Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Awesome Alumni Interview: Amy

Amy attended Drexel from 1984-1987. While at Drexel, she was the co-president of the student chapter of SLA, and worked in the Cataloging Department in Hagerty Library. She also worked part-time, and eventually full-time, at Palinet (now Lyrasis) working on a retrospective conversion project. After graduating, she moved to California and took a job helping to launch (and then running) a library for the Tech Support Department of a computer retailer. Amy felt like she learned a great deal from this position, because the company was understaffed and she often had to fill in many different roles. When the company was sold, she went to work for a top-tier international executer search firm as a research associate. She did research on people, companies and industries and made initial calls to potential candidates. The office was in Silicon Valley, and was the headquarters of their technology practice, which was an exciting place to work in the late 1980s. 

In 1990, Amy moved back to the East Coast and started working a project basis for Library Technologies, Inc. She eventually found a position as a Monographes Cataloguer and Reference Librarian at Swarthmore College. After about 5 years in that position, she moved back to Library Technologies, Inc on a full-time basis.

What is your current job? Authority Control Specialist at Library Technologies, Inc. 

How did you find your job? The president was a former boss of mine and asked if I wanted to work for them.

What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job? Most of my work is project-based. I review files of name and subject headings from client's bibliographic records, correcting error and linking headings to LC or LTI authority records. When I'm not working on client files, I'm doing clear-up work within our own databases, working on our website, or keeping up on the latest n cataloging, such as RDA. I also monitor several relevant listservs. This past summer, I redesigned their website using Drupal

I had worked for them on a contract basis before, so the work is as I expected. Over the years, we have added some different responsibilities which have increased my knowledge base. 

What do you enjoy most about your job? Linking incorrect headings to the authorized headings. It feels like detective work- decoding bad diacritics, figuring our missing letters, figuring our what the name should be when the person inputting the heading had their hand in the wrong place on the keyboard.

I also enjoyed learning Drupal and working on the website redesign. It was great to add a new set of skills. 

What are some common misconceptions about your job/area of librarianship? That authority control is not an important part of maintaining a catalog. If names, subjects, etc. are not in there correctly, patrons are not going to be able to find what they need. When a library spends a huge amount of money on an automated system, but doesn't maintain the integrity of the database, it's a huge waste of money. 

What was the most important thing you did or learned while in library school? Probably my assistantship in the Cataloging Department of Hagerty Library. It gave me hands-on experience with cataloging. I had a great cataloging instructor in Jerry Saye, and a very good cataloger in the library who mentored me there. Between then, I learned an incredible amount. 

What inspired you to choose this career? I had my first library "job" in 2nd grade. I used to help in the library at my elementary school. In high school, I worked at the public library. As I was finishing college and starting to look for jobs, I discovered that most of the ones that seemed interesting were in libraries. I decided to go back and earn my degree at Drexel starting that fall. 

What do you wish you had learned more about? Maybe the systems side of things. 

Any tips for current students? Take a cataloging course, even if you don't want to be a cataloger. It's important to understand what's behind it all. 

Get some hands-on experience in whichever area of librarianship you choose. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Bored over Break? Why Not Try an Informational Interview?

Are you looking for something librarian-ish to do over the week-long break between Spring and Summer Quarters? If so, then why not schedule an informational interview with a professional in the library and information science field? Many librarians will tell you that they not only love what they do, but also that they love discussing what they do with anyone who is interested. Additionally, people in the information profession are especially eager to share their ideas, experiences, and advice with future librarians. So why not use this lull in school-related activity to learn more about the profession directly from a professional herself through an informational interview?

Before scheduling an informational interview, you should first do some internet research about the libraries in your area, especially if you do not have a library or an interviewee in mind. A general rule of thumb is to limit the list of potential libraries to visit according to your own interests, particularly in terms of library type (public, academic, special, etc.). For example, if you think you would like to work in an academic library someday, create a list of academic libraries located near you (try using the College Navigator search on the NCES homepage), find the homepage for the libraries at these colleges and universities, and take a look around each library’s website.

