Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Looking for a library job? Hang in there!

with 16 comments

Depicted below was, at one time, the root cause of much anxiety and self-doubt: job rejection letters.

From the following employers: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Towson University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre, East Stroudsburg University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Health Sciences Library, Virginia Tech University of Delaware, Washington County, Oregon, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina Greensboro, University of Denver, NC State University, University of Washington, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, MacroSys, Swarthmore College, Moravian College, Yale University, Davidson College, Northern Arizona University, and University of Colorado.

And I didn’t even include the list of places I applied for online… Over 45 applications were submitted before I secured my position at Millersville University. Do I resent any of these companies/institutions for not hiring me? Absolutely not, it was just not the right fit at the right time. I’m posting this for all of the new librarians, recent graduates, those still in school and those considering librarianship as a career. I was doing my job search back in 2008 and the marketplace is even tougher now due to the economy. I’m sure many of you have similar piles of rejection letters (or maybe you throw them out as they come… or maybe you’re awesome and found a job on your first or second try). I am writing today to say: don’t give up hope!

I’ve seen a lot of good posts lately that might be of interest to those of you who are at various stages of the job search:

As always, feel free to ask me any questions about my job search (and search committee) experiences. I would love to help bring more passionate professionals into the field. Are you currently looking for a job? How many places have you applied to? Any surprises so far?


Written by Erin Dorney

September 20, 2010 at 8:49 AM

16 Responses

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  1. Erin:

    I have to echo what you say. In my case, I didn’t receive many rejection letter. If I had to estimate I would say that only 25% responded to my applications, both paper and electronic. The rest, I assume just were too busy to respond.

    I’d also suggest looking outside of the box a little. I found my current job overseas at an international school and applied mostly on a whim. I also followed up with the potential employer, which I think it was secured me the position. But the fact that I applied for a job to work at a school (I had always envisioned myself as a public librarian) was something I wouldn’t have considered without the prompting of another fellow Librarian.

    It isn’t all rainbows and lollipops, it is stressful to search for a job, but don’t be afraid to apply to that job you just aren’t sure about cause it might be one you end up loving.


    September 20, 2010 at 9:00 AM

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bohyun Kim, Bohyun Kim, Bobbi Newman, Kira Barnes, Erin Dorney and others. Erin Dorney said: Looking for a library job? Hang in there: […]

  3. Erin – Thank you so much for this. Jason is going through all of this right now. Here’s hoping for a good fit coming along soon!

    Jen Dean

    September 20, 2010 at 9:22 AM

  4. Erin, like Jen said, I am in the middle of my rejection letter phase right now, and this was something I very much needed to hear. It’s disheartening, and it’s a great deal of work. When did you start looking for a job? I started in June/July – and the thing that frustrates me is the lack of responses in general.

    Anyhow, this was exactly what I needed to “see” so thanks for posting this – I feel a bit better!

    Jason W. Dean

    September 20, 2010 at 10:23 AM

  5. Hi Erin,

    As someone having just come off the job search, your post sounds all too familiar! I’d like to just echo your message that, YES, it does end, and being both persistent and open minded to a variety of jobs helps. An article that gave me hope, and practical suggestions, is here:

    Best of luck to all searchers.

    Rachel Slough

    September 20, 2010 at 12:51 PM

  6. […] contributed to the discussion by adding thier own comments and thoughts. (See the recent post in Library Scenester and four other posts: Kiyomi Deards’ phone interview advice, Julie Strange’s 10 tips […]

  7. Great post Erin!

    This is both timely and very relevant. I would also like encourage those who are applying to share their cover letter and resume with some to review…someone who will be honest and can offer good advice. I hope we can get something in place with PaLA to assist with the job search. I like your attitude as well…rejection doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rejection, like failure, can be great learning and professional growth tools 🙂

    I am certainly glad all those other places did reject you and that you ended up here in Pennsylvania! We certainly benefited from that!


    September 22, 2010 at 8:09 AM

  8. @ Peter – I also applied to a lot of positions that I just never heard back from… those may have been ones that were clearly beyond my reach (requiring a few years more experience that I had at the time) so I assume they were probably immediately tossed once it became apparent that I didn’t meet the minimum qualifications. Following up is a very important part of applying! I know some employers keep track of that because it shows that the candidate is actually serious about the job. Thinking outside of the box is a great tip, sometimes you never know where a job might take you. And you might end up liking it even more than what you were initially looking for. Thanks for the comment, hope all is well in Taiwan!

    @ Jen – You’re welcome… I can only imagine what Tony was thinking/feeling while I was receiving all these rejection letters. Jason & I are both incredibly lucky to have such supportive partners in crime! 🙂

    @ Jason – It can be truly disheartening… not only because you get your heart set on a perfect position, but because it takes such a huge amount of time to apply for professional positions. Writing, proofreading, jumping through all their hoops, making sure you’re attaching the right files in the right formats, waiting, proofreading, waiting… avoiding the phone, sleeping with the phone… it’s such a crazy time!! I think I told you this via email, but I started looking for a job in September of 2007 and I accepted my position in May 2008… so it took me 8 months. Hang in there, I know the right job will come your way.

