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.

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Dwight C. Steele Papers: Finding Aid is Now Available via the Online Archive of California

For my final semester, Fall 2010, at the SJSU School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), I interned at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. I arranged and processed two collections and wrote finding aids for each one: the Dwight C. Steele Papers and the Gladys Worthington Papers. I am so glad to have helped make these collections accessible to researchers in the U.C. Berkeley community.

As of April 2011, the finding aid for the Dwight C. Steele Papers (BANC MSS 2005/195 c) is now available on the Online Archive of California (OAC).

Researchers can contact the Bancroft Library for access to the collection.

Gladys Worthington Papers: Finding Aid is Now Available via the Online Archive of California

For my final semester, Fall 2010, at the SJSU School of Library and Information Science (SLIS), I interned at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library. I arranged and processed two collections and wrote finding aids for each one: the Dwight C. Steele Papers and the Gladys Worthington Papers.

As of earlier today, the finding aid for the Gladys Worthington Papers is now available on the Online Archive of California (OAC).

Researchers can contact the Bancroft Library for access to the collection.

 

Gladys Worthington Papers, Bancroft Library

Wow, it is hard to believe my internship at U.C. Berkeley‘s Bancroft Library has come to a close. Thursday was my last day, and I will truly miss my time working at the archive. I haven’t updated the blog recently about my internship experience, and so much has been accomplished since my last post. I’ve completed the processing and finding aid for the Dwight C. Steele Papers (BANC MSS 2005/195 c), which are now available in OskiCat, the online catalog for U.C. Berkeley Libraries, and soon the Online Archive of California. Further, I processed and arranged my second collection, the Gladys Worthington Papers, and finished all of the front matter for the finding aid (biography, scope and content, etc.). Only the container list remains, which will hopefully be finished soon, so that this collection will also be available for research.

Gladys Worthington (c. 1911-1982) was a Bay Area social worker who was primarily active in providing services for senior citizens, although she was active in other areas as well. She spent time as a relief worker with the American Red Cross during World War II, when she was stationed in France. She wrote an unpublished autobiographical account of her time in France, titled Not a Donut Dolly. This manuscript is accompanied by fascinating photographs from this period.

I used the More Product Less Process (MPLP) mantra quite effectively while processing this collection due to time constraints. The idea is to make these important collections that have been backlogged available for researchers as soon as possible. Although the bulk of the processing work and finding aid was completed, I was disappointed that I was not able to finish the container list. I do hope that someone else is able to complete this list soon, so that access to the collection is not further delayed.

”]Stephanie Roach at Bancroft Library's Regatta Storage Facility

Digital Preservation & Cultural Heritage

So, I’m still reeling from the completion of my e-Portfolio (the culminating experience for my master’s degree) late Monday (yay me!). So my post will be brief.

For my 2009 SJSU School of Library and Information Science LIBR 240: Information Technology and Tools Course, I put together the following website on one of my favorite topics, digital preservation & cultural heritage:

http://lislady.com/lislife/dpch/index.shtml

Please check it out!

Here is an excerpt from the home page:

This site explores the new and evolving methods of digital preservation along with potential strategies for ensuring value–no less than our cultural heritage–is attributed to digital resources in the public sphere from individual, organizational, national and international levels. Changes in technology have led to broader cultural change including an information environment that is constantly in flux. This cultural transformation reflects changes in technology and within online environments. However, in order to best preserve information content and context, the transitive nature of information created, used, and stored digitally must be recognized and made part of the larger cultural awareness, so that our emerging digital, cultural, heritage can be preserved, and ultimately made accessible to current and future user communities.

It is all a little dark web of me, as I haven’t yet finished my website that it is a part of, and it is a little rough around the edges, but I thought it would be nice to share anyways.

Thanks and have an awesome week!

