Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions

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Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions
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Future Academic Librarian's Toolkit
Sobel, Karen
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American Library Association
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This chapter was written primarily for individuals who have begun a master of library science (or similar) degree program and who intend to maximize their marketability. It will also help readers who already work as academic librarians and who intend to move toward careers in a different sub-specialty within academic libraries. In addition to exploring the learning objectives, readers such as yourself will explore the breadth and depth of their career goals, learn more about professionalism in academic libraries, prepare to make connections in the library community, learn how to begin building a “scholarly record,” and much more.
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27 CHAPTER 2 Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions Karen Sobel Aer reading this chapter, you will be able to: • identify and learn to promote major sets of skills and knowledge that you have developed through past educational and career experiences in order to create a curriculum vitae (CV); • learn about the types of coursework and additional training you should consider taking during your MLS programs in order to maximize your opportunities for learning skills and knowledge that strengthen your job candidacy; • consider various types of work experiences available to you during your MLS program, and understand the pros and cons of each, in order to select opportunities that will support your candidacy for professional jobs; and • learn about ways to begin building a scholarly record in order to prepare yourself for tenure-track and other academic library positions that re quire or encourage scholarly activity. Introduction Welcome to the world of academic librarianship! is chapter was written primar ily for individuals who have begun a master of library science (or similar) degree program and who intend to maximize their marketability. It will also help readers who already work as academic librarians and who intend to move toward careers in a dierent sub-specialty within academic libraries. In addition to exploring the learning objectives, readers such as yourself will explore the breadth and depth of their career goals, learn more about professional -


28 CHAPTER 2 ism in academic libraries, prepare to make connections in the library community, learn how to begin building a “scholarly record,” and much more. Before moving into the chapter, I’d like to say that working in academic li braries involves ever-shiing challenges and new sets of questions every day. It’s a world of intriguing resources, inquisitive students and faculty, and library col leagues who are passionately devoted to their work. We’re glad you’re here, and we hope you love it. Identifying Your Goals and Requirements Students who are nearing the completion of their master of library science (MLS) degree frequently say that they will apply to any and every mildly relevant job posting that comes their way. ey send out dozens of applications with an in creasing sense of desperation as graduation creeps closer. (Let me say, I’ve been there! I know how scary it feels. As I oen tell my library’s graduate assistants, this situation always feels hopeless until the minute you have an oer for a job that you want—and then it feels great!) Before beginning to apply to countless jobs, it’s important to come up with a bit of strategy. One of the most important things that you can do for yourself early on is to consider the goals and requirements you have for the positions that you apply to. is will help you to sort through all the opportunities that are out there and select ones that will help you to move forward. For the purposes of this chapter, we will dene “goals” as characteristics of po sitions that you would like to have as well as the ultimate trajectory of your career. We will dene “requirements” as characteristics that the job must have in order to t your life’s needs. Goals Goal setting involves thinking about both the present and the future and creating direction for yourself. Start by letting yourself think freely about your goals. Ideal ly, what kind of job would you like to have when you rst graduate? Did you dis cover a passion for cataloging that you would like to pursue professionally? Mark that down as a goal for the present. Make notes about what you would like to get out of your rst professional position. Aer you’ve thought about the near future, think further down the road. What kind of job do you hope to have in ten years? Where do you hope to be much later in your career? ink about the kinds of experience that you would need to build up in order to reach those goals. If you aren’t sure, talk with a colleague or another librarian who has more experience. Alternatively, try looking for position postings for jobs that you may want far in the future. Note the requirements and think back ward about how you might work toward fullling those requirements starting now.


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 29 Some of us aren’t sure about where we would like to end up in our careers. We enjoy following opportunities that interest us. We seek interest and fulllment rather than moving directly up the ladder or moving toward one specic endpoint. Or we may have strong feelings about the kind of institution we hope to work at but not the exact type of job that we would hold there. is is ne, too. Be honest with yourself about your goals. Aer you have thought about goals for the present and for the more distant future, think about the “breadth” of positions that may interest you now. What is the range of positions that would help you to be happy now and to reach eventual goals that you have identied? Requirements Aer daydreaming about your goals and how to reach them, it’s time to think about absolute requirements that would make this job work with your life. While it can be tempting to apply to every opportunity that comes your way, the reality is that you need a job that works with your life. inking carefully about the requirements that you have—and making sure that you mentally separate them from goals and de sires—will help you si through opportunities to nd those that actually work for you. When you’re rst going on the job market, it’s important to be open-minded toward opportunities, particularly if you are not currently employed. ink about any characteristics that a job absolutely must have in order for you to take it. Consider any family circumstances that you need to take into con sideration. Come up with a list of requirements. For example, do you need to be in a particular geographic region of the country for personal reasons? Do you need to make sure that work will be available for your spouse or partner? Would you need to make a certain amount of money to support your family, given the local cost of living? Once you have given yourself time to think of requirements, go through them and make sure that all of them are necessary. It’s ne to keep additional desires in mind, such as your dream of eventually nding a job in New York City, but con sider whether they are something that you must have now or something that you could work toward as an eventual goal. Try to keep your list of requirements short so that you don’t lter out too many jobs. Timelines and Mobility While you’re considering your personal requirements for a job, also consider how “mobile” you will be over the next few years. Many academic librarians stay at their rst job for two or three years, build experience and identify professional passions, and then move on to new opportunities. Will this be an option for you, given your commitments? If you feel that you will need to stay in the same area for more than


