The “L-word”

In my city, there is one public library system where I have always wanted to work as a librarian. Fortunately, in my city, there is also a University with an accredited School of Information (formerly School of Information and Library Science (SIRLS)), where I finally took that scary step and went to “library school.” My focus was in public librarianship.

After I graduated, I saw my dream of becoming a public librarian come to a screeching halt. I was offered an opportunity in the public health department, where I was responsible for developing a workforce development program, to include staff training and development and a library. What an exciting venture! I would be doing information resource and librarian work, only without the official “librarian” title. I would be able to use my education and professional resources to learn and grow and develop a corporate library and services from scratch. One would think this is an excellent way to gain librarianship experience. Right?

Wrong. My job is classified as a Special Staff Assistant, Senior, and is a mid-level professional position with a grade 51. An entry level professional librarian position is a grade 39, a Librarian I is 48, Librarian II is 54 and Librarian III is a grade 58.  

So while my current position is graded higher than a base Librarian and Librarian I position, and even though the work I am doing IS information resources and librarianship work, I still do not qualify for the Librarian II or III positions. I do not have the title.

The qualifications just to interview for a Librarian II are: (1) A Master’s degree in Library and Information Science (MLIS or MLS) from an American Library Association (ALA) accredited college or university and three years of professional-level experience performing library work and one year of general supervisory work-place experience (Note: supervisory experience may run concurrently with library experience identified above or may be ancillary) OR (2) One year of experience with the Public Library as a Librarian I.

Professional library associations, including ALA, AZLA, and SLA all recognize the non-traditional librarianship work AS library work; human resource analysts do not. Despite the fact that I have single-handedly developed a corporate library, created both online and paper catalogs, produced staff training and programming, acted as the sole resource and reference for staff development opportunities (especially for staff requiring CEUs), promoted the library, its resources and training, tracked usage and attendance, and worked with other departments to implement a learning management system county-wide (all things librarians do), in the eyes of human resources, I am not a librarian, nor do I have professional level librarianship experience.

If I was satisfied as solo librarian, then “L” word is just a word. The work I do IS librarianship. I know I am a librarian. I am recognized as such by some of my colleagues, by professional associations, and I know what I bring to my organization is valuable.

However,  my ultimate goal is to become a public librarian, and without the title, and without open minded human resource analysts (who do not really know what librarianship really is), the likelihood of my even interviewing for a library position at the appropriate level is minimal. In order for me to just get my foot in the door, I would have to apply for, compete for and  accept a lower level position with much lower salary. Without that “L-word” in my title, I’m stuck.  
flying-solo-data-librarians-working-outside-traditional-libraries

A Solo at a Libraries Transform Conference

 

I’ve been a librarian by heart all my life, but only received my Masters in Information Resource and Library Science in May 2013. It wasn’t until last year that I realized that I AM an information professional, and that association memberships would  be helpful. So, I buckled down and paid for memberships with the American Library Association, Arizona Libraries Association and Special Libraries Associations, and I have found them invaluable in my work (and sanity).

The associations have kept me alive in my beloved field, and I have found an abundance of resources that allows me to feel and stay connected to my type of information professional, aka, solo librarians.

When I became an AZLA member, I signed up to volunteer at the AZLA 2016 Conference. This allowed me to attend 2 days for free!

Day 1

I was assigned as a presenter for a technology session that had 3 panel members. I was to introduce the panel and read a bio. I introduced myself to the presenters, who were all quite embarrassed about the formality of the session. They all agreed they did not want to be formally introduced, so instead of a presenter, I became an attendee.

The session was four hours long, about different technologies, particularly for maker spaces. Unfortunately, being a solo in a health department, some of the ideas, aside from the presentation method were not of any use to me.

However, I one of the presenters works with high school kids interested in volunteering to get work experience, asked for my contact information, as I am the volunteer/internship coordinator for the health department! A match made in heaven; we exchanged numbers.

Day 2

I walked in as key note speaker, Miguel Figueroa, with the Center for Future of Libraries, ALA, talked about the future of libraries. While it was inspiring and relevant to public and school librarians, it was hard to find much to take away as a solo.

