Questions for the Doper librarians

Ok, I know you’re out there. Really.

Here’s the deal. I’m will finish library school in May - I’ll actually have a Master of science in Information Science degree, but really, it’s library school.

I’ve worked with a resume, and have a version that can be adjusted as necessary to better suit various jobs. Sure, each time I send one out it will need some adjustment, but that’s how it should be.

I’m still struggling with where I want to end up. If I had to choose, I’d say that I lean most strongly toward academic libraries, followed by corporate/special, then public. The last place on earth I want to end up is in a school library (good thing too, since I’m not doing that certification). I worked in the corporate world for seven years before coming back to school. I can see me doing the business reference librarian thing - I work as a student assistant in the university library’s reference department and I really enjoy the time I get to spend on the desk. That working with the public aspect is what I lost being in the corporate world and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I doing it again.

What kind of libraries do you/have you worked in? What did you like about each environment or dislike?

When should I really start sending out resumes? Someone (just a friend, no one in authority) told me that it’s not necessarily too early now for academic positions, but it’s October and I’m won’t graduate until May. Isn’t that a little early or can I really go ahead and send some out if I see positions I’m interested in?

Finally, any advice - about interviewing, starting the new job…whatever?

OK. I’ve worked in academic and special libraries started out, but then switched to public libraries. The big appeal of public libraries: they pay pretty well. The downfall, well, there’s the public. Mostly the public wants to come in and use the free Internet terminals. These are not often the most wonderful people (unless they post to the SDMB of course).
I have a friend who works in an academic library and she works a lot harder than I do. And gets paid about the same. Most academic libraries are set up where your pay reflects what research you have published instead of what you do or who you supervise. It’s sort of screwy.
Special libraries have the disadvantage in that the library is often the first thing to go when the stock price of the company drops.

As for sending out resumes, do it now. Especially for academic positions or public libraries. They usually have much longer lead times. Special libraries are more likely to be looking for someone TOMORROW. A lot of places will hire you on even if you haven’t earned the degree as long as you say you will finish by a particular day.

Job interviews for librarians vary widely. Academic library interviews often take an entire day and require you to make presentations. Public libraries may interview you for an hour tops. Just be prepared. Dress nicely. Librarians may not be the best dressed, but don’t come in with that expectation.

Where do you live? How willing to relocate are you? (I’m guessing, since you say academic, that you’re expecting to move?)

There are a lot of corporate librarians in the CA Bay Area, which is where I started out. It was quite pleasant; I liked that work pretty well, but wanted to go public. (Public libraries in CA do not pay well, BobT, where do you live that you can make a living at a public library??)

All I really know about academic librarians is that you need a specialization master’s degree besides the MLIS most of the time, which I’m sure you already know.

So this isn’t exactly helpful or anything, but good luck!

I’m in Tennessee right now, and I fully expect to move, and I’m fine with that. I moved here for school, knowing I’d be moving again in two years (and I’ve signed leases accordingly).

There are a few places I don’t want to be. California is out - it just seems way too expensive, and really not my kind of place. The other place that is absolutely out of the mix is Atlanta. I lived there for two and a half years and I really don’t want to be there. There are other places I’d rather not have, but that I could deal with. The ideal situation would get me back to New England - Vermont, New Hampshire or Maine, with the Boston area only a general possibility.

You don’t have to have a specialized Master’s for an academic library, although it can help. The benefit that I do have going for me looking at academic libraries, at least from talking to my professors and reading the literature, is my corporate (internal audit) experience.

I too went to library school (1988-1990) hoping to become an academic librarian. It was a bit daunting, though, to be informed I would need a second master’s degree :eek: for a subject specialty to be considered competitive for academic library work. Hell, it was all I could do to get my MLS while raising a family and going into debt for the rest of my life for the tuition. (Until this year, when I finally folded the student loan debt into the mortgage when I bought a new house.) I did work in a university library for a couple years—as a cataloger—but it was overseas, the pay was crap, and I preferred to take my chances back in the good old U.S.A. I did get part time work in a good public library—as a cataloger—but never broke into full time.

Most of my library career was spent in “special.” The name “special” is a bit of an oxymoron, because most of the job openings are in “special.” By far the most common and easiest library job to land. (Because there’s a higher rate of turnover there?) What sucks about “special” libraries is working for louts who have no respect or appreciation for librarians, and as BobT astutely noted, these libraries are the first to get the ax. I worked for research institutes, businesses, and a law firm. Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT ever work for lawyers and their paralegal minions from Hell if you value your self-respect and sanity. Bitter? No, why the fuck would you think I’m being bitter? :mad: Ahem. Yes, academic libraries are the coolest places to work in, but also the toughest job market to break into.

