Friday, December 16, 2011

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian

Holy Crap. Some guy at Forbes wrote an article called, "If I Were A Poor Black Kid." Why a poor, black kid? Why didn't he just say, "If I were a kid"? If you remove "poor black" from his essay, it still makes grammatical sense AND it doesn't sound like some WHITE guy just got total amnesia about our history. So if you read the article, just try to ignore that it's completely misplaced advice, but try to focus on the details. Otherwise, damn, he sounds stupid.

With that in mind, I'm going to attempt to solve all the problems of the out-of-work librarian. And it will probably sound just as stupid.


If you're a librarian and unemployed, I don't need to tell you that there are lots of other librarians out there looking for a job.

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I would read "If I Were A Poor Black Kid." And I would do what the author says to do about "getting technical." Most of this stuff can be learned through your local library. I hope you knew that.

If possible, I would learn another language. As much as I could. I would give up my free time and devote every second to making myself the most attractive candidate for the job. But for now, I'll assume you've made it past the application stage and have been called for an interview.

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I would visit my target library and use all the databases and I would remember to mention them during the interview. I would browse the collection and check the place out. If possible, I'd wear casual clothes (so as not to stand out as an applicant) and visit the library early enough that I could change into my best clothes later. I wouldn't show up five minutes before my appointment looking like I just showed up five minutes before my appointment.

I would buy one good suit and have it tailored to fit like a good suit should. And if I'm a dude, two nice dress shirts and two nice ties. And one good pair of shoes that stay in the box and don't come out until interview day. If I were a poor out-of-work librarian, I'm not going to dress like one for my interview unless I want to remain a poor out-of-work librarian.

I'd think about getting a cheap wifi tablet, not so much to look cool, but to learn about how they work in order to show others, my future library customers. The good news is that many librarians in a position to hire you don't know crap about technology. They might have a smart phone, but they don't know much about it. I don't think one librarian around here understands the word "root" as related to computers. I bet saying, "I rooted my Nook" at your next interview gets you confused looks at most libraries; whereas I would ask, "What were the advantages or disadvantages in doing that?" And you'd best have an answer.

I would ask my employed librarian friends for help. Whatever they think would be useful. And based on their advice, I'd have some presentation ready, my storytime or some quick instruction on using something on the computer like email, attaching a document, anything I feel confident explaining clearly.

Keep anecdotes in mind. You will be asked about events where you needed to make decisions: don't worry if you have no library experience, at this point anything is useful. So long as it's recent and displays your professionalism. You will be asked about situations involving a conflict: the key is that there was some attempt at a resolution that didn't involve gunfire. Again, have a story in mind. If you're stuck, ask your librarian friend for help. And if you don't have an employed librarian friend, find one.

The bad news is that if you don't have a job, then library school ain't over. You need to keep learning. Why? Because you don't have a job.

And here is the worst part: look for work where the work is, even if it's 1,000 miles away. I would give up any idea of my dream job and just get hired. But I don't know if I could work for $25,000. In North Dakota.

Given my experience, I'd recommend creating some tutorials for computer instruction. Because that's what I need when I'm hiring. It shouldn't take more than a couple of days to come up with basic classes on how to teach the public a few internety things like:

Finding Friends on Facebook
Getting to Know Google+
Using OpenOffice: Calc, Writer, Impress
Tweeting like a Pro
Working in the Cloud
Portable Apps in your Pocket

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I'd want to appear Intelligent, Reliable, Obedient. And definitely not an asshole. If you're not sure if you're asshole, take a look at your friends and your friends' friends. Any of them assholes? At least one of them should be, otherwise, it just might be you. Every group of friends includes an asshole; make sure it's somebody else.

I'd demonstrate a broad knowledge of the skills I learned in library school, but I'd focus on some specialized area of expertise when given the opportunity to speak during the interview. Maybe it's social networking, or gaming, or web design or children's programs, or whatever, but don't let that aspect overwhelm the interview. Start with the broad stuff, but work in the details when the conversation allows for it.

If I were a poor, out-of-work librarian, I wouldn't remain one for long.

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