Joe Janes – Candidate for President of the American Library Association
Let’s start with things we all already know: The job market in libraries has been rocky for a while, though it is getting somewhat better as time goes on and budgets stabilize and occasionally even improve. There’s lots of guidance about how to pursue these jobs, and most of it is correct and helpful: get a great education and preparation; network and make professional connections; be as flexible as you can about kind of work, kind of institution (libraries and beyond), geography; prepare and present yourself and your documentation well. (We’ve decided not to admit more than a few people to our degree program who say, in their statements, with great earnestness and enthusiasm, how much they want to attend some other school.) All good, all useful.
We all also know that much of any hiring process involves dumb luck, timing, and the sometimes elusive “fit;” I’ve been on both sides of those and they can sting when they don’t work in your favor.
I’ve seen a lot of students and alumni over the years, who I thought the world of, struggle mightily to get a first position for seemingly no good reason, so I won’t pretend to have the magic key that opens the magic door. I do know, though, that there are lots of great people out there who will do great things, but who haven’t yet gotten their foot in the right door. That’s frustrating, maddening, and eventually discouraging and dispiriting.
Don’t lose the optimism. Remember what it was that first attracted you to this field and this work: the excitement of having found what calls you, the work and the institution that just feels right, that feels like what you were meant to do. I see that idealism and passion in our new students every year, and it’s infectious and energizing. I say all the time that the work we do is the most important work that can be done, because we make every other human activity better. There is great nobility, even grandeur, in what we do. There’s also grubbiness and detail and routine and crud, which can obscure and cloud your vision, so it’s important to look up once in a while and see the dignity and significance of what we do and what we represent.
I’m running for president of ALA because I want to tell that story as widely as possible, to further convince the world that we represent critical and necessary infrastructure throughout society, that libraries matter and deserve greater support. I also want to help us all think together about how we move forward to make our work even better and more effective in an ever-changing information world. You can find out more at joejanes.org.
Please know that if I win, you’ll have a president who knows you’re out there, and that I’ll work every day, as hard as I can, to make it possible for you to do the work you were meant to do. I’d appreciate your support, and your vote. Thanks.