My interview with success story Tyler
Naomi: How did you find your current job?
Tyler: While I was in library school, I worked as a graduate assistant at UNC’s Brauer Math/Physics Library. I developed really fantastic rapport with my supervisor, Zari Kamarei, during that time. She left to be the Head of Science and Engineering Libraries at the University of Rochester soon after I graduated in May 2011. Months passed, and I applied to lots of jobs with the occasional interview, but no offers. In January, while trawling through endless job ads, I came across the Physics-Optics-Astronomy position at U of R. It had come up on several listservs: STS-L, PAMNET, and several library school lists. I was totally floored when I found out that Zari was the supervisor for the position. A couple of quick emails later, Zari encouraged me to apply, so I did. After a Skype interview, a campus interview, and lots of nail-biting, I got the offer in March and moved up to Rochester in May.
Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Tyler: I know it’s cliché, but the Main Reading Room at the Library of Congress is jaw-droppingly stunning. I’m also partial to the Grand Reading Room in Wilson Library at UNC-Chapel Hill. It’s the very image of Hallowed Quiet Library to me.
Naomi: Favorite book?
Tyler: Oh, dear. Can I have two? Les Misérables by Victor Hugo is my favorite bit of literature, though I haven’t read it in a while because it’s quite the commitment of time. For lighter fare, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams is a huge staple of nerd culture. Should be required reading for life. I find myself chuckling about it most days.
Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries / library technology?
Tyler: I love how libraries have a core mission of enabling access to information without ulterior motives. Growing up, I don’t know where I would have been without my public library to open me up to a wider world. Google can give you nearly endless hits about most anything in return for your ad views, but libraries are really the only institutions that exist primarily to give you the very best information for what you need, whether that’s a terrible vampire romance or a high-energy physics journal article. It’s so cool to work in an industry that’s primarily user-focused in that way.
Also, librarians are overwhelmingly satisfied with their jobs. Not everyone and not everywhere, but you could chat with most librarians for five minutes and know without a doubt that they’re in love with librarianship.
Naomi: Any websites or feeds or blogs we should be following?
Tyler: Jenica Rogers, the library director at SUNY Potsdam, runs an incredibly insightful blog called Attempting Elegance. Her boldly stated views have strongly influenced how I think about my career, the job search, and what it means to be a librarian. If you read no one else, read her.
Barbara Fister blogs at Library Babel Fish. She has a ton of interesting things to say about college librarianship, and her views on information literacy never fail to inspire.
Profhacker is a fantastic collaboration in the higher ed community—including a couple of librarians!—which focuses on how technology interacts with the classroom and academic life.
Naomi: Best piece of job hunting advice?
Tyler: First and foremost, don’t freak out! (, said the Chief of Freaking Out.) More specifically, when you do freak out, try to take some deep breaths, process that feeling, and move on as best you can. The job market is scary and disappointing, and at some point, you’ll completely lose it and be unwaveringly certain that you’ll never ever get a job. THIS IS A NORMAL WAY TO FEEL. Once you get used to the fact that this journey may take a while, you’ll be ridiculously better prepared to settle in for the long haul.
As far as applying for jobs, you simply must customize each and every application package. It’s infinitely better to send out one well-polished application for a job that actually fits what you want to do than to send ten generic applications to the first ten jobs you come across. Putting in the effort to properly research an organization and write them a slamming cover letter takes a LOT of time, but that effort will shine through when a search committee member is on application number 78 and praying for anything other than generic.
Use your network. If you don’t have a network, build one. The important thing to know here is that networking is NOT standing around at awkward cocktail parties and reciting elevator speeches. Networking is more about getting to know people, looking out for THEIR best interests, and helping them to know what your best interests are. Cold-calling won’t get you far, but when you can establish relationships with key people and help them out, they’ll be much more willing to help you out.
Complete absence from the library world will make it hard to break back in. While you’re not gainfully employed as a librarian, do something interesting that you can talk about. Volunteer with a community library. Learn a programming language while developing a useful library-related project. Serve on an ALA committee. Read interesting journal articles. Have coffee with other job-seeking librarians and keep your conversation chops sharp. In sum: do something, anything, that helps you stay professionally active and aware.
And perhaps most importantly, do something else that takes your mind off the job search. Knit. Read trashy fiction. Ride a bike. You’ll drive yourself crazy if you spend all your time writing cover letters and flitting from awkward networking event to awkward networking event. Being a real person with real non-library interests will only help you.
Tyler Dzuba is the new Physics-Optics-Astronomy Librarian for the River Campus Libraries at the University of Rochester. After finishing his MSLS at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011 and spending a year on the job market, he is thrilled to be starting his career with a perfectly fitting job. In between the end of library school and this job, Tyler worked as an audience research consultant, a barista, and a tech services jack-of-all-trades. If he weren’t trying to be a librarian, he’d probably be working on his latte art behind the bar in some trendy coffee shop. Tyler spends a great deal of time thinking about the undergraduate experience of citation and plagiarism, science literacy, the challenges facing new librarians on the job market, and coffee. He blogs about the transition from not-librarian to librarian, among other things, at Librarian Tomorrow, and tweets mostly about other things as @silent_d.