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.

Librarians Go Tapas! Bay Area Librarian Meet-up

This Saturday (July 30th) at 6:30PM is the fifth in the series of Librarian Meet-ups and the first to be on the Peninsula! For this meet-up we’ll gather at the Zambras Tapas Restaurant and Bar in Downtown Burlingame. This is one of my favorite Tapas bars in the bay area. They have a Grilled Dates dish that is Stuffed with blue cheese, walnuts and rosemary, wrapped with radicchio, port wine reduction and is one of the best tapas plates that I have ever eaten. There is also both red and white Sangria and many other amazing dishes to choose from!

So come down to Burlingame and go tapas with other bay area librarians. You can meet librarians from all over the bay area who are working on amazing projects, sit around and have a drink with some good library folks, or just relax and eat some good food while making plans for librarian world domination.

Let us know you’re coming on the Facebook Event Page

And don’t forget to like the Bay Area Librarians Page that makes these events happen!

Saturday Night July 30th at 6:30PM
Zambra Tapas Bar
248 Lorton Ave
Burlingame, CA 94010
Phone : 650-344-5655
fax : 650 344-5055

JP Porcaro Talks to Erin Dorney about Emerging Leaders at #ala11

JP and I met up with EL Alumni Erin Dorney at the Emerging Leaders poster session at #ala11 to talk about her EL Experience, how it prepared her to be a leader, and EL as a way to network with fantastic librarians.

Reference is Dead, Long Live the Enabler

At the time of writing this blog post, I’ve read two articles on the death of reference. The first was called “Is Reference Service Dead?” by Mathew Ciszek and the second was by Michael Stephens and it was called “Stuck in the Past.” Even I wrote a reference is dead blog post once many years and two other blogs ago. So, if reference is so dead, and it’s been written about as long as I can remember, why are we still talking about it? I think there are four choices.

1) It’s not dead
2) We haven’t come up with something better
3) Folks refuse to let it die
4) Students in Library School who think it’s something new to write about

Here is where I tell you which one of the four that I think is true. The truth is, I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that it’s a little of all four but my thought is that mostly its number two. I think there is something better than reference services and it ties into a future post that I’m working on. But, here is the reference version of that future blog post.

Eli Neiburger of the Ann Arbor Library District argues that armed with Google and an internet connection, the need for reference librarians has diminished. “Travel agents were outmoded because people felt they had better access to the information than they could get from the travel agents”, he said, and just as travel agents have become a thing of the past, so will the anachronistic reference librarian. With everything on Google, who needs them? (from Ciszek’s blog)

My thought is, he’s right! Who does need them? Lonely seniors and folks who can’t or don’t know how to access Google might need them but for the general public, the crap they dreg off the bottom of the information sewer on Google is good enough for them. Even though it might be wrong, or poorly written (like this blog), or out-of-date, or an ad for a guaranteed weight loss solution, they are satisfied with what they now “know.” Really, and I hate to break this to folks, but it’s all about perception. If the perceive that they have what they need, then that’s all it takes.

I’ll add in as a side note, that I do wholeheartedly disagree about the whole IT hiring frenzy thing though

But don’t worry; I’m not about complaining I’m about answers and solutions. So, here is my solution –

Reference is dead, long live the enabler.

Before I get more into my thoughts here, I can’t even begin to tell you how important it is for librarians to watch this video. So please, I’m begging you to watch it. I blogged about it once before, but here it is again.

So if we don’t have reference as a core service, then what do we have? We have the ability to enable people to live more fulfilled lives. We can do this by providing answers (some forms of reference), materials for better lives (more extensive collections like guitars, tools, seeds, gaming, augmented reality), a third place (a quiet work or relaxation place away from kids and husbands and wives), and a place to learn with the resources they need to learn (isn’t this really what we are about at the end of the day?). Hey Michael, notice I didn’t mention books?

What I’m saying here in a round and about way, is that we need to continue what libraries have always been, and that is to be enablers to those who want to learn and provide the resources that enable our communities to learn. It’s not reference, its enabling our patrons to live more fulfilling lives. After all… By answering reference questions wasn’t that the real goal anyway?

Get ready for ALA in New Orleans with this great library gear!!
Purchases from The Library Advocacy Store Support Library Advocacy Projects
like the Great Librarian Write-out

Partnerships = Library Awesome!

I’ve been thinking about some of our libraries most successful programs and services that we offer. I realized that almost all of the most successful ones have come from partnerships that have been cultivated by the staff. These partnerships have led to larger program numbers, a wider array of programs, and increased services and collections. Even more importantly, we are being offered money and resources to provide some things that we wouldn’t have been able to provide before. The following list are some of the partnerships we have at EPA Library.