In his speech, he stated, we must “…Recognize the value of the library professional.” Unfortunately, he did not identify how that is done in non-traditional librarian/library settings.

In my position, where I have multiple librarian-type duties, I was not hired because of my MIRLS, and I’m sure my successor will not be required to have one. However, I have a strong desire to make my superiors aware that the work that I do, the things I’ve accomplished are because of my education and connection to librarians and information professionals, and not just because “I’m a good worker.”

The one and only session I had a true vested interest and affinity for was: Librarians Transformed: Roads Less Traveled. It was incredibly gratifying to sit in a session and listen to three presenters who went to “library school,” with an idea of becoming a public librarian, and finding out getting in isn’t so easy.

With a tight economy, budget cuts, and the ridiculous idea that the internet can replace librarians, there aren’t a lot of librarian jobs out there, and the competition is fierce! There are people working at lower levels in the library while in the master’s program. It’s a sad, sad competitive library world.

This session solidified my idea that yes, my job may not have required a MIRLS, but I AM a librarian; and I am special. One of the speakers held a position very similar to mine where she worked on recruitment activities, created an internship program, and conducted outreach activity for a particular population.

After lunch, I volunteered in the exhibit hall at the raffle table. I met one of the librarians at the prison, and had some really interesting conversations with her about censorship of certain materials and the reading ability of inmates.

My last session was about Arizona State Library Archives and Public Records, where I learned about what is available via those websites, as well as resources for the visually impaired.

I stayed for the hors d’oeuvres and jam session, where a band comprised of 2 people who I worked with during my internship. I went to talk to Mike, who didn’t remember and Becca, who did.

Overall the experience was nice, but lonely. I wandered around alone, purchased 2 books from the exhibit hall and saw some interesting things, but most every exhibit and session was geared toward the traditional librarian (public or school). (I don’t even think there was much for academic librarians, even though the University of Arizona School of Information was there.) This made it really difficult to make any connections with other solos.

I did enjoy being around so many librarians and info pro nerds, and I will likely attend next year, hopefully as a volunteer. I found it to be a valuable experience, a little something to add to my resume, and much easier to meet people.

Fortunately, the Special Libraries Association Conference 2017 is in Phoenix, and I will be attending. As a matter of fact, I should look for volunteer opportunities there too! Right now!

Do I REALLY want to be a Director of Libraries?

As a solo librarian working in a public health department, doing many wonderful information resource and librarian type duties, I still have a strong desire to work in a public or school library setting. So, despite the fact that I have very little experience working in a public library, I took a chance and applied for a Director of Libraries position in a small rural county about an hour and a half away from where I live.

This county so happened to be going through culture and organizational change where the libraries would play a part in collaborating with other county departments to promote services. The work that I do, in addition to my education, really fit, and I found myself making it through to the final stage of the interview process.

The agenda was full: a panel interview with the governing board and partners, a written assessment, another informal interview the library staff, a tour of the district office, lunch with the first panel (including one of the candidates), a conversation with the Deputy County Administrator, then finally, a meeting with Human Resources to talk benefits.

While going through the day, I couldn’t help think to myself, “What am I doing here?” I felt so inadequate and phony at times, while during some conversations, I felt as if I was the perfect fit. Though, I was wearing my power suit, so there’s that.

At the end of the day, I learned:

  • This library system includes a district office, five branch libraries and one mobile unit;
  • The libraries have one librarian working in them part time;
  • Maybe only one of the library staff has a Masters in Information Resources and Library Science;
  • The library district has NO policies!;
  • There is no centralized collection development person (let alone office);
  • Each library branch is afforded $1,200 every other month to buy whatever materials, supplies, items they want;
  • The library district office is in an old building with 4 open offices and stacks upon stacks upon stacks of uncirculated holdings;
  • The library system does not charge late fees;
  • The library budget has not changed in 8 years and neither has the staff;
  • The library system does not track patronage or services or anything else for that matter;
  • The position is politically charged and appointed; and
  • The salary starts at $64,000 a year.

