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




Library Tech Job News

   January 21st, 2010 Brian Herzog

Help WantedTwo pieces of library technology job news I've been meaning to mention:

Kathy Lussier Named MassLNC Project Coordinator
First, congratulations to Kathy Lussier, who was recently chosen to be Project Coordinator for the Massachusetts Open Source Project. She will begin February 1st, and I really can't think of someone who would do a better job. Congratulations again, and I'm looking forward to Kathy moving everything forward.

Technology Librarian position available with GMLICS
Second, there is a great technology position open at GMLICS, a library consortium in southern New Hampshire. The basics details are:

  • The Technology Librarian will deliver hardware and software support for the central computer system and telecommunications network, maintain the consortium’s web pages and work with librarians in the member libraries to insure a well-functioning shared system. Weekly driving to member libraries. Strong customer service attitude, excellent communications skills and the ability to juggle multiple tasks with changing priorities are required. Experience working in a consortium is desired.
  • This position offers opportunities for learning and professional development.
  • Salary $45,000+ and a generous benefit package.
  • MLS from ALA accredited institution preferred. Will consider a candidate with equivalent training and experience.
  • Applications will be accepted until January 29, 2010.

See their website for more details and a full position description [pdf].



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Help From Above

   October 28th, 2008 Brian Herzog

MA Libraries license plateLibrarians are not alone.

Many libraries are part of networks, consortia, or regional system. And even for the independent libraries, there are still state libraries and state and national library associations that can provide guidance or support to the librarians in the trenches.

Recently, two projects were launched to benefit librarians at a local level, and both projects were started by a support organization.

Massachusetts Library License Plates
The Central Massachusetts Regional Library System (CMRLS) is working with the MA Registry of Motor Vehicles to make a "Massachusetts Libraries" license plate available to the public. Details (and a promotional bookmark [pdf]) are available on the CMRLS website, and funds raised from the sale of these plates will be returned to libraries through a grant process. This is a neat idea, but so far only has a few mentions.

Job Descriptions Database from the Maine State Library
The Maine State Library launched a centralized job description database, to aid librarians in defining the roles within their libraries. This is one of those tasks that we all share, so creating a central clearinghouse for descriptions makes a lot of sense - and keeps us from reinventing the wheel. Job descriptions in the database were all submitted by Maine libraries, and hopefully include my favorite line for a library staff job description, "other duties to aid patron access to information as assigned."



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Reference Question of the Week – 10/19/08

   October 25th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Jobs listings on Craigslist websiteBefore I get into this week's reference question, I want to point out that this is my 100th Reference Question of the Week - that's almost two years of weekly reference questions. My, my, doesn't the time just fly when you are giving patrons directions to the bathrooms?

In honor of such a momentous event, I thought I'd share one of the reference questions I just dread. I get variants of this question occasionally, but last week all the components came together in a perfect storm of reference question difficulty:

Patron: I've never used a computer before, so can you help me find a job on craigslist?

Sigh. For non-reference librarians, here's why this simple request is especially hard:

  1. Almost any kind of job-related request can be difficult
  2. Most of the job resources available in the library are online, so having no computer experience is automatically a setback
  3. Craigslist? It is certainly a valid job search tool, but there are other places I'd be more comfortable starting off a computer novice (she never did tell me how she got referred to craigslist)

Lots of people would jump on a question like this and consider it a golden teaching moment. Which I tried to do, but I was alone on a busy Thursday morning and I didn't have the amount of uninterrupted time it would take to teach the patron to use a mouse and then educate her enough about the internet and craigslist to find a job safely.

But happily, she was a fast learner, and really took to the mouse and using the browser. Since she asked for craigslists, I showed her how to get there and use it, and while doing so also told her about other job search websites she could try. We also have a handout for career resources, and pretty soon she sent me away so she could look on her own.

She left before I could talk to her again, but she stayed at least forty-five minutes on the computer. Which is not bad for a first timer. Even if nothing from her first search pans out, I hope at least she knows the library is a resource for job searching.

