how i got my job

The short story: I got lucky.

A year ago at this time I was a semester and a half into library school, and I’d been reading library blogs for several months. I went to library school because I already had two useless degrees (they call the MFA a terminal degree, as I like to say, because it leads nowhere), and librarianship seemed like a far better option than, say, law school. (I have great respect for the many good lawyers of the world, but after a friend told me that in law school they had lockers and bells, “just like high school!”, I knew it wasn’t for me.)
I had a terrible time finding a part-time library support staff job, both before I started library school and after. I got one letter that said, essentially, “Sorry, we were looking for someone with an education background and customer service experience.” (“Oh,” said a friend of mine, “they wanted an education major who worked at Wal-Mart.”) Apparently my three years of college teaching and four years of teaching at a whacky alternative elementary school didn’t count for anything.

Blog reading led me to follow the struggles that people like Dorothea and Meredith, people with educations and skills equal to and in most cases surpassing my own, were having finding jobs. I began to get worried. So I began to do the kinds of things that people suggested

  • I eventually got a job as a youth services assistant at a library in the western suburbs (and had the pleasure of being a co-worker of Rachel Gordon Singer for a few months)
  • In my archives class, we could either write a research paper or do an internship–I chose the internship even though it meant a 13-hour day and eating dinner in my car
  • I subscribed to the RSS feed for LISjobs.com/Library Job Postings on the Internet so I could get an idea of what was out there
  • I read articles at LISCareer.com and Info Career Trends
  • I joined ALA and got involved by helping plan the Free Speech Buffet for the ALA conference in Chicago (had I wanted to stay in Illinois, I think joining the Illinois Library Association would have been equally if not more beneficial)
  • I started asking my savvy friends for advice on how to arrange my resume so it looked less like I’d spent the past five years or so meandering through graduate programs. (You can see the result; sorry it’s a PDF).
  • I started lis.dom and got to know, virtually and sometimes personally, a bunch of enthusiastic, energetic, and extremely talented library people

Last August, I ran across an ad for a job in Meeteetse, Wyoming. Since Wyoming was high on my list of states I wanted to live in, I whipped out my road atlas and looked it up. It looked pretty good. So even though I had a full year of school left, I sent off a letter and my resume, just in case.

In the next few months, I sent out a couple of other letters, both also for branch manager or director positions in small rural libraries. I was asked to interview at two of the three places I applied; the third called to say that they’d love to interview me, but needed to hire someone ASAP.

I had a telephone interview for the Wyoming job in November and flew out for an interview in January, so it was a long process. But, as it turned out, well worth it.

I don’t know why I got lucky in the job market when so many other talented people have struggled. It may have helped that I was applying almost exclusively to places with populations under 10,000. It probably helped that I found ways to emphasize how my other work experience–writing and teaching–was applicable to librarianship. But ultimately, I don’t know; I’m just grateful.

So what about my blog? I put the url of my website on my resume, chiefly as a way saying “look, I can make a website!” but also because even without the website and the blog, I had a fairly sizeable web presence, and I preferred to have some control over its presentation. (Having just Googled myself, I’ve found that the results have been pretty much overtaken by biblioblogosphere comments, but it used to be a much odder assortment of links).

I know that a few people on a couple of the search committees looked at lis.dom. It didn’t come up in any interviews, and I don’t think anyone decided to hire me or not hire me based on the blog or anything in it. I do think, however, that blogging gave me stake in librarianship that nothing else did. It let me get my feet wet, and it let me join in a conversation about the profession with many of its best and brightest.

I enjoyed first listening to that conversation and then joining in, and I’m deeply grateful to all the people whom I’ve exchanged comments and e-mails and IMs with over the past months, and to those whose writings I’ve just read. You all rock.

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