Lindsay Cummings graduated from the iSchool in June 2011 with a concentration in Youth Services. She was a co-chair of SCALA from 2010-2011 and created the SCALA blog. While getting her degree, she worked as an ILL assistant at the England Library, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, and as an After School Leader with the LEAP program at the Free Library of Philadelphia. You can visit her website at LibrarianLindsay.com.
What is your current job?
I'm the young adult reference librarian at the Abington Free Library in Abington, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia.
How did you find your job?
I found my job on the Drexel iSchool job board. I was also looking at jobs regularly on HigherEdJobs.com, through my local SLA chapter, and on the local country library websites. Social bookmarking sites have been a huge help in organizing my ever growing list of job websites. On Delicious.com I created a list of websites all tagged "jobs" (http://delicious.com/stacks/view/I3Kxyh) so that I could easily go down the list and check for new postings.
What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job?
Half of my day is usually spent staffing the reference desk, answering patrons' questions, helping patrons use the Internet, and finding them all the information they are looking for. The rest of my time is spent doing YA collection development (reading book reviews, placing orders, weeding, tracking stats), planning YA programs, and creating marketing materials (booklists, signage, etc). Overall, I'm doing what I expected in this job. Even though I am a YA librarian, I do provide services for all ages when I'm at the reference desk. I like working with the public so this naturally works well for me.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I've only been in my job for about a month now. But so far I really enjoy making decisions about what to buy for the YA collection. It's really satisfying when a book comes from the vendor and right away goes to a patron who's been waiting to read it. I periodically check out stats to see if the books are still out, how popular they are, etc.
True to librarian form, I also enjoy helping people simply find what they are looking for. It brings me so much satisfaction whether it's a student trying to find books for a report or an older patron who wants to know how to download e-books onto their e-reader. I'm so glad I work in a public library. It's exciting to work with the public because you never know what people are going to ask for.
What are some of the common misconceptions about your job/your area of librarianship?
People think that it's a boring job. It's NOT! For anyone who has worked in any field that involves customer service, you know that everyday brings new challenges and obstacles to make the customer happy. We are in the same business. That's how my 6 years of working in a restaurant have really paid off. Plus, there's always something to be done here, always questions to be answered, books to be ordered, people to teach.
What was the most valuable thing that you did or learned while in library school?
Some of the core classes taught me the biggest lessons. People never ask for what they want right out. You have to ask them more questions to get to the root of their need. Don't point to things. Get up and walk the patron to the book they want. Every moment is a teachable moment. Don't use a lot of jargon when talking to a patron. Try to explain, display, create things in user-friendly ways. Respect the right to read and the right to information.
What inspired you to choose this career?
I've always loved when people stop me on the street and ask me for directions. This is the ultimate career for people who love being asked questions and who enjoy giving the best answers possible. As someone who is naturally curious and loves asking questions herself, I'm driven to find answers and I will keep searching when most people have given up.
What do you wish you had learned more about?
I wish I had done an internship once I figured out that I wanted to be a YA librarian. Unfortunately, it didn't fit into my schedule, going to school and working part-time at an academic library. I think an internship at a public library working under a YA librarian would have given me special insight in to the everyday tasks of the YA department. It would have looked excellent on my resume too.
Any tips for current students?
My former boss gave me some great advice that I will pass on to you. Take the classes that you think you will really like. Find those professors who you admire and want to be like and develop a relationship with them. Professors Denise Agosto and Vanessa Morris were my library idols.
Also, be patient as you search for a full-time job. Voluneer or get a part-time job in a library. Find ways to sharpen your teach skills in your free time, like starting a blog on library issues that interest you. Get involved with professional associations. Network. I know test things have been said many, MANY times before, but I truly believe it's helped me land the position I have today.