After obtaining a better sense of what each library is like, decide on which libraries you would like to visit. For these libraries, find the staff directory (usually labeled “Staff” on the website’s navigation bar) and take a look around. Not only is a staff directory useful for finding contact information, but it is also a fast way to find out who does what at a library. Depending on the directory, some libraries might list each staff member’s title, credentials, and short professional biography. Even if a directory does not have all of this information, it will almost always list staff members’ titles. Use this information to figure out who is responsible for what interests you about the library (e.g., if you are interested in a library’s information literacy program, find the director of this program on the “Staff” page).  Finally, send emails to these libraries to request an informational interview.

Write your email as you would any professional correspondence (click here to review professional email basics). As for content, explain the purpose for contacting the librarian (you would like to schedule an informational interview), where you found their contact information, who you are as a student (the degree you are working towards, where you go to school, etc.), and a common point of interest (e.g., digital libraries) and/or a compliment on project they have worked on at their library. End the email by listing your availability and by thanking them for considering your request.

Once you receive a response accepting your request, start preparing your questions. You may decide to use stock questions that could work when interviewing any professional (click here to see a list). Stock question are quite useful for obtaining general information about the person and the position they hold at the library. Nevertheless, your questions should become more specific as you work your way down the list, and you will need to tailor these questions to the person being interviewed. To do this, base your questions on what information you found about the person or their position at their library from your basic internet search. By asking these types of questions, you are trying to find information about the key competencies needed for the position, as well as the kinds of non-library-specific skills (e.g., project management) one would need to develop to succeed in the position. While it is important that you come to the interview with a list of questions written down and ready to be asked, you should also allow the interview to follow any interesting or potentially useful tangents that might arise. Also, while you should be respectful and appreciative, you should not be so formal as to make the interviewee uncomfortable.

As with a job interview, you should arrive early to the informational interview in professional attire (click here to review tips on job-interviewing ). Also, as with a job interview, make sure to send the interviewee a “thank you” email afterwards. This type of email is especially important to send after an informational interview because, unlike a job interview, the professional with whom you have met has no immediate incentive for taking time out of their workday to speak with you; in this sense, then, the informational interview is primarily for your benefit, which is why you should express your appreciation to the interviewee appropriately.

Those readers who have taken INFO 520 have already interviewed at least one information professional and so are already familiar with the purpose of and steps involved in informational interviewing. Consider this post, then, a reiteration of what your INFO 520 professor has said about informational interviewing with an additional, first-hand affirmation of its value. To be more specific, two current SCALA officers have been offered internships as the result of conducting informational interviews. While there is no guarantee that you will be made the same offer, the more you put yourself out there and get to know people in the profession before you graduate, the better chances you have of finding a position that suits your interests and needs. Additionally, the more informational interviews you conduct, the more you will learn about the profession and the larger your network will grow. Thus conducting informational interviews is an excellent pre-professional activity in which you can actively engage.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Alumni Interview: Carrie

This week's alumni interview is with Carrie Moran. Carrie received her BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina Wilmington in May, 2007. She started taking classes at Drexel in March, 2010 and received her MLIS with a concentration in Digital Libraries in June, 2011. During her time at Drexel, she worked as a Crisis Specialist for a domestic violence resource center. She did a short internship at Towson University, creating digital records for archival material between her graduation in June, 2011 and starting her current job in September, 2011. She is a member of ALA, ACRL, and the North Carolina Library Association. 

What is your current job? Instruction/Reference Librarian at Cleveland Community College in Shelby, North Carolina.

How did you find your job? I found my job using the great website/Twitter/Facebook feed I Need a Library Job.

What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job? There is no such thing as a typical day for me! I usually spend a least a few hours each day at the reference desk answering student questions. The rest of my day I'm either helping at the Circulation Desk, teaching one shot classes in the Library or in a classroom, or working in my office on projects like maintaining our website, making tutorials, or doing committee work. 

What do you enjoy most about your job? My favorite thing about my job is the variety. Each day I'm doing something different so I don't feel bored or stuck in a rut. 

What are some of the common misconceptions about your job/your area of librarianship? I'm working in a community college, and I think there's a perception out there that community colleges aren't as difficult as four year institutions. I have helped students with a variety of assignments and I can verify that their classes and assignments are just as challenging as they are in any other higher education institution. 