30 CHAPTER 2 a few years due to personal circumstances, you may want to focus on searching for positions in areas that have multiple academic libraries. On the other hand, if you will have the exibility to move around the country, maybe you would like to take a chance on a job, perhaps in an exciting geographic area. Try This: Each section in this chapter has a “try this” list. e list covers a few action items that will help you to explore and move forward with a specic area of your career preparation. If you still have several semesters le in your MLS program, use the “try this” lists to familiarize yourself with steps in career preparation. Try a few items from lists throughout the chapter; perhaps plan to try one item per list over the next few months. If you’ll graduate in the coming year, you may benet from completing more items from the lists so that you will be ready to market yourself for your rst position. Let’s get started. Try this: • List your career goals. What kind of job would you like to have for your rst position? What kind of job do you hope to have in ve years? What are your ultimate career goals? • List your requirements. ink realistically about location, salary, and po tential work schedules in particular. Are there any other important as pects of your life that you need to take into account when considering positions? Optimizing Your MLS Program’s Offerings Coursework If you are currently working on your MLS, now is the time to take advantage of courses and additional training that are available to you. While you can certainly pursue additional training once you’re a practicing librarian, right now (a) you have a wealth of course oerings available to you, and (b) you will benet from having taken additional courses as you apply for positions. When you’re deciding which courses to take, it’s important to balance breadth and depth of your career goals and the knowledge that you are building. A good guideline is to focus mainly on courses that relate directly to your career goals, while also taking a few additional courses that will give you a signicant edge within your specialty area. In terms of courses that focus on your primary area of expertise, these will oen begin to stand out to you quickly in your course cata log. Your advisor, classmates, and coworkers should help highlight these courses for you. Depending on your focus area, you may also want to carefully consider taking a few courses outside the area of library science—for example, courses in a language that you hope to catalog in or support through subject specialist work.


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 31 ese additional courses oen cover advanced or highly sought-aer knowl edge and skills. For example, individuals who have been hired in research or ref erence librarian positions oen report that having taken a few extra technolo gy-centered courses or a course in a particularly challenging specialty area such as business librarianship or law librarianship gave them an edge—or at least garnered positive interest—during interviews. Taking courses on especially desirable sub jects helps give you a few “extras” that you can oer in addition to your primary set of skills and knowledge. You may also want to take courses on current “hot topics” in librarianship. Hopefully, you have begun to develop a sense of emerging areas or topics within academic librarianship that are central to the eld now. One of the most helpful things you can do to help plan a career is to make connections with librarians who have positions similar to the one that you hope to have. ey oen provide wonderful sources of candid wisdom about how to get an edge in the working world. ese connections are oen the best way to learn about courses and other “secrets” that may help you nd greater success. Ask these individuals questions when you have them and try to encourage friend ly professional conversation. It can be helpful to get to know librarians with a range of levels of experience, too—both those who bring several decades’ worth of wisdom to the conversation and those who bring recent experiences and per spectives. Advisors and Other Professors Develop strong relationships with a few of your professors, including your advisor (who will, for MLS students, typically be a faculty member with a specialty closely related to yours). In graduate school, this goes beyond the typical undergraduate advice of making sure that your professors know your name. At this point in your career, you should speak with your advisor multiple times each semester, increas ing in frequency as graduation draws near. Turn to your advisor as you face ques tions about selecting courses in particular. (Some MLS programs have alternatives to assigned advisors; the point is to have frequent, detailed conversations about your career plans with knowledgeable professionals.) If your program involves a master’s thesis, you will have plenty of other material for discussion and reasons for interaction as well. Develop strong relationships with one or two of your other professors, par ticularly those whose expertise relates strongly to the work that you hope to do. Typically, this means getting in touch a few times with relevant professional ques tions—whether relating to coursework, your internships and work, or your career strategies and prospects. (is is just as doable for online students as for those who are taking courses in their place of residence.) Ask questions that matter; don’t just start conversations for conversation’s sake.


32 CHAPTER 2 e quality of the connections you build and support matter. Your advisor and the professors with whom you grow close may serve as some of your refer ences for your rst job applications (although you should aim to combine these with recommendations from supervisors at internships and other work experi ences). ey can help to provide advice and support as you strategize and pursue job opportunities. Strong relationships are especially important at this time; you will have questions that come up at odd times and, unless you’re especially lucky, you’ll also need encouragement and emotional support from time to time. Having a few professors who know you and believe in you helps! You may also nd that you keep in touch with occasional professional questions aer graduation. Many academic librarians nd that their favorite former professors eventually play a role in their lives that is somewhere between that of a trusted colleague and a mentor. Training for Graduate Students While you’re enrolled in your MLS program, take advantage of various training sessions that your institution’s library and campus oer for graduate students. Many skills and topics are much easier to learn and to access while you’re still a stu dent. If you’re attending classes in person, nd out how your graduate school pub licizes training opportunities for graduate students—for example, through emails coming from your department, via a listserv maintained by the graduate school, or through announcements from certain centers that oer training opportunities, such as the library and the career center. If you are studying online, nd out about your institution’s sources of similar online training. While you doubtless already have a lot going on and it can be tempting to pass on opportunities for training, do take the time to consider and pursue training that will actually make your life easi er. Sessions on topics such as citation management, data management, cover letter and rsum writing, and other aspects of graduate work and career preparation can increase your success and save you time. Here’s a hint: If there is a session that you wish you could attend but cannot due to time constraints, get in touch with the individual or department who will be providing it as far in advance as you can. Ask whether they would be willing to record the session so that you may watch it later. is is a common option in higher education; however, trainers may not oer it unless they know that someone wants it. If you plan to work in a library career where you will be working directly with students or where it will be benecial for you to understand students’ research-re lated needs, taking part in or at least staying aware of training for graduate students can help you in several ways. It can help you to develop a broad understanding of graduate students’ needs and concerns, which may guide the ways in which you help graduate students as a librarian. Having this knowledge may also assist you throughout the interview process. Many interviews for librarian positions include questions about serving graduate students. Even if you have not yet had the chance


