As many of my friends and fellow students already know, last week I accepted the position of interim Library Director at Tracadie-Sheila Public Library in New Brunswick. This excites me for so many reasons. For certain, having a job already secured before graduation is a huge relief. I am someone who likes to have a plan and when faced with uncertainty I can get a bit stressed. So even if the plan is to move to a far-away small town in a province that I have only driven through once on my way to P.E.I., where I will know no one and will have huge responsibilities that I may or may not be prepared for, well at least it’s a plan. I am especially excited because of the position itself. In the end, I called and canceled the two other interviews that I had scheduled for last week. The opportunity to become a library director straight out of library school is thrilling. The interview panel was impressed by my previous experience and I responded to their interview questions to the best of my ability, but it is still overwhelming that they saw potential in me for this position! Since the library is small, I will get to touch on all aspects of librarianship like programming services, collection development, reference, circulation, and library systems as well as being responsible for promoting the library in the community and reporting to the library board. I must admit that the prospect of being a library director excites me so much that I lay awake at night thinking about ideas for cool programming and what my future patrons’ interests will be. I have started to look more seriously through McGill Library ‘s collection for books that will hopefully help me better prepare myself for the challenges ahead such as A Short-cut to Marketing the Library by Zuzana Helinsky. I acknowledge that I cannot learn everything there is to know about being a library director from a book and that is why I cannot wait to get started! Please stay posted for more details!
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!
In the past few weeks, I have heard two guest speakers at McGill’s School of Information Studies who have gotten me thinking about the idea of organizational loyalty. Some people of a certain generation (usually grandparents) boast of their life-time dedication to a particular employer/organization. We hear about “30 years of loyal service” and companies creating loyalty incentives to hold on to experienced workers. I actually work with a library assistant who has been at McGill Libraries for 40 years. In her case, the library is trying to offer her a package to get her to leave but she doesn’t want to, she enjoys her job too much! However, it is obvious to me that less and less people, especially professionals, are interested in the idea of being loyal to a single company for too long and certainly not for their whole careers.
One perspective that often keeps people at the same job over time is that it feels kind of cheap to pick up and leave an organization after an employer dedicates time and resources into an employee’s professional development. It’s almost like a slap in the face to that employer for the employee to then take elsewhere their valuable experience and skills learned.
One guest speaker told us how she left her job where she was becoming increasingly unhappy even after her employer had paid to send her to a conference and had big projects for her in the organization. She wanted to stay on good terms with her employer because they had developed a friendship but, understandably, he took it hard when she told him she was leaving. Tough situation! Although hopefully this seems like a no-brainer to most people, if you are unhappy at a job then it’s in your best interests to find another job where you will be happy.
However, a different perspective that our second guest speaker brought up is the idea of never staying too long at one organization even if you are happy with your job. This approach is a bit more difficult to appreciate and I’m sure it will leave people divided. Our guest speaker explained that although she loved and was very comfortable at one library where she worked for 19 years, she felt that she stayed there too long. Her argument was that as professionals we want to continually grow and learn new things which becomes difficult when we grow too comfortable with the status quo at one particular workplace.
We might attribute this to different personality-types. Some people love and need stability in their lives, whereas other people crave adventure and new experiences. I enjoy stability but I can appreciate the need for change in order to stimulate continual professional and personal growth. When I left my job as educational and institutional representative at La Maison Anglaise et Internationale, I had been working there for 4 years. I liked my job, my boss, and my colleagues but I knew that I did not want to stay there forever and coming back to school to do a MLIS seemed like the right choice. I do not regret for one second this change and I know that I am growing more as a person by gaining new knowledge and experiences.
What about you? Can you envision yourself staying loyal to one organization for 10, 20, 30 years? Also, from an employer’s perspective, what type of incentives could you offer to employees who you value and want to retain?
It’s the small pleasures in life like finding a book called “Modern marriage and family living” published in 1957 on the shelf of the library where I work that make me laugh. Chapters include how to select a suitable “mate” based on social class, religion, and race as well as info on what to expect from the wedding night including the sexual organs of both sexes. Wow, I’m so glad that this was never weeding out of the collection just so that I could find it and laugh!