Dwight C. Steele Papers: Manuscript Processing Lessons Learned

My internship at U.C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library is coming along. The manuscript collection I am processing, the Dwight C. Steele Papers, is coming along, and I am feeling good about my work. I will finish labeling the folders and cartons and work on the finding aid next time I am in. Then it will be time to move on to the next collection.

Before I do, though, I realize I’ve learned so much through the processing of this first collection. The biggest difficulty I have had is in sticking to the institutional priority of “MPLP” or “More Product, Less Process” which reflects an approach to processing proposed by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner (2005) published in The American Archivist.  While Bancroft is using a modified Greene and Meissner approach, meaning there is flexibility in processing, with much more detailed work allowed on a case by case basis, my natural inclination is to be very detailed in my work, which typically takes too much time, considering the backlog of materials that needs to be processed. So, as I’ve gone through the collection survey and processing process, I’ve been forced to seek strategies to speed things along. Some of the time, this happens after the fact, so that on my next collection, I won’t make the same types of mistakes.

Yesterday, while at the job site, I had to do some backtracking, as I was horrified to discover my collection had grown over the course of my processing due to extensive refoldering (the new folders were taking up more space than they were originally, as I wasn’t filling each folder as much as I should have been). This turned out to be unjustified by the time I had the collection arranged. As I’d been working, I painstakingly made chronological folders for each year for some series, as I planned to add to each folder and fill it as I processed. Unfortunately, the majority of these folders were not filled, some of which only had one or two documents inside.

This turned out to be a waste of space and resources. So, in order to avoid adding another box or carton to the collection, I began to consolidate some of these folders and was able to fit the collection into the original space allotment. I may do a bit more of this before I create the finding aid and add the container list. The fewer individual folders I have, the easier this will be to do, and the more time I will save. Of course, backtracking takes time, too. But the lesson is learned, and will save me time both in creation of the finding aid and in the processing of future collections. In just a couple of work days, I will be started on the next collection and able to apply all that I’ve learned along the way. I believe I will be much more successful in adhering to MPLP.

Further, I am excited that Mr. Steele’s collection will finally be accessible to researchers and the public. What a payoff. I get to see the collection move from a disorganized state, through to a neatly foldered and organized collection that will be of use to patrons of the Bancroft Library.

 

Internship Update: the Dwight C. Steele Papers at Bancroft Library

My internship at U.C. Berkeley’s Bancroft Library‘s Regatta Storage Facility has continued in Richmond, CA, along with the three other interns working at the same site. Each of us is processing a different collection. Mine is the Dwight C. Steele Papers, which is comprised of 7 cartons, and two oversized boxes. Mr. Steele was a labor lawyer turned environmental lobbyist/activist. He was involved deeply in Bay Area and Lake Tahoe Region environmental causes (most activity is from the 1960s – 2000), through personal lobbying and work with groups such as the Save San Francisco Bay Association (also known as Save the Bay), the San Francisco Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), Citizens for the Eastshore State Park, the Sierra Club, the Sierra Nevada Alliance, the League to Save Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, the Tahoe-Baikal Institute and others.

The initial part of my internship was involved in surveying the collection and developing a processing plan based on the survey, and according to strict guidelines developed as a result of institutional priorities–the idea is More Product, Less Process or MPLP, an approach devised by Greene and Meissner to help assure access is prioritized when institutional backlogs are dominating holdings.

The next phase–and I am still working on this part–is the actual arranging and processing of the collection. Unfortunately, strict deadlines weren’t given to us, and the processing plan form indicated I had much more time to work on this, as it was using non-MPLP time frames. Last Thursday, we were given a soft deadline to complete work on the collection by October 21, 2010. Technically that left only 16 hours of work. Yikes. I’m only 1/2 done now, and still have to produce a finding aid! Fortunately, I discussed my dilemma with my supervisor and was given another full day to complete my work on the collection. As a result, I am spending some time reviewing all of my survey notes and researching Mr. Steele’s connections and involvement so I can develop a revised strategy for completing the collection within the new time frame.

