But I Can’t Move For A Job!

by Elinor Crosby, former Head Editor, INALJ Nova Scotia and PEI
previously published 12/9/13

But I Can’t Move For A Job!

elinorcrosby01What happens if you graduate from your Masters or Technician program and intend to stay in the city or town you went to school in? For some of us that is the only financially feasible possibility; we may have a family that can’t be uprooted, too much debt and not enough savings to handle a move, or we may already have a job or jobs to supports us in our search for a library job. What then?

You have to get in the system and work it, but the truth is, getting a job in your local library system can sometimes take a while, especially if there is a local school or schools that offer library-related programs. For instance, my small city has both a Masters of Library and Information Studies and a Library Technicians program, both of which graduate a large number of people every spring. If even half of each of the graduating classes intends to stay in the same city, or the same province, it creates a glut of over-qualified people applying for library clerk and library assistant positions.

Just about the only way to get in to my local system is to apply to clerk positions even though you’re over-qualified for them. Over one hundred applications come in for most clerk positions, and about 90% of them applicants are eliminated for not addressing the job requirements in their cover letters. The people hiring clerks don’t care about your thesis or your course work; they care about your customer-service experience. They may keep your subject-specialization in mind for later cross-training, but what they need to hire right away is someone who can follow the instructions on the application and who will give excellent customer-service to patrons while they go about their duties.

The other problem with not being able to move for a job, is that most of the paraprofessional positions that open up tend to be part-time, some of them to the extreme. My first library job was as a Sunday Supervisor, and I only had seven scheduled hours a week; the library job seeker needs to see this as an opportunity, though!  If you live in the city in which you went to school, chances are you already have a job or jobs to sustain you. Seven hours a week is not a lot to add to your work schedule for the duration of a probationary period. If you’re only working part-time, it’s also easy to pick up extra hours. I usually managed between 5-10 extra hours a week, and when summer vacation hit, I was working almost full-time!

Not being able to move for a job can be a hindrance to your job search, but if you have established roots in a community you can use that to your advantage.

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list INALJ.com (formerly I Need a Library Job). Founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard, INALJ’s social media presence has grown to include Facebook (retired in 2016), Twitter and a LinkedIn group, in addition to the interviews, articles and jobs found on INALJ.com. INALJ has had over 18.5 Million page views and helped thousands of librarians and LIS folk find employment! Through grassroots marketing, word of mouth and a real focus on exploring unconventional resources for job leads, INALJ grew from a subscription base of 20 friends to a website with over 500,000 visits in a month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 & 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro. She presents whenever she can, most recently thrice at the American Library Association's Annual Conference as well as breakout talk presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa and as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting, at the National Press Club, McGill University, the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She was a 2013 Library Journal Mover & Shaker and has served on the University of Maryland iSchool Board from 2014-2017. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has relocated to being nomadic. She runs her husband’s moving labor website, KhanMoving.com, fixes and sells old houses and assists her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food as well. She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay. 


  11 comments for “But I Can’t Move For A Job!

  1. LMS
    August 21, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    I honestly think that library hiring managers are way too picky, and only can be so due to the over abundance of candidates. For example, a public library in my area is seeking a paraprofessional to staff the “maker space” room, but wants someone who is comfortable with hand tools (saws, drills, hammers, sander); knows about digital fabrication software like Ink Scape, ThinkerCad, CorelDraw; has at least 2 years of library experience (minimum); can field reference questions and work the reference/circulation desk; knows about new technologies and can teach them; can explain how to use the OPAC and databases; is proficient in Microsoft Office Suite; and has to be available mornings, afternoons, weekends, and some evenings. All of this for 12-15 hours/week at $15.24/hour. Good luck finding a handyman who also happens to be a librarian.

  2. August 21, 2014 at 9:48 am

    It is very frustrating to know are you qualified for a position and there are just none to be had around where you live. I have applied to several (upwards of 25 places) since being in my last semester of grad school until now. I have even had about 7-9 interviews, AND even been called into teach a lesson. But alas no job offers. However I DO get job interviews and job offers from places that are a 3 hour commute one way. That is just not feasible (as you put it) when I have a wonderful husband whom I love to spend time with and 2 precious boys who are 7 & 9. The waiting game is hard.
    Thank you for the encouragement in this blog posting. I work as a K-12 substitute teacher in 8 different school districts so I stay pretty busy ( ok alot busy!), but I do intend on applying to or even volunteering at our local library so (1) I can get a foot in the door (2) make connections that might bring about job offers, and (3) stay current in the many trends of librarianship!

    That right job is out there. I just need to keep pressing on….

    • Mary
      August 21, 2014 at 4:57 pm

      I haven’t read the comments below, so if I repeat, just consider it additional confirmation of the earlier post. I feel your pain. It’s hard to know that you have energy, skills, interest, preparation to fill a position that goes to someone else for one reason or another.
      It helps to sus out who may be looking at retirement and targeting your part time or volunteer work to that institution. Since most jobs are filled through networking, it helps to check whether you have any connections through friends, relatives, school mates, church members 6 or 7 levels of separation (I think I’ve got the wrong term here, but you get where I’m going.) Just being friendly and open in all areas of your life helps opportunities arise. When we first moved to TN and spoke to our neighbors about our mutual and diverse interests and backgrounds, I learned about an upcoming opening at the local library. I inquired, but it hadn’t actually opened yet. I eventually applied when it became official. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get an interview, much less the position, but it began some interesting discussions.

      I thought it would be easier here since there were no local universities pumping out newly minted competition, but not so much. Through subbing, I learned it’s a matter of “knowing someone” and that explained part of why the 6 or so other jobs in education I applied for got me nowhere. Hopefully, it at least got me on the radar for future openings for which no applicants “know someone”. I do know of subs who have been hired from the sub list, so that’s comforting.

