Erin Wells, Head Editor, INALJ Oregon
Consider Rural Libraries
Many larger cities are saturated with job-hunting librarians and my hometown of Portland Oregon is no exception. After I finished my MLS in 2012 I quickly realized that the number of job seekers significantly outweighed the number of jobs. This helped me realize that it was time for me to relocate and I began my nationwide job search.
I had always counted out moving to a rural community because I thought that it was too big of a change and that the libraries in these communities would not provide the same level of service that the larger library systems did. In my job search I did research on towns with available jobs and found that things were different than I had expected. People from rural communities were proud to live there and greatly supported their library. I sent an application off to a small town in Kansas and never expected to hear back, but a month later after interviewing and traveling there I accepted a Library Director position.
Although the culture is different than Portland, the opportunity to learn and grow in my career has been invaluable. In my year and half in Kansas I have been able to learn more than I could have dreamed if I had stayed in Portland. Being the Director of a rural library means that you have a very small staff and there are hardly any tasks in the library that you do not do. A typical day for me can be working on the budget, writing grants, and running programs, but a typical day can also include cataloging, wrapping books, and working on the circ desk. My job has taught me how to multitask, but it has also taught me about every function of a library.
Living in a different part of the country can be difficult and it is even more difficult when you move to a small community, however I believe that the rewards are greater. People have been helpful, gracious, and eager to get to know me. I am able to get to know my patrons on a first name basis and everyone in the community seems to know who I am even if I have not met them previously.
Moving to a different part of the country can change you but librarians are in a unique position to be able to change their community as well. The library is a lifeline for many people in any city but in rural communities often it is the only place to go when there is no bookstore, no, Kinkos, no internet café, and no youth center. A rural library provides all of these necessary services and more, and the impact can immediately be felt.
The skills that I have gained have prepared me for any potential job that I may take in the future. My experience working in a rural community has changed me for the better as well. There are many people in the community I live that only wanted to live there temporarily and found that they love the place they live and could never imagine leaving. When you are looking for a job do not discount a job because you believe it is in the middle of nowhere. If you keep your options open you will be rewarded by the great opportunities that are out there in places you would not expect.