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 33 to work with graduate students during your internships and work experiences, you will be able to share what you know during interviews—based on what you have learned through training at your graduate school, your observations, and your own experiences as a student. A smaller point is that attending training will also help you to sample dierent teaching styles and methods. e more people you observe teaching, the more ideas you will have about ways to communicate with students and to teach skills. If you have spent a great deal of time teaching undergraduate students or students of other ages during your internships and work experiences, watching others teach sessions for graduate students may give you ideas on how to modify what you do for a dierent audience. While your MLS program (and the institution where you are studying) are oen the easiest, most comprehensive sources of training at this point in your career, you may also want to ll in your knowledge and approach specic topics of interest through webinars and online courses from professional organizations. Two popular sources of professional development for academic librarians are: • Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) eLearning: http:// 1 • Library Juice Academy: 2 It’s wise to keep a few sources for training in the back of your mind once you begin your career as well; these will still be available to you once you enter the professional world. When you are working as a professional, your needs and ques tions will continue to develop. A wise librarian will seek out quality professional development in order to keep evolving. Try This: • If you haven’t spoken with your advisor (or with a favorite professor or a supervisor at your library) about your career plans within the past few months, make an appointment to speak with someone. Make a list of the questions you have at the moment. Be ready to discuss your hopes, and the steps you’re making toward them. • Do some research on skills that are required or preferred for the positions you want to have. Learn about “hot topics” in your eld. Consider wheth er you would like to take some courses that will cover these skills and topics to increase your marketability. If you don’t have time for an entire course, seek out more compact training options. • Search for training options through professional organizations or your MLS program’s institutions. Look for any that interest you now. Sign up to receive notications for future training.


34 CHAPTER 2 Identifying Opportunities We’ve already talked about siing through opportunities. When you’re planning to enter the job market, it’s important to ensure that you see advertisements (oen called “postings”) for as many academic library positions as possible. You will also benet from beginning to watch for relevant postings at least a few months before you plan to start applying. By taking some time to look at post ings that interest you, while you still have some time le in your degree program, you can notice common requirements and perhaps fulll more of them—such as by taking an additional course or participating in an additional internship. Create a strategy for handling postings. First, sign up to receive notications from several major websites for library job postings. Many will allow you to create tailored alerts, such as for jobs in particular states or postings containing a certain keyword. Many also oer guidance on job searching—well worth reading! See whether your library school has a listserv for postings. If so, sign up for it. Also, see whether you can sign up for notications of new postings at any libraries that particularly interest you. If not, make a plan to come back every so oen. A few additional sites to consider are: • ALA JobLIST: 3 • Chronicle of Higher Education : 4 • INALJ: 5 No matter your level of enthusiasm, reading through all the position postings you receive can take a lot of time. Make plans to keep yourself up to date on op portunities that interest you. Try This: • Look through several online sources for library job postings. Try the ones listed above. Ask whether your LIS program oers a job listserv. If you’re interested in a specic geographic region of the country, search for a local library job posting site there. Some professional specialty areas within libraries have their own job posting lists; consider signing up for any that relate to your future plans. • Plan a time each week when you can look through notications you have received. Read through any that interest you; note anything you’ve learned through their requirements. If it’s time to start applying, do so. Also, use this time to check the websites for libraries of particular interest that may not oer notications. • Talk to your classmates or fellow interns about the types of positions you hope to nd. Oer to forward postings to each other when you nd one that looks perfect for each other’s goals.


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 35 Compiling and Presenting Your Past Experiences Academic libraries value and utilize the skills and knowledge that librarians bring from other work experiences. As you’re beginning to put together application ma terials for professional positions—or for internships—spend some time thinking through your past work and volunteer experiences. Make notes for yourself about the skills that you built during each experience. ink about how these can help you to succeed in an academic library. Certainly, all the experiences that you have had in libraries will give you an edge. However, think about all of the other skills that you have developed that relate to the positions you hope to hold, too. Here are some areas to think about: • project management or personnel management • leadership skills and experiences • library instruction and other teaching experience • subject-specic expertise • languages spoken and read • technological skills • performing outreach on university campuses and in other professional or social settings • marketing or graphic design skills • experience in gathering, interpreting, and presenting data • additional assorted skills that are unique to you You will share all of these experiments with potential employers in several ways. e most important characteristics that you’ve identied may appear on your curriculum vitae (CV)—academia’s version of a rsum. More of the skills will appear in your cover letters as you tell potential employers how your experi ences make you an excellent candidate for a job. Still more will come up during conversations at your interviews. Individuals who work in higher education generally use a CV to share their accomplishments. Spend some time converting your rsum into a CV, so that you can highlight any publications or research-related experiences that you have had and to show employers that you are familiar with this convention. (We will discuss your research experiences in the Building Your Scholarly Record section of this chapter.) ere are several common models of CV. Eastern Institute of Technol ogy’s (New Zealand) page on CVs details several models and provides advice on choosing a model based on your past experience. 6 e Purdue OWL website also provides a sample CV as well as discussion of CVs’ conventions and content. 7 One simple thing you can do is to think about how you would discuss the skills that you will want to highlight in a conversation. It’s dierent than mention ing them in a cover letter. For example, if you were at an interview session, what would you say about your experience with project management? What would you


