Annoyed Librarian
Search LibraryJournal.com ....
Subscribe to LJ
Inside Annoyed Librarian

Please Help This Poor Student

This having a holiday during the week when ALA begins is a terrible idea. I hope for next year either MLK Day can be moved to a different Monday or ALA can come a week later. Either one is fine by me.

To celebrate MLK Day, I always travel down to Dixie to participate in the march in Birmingham recreating the historic events of 1963. We interlopers link arms in solidarity and walk the streets chanting provocative slogans and feeling good about ourselves. The natives blast us with fire hoses and turn police dogs on us. Thus, there is a little something for everyone. A fun time was had by all, but I’m glad Chip was there as my bodyguard. He blocked the jet from the fire hose with an unconscious German Shepherd while several of us escaped the pandemonium.

And of course we have another historic celebration tomorrow, but I don’t get off work for that one. Barack Hussein Obama is being sworn in as the 44th POTUS on Lincoln’s Bible. I think Lincoln would be very proud of him. My only wonder is whether Obama will now decide to grow a beard. I don’t think he should, but he’d look great in a stovepipe hat.

Because of all the joy in Mudville today, I’m not going to complain about anything. In fact, I’m going to try to help someone. This someone is a library school student who emailed me, and we all know library school students need more help than any of us. Here’s the content of the email:

"Dear Annoyed Librarian,

While I am a typical liberal arts major lacking in both talent and ambition, I still want to avoid being one of those sad losers who can’t find a chair when the music stops playing.  I want to be like you and have a cushy job that involves struggling to stay awake during endless meetings and sipping martinis.

To that end, I was wondering if you could invite your many readers to share experiences and tips about how they got their cushy jobs despite the lack of any librarian shortage.  My desire is to imitate them and get a cushy job for myself.  I am interested in becoming an academic librarian because I love meetings.

Thanks for considering my request,

Grasping Library Student"

It’s so hard to say these days whether readers are sincere. After all, the AL has many detractors who wish nothing more than her complete destruction and the elimination of dissent from the library literature. However, let’s assume this student is being sincere. Having been a liberal arts major myself, and currently working at an undisclosed university library somewhere in the United States, I can offer some advice.

First of all, get a PhD. Academic libraries love librarians with PhDs. There’s something about spending five or more years of your life becoming an expert in Etruscan vases or British diplomatic history or some such fascinating topic that excites the heck out of search committees. I watched one such committee literally wet itself in unison at the thought of getting a bibliographer with a PhD, and that PhD was in English of all things, which has to be the most overrepresented field of study among academic librarians. Pretty much any degree will do, though I think people will have their best luck with a PhD in history. Historians use libraries and archives a lot more than English professors, for example. Classics or comparative literature might be good as well. Definitely don’t get a PhD in library science. That might help you get a job as a library science professor, but it’s worth bugger all for a librarian job.

Second, learn a lot of languages. The more the better, which is why Classics or comp lit work well. Academic librarians love applicants with lots of languages. You probably won’t even have to use them, which is why if you’re really desparate, you might consider just listing a few on your vita. (And it’s "vita," not resume. That’s for public librarians.)

Third, be really smart. Anyone who thinks this one is a given for librarians has never attended library school, or has, but isn’t very smart. You don’t have to be smart to finish library school or plod along as a librarian somewhere, but it definitely gives you a competitive edge. To test yourself, look around in your library school classes. Can you spot the brainiac? If not, it might be you. If it isn’t you, then it’s not at all clear you deserve a job anyway. This is a serious profession, people, not a jobs program for boneheads.

Fourth, be charismatic
. This will really set you apart from a lot of librarians, especially academic ones. Don’t get me wrong. I like academic librarians. There’s something homey and comforting about heavy women in frumpy clothes and middle aged men with pot bellies and crumbs in their beards. You want to see a group of people who have thrown off the shackles of convention, go see some academic librarians. However, they’re not a particularly charismatic bunch, especially the catalogers. They tend to be the people who sat in the corner during their school years quietly reading a book and wondering why they always got picked last for sports teams.