Literacy Fair
East Palo Alto is holding its first ever Literacy Fair called Reading Rainbow in the Park. This came about through a partnership with the Stanford Alumni Association. We were contacted by a liaison from this group who had the idea for a fair and came to us for help. We are providing many of the books and giveaways as well as some of the entertainment and they are providing the organizing of the event itself.

Health and Wellness Programs
We have a local community health organization that provides a lot of the medical services in the area and we offer them a space for community outreach and education about health issues. They especially do many programs for our seniors. My librarians work with this organization to bring those presentations to our library.

Guitar Lending Library
This partnership isn’t complete yet, but it bears mentioning. I received a grant to circulate guitars at the library and one of my librarians brought in a band called the Vintage Music Collective to perform. One of the members of this group teaches music lessons in EPA through their non-profit called Live in Peace and we will be providing the guitars while he provides the lessons.

Catered Events
One of my librarians works closely with an organization called Jobtrain that provides vocational training in the Culinary Arts. The community members who are involved in this program need somewhere to showcase their culinary skills and talents and we have events where food is always welcome. So, these students “get to” provide food and food services to some of our larger events.

Seed Library
This is one of the few ones that I was the one who approached a local organization for. Our Library offers a seed library to the public that was modeled after the Richmond Grows Seed Lending Library. When I heard about the library in Richmond I looked around in our community and found the local gardening non-profit called Collective Roots that runs the Farmer’s Market. When I told them about the seed library they jumped at the chance and we now offer seeds for “check-out” from our library. We also have plans to expand to tools for gardening and they provide gardening programs from our library.

Poet Library
An organization called School After School for Successful Youth (SASSY) is an offshoot of the jobtrain organization. The students in this program create a large amount of art, literature, and poetry and they need a space to display their work within the community. We are simply giving them a wall to display the work of the community members. Eventually, (they don’t know this yet) I want to expand this partnership to bound and cataloged materials for circulation. Sort of, a local authors collection, but published and provided only by the library. I did something similar when I was an elementary school librarian and I think it would work well with this kind of partnership.

East Palo Alto History Project
We are working with Stanford students to create a history of EPA mural across the back wall of the library. This mural will show the history of East Palo Alto through the eyes of the library as it has moved and changed over the last 75 years. The movement and changes that occurred in the library parallel a lot of what has happened here and is very reflective of the changes in the community.

We have many more, but those are the ones that I am most excited about. Basically, I’ve figured out my job in this community is to find ways to say yes to as many things as I can then figure out how to make it work. While I might say “not yet,” I almost never say no to a community member unless the service they want to provide lies outside the scope of librarianship or community building.

What I want to know is-
1) What partnerships are you building in your community?
2) What would you say no to?
3) What are some of your dream partnerships?

Purchases from The Library Advocacy Store Support Library Advocacy Projects
like the Great Librarian Write-out

What If Patrons Decide Their Own Due Dates?

Patron Generated Check-out Lengths
While writing my last blog post I had another idea spurred by the need for an extended check out length for the business book bins. I realized (as I’m sure many of you have as well) that many different patrons read at different speeds and check out books and resources of varying degrees of length and difficulty. Not only that but, many patrons are working on research projects that might take longer than the standard the 2 weeks or 3 weeks that a library assigns to all of its books. The problem here is that we have invented one sized shoe in a world where people have different sized feet. But what if the patron could decide what sized shoe they wear? Or, what I really mean is, what if the patron could decide what length of checkout their items had?

I feel like this would be fairly simple to accomplish in many libraries. Basically when a patron checks out an item they would type in their preferred due date. They could choose however long that they figured it would take them to read the book or finish their project. Of course, I suppose some limits should be set. I wouldn’t want someone checking out a book for a hundred years or anything but I would love to see the length of time be set to something much longer than it currently is.

It seems like this would solve a lot of problems. In this system, since the patrons pre-determined their own due date they could remember it better and not have that argument at the counter about not remembering when their books were due. They would also be able to have the item for the length of time that they need it and they couldn’t complain about not having enough time to finish it or their project. It would also mean that when there are holds on the item (thus negating the option for renewals) the patrons could still have the time to do what they need to do.

In contrast to a no fines system
One of the other solutions is a no-fine system. Well, yeah right! Try to get that to fly with budgets being so tight and cities thinking that library fines are a money making system to supplement their new crosswalk project. I think that no-fine systems are good for a number of reasons, but in real-life I have seen some problems arise that I won’t take the time to outline here. So, I would think that we could still issue daily overdue fines and fees as a way to get materials returned, but patrons would have more power over their charges and I’m always for power to the people.

The Big Problem
The most glaring obvious problem here is the circulation software. This option is definitely not set-up in the software for patrons so I doubt this idea has any real legs to run on. Maybe some of you out there can get someone to try it out at your library? I don’t know, that’s a vendor fight that we would never win, but if anyone wants to take it on, be my guest.