36 CHAPTER 2 say about your customer service skills, your uency in Spanish, or any other skills that give you a special edge? What would you say about each of the skills that ap pear in the job postings that you’ve collected? Spend some time imagining these conversations. Try This: • Convert your rsum into CV format. Ask several classmates, librarian colleagues from your workplace, or sta at your institution’s career center to read it and give you feedback. is is one of the most important steps you can take toward marketing yourself. • Look at the list of categories of skills from earlier in this section (starting with “project management”). Take some time to think about and write notes on the experience you have in each of these areas. • Get together with another MLS student or arrange a Skype session. Prac tice interviewing each other about the experiences that you have within each set of skills. Be ready to share details on how you have used these skills. Consider whether you have examples—whether stories or arti facts—that you could share at an interview. Selecting and Building Work Experiences If you are currently working on your MLS, the most important thing that you can do for yourself is to nd relevant internships or other work experience (including volunteer work). When you interview for professional positions, yes, having your MLS will count, and so will the knowledge that you have built up through your courses. However, it is the skills that you have built up on the job as well as the practical training that you have received for your internships and work that will likely inuence potential employers the most. At interviews for positions of any type, you will be asked to share examples of how you have handled various types of challenges. You will benet from having a wealth of experiences and stories to have learned from and to share. Ideally, try to nd part-time jobs, internships, or volunteer work that is as similar as possible to the career you would like to have. Some characteristics to consider: • building skills related to major duties of the professional jobs you seek • whether you will get to focus on building a narrow skill set or experience a wide range of work (both are important) • whether you will be part of a department or “apprentice” with one indi vidual librarian (both have value) • ensuring that you gain experience at an academic library


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 37 • considering opportunities at other types of libraries so that you may build experience with certain skill sets (such as cataloging) or broaden the range of patrons that you have worked with In the end, the balance of focused and broad experiences that we have already discussed is probably the most important factor in selecting work experiences. Make absolutely sure to gain work experience that relates directly to the jobs that you intend to apply for. If you have additional time, or if your program requires short practicum (for-credit) work experiences, then you may want to branch out, experiment with a dierent setting or group of patrons, or explore an area of work where you would like to build experience. Do focus on core skills for the jobs that you seek, though. e idea of balance features in decisions about the types of workplaces you search for, too. Ideally, you should try to gain experience in a workplace that is as similar as possible to the libraries where you would like to nd permanent em ployment. In reality, it isn’t always possible to make a great match—for example, you might intend to work at a large public university but may not have one nearby. Consider other qualities of future workplaces that you can nd nearby. For exam ple, you may be able to build many of the necessary skills through an internship at a small liberal arts college in your town. Balance nding work at an institution similar to one where you hope to work with gaining experience with a wider range of patrons. Many academic librarians, for example, complement their experience in academic libraries with a smaller amount of work or volunteer experience at public libraries. e experiences they have and the skills they develop in working with patron needs are remarkable. In some libraries or other workplaces, you may be able to request to broaden your experiences. For example, while I worked in a graduate student position in a reference department, I was able to negotiate short additional work experiences in collection development (which turned out to be a passion) and cataloging (which did not). ese “add-on” experiences may work out more easily in a workplace where you already have a relationship with some librarians and where you have already built a positive reputation for yourself. If you have a particular type of work in mind or if you can describe a certain project that you might be interested in working on, try pitching that idea to individuals who work in that area. You may very well be able to make arrangements. If you are already a librarian who intends to switch areas within librarianship, similar strategies may work for you. Consider asking to participate in projects that will help you to build skills in your new area of interest. Ask to join committees that cover the type of work that you wish to pursue in the future. It’s up to you how open to be with your colleagues regarding your professional goals. In gen eral, openness is welcomed and you will probably nd support among your work friends and others. However, do consider any potential downsides that you per ceive in your workplace.


38 CHAPTER 2 Unpaid Internships Unpaid internships oer countless opportunities in academic libraries. ey also require making some dicult choices. Let’s weigh the pros and cons. If you are able to take advantage of unpaid internships, you may nd opportunities to take on some exciting projects and to build skills that will make you more marketable. In academic libraries, there is no real dierence in the scope of op portunities available as unpaid internships compared to paid jobs or internships. Realistically, some departments or organizations are unable to pay for librarians to perform certain work that they need, but they are able to provide the guidance and space for a qualied volunteer, such as an MLS candidate, to perform that work. You may be able to earn credit for your MLS program through unpaid internships; it’s well worth asking about this option if you are considering an unpaid internship. If there is a type of project that you would enjoy taking on but you have not been able to nd that opportunity in paid form, you may want to consider discuss ing or proposing an unpaid project to a library that may appreciate that work. e situation that you propose should be mutually benecial. Learn about a library’s needs or holdings and ask what you could do to help out while developing your skills. Be clear about the types of mentoring and preparation that you would need, both in the beginning and throughout the project. For example, as a graduate student, I wanted to develop some skills in collec tion development. Aer considering opportunities that were available, I decided to discuss the creation of a project with my university library’s collection develop ment project. One collection development librarian oered to mentor me through a project in which I would evaluate the library’s holdings of literature by Latino/a authors as well as related commentary. I would identify gaps, then plan and carry out a process to purchase items that lled in those gaps, thus creating a richer, more complete collection on behalf of our students. 8 Aer I found my rst profes sional librarian position, I was able to use the skills that I had developed through that internship to shi into a position at my library that required collection devel opment skills. e work I had carried out certainly paid o down the road. e downside is, of course, not being paid. Unpaid internships are frequently benecial later on, whether in making you more marketable for your very rst job or in giving you a broader range of opportunities later, as mine did for me. Howev er, this is one situation where you need to be realistic. Evaluate the nancial needs you will have during the remainder of your MLS program. Make sure that your work and your choices will allow you to take care of yourself. If you choose to pursue an unpaid internship, make sure that you propose, negotiate, and agree on the parameters of your internship with the person who would supervise you at the site. Make sure that you gather approval from your MLS advisor and the site’s human resources department too, if necessary. Ensure


