, so when we got to the print station, I showed her how to select the job named "waitress" and print it out. She thanked me and left.



Tags: , , , , , , ,



Job Opening for Evergreen Library Support Technician

   August 2nd, 2011 Brian Herzog

MVLC-EvergreenBack in May, my library's consortium migrated our catalog to Evergreen. Since then, it became clear that we need more staff to support Evergreen, because using an open source catalog is a great deal more work than supporting vendor software.

As a result, the position description (below and at the MBLC) was posted last week, and I encourage anyone interested to apply. Don't let the "temporary" part fool you - there is so much work that there'll be plenty to last beyond the 9 month initial period. And although not strictly required, I think the more tech and database skills the better. The job will primarily be the front-line support and liaison person between libraries and Evergreen developers, but anyone who can contribute to development is greatly appreciated.

And also, a bit of a warning: the MVLC underestimated what it would take to support an open-source catalog. With open source, we're in charge of everything, not just the data - as a result, our list of problems to fix, features to add, and just things to figure out grows daily. Whoever accepts this position will have no shortage of things to do.

Customer Service Technician

The Merrimack Valley Library Consortium (MVLC), a group of 35 public libraries in NE Massachusetts, is looking for a service-oriented individual with excellent trouble-shooting, interpersonal, and communication skills. This is a temporary (approx. 9 month) position that will focus on providing customer support to member library staff for the library catalog and online applications. As part of the network support team this person will be the primary helpdesk contact involving the reception, organization, and resolution of problems, and actively contribute to the growing knowledge base. This person will also have significant responsibility for the design and configuration of the public catalog and network Web sites and provide support for database and third-party products that integrate with the library system.There is potential for this to become a permanent position.

Required

  • Bachelor's Degree
  • Proven customer service orientation
  • At least two years technical experience with automated systems or databases
  • Knowledge of HTML, CSS and other Web services tools
  • Substantial knowledge of PC environment
  • Excellent oral, written, and interpersonal communication skills

Desired

  • Library experience desired
  • Understanding of User Interface design
  • Database design (SQL)
  • Linux experience
  • Program languages such as Perl, Python, etc.

Salary: $22.17/hr

Please forward cover letter and resume to:
Lawrence Rungren
Executive Director
Merrimack Valley Library Consortium
1600 Osgood Street
North Andover, MA 01845

or lrungren@mvlc.org



Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Two Openings for Library Assistant at My Library

   June 24th, 2011 Brian Herzog

Chelmsford Library logoThe Chelmsford Library was lucky enough to have some of our funding restored for the fiscal year starting July 1st, and we we have two openings for part-time Library Assistants at the Circulation Desk. Here's the listing from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Job Board:

Duties/Description:
The Chelmsford Library has TWO openings for Library Assistants at our Circulation Desk, one for 16 hours/week and one for 18 hours/week.

Position Overview:
Part time position available to assist the public with the use of the library including Inter-Library loan, circulation and reader's advisory services.

WORK SCHEDULE "A": (16 hrs/wk avg)

Mon., Wed., & Thurs., from 5-9 pm at Main Library
Every Sat. 10-2 pm at MacKay Branch, N. Chelmsford

-And-

WORK SCHEDULE "B": (18 hrs/wk avg)

Tues., Wed., and Thurs., from 5-9 pm at Main Library
Every Sat. w/alternating locations -
10 - 2 pm at MacKay Branch, N. Chelmsford and
9-5:30 pm Sat. at Main Library

Qualifications:
The positions require flexibility to fill-in nights and weekends. Candidates must be able to adapt smoothly to patron demands and should enjoy interacting with public of all ages. Four-year college degree and/or experience working in a public library preferred.

Salary: Union rate $15.97 per hr.

Closing Date: Positions open until filled

Send:
If you are interested in a position, please submit your resume to Alison Barry at abarry@mvlc.org or 25 Boston Rd., Chelmsford, MA 01824. The Town of Chelmsford is an EEO/AA Employer.

Chelmsford is a fun library to work in, and our Circulation Desk is a very busy place. We need to fill these positions ASAP, so if you're interested, please send your resume to our Head of Circulation, Alison Barry, at abarry@mvlc.org.



Tags: , , , , , , , , ,