Got the MLIS? How do you go from paper to interview?

I spent some time reviewing some applications with a written question and answer portion for a position in our library system a couple of weeks ago and it got me thinking about all of the times that I have done this as a manager. The most difficult applications to apply to, and for me to review are those with a couple of questions to answer. But then again, those are the best for you to get your foot in the door. If there aren’t any essay questions, there is always the cover letter. In either case, I’m going to give you a list of the things you can do that will put you ahead of the majority of the applications for librarian positions that I have read. I’m partly doing this for you, but also because when a position opens in library land, there are hundreds of applications that the management team and HR have to wade through so I’m writing this, in part, for the sake of their sanity (and mine).

Be positive
When you’re answering an essay question or writing a cover letter, this is your first impression to your future employer. I want to hire happy people! Everyone I know wants to hire happy people! I mean, even McDonalds wants to hire happy people! And, because you’re deciding to work in a library, I know that you MUST be a happy person. So, when you write, make sure you use positive language. Don’t speak negatively of previous employers, bash co-workers, or even generally complain about anything. I want to hear about why you are so excited and happy to be applying for this position that you couldn’t possibly even think of anything negative while the option of working here may exist for you. I know we all have bad days, I know you’ve had jobs that were horrible, I know you’ve worked for horrible bosses or with horrible co-workers. But I want to also know that you don’t dwell on those things and won’t bring that into our workplace.

Be passionate or at least sound excited
You’re applying for a job! There is actually a job out there in library world for which you are able to apply! You should be excited! You should be thrilled! That should come through in the way that you’re answering the questions and writing your cover letter. You can even mention how excited you are to be applying, or talk about how passionate you are about Anime or Innovative Services to Teens or Database research. Whatever it is, be excited about it! If you’re applying for a library job and you’re not excited about it, I’m begging you, please don’t apply!

Answer the question
Ok, listen to me on this one. Listen very closely! Answer the freaking question. No, really… I’m begging you! This alone will put you so far ahead of most of the applicants that it is absolutely ridiculous. Especially if the question is something like “name a time when you had a conflict,” or “or talk about a time you couldn’t answer a question.” The point of questions like these is to see that you critically thought about where you might have failed, where you succeeded, or what you would do given the opportunity to do either. If you said that you did XYZ, but learned that you made a mistake and after thinking about it, researching it, or talking to supervisors or peers, you realized that should have done ABC, and then talk about why, YOU WILL WIN! Or if you did it the right way the first time and then explain why you believe you did the right thing, YOU WILL WIN! Or, if you’ve never had a conflict with a fellow employee or patron, but explain what you would do if you did and show that you are capable conflict resolution (for example), YOU WILL WIN!! Here is an example of what not what to write.

Question- Name a time when XYZ
Your answer – I have never had that happen.

This is a fail. But it is a fail that we see in interviews and in writing all the time. Never answer like this. If you’ve never had that happen, tell me why you think that is, or what you would do if it ever did happen.

Don’t employ exceedingly grandiose terminology
I know you’re smart. I’ve seen your resume/application, I know what schools you went to, I should have an idea about your education level. I also have a hundred other applications to get through in the next two hours. If I have to get out the dictionary to get through yours, your application will find the garbage can even quicker. The best thing you can do is answer the questions or write the cover letter efficiently and effectively. I don’t need a lot of frills or language. I need to get a good strong answer that gives me a good picture of what kind of person you are and that you have the ability to give me the information I need. I’m also getting a clear picture of the kind of person you are through your writing, if you write like you have something to prove, then I’m not going to believe that you think you can do the job. Also, because you work with the public, I want to know that you can communicate with the public.

Have it Reviewed
This is important too. Mitsakes you make when witing a answer to an question show that you don’t take the care or time to want to make the job. There is no shame in having someone review your answers if you can. Always take that opportunity. I know that I have a large group of peers that I rely heavily on for reviewing what I write when it comes to more professional writing than my blog. There is nothing worse than having to struggle through a poorly written application. I always feel bad for the person. I think, don’t these people have friends? If not, why not? But sometimes its hard to find friends. In which case, get on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or even Myspace and ask around. Someone will most likely help you out. If you are a librarian and have no other friends and need someone to review your application, I might even be able to help (maybe).

Don’t write too much
This is simple, please don’t write a long overdrawn essay when a paragraph will do just fine. Unless they are asking for a one page essay, this is a cover letter, or there is only one question to answer, I would always try to keep things to somewhere around ten sentences. Just like in college, you don’t get extra points for writing more than what the professor asked for. If they ask for one page, please only write one page. The extra time I have to spend reading your three page essay, when I still have 100 more essays to read that same day, will make me want to kill kittens with bags full of puppies.

Don’t write too little
Don’t write to little.