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 39 that your potential site supervisor knows the amount of knowledge and experi ence that you have related to this work. Major factors to agree upon are: • the total number of hours you would spend on the project • times that you will work • locations where you will work (especially whether you must conduct all work on site, or whether you may work from home or other locations) • the amount and nature of guidance that your site supervisor will give you • the nature of your interactions with your site supervisor: when you will check in, etc. • how you will log your time • what other information you will log and how • whether you will produce a “product” at the end of the project. If so, what may you use that product for? (Publication? Demonstrating your skills at professional job interviews?) • professional expectations for that workplace, such as dress codes Write down the details of your agreement and share them with your site su pervisor. Make sure that the two of you agree with them as they appear in print. is will be your “contract” as you work. It’s up to you whether you would like to nalize them by signing a written version of the contract. Do make sure that if you need to le any information with your MLS program to earn credit (if applicable), you do so. Try This: • Spend some time thinking about the skills and experience that you hope to build through work and internships before you begin to apply for posi tions. Are there skills that you have not yet gained? If so, think about how you might nd experiences for building those skills. • Take some time to look through opportunities for internships and parttime work experiences. Do this even if you are currently interning or working part-time in a library. While you’re preparing yourself for a pro fession in libraries, it’s important to stay aware of opportunities. If you nd one that seems signicantly more relevant to your goals than one that you are working in now, it’s okay to switch. A good supervisor will understand that you are building your future and will want to support your goals. Building Relationships Librarians and other students you meet through your work experiences will be come important and oen lasting parts of your professional network. It’s well worth putting in the eort to get to know both librarians and other students in


40 CHAPTER 2 your workplaces. Take the time to ask meaningful professional questions and gath er opinions and advice while you’re on the job. ese simple steps can help you begin to build professional relationships. Some benets of strong relationships in the context of student jobs are: • mentoring, both formal and informal • references during the job-seeking process • moral and other support throughout the job-seeking process • connections and friendships that continue into your professional career • understanding how you can mentor others once you’re a librarian Some future librarians ask how the connections they make at work compare with “networking events,” which we will discuss later. Networking events give you the opportunity to meet and exchange information with large numbers of professionals in your eld, quickly. Getting to know librarians more naturally through your work place allows you to develop a smaller number of deeper relationships (although you may nd yourself feeling surprised about how many librarians you know already once you enter the eld). e librarians with whom you have built trust and history are oen the ones you will contact when you seek advice or feedback from a trusted source. While you may develop a small number of these relationships, they will be among the most important things you have in your professional life. Building a Scholarly Record One step that you may want to take toward broadening your opportunities (both now and in the future) is beginning to build a scholarly record. A scholarly record is the collection of articles, book chapters, presentations, and other scholarly and professional work (such as blog postings, podcasts, and other formats) that you have produced throughout your career. Starting to build a scholarly record early in your career as a librarian will make you eligible for a wider variety of positions and a larger number of em ployers. Some librarian positions require research, publication, and presentation (oen called “scholarly activity”) as part of the job. ese may be identied as “tenure-track” or they may simply have publication requirements. Other positions encourage research, publication, and presentations but do not require them. When libraries hire for positions that either require or encourage scholarly activity, they search candidates’ CVs for indicators that each candidate could be successful. us, having a few presentations or even a publication on your CV can really benet your case and can broaden your opportunities. When you interview for such a position, you will be asked to discuss your potential as a scholar—and having examples of your work, as well as ideas for where you want to go when you are a professional librarian, will help. If you do not manage to publish or present by the time you apply for jobs, you can certainly discuss the research, writing, and other work that you have produced during graduate school.


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 41 Whether or not you hope to include research as part of your career, it can be worth making a few eorts to open up those opportunities. e activities that form your scholarly record—the articles, chapters, or blog posts that you write, the presentations that you give, and so on—allow you to enter the professional conversation among librarians. It’s exciting to share ideas based on the work that you do and to respond to others’ ideas. Once You’re a Librarian If you are hired for a job that requires scholarly activity, it’s important to know a few basic things. First, your library may require you to publish in certain venues, such as peer-reviewed journals. It may require you to present at conferences that are somewhat competitive to present at or that have a national or international au dience. (ese are the most common requirements, particularly for tenure-track jobs.) Does that mean that you have to give up your blog or that you can’t take part in other forms of professional activity? Of course not. However, you will have to make the eort to meet your library’s requirements in addition to the other pro fessional activities that you enjoy. Many librarians nd that combining these activ ities helps them to get their messages out to more people in powerful ways. Many also nd that there’s a huge sense of pride in meeting the challenge of publishing in a peer-reviewed journal. Another thing to know is that if you are required to research, publish, and present, you will need to do so on a regular cycle. Your library may expect you to create, for example, one article, several presentations, and other professional activities of your choice every year. You will be evaluated on a yearly basis. If you are working toward tenure, promotion, or both, your library and perhaps your college or university will also look at the pattern of your productivity. ey will want to see that you consistently publish and present. No one’s pattern is perfectly even, but libraries and tenure committees want to see steady success. One factor in achieving this is known as the “research pipeline.” Having a strong research pipe line means that you as an individual always have several scholarly projects in the works, all at dierent stages. is will help you to continually publish and present, rather than waiting to start planning a new project until aer the previous project has been published or presented. If this sounds exhausting, it can be. But it also helps you to pace yourself and to nd success. A third thing to know is that librarians generally nd more success in being accepted to publish, present, or otherwise share their work and their thoughts as their career matures. Some MLS students panic aer they try to publish an arti cle or present at a national conference and nd themselves rejected. ose same motivated people oen nd that their luck changes once they have a permanent position—they start getting manuscripts and proposals accepted. Take heart! On a related note, librarians oen nd that the quality of the publications and confer -


