Ego Tripping at the Gates of the Library Job Hunt

by R.C. Miessler, former Head Editor, INALJ Indiana
previously published 6/4/13

Ego Tripping at the Gates of the Library Job Hunt

rcmiesslerIt’s been said a thousand ways in a myriad of contexts, but finding a library job right now is tough. This isn’t new news to any of us looking right now. What’s tough to wrap our heads around at times is that librarians are used to being the smart kids–we’re the ones who did well in school, worked our asses off to get the necessary degrees and are constantly trying to put our best foot forward in the form of cover letters, resumes and references. Therefore, we may not immediately recognize (or we at least mentally block it out) that we’re competing against a lot of other smart people, and not just people right out of school, but also people who have a lot of experience. It’s pretty intimidating to be going head-to-head with other librarians. That being said, the job search often feels as if we are passing through a gate inscribed with “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” so here are the circles of Hell from Dante’s Inferno, adapted for library job hunters.

1. Limbo: waiting for hiring managers and committees to get back to us.

2. Lust: spending hours prepping our application for the perfect job that aligns exactly with our interests, skills and training.

3. Gluttony: the sick realization that our cover letter and/or resume is probably too long.

4. Greed: not seeing a salary range on a job listing and wondering if it is worth our time.

5. Wrath: using websites that require us to copy and paste our immaculately formatted resume into tiny plain text boxes, only to be asked to attach our resume at the end anyway.

6. Heresy: hearing that librarians have one of the worst jobs, or getting the inevitable “you really need a master’s degree for that?” question. Bonus: having your friends throw out a random DDC number and asking you what book it is.

7. Violence: beating ourselves up for not having a librarian job, turning down an opportunity that just doesn’t work for us, or getting the damn degree in the first place.

8. Fraud: finding out that a job description was left on a website far beyond the apply-by date, or discovering it is already filled by an internal applicant and just posted to fulfill HR requirements.

9. Treachery: when the “preferred” qualifications seem to indicate a completely different job than what the “required” qualifications expect … or just completely unrealistic qualifications for an obviously entry-level job. Bonus: seeing an MLS is “optional” on a librarian job.

  12 comments for “Ego Tripping at the Gates of the Library Job Hunt

  1. Michael McWilliams
    August 18, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    Maybe if the opportunities in “Hell” weren’t so flooded with the prerequisites of convention (professional culture), entitlement (experience), and privilege (ranking) then maybe the depths of the inferno would might not seem so arduous and hopeless to those of us who hope to climb above the flames. Librarianship is no different from any other industry where people are trying to find work. As long a the leash of desperation is kept tight in an slow growth economy and those who are with and those who are without are kept at odds in scouring for jobs, nothing will change because nothing has to change in order to maintain the social order. Imagine: Every library student who graduated from library school actually working in the profession they so passionately loved; a dream fading for many who once believe it to be possible

  2. LMS
    August 16, 2014 at 8:51 am

    Someone posted on another blog that she felt as if libraries were “looking for a candidate that does not exist.” Something else that should be addressed is the bias against older applicants, many of whom have a plethora of “non-library” skills. Libraries seem to prefer candidates who are young (but have no experience) to older applicants who do have experience that is applicable to libraries, but may be in a different field.

    • Pat
      August 18, 2014 at 10:35 am

      Thank you for that comment . I have seen very few articles about “Older applicants bias”. Further research on “bias against older applicants” with and without library skills should be done.

  3. August 16, 2014 at 12:24 am

    Fraud, part the third: getting to the second interview and discovering 4 other major job responsibilities that they didn’t even list in the ad.

  4. Stephanie
    July 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Hi R.C.
    Just one comment re the lack of posted salary ranges – sometimes, it’s not a matter of a low salary, but of policy , lack of a signed union contract, or something else. You probably realize that – but just to share some info …My institution doesn’t usually include salary ranges, but asa public academic institution in NY state, under various “sunshine” laws, our contracts and salary info are all publicly available. But it would look pretty bad if you found our last faculty contract – signed in 2006 or 2007 – and thought salaries had not risen since. They have, because state law dictates that we still follow te old contract until we get a new one – but as there is no signed contract, the new ranges are impossible to figure out without a scientific calculator! My practice (as chair of our Appointments Committee, which is the search committee for faculty vacancies in the library) is to give candidates both the existing contract, with the old info, and info on what our recent hiring ranges have been, so they get a better idea. Offers and salaries are determined by the Provost, so I can’t give exact salaries until we get to the actual hiring, but I can give people a pretty good idea. But I actually don’t have sanctioned, official salary info to provide in an ad. Good luck.

    • July 9, 2013 at 10:09 am

      Fair enough! Thanks for the insight.

  5. June 8, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    Ah…so in tune with the times with the release of Dan Brown’s Inferno :)

  6. JN
    June 4, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    This could be filed under Fraud/Treachery:
    Going through a six-month application process that includes a clerical skills test, an in-person interview, and a reference check. Being turned down for the original position but offered a better paying position as a part-time librarian. Discovering there was a miscommunication and you are only being offered a spot on the library’s substitute librarian list.

    • June 4, 2013 at 3:34 pm

      I once drove 7 hours for an interview and when I arrived at the interview they looked at my resumé (something they should have done weeks before), realized they made a mistake and had called me for a job that I was not qualified for. Granted, I had addressed this one missing qualification in my cover lever, so they not only missed this one thing in the resumé but also my cover letter. Totally wasted my time and offered me the opportunity to come back another day and interview for a lesser position. :p -Naomi :) Obviously it is a great thing that I ended up with my current job trajectory and INALJ

  7. June 4, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    Nice title / Flaming Lips reference (: … http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tkHIMqN-YM

  8. C. King
    June 4, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Ah, so true. Funny and sadly, very insightful.

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