How I Got My New Library Job – Part 1: Becoming Self-Aware

New Year, New Job

Hard to believe I am two weeks in to my new job as an information professional, and its only January 15th. I have entered a new phase of my life. I have a job in my chosen field and am working full-time in an academic library, which is right where I want to be.

I started as Technical Services Librarian at John F. Kennedy University‘s Robert M. Fisher Library January 4th, 2012. It has been amazing… I am learning new things, in my element, and looking forward to the opportunities and challenges that come my way. That said, I have had a number of job seeking librarians, LIS students and paraprofessionals ask me how I did it.

While I wasn’t on my game every instant, and occasionally I let the job search get to me (who wouldn’t in today’s job market?), ultimately, my strategy paid off. I found a library job that suited me within the timeline I set for myself. Additionally, my efforts at social networking ended up providing me with contacts for support and further professional development.

How I Got My New Library Job

So how did I do it? I used a holistic approach. I wanted to understand not only the job market and the jobs I was applying for, but I also wanted to understand myself, what I wanted, as well as my strengths and weaknesses.

A False Start and a Reality Check

However, I should back up a little. At first I launched right in to the job hunt. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a plan or even a system in place to organize the search. Needless to say this approach didn’t work… And deep down, I knew it wasn’t going to. So, I decided to get serious.

Facing the reality of searching for a job during a time when state and local budgets have been cut and many libraries, archives and other organizations hiring information professionals have experienced hiring freezes, reduced hours, and other service cuts as a result, is daunting. I knew that I needed to get serious in order to find a job that I would really like. Honestly, I didn’t know that I would even have that luxury. I knew that the job market was so tough that I might not be able to pick and choose. But I hoped that I would be able to. I thought, maybe if I really focus, and work my tail off to get my name out there through social networking, refining my online presence and essentially develop a professional brand for myself, I just might be able to get what I wanted out of my first professional position as an information professional.

I started reading and thinking. I checked out online resources through my alma mater, SJSU School of Library and Information Science, I visited professional association websites and followed job resource listings on blogs and social networking sites. I read How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool edited by Teresa Y. Neely (which I recommend). Basically, I informed myself about how to look for a job. Not only did this process give me a much needed wake-up call, but it invigorated me. It gave me tools to formulate a plan and ultimately, to experience job seeking success.

It also made me realize that I would have to identify just what “job seeking success” would look like for me. So, in addition to my ongoing efforts to learn about the job market and job search strategies, I started to look inward.

Using Self-Awareness as a Job Search Tool

I began by thinking about the basics of my life. What needs did I have to meet in order to be happy and healthy. Food, shelter, health insurance, time with my husband, time to develop professionally through writing and leadership, etc. What did I want my life to look like down the line, say in five years, or ten years. After identifying what I wanted, I was better able to determine the kind of job I wanted. I mapped out an ideal scenario for myself, and set a deadline for getting a first professional position that met these criteria. I gave myself a year to get a job in a Bay Area academic library working in technical services (using my academic emphasis at SJSU SLIS) or reference (using my many years of customer service experience from the retail world). This wasn’t an arbitrary time frame. I chose something that worked for me based on finances. I also knew that after just a few months I would have to work part-time during my search in order to make ends meet.

Next, I began to evaluate myself professionally. I identified my strengths and weaknesses so I would be able to play up my strengths, and develop areas I perceived as weaknesses. The end results of this process of self-evaluation turned out to be a huge asset during my job search. I understood myself better, and in the end it became easier to identify jobs that were a good match for me. This meant that I could more easily show the search committee what I could bring to the job during the application and interview process.

In order for this to work, of course, I had to be honest with myself. And, I had to be optimistically willing to try new things. I found it was easy to “play up to my strengths”–I already enjoyed fine tuning my web presence, working on my website and finding relevant blogs to read through my Twitter feed. I could spend all day on those things. It was harder for me to reach out to information professionals in person. So, I decided to make a concerted effort to do just that. I contacted temp agencies and went on a couple of interviews. I collaborated with colleague Cyndi Varady of Dueling Librarians and co-founded the Information Professionals Social Club. I scheduled lunches with colleagues from school and reached out to some of my instructors from SJSU SLIS. All of a sudden, even though I was unemployed, I was legitimately busy.