Don’t bullshit the answer
If you don’t have a good answer, don’t lie about it. Typically, it’s pretty easy to tell if you’re telling a BS story or not. The better route, as I talked about in the answering the question part of this blog, is to say what would happen if you did have an answer. So, for example, if you never worked at the reference desk, but the question is about answering reference questions, you can say that you have never done reference work, but if you had a reference question to answer, you would do it through doing the following steps (and then outline the steps to answer a reference question). Or, if there is no question to answer and this is a cover letter for a job you’ve never worked, you can say that if you had the job you would do XYZ as well.

Here is an extra tip
All of these tips also work in the interview. Now get out there and Make It Happen.

Hey Librarians, Forget Books. Content Rules!

One of the highlights of my whole CLA/CLSA experience was sitting in a bar with Stephen Abram and Sandra Hirsh on Friday night. We had an amazing conversation about where libraries where going, what we should be focusing on as a profession, and of course, the awesome online conference put together by Sandra. Besides peering deep in my soul and giving me one of the most astute and eye-opening psychological evaluations about my role in the profession, one of the things that Stephen said was that libraries should be focusing on programming because that is what is sustainable and that is what will keep libraries relevant. Of course I agreed, because… Well… It’s Stephen Abram! Why would I disagree?

But then I had a discussion on Twitter with Angie Manfredi and I started thinking more about more about this. The conversation was about focusing on content instead of format. So for example, instead of focusing on ensuring that people are checking out books, we should be ensuring that people are checking out access to the content within the books through the resources provided at the library (whatever those resources might be).

I really hate using our past practices to justify our future ones but I will say a couple of things. Libraries began because people lacked access to books. But people weren’t coming into the library to get books because they liked paper objects bound in leather and cardboard. Unless they had that kind of a fetish I guess. They were coming into the library to get to the content trapped within the leather and cardboard and the words on the paper. When people get DVDs, they are getting access to the content trapped on the plastic. When people get on our computers, they are getting access to content trapped within servers all over the world. When people learn to read, or use computers, or use our databases, or check-out magazines, they are trying to get another avenue of access to content.

So how does this relate to programming? Well, when people come to our programs, they are coming to get access to the content of the program! They aren’t coming to see someone just stand there without providing any content. It’s the content of the program that they are looking for and in a format that is meaningful to them. They want to learn, or be inspired or be entertained by the content of the program. That is what we are providing access to. We are providing access to content through the format of a program.

So, while I agree that programming in libraries is amazing and should be a much larger focus in our organizations than it is, for the future and looking forward I think we should be focusing even more on how we provide access to content in more and more meaningful ways. I understand that he is saying that programming works so well because it’s such a meaningful point of access, but what comes next? As computers and online access become more ubiquitous couldn’t people start watching their meaningful live programming online too? As more and people gain access to the content online and the online content gets more meaningful, won’t we once again be in the same position we are in now discussing our relevance? But if we can focus on making the access to the content of humanity in meaningful way then I don’t think we need to have the discussion of relevance, but continuing this discussion about how we provide access to content. Which, I think, I hope, is the discussion we’ve always been having.

Battledecks at #calibconf 2011, the Slides, the Video, the Awesome

Here are the slides and video (thanks to Marie Slim) from the California library association 2011 conference in Pasadena. Thank you to everyone who made this whole thing happen! The Winner was Glen Warren who took the championship away from last year’s winner, Lori Bowen Ayre. The competition was fierce, the battle was epic and the winner was clear. This year’s champion received the Gold Microphone and a t-shirt of their choice from the Library Advocacy Store.

A Visual History of (Professional) Partying: For JP

I have many reasons to publicly thank JP Porcaro. Most notably, his philosophy on partying as a professional activity. In fact, its been such a significant influence on my professional career (ALA Think Tank, networking, conferences, in my community, fundraising, library programs) that I’m going to be presenting on the importance of partying as a professional activity at this year’s California Library Association Conference in Pasadena with Jill Sonnenberg and Annie O’Dea Hestbeck. This presentation will be the only one to cross the professional barrier between CLA and CLSA so if you’re in school libraries or public or academic come out and check out what we have to say. You brain will implode with awesome.

There will also be an EPIC afterparty (networking social) somewhere in Pasadena organized by Jill and myself.

So, to further the professional discussion, I bring you this history of partying info-graphic.

#calibconf Battledecks: The Battle Continues!

Announcing the triumphant return of Battledecks to the California Library and School Library Conference!

This fun and exciting program will challenge some of the best Library Presenters in California to show their skill and test their mettle!

Presenters will battle it out to give the best improvisational presentation based upon a set of 10 often humorous, unrelated, and hand-created slides that they are seeing for the first time live on stage. The presenters will face tough judgment and scrutiny from an unbiased and inscrutable team of judges. The best presenter will be determined based upon a variety of criteria but most importantly on their overall level of AWESOME! The most awesome presenter will walk away with the pride and honor of being crowned CLA/CSLA Battledecks champion of 2011.