Anyone who has been to “library school” can see the huge project this job will be, and based on my skill set, I can see why I would have been selected as a finalist.

After the interview, I drove off almost scared they’d offer me the position. It would be a wonderful opportunity, but so much to think about. Do I want to uproot my family for $64,000 a year? It’s a nice increase from my current wage, but my housing expenses would likely double.

Am I ready for that level of responsibility? The team is small, but I prefer working on small teams reporting up, not being the person everyone reports to, at least not until I’ve had my feet wet for a certain amount of time.

The library system is an absolute mess. It will require significant change to get it in proper running order. Do I really want to deal with that?

I envisioned myself running programs as a teen or adult librarian or working the reference desk, reader’s advisory, in collection development, or even special collections.

I did not envision myself reorganizing and restructuring an entire library system.

Sigh.

My interview was exactly a month ago.

I have not heard a thing, and I’m not heartbroken.  I know it would be appropriate me to contact them to find out where I stand, I’m not sure I really care.

I suppose staying solo for now is okay.

 

The SLA Connect

I finally bit the bullet and joined the special libraries association. It was quite pricey and I hope it pays off. So far, I have enjoyed it and have “met” several people.

I joined the Arizona chapter, and in the SLA Connect, someone introduced themselves as having created a library from scratch for a police department!

And that was exciting to me!

Because, I was tasked with doing the same for our health department!

And I need to brain storm!

But I have no one to brain storm with!

Because I’m a solo librarian!

So, I messaged the guy, and he responded and was willing to chat with me!!

This morning, I drafted this email:

Hi Tom,
I’m very excited to be able to chat with you about creating a library from scratch!

I saw that you worked as a police officer in the past, and ironically, one of my majors as an undergrad was criminal justice. Before I began my current job, I managed our County’s contract with the vendor who provides healthcare services to inmates at the jail. During that time, I earned my MILS, which had been a dream of mine for some time. 

A couple of years ago, I was transferred into the health department and last year, I was charged with establishing our Workforce Development Plan, which included establishing a training program, creating a library with training material (dvds and professional development books), establishing a training calendar and tracking all employee training.

We have a zero dollar budget, and only have a small collection of material that fits within core competencies established for public health.

I have the physical library set up, and I’ve created a paper catalog that outlines all of the training courses we offer, but I have not yet created a catalog that I can use to promote the materials that can be borrowed by staff.

So far, all I have done was enter the book information (not the dvds, yet) into an Access database for starters, as I’m thinking I may be able to use that to tie employee to item for tracking.

When you set up your library, what was your system for tracking the material and who borrowed it?
Did you do anything to promote the library? And if so, how?

Any ideas or suggestions you have for promoting and tracking the material with a very, very basic system would be great. I don’t think my department will splurge for any kind of library program, and I even thought about going the old fashioned card catalog route, but I still need to be able to promote the items via email or webpage (b/c not all staff are located in the same building).

I really appreciate you taking the time to help me brainstorm! And just for fun, I’ve included a couple of pics of my library space. (Oh and the reason for the locking cabinets for the material is because those training videos are really expensive, so tracking where the videos go is important to us.)
Thanks again!