Purchases from The Library Advocate Support Library Advocacy Projects

Punk-Ass Book Jockey
The Dark Ages Began with the Closing of a Library
Your Library is Your Portrait

My #Library Outreach Idea to Local Businesses

I read a great article about businesses starting their own libraries of business books in the office and it spurned a thought that I wanted to share with anyone in a community with a large number of businesses. It’s pretty simple and I’m not sure it requires an entire blog post dedicated to it, but I need to write something here anyway and I want to write this idea down before I forget it. Basically the idea is circulating business book bins. (Self-explanatory! That might be all you need to read here. But if you want more, please continue)

So, you know how libraries circulate those subject specific boxes for schools when the school is doing a big research topic on something like reptiles? Well… What if we did the same thing, but for local businesses? These bins, or boxes, or bags, would be filled with books and resources for businesses big and small to circulate to employees. Each bin could have a different subject in it such as marketing, leadership, management, etc… In fact, we could even have bins for folks who are starting up their own businesses that could be filled with books about start-ups that could include things like NOLO Guides and books on business plans and models. *Thus the library could be the source for renewed entrepreneurship in America, eventually saving the American Way and Dream, the American economy, and in fact, America itself!!

Anyway, I think it would work something like this. The library would put together these various bins and send letters to local businesses advertising this new service listing the various business topics. Each bin would have a collection of books on a specific topic, but only the bin would need to be barcoded because they’re checking out that subject collection in total. There would be a list of materials with a checklist included in the bin to ensure they all get returned. The business would call the library and request a specific topic bin and the library could drop it off. I would love to have the business determine the length of the checkout (which leads to another blog post on check-out lengths later) so they could ensure that they have enough time to have each of their employees read the material. This would be important because businesses of different sizes can have any number of employees and it would take differing amounts of time to circulate the materials throughout the business. At the pre-determined due-date the library would pick up the bin of books. And that’s it. Super easy.

Of course, we might have to make someone from the business come to the library to get the bin instead of going there. I understand those kinds of time constraints. But! I think that, by going to the business, we have the opportunity for a new kind of outreach like we do in schools where we can have a stronger presence in their organization. When we go to the business we can do a small presentation to the staff on other resources that the library has to help them with their jobs. This would almost be exactly the same thing as a school visit but for adults!

Ok… Here’s the part where you tell me what you think… And go!

*Alright, maybe I get a little carried away. But I still believe that libraries are one of the most important institutions in the United States and do actually have the power to vastly improve the state of the country.

Purchases from The Library Advocate Support Library Advocacy Projects

Free Seminars for Librarians: Its time to learn something!!

So… I wrote a super snarky blog post yesterday that basically came down to complaining about librarians or library workers who claim they can’t do something because they don’t know how (we work in a library, everything you need to know is on the shelf, in our databases, or you should know how to find it). However, I decided not to post it on the advice of quite a few librarians. So instead, I’ll post this blog about an organization that presents a solution. I don’t like complaining but I do like solutions after all.

I’m going to put out a plug for an organization called InfoPeople who I have had many great experiences with but whose Twitter account I just found. From their website InfoPeople describes themselves as:

“A statewide LSTA project that functions as the training arm of the California State Library. Some other state libraries provide training via in-house staff. California has opted to essentially outsource training in order to leverage the maximum return on investment of training dollars. The Infopeople model provides a breadth of training topics and a depth of training expertise greater than any single library or library agency, no matter how large, could provide.”

While I do like this organization quite a bit, you might have noticed a tweet once or twice where I expressed my frustration with some of the trainings that they offered. This was more in regard to the fact that they saw a need for those trainings and not because the organization did something wrong. (Ex. A $75 training for Googledocs? Librarians should already know how to use this)

Anyway, I have been to some of their trainings and I enjoyed them and learned quite a bit. More recently I had a couple of experiences with some of the folks behind the organization and I have to say that they are all good people trying to do good work for libraries.

While they do charge for their trainings, they do provide quite a few webcasts and online seminars that are archived that you and your staff can see for free. Even though this is a California based organization, it seems that anyone can access the free webinars! What a great service to libraries! If you haven’t checked out their webinars you really should. One of my favorites being George and Joan: Thinking out Loud.

Here are some of their more recent offerings;

Re-energizing Your Preschool Storytime: New Ideas for Busy Children’s Staff

Top Tech Trends for the Non-Technical

Michael Cart Talks about Patrick Ness and Chaos Walking

George & Joan, Thinking Out Loud about Competition and Disruptive Technologies

Writing a Library Behavior Code – an Update

The New Medline Plus: An In-Depth Look

Michael Cart talks about the life and career of Sid Fleischman

Cool New Legal Sources Online

George and Joan, Thinking Out Loud about the Space Between

Infopeople webinar at noon PDT today:

So if these don’t help you learn something new, check out their website because they have a whole lot more to offer. Don’t forget you can also check your library’s shelves, or its databases, or a podcast, or youtube, or google, or even wikipedia. Once again, I will restate what spurred this post in the first place and simply say – If you work in a library, not knowing something is no excuse.