      You may also want to consider offering to do a book discussion group as a volunteer.

      Hang in there. You’re right, relocating at this point would be a nightmare for all of you, even leaving aside the problems of weather management…



  3. Jen
    August 20, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Great topic to address. It really isn’t feasible for many people to move, and just saying “Oh, make it happen” isn’t realistic. Most commonly, it’s because of a spouse or other family obligations, like caring for a parent/other relative, needing a friend or relative for childcare, etc. Many people have homes that they can’t afford to sell, either because the market is terrible where they live or they’re severely underwater. For instance, my husband makes significantly more than I do. There is no way we could give up his large salary to move somewhere for the small amount I would make, and I’m not even a brand new librarian! Plus, he almost certainly couldn’t find a job in his field if we moved to a small town, which is where you’re more likely to find a job.

    The advice here is great–focus on making as many connections as you can in your local area. Attend any and all professional events, like local conferences. Get involved with any local librarian groups. If you can’t even get a paraprofessional job, try volunteering to at least get to know the local librarians more. Get involved online in conferences, ALA committees, etc. You do have to work harder to get a local job sometimes, but if that’s your only choice, make the best of it.

  4. August 20, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Hi! I recently went to a regional conference in Arizona where I was told by a hiring librarian (at a small academic college) that she discarded any applicants that lived over 4-5 hours away. What can we do if we are told to apply far afield but those hiring committees won’t even look at us? I have had a modest amount of success with getting interviews and part time gigs in my city (and even got an interview with a federal job out of state that was looking nation wide for candidates) but nothing from the farther away gig. I put in my cover letter that I was willing to move and mentioned if I had family in the area. Do you have any tips for applicants who are applying out of state?

    • Elinor
      August 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

      Have you made any follow-up calls once you’ve submitted your application? Perhaps some phone calls would convince them of your sincerity?

      • September 4, 2014 at 11:54 am

        I have but I mostly get a sheepish, oh, we went with someone else…

  5. Amy Filiatreau
    December 9, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    I always feel like library schools should make it more clear to Master’s students that librarianship is a field in which you often must move to where the jobs are, especially if you want to advance your career and take on greater leadership roles. It is just not a field that has very many openings, nor very much upward mobility in any one library system or school or locale. I would encourage librarians not to limit themselves geographically if at all possible. I’m an academic library director and since I got my MLIS I’ve moved 5 times. That’s above the norm, but with each move I was able to move ahead financially and in leadership. If I had had to stay in one place, I never would have had the opportunities I have had (nor would I have been able to experience so many different cities and parts of the country).

    Now, when I am hiring for a position, I get scores of resumes from local librarians and others who are clearly just looking for a job, any job, in their local area, and who are not necessarily a good fit for the opening we have. This is not a good use of your time when you’re applying. If you want something local and you don’t have the experience for it, at least explain why you want THIS job, in detail, in your cover letter, and if the answer is just “well it’s close to my house,” you shouldn’t be applying and you’re likely not going to get an interview – the search committee can see right through that.

    If at all possible, be open to moving, it’s good for you and it’s good for your career. If you absolutely cannot move anywhere, and you don’t live in a huge metropolis with lots of opportunities, be aware that you may never find that dream job and you may be stuck for a long time. This is just the reality of the library job market in most places.

    • Canada INALJ
      December 14, 2013 at 9:56 am

      I agree that it’s best to be open to moving–many of my more mobile classmates got jobs right after graduation. I did apply to jobs outside my province when they were something I was really excited about, or in a library system I’d heard good things about, but I concentrated my search locally. I moved here on purpose! I like it here! I also had no money after graduation to be able to move. It would have been a gargantuan undertaking.

      This article was meant to provide a bit of comfort to the job seekers who may feel discouraged by the fact that they are unable to look for work that isn’t where they currently live.

      Thank you for the perspective from the hiring side! You made some very good points about people looking for a job for the sake of having a job or having a job nearby, rather than it being something they are really passionate about.


    • Rosa
      August 20, 2014 at 2:34 pm

      I’d like to also add that not only is it not a good use of your time to apply for positions for which you are not remotely qualified, but it may actually work against you. It is one thing to stretch – I’ve done it personally, and often successfully. It is another thing entirely to apply for a position where you are clearly missing a critical component. For example, in my academic library system, subject librarians are required – absolutely, by our union agreements and institutional bylaws – to have a second Masters degree in one of the subject areas they cover. So, if you are going to be a science librarian, you must have a degree in one of a specified set of science disciplines. I say that in the ad – that this is an absolute requirement, and I list the allowable subject areas and degrees – yet last time I hired a science librarian, about 90% of the applications were from people with a humanities degree and an MLS. I have an English degree myself, and have been a science librarian – but not at a school where the science degrees were absolute requirements. I couldn’t make it clearer in the job ads if I wrote it in bold at the top of the posting. I realize people are desperate, and I empathize, but applying to a position for which you are absolutely clearly not qualified does nothing but frustrate hiring managers, who then often have to fill out paperwork giving reasons why each candidate was not interviewed. Frustrating hiring managers is not a good way to get yourself noticed.

      • Mary
        August 21, 2014 at 5:18 pm

        Thank you for your insights! It never occurred to me nor had I seen it mentioned anywhere that there might be a statistical report required on the hiring end although I do think it’s a good exercise to help hiring folk to focus carefully on their responsibilities, a kind of self exam revealing to themselves what role priorities and criteria play in finding the best available candidate for the open position.

        After all, that’s the goal: to find a match that will both add to the mix of talents/experience in place and easily fit into the existing chemistry of the site.



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