42 CHAPTER 2 ences that accept their work goes up as they gain experience in the eld. Part of this is due to their increasing skill and reputation. Another part is up to the librar ian—as they progress in their careers, they pursue better and better opportunities. Opportunities for MLS Students How can you go about nding your rst opportunity or two to start building a scholarly record? Many MLS students and new librarians begin building their scholarly record with a poster presentation at a conference. Local (state-wide or regional) conferences are oen very open to MLS students sharing their work. ey also frequently have special poster sessions for MLS students. is is a great way to start sharing your ideas and to practice discussing your ideas with others. Poster sessions are mostly about questions and answers, but they’re low-pressure, one-on-one conversations. A common second step—albeit one that many individuals wait on until they have a professional position—is co-presenting at a conference held by their local library organization or by their college or university. Presenting with one or more partners takes away a lot of pressure and it’s a great way to build comfort with presenting. It also shows that you can excel at one of the major forms of scholarly activity. Some MLS students get their rst publication—even a peer-reviewed one—by collaborating with a faculty member in their program or with a librarian at an internship. If you are interested in pursuing such an opportunity, there are several ways to pursue it. If you have a close working relationship with a faculty mem ber in your MLS program or a strong interest in the work that that person does, consider asking whether he or she has any opportunities for you to collaborate. Alternatively, if you have an idea, consider putting down those ideas in a detailed and organized fashion and meeting with a professor or a librarian you’re working with to discuss potential collaboration. In such a situation, be prepared to perform the bulk of the work and to receive signicant amounts of constructive criticism throughout the process. You will benet greatly. Another popular early step is writing book reviews for various publications that librarians read. Many journals, professional publications, and major blogs in the eld of library and information science oer book reviews written by readers who are librarians—or MLS students. Writing a book review typically involves a fairly simple process of reading a book assigned by the publication (a free copy is sent to you), coming up with thoughtful, critical commentary regarding the book’s content and other qualities, writing the review in the format required by the publication, and working with an editor to nalize the dra. If you are interested in beginning to write book reviews, visit the websites of various publications— both national and state-wide—as well as major blogs. If those publications feature book reviews, they will typically provide information about how one may apply to


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 43 become a reviewer. Publications oen prefer to have a large number of available reviewers to match interests and expertise. If you nd a professional position at an institution with more traditional scholarly requirements, you may nd that many librarians write book reviews at the beginning of their careers, but eventually stop writing them in order to have more time for other scholarly work. Regardless, book reviews are many librarians’ rst foray into publication. Inspiration Where does the inspiration for these great ideas come from? Here are a few of the sources: • Your work: Questions that come up and observations that you want to investigate. • Ongoing themes: Once you nd success researching and publishing or presenting a topic, you may want to pursue that theme. • Conversations in the profession: What are your colleagues near and far asking about? How can you respond? What can you share? • “Holes in the literature”: When you read professional publications, what are you le wondering about? What has no one researched? • Calls for proposals: Journals, conferences, editors who are planning to write a book, and others send out or post requests for proposals. If you feel that you have something to say about this topic, submit a proposal to contribute work. While MLS students and brand-new librarians frequently worry that they will lack inspiration, they tend to nd that inspiration is all around. It’s nding the time and hanging in there through some rejections or requests to revise and resubmit proposals (which is a promising sign, by the way). We’re lucky to work in such a living, socially relevant eld where we constantly nd inspiration. Try This: • ink about whether you already have the beginnings of a scholarly re cord. Have you published articles in professional or scholarly publica tions already (even if they’re from a dierent eld)? Have you given a poster presentation or a scholarly presentation? If so, make sure that all of these activities appear on your CV. • Look for opportunities to present at a local or institutional conference. If you’re ready to take a bigger step, look into opportunities at national conferences. Put in a proposal. Make sure to inquire as to whether your MLS program’s institution oers funding to help pay for your travel if you’d be leaving the area.


44 CHAPTER 2 • Consider how open you are to tenure-track positions or others that in clude a research component. Do you enjoy researching and hope to con duct it in the future? Are you a little less sure but open to the possibility of conducting research in a future position? Do you absolutely hate re search, writing, and presentation? Be honest with yourself. Use what you learn about yourself to help you select appropriate job opportunities. • If you are enthusiastic about or open to positions that involve research, think through two questions: What evidence do you already have to show that you can be a successful researcher? What topics of interest would you like to research as part of your future work? If you interview for po sitions that involve research, these questions will come up. Practice dis cussing them with a friend. Involvement in Professional Associations Wherever you are in your career preparation, now is the time to become involved in professional associations. is is one of the most important steps you can take in becoming a professional. Speaking realistically, you can choose how involved you want to become at this point, based on the amount of time that you have available. ere are several main ways that prospective or new librarians benet from joining a professional organization. One of the most important is meeting other librarians, whether in your area or across the country (or around the world). Some librarians are very much in favor of formal networking. I’m in favor of focusing on forming closer relationships with librarians whose work or thoughts interest you. Regardless of which option you favor, professional organizations help you to make connections. You will make professional friendships, connect with individ uals who you may want to reach out to for advice in the future, and perhaps meet people who can provide internships—or even permanent jobs—for you. It’s important to note that when you apply for jobs, search committees at the institutions that interest you will probably look for memberships in professional organizations on your CV. While they generally do not have one specic organiza tion in mind, especially when you’re just starting out, they do want to see evidence of this type of professional connection and involvement. Professional organizations also provide great options for exploring the eld of academic librarianship. Conferences, including virtual conferences, webinars, and other groups of presentations, are especially helpful. When you’re starting out in academic librarianship, they provide opportunities to get to know the eld broad ly. You can listen to presentations in areas that interest you, whether they focus on goals that you know you have or additional areas that you want to explore. (Looking both broadly and narrowly are helpful in terms of developing your pres ence and your goals at this point.) You can also get involved by joining interest


