Tag Archives: Job experience

Hiatus and comeback!

11 Feb

As my regular readers have noticed, I’ve taken a little hiatus from my blog. This essentially corresponded to the time I left my position as the director of the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library in New Brunswick last September. I was extremely proud of the work I did at the Tracadie-Sheila Public Library and my decision to leave my position was bitter-sweet. On the bitter side, I was leaving an incredible library full of wonderful people to whom I’d grown extremely attached (patrons, staff, volunteers, library board members). I was also sad to leave behind projects that I cared passionately about such as our new library building project and our continuous efforts to create new and rewarding community partnerships. However, on the bright side, my decision to leave was based on a very happy development in my personal life (my engagement) and so part of me was definitely excited to relocate to Toronto.

Since I needed to relocate to Toronto, I got back into the full-swing of applying for library positions. This was a difficult period because I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to applications and every time that I spent hours toiling over an application only to never even get an interview, it was like I’d lost a small piece of myself. After a few months, people said that it was because I hadn’t yet found the “right job for me”. In the end, this turned out to be true as at the end of August once “the right job for me” was posted it took me only 2 weeks total to send in my application, be contacted for an interview, have an interview, and be offered the position.

I now work for a Francophone school board where I am in charge of the libraries in two schools (a K-6 school and a middle school). This is a fantastic job because I have always been passionate about children’s librarianship. Being in a school library allows me to do story-time, teach information literacy, provide reader advisory and research and order books that kids will get excited to read.

Each Canadian province has different standards for what qualifications are needed for working in school libraries. In Ontario, most school boards have teacher-librarians in their schools; this position requires a teaching degree paired with a few courses in librarianship. When I went for my interview, I was told that my school board has not had teacher-librarians for over a decade, now all of the school libraries are run by library technicians. A part of me has issues with calling myself a library technician even though it is officially my job title. Having obtained a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, I tend to say that I’m a professional librarian who works in a school library (I was told by a friend not to say that I am a School Librarian because technically I’m not). Rather than feel limited by my job title, I use my professional knowledge and skills everyday to strive to ensure that I am creating the most positive library experience possible for these kids. Most of the kids at my schools are from recent immigrant families to Canada. The parents are often struggling to make a life for their family in Toronto and do not have the money to buy books nor do they visit regularly the public library with their children. Consequently, the library experience that I provide for these kids becomes their only exposure to libraries. I am very motivated by my goal to help kids discover a passion for reading that will translate into a life-long pursuit of learning whether they attend post-secondary education or not.

Last week, I attended the Saturday sessions of the OLA (Ontario Library Association) Super Conference in Toronto. This experience was extremely positive and encouraged me to get back into blogging because I realized how much amazing knowledge librarians share when they get together. The biblioblogosphere is an incredible place and I want to get back into the swing of things! (That and my dad kept asking me when I was going to post something new).

I have always been grateful to everyone who comments on my blog posts. So what do you think of the importance of job titles? How would you feel about taking on a non-professional position as long as you got to do something you love?

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Advice on how to get a part-time job while completing a MLIS

16 Jan

You asked me for advice on how to find a part-time job in libraries while completing an MLIS and here it is! I discussed in a previous blog post How Valuable is Library Experience to MLIS student? the advantages of gaining important experience while still in school. I hope the advice from that post along with the tips listed here will be useful for those of you confident enough to take on both studies and a job. Good luck!

Talk to people about your job search

This may seem extremely self-explanatory but I cannot emphasize the importance of discussing your job search with other people. This begins with other students in your classes who perhaps already have a part-time job and know that their boss is looking to hire more staff. This also includes your professors who might need students as research assistants or know of other job possibilities. Even though working as a research assistant is not specific library experience, it will demonstrate that you have strong research skills, which looks great on a librarian’s C.V.!

Talk about your passions

If you are passionate about a particular area of librarianship, let people know! If you can establish your reputation as being an expert in an area then people will want to tell you about available positions that would interest to you. This is how I got my job at the Montreal Children’s Library last year. I am so obsessed with children’s literature and everyone in my program knew that about me from almost Day 1 of the program. When a paid part-time position at the Children’s Library was advertised, I had several people email me with the information encouraging me to apply for the job saying that it sounded perfect for me.

Subscribe to Job ListServs

McGill’s School of Information Studies has an extremely active Job ListServ for students and graduates. Every week I receive emails regarding job postings for libraries looking to hire. Although most of these postings are for full-time positions for which I am not yet eligible, from time to time, we do receive part-time job postings that are suitable for students. Some people wait until they are closer to graduating before subscribing to the Job ListServ because they figure that the job postings are all addressed to candidates who already have obtained their MLIS, This is a mistake because in the meantime they are missing out on part-time postings that would provide them with valuable experience.

