Archive | February, 2010

Interview Time!

23 Feb

Last year, when I was still but a lowly first year MLIS student, I watched with keen interest as a few of my friends in second year succeeded to secure interesting library jobs before their last semester of the MLIS program was even finished. This year, it is (I’m keeping my fingers crossed) going to be my turn. For the past year, I have been checking out job postings through Library Job ListServs as well as consulting the websites of various professional associations to see what type of positions are posted and how often. It has been very valuable for me to get a sense for what type of job market is available for recent MLIS graduates and the qualifications required for various advertised positions. In January, I started to see a few positions that really interested me and although I only finish my MLIS in April, I hoped that it wouldn’t be too soon to start applying. In order to revamp my C.V., I made an appointment with a consultant at the McGill Career Planning Service Center. Although, I was disappointed by her general lack of knowledge regarding the variety of career opportunities for this degree, she did provide me with basic formatting tips to create a more eye-catching C.V. I also had a friend and my professional partner from the CLA Student Chapter’s Professional Partnering Program read my C.V. and my cover letters to give me concrete feedback on whether they were well written and of potential interest to future employers. I am happy to say that the hard work I put into job applications has paid off and I have been offered three interviews for different positions.

Yesterday morning, I experienced for the first time an hour long phone interview. Phone interviews are difficult because you cannot read the body language of the people who are interviewing you. You cannot tell if they are smiling or scowling at your answers! Because I had no visual cues, once I finished giving an answer that I thought was of an appropriate length, I asked them to confirm if I had provided them with enough details. I did not do this for every question because that might have come across as insecure, however, sometimes I felt that I needed a verbal confirmation that my answer had not been off-track from the type of answer they were looking for!

My phone interview was fairly straight forward. They asked me typical questions about my experience “Name a time when you had a conflict with a supervisor and how did you deal with it?” as well as hypothetical questions of how I would deal with certain situations, ex. “A patron complains to you regarding a certain book that they feel is inappropriate for a public library. What would you do?”. This type of questioning does not bother me; I thank my mom for signing me up for acting classes when I was young because having a background in Improv acting really helps you learn how to think on your feet during an interview! However, interviews are not always that straight forward. In the past, I had an interview where I needed to write beforehand a 3 page paper on the Google Book Library Project, I’ve had to write a test with both short-answer and a longer essay question, and I know that it is common for librarians to prepare in advance a short presentation on an assigned topic. All of these additional requirements can add stress to an already stressful situation! I’ve already been warned that I will need to write a test for Friday’s interview so we’ll see how that goes… but I’m really interested in the job I was interviewed for yesterday so I hope that I hear back from them soon!

Ikea Job Interview Comic

The future of libraries is awesome!

13 Feb

Comments that I have received from readers of my blog say that one of things they appreciate most is the fact that I have positive attitude and that I am optimistic about what lies ahead for me as a future librarian. It is true that some doomsday types talk about the end of libraries, how librarianship is becoming an obsolete profession, and that their pursuit of an MLIS degree was a waste of time. Blah, Blah, Blah… I just don’t buy it. I have met so many fantastic librarians who love their jobs and although there are challenges in librarianship (like in all professions), I think that the general consensus is that librarians and libraries are still doing awesome things for users and that our efforts are appreciated. No one radiates the idea that being a librarian is a worthy profession more than Michael Stephens. I challenge everyone to look at what this man has to say about librarians and not be convinced that as a profession, librarians rock!
Web 2.0: Into a New World of Librarianship by Michael Stephens

Library volunteerism in Zambia

9 Feb

Today at lunch time, the McGill Librarians without Borders student group hosted Marjorie Gagnon, a librarian who volunteered for 5 months in Zambia. During her stay in Zambia, Marjorie participated in two library projects: The Book Bus and the Lubuto Library Project. Many students in librarianship have a burning desire to help people (even those stuck cataloguing in a back room want to help people find resources more efficiently by doing a good job classifying). Marjorie argued that because she stayed for 2 months at each project, she was able to observe the difference that books made in the lives of the African children who she was working with. By the time she left, she was able to see the progress in their reading skills, which is pretty rewarding! Many college/university students participate in this type of project during their “gap-year” when they embark on whatever volunteer-tourism program sounds most interesting. These student volunteers did not have the same goals as Marjorie since they had no idea what needed to be done in a library setting (Marjorie described their complaints at having to do a library inventory in the hot sun). Most of them preferred visiting the country’s touristic highlights to doing actual volunteer work. This did not faze Marjorie, she was able to draw upon her management skills from her job experience to prioritize projects and motivate others.

Marjorie did a lot of research before choosing to which projects she wanted to dedicate her time and energy. She was extremely helpful by giving us a list of other potential NGOs performing library work in Africa that she discovered during her research. This was extremely useful and I was able to copy down many of the names like Under the Reading Tree and Friends of African Village Libraries (FAVL).

