Erin Dorney

Blogging life & librarianship

Posts Tagged ‘new grads

Looking for a library job? Hang in there!

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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

Library internships for undergrads?

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CC image courtesy of Leeni! on Flickr


By my junior year of college, I knew that I wanted to continue on to graduate school to earn my MS in Library and Information Science. Because I was pretty set with my degree requirements, I completed two library internships during my senior year (at this time I was also working part time at my undergraduate library). I knew that having experience in multiple libraries would give me a solid background to inform my graduate studies. I was also interested to see if the organizational phenomena I observed within one library was typical of all/other libraries (I have found the answer to be yes, more on that later, perhaps).

I was incredibly lucky to find a mentor* at RIT Libraries who has truly been one of the most influential in my life. I spent my time learning about the importance of marketing in libraries, honing my design skills, learning about the inner workings of an academic library (my work space was within the Director’s Suite), working collaboratively and more. That internship helped me make connections with professional librarians, many of whom I am still in touch with through personal friendships and professional endeavors. My internship at RIT helped me to land a part-time staff position there following my undergraduate graduation, a position I held throughout the two years it took me to earn my MLIS online from Syracuse University. My staff position led to a whole new level of learning, and I was able to participate on faculty/staff committees, take the lead on some projects, complete a graduate-level internship working on a digital collection, and offer my opinions as a student and soon-to-be-librarian. Most importantly, my experiences at RIT continued to motivate me to become a librarian. I wanted to be able to contribute and improve on an institution which had offered me (and so many others) opportunities to live a more creative, fun, and intellectually stimulating life.

If I had not sought out this internship opportunity as an undergrad (which was not a requirement, by the way), I highly doubt that I would have achieved the same level of professional success as I have today. So you can probably imagine my excitement when I was approached by a Millersville University student who was interested in doing the same. During the spring of 2008 (only about six months into my tenure-track position here) I supervised my first Outreach Support Library Intern. Amy was in her senior year and planned to apply to library school right after graduating with her BA in English. She stuck to that plan and will graduate this December from Clarion University. I have tried my hardest to remain a mentor to this new librarian and help her along the way just as my mentors have helped me. We’ll be presenting together at the 2010 PaLA Annual Conference this fall, talk weekly about library-related topics, and share professional development opportunities with each other when we find them.

This fall, I am excited to have another intern. Also in his senior year, Mike is considering graduate school as a post-graduation option. One of the things I’m working on with him is a collaborative research project which we hope to have published in a peer-reviewed journal. I think that having such a publication on his resume will benefit him regardless of what graduate program he might end up pursuing. I also just talked to another student who is interested in doing an internship with me in the spring of 2011 and who says he has been planning to go to library school for a few years now.

All of my interns have been student workers in the library, so they have some extra institutional-history. I have created an internship plan of work for each of them, based on the same ideas. I go over the document with the intern and then we both sign and get a copy. I am really making this up as I go, folks… no one ever taught me how to run an internship. One thing that I think is important is that they shadow me both in instruction sessions and during research consultations at the reference desk. I hope that with enough experience, my interns will eventually be able to step in and teach a portion of the session (run a group activity or something) or answer a question at the desk. Having a little bit of experience in those two areas will a) give them something to base their graduate-level discussions on and b) might be the deciding factor for a job (student, GA, staff, etc) where the other candidate has never worked in a library. I also have them do some informational interviews in order to learn about other librarian positions and start recognizing the importance of networking.

But like I said… I am really making this up as I go, trying to remember what was helpful to me and what knowledge I should give them before they go to graduate school. A few questions for the blogosphere:

  1. There has been a lot of discussion lately on making potential/new LIS graduate students aware of the difficulties of job searching & myths about the graying of the profession. Is this our responsibility? My responsibility as an intern supervisor? The schools’ responsibility (although that seems highly unlikely)? I have tried to be candid with my interns about the job market and outlook… at the same time they’re getting rhetoric from the graduate programs. I am always honest about library-related issues with them, but do I need to actually warn them or attempt to steer them away from the field? It would just be heartbreaking to have to do that to a student who is excited and passionate about getting into librarianship… at the same time, I don’t want them to end up unemployed. What do you think?
  2. Do you have any feedback on my internship plan of work? I am interested in improving it – for my first intern, I just kind of threw it together, because time was an issue. Now that it looks like this might be a more regular occurrence, I want to make this experience as rewarding for the student as possible. Are there things I’m forgetting or things that have worked for you (as either an intern yourself or an internship supervisor)?

What do we think about undergraduate library internships in general? Are other people doing this at their institutions, either systematically or ad-hoc? Are there resources out there that I should be looking at? Please feel free to share!

* This post is dedicated to Bob Chandler, my first (& favorite) library mentor.

Written by Erin Dorney

September 13, 2010 at 9:00 AM

Implications of a School Media Degree?

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I recently received an email from a current graduate student who was wondering whether getting an MS in LIS with a School Media specialization might limit her when it comes to applying for jobs in other environments such as academic, public, or special libraries.

Because I’ve only been on one search committee since I’ve become a professional librarian, I could only really share my opinions and observations. I basically told her that I don’t think it will limit her as long as she can make a strong enough case for the skill set required. She has experience interning in an academic library and clerking in a public library, demonstrating that she is exploring multiple options. That hands-on experience already catapults her above many new grads who will have never worked in a library in their life. I think if her cover letter is strong enough, and if the job is the right fit, she should be able to justify it.

I also took to Twitter/Facebook and asked some of my colleagues what they thought about the issue.

? from LIS student: will getting a school media degree limit career choices (academic/public/special)? #librarians pls chime in

Library school student Amy Pajewski – “from what i’ve heard in face-to-face class..once you choose school lib, you do nothing else. However, the old director of the Lanc Pub Lib System was a school librarian who became director of a public library and then went back to school libraries bc it was her passion. I think it would be easier to switch school to public rather than special/law/academic.”

Recent LIS grad Kiyomi Deards states that in her opinion – “Might make it hard to get into an academic library, education liaison might work, but I don’t see it translating to corporate”

Library school student Maria Rachelle Bedia – “school media are given specific courses and electives to take geared towards becoming a school librarian… I think this is a bit stricter than the other concentrations… at least that was what I saw when I looked at the curriculum for each specialty.”

Recent LIS grad & librarian Peter Coyl – “I don’t think so. The only way they’ll know is if you put it on your resume or job app, and nothing says you have to do that”

Academic librarian & professor Ryan L. Sittler – “School media COULD be limiting. But in practice… not really. There are no limitations in regard to public librarianship. And for academic? There are few, if any. That said, depending on where you apply… there may be a perception that the degree is not as “robust.” Even though it requires more credit hours…” and later “Depends on the type of job, too. A SLM person transitioning to work as a Teen Services Librarian at a public library or an Instruction Librarian at a college/university might actually be a better hire.”

Librarian Philippe Cloutier – “Definitely not limiting. It creates more opportunities if anything.”

What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments (I’ll be pointing the student here to read any additional responses).

Written by Erin Dorney

July 12, 2010 at 10:25 AM