Awesomeness, entertainment, and hilarity, along with a healthy dose of learning, is guaranteed for all!

Following the state library reception at 7:30pm in the Convention Center Main Deck from 7-8 pm (the same time)

Contenders for the title: (Could it be you? Volunteer!!)

1) Stacy Aldrich
2) Oleg Kagan
3) Derek Wolfgram
4) Lorin Bowen Ayre (Defending Champion)
5) Glen Warren
6) Jennifer Baker

Judges: (Could it be you? Volunteer!!)
1) Rosario Garza
2) Sam McBane Mulford
3) Hildie Verlaine Kraus
4) Kirby McCurtis

Emcee: Patrick Sweeney
Timekeeper/Vanna White: Andrea Davis
Slidemakers: Patrick Sweeney, Ashley Kagan (Burdick), Stephanie Roach
Logo (coming soon): __Anyone a graphic artist?____

Halftime Entertainment: Joan Frye Williams and George Needham in an exhibition Team Battledecks round!

Prizes: (To be Announced)

For more information or to register view the event on Facebook

National Library Unconference Day (Will be EPIC!)com

So I’m not sure how many people know about this, but I hope that every librarian does. I’m talking about national library unconference day on May 22, 2012. This is your chance in you state, or region, or county, or library system, or just library, to hold your own unconference. What’s an unconference you ask? Well… I’ll let Allen McGinley and JP Porcaro explain it for me.

Personally, I love unconferences for a whole lot of reasons and there is talk of putting one together in my area (the San Francisco Bay Area) on the same day so I’m pretty stoked because some of the best experiences that I have had in librarianship have been at unconferences. For example, I met some amazing people, I gave my first professional “presentation,” I got the courage to talk to directors and high level administrators as equals, I learned about the programs and services being offered at other libraries, and I learned what kinds of ideas other professionals had about the state of librarianship and its future in the United States.

So this is our chance to have an excuse to #makeithappen in our locations. JP and Allen are basically calling for unconferences to happen all over the country on the same day. This will be a day of learning, sharing, and growing for anyone and everyone participating.

For even more information on the Unconference you can visit the 8bitlibrary website. If you’re a librarian and you’re not reading the 8bitlibrary blog, what are you doing on the internet?

#Calibconf Battledecks! The slides, the video, and the AWESOME!!

The Battledecks event at the CLA/CSLA conference in Sacramento was a huge success! Thanks to everyone who came and supported (and hopefully enjoyed) the event, our amazing crew of judges, slidemakers, our gorgeous Vanna White, and of course the competitors. I also wanted to give quick background on Battledecks in libraryland and give some credit where it’s due. First of all, we all need to give a big THANK YOU to Janie Hermann who brought battledecks to library conferences in the first place at Internet Librarian in Monterey. She has been one of the great people that I have had the opportunity to know in librarianship. If you get a chance to meet her, everyone let her know how awesome she is. Also, I want to thank *Tiffany Mair for being so instrumental in helping open the lines of communication between all the folks that made this possible at CLA. The folks at InfoPeople for all of their support, Stacey Aldrich for pushing it forward and making it happen, and Holly Macriss for her overall level of awesome!! I learned a whole lot from this event and next year’s will be better and hopefully bigger!

Anyway…. The real reason you are here. The videos and Slides of Battledecks!

And… the Slides (note, 11 not 10 slides per deck. I forgot that I was sent some extra slides two days before the competition and snuck them in)

Here is a list of things I forgot to do this year that I will do next year… Start planning it earlier, triple and quadruple check the slides, use a high resolution conference logo, have better introductions for the competitors/judges/vanna white, remember to sync my iPhone music to play correct battledecks music by Ed Hermann, include a photo of the Battledecks Trophy in the intro slides, what else would you like to see?

*Tiffany Mair is awesome and graduating with her MLIS soon. She’s a big deal so hire her!

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Things to be excited about at #calibconf

Having grown up in the greater Sacramento Region, I thought I’d give some of you out-of-towners, some tips and pointers about what to do, where to go, and all of that. Sort of like a mini tour guide. I hope you have a great time in Sacramento. I know I’m going to enjoy being back in my hometown!

Sacramento is home to some of my favorite restaurants and bars and the list just keeps getting longer and longer. Here is a my short list of delicious food options and some recommended menu items.

Tapa the World
Tapas the World has some of the best tapas I have ever had. I wholeheartedly recommend that you do two things while here. The first is that you must absolutely try the olives. The bright green ones melt in your mouth like butter except they are far more delicious. The second thing you need to do is be adventurous and let the waiter know that they should surprise with 3-4 of their favorite tapas. I have done this everytime I have been here (I go here a lot) and it has yet to fail me. Most tapas are under 10$ anyway so you won’t have to worry about huge bills at the end.