I had heard it said before, but it wasn’t until I was in this position that I realized looking for work is a full time job. Applying for jobs, social networking, and professional development is a handful to juggle. Yet, I found myself happier as a result of keeping busy, feeling productive, and having the support of those in my growing professional network. I attribute much of this to my efforts to understand not only the job market, but myself.

Then, just when I finally had a handle on submitting applications, having professional lunches, keeping up on LIS topics via the blogosphere, and organizing the IPSC, I got a temp job. Game changer. This gave me more reason to prioritize and work at managing my time effectively. In Part 2 of How I Got My New Library Job I will talk about how facing this challenge changed my approach for the better.

IPSC Invites SF Bay Area Info. Pros to join our Nov. 20th Meet-up at Toast in Oakland CA – 4pm

You are invited to join the Information Professionals Social Club for a meet-up before this season’s holiday madness begins. We will gather at Toast Wine Lounge in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood on Sunday, November 20th at 4pm. Quality and sustainability are the key ingredients on Toast’s menu, while the wine-list features small production vintners. Please RSVP on our Facebook event page or to either Cyndi Varady or Stephanie Roach. Hope to see you there.

Happy Holidays!

Cyndi Varady and Stephanie Roach
Information Professionals Social Club Co-Founders

Toast Wine Lounge
5900 College Avenue
Oakland, CA 94618

Information Professionals Social Club Hosts Lunch Meet-Up at Souley Vegan in Oakland, CA 9/24/2011

Information Professionals Social Club Lunch Meet-Up

Kick-start your fall and join the Information Professionals Social Club at our September Meet-up Saturday, September 24th at Souley Vegan in Oakland, CA, at 12:00 p.m. We promise, this eatery won’t disappoint, so don’t let the word “vegan” scare you off.

If you plan to attend or have any questions, please RSVP on our Facebook event page, or to either Cyndi Varady or Stephanie Roach. We look forward to seeing you there!

Eat, Drink, and Be Nerdy,

Information Professionals Social Club

Soul Food: Cornbread, black-eyed peas, greens, and yams.
Souley Vegan
301 Broadway,
Oakland, CA 94607

The IPSC mission is “to promote networking between information professionals of all walks, this includes seasoned professionals, new graduates, and students. Our informal meet-ups are designed to stimulate conversation, share employment experiences, educational advice, and above all make new friends.”

Information Professionals Social Club’s August 29th Meet-Up at Cafe Flore in SF


Cafe Flore Bar with Customer

Cafe Flore Bar with Customer

Information Professionals Social Club August Meet-up

You are cordially invited to the Information Professionals Social Club‘s August meet-up at Cafe Flore in San Francisco on Monday the 29th at 7:00pm. Cafe Flore is situated in San Francisco’s Castro, and features nightly drink specials. Please mark your calendars, check out their menu, and RSVP  on our Facebook event page or to either Cyndi Varady or Stephanie Roach.

We look forward to seeing new faces and reconnecting with our “regulars.”

Eat, drink and be nerdy,

Stephanie Roach and Cyndi Varady
IPSC Co-Founders

IPSC’s mission is to promote networking between information professionals of all walks, this includes seasoned professionals, new graduates, and students. Our informal meet-ups are designed to stimulate conversation, share employment experiences and educational advice, and above all make new friends.

Cafe Flore
2298 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
(415) 621-8579

*The IPSC was co-founded by LIS Lady, Stephanie Roach.

Are you #ALAleftbehind in the SF Bay Area? Join the IPSC for it’s June 26 Meet-Up!

Information Professionals Social Club: June Meet-Up

Are you #ALAleftbehind and live in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Get your professional networking done closer to home! Join the Information Professionals Social Club for a fabulous San Francisco lunch at Gordon Biersch, 1 PM on Sunday June 26th.

