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Naomi House’s interview with success story Sofia.
Naomi: How did you find your current job?
Sofia: ArchivesGig and the Music Library Association’s job list. (It’s possible I saw it elsewhere as well; I followed so many lists, blogs, and boards that I honestly can’t remember where I first saw the posting.)
Naomi: Favorite library you have been to?
Sofia: This is a tough one. As an alumna, the reading rooms of McCain Library (Agnes Scott College), Widener Library (Harvard), and Wilson Library (UNC-CH) all hold a special place in my heart. It would be stretching the truth to say I picked my degree programs solely based on campus aesthetics, but I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sucker for a gorgeous library.
Naomi: Favorite book?
Sofia: Another tough choice! It’s nerdy, but — in the context of libraries and archives — coming across Diana Taylor’s The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas was a formative experience as a music graduate student. In many ways, it provided the perfect intellectual bridge between my interests in musical ethnography and audiovisual archiving, and it greatly informed my approach to library school and the archives profession.
Naomi: Favorite thing about libraries/ library technology?
Sofia: The spirit of collaboration and community that pervades the profession. First as a prospective student, then as a graduate student, and now as a new professional I feel like I’ve been welcomed with open arms and I’ve benefited greatly from incredibly generous mentors, both formal and informal. I can’t wait to be able to pay it forward.
Naomi: Any websites or feeds or blogs we should be following?
Sofia: I don’t think any of these are particularly novel, but even now that I’m not actively job-searching I still follow Open coverletters, Hiring Librarians, and Ask a manager, along with more field-specific blogs. If you’re looking for publication and/or presentation opportunities, A Library Writer’s Blog does a nice job of collecting pertinent calls for papers and articles. Finally, I’m admittedly a little biased, but I think the SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) roundtable blog is a fantastic (and relatively new) resource I wish had been around when I was in grad school.
Naomi: Best piece of job hunting advice?
Sofia: This is actually something I first encountered in another INALJ “In Six” interview: “go for quality over quantity in applying to jobs.” At the time, I was only beginning to think concretely about the job market, but it was something I came back to time and again once I was in the throes of job-searching limbo. It turned out to be especially relevant given my interest in two very competitive specialties (music librarianship and archives) because entry-level options for me were generally few and far between. I only ever applied to jobs I was genuinely interested in, but I got a markedly better response to applications for positions aligned with my subject expertise rather than more generalist opportunities. It could be tough at times to compare notes with peers applying for openings in say, reference and instruction, and to feel like a slacker in comparison because I hadn’t submitted as many applications or even had as many interviews. But I really tried to deemphasize a running tally in favor of focusing on making sure my application materials were the best they could be, thus making the best use of my time overall.
Sofía Becerra-Licha is currently project archivist at the Berklee College of Music’s Stan Getz Library. This is a new position charged with setting up the College’s archives under the auspices of a start-up grant from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission (NHPRC). Sofía earned her MSLS with a concentration in Archives and Records Management from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in August 2012. She also holds a master’s in music with a concentration in ethnomusicology from Harvard University. Sofía’s professional interests include music librarianship, audiovisual archiving, Latin American studies, and participatory archives. She is currently chronicling her first year on the job as a contributor to the SAA Student and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) Roundtable blog, as part of the series Year in the Life.