Ask a Special Librarian – April Edition

Ask a Special Librarian – April Edition
Tracy Z. Maleeff
Library Resources Manager at Duane Morris LLP in Philadelphia
@LibrarySherpa &


Tracy_Z_MaleeffNo money, more problems?
I once overheard someone lament, “I can’t even afford to job hunt right now.” It’s true that it could be a costly proposition to get new clothes, business cards and other items needed for a job search. But, it doesn’t have to be! Here are some cost-saving tips on how to get a few of the things you need to begin that search for a first job or career transition on a budget.

Business Cards
Whether you are attending a professional conference or networking at a local event, you need business cards in order to connect with people who could ultimately lead you to a job! One budget-friendly way to accomplish this task is by going to Vistaprint to purchase custom-made business cards. Most of the time, you can get 100 cards for about $8. They seem to perpetually have sales, discounts and coupons available. Your own costs may vary due to customization and shipping. If you can afford to spend a little more to have options regarding quality of card stock and design, check out MOO or Zazzle.  Already have business cards but need to update them? One option is to just purchase personalized address labels where you list your social media links and slap that to the reverse side of your existing cards. If you decide to go with an online retailer, just know that you have options and mostly likely can find discount codes as well!

Professional Headshot
That selfie of you at the beach probably isn’t the best photo to use for your professional social media network, e.g. LinkedIn. It’s a good idea to have a professional portrait taken that you can utilize not just for social media, but professional conferences and even if you are an author of an article. One budget-savvy way to get this done is by paying attention to discount sites like Groupon or Living Social.  I often see offers for portrait studios like, Picture People, for packages as low as $16. Again, your offers and total price may vary based on location and customization. Getting a professional headshot is not financially out of reach if you employ some bargain-hunting research tactics.

What a great excuse to buy new clothes, right? Well, not if you just don’t have it in your budget. If you don’t already have any interview-ready clothes, some of the obvious options are to seek out places like consignment shops, thrift stores or even just sale shopping in general. But, I bet you already knew that. You also might not need a completely new interview outfit. You could get away with just purchasing some accessories or even just a jacket in order to be presentable in an interview. I doubt this is telling you anything you don’t already know! My biggest piece of advice for interview clothes actually requires spending money. It’s worth it to you in the long run to have at least one designated interview outfit at the ready. Keep it clean and ready for action. Don’t wear it often for non-interview reasons in order to keep it fresh. You may need to spend money now to get this ready-to-wear outfit, but it will save you money in that you’re not always scrambling to purchase clothes or tempted to buy new ones “just because.” It will also save you time and stress down the road from having to worry about what to wear when your interview requests come rolling in.

Of course, there are a variety of life hacks to solve these problems and I only hit on a few here. You may already be on top of them! But, just a reminder that when you are overwhelmed with the prospect of job hunting that there are some ways to alleviate the financial burden of investing in yourself.
Reader Submitted Q & A:
Sheryl Ramer Gesoff manages the Twitter account for SLA’s New York Chapter (@SLANewYork) and Tweets as herself as @PodcastLib. She reached out to me, via Twitter @LibrarySherpa, with some questions.

Q: What podcasts do you listen to, personally and professionally?
A: I’ve enjoyed podcasts for a long time and it’s refreshing to see that they appear to be making a comeback or at least a resurgence. For my personal listening, I enjoy the Nerdist Podcast. Chris Hardwick is truly a master interviewer and he manages to get some of the biggest celebrities to open up and give insightful interviews. Of more recent note, I was riveted like many by the Serial podcast from NPR. I also like to listen to French language podcasts from time to time to keep my skills somewhat sharp. (Well, at least I attempt to!) Professionally, I like to change it up a lot. Right now, I’m listening to tech-centric podcasts. Some currently in my queue are the Podcast, BBC Radio 5’s Let’s Talk About Tech and This Week in Tech. Previously, I listened to more law and legal-centric podcasts.

Q: What is the best way to learn about other library jobs besides your own (example: a law librarian learning about an academic library setting)?
A: I would say that good old-fashioned networking is the number one way to learn about an info pro job in another field. Get to know people whose professional world you want to know more about. That could range from a cold call of just reaching out to someone you don’t know, or scouring your LinkedIn profile to see which of your connections knows someone you’d like to be connected with. This is where a professional association like SLA can help. Not only can you attend sessions dealing with other industries at the annual conference, but you can simply get to know people in other fields through the association itself. Ask for an informational interview, simply 15-30 minutes of someone’s time, and be organized with your questions about their industry. Once you get to know someone, you could also inquire about doing a few hours or a day of shadowing them. In essence, the skills I would recommend to someone in library school to utilize when trying to explore their new profession and get a job are the same skills I would advise to merely find out about another field within our profession.

Q: If you had to convince someone to go to library school, what would you say?
A: Convince is a strong word! I wouldn’t convince someone to amass the debt of library school (or, any graduate school, for that matter) if I didn’t think it would be beneficial for her/his career. I have counseled students on this in the past. I advised them to research jobs that appealed to them. I asked them to look at the qualifications needed for those jobs. If the common denominator was that an MLIS degree was a requirement for those jobs, then that’s a good indicator that person should enroll in library school. If an MLIS degree is going to get you where you want to be professionally, then it’s a good idea.

That’s all for the April installment of Ask a Special Librarian. Send your questions or column topic ideas to me on Twitter @LibrarySherpa or via e-mail at