The IPSC’s mission is to promote networking between information professionals of all walks, this includes seasoned professionals, new graduates, and students. Our informal meet-ups are designed to stimulate conversation, share employment experiences and educational advice, and above all make new friends. You can also join the conversation on Facebook.

IPSC Meet-Up
June 26, 2011
1:00 PM

Gordon Biersch
2 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94105
phone: 415-243-8246

RSVP and point your comments or questions to IPSC co-founders Stephanie Roach ( and Cyndi Varady (

Hope to see you at Gordon Biersch!

Information Professionals Social Club to meet in Berkeley, CA Tuesday May 24th, 2011

Tuesday, May 24 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm


Jupiter Cafe: 2181 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA.

Created By

More Info

Come celebrate summer with the Information Professionals Social Club!

The IPSC invites Bay Area information professionals, students and alumni to join us at 7pm on May 24, 2011 for our next meet-up at Jupiter in Berkeley, CA. Jupiter, while out of this world in taste and ambiance, is located at 2181 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, CA.

The IPSC mission is “to promote networking between information professionals of all walks, this includes seasoned professionals, new graduates, and students. Our informal meet-ups are designed to stimulate conversation, share employment experiences, educational advice, and above all make new friends.”

Join us on Facebook, where we share information on the profession, tips on interviewing and landing the job you want, and stories and news that touches the bookworm in all of us.

The IPSC was founded by LIS Lady, Stephanie M. Roach, and Cynthia Varady.

League of Librarians Trading Cards and QR Codes

League of Librarians: Nora Dimmock, Film Studies Librarian

League of Librarians Trading Card.

Kudos to River Campus Libraries of the University of Rochester for their creative use of Quick Response Codes paired with interesting graphics to dress up their business cards.

Contact information and a Quick Response or “QR” Code was provided on the reverse, making the trading card an essential and creative business card as well. Raised Connection’s “Connection Card” is one example of this trend, and the following YouTube video shows how it works.

Remember, QR Codes can connect someone to more than contact information. Images, web pages, blogs and other content online that can be viewed on a smart phone or on a computer can be embedded in the QR Code.

Other ways that academic libraries are using QR Codes can be found in Library Journal’s online article ALA Midwinter 2011: Straight from the Stacks to the Smartphone. Other specific examples include University of San Francisco’s Gleeson Library and UC Berkeley Libraries.

What do you need to create and read a QR Code?

QR Code generators can be found online, examples include Kaywa (which also has a reader) and Jaxo. Further recommendations for QR Code generators and readers can be found in the 2D Code articles, QR Code Generators and QR Code Readers. I use ScanLife on my Blackberry Storm, and it works great. I’m sure many other readers are great as well, and undoubtedly, whatever your smart phone happens to be, there’s an app for that. Here are instructions on downloading mobile QR reader software to your phone if it doesn’t come pre-installed.

Happy scanning!

Star Wars and The Reference Interview’s Open Ended Question

Star Wars Episode II (and a quarter) Attack of the Reference Question

Master Obi-Wan Kenobi’s reference interview at the Jedi Temple Library is a failure, however, a visit with Jedi master Yoda finally gets the information he needs, when better reference technique is employed. Yoda–apparently not only a mentor, but also an independent information professional–restates the information, the problem,  and then asks an open ended question:

“Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing, how embarrassing.” – Yoda

Thanks to JennyWildcat and of course, LucasFilm and George Lucas.

YouTube video edited by Chrissy Johnson, Emporia State University, SLIM Utah 6 Cohort. Continue reading

What do librarians “do” anyways?

Many librarians and information professionals must field this question. Actually, we are probably lucky when the quizzical look in a friend or relative’s eye is actually transferred to a verbal question, rather than remaining in the murky–and more often than not rather vague–conceptual territory of the mind. Honestly, after two years of graduate school, I still find the question a bit difficult to navigate. I don’t want to be overly-technical and abstruse, and at the same time I want to give enough detail to impart the import (and legitimacy) of the professional contributions of librarians and information professionals* to our cultural heritage.

