Free Advice (Literally) for New Librarians

by Naomi House, MLIS

Free Advice (Literally) for New Librarians

DSCN0229INALJ along with many other jobs blogs out there, is full of great advice for new and transitioning professionals.

Go to conferences! Tailor your resumés and cover letters each time! Take professional development classes!  Network!  Join associations!  Actively participate IN associations!  Volunteer!  Take on an internship! 

This is really great advice with a HUGE caveat- every single thing you seem to read about how LIS pros (librarians, staff, etc) can advance their careers has a significant cost associated with it whether it is in dollars or in time or both.  Unpaid internships require time and offer no monetary reward for work given that should and is paid to others, for example.  Everything has a cost.  So lets start with what inspired me to write this post, two tweets that came across my feed.

Chris Magnifico Free Advice Sarah Kendzior Free Advice Credentialism Yep- both of these apply to our field.  When I started in libraries ten years ago as staff I had no problem finding jobs.  I was offered 5 jobs when I relocated from Ithaca, NY to Washington, DC in mid-2007.  Shortly after that the economy dropped and the jobs dried up.  They were already well off the peak and growth in our field is slower than average.  Every type of library saw funding slashed if they even remained open at all and staff were made to do more with less (I hate this term, btw) or lost their jobs.  As Sarah Kendzior, a writer on politics, economy, media and columnist for points out credentialism and the debt just from the degree is already a very heavy burden for recent grads in a down economy, and most professional librarian positions require at least one Master’s degree.  And this isn’t going to change. I do want to add that LIS programs often have some fantastic faculty and I was very lucky to have the professors I did at Rutgers SCI. High Cost This post was initially inspired by Chris Magnifico‘s tweet above about the economics of the advice given to new grads and transitioning professionals.  While at we strive to offer articles on free and low cost tools and services, we also offer plenty of good but ultimately expensive advice.  I am not attending my absolute favorite conference this year, SLA in Vancouver, because I did not have the funds.  If I had the funds I would be going, but for many local conferences are all they can ever afford.  Lets face it we are often grossly underpaid in our field for a group with MLS/MLIS degrees.  Conferences do have great value, but also have high costs for many.  Professional development costs money, too.  Associations have discounted rates for the unemployed but there is a cost involved.  Other advice often given requires many hours of your time and many people have other commitments and cannot give more.  They also resent being required after paying for a degree and getting experience feeling obligated to give their time away for free. FREE Advice So what can we do to help ourselves develop and become recognized in our field that has zero cost at all?  Nothing– there will always be a time component that has to go into any professional development.  We just have to assess what is reasonable with out schedules.  However, each of the following suggestions has a cost of $0 and are all online, so they do not require you to go anywhere.