Fifth, get a degree in something outside the humanities. This one you probably can’t do, but it’s worth considering. MBA, perhaps? Something that gives you some quantitative skills? Anything where you work with numbers would be good to show that you can do something besides read Beat poetry and talk about foreign films.

Sixth (and this is the one you really can’t do), be born at a different time. Things were just easier back in the day. The competition was less fierce, the pace was less hectic, and everyone had fewer tattoos. In general, I think those are all good things.

So there’s some advice for our wayward library school student, who I hope succeeds in this crazy ambition. In case of eventual success, I have one final bit of advice. Find something enjoyable to do at meetings that doesn’t look too inappropriate but that will keep your attention from wandering to anyone actually speaking. You won’t regret it. Oh, and if you follow this advice and get a job, the martinis are on you, baby.

Any more suggestions?

PrintFriendlyEmailTwitterLinkedInGoogle+FacebookShare

Comments

  1. librarydude says:

    The question was a joke and you guys are answering it like it’s serious. Do you have to act like librarians all the time?

  2. Brent says:

    Basically be an academic reject. No offense.

  3. haha says:

    Commenter #1 said move.
    Libraries don’t want people who aren’t local.
    They don’t want to pay relocation and laugh at the prospect you’d do it yourself.
    You need to move first, then find a job it seems, even if you do, as you suggest, work your tail off before, during AND after you finish library school.

  4. Detached Amusement says:

    Don’t really try to appear too smart or too successful. If you happen to write, and get a book contract, you can suddenly become “overqualified” and/or cause someone interviewing you to ask why you didn’t go into something like Journalism [never mind that this field is toast also - Librarians are prone to say/think stupid things. Some actually think ALA does a good job], hinting that perhaps you should still consider it. Remember, underachievers don’t like someone showing them up. They might actually have to work. Don’t appear to be a boat rocker. Theoretically, there are jobs out on the far horizon, beyond the sunset somewhere. You can literally chase these for years. Be sure you are independently wealthy, both to repay the student loan and travel hundreds or thousands of miles to find even a bad job and relocate. Remember; “Last hired, first fired”. Go back to zero and don’t collect severance pay. If you are really unlucky you may land at a job only a few months before their shaky budget is to be approved. It may be why the previous librarian left. Is there a minimal work period to collect unemployment? Check out nearby homeless shelters if so.. Be prepared to have someone give you a sad look and say; “if there is anything we[always the royal "we"] can do….” if you get pink slipped. They might even pass the hat for you. If you happen to get a chance to go to ALA, don’t be surprised if your boss makes you promise not to look for another job, if the one you have really sux. Remember, if you take a job in the styx, you may be stuck there, like Patrick McGoohan’s #6 in “The Prisoner”. Watch series episodes on DVD to prepare yourself. If you want to get a doctorate, give consideration to work in used car or aluminum siding sales. For advanced job options involving library administration, read Machiavelli’s THE PRINCE. Studying the administration of Latin American libraries is a plus, also. Watch your back. Be prepared to take a vow of chastity and poverty. Dating one of the locals in the boonies can be a double-edged sword. If you are lucky, refer back to “The Prisoner” episodes combined with reruns of “Lost”. Chances are the prospective spouse would have left earlier, if they really wanted to leave in the first place. Having at least a touch of masochism helps. If your prospective boss strikes you as being the “Crazy Cat Lady” it may not be your imagination. Do online newspaper research on your prospective job. You may find out WHY the job is coming open and important things you’ll need to know. Is this one of those towns where the mayor and chief of police/sheriff have an ongoing feud? Do members of the local police get in fights at parties and shoot one another? Were they indicted after an FBI undercobver sting?Yee – haaa! Add “Dukes of Hazzard” reruns and “Deliverance” to the list. You may be in “Tobacco Road” country.