So that is where I tried to begin the other day, when a co-worker (I work part-time in retail) asked me what it actually is that librarians do. Actually, the conversation began, when she asked if libraries ever housed photographic collections. She seemed surprised to find that they can and do, which is evidence of the preconceptions and stereotypes about what a library is, that abound. Many non-librarian friends of mine are so stuck on books as the sole domain of libraries, when of course, really any information object or resource type can be. And it seems to me that they often think librarians do nothing more than familiarize themselves with current publications–really that is just one aspect of the job of collection managers. Maybe a bit of bitter has rubbed off on me, though. Certainly, we are often specialized!

So, as I attempted to explain the role of stewardship as one of the many aspects of library and information science, I got excited when the response from my co-worker was, “That certainly is an interesting way to look at it.” I thought to myself, I sure am doing well, I’m showing her a new way to perceive of librarians and the job that we do! However, as we all have, I’m sure, experienced, “interesting” is such a loaded word, that can actually mean, “Oh! That sure is cool” or alternatively, “Hmmm, I’m not so sure about the legitimacy of that claim.” So as I started to continue, feeling really great about myself, and ready to move on to the other aspects of librarianship (preservation really is access, you know), she began to tell me a story. She described an assignment she had done for a college course, in which cultural heritage collections–I believe they had a choice of visiting a library, museum, or really any sort of special collection–were observed by students, and analyzed (and critiqued) as reflections of mainstream society, continuing to marginalize the marginal, etc., etc.

Now, as she continued to describe her experience, and the GLBT special collection that she visited, my heart was sinking, and I couldn’t hide this from her (I wear my heart on my sleeve). I found it hard to articulate both that she was right, that yes, libraries and other cultural heritage institutions reinforce a primarily Western-white-wealthy-straight male viewpoint, and that the profession is aware of this issue and that publications and professional associations have dedicated many pages and round table discussions to resolving (or at least to approaching) it.

I wish I had immediately agreed with her, and that I had then went on to describe the problems and subsequent changes to Dewey and other classification systems. But my brain kept ticking through another list of library realities: cut budgets, reduced library hours, hiring freezes, lost jobs, loss of expected grant revenue, and the proceeding general difficulty of actively engaging oneself to represent all of the underrepresented and marginalized.

Nevertheless, libraries, and others in the information industry such as publishing, do have a lot of power over just what is made available to the masses. The information life cycle is certainly not perfect. As a result, I would have to say that during these tough times, it is even more important for librarians to be vigilant, and avoid the easy and passive approach to our work. We must remember that human rights and democracy are an important aspect of the idea(l)s of our profession.

I recently read a chapter by Kathleen de la Pena McCook and Katharine Phenix, Human Rights, Democracy, and Librarians, where passive vs. active librarianship is explored among other aspects of the social responsibility issue. It took me back to my first semester at SJSU SLIS where in the course “Information and Society” I had the opportunity to look at this issue. I find that I am so glad that I have come back to it again.

*I will refer to all information professionals–librarians, archivists, consultants & the like–as librarians, for convenience sake. However, this may be part of the problem, as the word “librarian” is so evocative of “books” which may well reinforce stereotypes and further preconceptions.

de la Pena McCook, K. & Phenix, K. (2008). Human rights, democracy, and librarians. In Haycock, K. & Sheldon B. E. (Eds.), The portable MLIS: Insights from the experts. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

I’m #ala10leftbehind

I’ve been checking the tweets at #ala2010 and #ala10 periodically, only to find I am jealous of attendees. I wish I were there with you all! Some other jealous librarian type started the hashtag #ala10leftbehind. So now I can commiserate with other ALA Conference non-attendees. Some tweets are really quite funny:

goodinthestacks He said, “You buy them?” No, I run them off every morning on my printing press. All 14 newspapers we get. #ala10leftbehind #ala10

antibrarian I think if I read one more tweet about ALA fun, I’m going to burn something. I’m jealous. #ala10leftbehind #ala10

So thanks to all the ALA 2010 Conference non-attendees for brightening my day, and bringing a sense of solidarity to those of us who are #ala10leftbehind!