September 16, 2009

Unemployed Librarian: What to do?

So, I'm a recent MLIS graduate, and I do not have a library job. We're also deep in a recession, which I'm told is about to end, but I won't be holding my breath. What is an "unemployed" librarian to do?

Rub Elbows and Network
I have a notion (a pretty good one at that) that attending professional functions are good, no matter how irrelevant they might seem at the time. Seminars and conferences are an excellent opportunity to find out what is going on in the profession, keep your foot in the industry, and (most importantly) network and meet other library professionals. This cannot be stressed enough. One of my major weaknesses is that I'm not very good at networking. Having recently relocated, this is a double weakness. The good news is I live in an area where the librarians are connected and willing to bring new librarians into the fold. This makes it a lot easier to show up at a function where you don't know anyone and meet new people.

I volunteer at a library. Although my volunteering will not lead to a job in the foreseeable future, it provides the opportunity for me to practice my new-found library skills in a professional environment. It also gives me something to write in those blank spots on applications where "library experience" is requested. Volunteer work is real experience. Be careful about where you volunteer. Many public libraries, although great places to volunteer, don't usually farm out real library work to their volunteers. It's best to find a volunteer position that will nurture the skill set you already have.

This isn't limited to just talking. For instance, I'm communicating with you (is anybody reading?) now through this blog. Communicating is talking, blogging, and reading. You should mention to anyone in conversation, casually of course, that you are a recent graduate or that you're interested in library work. You never know who that person knows. Most of the time, it leads nowhere, but occasionally you find a golden opportunity. Really, what have you got to lose? You're already unemployed.
I'm also told that building an online presence is a great way to passively network. I've heard that a lot of libraries search the Web for recent applicants to positions. Finding the online presence of an applicant is a way for employers to know that you're actively participating in the profession even if you're not monetarily involved. I'm reading a lot of professional literature, but unless I mention it during an interview, how is my potential employer going to know that? Hopefully they have already read my blog and seen all of the articles I have commented on and read. Which brings me to my next point: Read!
Read everything you have time to read, not just about the field, but books too. If you're even remotely interested in public libraries, you should try to read what your patrons are reading. Also, have a good idea of what other people are reading. When I'm not reading my book on the bus, I'm looking around to see what other books are being read. This might seem nosy, but it's a good way to gather ideas and information about your community.

Learn a New Language
The communities that libraries are located in are becoming increasingly diverse. This is a giant challenge, but also a giant opportunity. I've always wanted to learn Spanish. Being unemployed, this is the perfect time. It can only serve to benefit in the end. Think about it, you'll finally be able to check off a box in the "Other Languages Spoken" section of the job application. I know I'm excited about this.

Don't Give Up!
Keep at it and stay positive. Sure, I have my hopeless days too, but lets face it, this is a recession. I'm not the only one out there who's unemployed.

This is what I'm doing at the moment. Hopefully you'll join me in the journey from "Unemployed" and "Undefined" Librarian to somewhere else wherever that may be.

Thanks for reading!

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