  5. annoymous annoyed commenter says:

    “Libraries don’t want people who aren’t local. They don’t want to pay relocation and laugh at the prospect you’d do it yourself. You need to move first, then find a job it seems, even if you do, as you suggest, work your tail off before, during AND after you finish library school.” Only if it’s a half-way decent job. If it’s one that sux they could have burned out the territory, and the word may be out locally. Has this job be repeatedly advertised, periodically? I was offered a job once where I was told they had “the best regional library program” in the state. It was only 45 min. by interstate by the third largest city in said state, and I was from 500 miles away. The job had been posted quasi-annually for a few years. About 2 1/2 years after I turned the job down the long-time librarian left for a lower level job in another system in the same state. A few years after that the regional system imploded. It no longer exists. Do not assume you are getting the whole story, especially if it involves a long and expensive relocation.
    I hate to say it, but don’t totally trust someone just because they are another librarian.

  6. Detached Amusement says:

    Yes, you too can wallow in personal angst, disillusionment and a bad marriage c/o “your local library…..” :-/

  7. Former Academic Librarian says:

    Fifteen: Learn enough about 2.0 to get through the interview. If you can’t say you’ve used a wiki or blog, you won’t make the cut. The majority of your academic librarians are the old guard who are scared to death of their computers, so if you look like you can “move the library into the digital age” they will be thrilled. Yet, don’t be too 2.0, as they will be terrified of any change you want to make, so it’s not like you’ll do anything more than blog anyway.

    Sixteen: Read the library journals and blogs so you can talk about current “events” in your interview, but whatever you do, don’t mention the AL blog. No matter how correct AL is, the old guard don’t want to hear the unvarnished truth.

  8. anonymous says:

    re: No matter how correct AL is, the old guard don’t want to hear the unvarnished truth.—

    Um, AL IS the old guard.

  9. Uncertain Librarian says:

    Former,

    I was hired six months ago for my position. When asked what resources I read to keep current I mentioned lisnews (general stuff), Slashdot (tech/political news), and AL (for what is really happening in the field). They still hired me!

  10. Auntie Nanuuq says:

    “I hate to say it, but don’t totally trust someone just because they are another librarian.” I don’t “hate” to say that! It’s something I often say….Watch your back & CYA (which does not refer to California Youth Authority)

  11. Skipbear says:

    Ok, I am an expert in Etruscan Art and Archaeology and have reading knowledge of several languages and that used to work just fine. Today you have to dress in black, say you spend a lot of time working on line in the coffie bar and fake fanatical devotion to the cult of 2.0. Also helps to be connected to a lot of portable devices and make sure someone on comittiee sees you poking your I-phone or Blackberry. You will wow em.

  12. Mr. Kat says:

    Number six takes the cake, but I do think those are some great suggestions.

    Here’s a couple of the popular ones I’ve all seen somewhere at least once before.

    Seven: There are no yellow brick roads. I remember quite well that every single professor in my library school had No idea they would end up where they are now teaching library school. Stop looking for Formulas.

    Eight: Why does it have to be a LIBRARY job? So you have a MLS and a Bachelors and you can’t find a Library job? Apply to anything remotely close to your qualifications – you never know, you may get something that makes Library Jobs look down right medieval.

    Nine: Murphy [Murphy’s Laws] was an Optimist! Those who are pessimistic are likely to have a harder time. Who wants to hire a doom and gloom librarian? So stow the cynicism until after you get the job and get past your probationary period. Keep reality to yourself and play the game like high stakes strip poker.

    Ten: Work your rear off. For one, it will keep you looking attractive. And second, that will get you noticed – if not for your classic old school work ethic, then for your cheery exuberant hot exterior, and that will help with dating the local population. If you get laid off and you have a very positive relationship with your boss, you’ll be leaving with letters of recommendation that simply melt selection committees.

    Eleven: Don’t be afraid to move. The libraries are fixed in the ground. You are not. So if you move, you might find a place where they have a job for you. Theoretically, there are jobs out there if you move far enough.

    Twelve: Stay Single. Why? You may have to move to the middle of Timbuktu. So move there, take the library job and marry a local. How better to advance yourself in the sociopolitical scene? And there’s a good chance this person is dying to leave aHellawayfromnowhere, so that brings me to the next point:

    Thirteen: Never stop the job Hunt. So you got a job in the middle of the sticks; you’re a real librarian now, right? Perhaps, but there are still more library jobs out there, and if you can get one job, why can’t you get another? It’s better to be moving by choice rather then circumstance.

