Naomi: How did you find your job as a Reference/Research Librarian?
Raymond: In August 2006, I started out as an undergraduate intern as a history major processing and boxing up Holocaust archives in the Dorot Jewish Division of The New York Public Library: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, formerly known as the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. That eventually led to another position as a periodicals assistant in the Periodicals Division and at that time I was also getting my M.L.S., which was great because I was able to apply my academic trainings from school into practice at work and the Library generously supported my career goals and education. So after I completed the program, our periodicals librarian retired and I took over that position where I handled a bulk of the reference interviews and inquiries relating to periodicals/microfilm collections at NYPL. I am now part of the General Research Division where I provide reference and research support to our patrons still in the same focus and I also manage our social media accounts (Yes, I get to blog and update our Facebook and Twitter accounts for work!), teach classes and host public programs!
Naomi: Tell us a little bit more about what you do at work.
Raymond: More specifically, I get to handle many research and reference inquiries on periodicals, newspapers, Asian Studies, History, Middle Eastern studies, Theology, etc since those are my main research specialties. I also have the opportunity to blog about our collections and services in the Library too. The position is incredibly rewarding because first, I work in an amazing building, and I am also able to host public programs on food studies or world religions, teach information literacy and research courses for NYC teachers, our Cullman Center Fellows, doctoral to high school students, conduct extensive research services for our patrons who are writers from New Yorkers or NY Times, professors from Harvard or CUNY, scholars from Oxford or Beijing. It’s a great experience to be part of this global library service where I am constantly learning new things, skills and content while thriving in my position and getting so much support from my colleagues.
Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Raymond: The Lingying Temple Library: it is a Buddhist temple in Zhenjiang Province in China. The temple is translated as Temple of Soul’s Retreat. One of the largest Buddhist temples in China, I had the opportunity to visit the monk’ library in 2009 and was amazed at the special collections and archives, the policies they have that are very different from ours and how space of the library, very neat. (see attached image)
Naomi: Favorite book?
Raymond: I have a confession: I am not a major book reader. I love short essays and periodicals from The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Wired magazine. But seriously, one of my favorite is The Eternal Smile: Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang (author) and Derek Kirk Kim (illustrator); these stories changed the way how I see the world and reality. I remember being glued to this book since Jack Martin, the instructor and current President of YALSA gave it to me when I was a library student in CUNY Queens College taking a YA literature course. I still look at it from time to time for inspiration and escape.
Naomi: Any websites, blogs or feeds we should be following?
Raymond: I love looking up lifehacker.com, always make me feel like I can accomplish anything when I browse the articles there. It gets you think differently and creatively. You can follow my NYPL blogs here, follow my Twitter handler: Oboro85 (slowly updating it …) and LinkedIn accounts too.
Naomi: Any job hunting advice?
Raymond: In this day and age, it is incredibly hard for everyone to find and/or maintain a job in any field. With a degree in MLS, you have to think outside the box and be innovative. It’s one thing to say you are hard working and productive but it’s another to say you are innovative and incredibly creative. Try everything, join everything: committees, boards, clubs, associations (if you can afford it financially) but don’t just join them for the sake of “joining them” to put on your resume. You should focus on getting something out of it and try to think of ways you can.
By volunteering your time and service to a certain association or group in a conference, you demonstrate leadership skills, commitment and passion to the cause or profession. It is something that many want to do but only few actually do them. Aside from the general but true discussions about the importance of networking, you have to constantly updating your technical skills; be receptive to different kind of career paths that your M.L.S degree and background can open for you.
Many traditional library jobs are phasing out and you’ll really need to know what it is you like and don’t like. If you are still a student, start exploring your avenues. If you have been in the profession for some time now, consider new projects involving collaboration and outreach. If you can shadow someone or have someone mentor you, take those opportunities too. I would create or enhance your digital shadow, through e-portfolio, or designing web pages, uploading guides or blog online – your online presence is crucial!
Raymond Pun is currently a reference/research librarian in The New York Public Library: Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, General Research Division. He has an M.L.S from CUNY Queens College, B.A in History and M.A in East Asian Studies from St. John’s University. He is a frequent speaker and library advocate, and has given many talks and presentations and published on a variety of research topics including embedded librarianship, history of public libraries in authoritarian regimes, the future of academic research, Islamic societies in China, Digital Humanities, and the digital revolution in the Arab World. He has published his works in The Huffington Post, World History Bulletin, and College and Research Libraries among others, and currently a book reviewer for Library Journal. In 2012, the Library Journal recognized him as a Mover and Shaker. His research has been mentioned and recognized by the American Library Association, Association for College and Research Libraries, American Historical Association, Library Journal, Crain’s New York Business and the Congress of the humanities and Social Sciences in Canada. You can link him here!