Today will mark one week that I have been at my newly acquired public library job. Even though my cohorts and I at library school were told that library jobs would be ours for the taking, the reality that hit me after obtaining my diploma was that library jobs are just as hard to find in this economy as any other job. After months of frustrating application to countless numbers of jobs, I found a "good enough" position, and more than a year later I was able to find the job I actually wanted. For what it's worth, here's my advice:
- Be flexible. This refers both to where you want to live and where you want to work. If you only want a job that is walking distance from your house, for example, you're really narrowing your field. I live in a very large metropolitan area, but I still put my commute limit at one hour each way. I knew that it would be possible for me to have a less-than-ideal commute and then eventually move to a better location near the job rather than trying to find a job that was in my neighborhood. I also expanded my personal definition of "library job" to include school library technician jobs, bookstore jobs, etc. I ended up working in a school library where the requirements for my job included only a high school diploma and not an MLS, but it was better than cashiering at a big box store.
- Keep up with professional development. My school library job required only that I be a glorified circulation monkey. I heard stories of predecessors who were never on campus, who didn't shelve books, or who spent their entire day painting Dungeons and Dragons figurines at the circ desk. In addition to updating the library and increasing circulation, I made sure to spend my time on librarian listservs, reading articles on School Library Journal, Library Journal, and various ALA subsites, and attending as many free webinars as I could. This way, when I was asked what I was doing to keep current on library-related issues at the interview for my actual library job, I had a real answer to give.
- Look every day. I had a few sites I would use - INALJ for one - but I also made a list of all the nearby towns' library websites and used them to see if any jobs were posted. I applied for every one that came up as soon as I heard about it. Sometimes I would go weeks checking websites without any hits, only to find five new jobs posted on a single day. It's important to apply quickly, though, since many organizations are now employing the "we only read the first 200 applications" technique, so you have to get in quickly or no one will have seen your work.
- Network. Get to know other librarians. Read their blogs. Stay in contact with people, as it is so much easier to get a job when you have your foot in the door and know the people than if you are a brand-new face for the employer to learn.
I got my school library/media technician job last year, and I searched for 15 more months to find a public library job. Having a job with a steady paycheck meant I could search for a new job as the opportunities presented themselves, and if I hadn't landed my new job, I would still be okay. The biggest piece of advice I can give you is don't give up. The jobs are out there, even if they aren't the low-hanging fruit that our library school professors told us they were.