December 12, 2017

Making a Name | Office Hours

For those with a newly minted LIS degree or soon to graduate, it’s never too early to start putting yourself out there. And for those already on course in your professional life, please look for ways to help our next generation of library professionals along.

LIS students need to begin marketing themselves early. It can help them to get hired, generate conversation about ideas, and provide feedback, laying the foundation for their career. Ours is a relatively small profession, so it’s not impossible to make a bit of a name for oneself. Students and grads should take advantage of the many ways it’s possible to be noticed. Libraries have been turning outward, why not librarians?

Visible & Vocal

Building some type of professional presence on social media is a good step for any LIS student. LinkedIn, Facebook, and other sites offer a place for a soon-to-be-librarian to begin sharing and connecting. It also builds valuable networking skills that may come in handy when new grads are in jobs that require outreach into communities of users. Of course, one doesn’t have to put everything out there, but a strong professional presence in certain strategic networks related to areas of interest can be valuable.

A mainstay in my classes is reflective blogging on the open web. Students get experience writing and publishing their ideas and reactions to course material online. Some take to it so well, I ask to highlight their posts as part of the “Student Voices” category at my blog Tame the Web. I also encourage those drawn to the medium to continue to seek outlets for their writing online and in print.

One of my former students recently published an essay entitled “Hacking Parenthood in Library School: When You’re New to Parenting” at the Hack Library School blog. Megan Keane, a new mom deep in her program at my institution, explored the balancing act required to make parenting and the master’s work.

In Process

Joining the student chapter of the American Library Association (ALA) or an appropriate division is a good step. Make the most of it by being active, seeking out leadership opportunities or other offices that get you out into the field. Some student chapters organize local tours of libraries and archives and other social activities. For those new to the profession, follow the wise advice often given to potential librarians: volunteer to build experience and contacts!

Conferences offer those opportunities. I have met numerous students during speaking gigs at state conferences who come prepared to network with a business card complete with graduation date. Local, regional, and state meetings are also a place to get one’s feet wet with presenting or volunteering.

Encourage Them

For folks already working in our field, mentoring and other forms of encouragement can give a helpful boost to our newly or almost minted librarians. Share a blog post from a writer like Keane or offer to host a visiting student chapter at your facility. Listen to what they have to say. Review résumés and cover letters with those who might be volunteering at your library. Give advice.

Make this goal institutional. Take a look at Gwinnett County Public Library’s (GCPL) Innovative Librarians Award to see how we might build up our next generation of librarians. The library is seeking to cultivate new ideas for the profession while at the same time giving LIS students a platform at which to begin building their brand and participation.

Michael Casey, director of customer experience for GCPL in metropolitan Atlanta, said, “When hiring professional librarians, we’re always looking for those who are willing to put forth their innovative ideas and therefore are willing, themselves, to change. What better way to discover new and innovative ideas while at the same time giving students and recently graduated librarians an opportunity to make a name for themselves in the greater profession? It’s never too early to start participating and contributing. Being recognized, and winning a little prize money, doesn’t hurt, either!”

I appreciate GCPL’s initiative and would love to see this type of award adopted by other types of libraries. We often say we should “grow our own” at an institutional level, but perhaps it’s time to encourage and reward innovative thinking in the broader profession as well.

This article was published in Library Journal's November 15, 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Michael Stephens About Michael Stephens

Michael Stephens (mstephens7@mac.com) is Associate Professor at the School of Information, San Jose State University, CA

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Comments

  1. This kind of mentoring and encouragement is easier in places where there is a library school. I do mentoring where possible, but moved from NYC to North Dakota two years ago; the only library school in the state closed in the late 1970s. Several people who have worked in our library have gone to library school, and I have met with interested students who wanted to consider librarianship. I do ALA mentoring, and I am trying to reach out to local tribal colleges. Any other suggestions?

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