In the Workplace

Advice for New Librarians

This month is feeling a little lecture-circuity to me: I visited a class at Drexel last week, and I’m speaking to our interns tomorrow. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked to share my thoughts with new librarians (my interview with Drexel SCALA is even online), but with two panels in two weeks, I’m thinking a lot about what advice I have for those getting started in the profession.

Learn to be a professional. Get involved in professional associations. Network. Continue your education outside of the classroom. Follow all of the student organizations, even if they are not directly related to your interests. Being in library school is a great excuse to attend events and conferences for free or cheap and learn from as many librarians as possible. Plus, some of these groups throw great parties. Which ones? I leave that to you to find out.

Learn how to work. There aren’t classes on how to unjam printers, sort through office politics, send a professional email, or act like a model employee. You need to be in a library or other information organization while you’re in school.

Learn to learn. Grad school is what you make of it. Simply following the syllabus will get you a degree, but it doesn’t guarantee you’ll benefit from the coursework. Think bigger and get the most out of every class. Challenge yourself to think about the profession more broadly, and find classes that will help as libraries continue to grow. And it’s not just learning theory. Tinker on a regular basis. Being able to learn new technology and systems on the fly is a crucial skill. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Learn how to keep going. You need much more than a mentor; you need an entire support team. Job searching is hard. Be sure to have people in your life you can lean on when times get tough. Cultivate a wide professional network of colleagues and mentors who can help you sort through the LIS-specific issues, and look to your personal support network for encouragement and moral support. You can do it!

And because no post here would be complete without links, here are some fantastic job searching resources from the last few weeks:

How to Write the Perfect Networking Email: Yes, you should follow up with those people you meet. This is how to do that.

4 Ways to Make Writing Cover Letters Suck Less: This was my least favorite part of the job searching process. I’ll definitely be heeding this advice in my next round of job applications.

Hack Library School: THE blog about library school. Connect with your peers from across the country, and tackle some of the tough issues together.

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