    @ Rachel – Hi Rachel, thanks for the comment. It was nice to meet you at ALA, by the way 🙂 Thanks for posting that link, it has tons of good information for job seekers… somehow I totally missed it!

    @ Tina – Thanks! Great idea about sharing your cover letter and resume with someone who can bring a pair of fresh eyes to those important tools (I am totally up for giving feedback if anyone is interested in this!!). I think it would be fabulous if PaLa could do something related to job search assistance… if this is a project you’re starting, I would love to be involved, so keep me in the loop. So true about rejection too – it’s an important part of learning and growing. I am happy to be here in PA, and lucky to have you as a colleague.


    September 22, 2010 at 7:58 PM

  9. I saw your post featured at ALA JobList and I will definitely need to read more of your blog now that I know about it. 🙂 I am applying for jobs right now, and I definitely got a surprise with my last interview, which I thought went very well (one of my interviewers even told me afterwards that they had been impressed with me) but I ultimately didn’t get the job. What made it difficult was not so much that I didn’t get the position, but the way that they handled it. I contacted HR after the appropriate amount of time to inquire about my candidacy and received a one-line e-mail rejection. (I never received a letter so I’m almost jealous of those whose insitutions thought enough to send one!)

    We hear so often about how impotant it is for jobseekers to be professional and polite and it just seems to reflect badly upon employers if they don’t make an effort to be the same way. We hear so much about how this is a small profession and how you shouldn’t burn bridges because you never know who you might be working with (or for) – shouldn’t it cut both ways?

    Anyway, thanks for reading and for providing a space for us to share. Looking forward to reading more of your blog!


    September 23, 2010 at 5:50 PM

  10. BCE :
    We hear so often about how impotant it is for jobseekers to be professional and polite and it just seems to reflect badly upon employers if they don’t make an effort to be the same way. We hear so much about how this is a small profession and how you shouldn’t burn bridges because you never know who you might be working with (or for) – shouldn’t it cut both ways?

    I’ve run into this more times than I think employers want people to know. For one job in particular, I emailed and called the head of the library to try and get an update, then I called the organization’s HR department – and I have not heard from any of them. I applied for the job a month ago, and the position has been down from their website for a week or so. That’s just one example – I know there are many applicants for positions right now, but common courtesy goes a long way right now. Letting people know whats going on with the process and being professional in your communications (as an organization) is very important. It seems to be another major frustration in this process.

    Jason W. Dean

    September 24, 2010 at 9:38 AM

  11. Hi Erin, thanks for posting, I really needed this too! I am also in the middle of searching for my first library job, and it is really tough out there! What is most helpful to me is networking and going to conferences, volunteering…just being a familiar name in a sea of resumes helps wonders, especially if you are new.

    Had to LOL at your “wall of shame.” I throw mine in the trash as soon as I get them. No use dwelling on it :p.



    September 24, 2010 at 12:40 PM

  12. BCE – I just hate hearing that. I work in HR and Finance for a museum and I am the one that receives and fields all resumes – basically I am the one that handles all of the hiring procedures. Since Jason, my husband, began this recent job search process, I have added new steps to my daily routine, assuring that each person that contacts me (in whatever manner) hears from me within 48 hours. I have been so disgusted by the way in which some companies handle applicants that I made sure no one would ever experience that level of incompetence and disrespect from the institution that I work for. I wish that I could somehow make sure that everyone got this message. You are absolutely correct in saying that courtesy and professionalism should extend both ways. Keep being a professional on your end and lots of luck to you in search. I wish you the very best.

    Jen Dean

    September 24, 2010 at 1:21 PM

  13. […] Looking for a library job? Hang in there! […]

  14. […] Looking for a library job? Hang in there! September 2010 13 comments 4 […]

  15. Perfect timing for this post–I just received 3 rejection emails this morning alone. I’ve been looking for a job since April 2010. It is incredibly disheartening to keep getting turned down again and again. For the most part I have remained positive but believe me, I have my moments. I want to throw my hands up and wonder why I even bother applying anymore. But I keep going, because you never know when the “right” job may pop up.

    As for the potential employers, I’m glad to see that some organizations are at least attempting to be professional and acknowledging applications. I have lost count of jobs I’ve applied to and never heard from again. We have to jump through hoops as applicants, be “professional” at all times, yet that behavior is not reciprocated. I recently received a rejection from a library where I applied in 2009, right after I graduated. That is ridiculous. Ok, my rant is over :-).

    Good luck to all of you out there like me who are (im)patiently waiting on that job offer!


    September 20, 2011 at 11:25 AM

  16. Thank you for this post. I, too, am very discouraged. I got my degree in January. I am bound geographically until my daughter graduates from high school, so that has limited where I can cast my net. I am also older and have a second masters degree already, but my paid library work experience is ancient history now. I did a wonderful practicum in my last semester of the program, and have since been volunteering in archives and as a dramaturg for a local theatre company. I try to use my cover letter to highlight my how all my previous experience can work to the employer’s benefit, but I feel that I’m under- as well as overqualified for many positions.

    I think my biggest disappointment was applying for an entry-level part-time reference librarian job at the university that awarded my MLIS, only to receive a form email after several weeks that closed by saying, “…we wish you continued success in your profession.” Ouch.


    September 20, 2011 at 12:44 PM

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