While the deadline is imminent, I recognize that a changing environment is a realistic situation. Communication sometimes breaks down, and plans have to be revised to meet the new criteria. Asking questions, checking in, and staying flexible are key. The internship’s first learning outcome specifically focuses on institutional priorities when creating processing timelines, and I have to balance my natural inclination for in depth work with the need for timely access to the collection. What a learning opportunity. I’ve shifted into high gear in order to get back on track. Continue reading

Bancroft Library’s Regatta Storage Facility

This semester I’ll be one of four interning for UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, at the Regatta Storage Facility which is one of their off campus storage and processing facilities in Richmond, California. The site internship supervisor is David de Lorenzo (also an instructor at SJSU SLIS), although we do not work directly with him. I have been really impressed with the organization of the internship and the presentation of orientation materials and the level of support provided at the job site.

On our orientation tour of the facility, David commented that Regatta is like the the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark where the Ark of the Covenant is stored. I’d have to say I agree with his estimation, and would only add that it is a very modern version of the warehouse! Newly remodeled specifically to house museum (by David’s account there is a sarcophagus and a totem pole somewhere in the depths of the facility) and library materials (the Judaica librarian discovered a 1596? item printed in Bamberg, Germany in a box he was unpacking last Thursday), the facility is secure (we all have University issued badges that open the security gate and front door, and only have access to the portion of the warehouse storing Bancroft’s material–there are lots of locked doors and fenced off areas within the warehouse), with environmental controls for humidity and temperature, and it even has two bunkers built in for storage of volatile nitrate film. Needless to say, it is an exciting environment to be in. Our focus is processing archival collections, as one of the functions of the facility is as an archival processing center.

The goals of the internship are quite clear, as the backlog of archival materials at Bancroft is problematic. The problem has developed over time, as 20th century collections produce so much paperwork, and historically the processing approach taken by Bancroft Library has been thorough and thus, time consuming. David de Lorenzo is now using a modified Greene & Meissner approach to processing archival collections known at Bancroft as “MPLP” which stands for More Product, Less Process (see the article More Product, Less Process: Pragmatically Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal with Late 20th Century Collections”). With this new approach, access to collections can improve greatly. With grant funding, the Bancroft has hired four full time survey archivists (for three years) who are assessing the status of collections at Bancroft and are now overseeing us interns. Each of us is starting out with two of the smaller high priority collections.

My learning outcomes, based on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning are as follows:

  1. Develop arrangement schemas and formulate processing timelines for archival collections while considering institutional resources and priorities.
  2. Apply archival survey and arrangement methods to unprocessed manuscript collections.
  3. Compare, select and employ appropriate conservation methods and materials for archival objects.
  4. Appraise collection materials for retention and disposition based on institutional policies, research needs and archival standards/guidelines.
  5. Facilitate information management and retrieval by designing and constructing descriptive finding aids and accurate electronic records using archival methodologies.

To date, with only one week of the internship behind me, I have been focusing primarily on outcomes 1 and 2. For outcome 1, institutional resources and priorities have been made clear as described above, and I can see how it is important to fit processing into a timeline in order to best meet and follow through with these. I am processing the Dwight C. Steele (an environmental activist/lobbyist and labor lawyer) papers, which is comprised of seven cartons (although there are likely other materials associated with it, that I hope will be identified/delivered soon). For the survey I have a 16 hour timeline, and have completed cartons 1-3 already. I will tackle cartons 4-7 this Thursday, at which point I will be ready to create a processing plan and submit it for approval. I did struggle to stick with my timeline initially, as it is easy to want to go into too much detail at this early phase when it is actually more important to see the “forest for the trees.” However, I have a better sense of the pace I need to maintain now.

Outcome 2 focuses on the survey and arrangement methods of unprocessed manuscript collections, and well, I am up to my ears in it! I am really glad to be getting the experience and look forward to looking at the collection in a more in depth way when processing and arrangement begin.

Fall 2010 SJSU SLIS – Interning Again

What a busy week!