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 45 groups, sometimes called “round tables” or other names. Most professional orga nizations—and some interest groups within them—oer listservs where members can share information of interest. Whether or not you are able to attend an organi zation’s conferences, consider choosing a handful of select listservs and asking to join them. (Some groups restrict listserv membership to individuals who belong to their organization; others do not.) Just make sure to choose listservs carefully; the quantity of email can become overwhelming! Professional organizations exist on various levels. You are most likely familiar with the primary organization for librarians in the United States: the American Library Association and perhaps with its division for academic librarians, the As sociation of College and Research Libraries. Several major categories of academic librarians have organizations that are separate from the American Library Asso ciation: among others, the Special Libraries Association, Music Library Associa tion, Medical Library Association, and Art Libraries Society. Most states, as well as some major metropolitan areas, have their own library organizations as well. Feeling overwhelmed by the options? Many librarians start by joining one organi zation of their choice. Once you join an organization, assess your own availability. If you have time, consider joining a committee or interest group relevant to your work or to topics that concern you. When you rst become involved in professional organizations—even while you’re still an MLS student—try to become active and to build your strengths by joining a committee. An ideal rst committee for you may be one that connects with your professional and personal interests, performs meaningful work, and doesn’t appear to be too overwhelming in terms of workload. You may want to look for committees that meet virtually (or those that are open to members Sky ping in to in-person meetings) so that you will not always need to travel to attend meetings. Committees have various levels of competitiveness in terms of attain ing an appointment. For example, many ACRL committees are quite competitive (although they can provide exciting experiences and great connections once you have a few years of experience). ALA’s New Members’ Round Table (NMRT) pro vides a starting point for national service for many librarians. All NMRT members whose memberships are in good standing are guaranteed committee membership through this group. State-level professional organizations also frequently welcome MLS students to their committees (and provide less competition for positions). State-level groups are oen a wonderful way to become an active member of a closer-knit community of librarians, both through committee work and other ac tivities. Whatever you choose in terms of your rst professional organizations, here is a hint: nd a professional community of your own, where you can ask honest questions and build professional relationships that you enjoy. For some people, that means joining one of many informal groups for librarians on Facebook. Oth ers develop ongoing conversations with peers from their MLS programs or in -


46 CHAPTER 2 ternships. It’s important to have a community where you can be honest and feel supported. Try This: • If you don’t already belong to a professional organization, investigate sev eral options and join one. Make sure to pay the student rate! • When a classmate or colleague mentions a professional listserv that sounds helpful, consider signing up. (You may want to ask the person who mentioned the listserv how to nd it; sometimes they’re hard to track down.) Engaging through Social Media Speaking of community, many librarians at all career stages nd professional friendship and inspiration through online communities. In fact, in the process of writing this section, I turned to my own community of friends on Facebook for ideas. ey kindly shared their own preferences for connecting through social media. ey also shared several success stories related to nding jobs and making life-changing connections. In the following section, I will prole the four social media options that are popular and helpful among academic librarians. Read Pat rick Lowenthal and Joanna Dunlap’s article “Intentional Web Presence: 10 SEO Strategies Every Academic Needs to Know” 9 if you would like to see more options, plus suggested best practices for each. Popular Social Media for Academic Librarians • Facebook: Many academic librarians keep in touch with other profes sionals they meet at conferences, through work, through mutual ac quaintances, and more using Facebook. Facebook can be an easy place to base your own professional learning community—a concept we’ll discuss in a moment. Facebook oers many groups for LIS students, groups host ed by professional organizations, and groups for librarians with special interests (such as new technologies or international collaborations). It can also be helpful to post selected, appropriate professional queries to a group or to your own prole for feedback. If you choose to use Facebook professionally, make sure to be careful about what your professional con nections will see. • Twitter: Twitter is another popular place for librarians to connect. If you attend a professional conference, you may notice librarians writing their Twitter usernames on their nametags. Use this opportunity to connect with each other. Library publications also sometimes publish lists of li -


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 47 brarians who lead interesting conversations on Twitter. Try searching for an updated list or looking for clues in publications you read. You can lis ten to the ideas of librarians whose work interests you and eventually join in the conversation. If you aren’t able to attend a conference in the rst place, you may be able to follow it on Twitter: go to the conference’s web site to nd its ocial hashtag. Many “concepts” within academic librari anship also have ocial Twitter hashtags. Look for the hashtags in tweets that interest you. Two popular ones are #critlib (“critical librarianship”) and #infolit. You can also try Googling “academic library hashtags” for updated lists, published in various blogs and library publications. As a nal note, you may nd interesting job opportunities advertised on Twit ter. • LinkedIn: Consider creating a LinkedIn prole. Academic libraries and other employers of librarians frequently search LinkedIn for appealing job candidates. ey may reach out and connect individually about job opportunities. at’s a great reason to keep your prole up to date! • LibGuides Community: LibGuides is an online platform that many ac ademic (and some other) libraries use to create research guides. If you have worked in an academic library’s public services departments, you may be familiar with LibGuides already. What you may not know is that LibGuides also oers a “Community,” 10 where librarians can search for guides on topics that interest them, request permission to adapt other libraries’ guides and connect with other librarians. Most members are research and instruction librarians, or other subject specialists. I myself have met several generous, knowledgeable subject specialists who have shared the wealth of their expertise and have become important profes sional connections this way. A Few Helpful Concepts and Thoughts All of us have “personal learning communities.” ey are the all of the activities that we pursue and the people we connect with in order to keep learning. e term “personal learning community” oen implies that we have built the community ourselves, as opposed to a “professional learning community,” which is oen of fered more formally through our workplaces or professional organizations. (e two may include similar activities and concepts, though.) As professionals, we tend to develop them naturally. Yet, it can be helpful to take some time to think about your personal learning community, how to main tain it, and how it could be better. Take some time to map out your current per sonal learning community. en think about what you would like to add to it in terms of expertise or types of connections. ink about how you might meet your desires. Nada Dabbagh and Anastasia Kitsantas’ article “Personal Learning