Get Involved

Employers are impressed with students who are involved in extra-curricular activities. Getting involved in various associations and the planning of events also allows you to meet a larger circle of professionals who could become valuable contacts. My job at Westmount Public Library is a perfect example of how getting involved is the best way to impress employers and find a job. Last year, I applied for a part-time position at the library and although I thought I’d put together a convincing cover letter and professional-looking C.V., I lost hope when I didn’t get called for an interview even after I performed a “friendly follow-up call”. However, things changed in my favour when I co-organized Web 2.You 2009, a conference on the implications of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries, and the entire professional staff of Westmount attended the event. My boss remembered my application and at lunch time asked me to sit down and talk with her. Although I had an official interview afterward, I know that our lunch time discussion at the conference was the real interview and that I impressed my boss by being having organized of such a successful event.

Attend Job talks and Career Fairs

The most obvious place to find a job is at a Career Fair. However, it is not as easy as it seems. You must know how to talk to the right people and to be able to sell yourself a necessary asset to their library. Last year, at the McGill Career Fair very few of the libraries there actually had vacant positions to fill, but if you managed to impress the right person, it was well worth the exhausting afternoon of going around introducing yourself to everyone you met. It was at the Career Fair last March that I met Maya, a liaison librarian from McGill’s Education Library, and we talked about my previous experience working with teachers. Although there was no open position at the Education Library at the time, she thought that I would be a great addition to their team and I was hired on in September to work at the Reference Desk.

Never be afraid to sell yourself

If you want to be hired, people need to know what you have accomplished in the past as well as your strong qualities. Even if you are by nature a humble person, learn to speak up about your strengths! In this economy it is unlikely that anyone simply hand you a job on a silver platter. You will have to demonstrate that you are the best candidate for the position, so learn to speak with confidence about why you should be hired!

Good luck, I hope this is useful!

How valuable is library experience to MLIS students?

7 Dec

Prior to starting at McGill’s School of Information Studies I had no experience working in a library. When I began my studies, I realized that a lot of my fellow classmates had worked in a variety of positions either at public or academic libraries and I was concerned that their experience would put them at an advantage when we applied for jobs after our graduation. Therefore, in October of 2008, I jumped at the opportunity to work as a librarian assistant at La Bibliothèque des Jeunes de Montréal. I love children’s literature and I have lots of experience with kids so I figured that this position would provide me with a great way to get my foot in the door and gain exposure to working in a library. This past summer, I worked at a library at Environment Canada which allowed me to get a feel for what it is like to work for Canada’s Federal Government. Now, at the same time that I am completing my second year of my MLIS, I am working part-time at both McGill’s Education Library and at the Westmount Public Library.

I cannot stress how much I have appreciated my work experience in all of these libraries. Although I have perhaps not dedicated as much time to my school work as some of my classmates, I feel that my real-life work experience is more valuable than getting straight As. In fact, one of my early memories of McGill’s SIS program was being told by our program director that our marks tend not matter when we are applying for jobs. What does matter is that we can demonstrate that we are the best possible candidate for the position. The skills that I have acquired while working on various library projects and while interacting with patrons will hopefully demonstrate my potential to work as a professional librarian.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when working part-time at libraries during MLIS studies is that you can always enrich your experience by asking your supervisor to get more involved. Some people tend to go to work, do their job and then rush to get home. This has never been part of my work ethic, I’m always trying to see what else I can do or I ask my supervisors for additional projects. For example, although I am part-time at Westmount Public Library’s circulation desk, I have also created book displays, hosted the readers-to-readers teen book club, participated in activities like the recent tree-trimming, and written several book reviews on the library’s catalogue. Taking initiatives like these demonstrates my high level of motivation and has provided me with additional learning experiences.

Many first-year MLIS students that I spoke with this fall were hesitant to try and find a part-time job during their studies. It is true that the amount of work in the first semester is daunting and there can be a huge learning curve that requires lots of extra time outside of class to study and work on projects. However, I promise that learning to balance school work and a library job is the best possible way to demonstrate to employers your motivation for working in the field. When an employer looks at a C.V. and sees that you have not only attended school but that you were also working in a library, it shows that you possess much valued ambition and this will help you find a job after graduation more quickly than your classmates who have done nothing but study for two years.

So start networking and get your email address on library job listservs in order to find out about potential positions of interest to you! Good luck and have fun gaining experience at a library, I’m convinced that they are the best places to work!