20 Nov 2012

Our Wonderful World: Making Connections Courtesy of Information and Communications

Guest post by Emily Weak, Hourly Librarian at City of Mountain View

LSE, Geography Department, 1986
I often think about what it would have been like to try to embark on a career in librarianship in the olden days. And by olden days I of course mean that dark time before the internet existed.

What really blows my mind is how easily we can now communicate, not only with that tiny handful of people we know, but with the great sea of the world’s librarians. And librarians are such nice people. They will surely help you out, if you just ask politely.

Origins
I started the blog Hiring Librarians at the end of February 2012. I was about four months in to my own frustrating and demoralizing job hunt. I was mystified by the strange rituals of library hiring – the inscrutable government lists for public library employment, the enigmatic rituals of academic processes, and the lack of even a hint as to where to find special library jobs. I wanted work, but I didn’t know how to get it.

So I started asking people who hired librarians to answer some basic questions for me. I started by emailing a few people from my own tiny pool of library contacts, posting their responses to a short, online survey. Then I sent out requests to listservs such as PUBLIB, collib-I, AUTOCAT, LIBREF-L, LM NET and ILI. Only one of these refused to let me post (telling me that it was off-topic).

Further Questions
I made it really easy for people to respond to my questions, and I didn’t require anyone to leave a name. But some did! And then when readers brought up questions that hadn’t been included in the initial survey, some of those non-anonymous people agreed to answer them, and this is how the Further Questions feature got started.

Growing Content
I also started to send out emails to individuals. Both Barbara Stripling and Gina Millsap, who were running for ALA president, responded. I also was able to “interview” some employers with open positions, at the request of readers who were applying. The innovative AnyThink library was one such respondent. I also found and contacted people via Twitter. Librarians love Twitter.

Megan Hodge and Nicole Spoor emailed me because their own research focused on library hiring, and then were gracious enough to write a guest post describing their findings. Since then I have been able to include guest posts by other researchers and authors, such as Priscilla K. Shontz and Rich Murray, who wrote What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students and run the blog LIScareer.

Mind: Blown
I am amazed by the number of people who have been willing to take time to contribute to this project. As of November 12th, 2012, 161 people have responded to the original survey and 235 have responded to a second survey about interview clothes, created in collaboration with Jill of the blog Librarian Hire Fashion. 25 people let me email them hiring questions on a weekly basis. And I’ve been able to work with several other researchers, bloggers, and authors on guest posts, either for my blog, or for theirs, as I am doing here on LibFocus.

Journalist Lucy Morgan with video camera and phone, ca. 1985
None of this has happened face to face, or even over the phone (with the exception of one individual). I only met a few readers in person just recently, when I attended my first library conference. Could I ever have worked with this number of people, from all over the globe, without the glorious internet? Can you imagine carrying this on via written correspondence? I could not have created and distributed my survey without Google Apps, and I certainly couldn’t deliver transcribed content daily without my best friends, copy and paste.

What a wonderful world.

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