    Fourteen: Stand up for yourself The only person who wants you to get a job is you. The rest of the universe could care less. So if you want to have a job, or if you want a raise, or if you want to be in a certain place in life that is not an entitlement, then you will need to be the one in your corner pumping you up and pressing you forward. Self-esteem, confidence, initiative all rolled together and you have moxy or mojo – without it, you’re a pickled herring.

    Amended List Amendments[to keep order]:
    Submitted by Former Academic Librarian:

    Fifteen: Learn enough about 2.0 to get through the interview. If you can’t say you’ve used a wiki or blog, you won’t make the cut. The majority of your academic librarians are the old guard who are scared to death of their computers, so if you look like you can “move the library into the digital age” they will be thrilled. Yet, don’t be too 2.0, as they will be terrified of any change you want to make, so it’s not like you’ll do anything more than blog anyway.

    Sixteen: Read the library journals and blogs so you can talk about current “events” in your interview, but whatever you do, don’t mention the AL blog. No matter how correct AL is, the old guard don’t want to hear the unvarnished truth.

    I’m sure there’s more…

  13. Enquiring Mind says:

    “Former, I was hired six months ago for my position. When asked what resources I read to keep current I mentioned lisnews (general stuff), Slashdot (tech/political news), and AL (for what is really happening in the field). They still hired me!” Do they know WHAT AL you were speaking of? Did you spell it out?? There ARE two, after all, the one here and the other coming out of East Huron.

  14. Observer says:

    Here we go with the cheap software causing double posts. A big Bronx cheer for Reed :-/

  15. Surefire says:

    No way. The student doesn’t exist. You made that student up for the sake of the blog.

  16. TwoQatz says:

    Academic librarians afraid of their computers? In which library would I find such doddering old farts? (I speak as one who has passed the 50 year mark.) You cannot move ahead in any profession if you are not keeping up with technological advances. You can’t know it all, but know some and work your tail off. If you perform and your management acknowledges that, you’ll never have problems finding a job. BTW – whining doesn’t help. Life’s hard. Get over it.

  17. Grrrr says:

    “Academic librarians afraid of their computers? In which library would I find such doddering old farts?”

    Mine. Can’t even manage to attach a PDF to an email without handholding.

    “If you perform and your management acknowledges that…”

    There’s the rub.

  18. TwoQatz says:

    Well, Grrrr, I didn’t even address the young and agile farts who use our library. The ones who can’t figure out how to print, how to find a book on the shelf, how to use a photocopier, saving documents to a flash drive, how to locate ANY sort of periodical literature, how to “find” the Internet (click on the IE link???), etc. The young aren’t necessarily as adept as they like to think they are. If I wasn’t so busy hand-holding our youngsters, I might be able to finish that tutorial a faculty member asked me to create.

  19. Grrr says:

    TwoQatz, perhaps I wasn’t clear. It’s another librarian who need the handholding. It’s pretty sad, and even more frustrating.

  20. Kelli says:

    Can anyone explain the 2.0 cult? I guess I don’t understand why it’s so freakishly fawned over?

  21. libraries are dead places warehouses says:

    The MLIS is your ticket to a lifetime of low wages, low status and a bunch of tight lipped women.

  22. libraries are dead places warehouses says:

    The MLIS is your ticket to a lifetime of low wages, low status and a bunch of tight lipped women.

  23. 2.0 is just a fad says:

    nothing in 2.0 is a serious research tool. It is just fun stuff for teens and housewives who need an outlet.
    The stuff is not searchable in any efficient way and the posters are just having some fun.

    I will say that Google docs is valuabel and some blogs run by professional society. but otherwise it is just kids stuff.

  24. medical schools sacramnto says:

    there are some institution that provide the student loan and provide the service of the services. there are some blogs that facilitate the student in term of the knowledge and in financial aspect.
    http://www.sacramentomedicalschools.com