What was the most valuable thing that you did or learned while in library school? the most valuable thing that I learned in library school was how to keep abreast of new technologies and to not be afraid to try new things.

What inspired you to choose this career? I'm the daughter of a librarian and I have a BA in Psychology. I took a few years off after my undergraduate work to figure out what I really liked to do. I realized that my favorite part of my undergraduate experience was the hunt for information. That paired with my love of reading and computers helped me decide to pursue a career as a librarian. 

What do you wish you had learned more about? I wish I'd learned more about instruction. It wasn't something I really thought much about and now I've taught over 60 classes since I started in September.I had to do a lot of reading on instruction and instructional tools to feel comfortable. 

Any tips for current students? My number one suggestion is to create a chart with all of your due dates. I think this is especially important for online students because we may have multiple things due each week. During my time at Drexel I had three classes at a time and each one usually required 2-3 discussion board posts plus some other assignment each week and it was easy to lose track of what I'd done and still needed to do.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Awesome Alumni Interview: Sandra

Sandra started her academic career in 1997, at a community college earning her AA. Afterwards, she attended Temple University for her B.A. from 2003-2006. In 2009, she earned her MLIS from Drexel University. She volunteered at local historical societies and Drexel's Hagerty Library, but "life" made it difficult to continue volunteering to gain experience. She felt driven to succeed in librarianship because "all I had was a dead-end job and 20 plus years with customer experience, a willingness to learn, and the desire to do something more with my life."

What is your current job? I am about to start a new job as a Librarian in a Saudi Arabian university, Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd University (PMU). I resigned my position as a Content Management Analyst at NASA Center for Aerospace Information (CASI) to accept this position. I was a contracted employee for Chugach Federal Solutions, Inc.

How did you find your job? I found my job at CASI through a follow student. I found my job at PMU through one of the listservs that I am on.

What does your typical day look like? Is this what you expected when you took the job? 
Since I have not started my new job I don’t know how to answer this yet.

At CASI, I mainly dealt with electronic documents which involved in putting the basic information (i.e. title, pub date, color or black/white figures and/or images), cataloging, and document evaluation. I also uploaded videos to CASI’s page on You Tube. I corrected metadata on the CASI’s database.

I had many areas that I was not happy with my job but with that said I also gained a lot from working at CASI for two years. I became more competent with the work that is done in the “background” of the library. It was a great job for me because I had no library experience and with that issue and just finishing grad school, CASI worked for me.

What do you enjoy most about your job? 
I enjoyed when I was able to work with older NACA and NASA documents.

What are some of the common misconceptions about your job/your area of librarianship? 
One misconception is that you will find your dream job within a couple years of receiving your grad degree. You have to be willing to think outside of “your box” or comfort zone. When I went for the job as CASI I had no science/technology background. This job was very outside my comfort zone and “box” and it turned out to be a great starting point for me.

What was the most valuable thing that you did or learned while in library school? 
Reaching out to professors and asking them for help.

What inspired you to choose this career? 
There was an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer about how the library field was going to open up in 2010. Well, we all know that that did not happen.

I loved libraries, books and researching. I can remember going to my public library and spending many hours there. Even when I was getting my AA and BA I would love when I had to do a 30 page research paper. Having to go through the stacks to find the one obscure book with that one fact is what I love.

What do you wish you had learned more about? I wish that I had taken a grant writing course. I did not feel that the grants that I did in a couple different classes represented how a “real” grant is to be written. There were some other classes that I wished were different, but it has been a few years now that I can’t remember how and which ones I wanted to change. I also wish that there was a way that I could have gotten some hands-on time at the library.

Any tips for current students? 
Try to connect with a professor that can become your mentor.
Try to get involved with associations and reach out to someone if you are not sure how to get involved (I wish I did).
If you are able to relocate then you might be able to find a job.
Think and look outside the box and your comfort zone.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the person who might be doing the hiring. I emailed my boss at CASI to ask if I should even apply. I explained my experience and how I didn’t want to waste her or my time.
You never just know what could happen.