Naomi House is the founder of I Need A Library Job (INALJ), one of the most productive resources out there for new librarians and those seeking new positions. LJ caught up with House to find out where the site is going, what trends she sees in job ads, and how she juggles a major labor of love with life as a full-time librarian.
Library Journal: What motivated you to start INALJ, to keep it going, and to expand it?
Naomi House: I was lucky. I found my position as Reference and Acquisitions librarian at a federal library as a contractor on a listserv. It was only advertised on two listservs and not on any major library jobs sites. A month after I began, my Aunt sent me a job ad for a librarian in a town in Montana where she lives. I wanted to share it with my classmates at Rutgers, but struggled with how to do it effectively. Classmate Elizabeth Leonard and I set up a Facebook and Twitter page, and I decided on emailing a daily digest of all jobs I could find.
Initially I thought of it as a temporary thing to do for friends, but within a few months the email list had grown, and faculty and students at other schools were sharing it and signing up. From the beginning I never made big changes without quite a bit of consideration, but the best change was moving the digest to INALJ.com and from there adding many new volunteers and state/province editors. I am doing what I love.
LJ: How many jobs does INALJ list, and how many visitors/subscribers/readers does INALJ have?
NH: That kind of metric was impossible for me to track until recently. When it was put out as a daily pdf Jobs Digest, I had usually 150-200 pages of jobs at a 10 pt font daily. Starting this month, all the state and province editors are keeping track weekly of how many they add. Can’t wait to put out the annual report next year! I had 3,700 [subscribers] to the daily email which transitioned to the INALJ Jobs pages in 2013. I have nearly 800 subscribers to the blog, and I will reach 1 million page views in the next month or two. In 2012 fans from 151 countries visited INALJ.com.
LJ: What makes INALJ different than other job resources?
NH: We try and put everything we find in one place, versus asking employers to email us listings. Our scope is larger too and includes archivists, librarians, competitive intelligence professionals, prospect researchers, and many other types of information professionals. Also, I aim to be a gateway. I want to track back to ALA JobList, LISJobs, ArchivesGig, etc., because INALJ should be a resource not the only resource. INALJ’s aim was to put all these jobs I found in one place, but I would never find them if it wasn’t for the hard work of all the people at these websites as well. I believe strongly in thanking the source by linking to them. Even when they find the job elsewhere, we get some love back from them for introducing them to the source that they ultimately found the job at.
The success stories help, but INALJ stumbled upon them. My hope was to help at least one person find a job and now we are nearing 800 success stories and those are just the people who shared their success with me. There are many more.
LJ: How long does it take, and how do you handle having INALJ plus a day Library Job of your own?
NH: This is something I have addressed in job interviews (if you do anything volunteer-based it is a good idea to address it upfront with any employers or potential employers). Basically, this being my passion and hobby, and having a husband, Sana, whose hobby of flipping houses keeps him busy nights too, makes it easier. I used to attend more events and network more, but I haven’t had time in a while. Working my full time job keeps me fresh and tuned into the field. I also am in DC and have access to some of the real innovators in the field. I help people in both my work life and volunteer life and I see them as very much a part of each other, or feeding each other. I use my time on the metro to and from work for reading or listening to music, and the rest of my life is work or INALJ. Even vacations I often use as opportunities to speak to or connect with local librarians, most recently in Hawaii and Dubai.
It used to take four hours a night when I did it myself, and full days on weekends. I really cobbled it together, formatted it, etc., all by myself for the longest time. Then I wised up and asked for help. It takes a while to train volunteers, and turnover was a huge issue for me, so when I transitioned to the new state pages, I asked all editors to make a year commitment. I still do this a few hours a day and most of the day on weekends, but we are in the early stages and I expect that I will do less. I have many types of positions as well, so that almost anyone can find a way to volunteer that fits their schedules. My sister, Maria House, has been uploading success stories and tagging all my interviews for INALJ.com, and that is a huge help as well.
LJ: How much help do you have?
NH: I went from just me, to roughly 60 volunteers. I now have over 150 volunteers, and we are growing! I have over 60 Head Editors and almost all of them have at least one assistant and sometimes more. I also have other positions as well.
LJ: Is the site self-supporting via advertising, or do you have to subsidize it personally or with donations?
NH: I tried ads and Google ads. There is even a donate button. I have not made much money at all, so I am subsidizing it. Granted, the ‘time is money’ aspect is the real cost. I am about to start strategizing again. Perhaps sponsorship? I would love to do this full time. I am not sure that that is feasible though. I refuse to charge job hunters or companies/universities that want to advertise. So where is the business? Or profitability? I am looking into starting a business of some sort related to connecting businesses to quality employees and keeping INALJ as a volunteer gig. It has become a community as well, and I don’t want to lose that aspect either. The community aspect surprised me the most. I am militant in my insistence on civility on FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn, but that has helped create a safe, positive space for those who feel isolated in their job hunt.
LJ: What trends, if any, have you seen in library jobs over the time you’ve been doing INALJ?
NH: Boy, if you have Drupal experience, then you are in luck. Mostly I am noticing that many more of us are taking jobs that are non-traditional but use our same skill sets. I have a list of Keywords to use in your jobs search on my sidebar on INALJ.com. Jobs like prospect research, many marketing and analyst jobs, UX, competitive intelligence, records management, etc. [Editor’s note: for more on this phenomenon, see LJ‘s most recent Placements & Salaries survey, A Job By Any Other Name.]
LJ: Has running INALJ changed your career as a librarian or your view of the field? What has it taught you?
NH: Absolutely! I have been given opportunities to speak at conferences and engage with people that I would not have met without the mobility that INALJ has given me. INALJ has reinforced my view that we need to think outside the box for jobs, something I was doing even when I was seeking work as a paraprofessional. It has taught me that I need to have faith in my vision and brand. I don’t ask questions of the group unless I am willing to act on their suggestions. It has made me slow down and be less reactionary. I make changes slowly and after much consideration. It has made me aware that we aren’t doing enough to sell ourselves to outside groups and companies. I know librarians are great. You know they are great. We are great at reaffirming our greatness to ourselves, but need to break out and start working more with those who could and would hire us if only they were helped to understand exactly what it is we do.
LJ: What are your goals for INALJ in the future?
NH: INALJ.com will have more content. All the new Head Editors will be writing blog postings once a month. The quality of the writing is outstanding. One of the nice things about being a librarian is you are consistently surrounded by some of the most innovative, passionate people around.