We here at Klub Katalog are relatively lucky because most of us have jobs. However, we have many friends and classmates who are still struggling to find permanent placement in a library.
This issue is multi-faceted and we've all spent hours dissecting each and every factor of the current state of libraries. In brief moments of darkness I think we all feel lied to and I personally have tried to decide if I think it is actually unethical for library schools to keep bringing students in, especially when there are problems with the perceived time on campus and online for classes.
All this to say that I don't think anything is going to change soon. Yes, we all have those ancient staff members who appear to be at death's door, but they really don't show any signs of stopping in the near future. Jobs are going to continue to require at least three years of experience and they are possibly going to become more specialized AND expect a more robust skill set from applicants.
I hope I can keep a positive attitude to my fellow librarians, to library students and to my grad school (who undoubtedly expects us to contribute money and PR). I really do love this profession and I do think it will get better, it just takes time.
To all of you still looking, don't give up! Your day will come, though you will be exhausted at the end of your journey. Here are some things I found out during my job search:
- You have to decide which is more important: geography or having a job. According to the lists I subscribe to, there are actually jobs out there, they're just in seemingly random places. It may not be your dream to live in Utah, but if you're serious about being employed, you should apply. Having to choose between being near family/lovers/pets or taking a job is sort of a nice problem, because it means you have people in your life that you love and who love you back and want you to stay. Making the decision to stay in a specific area will not kill your job opportunities, but it probably will make your job search an even longer process.
- Get library experience any way you can. We are competing with out of work librarians with years of experience. Maximize your resume and your skill set by volunteering in a library on a regular basis during your job search. Though academic, public and special libraries differ in a lot of ways, they all share many of the same elements: circulation, tech services and programming. Shelving books and/or helping with storytime at your local library still looks good on a resume and will probably help you in the future, even if you don't stay with public libraries. Being familiar with circulation, program execution and patron relations is always a good idea. I've seen lots of great people wonder why they're not getting calls back when their only experience is an internship; you have to get experience any way and anywhere you can.
- Sell yourself. Sell yourself hard. Applying for jobs is just like cold calling; it can be awkward and horrible, but it can also yield big results. Have a few friends or colleagues look over your resume to look for content or style errors. Maybe your font is too small; maybe you have too much content. Your friends love you, so sometimes their gentle correction is easier to take than that of career services. Ask friends or family to help you with interviewing and/or approaching potential employers. You need to be able to tell people why you are best for the job and provide convincing answers and arguments for yourself when they ask questions. Practice in the mirror if you have to: "Hi, I'm Yogurt Moon and I'd love to talk to you about the position you have available. I think your library and I are a great fit and I'd like to discuss this opportunity with you!" It gets easier with time and practice.
- Only use social media if it will truly help you. For a while I thought I'd only get a job if I had a Twitter, a LinkedIn, an uber-professional and sterile Facebook page and a professional blog. Then I realized that wasn't me, relaxed and realized that it's still your personality, personal skills and experience that make or break you. Sure if you're applying to work at Twitter, it would probably help to have an account, but the foundation of libraries are still the classical elements we learned about in school. Fluency in social media is most likely just going to be icing on the cake. Unless you are trying to work at a super-progressive organization or a place that is known for it's Web presence, relax and only use the Web tools that actually help you.
- Keep grinding it out. Is there anything more awful than the ups and downs of a job hunt? It's possibly worse than dating because you have to have a job but you don't have to date! Any nibble from an employer makes you want to stop your search immediately and throw any other current applications in the trash. But you have to keep grinding it out until you actually have a job. Things fall through, employers flake and positions get filled in-house and all you get on the other side is maybe an email or a phone call to let you know.
- Decide if you are willing to take a job you don't love to make ends meet. Then decide if you are content with that for now and need to take a break from the hunt. If not, keep filling out applications in the meantime. Just remember not to do it on your work computer using their resources; that's bad form.
Picture from Library Journal