We were warned that a volunteer trip like this cost a lot of money and volunteers must cover their own expenses for travel, vaccinations, visas, etc. Luckily Marjorie has been working full-time for the past ten years and could afford this trip that was taken during a sabbatical year. I’m not sure that most MLIS students would have the funds saved up for the type of trip. Okay, I know that I would not be willing to pay these expenses when I am just finishing school and I do not yet have a secured job with income. Having said this, I will be going on a less expensive library-volunteer trip to Guatemala for 10 days in April. More on this in a future blog post…

Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews speak at McGill’s SIS

8 Feb

Gerald Beasley Photo

Gerald Beasley, University Librarian at Concordia University

Joceylne Andrews Photo

Joceylne Andrews, Technical Services Librarian at Westmount Public Librarian

This is a post that I started writing over a week ago but was never finished because the Web 2.You conference completely took over my life. I strongly believe that everything in this post is still relevant and important even over a week after the presentations discussed below took place:

Most students do not enter librarianship to become managers. Much to the dismay of these MLIS students, who cannot possibly envision themselves as managers anytime in the near future, the majority of MLIS programs do require at least one core course on management. This semester, I am the Graduate Assistant for McGill’s Information and Agency Management class. This is slightly ironic as, I too, only last year was a student sitting through this class thinking to myself, “I know nothing about business models, managing a budget, or dealing with the conflicts of staff members, I can’t possibly become a manager!” This is such a common frame of mind amongst students as well as a source of some concern. Therefore, it was incredibly reassuring last week in class to listen to Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews, two engaging guest speakers, who addressed this common notion with much honesty.

Gerald Beasley is the University Librarian at Concordia University in Montreal (directing both the downtown and Loyola campus libraries). In the field of librarianship, no one has more management issues to deal with than an academic library director and Gerald Beasley seems to accept the responsibilities of his position with humility and extreme interest. His extensive career demonstrates the potential to be elevated to positions of authority without necessarily seeking them out. Gerald Beasley began as a Rare Books cataloguer, probably the position least likely to lend itself to becoming a leader in an academic library environment. However, when listening to Mr Beasley talk, it is easy to understand why he was promoted to a position of authority. He comes across as a man who genuinely cares about the mission of libraries in addition to the well-being of the people who choose to work in these settings. As a response to one question on how he started taking on leadership responsibilities, he answered that in a work environment, decisions are made all the time and at one point he realized that he wasn’t always happy with the decisions that were being made. He then started to become more involved in the decision-making process and obviously the decisions that he made set him apart as a respected leader in the library as he was then rose in the ranks of management.

Although Gerald Beasley was extremely inspiring and he has had a fascinating international career, I think that it was easier for students to identify with Jocelyne Andrews’s talk on management. Jocelyne graduated from McGill’s MLIS program only four years ago in 2006 and therefore seemed a bit closer to the current mind frame of students. Her well thought out talk highlighted various reasons of why students might be afraid of the prospect of management and discredited these potential fears. Like I said, I did not enter into librarianship to become a manager but Jocelyne argued that as professionals, the likelihood of us being called upon to fill a management position is quite high. We therefore need to think about developing valuable management skills like problem solving, learning to prioritize and communicating effectively. She argued that we can start improving these skills immediately by becoming involved in library associations, taking part in group projects and by drawing on our experiences from part-time jobs.

I am so grateful to be the Graduate Assistant for this class. I honestly feel that I am learning just as much in this position as last year when I was taking the class. It is perhaps because I am getting closer to graduation and I realize more now than when I was in first year just how important management skills are when working as a professional librarian. In fact, I have a few interviews lined up in the upcoming weeks for a few open positions in library management. I hope that the theory learned in the Information and Agency Management course, my various job experiences, as well as the valuable insight shared by Gerald Beasley and Joceylne Andrews will help me convince my interviewers that I have the skills necessary to be trusted in a position of management!

Web 2.Wow

7 Feb

The unfortunate thing about working on the weekend is that I have not yet had time to recap on my blog the unforgettable impact that Web 2.You 2010 has had on me as a person and as a future information professional. Organizing this conference with Adrienne Smith (MLIS I) has taught me so much and all of our hard work has been rewarded with positive comments and words of congratulations from everyone who participated in the event.

It seems that I have already waited long too long before posting anything to my blog (I would have been tweeting about the conference live but my laptop was needed as an emergency back-up for the speakers). In the meantime, Lora Baiocco has beaten me to the punch by posting a fantastic summary of the day’s activities entitled “Web 2.You at McGill – the little conference that could and does”. I really encourage everyone to read this post to get a better idea of the diversity of ideas that were presenting on Friday and that still have my head spinning.

For those of you unable to attend Web 2.You 2010, the video should be available on the Web 2.You Wiki in the next week as soon as we are finished editing.