I realized the other day while cleaning up my RSS feed that I’m no longer floundering about in the sea of librarians. When I was in graduate school, and during my job hunt, I wanted to follow the current events and discussions of my fellow librarians and so I picked some blogs – or rather, I subscribed to every RSS feed I could find! I read some, got bored with others, continually sifted through the ones that stopped updating, and never really got a foothold on the whole process.
Now that I’m actually working in a library, it’s been much easier to narrow down my interests, focus on blogs that speak to them, and actually connect with them. I find for the first time that I’m actually aware of the “big names” in library science, I know what my colleagues in the ether are doing, and I have carved out a little community who I am interested in (even if most of the don’t know me).
I’ve given up on Tumblr as anything more than a social, fun-times site, and I’m still not sold on Twitter, but my RSS feeds and I are inseparable. Here’s my list of favorites, who generally cover topics of interest to newbrarians, techies and academics:
- Attempting Elegance - Jenica Rogers is a library director who writes about aspects of library administration; most recently earned her 15 minutes in the ACS subscription debacle
- Boss Lady Writes - I just found this blog last week and I can’t wait for more posts about the trials and triumphs of being a new academic library director
- Hack Library School - reading this is kind of like being a senior and marveling at the youthful optimism and energy of the freshmen, talking about how they’re going to change a world they haven’t even entered – it’s not bad, it’s just… interesting
- Hey Jude - one of the first library blogs I ever found, Judy O’Connell talks a lot about technology in the school library
- Justin the Librarian - an innovative teen librarian, Justin Hoenke is someone to keep an eye on in the profession
- Letters to a Young Librarian - Jessica Olin uses her years of experience in the field to speak to “newbrarians” and offer geniune wisdom
- Librarian Problems - come on, it’s just hysterical
- Librarian Wardrobe - it’s fun to get work attire inspiration from stylish librarians and to put faces to names
- Library Scenester - Erin Dorney is wise beyond her years and another one I bet is destined for great librarianship things
- Screwy Decimal - Rita Meade is another blogger librarian who just cannot post often enough to keep me satisfied – she’s funny and smart and ever-relevant
- Stephen’s Lighthouse - one of the most prolific library blogs out there, it’s a great place to watch trends and hear about library-world news
- Swiss Army Librarian - Brian Herzog is a public library reference librarian and I love his Reference Question of the Week posts
- Virtual Dave, Real Blog - R. David Lankes is no doubt a great mind in librarianship right now
And there you have it, my blogging-librarian idols!
Steve Ammidown over at Hack Library School recently wrote about “Undercover Library Students” and the assignment that current library students and recent grads will no doubt remember – pose a series of questions to a reference librarian and write about your experience. I did this assignment in library school, and I did find it somewhat helpful. Not nearly as much as the time I spent actually working at a reference desk during my practicum, but this is first-semester ice breaker stuff.
Steve argues that it is unethical to waste a reference librarian’s time chasing after fake queries, and to lie about one’s intent. He also links to a series of posts by Wayne Bivens-Tatum, sounding off on the subject from the perspective of the reference librarian, and I won’t argue that purposefully sending a busy librarian on a wild goose chase is not the most ethically sound library assignment.
However, whether or not a patron is lying to you should not be a factor in how they are treated or the information they receive. There are plenty of situations in which a patron may lie but still need and be entitled to information – “it’s not for me, it’s for a friend”, etc. At its core, the ethic of librarianship is about providing the information requested without bias – whether you’re being lied to or not, whether the patron will use the information or not.
All that being said, I have to wonder at the obvious. If the ethical dilemma is in deceiving and wasting the time of another librarian, why can’t library students complete the assignment based on a real information need? Does it have to be a fake research paper? Surely GRAD STUDENTS have something to research, or at least something they’ve been meaning to look up. I can’t help but think if the assignment was just to utilize a reference librarian to fill an information need, the ethical problems would disappear.
When I began library school I had two preconceived notions that turned out to be wrong – faster is better, and generalizing is best. Speed is a topic for another day, but as I continue to job hunt I realize how important it is to specialize in grad school.
First, a word on my graduate experience. I took the accelerated (“wallet friendly”) 15-month track, and I knew I wanted to focus on technology in the library so I chose an information technology concentration. For the most part though, I wanted to generalize – achieve the broadest education possible and be widely marketable in the face of a recession. I didn’t want to pigeon hole myself with a narrow skill set, so I took information technology classes and also sprinkled in other topics, like reference.
Here’s why that tactic isn’t as sound as it appears:
- There are very few true entry-level positions out there. With each new job posting you’ll be competing with seasoned librarians and those who have chosen to specialize, and a general education is no match.
- Lacking experience, you’ll need a solid theoretical knowledge of the jobs you’re applying for, and it’s impossible to have such knowledge in every aspect of librarianship, especially in the constraint of just 36 credit hours. If you specialize then you’ll have at least one area of strong background knowledge.
- Logically it would appear that your best job-winning bet would be to apply for a diverse selection of library positions, and being well-rounded will help you both qualify for more jobs and be better at your job once you earn it. Realistically, a general studies applicant is likely to be passed over in favor of people with more experience, education, and passion regarding the task at hand.
So what can you do?
- Start thinking about your library interests before grad school (and spend some time job searching to make sure your interests align with the employment market). If you aren’t sure what specialty is right, consider a paraprofessional, intern, or volunteer library job to learn more.
- Pick your library school accordingly – know the professors’ backgrounds and publications, and the options the program offers.
- In addition to your concentration, look for professional development opportunities while you’re still in school – conferences, workshops, webinars and more.
- Know the qualifications listed on job applications that would interest you well in advance of your actual job hunt, and work to add those skills to your repertoire. If you’re interested in a technology-centric position, consider adding certifications to your resume.
- Your practicum will be of vital importance when searching for your first librarian job – choose carefully and keep good notes so you can reference your work in job interviews.
These are all pretty basic things, but sometimes it’s necessary to state the obvious – I did some of them and omitted others, and am now finding myself needing to double back and improve my skills in some areas that could have been handled when I was in graduate school. For more obvious things you may not think of yourself, check out the awesome blog Hack Library School, “by, for and about library school students”.