Wednesday, May 16, 2012

My #1 Job Hunting Tip for Public Librarians


It's graduation time for many library school students and while I am not sure how many of them read my blog, I thought I would pass on my #1 tip for getting a job in a public library. Are you ready? Here it is: Before you apply for a job at any public library, read the Board minutes. Go back at least a year and more if the library still has them online.

Some of the things you might learn from the Board minutes: 
  • What the library's financial situation is. Some libraries will have their entire budgets online and others you will have to read through the lines more. Look for key words like furlough days, health insurance costs, and other indicators that the library is struggling. You definitely don't want to start a new job only to get laid off! I like surprises, but only ones like cupcakes. Do your research. 
  • How the position came to be available. I always ask this in interviews, even when I think I already know the answer. You might get a different response than what the minutes reflect. But it can make an impact on your decision process if the previous librarian was fired/moved/promoted etc. I'm not sure how I would feel about taking a job where my predecessor was fired, unless it was for complete malfeasance, such as embezzling. 
  • What direction the library administration and Board are heading. Months before our patrons learn of a service we may be adding through our publicity, references to proposed changes can be found in the Board minutes. Especially with large expenses, often the Board will need to be educated on the service's background one month, see a demonstration another month, debate it in the third, and vote to adopt it in the fourth. Maybe you will learn that the library in question is totally polar to your own philosophy on public libraries or is a pretty good match to your interests or abilities. In the former case, you can decide not to bother filling out an application and sending your resume/cover letter. In the latter, those are things you can address in your packet to tailor it to the position. How much better is that than regurgitating the contents of your resume in your cover letter?
I would worry more about what the Board minutes say than what the actual job description says. Many times they are out of date or written by a department that does not actually know what librarians do for 40 hours per week. If you see something that strikes you as odd, you can always bring it up in an interview and find out what the story is.

On the other hand, I've decided not to apply for jobs because the Board minutes revealed that the health insurance plan covered only employees and not their spouses or children. That is a dealbreaker for me and I would imagine many others as well.

*I haven't been actively looking for a job since my own library school graduation (accepted my current job 4 months after getting my MLS after applying for 3 total jobs).

2 comments:

I love reading library board minutes. I've learned about libraries who act as landlords, libraries with serious financial trouble, and libraries that have dealt with flooding. Library board minutes are a wealth of information!

I'd also suggest that job hunters read the Ask A Manager blog. Her advice is invaluable.

Library Board minutes are priceless for nosy people like me. But they can save you so much time and trouble applying for jobs at libraries where you wouldn't want to work anyway.

I love Ask a Manager! I would love to work for Alison. (Anyone interested read her blog here: http://www.askamanager.org/)

Also good are Evil HR Lady (http://evilhrlady.org/) and Screw You Guys I'm Going Home (http://employeeatty.blogspot.com/), which for some reason Chrome thinks is infested with a virus, but works just fine in my Google Reader.