More About Online Job Searching
Something I've been noticing for awhile is that it seems that online job applications are becoming more and more complex. Lots of large companies are requiring applicants to fill out an online application instead of providing a resume.

The problem with this is, from my and the patron's point of view, many patrons have trouble with the website or application form itself. Some get so frustrated that they quit halfway through, cursing the company for not just taking their resume. I wonder if companies are doing this intentionally, because filling out these applications requires a certain level of computer skills, and so it weed out anyone who isn't computer savvy enough to finish it.

I've helped a few people complete what even I thought was a difficult form, and I wonder if I'm really helping them or not. If the job really does require that level of computer skill, and I spend a half an hour basically filling out the form for them, are they just wasting their time on a job they don't have a hope of getting?

Because of this need (and especially in the current economic climate), my library lately has been partnering with the local career center to hold series of job search workshops. These range from updating resumes to online searching to interviewing to networking to reentering the work force. They've been well attended, and all the library has had to do is provide the space - people from the Lowell Career Center plan and run the programs.

I feel like we can never do enough for patrons looking for jobs, but that this is one of the key roles a library plays in the community.



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Guide to Hiring Women

   May 29th, 2008 Brian Herzog

1943 Guide to Hiring WomenSince I mentioned recently that it's staff review time in my library, I thought it'd also be appropriate (although I use that term loosely) to post this 1943 Guide to Hiring Women. Originally published in "Transportation Magazine," I found it over on the studio twentysix2 blog, and I agree with Tom's commentary.

As a male in a traditionally female-dominated field, of course I found this interesting. I work for and with women, and have women who report to me, and I'm happy to report that this is not at all applicable to 2008. All of my colleagues, professional and paraprofessional, have their jobs because they are good at their jobs - not just because they fit the uniforms we had on hand.

Times change. That's a good thing.



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Reference Question of the Week – 5/11/08

   May 17th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Question markI was traveling most of last week, so this week's reference question is actually something I was asked outside the library (and hear often, as I'm sure most librarians do):

Aren't you going to be out of a job when computers replace books?

There's lots of answers to this, but I was happy to illustrate my point with a quote a book.

In Douglas Adams' Mostly Harmless, two characters are comparing astrology to the science of astronomy. One of them makes the case that its rules and methods is what gives astrology value, because they serve to bring out the information someone is seeking.

"It's like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are. It lets you see the words that were written on the piece of paper above it that's now been taken away and hidden. The graphite's not important. It's just the means of revealing their indentations."

I immensely enjoy books, and don't think they are going anywhere any time soon, but this question implied that libraries are just book warehouses. In fact, libraries aren't about books at all - we are about information, and access to that information.

Printed and bound books are just one form of "graphite dust" that can be used to reveal the important part - the information they contain. E-books, newspapers, websites, DVDs, journals, mp3s and paintings are also types of delivery media for information.

As long as there information, there will be a need to organize it, convey it, give it context, and help others use it. Talk about job security.



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Job Opening: Gun Librarian

   February 7th, 2008 Brian Herzog

Cabela's logoI keep an eye on library job openings in Maine, and now I see the the Cabela's store in Scarborough is looking for someone to work in the Gun Library.

A few of the job duties overlap with my current position:

  • Ensure proper display of merchandise on the sales floor.
  • Assists customers in finding and selecting products that best meet their needs based on extensive study and field experience.
  • Attends and/or schedules management and area meetings to ensure all departments objectives are met.
  • Prepares store for daily opening and closing.

And a few do not:

  • Determining the market value of a wide range of firearms
  • Buying and selling antique and collectible firearms
  • Big and small game hunting
  • Upland and waterfowl hunting

I wonder if having a Swiss Army knife since college could get me the job. Probably not, but maybe for "Big and small game hunting" they'd count wrangling little kids and teenagers in the library during after-school hours. But I guess that's more like herding than hunting. I just need to keep looking.

Anyone interested can apply online.

via MELIBS-L



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