48 CHAPTER 2 Environments, Social Media, and Self-Regulated Learning: A Natural Formula for Connecting Formal and Informal Learning” 11 outlines major components of many members of higher education, including academic librarians. As I was preparing this section, a trusted colleague reminded me that it’s also okay not to engage on social media. You may decide that you are truly not interest ed in using social media or that you do not have time for it right now. You may, like me, choose to focus your eorts on one or two forms of social media where you have found a community and where you feel comfortable. If you decide to keep your activity on social media minimal, do stay informed on trends in social media so that you can continue to make choices along the way. ink about whether so cial media may become a more appealing choice for you at a later time—perhaps when you have a position and are free from the pressures of the job hunt. Conclusion Feeling overwhelmed? ink about where you are in terms of your career prepa ration and how much longer you have until you will reach the job market. Choose a few action items for yourself from this chapter. e most important action items that you could take on involve building experience in the eld. If you don’t yet have experience that closely relates to the job you hope to nd, focus on that. If you’re feeling good about your experience, work on creating a CV and beginning to market yourself. Remember to work hard and impress your colleagues at your student jobs and internships. Of course, you’re still learning—but show that you can work hard and that your success in librarianship is increasing. When you interview for positions, you will need to have some successes that you can highlight. Try to succeed at a few meaningful projects that will help others. e best things that you can do are to have real successes to talk about and happy employers who are glad to support you in your application eorts. We wish you well! Endnotes 1. Association of College & Research Libraries, “eLearning,” Association of College & Research Libraries, a Division of the American Library Association, last modied July 12, 2017, http:// . 2. Library Juice Academy, “Library Juice Academy: Online Professional Development for Librari ans,” Library Juice , last updated April 25, 2017, /. 3. American Library Association, “ALA JobLIST,” American Library Association, last modied July 19, 2017, . 4. Chronicle of Higher Education , “Vitae: Find Jobs,” Chronicle Vitae, last updated July 18, 2017, . 5. Naomi House, “INALJ: Information Professionals Finding & Sharing Jobs & Job Hunting Ad vice!,” INALJ, last updated July 19, 2017, .


Making Yourself Marketable for Academic Librarian Positions 49 6. Eastern Institute of Technology, “CV Formats and Examples,” Eastern Institute of Technology Careers Development Service, last updated June 2, 2017, mats.html . 7. Purdue Online Writing Lab, “Writing the Curriculum Vitae,” Purdue OWL, last updated March 24, 2017, . 8. If you would like to read more about this project, please see: Karen Sobel, “Evaluating and Enhancing the Latino Literature Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill,” North Carolina Libraries 67, no. 1 (2009): 22, . 9. Patrick Lowenthal and Joanna Dunlap, “Intentional Web Presence: 10 SEO Strategies Every Ac ademic Needs to Know,” Educause Review , June 5, 2012, intentional-web-presence-10-seo-strategies-every-academic-needs-to-know . 10. LibGuides, “LibGuides Community,” SpringShare, accessed 10 July 2017, https://community. . 11. Nada Dabbagh and Anastasia Kitsantas, “Personal Learning Environments, Social Media, and Self-Regulated Learning: A Natural Formula for Connecting Formal and Informal Learn ing,” Internet and Higher Education , no. 1 (2012): 3 , 10.1016/j.ihed uc.2011.06.002 . Bibliography American Library Association. “ALA JobLIST.” American Library Association. Last modied July 19, 2017. . Association of College & Research Libraries. “eLearning.” Association of College & Research Librar ies, a Division of the American Library Association. Last modied July 12, 2017. http://www.ala. org/acrl/onlinelearning . Chronicle of Higher Education . “Vitae: Find Jobs.” Chronicle Vitae. Last updated July 18, 2017. http:// . Dabbagh, Nada, and Anastasia Kitsantas. “Personal Learning Environments, Social Media, and Self-Regulated Learning: A Natural Formula for Connecting Formal and Informal Learn ing.” Internet and Higher Education , no. 1 (2012): 3 . 10.1016/j.ihed uc.2011.06.002 . Eastern Institute of Technology. “CV Formats and Examples.” Eastern Institute of Technology Careers Development Service. Last updated June 2, 2017. House, Naomi. “INALJ: Information Professionals Finding & Sharing Jobs & Job Hunting Advice!” INALJ. Last updated July 19, 2017. . LibGuides. “LibGuides Community.” SpringShare. Accessed 10 July 2017. https://community.lib Library Juice Academy. “Library Juice Academy: Online Professional Development for Librarians.” Library Juice . Last updated April 25, 2017. . Lowenthal, Patrick, and Joanna Dunlap. “Intentional Web Presence: 10 SEO Strategies Every Aca demic Needs to Know.” Educause Review. June 5, 2012. intentional-web-presence-10-seo-strategies-every-academic-needs-to-know . Purdue Online Writing Lab. “Writing the Curriculum Vitae.” Purdue OWL. Last updated March 24, 2017. . Sobel, Karen. “Evaluating and Enhancing the Latino Literature Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill.” North Carolina Libraries 67, no. 1: 22 (2009). cle/viewFile/83/316 .