Getting that first library job

Did you just graduate from library school? Congratulations! Hopefully you have found a job, but if you haven’t, I am here to help! Inspired by PubLib, the LinkedIn ALA Discussion Group, and my fellow craft brew loving colleague the BeerBrarian, I thought that I would share some advice for newly minted library school grads looking to land that first library job. It is such a competitive job market right now and I continue to hear or read about some really obvious mistakes that new MLS/MLIS graduates make when applying for jobs or going on interviews, so I really feel compelled to share some advice and try to help. Our profession needs bright, young talent with enthusiasm and fresh ideas, and I want you to get hired!

When applying for jobs…

1) Please, please, please, focus on that cover letter and resume!

This should be obvious, but you need to be sure that your cover letter and resume are flawless. You want your cover letter and resume to stand out, but not in a bad kind of way. Yeah, I know you are applying for multiple jobs, but please focus the cover letter on the opportunity with my organization and don’t just copy and paste stuff from another cover letter. And if you do, please, make sure that you aren’t copying and pasting the wrong information about the organization! If the director’s name is Raymond Santiago and you address your cover letter to Ginnie Cooper, you are instantly eliminated right there. If you are an out-of-town candidate, explain to me why you are applying for a job here. Originally from the area and moving back in with your parents after you graduate? Great, but make sure you tell me that in the cover letter and don’t assume I will figure that out on my own. For more cover letter advice, check out this link that BeerBraian mentioned in this post.

2) Do your research on my organization!

Why do you want to work for us? Because we are the only library hiring in your area? Well, maybe, but don’t tell me that! Give me a reason you are interested in this position that will catch my interest. Show me that you have done your research. Look at the website. Read newspaper articles about the library. Read the Board of Trustees meeting minutes (they are almost always online, and give you fantastic insight into what is going on at the library). Look at the library’s statistics. Use this information to guide you with crafting your cover letter.

3) Tell me why we should hire you…sell yourself!

Use the information you know about the library and sell how you can help us. Remember, this isn’t so much about you, this is about what you can do for us.

4) If you are still in grad school, intern at a library. If you have already graduated, find some way to get library experience.

You need some experience. Get it. Anyway you can. Volunteer at your local library. It might even lead to a paid position there down the road, you never know. If nothing else, you will gain valuable library experience (there are just some things you can’t learn about working in a library without on-the-job training) and add to your professional network.

5) Be active with professional development.

Join professional associations. Can’t afford to join ALA (join the club!), try some local associations. And don’t just join them, be active with them! Read librarian blogs, follow library professionals on Twitter, get active on LinkedIn (there are some great library-related groups you can join on LinkedIn), join listservs, and read professional journals. And start a blog! One of the ways my library’s YA Librarian stood out during the job application process was that she had a great YA books blog and she told us about it. If I had any doubts about her knowledge of YA literature, I certainly didn’t after checking out her blog.

 

This guy is totally going to get the job after listening to my advice :-)

 

When you get an interview…

1) Dress up!

Unless you have an interview with Google, wear your best business attire. Looking great, in and of itself, probably isn’t going to get you a job, but it will help you make a great first impression, which is huge. This is very basic and very common sense, but it still amazes me how casually people dress for interviews.

2) Be sure to do your research!

Oh, wait, I already mentioned this. But it is important! You are probably going up against candidates that have more experience than you do, so you need any extra edge you can get. If you have done your homework on the library and the other candidate hasn’t, this will definitely help your cause.

3) Do a practice interview (especially if you haven’t done it for a long time).

Yeah, I know, this is not the most comfortable thing to do. But, it really helps to find some sample interview questions for the job you want, get a friend to be the interviewer, and do a practice interview. Practice makes perfect!

4) Sell yourself!

I mentioned this above as well, but be sure to do it in the interview. Tell me why we should hire you and what you can bring to the organization. Also, sell your personality. Everyone that I am interviewing can probably do the job, so keep in mind that I am also looking for someone that would be a good fit for our team and our culture. Be professional, but not so formal that you don’t allow your personality to shine.

5) “Do you have any questions for us?” Of course you do!

If you have done your homework (and I know you have), you should have plenty of things to ask us. Don’t close the interview by telling us you don’t have any questions!

 

Good luck!

Remember, no matter what, try to stay upbeat and positive! Working at the library is awesome, and all the hard work and effort you put into getting that first job will be totally worth it!

 

Photo credit: morgueFile

 

Ryan

Hi, I’m Ryan Livergood.  I am the Director of Libraries in Arlington, Massachusetts. I was previously the Assistant Director of the Dover Town Library in Dover, Massachusetts and I got my start in public librarianship with the Miami-Dade Public Library System.  I also spent time in the Library Automation field with Sirsi Corporation (now SirsiDynix).  Other positions I have had include teaching English in China and serving in the Peace Corps. I received my MLIS from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. My wonderful family consists of the best wife on the planet, my adventurous young son, and a lovable cat.  I love sports, especially college basketball and football.  I also love to travel, watch great films, and enjoy amazing meals with a nice glass of red wine or a craft beer.  Oh, I love reading too (and discussing books with my "Guys Book Group"), but I’m a librarian, so you kind of knew that already, right?

7 thoughts on “Getting that first library job

  1. I am thinking of going for the MLS and I currently work in a public library. This information was very helpful, thanks.

    1. Don’t do it, Janine! You’ll wind up over-qualified for the job you have, and the librarian job market is not great right now unless you’re qualified to be a director. That’s a good sign, because it means the vanguard of directors is finally retiring, but it’s going to take awhile for the jobs to trickle down to the rest of us.

      1. I’ve noticed the same thing. Many directors’ positions opening up, which I’m not yet qualified for, and few positions for recent grads.

  2. Agree with Ashley completely. Graduated in May 2010, have held a library assistant position since late 2009. Just interviewed for a position in my organization and was passed up for a librarian with 8 years experience. I could have saved 90k, and just used my HS diploma to get this job.

  3. It’s somewhat disconcerting to read that our profession needs “young” talent, since most of the new graduates I know (including myself) are middle-aged. I would hope that our brilliance, enthusiasm, and experience might make up for our lack of youth.

    1. Lea, I am middle-aged too…can’t middle-aged people still be considered young? However, I probably shouldn’t have used the term “young” … our profession needs brilliant, experienced, and enthusiastic people of all ages.

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