  • TWITTER:  Twitter has been hugely influential in my career beyond INALJ (sadly @INALJ was taken so we were @needalibraryjob but as of 2015 we are now @INALJNaomi) and has exposed me to many people I consider leaders in our field who may not be the speakers at conferences we see time and again.  You do not have to spend very long daily or weekly to get a lot out of the conversations being had on Twitter.
  • TWEETCHATS:  One aspect of Twitter I have been using more recently is the chance to participate in Tweetchats.  Usually they are weekly or monthly and 1-1.5 hours each.  I was inspired by #libchat, #slatalk and #uklibchat to start #inaljchat Mondays at 9pm ET to crowdsource with followers topics related to job hunting and LIS.
  • MOOCs and FREE ONLINE CLASSES:  Truth: I have signed up for 3 MOOCs in the past and never finished even one.  MOOCs are often taught by professors and affiliated with a university.  You can also use free lessons at Khan Academy, for example.
  • LINKEDIN:  I transitioned from using a Facebook group as my main conversation space to LinkedIn because private LinkedIn groups cannot be crawled by search engines.  I had someone write me that a question they asked on Facebook was found by Google search results and they were upset that potential employers could see it.
  • VIRTUAL CONFERENCES and FREE EVENTS:  There are many free online events you can attend and present at (once again that time in component) such as the Library Worldwide Virtual 2.014 held in October.  Another fantastic resource that I link to on the sidebar is Sarah Deringer’s (a librarian who has in the past been an INALJ volunteer) Calendar of Free Online Webinars.  Bookmark it!
  • FACEBOOK:  There are many Facebook groups where you can discuss the field and interact with librarians.  ALA Think Tank, unaffiliated with ALA, is the most popular one but INALJ has one too.  Most of our conversations take place on Twitter and LinkedIn, however.
  • TUMBLR: The Tumblarian community is very active and works together well.  For example they consistently use the same tag, Library, so that they are linked together and found easier.  The most popular Tumblarian by far and creator of the list I linked to is The Lifeguard Librarian.
  • LISTSERVS:  Listservs are great but usually attached to an association or university, so membership has a cost.  This may be seen as a perk of the cost you already spent.  Listservs vary greatly from the super helpful to the very inappropriate so lurk first.
  • OTHER SOCIAL MEDIA/SHARING:  Reddit, GitHub, Pinterest and more!  There are tons of specialty, especially tech communities to explore online.  I have found that even when I have lived away from a thriving library community I could always find communities online to learn from and interact with.  You can build your reputation just like on Twitter, FB and Tumblr and make a name for yourself across the field without ever leaving home or even meeting the people you interact with.
  • STANDARD RESUME and COVER LETTER TEMPLATES: We hear this constantly that every resumé and cover letter needs to be tailored to the position.  But you can save time by creating a template to work off of.  Most of my cover letters have very similar structures and not much difference in the first and last paragraph from letter to letter.  For my resumé I made a master one with every single possible thing I may want to put on there then instead of adding to it each time I prune it.
  • Blogs:  Make one or follow some fantastic librarians who blog as well.  Both take a lot of time but at least there is no publication lag time so the ideas and conversations are often very current and relevant.  I found most of the ones I read daily through Twitter and I list some of my daily reads at the very bottom of all pages on  If you want to make a blog and you want to develop followers you need to be consistent and for no cost there are many platforms such as WordPress and Blogger.  Whenever I talk to someone I respect like a colleague, professor or just someone I ask a question of on social media my go to question is “who should I be following/reading?”
  • DAILY ADVOCACY:  Having a taxi speech or elevator speech at the ready can help both you and the non-LIS listener.  I know corporate libraries have been shrinking or being shuttered so these mini-advocacy sessions can expose potential employers to our value.  It may also lead to a job, though this is not very common.  At the very least you have changed someone’s attitude towards what we do and our value, hopefully.

These are just a start.  Please use the comments to offer other constructive and no cost solutions! * I contacted all three people mentioned in the tweets for their permission to use the screenshots in advance and was given permission.  Permission does not = endorsement. :)

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (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 has had over 19.5 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,, 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. 


  2 comments for “Free Advice (Literally) for New Librarians

  1. Harold Rougeux
    June 5, 2014 at 9:33 pm

    I was able to sign up for a free trial to learn Springshare LibGuides as an individual. I noted during my sign up that I was interested in learning the product and the company rep was happy to set me up with a free trial. Basically, I just looked at requirements for some of the jobs I was applying for, identified a skill-set I didn’t have, and figured out a way to get it. I think the initiative helped me get my current job, and I use LibGuides often.

  2. Jessica Kiebler
    June 5, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Great article, Naomi! I am employed as a full-time Librarian but it took me a long time to find this position and I struggle daily with finding the time to remain up to date with the field. I never know when I may be looking for a new job so it’s always important to be doing the things you suggest in this post. Thank you for posting free and relatively easy tasks that can have a big impact. I REALLY wanted to go to the ALA Conference this year and much like many others in the field, I couldn’t get the time off or the funds to do so. One thing I really appreciate about ALA is how many resources related to the conference they post afterwards online and in archives. I’ve gotten to read whole poster sessions a few months after the conference just by searching for the resources. If you keep up with the ALA newsletters, they’re always posting conference related information for people who couldn’t make it.

    As a natural learner and Librarian, I always want to know EVERYTHING and take every opportunity but you can’t get frustrated when that’s not possible. Figure out what you want to get out of your career and focus on the tasks that get you there whether that’s just getting employed or publishing a paper.

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