This is probably my favorite Sushi restaurant in the entire world right now. The sushi is fresh, the restaurant is clean, and the servers are great. What else can I ask for?

Two things to try, the Sweet Potato Beer and the preserved wasabi root. The sweet potato beer is incredible! I’m not sure how to describe it, but it’s a dark beer with a taste like a wheat and if I never drank another beer in my life… The preserved wasabi root is a variation on that traditional wasabi paste you get everywhere. But this has a fresher and cleaner flavor to it and I now can’t believe anyone ever served wasabi as a paste from a tube.

Fannie Annes
Three words… Peanut. Butter. Burger. It’s actually called a jiffy burger and the ingredients are: Peanut Butter, Hamburger Pattie, Bacon, Cheese, and of course a bun. This is not a meal for the faint of heart and if you know anything about healthy eating this is not a meal for the unhealthy heart. I’m pretty sure this burger will kill you if the deliciousness doesn’t!!

Places to See

Train Museum
Located in Old Sacramento, the California State Railroad Museum is a complex of historic facilities and unique attractions. Widely regarded as North America’s most popular railroad museum, there is something here for everyone! Throughout the year, experience lavishly restored trains, engaging exhibits, and unique special events.

Old Sac
From the website – The unique 28-acre National Historic Landmark District and State Historic Park is located along the beautiful Sacramento River. Bustling with activity, the district is alive with shopping, dining, entertainment, historical attractions and world-renowned museums set within the time of the California Gold Rush and the Transcontinental Railroad.

Capital Building
Catch a quick glance of the Governator! The Capital Building has been the home of the California Legislature since 1869, the State Capitol underwent a major renovation that restored much of the building’s original look. You can tour the restored historic offices of the Secretary of State, Treasurer, and Governor of the State of California. The building features exhibits and tours – and while the website says that you can “possibly an opportunity to watch the legislators debate a bill or cast a vote.” We all know the sad truth behind that one. I won’t comment here.

Second Saturday
Second Saturday in Sacramento is a fiasco to say the least. But it is also a great time if you know a few of the great places to go. Originally this night was a celebration of all of the great art and cultural activities that take place in Sacramento. For the most part (or at least the early part of the night) this is exactly what this is. However, as the night progresses the bars stay open longer and more and more people crowd the streets in what is becoming one of the great gatherings of people in California. Most of them are young and drinking heavily so if that’s not your scene, check out the galleries and restaurants early and watch the insanity from a quiet place.

However, if you are into the night life, this will be a fantastic night of good times for you. While it is the LGBT district of Sacramento I highly recommend the K and 21st intersection. The bars are great, the dress code is relaxed, and the people are a lot of fun!

A few of the New Libraries to See
There are quite a few new libraries around the Sacramento area and I would encourage you to take a tour of them when you get a chance. But I’m sure you will hear about them from the Sacramento Public Library folks. So, instead I will send you further out to explore the new Lincoln Public Library at Twelve Bridges and the new Martha Riley Library in Roseville. Both are fantastic in their own ways.

However, if you do want to stay in the Sacramento Area and see some new libraries and don’t hear from Sacramento Public Libraries, I guess I should mention them. So be sure to visit their new LEED-certified branches: Robbie Waters Pocket-Greenhaven, North Natomas, and Valley-Hi. But really… All of the Sacramento Public Libraries are great and I’ve been to most of them.

Special Events At the Conference

Reggae night
On Friday night you should check out the Reggae night at the Capital Garage that Tiffany Mair is putting together. This is an off-the-books event and should just be a whole lot of fun!

The unconference at the Pasadena CLA was my favorite part of the whole conference. This is a loosely organized area where people can meet and talk about shared interests and ideas. Last year they met with new librarians and talked about finding jobs, social media, and many other topics. If there is something that you want to talk about you can even organize a meeting of like-minded folks and have your own conference session!

CYRM Banquet
The California Young Reader Medal is one of my favorite awards of all time. The books are chosen by librarians and children so they are always fantastic read-a-louds. When I was a school librarian (best job ever!) these were always my go-to read-a-louds and the kids always loved them. I can’t say enough wonderful things about CYRM so I won’t even try, but check them out.

Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little shout out to my own event at CLA/CSLA. This of course is Battledecks. If you’re not sure what it is, the title links to my other blog entry that fully describes the whole event. It’s the same time as CYRM and both events will be EPIC so whatever you attend you won’t miss out!

I’m excited to see you all there, so go ahead and add me on twitter and/or just about any other social network. My screenname is always pcsweeney and you can find me anywhere that way. Find me and tell me about what you are excited about at CLA! If you’re not online, lets sit and have a drink and talk libraries for a while. See you there!

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