Job Search Taking Longer than Expected? Volunteer To Gain Experience!

by Sara Dixon, Head Editor, INALJ Kansas

Job Search Taking Longer than Expected?
Volunteer To Gain Experience!

inaljbiopicWhen I got done with library school almost 2 years ago, I wanted a library job, but I put off really focusing on the job search.  I had a job throughout school that would continue to support me financially.  I was applying for jobs and checking INALJ daily digest regularly, but I was not overly concerned.  Things at my current job were going well.  However, as I saw my graduation date looming further into the past, my concern began growing that if I could not find a library job soon, I would quickly fall behind all the librarians gaining experience on a daily basis and newly graduated librarians.  So I decided to offer my services as a volunteer to my local library.

This was one of the best things I could have done.

It has since reinforced the whole reason I went to library school in the first place: I love helping people!  It also reinvigorated my job search.  I know where I should be.

Due to my day job, there was only limited time I could give to the library.  Luckily, they were planning evening basic technology classes that would fit in with my current schedule.  It was a three part series: one class on using a Mouse; one class on basic Internet; and one class on basic email.  As someone who spends a majority of almost everyday on a computer, I was afraid I would have little patience teaching patrons how to do such simple skills, like use a mouse.  I was actually a little surprised there were people out there who still didn’t know how to use a mouse. But, I will tell you, the mousing class in particular has been the most rewarding.  Mousing is so basic, but it’s an important foundational skill that one must master in order to use most library computers.  Many students just missed the digital explosion and are now struggling to catch up.

During one recent class, I assisted a stroke victim.  She was newly left handed and had limited dexterity in her one good hand, which made gripping and positioning a mouse fairly difficult.  We tried a couple different settings and when she was finally able to point and click correctly, we were both so excited.  Each student in these classes is so grateful for our assistance, that I could be exhausted after a long day, but I always leave these classes feeling the greatest exhilaration.

Soon after I started teaching and assisting with these classes, the librarian over the classes agreed to let me assist her during one of her evening shifts.  In between providing computer guest passes and helping with printer problems, she lets me assist with any number of projects she’s working on.  We are working on a literacy event, a new series of classes, readers advisories, and anything else that comes up.  It’s work that I truly enjoy and I am so grateful for the opportunity.

As an added bonus, volunteer work always looks good on a resume!  So if you are still looking for a library job, just thinking about library work, or looking for a way to gain some experience, I would encourage you to volunteer with a library in your area.  Even if the tasks are not your preference, try it out.  It may be surprisingly rewarding, and it may lead to those tasks you really want to work on.  If public library work is not really for you, there are volunteer opportunities in other library organizations.  And hey, maybe all that volunteer work will turn into a job!

Naomi House

Naomi House, MLIS, is the founder and publisher of the popular webzine and jobs list (formerly I Need a Library Job) and former CMO (Chief Marketing Officer) of, a crowdfunding platform focused on African patrimony, heritage and cultural projects. INALJ was founded in October 2010 with the assistance of her fellow Rutgers classmate, Elizabeth Leonard. Its 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. INALJ has had over 21 Million page hits and helped many, many thousands of librarians 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 one month. Naomi believes that well-sourced quantity is quality in this narrow job market and INALJ reflects this with many new jobs published daily. She has also written for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 LexisNexis Government Info Pro and many other publications in the past decade. She presents whenever she can, including serving on three panels at the American Library Association's Annual Conference in Las Vegas; as breakout presenter at OCLC EMEA in Cape Town, South Africa; as a keynote speaker at the Virginia Library Association annual meeting; at the National Press Club in Washington DC; McGill University in Montreal, Canada; the University of the Emirates, Dubai, MLIS program and the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Naomi was a Reference, Marketing and Acquisitions Librarian for a contractor at a federal library outside Washington, DC, and has been living and working in Budapest, Hungary and Western New York State. She spent years running her husband’s moving labor website, fixed and sold old houses and assisted her husband cooking delicious Pakistani food. She is preparing to re-enter the workforce and is job hunting. Her husband is now the co-editor of INALJ, a true support!  She has heard of spare time but hasn’t encountered it lately. She pronounces INALJ as eye-na-elle-jay.