Personnel-Wellness-Workforce Development
A Healthy Pima County
Everyone. Every where. Every day.

~~~~~~~~~~

I hope he responds, and I hope I learn something.

It’s official! I’m a SLA’er

I have joined the Special Libraries Association (SLA), Arizona Division, Solo Librarians Chapter & Embedded Caucus.

Look out world!

The SLA is having a huge conference next week in Philadelphia.

I would sooo love to go.

I’m excited to be a part of this association and hope that it will help develop my skills and work.

Yay!

A J-O-B

Librarian seeking library has submitted her application, resume and cover letter to the Bisbee library district for the library director position.

Bisbee. 90 minutes from Tucson.

Population: 5,360 (2013).

Discover Bisbee here: http://www.discoverbisbee.com/

I would love to live there!

I would love this job! A public librarian in a rural branch library?!

I doubt I qualify for the position, however, I am confident I can do the job.

According to the job announcement, here: https://www.cochise.az.gov/jobs/director-library-district-050216, typical duties include:

Plans and manages services of the Library District; directs mobile and branch library operations and county-level support services to independent member libraries, including a shared online system; develops and justifies budget and manages expenditure of district funds; analyzes community needs and develops short and long-range plans for delivery of services to existing libraries, new population centers, and special groups; develops and maintains effective working relationships with individuals and groups such as member city libraries, advisory boards, branch partner agencies, Friends of the Library, volunteers, community groups, other county departments, State Library, legislators, and general public; brings major policy and developmental issues to attention of Board of Supervisors and County Administration and presents options and recommendations; hires, trains, directs and evaluates staff at headquarters, branches, and mobile operations; analyzes and resolves administrative, personnel, and fiscal problems; monitors and evaluates progress toward achievement of goals and modifies district services and procedures as appropriate; provides research and guidance to stakeholders involved in local and countywide library planning and development; prepares reports; establishes policies, rules and regulations; writes and administers grants; collaborates with member libraries to publicize and promote library services and projects.
All of which I have done in some form at one point or another in my career.
And here is my cover letter:

I am submitting my application and resume for the Library District Director position. I have earned both a Bachelor of Science in Public Administration with a double major in Public Management and Criminal Justice, and a Master’s degree in Information Resource and Library Science from the University of Arizona.

I have held a variety of positions, which have given me a wide range of experience, including customer service in the healthcare industry, claims processing and management (where I developed, implemented and managed a small claims processing unit), contracts management (which included analysis of contract requirements and contract renewals) and personnel duties.

Most recently, I have been tasked with developing and implementing Pima County Health Department’s workforce development plan, which included ordering supplies and furniture, organizing the space and the small collection, developing a training calendar, producing and publishing a catalog, developing and implementing an intranet page, writing a blog in the department newsletter, promoting workforce development training, and so much more.

Although I am a librarian in a non-traditional setting, I have found resources with library associations, particularly the Special Libraries Association (embedded librarians section), which have, along with my education, helped guide me in this incredible responsibility.  They have also allowed me to continue learning through articles and webinars so that I can continue to grow as a librarian.

While I love my job and the challenges it provides, my ultimate goal is to become a public librarian, where hard work along with my love of librarianship can be utilized in a much larger forum to a much broader audience.

Upon reading the typical duties required of this position, it appears that I have at some point in my career touched on all areas, and hope that I have an opportunity to discuss the skills, knowledge and experience I can bring to your department, either in this capacity or any other opportunities that may become available.

Thank you for the consideration.

 

I figure, it doesn’t hurt to try. The worst they can do is say no, right?

But wish me luck anyway.

 

Public Speaking Series

I have received a couple of requests to conduct a public speaking training, and I have been stewing on it for more than several weeks now.

In fact, I had a dream about it that woke me up in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t get back to sleep until after I jotted down notes about it.

That’s kind of sad.

Anyhow, I’ve come up with some ideas for how I’d like to organize the class or series:

  • 4-6 class series
  • Introduction (save attendee introductions for practice)
  • Video – public speaking basics
  • “Doing it makes it easier”
  • Provide index cards
  • Provide audience score sheets with scoring rubric, which may include: speaker fear, issue, improvement needs, etc
  • 1st class: Attendee introductions: address class, information about self, why attending/what do you want to learn from the class, specific needs/fear.
  • 2nd class: Stand up, address class, info about self, what you learned from last class.
  • Next 3 classes-provide options for speech: groups-interview each other and tell the audience about that person.

I will do some more research and continue to brainstorm. In the meantime, I’ve developed a short survey to put in our Department’s weekly communique’ to gauge staff interest and level of commitment.

I have also continued to peruse ALA.org, AZLA.org and SLA for resources. I still haven’t found any forums for librarians in my position that I can bounce ideas off.

I have however, continued to listen to the helpful podcast T is for Training, which is produced by someone in a polar opposite position- he is a trainer who trains for libraries, where I am a librarian who trains health department staff.