I had a speaker ribbon.
I seem to have lost my November. Has anyone seen it?
Let’s try to catch up here: the Arizona Library Association annual conference came off quite well. The poster session was a blast, because I was there with the rest of the super-cool AzLA Web Committee, and because it’s way more fun to have conversations with people than it is to speak to them while they stare holes in you. My big scary presentation, the one where my co-presenter and I stood at the front of a room for 45 minutes and spoke about roaming reference while 80 eyeballs bored holes in us, went off very well. I chose to present after years as an attendee because the two of us had a terrific project I wanted to share, and also because speaking in public still scares me. The only way I can get over that fear is by presenting, presenting, and presenting again. I was so glad to have my co-presenter: she helped talk me through pre-presentation jitters, and started off the presentation on the right foot.
Overall, the conference was a great experience. I’m on the lookout for another presentation topic already: got to get over that public-speaking anxiety!
Right after the conference I had a job interview. I know, I said I was going to focus on the jobs I had instead of looking for more. But some really stellar positions opened up, and I fell for them. The interview was a really positive experience. For starters, I learned that I can survive a day-long academic interview. I also identified some things that I would like to work on in future interviews. Polishing my presentation skills is on the list, of course.
More jobs are being posted, finals are coming due…take a good look, because I think December is going to be gone pretty soon, too.
After the Spring semester ended, my hours were slashed dramatically. This came as a bit of a surprise, but in the library market (perhaps all markets?) it’s not uncommon. Even still, I panicked a little bit. I have a dog, and my own place, and the thought that after seven years of education I would be unable to support my relatively modest needs was an awful thought to contemplate.
I felt that I was going to have to apply for every permanent position I saw and sign up for every short-term job I could find. I was sure that August would find me eating rice every other night and wearing my keyboard out applying for more jobs. The universe, perhaps because it heard the little voice that said maybe some more knitting time would be nice, decided that my vision would not come to pass. It decided that instead, I would find myself working full-time, albeit at four different organizations. Knitting time, ha.
It amazes me that the stars aligned in this way. At first, I was resolved to spend every spare moment searching for a permanent position, any position, even if I had to squint and hold the description sideways, with my thumbs over certain lines, to make it look good. I would be overwhelmed, I would be miserable, but by gad, I would get those applications out.
And then a friend asked me why.
The best answer I had for them was because. Because that was what I had been doing for so long. Because I couldn’t think of a faster way out of my predicament. I was not so far gone that I had to be told these were not particularly good reasons to be applying for jobs.
So I’m going to say enough. Enough rushing to the future. I’m going to focus on my present, and learn everything I can at each job. When I arrive in the new year, my experiences will better qualify me to do what I want in my career, and to compete for jobs that look good without squinting and looking at them sideways.
The posters saved me.
Back home, safe and sound, and life is ordinary again. I had a colleague ask me if I’m glad I went. I am, but it took me a while to arrive at this conclusion. There were some major dislikes along with the likes. The major thing framing my experience of the conference is simply where I am in my library career. I’m a relatively new librarian. I went on my own time, without a specific to-do list or committee responsibilities. If you were me, and wondering what you should do at Annual, I would absolutely not recommend
The Job Placement Center
I had very high hopes for the Job Placement Center. I got a really terrific resume reading at ACRL’s Job Placement Center, so I was ready to make more great connections, talk jobs, etc. etc. This did not happen. The people running the welcome and registration booth gave me as warm a welcome as a bowl of goldfish might. They were not actively unfriendly, but they did not ask what I needed, nor did they attempt to showcase all the features of the Placement Center. The one thing I know about job hunting is that it makes one anxious and self-conscious, and a big smile and a hello goes a long way towards helping that. Didn’t get either of those. Is there some sort of magic handshake that turns the Placement Center into a world of opportunity? Don’t know, the people manning the center didn’t offer to tell me. I printed out a copy of my resume on the mind-numbingly slow computers and puttered around to the different booths, ready to do my “I’m an underemployed digital projects librarian” song & dance (do any other librarians on the job market ever feel like a poodle in a tutu at the circus?). But there were very few booths, none from state libraries or consortia that might offer lots of jobs from a variety of libraries, and after a failed attempt to connect with a singularly grumpy librarian from a university, I took my sad little underemployed self out of there.
It was really demoralizing.
Thank goodness for the
These totally saved me. Poster sessions are where people who are working on a super-cool project tell people who are interested in the same thing about their super-cool project. For five minutes, you get to have an awesome conversation with an interesting person, and ask them all the silly questions about their project you never would have dared to–or had time to–in a lecture-style presentation. I learned about cleaning up metadata on digitized archival collections, open source folklore, and slow reading. I got to compare notes on roaming reference with librarians from halfway across the country. I listened to the answers to others’ questions and learned things about patron-driven acquisition I never would have thought to ask.
So yes, in the end, I am glad I went to ALA annual. I brought home lots of notes on things to tell my librarian friends about, things that do not pertain to my work, but which meet a need in their work. I met a lot of interesting people and learned about their libraries and what they do there. In the end, the function of ALA Annual was to remind me that the library world is a big place filled with possibilities.
Of interviewing. I put my heart and soul into wanting a job, do the interview, agonize for weeks over every little thing I said, and then, weeks later, a thin little envelope comes in the mail.
It leads me to think that I interview badly. One thing that keeps sheer panic from setting in is walking through the questions I expect to be asked. I had been working off a list collected from former interviews, but it’s not comprehensive, so to beef it up a little bit I did some searching and found the following useful sources:
This page from Northwestern University appears to be geared towards undergraduates seeking a first job or graduate degree, but I like how they have the questions broken down into categories. Based on the fact that I have gotten some variant on most of the Personal and Behavioral category questions before, I’d say those questions don’t change much as you progress through your career.
This page from the University of South Carolina library school, while a bit of an information dump, has good project-related questions that apply to a variety of academic library positions.
How do you prepare for an interview?