This interview is over 1 year old and may no longer be up to date or reflect the interviewee/interviewees’ positions
by Melanie Masserant, Head Editor, INALJ NYC
Poppy Louthan … Youth Services Librarian
I’m a Youth Services Librarian and Volunteer Coordinator at a county branch of Sacramento Public Library. The Youth Services part of my role includes serving ages birth-18 with programming, collection development (more weeding than purchasing), and area layout. I do 2 story times per week, including lots of songs and dancing and craft time; I run a Tween Book Club that is gaining some serious steam; and I run an online Flash Fiction Writing contest. I also run several other kids programs per month, like LEGO Mania and craft programs, Family Game Night, etc.
As Volunteer Coordinator, I am responsible for interviewing and hiring potential volunteers, managing their schedules, monitoring their tasks, and making sure there are “other” jobs prepped for them, as needed.
Community outreach is a huge part of my job. I work hard to build and maintain relationships with local public and private schools, preschools and daycares, and other community/social services organizations. It’s such an important way to educate the public about the services we offer and to discover a section of our community that deserves more attention from us. Outreach helps me to really know the community I serve and it grows readership and attendace at library programs. I’m always wondering, “Who haven’t we reached? How can we reach them? What are their needs?” etc. The more connections I make, the stronger our ties to the community become. The stronger our ties to the community become, the more essential public libraries are to society as a whole. To me, this is one of the most important aspects of work in public libraries.
In addition to these roles, I am also on the Summer Reading Team and the Social Media Team. Beyond that, I really do wear every hat in the library world. Public services, collection maintenance, reference, readers’ advisory, and more. It’s so great.
2. After finishing the M.I.L.S program at University of Washington in 2011 how long did it take you to get a job? About how many interviews on average did you have? Many close calls?
I graduated in December of 2011. At that time I worked very part time in a small private school library and was expecting a baby in March. So, I didn’t really launch my job search until about May. Since I knew I needed to get back to work as soon as I could (after maternity leave), I applied for every library job under the sun in Seattle, which is where we lived at the time. I had a couple of close calls during that time—one in particular that involved about 8 hours of interviews/job trial. It was very close, and I believed the school I was interviewing with felt that I would be a genuinely good fit for the role they were seeking to fill. I just didn’t have the edge that my competitor had: a few more months of tech experience. *sigh….*
In applying for jobs outside the area, I only applied for The Dream Job: a youth services position in a public library system. This is what I really wanted more than anything; this is what brought us to Sacramento. I applied for the job in June, was interviewed in August, and was offered the job in October.
In total, I probably applied for 15-20 jobs, was interviewed by 5 organizations, and landed one great job.
3. Which courses in your program were the most useful?
I really loved the early-on theory classes, honestly. Like Information Behavior and the Life Cycle of Information. I know it doesn’t seem like classes like these are all that helpful in a practical sense, but they really helped me to begin to understand more about the “why” behind it all, before launching into the more practical courses. Those early classes were the ones that helped me to know that I had truly found the profession that I was meant for. I also highly valued Information in a Social Context, my Research Design class (which just happened to be held in the Netherlands), Intellectual Freedom in Public Libraries, and all of my Youth Services classes—especially the one on multicultural resources.
4. We all know the market for your field is competitive and that the job search is stressful. How did you cope during this transitional time?
In a strangely lucky sense, I had so much else going on in my life that I wasn’t really able to focus too much energy on how bleak the job search could be. I was very fortunate to land a great job within a year of graduating with my MLIS. Instead of despairing and becoming stressed over the bleak job prospects, I threw all of my extra time and energy into preparing the HELL out of myself for any possible interviews. I read and re-read any information I could find on the interviewing organization, including memorizing (the gist of) their mission and values. I memorized the job description and other information found on the job listing. I practiced answering potential questions out loud, I edited and re-edited my resume and cover letter, I specifically tailored my cover letter to each job description, and I anticipated as many interview questions as I could. I made my husband, parents, and friends listen to me rattle off, rephrase myself, and repeat things. I prepared. And I prepared. I knew it would pay off.
5. Any advice for the underemployed and new grads?
Chin up. Seriously. One of the greatest pieces of advice I received while I was job-searching was this: the people interviewing you want it to work out. They want YOU to be the answer to their needs. They want you. It’s not you against them—you’re there to find out whether or not you’d be a good fit for one another. If you’re not a good fit for them, well, they’re probably not a good fit for you. Also, really dig deep and find your greatest strengths. Exercise those strengths. Love them, nurture them, and waive them around proudly. The right people will notice.
And, as you’re already doing, keep following INALJ. This is where I first saw the listing for my current job with Sacramento Public Library. The jobs are out there. Keep looking.
When I was in school, I loved Hack Library School (hacklibraryschool.wordpress.com). I get to anything that gets shared around by other library types. With 2 kids and a FT job, though, I don’t have lots of extra time for blog-following (much to my dismay), so I’m always looking for that next great blog post.