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Library School To Do List

child's to do list

Photo by Carissa GoodNCrazy on Flickr

In getting my MLIS, there are things I’m glad that I did, and there are also things that I wish that I had done differently. To get a library job there are some important skills you need. If I had to do it over again I would make sure that I had all of these things checked off my list:

Real World Experience

You can’t expect to get hired out of library school unless you have some real experience to point to. The degree is important, but what really sets you apart is what you’ve done. There are plenty of ways to get experience. Get an assistantship, internship or graduate position at a library where you’re actually doing the job. Volunteer at a public, academic, or even jail library. Do a practicum as a part of a class. This doesn’t need to be full time professional experience, but you should show that you have something hands on that you can point to in your resume.

Some Technology Skills

Libraries and technology are integrally tied together. You have to make it a priority to develop some technology chops. I’m not going to enumerate specific skills you need (though I think some HTML is critical). You need to be comfortable with technology and the speed at which it changes. If your program doesn’t offer technology classes, do some outside work. Try something similar to the 23 things project. Start a tech in libraries club or get involved with the LITA chapter at school. You’re never done learning technology, so you have to learn how to play and evaluate technology and how/if it fits into your needs.

Professional Engagement

You need to show that you care about the profession and want to give back.  Join a professional organization like the ALA. Student memberships are often highly discounted. Besides an association there are tons of ways to be professionally engaged: publish an article or opinion piece, attend conferences, join a library club at school, volunteer at a library, give a presentation, join a professional committee. People like to see job-seekers who are passionate, engaged, and thoughtful about what they do.

Make Connections

Build and maintain connections with students, professors, and other professionals you meet. The library world is a pretty small one, and every connection is important. Make friendships with students and maintain them via social media. Connections that you make in library school can be lifelong and may be very helpful down the road, even if you don’t see it now. Besides librarians are some of the most fun people to hang out with anyway.

Get a Website

The benefits of getting a website is twofold. It helps you play with and learn technology, and it also is a place to show off things that may not come through in a paper resume. If you constructed a video tutorial you could highlight it on your website. If you gave an interesting presentation or Prezi you can embed it. It doesn’t need to be super flashy. You could just get a WordPress blog or create one in a couple hours using Weebly or Google sites.

Teaching Experience

This one I found very helpful personally. If you know for sure you never will be teaching this one might be optional, but this skill makes you so much more marketable. Volunteer to do workshops. If offered, take an instruction class. I took a practicum and it helped me immensely. Librarians are in the business of learning and information and that often means we need to be educators.

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Look Out Vermont

I have finally arrived in Vermont after driving over a thousand miles.  It was actually not too bad of a drive.  I stopped a couple of places (with WIFI of course) and never once ran into any traffic or inclement weather.  It was almost too good to be true.  The Adirondacks were beautiful, and I was able to take a ferry accross Lake Champlain.  It seemed that driving would be the best option.  It got my car, some stuff and me out there, but it also a fulcrum for my transition.  With every passing mile I kept thinking more about what my new job would entail and what I would make it into.  I left my library school life behind and ventured towards my professional career.

It was sad leaving things and places and people that I had grown to know and love for something completely different, but I realize that that is going to be the nature of my new job.  I will have to be constantly changing, doing things different ways, and abandoning old comfortable methods of doing things for something that will work better or make more sense.  This is the nature of library work as well as the nature of the world.  You do something some way for a while and start getting comfortable… then everything changes.  You have to do it differently.  A man works in a factory maufacturing SUV’s and suddenly people realize the model of getting cheap gas no longer works.  The job is gone.  The person now has to learn a new skill and reshape who he is.  Things do not stay the same way for long.  A key virtue for this day and age is flexibility.

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Graduation and Job

Andy graduating

I have not been posting much on my job search and graduation, mainly because I have been really busy with both.  I graduated on May 18th (that’s me above saying a few words of thanks), and it was a great ceremony.  I only attended the small SLIS ceremony.  The school wide one would have been far too long and boring.  Our professor Stephen Paling was our keynote speaker and he did an amazing job.  I am glad that I went.  The whole thing kind of gave me a feeling of closure.  I am now a full-fledged Master of Arts in Library and Information Science.

In addition, I am now gainfully employed.  I have just accepted a position as the Emerging Technologies Librarian at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont.  I am really excited about this position as it is a really good fit for my interests.  I will continue posting during this transition period from student to librarian in the hope of revealing some insights about making that change.

I will also have some advice coming soon for job hunters.  I had a lot of interviews and phone interviews and can impart some of the things that I have learned through the whole process.