Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Insider's Tips on Landing a Library Job

I went to a social mixer for library professionals and students at a local bar. Seeing a group of older attendees, I walked over to say hello. Once introductions were made, one of them leaned in and asked me, "So, what do you want to do?" Upon hearing my career plans, he said, "I hope you're willing to relocate."
She's totally psyched to have a library job.
Image from

Being willing to move to where the jobs are is advice I've heard before, and it's one of the tips that's offered by Brian Kenney. A contributing editor to Publishers Weekly (PW), Kenney has ample library experience, both as an employee and as an employer. "For much of my career," he said in PW, "I suffered from a kind of librarian wanderlust, which pretty much means that I spent my first 20 years in this profession engaged in a continuous job search. But I've also put in plenty of time on the other side of the interview table, having hired scores of librarians." 

Having been on both sides of the interview table has afforded Kenney a special insight. In "How to Land a Library Job," his article for PW, he gives "hard-won advice worth sharing." 

In addition to "Keep your bags packed" ("If you want to be hired as a librarian, get ready to move"), Kenney suggests that library job seekers do their homework. "Found a job ad that looks good? Go into research overdrive and investigate the hell out of the institution," he says. "Use your personal network to learn more." I can say that finding out as much as you can about an institution you're interested in is crucial. Not only will you be able to determine if you actually want to work there, but it will come in handy if you're called in for an interview. Interviewers are always impressed when you know something about them and the place where they work. It'll definitely put you a notch above the other candidates.

He also asks you to "exploit your past": "If you have a prior career, extrapolate the skills that will transfer over to library work and find a way to talk about them. If it was a profession that libraries can make use of, put that out there. You may have run screaming from a career as a graphic designer, but a library's need to have someone in-house who can design the monthly e-newsletter may be what gets you hired." As someone who is making a career change, I'm bolstered by this advice. In my cover letter and in interviews, I'm sure to say how the skills I've acquired in publishing can be of benefit to the library or archive. 

In his article for Publishers Weekly, Kenney offers much more advice for library job seekers, including tips on the interview process, storytelling as a way to promote yourself, and more. To soak up all his wisdom - and trust me, you'll be glad you did - read his article "How to Land a Library Job" at THIS LINK.

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