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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Automate the Internet with If This Then That

   November 10th, 2011 Brian Herzog

ifttt logo - Put the internet to work for youThis has been in my "to blog" folder for awhile. I haven't gotten a chance to use it yet, but wanted to share it because I think it's neat.

The website http://ifttt.com, which stands for "If This Then That," allows you to makes things happen online as a result of something else happening. The If/Then is a reference to logical causality, and in this case basically means,"if this one thing happens on the internet, then do this other thing automatically."

They explain it very well on their "About" page (I put "About" in quotes because their actual URL made me laugh and is so much better than "/about").

Anyway, there already are some tools that offer consequence-action services (like Google Alerts, getting an email if someone comments on your flickr photos, using Twitterfeed to automatically tweet blog posts, etc). But this one seems the most versatile, because it isn't service-dependent, it does more than just notifications, and it lets you manage all your notifications from one service.

I'm hoping to use it to automate some of what the library does online (as seen in our Online Marketing Flowchart). There are lots of triggers and actions available, and it seems limited only by your imagination. But of course, like with any online tool, the more you use it, the bigger impact you'll feel if it suddenly goes away - which never stopped me before.

Also, like LibraryElf, this is a tool I think patrons can use on an individual basis - I say this because it offers notifications by text, phone, and email, and triggers can be calendar events, feeds, and more.



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With Friends Like These

   November 11th, 2008 Brian Herzog

flickr friends screenshotIf you haven't already, read David Lee King's post about Web 2.0 and friending. It might be hard to swallow at first, but he's absolutely right.

His main point:

When your organization decides, say, to create a Facebook page … who are you trying to connect with? Me? I don’t live in your neighborhood. Another library on the other side of the world? They’re not going to use your services.

He's right in that libraries aren't implementing Library 2.0 tools to connect with other libraries - we need to focus on connecting with our patrons. Any library service (be it a newsletter, a storytime, a flickr collection, or an rss feed) should be directed to the patrons. Those are the people (we hope) who will benefit from it.

Friending other libraries is safe and tempting, but is slightly counterproductive (we don't want it to look like these are library-only tools). But I also agree with David (and commenters) in that it's important to connect with other librarians professionally, and to keep up with what other libraries are doing - there are a lot of good ideas out there that we can adapt for our own libraries.

Hmm. I'm guilty of this myself, but I'm going to keep in mind moving forward.



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