The third full week of my very last semester of school is behind me, and I’m starting my new internship today. Well, I started yesterday with a project review. Meaning I read two versions of the collection processing manual–dry but oddly interesting (I even learned that file folders are meant to be “squared” at the bottom to 1/4 or 1/2 inch along the handy pre-scored lines in order to protect documents by keeping them more upright–a small but important detail). Collection processing is going to be such a different experience than my last internship (digitization project assistant). Honestly, they will seem like night and day, although both are for academic libraries and involve archival collections.

This semester I’ll be interning for UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, at one of their off campus storage and processing facilities in Richmond, California. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited to find out what type of collection I’ll be processing. I’ll report more when I know more.

My learning outcomes, based on Bloom’s taxonomy of learning are as follows:

  1. Develop arrangement schemas and formulate processing timelines for archival collections while considering institutional resources and priorities.
  2. Apply archival survey and arrangement methods to unprocessed manuscript collections.
  3. Compare, select and employ appropriate conservation methods and materials for archival objects.
  4. Appraise collection materials for retention and disposition based on institutional policies, research needs and archival standards/guidelines.
  5. Facilitate information management and retrieval by designing and constructing descriptive finding aids and accurate electronic records using archival methodologies.

The focus here is more refined than at my last internship where I focused on diverse aspects of a digitization project. I was immersed in metadata requirements and best practices for digital audio as well as intellectual property concerns for pre-1972 unpublished sound recordings. This time around, while I will deal with metadata, particularly in regards to outcome five, where archival description is critical, and with intellectual property concerns in relation to access and description, it will be a much more hands on process. I’ll have my hands in a collection and work through the processing from start to finish. The internship is expected to last at least through May.

So today is the day I go for orientation, and Thursday is the day I’ll get down and dirty with my new project.

Exciting.

Fall 2010 at SJSU SLIS: Week 2

Much better than week 1. Much, much better. Sigh of relief.

I’ve turned in my first assignment, read the required readings, and feel settled into the fall semester. I’m way more organized and finally can get a grip. The major hiccup for me during week 2 was the discovery of a vampire novella, Dinner With a Vampire. Did I mention I’m Vegetarian?, available online at Wattpad, an eBook community. I only have Twitter to blame for alerting me to the story in 140 characters or less (and myself, of course, for following the link, retweeting it myself, and getting sucked in). I spent a day obsessively reading a story about a teenage girl who is kidnapped by hot teenage vampires. Seriously, this gives the traditional captivity narrative a new twist. Twisted, but fun. Seriously guilty pleasure. I had to cut myself off, though. I haven’t finished reading it, so I still don’t know how it ends. Does she get away? Does she get turned into a vampire? Is it all a dream? Who knows. Maybe I’ll read more for Labor Day. Gotta love three day weekends. Although, three day weekends have little meaning in the online classes environment. I mean, my assignment was due Sunday night. Weekend-interruptus syndrome. Oh well.

As for school, I’ve been thinking about my research methods course. I’ll have to write a research proposal this semester which I may link to my summer internship at GTU. I interned at the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library and did a lot of research on copyright issues for pre-1972 sound recordings. I’d like to find out how other organizations are handling this issue, and specifically if the complexity of intellectual property law for this particular class of resources does indeed hamper efforts at digitization and digital preservation. Of course, I don’t know what research if any exists on this topic, but I expect if this becomes my topic, I will soon find out. I also know from experience how daunting the intellectual property issues are.

I’ll be refining my research proposal idea over the coming week. I’m sure I’ll have more to add by then.

As for other projects, not much progress yet. My fall internship for Bancroft Library in Berkeley still hasn’t started. My ePortfolio (thesis project) is slow going, but at least it is going. And I plug away little by little at understanding and using RDA to catalog with MARC. All of these will be ramping up soon, and I will be very very busy.

Holy moly. This fall semester is going to be nuts. But oh, how I like me some nuts!