This is Why It’s Important to Look at the ALA Job List During Library School

per “Hiring Librarians“:

I see far too many resumes for students who are specializing in archives and digital preservation when most libraries need instruction librarians.

I’ve discussed before how, during library school, I looked at what jobs were actually on the ALA job list, and tried to hone my skills (via field experiences, work experience, etc.) so that I met the qualifications of jobs that actually interested me. 

We must do a better job of educating library school students about these matters!



Filed under Education, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game

4 responses to “This is Why It’s Important to Look at the ALA Job List During Library School

  1. No, the discussion that needs to be happening is about pegging people in one area of the profession. You specialize in something in library school? Good luck trying to move into anything else.

    I’ve been trying to break into reference/instruction after working in the field for over 4 years (and providing reference and instruction in all of my professional positions). Do you know how often I get a call back? Hardly ever.

    • Kevin Michael Klipfel

      Hi there, thanks for your comment, and your perspective. I don’t, of course, know your situation, but what you say just seems to me another illustration of the principle that “people will hire you to do work based on the experience you have doing the kind of work they are hiring for.” This, I think, is how it should be, an it’s of enormous importance that library school students are aware of this. I would not recommend that any library school student not get experience in an area they are interested in for fear that they’d be pigeonholed somewhere later down the line. I know some people who aren’t quite sure what they want to do, and they’ve been wise, and done well, getting experience in a few different areas.

      I sympathize with your situation, but do not think there’s anything particularly unfair with an employer hiring someone on the basis of their experience. It would be an unfortunate situation, however, if you DO have that experience, and they’re pigeonholing you because of what you’ve also done in the past. But I think that it would be strange for someone to do that, and I’d wonder if the experience one has is, in fact, equivalent to those who have experience working primarily in reference and instruction. I know firsthand of people making pretty radical moves to other areas of librarianship after having done something radically different for years, and it was because they branched out in their old position to get experience doing something else.

      And in terms of whether “This is the discussion that needs to be happening” … one would need to know how many people are in this position. I’d find it really strange if it were as many people who are currently in library school, wondering what conscious choices they can make to successfully obtain their first professional position in libraries. Just doesn’t seem plausible.

  2. Kim Duckett

    Although I don’t know Jen’s situation, I do empathize. It can be hard to move from one area of librarianship into another. It’s certainly hard to move from a non-academic library into an academic library. Within academic libraries there are certain kinds of moves that are more radical than others. As Kevin suggests, I think it might be easier to move within an organization (or at least expand skills within an organization) initially.

    I’ve been on a bunch of search committees for a wide range of positions and can offer some perspective from that side. In my experience, job announcements are very carefully worded. Great attention and thought is given to what’s outlined in terms of what the department or unit needs, how quickly they need someone to be up and running, how much professional context for the area of specialization is needed, how much training would be involved, and how the new hire’s skill set would complement other staff. The search committees I’ve been on (at a very large public university) have had to consider every applicant against the stated criteria of the position — both required and preferred — due to the expectations of the campus Human Resources department, which has policies in place to assure Equality Opportunity. So if you don’t have a qualification, it’s noted. If the job announcement says “at least X years,” it means “at least X years.”: If it says “strong communication skills,” your cover letter and resume better be impeccable (because at the first review stage that’s all there is to go on, usually). If it says “experience with X” that’s what it means. There can be some room for interpretation by the committee, and sometimes the people who wrote the search announcement have intentionally built in wiggle-room with the language. On the other hand, I’ve known of job searches that were closed because the announcement ended up being too restrictive due to the language of the qualifications! They didn’t get enough applicants or the right sort of applicants.

    This close tie between job announcement criteria and how the applicant is reviewed is one reason it’s critical to tell your story, explain your expertise, and make clear what you care about in the cover letter. It’s telling the story behind the bullet points. It’s also why you tailor every letter to the job applied for.

    I don’t know enough about Jen’s specific situation to offer advice, but I thought this perspective might be useful for understanding what’s going on on the other side of the job search process.

  3. Pingback: Some Advice for LIS Students: Maximizing Experience to Prepare for the Academic Job Search (Guest Post by Kim Duckett) | Rule Number One: A Library Blog

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