Chicago library job help?
April 9, 2009 6:53 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have advice for a graduating MLS student looking for a job, any job at all? Help specific to finding jobs in the Chicago metro area would be especially useful.

I'm graduating from Indiana University SLIS this summer and am looking for jobs. I've checked just about every site I can find (ala joblist, lisjobs, careerbuilder, craigslist, etc.) and have applied for pretty much anything i'm even remotely qualified for. I don't have much experience other than two years at a student library job that paid $7.40/hr.

A call to the Chicago Public Library headquarters confirmed that there's a hiring freeze for all city public libraries (though some of the suburbs are still hiring). I realize it's just a hard time to get a job, but I'm being about as unpicky as it's possible to be. Next step is to start applying to Borders and Barnes & Noble.
posted by tinyfolk to Work & Money (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Have you ruled out corporate library departments? The consulting firm I used to work for in Chicago had a library services area within its general knowledge services department. The librarian positions required an MLS, and the librarians seemed to enjoy their jobs. I know it's not the same as public library work, but if you're already considering Barnes & Noble, I thought I'd suggest looking into corporate librarianship. I know there are hiring freezes in that area, too, but it couldn't hurt to cast a wide net, particularly since corporate hiring freezes may end before government-funded budgets are sorted out.

I didn't work directly in that area, but feel free to MeMail me if you'd like.
posted by Meg_Murry at 7:13 AM on April 9, 2009 [2 favorites]

Two years at a student library is still two years in a library, play that up. Also, have you checked with library recruitment firms? Would you do law library?
posted by cestmoi15 at 7:23 AM on April 9, 2009

I would second Meg_Murry's suggestion. My wife has an MLS from UofM and after a couple of years in public libraries (back in the 70s and 80s) she switched to corporate librarying. Lots of different kinds of situations there. Her first corp job was with a business travel agency, cataloging their extensive collection of info on resorts and all kinds of travel data. Then she went to a large, multi-national computer company (that no longer exists, but it wasn't her fault, really) where she worked in their corp library doing research for the sales organization.

I think your best bet would be to highlight any research and organization skills you've picked up along the way.
posted by qurlyjoe at 7:26 AM on April 9, 2009

I don't have much experience other than two years at a student library job that paid $7.40/hr.

Is this your only work experience? If you have other customer service experience, or even office experience, I would play up that in your resume--experience with different types of software, computer abilities, management experience, and the ability to work with the public are all things that might help you get a job in a library.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:42 AM on April 9, 2009

I agree looking at consulting or corporate type work might be a good idea. You may not have the title of "librarian" but your graduate degree can open doors and the skills librarians have can translate well to the business world.
I have been working in a non-library job for 3 years now (I got my master's 5 years ago); feel free to memail me if you want more info.
posted by pointystick at 7:46 AM on April 9, 2009

Best answer: If you have to take a non-library job (bookstore, waiting tables, etc) or even a job in a sector you may not find interesting in order to pay the bills, contact libraries you would like to work in and ask about unpaid internships or volunteer opportunities. If there's a hiring freeze at the public libraries it means that they are probably understaffed and would really appreciate the help. And the hiring freeze won't last forever; once it is lifted, you will be in an excellent position to assert yourself into an open position because they will already know about your work habits and skills.
posted by arco at 8:44 AM on April 9, 2009

know that you are not alone. the library market is tough to break into (i haven't yet).

the volunteering advice is very good, as i can only think that it has helped me get the interviews that i have. i was not getting as many chances as i am now compared to when i was not volunteering.

you may also want to consider a nationwide search.
posted by the aloha at 9:39 AM on April 9, 2009

Definitely consider jobs that are not necessarily in a library, and be open to relocating if that's an option for you. Your research and technical skills will be valued in other sectors as well. I work for a database vendor; I have not had a job in a library setting since getting my MLIS nearly ten years ago.
posted by medeine at 9:54 AM on April 9, 2009

The Newberry library has one position that might interest you - but they also take interns if you want to beef up your resume while you're working another job (interships are usually unpaid). It's outstanding experience.
posted by Craig at 11:18 AM on April 9, 2009

Best answer: Oh also, a general job hunting tip (you probably already know this): check the websites of institutions you're interested in for jobs. Smaller libraries or museums don't always submit openings to those big job sites. It's more work, but I've had better luck that way.
posted by Craig at 11:35 AM on April 9, 2009

Response by poster: I'm definitely considering anything I can find. I'm searching on general job sites for anything at all, not just in libraries. I haven't really seen too much in the way of ads for corporate library jobs, but it's very likely that they are just posted on sites I have yet to come across. I know there are other avenues that are looking for people with an MLS, but I guess I just don't know how to go about finding these jobs?

I do have other job experience outside of libraries, but due to some weird circumstances, a lot of it was self-employed, so most of my references are professors and other people from the university. I do have that information included on my resume, though. I think if anyone does hire me it will be not for job experience I have had but relevant skills I've obtained through hobbies and other activities. The "relevant skills" section on my resume is much, much longer than the "job experience" section.

I just started looking at library recruitment firms today. Hopefully that will lead somewhere. As for law librarianship, I was under the impression that you needed some experience and/or training in law in order to get a job like that. Am I mistaken? I have only seen one job posting looking for a law librarian, but again, it may be there is somewhere specific I need to be looking for that sort of job.

I applied for both that job and an internship at Newberry, big thanks for that, Craig! I think internships may very well be a good step to take if I end up working a barnes & noble/borders-type job.
posted by tinyfolk at 11:51 AM on April 9, 2009

Response by poster: As for a nationwide search, my fiance is moving with me to Chicago and she's pretty much got a few really good jobs lined up at this point. Going somewhere else would mean going without her, and I'd much work a crappy job than do that.
posted by tinyfolk at 11:56 AM on April 9, 2009

Best answer: You didn't say if you have your own car. If you do, have you looked into the suburban library system job postings, like MLS or NSLS? You would be doing a reverse commute, which has worked out well for me. It may not be that hard to take the train out to the 'burbs either...
Also, IMO it is better to get a gig as a part-time librarian if you possibly can rather than doing an internship - you have your degree. Many bookstores are not doing well because of the economy and use of public libraries is on the rise. I know for a fact that one B&N in Chicago has scaled back on the hours that it is open. Plus being part-time will give you an edge if a full time position opens up in the library. It will look great on your resume that you have experience as a librarian, it doesn't matter if it is part-time. Good luck and memail me if you have any questions about public librarianship or the suburbs.
posted by TrickyLib at 6:38 PM on April 9, 2009

Response by poster: Yeah, I have a car. I've found most of the jobs I've applied for were on MLS. About half of the positions I've applied for have been part time. Most were in the suburbs. I'm really applying for anything I can find, anywhere that's even remotely nearby.
posted by tinyfolk at 8:57 PM on April 11, 2009

Response by poster: NSLS has been a GREAT help. Definitely one of the very best sites, with lots of jobs not posted anywhere else. Thanks a ton.
posted by tinyfolk at 2:56 PM on April 13, 2009

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