My last library job was in a federal government agency. I has actually been hired by a contractor tasked with implementing spiffy new information software in this library, and they were looking for an MLS. When they found out I knew lots of different languages and could translate foreign-language stuff for the other librarians, my company reassigned me to a job as a federal government linguist. With a considerable pay raise. The touching part was that the other librarians in the first agency hated to lose me and requested me to please come back and help them in my spare time. Which I continued to do as long as my company let me charge the hours. I like to think I’m holding open the option of someday returning to library science, but have no idea, really, of the likelihood of that ever happening.

The benefits of learning library science in my private life have been tangible. It has made it way easier to find anything I want to learn more about. I know how to locate and get my hands on anything I want thanks to the modern miracle of interlibrary loan. After mastering OCLC (the pre-internet interface version), I became an information demon, able to come up with bibliographical wonders at the touch of a finger. I parlayed that skill into a job helping to edit an encyclopedia for Oxford University Press. I did all the bibliographical references. Umberto Eco, in Foucault’s Pendulum, has his hero earn a living as a consultant on the strength of knowing how to mine information from a public library’s card catalog. A card catalog? In 1990?! When I read that I pitied poor pathetic Eco, who should have known about online catalogs and OCLC.

Another benefit: I have my 1,500-volume home library shelved according to Library of Congress subject classification. Every time I get a new book, I check its LC class number in the CIP information on the title page verso, and write it on the flyleaf and shelve it in its exact place. Or if it isn’t there, I just log onto the LC catalog and find it. If it isn’t there, I know the LC classification anyway and just give it a call number myself. The advantage is that I know in an instant where every single book in my collection is and I can put my hand right on it without having to hunt around for it.

Fascinating thread, I’m considering an MLS (if I ever finish my BA).

I’m no longer officially a librarian, but a website manager; however, I do have my MLS, and before I started this job I worked around the DC area in a number of temporary library positions, so I developed a good idea of what I liked and didn’t like in library jobs.

Mostly, I enjoyed working in special libraries, although it rather depended on the type of “special.” Law libraries? No; the research didn’t interest me and, as Jojo Momo says, lawyers are not the most appreciative people of library work. I worked for a NASA contractor for about a year, and that was fun. Medical libraries were generally interesting to work in; the federal agency I work for now is health-care related, and while I don’t do traditional library work anymore, I am still sort-of attached to the medical library here and have been happy with it for years.

I was a reference librarian at a university library for a few months while the regular librarian was on maternity leave. It had its interesting moments, but there were also long periods of tedium when no one was asking reference questions and the tech staff didn’t need help at the front desk. This was over a summer semester, though, so things may have been busier when the regular librarian came back in the fall.

About finding a job: I think your luck will depend on where you are. When I first finished grad school and started job hunting in the Denver area, I sent out resumes and went to interviews for 6 months without getting any library-related jobs. Then I came out to DC to visit a friend over Memorial Day weekend and planned to stay about a week; I went on one job interview for a library temp agency, and on the day I should have gone home, had my first job at a medical library in Georgetown. That was 10 years ago, and I never really went back to Denver (except to get my stuff). I’ve never been between jobs here for more than 2 or 3 weeks.

We have a guy who does this, comes back to us every other Friday. You aren’t him, are you? I know he posts here on occasion.

Congrats on finishing-up.

I’m a Systems Librarian in DC in the Federal/legal environment. I have to agree with Miss Mapp that I have enjoyed working in the Special Libraries a great deal. They seem to have a bit more of a reason to create their own tools and policies. I know that every institution has qualities that set it apart from others in the world, but the Special Libraries often have to go that extra distance to customize for their specific needs.

I was in grad school for my MLS from August 1998 through December 1999; and, I think, shared your concerns. I knew that I was going to have a degree, but I has no idea as to what I was going to do with it. In my case, I had been working as a contractor (essentially shelving and helping minimally at the Circ Desk at a Federal Library). The woman who hired me left to start her own company. She contacted me as my graduation approached me and asked if I wanted to go out as a professional-level contractor for her to a Federal Library. Thus I cam to work with the fabled and awesome Miss Mapp :D.

I honestly don’t think that I had any specific skills that made me an expert in anything; but the folks at this Federal library really helped me focus and learn.

After one year I was hired for a Federal position downtown. I am the Systems Administrator for the Catalog, I do web design, and I get to do fun stuff like thesaurus construction and other more traditional Library-ish stuff. Oh yeah, and the other job still has me come back every two weeks.

It may be that I was relatively young compared to most of my graduating class in Library School (I was 29 at graduation), but the expanding role of technology really pushed my career along. As I said, I had no solid skill sets, but I was fortunate enough to have co-workers and supervisors who allowed me to take classes, watch them do their work, and screw-up to a certain degree. Many of my colleagues from grad school were significantly older and felt the need to get out and get into their professional role immediately, while I could afford the time to perfect my skills and find that perfect postition.

