Ben Neal …In Six

My interview with success story Ben

Naomi: How did you find your current job?
Ben: I found the job posting on the Northeast Tennessee Library Network. Within a few hours of sending in my resume and cover letter, they had contacted me for an interview for the next week. The day after I interviewed I was offered the job.

Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Ben: Probably the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., but I have a certain fondness for the Herman B Wells Library on the Indiana University-Bloomington campus.

Naomi: Favorite book?
Ben: I can’t narrow it down to one, but some favorites include In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie, Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon, The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, A Judgement in Stone by Ruth Rendell, The Murder Room by P.D. James, and generally books about political history and on the history of cinema; as well as the essays of Gore Vidal and Christopher Hitchens

Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries/ library technology?
Ben: The democratization and expansion of access of information available to librarians and our patrons. Whether it be the availability of more and better information when it comes to serving reference needs to the expansion of regional consortia such as Evergreen Indiana that provide (particularly smaller and rural) libraries greater access to e-books and being able to share books and resources with dozens of other libraries.

Naomi: Any websites or feeds or blogs we should be following?
Ben: My library reading diet is less focused on individual blogs (though I frequent some such as HackLibSchool and Library Scenster), but generally find a lot of good articles/blog posts by following various librarians and library-related twitter accounts. However, since there’s a greater demand for reader’s advisory than say, reference services, at my library I visit a lot of book-centric sites/blogs (well-done book review sites, GoodReads, etc.) and stuff like the New York Times Book Review and the NYT Bestseller lists are must-reads for me to keep up with new books and reading trends. It’s also a good idea to follow news stories on the publishing industry, particularly regarding the battles of e-books and DRM issues.

Naomi: Best piece of job hunting advice?
Naomi: Persistence, flexibility, and creativity. Before I interviewed for my current position, I went nearly two months without an interview request; it is so incredibly important to stay at it and keep applying, but also to make your job-searching time productive: I volunteered at my hometown library during my period of unemployment and gave me valuable experience and something to talk about in interviews in addition to my previous experience.

Be flexible and creative with the types of job and job locations that you apply for (you never know what skills you possess that an unlikely employer may appreciate), but also where you look for job postings. Don’t just rely on state library association job sites or list-servs; to the best of my knowledge my job was only posted on the library’s web page and on the regional library’s website. Public libraries in particular can move very fast and oftentimes will not post their openings anywhere but their own web site, so try to make it a daily (or biweekly) habit of visiting the websites of libraries (and also the websites of municipalities as many public libraries do their hiring through city/county HR departments) that you have a particular interest in.

You obviously can not visit the website of every library in a state, much less an entire region, but you’ll find more jobs if you take the time to visit 20-30 of them on a weekly basis.
Finally, when you see a job posting that interests you, apply as soon as possible! Obviously, take time to tailor your cover letter to the job, but many libraries move fast and can fill positions if you wait. Make it a point to set aside a few hours a day to apply for jobs and have a basic cover letter ready to go at all times!

My name is Ben Neal and I’m originally from Wartburg, TN. I have a B.S. in Political Science from Middle Tennessee State University and a M.L.S. from Indiana University. Prior to going into the profession I affectionately call “library town”, I worked as a political operative for many campaigns and causes on local, state and national levels. I’m currently the Assistant Branch Manager of the Thomas Memorial Library, a branch of the Sullivan County Library System in Bluff City, TN. When not being a librarian, I’m a bonafide political junkie, cardigan wearer, coffee nerd, cat lover, avid reader, cinephile, and like fancy myself an amateur comedian/detective.

Photo used with permission

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