Purchases from The Library Advocate Support Library Advocacy Projects

Show your support of libraries!
Awesome Library Gear
Great Staff Gifts!

Recap of a Week’s Worth of Awesome #library

This last week has been especially awesome in the world of libraries. If you were following along on Facebook or on Twitter then I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. For the three of you librarians who somehow missed this stuff… Here is a quick one-stop recap!

Old Spice Vs. New Spice

Andy Woodworth of the blog Agnostic Maybe and the Ben Jerry’s Librarian Flavored Ice Cream campaigns as well as the Save New Jersey Libraries Campaign (yeah he’s done all that) can now add getting this amazing video made for libraries by the Old Spice guy. I love this advertising idea! Just latch on to a meme and remind people to go to the library. I love it. Here’s the video;

Coming in with an equal level of rad (I think I need to use the word rad more often) is this video completely hanging on to the tails of the Old Spice ads.

In management news…

Here is a video about the surprising motivation of employees found tweeted by @annacreech. I have to say that I’m not completely surprised that it’s not…. Spoiler Alert… Money. After ALA in Washington at the Think Tank and spending time just having the freedom to be creative with some drinks and with uber smart librarians I can say that I was way more motivated by that experience than by money.

Guerilla Libraries

Now here is a concept I’m very excited about. These students, when faced with the closing of their library during critical time on campus (finals week), created their own library in a guerilla “Viva la resistance” kind of way. This is something that a few of us at the Think Tank have been thinking about for a while now. Guerilla Librarianship.

Non-Librarians blogging about libraries!

One of my favorite things to find online are blogs written by non-librarian folks who are either praising of condemning libraries. In this case, its praise and that just warms my heart. This is a family where two of the members (father and son) have Asperger’s Syndrom and spent the day playing chess at the library.

Leadership is Just Like Beating Schoolchildren with Bags Full Of Kittens #library

Why is every seminar on management always called “A New Approach to Leadership?” Just once I’d love these “consultants” to be honest and call it “The Same Thing you Heard Last Time You Were Here, but We Repackaged It and Now You’re Buying the Same Thing you Bought Last Time for More Money. Thanks, I Can Now Pay for My Kids New Porsche.” Ok, well, I guess the reason that they don’t call it that is because it’s just too long. No, I’m kidding, the reason they don’t call it that is because they buy their kids Maseratis not Porsches because we pay way too much for consultants. Anyway, the point I’m trying to make here is that every seminar is exactly the same and nobody really seems to know what leadership and management is all about.

In case you don’t believe me, I been to far too many of these seminars and workshops and I’ve read a far too many books on the subject. So, through all of this, here is what I’ve learned so far;

Management is a circus
Leadership is like a captain of a ship
Leadership is like being a firefighter
Leadership is like the conductor of an orchestra
Management is a game of baseball
Leadership is like being president (specifically, Lincoln)
Management is like being Ben Franklin
Leadership is like being an architect
Leadership is an art
Leadership is like a tribe

Apparently, there are rules too…
There are 101 rules of management
There are 13 irrefutable rules to management you can’t break
There are 12 rules of management
There are 7 rules of management
There is only one rule of management
Break all the rules in Management

(Of course, if you don’t believe that each of these exist, I suggest you look’em up on Amazon. I’m not kidding, each of these are there)

However, this whole rant started because I recently went to another leadership seminar because, despite all of this, I still absolutely love going to these seminars. Just like all the previous seminars I’ve been to, this one found another way to relate leadership and management to yet another profession that’s slightly related to management and leadership and still far enough removed that you wouldn’t think of it as a profession related to leadership and management. Which I think is what these seminars are really supposed to do. That is, find two unseemingly related professions and then point out exactly why they are the same or define some aspect of a profession in terms of a set of rules and then encourage you not to follow those rules.

That is, of course, not to say that this one wasn’t especially informative because I learned two very important pieces of information. The first thing that I learned is that I could definitely write a book on leadership and management if only there was one profession left that hadn’t been related to leadership and management. Which is good if I find one, because the second thing I figured out is that they let any idiot write a book on leadership and management. I could be that next great idiot! So, I’m going to start working on this, because I’m pretty sure that being either a leader or a manager is just like beating school children with bags full of kittens. In any case, the title of this book will be “Leadership and Management is Just Like Leadership and Management. Now Don’t It Screw Up.” I’m excited to see you at my next seminar!