Jordon Sly …In Six

Reposted from 1/5/12

Naomi: How did you find your current job?
Jordon: TRAK Records and Library. I met Maura Barnes, a representative from TRAK at the Federal Librarians’ Networking Symposium that was held at the LOC over the last summer. She and I phoned back and forth for many months and finally she and I found something that would work. I had been spending ten-plus hours per day alternately searching for a position, questioning my life-path, and having full-blown panic attacks fearing the impending student loan bill and ending up homeless. For my other job, I found it through INALJ and I applied on a bit of a whim. I have never worked in a high school, and I wasn’t sure I was really what they were looking for, but I applied anyway. When I received the email about a phone interview I was quite excited – but at that point I had already done a handful of phone interview and presentations, so I was not filled with hope. I actually think this played to my advantage a bit. I felt comfortable in my story. I knew my interview answers easily and fluently. I was better able to just talk, as opposed to recite my qualifications.

Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Jordon: Honestly, almost all of the libraries I have visited have been my favorite. Highlights to me have been the Harvard University, Ernst Mayr Library where I held my first library position as a volunteer reference librarian ; the British Library for the King’s Collection and the tributes to Panizzi (and the recent Sci Fi exhibit they had on) ; the National Library of Ireland for its surly staff who begrudgedly allowed me to take some photos out of some sort of professional brotherhood ; the Library of Congress where I have fond memories of senior thesis research ; and the Young Men’s Institute in New Haven, CT for allowing me to do extensive digging in their archives for an article on Mechanics’ Institutes. Unfortunately, I did not grow up in an area with a great public library (Suburban Maryland). So all of my best memories are from about college forward when I was better able to explore the world of books.

Naomi: Favorite book?
Jordon: Unfair question. I will say that a current favorite is an oddity that I found at a secondhand bookseller (Book Bank, Alexandria, VA) is a book of erotic bookplates. It’s weird and a little grim; all my favorite books seem to share this quality. I think two books that constantly remind me of the perils of education and the rapid down slide one can find one’s self in if one finds one is taking one’s self too seriously is “Lucky Jim” by Kinglsy Amis and “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole. Those books really put me in my place. I have a fondness for silliness and I have always enjoyed P.G. Wodehouse and Evelyn Waugh both of whom I believe gave me a solid foundation in the school of absurdity – lessons that tend to prove more valuable than many college courses I took.

Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries/ library technology?
Jordon: It is very exciting to me that our generation of librarians are better equipped to carry out the lofty mission of the librarians at Alexandria which was to gather all the world’s knowledge. We can then give our users access to a world of learning not rooted to location, but instead linked together in an all encompassing library the size of all known knowledge (and beyond). I think there is a dual future for libraries. While the “library as space” idea may be changing, it is the nature of the library itself, and the role of the librarian I don’t see changing dramatically. It has always been the duty of the librarian to act as a form of filter against the barrage of information, and to help users contextualize and understand the stimuli assaulting them. Today, it is largely the same role, only the tools have changed. Regardless of form, it is the role of the library to allow readers access to the voices of ghosts. These ideas from the past will continue to inspire and assist the contemporaneous user and it is the assistance in finding what will inspire that is my favorite aspect of libraries be they classical, contemporary or future.

Naomi: Any websites or feeds or blogs we should be following?
Jordon: Well, in the job search, obviously INALJ. The work you guys are doing really helped me in the search. There are many library job search sites out there, but the daily emails and the Facebook updates really helped me set a schedule to apply to jobs and served as a constant reminder that despite the difficulties in finding work, there are jobs out there to be had. I use Google Reader and follow many library related blogs, but I think my favorite would have to be the blogs from the Journal of the American Society of Information Science and Technology; LISNews; Academic Librarian; and Awful Library Books (!). I also follow many libraries and professional association on Twitter. Actually, to that point, I have found Twitter to be a great tool for professional networking.

Naomi: Best piece of job hunting advice?
Jordon: I actually really hated getting advice when I was searching for a job, I felt that every article, every friend’s helpful advice, etc. kept telling me the same thing over and over again. The problem I had was that I had taken the steps mentioned but nothing was helping. If I were to give one bit of probably overstated, but still, I think quite important advice – keep current! What I believe helped me was mentioning in both cover letters and interviews that I was/am working on new things all the time. The more skills you have to bring to the table, the better and the more longevity the employee may see in you.

Good luck to those still searching. Good things will happen, stick with it!

Jordan Sly studied European History at the University of Maryland before going to Simmons College in Boston, MA for his MLIS. While at Simmons he was heavily involved in the student ASIS&T chapter and served as the co-chair of that organization. During his time in the Boston area, Jordan worked in the Harvard University, Ernst Mary library of Zoology and Biology, The Simmons GSLIS Tech Lab and the Lesley University Sherrill Library.He is currently employed as a cataloguing librarian in a engineering firm’s library and as a reference librarian at the Episcopal High School – both in Alexandria, VA.