Emily Weak of Hiring Librarians

My interview with Emily of the blog, Hiring Librarians

Naomi: What made you interested in starting your blog, Hiring Librarians?
Emily: I’d been thinking about ways I could do service for the profession. Because I’m such a new librarian I don’t have a lot of sage advice and because I’m severely underemployed I feel weird about attending conferences or being involved in associations. I wanted to do something where I wasn’t representing myself as an “expert” or an “insider.” That led me to think about doing something where I would be crowd-sourcing or curating content, rather than creating it.

My job hunt has been kind of murky and befuddling. Even though I have been a hiring manager in my life before libraries, so much about library hiring is idiosyncratic. I read this blog Ask a Manager, which gives advice from the perspective of a manager, and that made me start to think about the lack of candid career advice from people who are actually doing hiring. Even if someone has written about their perspective in library hiring, they often have to be quite diplomatic about it. They have to worry about liability issues, and how they are making themselves and their institutions look. Some institutions are also very restrictive about what employees can say publically. So this gave me my topic, subjects and the offering anonymity angle.

My sister runs a feature on her blog in which she gathers and reports on demographics in San Francisco Bay Area theatrical productions. My last job was at a science museum where we had a number of Citizen Science projects (in Citizen Science, regular people gather scientific data). And currently I work part time as a research assistant, so I’m reading a lot of articles about librarians using surveys. So those three ingredients made me think about doing something that was influenced by a scientific or scholarly viewpoint, even though it would ultimately be informal and totally not scholarship or science.

Naomi: Are there other blogs or resources you can recommend?
Emily: I’m not sure if this is what you’re looking for, but I can tell you some of the ones I read regularly. They are mostly silly or fun.

For library blogs I like Swiss Army Librarian, Academic Librarian, and Awful Library Books.

If you like pretty pictures I recommend Bookshelf Porn and Things Organized Neatly (and “Hey Girl. I Like the Library Too” is pretty funny).

My current favorite non-library blog is Advanced Style, which features nattily-dressed older people. They give some great life tips.

I also follow two customer service oriented LiveJournal sites, Can I Help You with Something? and Bad Service. They are mostly people complaining, but I find them interesting and entertaining – kind of like the customer service version of those embarrassing stories from Cosmo.

Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Emily: It has to be the Naturalist Center at the California Academy of Sciences, where I used to work. Not only are there more traditional resources (books, DVDs,etc.) but there are also natural history specimens you can touch. So if you are in the museum looking at the albino alligator and you have some questions about alligators, you can go to the Naturalist Center and read a book about alligators, and then talk to a librarian, and then go on the computer, and then maybe play a game or do a puzzle, and then actually touch a cast of an alligator skull. It’s like hyperlinking concepts, only the linking is IRL.

Naomi: Favorite book?
Emily: This is a tough question! I could probably give you a long list with a complex system of categorization and some nice cross-indexing. But one that I would be happy to read over and over again, and in fact have since I first discovered it when I was about ten or so, is Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones. It’s a really unique, well-told story, and it was the first of hers that I ever read.

Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries/ library technology?
Emily: The fact that they are common, public spaces where everyone’s curiosity is worth nurturing. For example, at a public library, reference questions from a four year old and a member of the library board are equally deserving of a professional response. Also the idea that people can take charge of their own education, that they can find (free!) resources on anything they might be interested in, rather than on what someone tells them they should learn.

Naomi: Best piece of job hunting advice?
Emily: What I’m learning from reading the Hiring Librarians surveys is that it really is like dating – you have to be yourself and find the right match. You shouldn’t force the job or yourself to be something other than the reality. And even though it might seem like there is a set of rules somewhere that everyone knows but you, in reality each hiring manager/committee member has a slightly different perspective on not only what they *want* their applicant to do, but on what they think all applicants *should* do.

I think that the fact that job hunting is about finding the right job, rather than having a formula for getting hired, is particularly hard because it is so easy to get desperate. The reality is, I need a job in order to pay my bills, and the longer I don’t have one the more urgent it is that I get one in order to be able to eat and pay rent. So the more ANY job starts to look attractive.
I don’t know how to solve this. I wish I did.

A modern hypatia gives the advice that you should set yourself up for accomplishment, which I think is very good. So much of our self-worth comes from working; when you’re not it can be very demoralizing. Giving myself a project I can feel good about is part of my personal motivation for Hiring Librarians.

Emily Weak earned her MLIS from San Jose State University in May 2011 and is now job hunting. She suffers from the curse of being interested in *everything*; consequently her career and research interests are very broad. She currently works part time as a research assistant, but has been a library assistant, administrator, cheesemonger, manager, and circus student, among other things. Her newest and second most prized possession is a KitchenAid stand mixer. Send recipes!

Photo used with permission

Reprinted from 3/12/12 formerly titled Emily Weak …In Six and  on 4/1/13, Emily Weak of Hiring Librarians…In Six

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