Naomi House’s interview with success story Alex.
Naomi: How did you find your current job?
Alex: I had a pretty good thing going when I applied for my current position. I was teaching and doing research at McGill University, where I was (and still am) a PhD student. Because I already had a job, I was able to be very selective; I only applied for positions where I felt I could be very happy and successful. When I started applying, I had finished my coursework, so I didn’t need to be in Montreal anymore, but I wanted to stay relatively close to McGill in case I needed to return for the occasional meeting. I used INALJ’s state listings for Vermont, as well as for New Hampshire, New York, and Maine. But I love Vermont and that was my first choice.
I tried to play it cool when I arrived for my interview, but I was floored when I saw the Athenaeum in person. It’s one of only a handful of libraries in the United States that is also a National Historic Landmark and its history is very present. The first room you enter is a reading room with chandeliers and antique tables. The fiction room has two beautiful spiral staircases up to a balcony that houses a collection of books dating back to the late 1800s. We also have a beautiful art gallery, which is lit by skylights. The month I started, Yankee Magazine featured us in one of their articles.
Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Alex: The W. E. B. Du Bois Library at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. When I was an undergraduate there, it was open 24 hours a day and that seemed kind of magical to me. It was also where I first started working in libraries.
Naomi: Favorite book?
Alex: I think Calvin and Hobbes is just about perfect. My go-to recommendation for adults is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. If any of my patrons read this, they’ll probably roll their eyes because they’ve heard me recommend it so frequently. But it’s fantastic.
Most recently, I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore, which was also very good.
Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries?
Without a doubt, my favorite thing about working in libraries is interacting with patrons. I love that I get to spend my days helping people learn new things, track down long-lost friends, and find new favorite books. It’s very satisfying. Something I love about working in very small public libraries in particular is the ability – in fact, the need – to have a diverse set of responsibilities. It keeps things challenging and fun, and there are many opportunities to learn.
Naomi: Any websites or feeds or blogs we should be following?
Alex: Well, my blog and my twitter feed are just riveting, lemmy tell you. I also just heard of In the Library with the Lead Pipe, which is a peer-reviewed library blog. I’ve been having a great time reading my way through it. And I think every librarian should watch this video.
Naomi: Best piece of job hunting advice?
Alex: Apply limits to your job search. There are a lot of jobs out there and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Pick a few different locations where you’d like to live, and only apply for jobs that you think you’d really enjoy.
I’d also recommend applying to jobs a good distance away from library schools, not just because you’re less likely to be competing with people who have very similar resumes, but because there are some really wonderful libraries out there that I think newly-minted MLSes sometimes overlook.
Alex Lent is a librarian at the St. Johnsbury Athenaeum and a PhD student at McGill University, where he studies public libraries that serve populations of less than 10,000. His first library job was located on the top floor of the world’s tallest academic library and his second was located underground, in a converted military bunker.
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