Don’t feel that you have to jump into a role that you will be branded with for all eternity. Find a position that interests you, and look at your first year or so as an apprenticeship. During this time, you may find that role that sparks your interest. This is sort of encapsulating the teachings of a lecturer at my Grad School who said that consulting jobs offered the most opportunity for variety, professional growth, and flexibility when you first leave grad school. After you find your groove, then you can focus on the Job to End All Jobs.

Good luck, and let us know what you decide to do.

Well, I’ve worked in academic, special, and public libraries and I’ve found that I prefer public. The academics usually want the MLS and a specialty degree and seemed to give back very little in the way of pay and quite a bit in the way of grief. There were just too many egos at the academic libraries–but that may just have been the few I’ve been in.

My special library gig was at an historical research library. It was wonderful work, but the pay was awful (I had to have the MLS but was only making $29,000.00 per year–this was two years ago), and the budget for professional development and computer equipment was practically non existant.

My current job has me back in a public library and I love it here. I’m the systems librarian so I manage the LAN, assist with the web site, teach classes to the patrons, write grants and policies, and just have fun doing my job. I’m making a wage I can actually live on and I have wicked cool equipment! And while you can encounter the egos here in public libraries, too, I’ve found you just don’t see it as much.

You should start sending out resumes right away–it’s not too early and you could easily land something before you are an official librarian since you’re so close to getting your degree. And when I was doing a lot of hiring at my previous job, I found that while resumes are important, we really looked at the cover letters very closely. This is your opportunity to show them you’ve done some homework on the organization (you know who to write to, you know a little about the community, etc…), and to tell them what you bring to the position that will help them.

Good luck, Lsura! Let us know how it goes!

No, I’m not the one you’re thinking of, Miss Mapp, my federal library job was at NIMA in Bethesda, so I worked with maps, not Mapps. :smiley:

And then there is archival work. I have a MA in Public History and several years of archival experience, but was “out of the running” recently for several archival jobs due to the lack of an actual MLS.

I am not saying the work is the same in archives and libraries, just that some of the people in archives want people with library training. It is another field to consider, if you want.

The research library I worked in was also an archive and an MLS along with archival training would make you a very marketable commodity! It’s also incredibly interesting work.

The idea of archives doesn’t thrill me - that’s not to say that I wouldn’t enjoy learning about them, but it’s just not where I set out to be (ok, I have visions of musty basements full of yellowing documents).
Thanks y’all - I’ve gone ahead and sent out one resume (sure, so I don’t really want to be in the state that this job is in. But I could put up with it for a couple of years if I had to). And there have been a couple of others - public and academic - that I’ve seen in the last week that will have resumes sent out once I tweak it so that it more specifically fits each of those jobs (no, no lying, just emphasize the points of my experience that fit those positions better) and write cover letters.
I feel a thousand times better having started the process. :slight_smile:

In school my main focus were law libraries. I worked for a law firm in Dallas for my practicum my final semester. It was a valuable experience because it taught me that I did not want to work for a law library or have anything to do with lawyers on a daily basis. Having a brother who is a lawyer is bad enough. :wink: Next I had a temporary position for a corporate library which was good money but did not want to stay there either. The experience wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I wanted to do. Also with corporate and law libraries, when there are layoffs, librarians are one of the first to go. In fact it was just a few months before in the law library many many firms had just completed a round of layoffs and the libraries were hit very hard.

I then tried university and public libraries. As stated above university libaries are difficult to get into if you do not know someone and don’t have a second Masters. So I went the public route. I found that I really enjoyed it, however because the Dallas area has two library schools jobs were tough to find. I eventually got a part time position in Plano. I really loved it there but in order to get a full time job someone had to retire or die. That is how I ended up in my current job. I have enjoyed it for the most part and don’t think I would want to work for another type of library. Sure, there is a lot of crap to deal with, but for me it is the most satisfying. It is also an interesting time because things are changing so fast because of technology.

New York and California seem to be constantly hiring librarians, and I even considered Brooklyn and NY public library because I wanted to see a different part of the country. I was in the process of lining up interviews before I learned I got my present job. At first I did not want to accept it and planned to go to NY anyway. However after doing some basic research looking at things like taxes, housing and pay I realized New York was out. The one criteria New York had in its favor is that I could get by without a car. Every other detail, for me, Texas and the south in general won hands down.

The one the I would love to try though would be an archive, because I would like to do more research type duties. Unfortunately I just don’t do as much of that as I did when I started just 7 years ago.

I do admit that I have been looking at the job listings lately and wouldn’t mind trying out another city, just to do something different. But right now I am only looking at other public libraries and seriously doubt I will try for another type.

It is kind of funny, but I just heard something on NPR last week talking about how people are rediscovering libraries because of the bad economy. People who are laid off, starting business etc. are learning of the wealth of infomation available at the public library. Unfortunately at the same time our budgets are being drastically cut, so we can’t provide as good service as we did when things were going well.:smiley:

And I have no clue as to how that green smiley got on the bottom of my post. Oh well. And good luck with the job hunting.