The Bird in the Hand, or the Two in the Bush?
August 20, 2009 9:50 PM   Subscribe

I am a new librarian who is faced with a job search quandary. I applied very recently to Anonymous Library for a professional position. I really want to work there. I haven't heard anything back yet regarding my application. What to do about a current job offer elsewhere?

Some details: I am actually a past employee of Anonymous Library as a paraprofessional librarian, and my position was meant to lead to promotion to a professional position after completion of my MLS. Unfortunately, it became necessary for me to resign after just a few months due to a parent's health crisis, which necessitated my moving back home temporarily. It sucked, but family comes first, and my supervisor was very understanding. I was given a sterling, effusive evaluation upon departure and invited to come back when possible. All through the rest of my grad school studies, I have hoped to have the chance to return to this library.

Fast-forward to now: I've finished my MLS and, after waiting and waiting for positions to open at this library in the midst of current hiring freezes, some just opened up. I've applied. No word yet. This was only a few days ago, so I'm not surprised at all. However, in the meantime, another great library has just offered me a job. Excellent! But accepting it would mean negating any chance of returning to Anonymous Library in the foreseeable future.

Sorry for all the prologue, but I think it's relevant, because my question is this: what should I do about this? Do I take the "bird in the hand", which is a great job, and just forget about returning to Anonymous Library, which is my dream library? Chalk it up to bad timing? Or do I ask for a few days to consider and see if I can tactfully inquire with Anonymous Library's HR department as to whether there might be any interest in my application? Would that be pushy or tacky? The enthusiastic way I was invited to return leads me to believe that I might have a shot at getting hired for a librarian position, but with the job market now, one never knows. Also considering the job market, I don't want to foolishly give up a job offer on speculation that someone else might potentially maybe hire me.

posted by anonymous to Work & Money (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Great & real beats out dream & possibly-maybe in my book. Why? Because you really don't know that the Dream Job is really a dream job. Even if your worked there before at the entry level, you don't know what you have to deal with at the level you are applying for. Besides, you can always apply to Anonymous Library later, when jobs aren't so tight.
posted by ifandonlyif at 10:04 PM on August 20, 2009

I think being realistic is the most prudent thing you can do. The dream job will still be there later, but the real job might not be.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:16 PM on August 20, 2009

Did you stay in contact with the library? Generally speaking, these sorts of relationships tend to whither after about six months or so, unless you keep in sporadic contact.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2009

THe call would not be pushy or tacky at all - you have multiple offers, and need a response from one of them to make your decision.
Deciding that the lack of response from your dream library means "no" seems a bad choice if you haven't tried a simple phone call first....
posted by TravellingDen at 10:20 PM on August 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Definitely, call them!! Call whoever it was who wrote you the great recommendation and ask what your chances may be. Even ask if there's any way to fast-track your application given that you have another offer (tell them that you do!). Ask the other library when they need your response by to see how much time you have. Then decide.
posted by hazyjane at 10:31 PM on August 20, 2009

If this is an academic library and they just posted their job ad, it could be MONTHS before they actually schedule interviews for the position. Having any kind of library job offer in this economy is great. You could always take your current job, build up a couple years of experience and try applying at your dream library again with a beefed up resume.
posted by gnat at 11:02 PM on August 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

I am an academic librarian and I was in this situation as a new MLS grad. I had an offer from University of Beautiful State while I was still interviewing with University of Nearby. And then my dream job at University of Alma Mater came open. I ended up at University of Nearby because of the timing (couldn't wait for U of Alma Mater). But, here's what I learned along the way, including from experienced librarian-types.

First, when Anonny College Library made you an offer, what did you tell them? Yes, no, give me a few days? It's generally considered reasonable to ask for up to a week. You should always ask for at least a day or two to think it over and then go back and ask for more money. Always. (The worst they can say is no, but more likely they are expecting you to ask for more money. Men usually do this. Women tend not to. That is why there is a 4% wage gap between men and women librarians.)

Next, it is totally reasonable to contact the person whose name was on the job posting (probably an HR library person, an administrative assistant, or the head of the search committee), preferably through email (because that is easier and can give them some time to formulate an answer), and say this:

"Dear Ms. ContactPerson:

I recently applied for the position of Awesome Entry Level Librarian at Anonymous Library. I just received a job offer for a similar position at Anonny College Library. I am very interested in the position at Anonymous Library and wonder if you could give me an update on the search process.


If they are far enough along in the process and really want you, you'll hear from them soon. This is not pushy or tacky but absolutely reasonable. When University of Nearby heard I had an offer from University of Beautiful State, the process sped up a bit--I had a verbal offer in a just a few days rather than in a few weeks.

I'm wondering if you've maintained any contacts at Anonymous Library. If so, you should email or call them. "Hi Library-Mentor-Friend, I just saw the job listing for Awesome Entry Level Librarian at Anonymous Library. Are you on the search committee? If not, can I ask you some questions about it? As you know, it's my dream job. But, I just got an offer from Anonny College Library. Of course I would much rather come back to Anonymous Library. Any insight you can give me would be great. From, Me."

That library will then be savvy enough to get in touch with someone on the search committee to let them know what's going on (this is partly how the process sped up for me at University of Nearby).

But, the truth is that Anonymous Library probably won't be far enough long in the process. It's just one of those sad, sucky timing things. Maybe they'll have a failed searched and re-open the job in another year or two. Maybe another position will open. (I still sometimes hold out hope I can return someday to University of Alma Mater--and so does the rest of my graduating MLS class.)

You do have to be a bit careful as we live in a small academic library world, and word can get around, but as long as you get back to people when you say at the place who offered you the job, you should be okay.

Also check out the excellent articles at LIScareers. and the forum at LISjobs can be helpful as well.

Finally... do you have any relationships with professional librarians or faculty? They should be the ones mentoring you through this process. As a newish librarian who got so much help from fantastic folks while I was in school, and after, I'm bummed you don't have a good support network. Or, maybe you do. Feel free to send me a private mail if you'd like more of my kind of advice.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:34 AM on August 21, 2009 [7 favorites]

well depending on what state and county some library positions are civil service. HEre on long island in suffol kcounty all library positions are civil service and you have to go to the county and take a test . Then get interviewed based on your test score. so if you went right to the library and handed them a resume it would probably be thrown out.
posted by majortom1981 at 4:17 AM on August 21, 2009

Bird in hand. The other library's search process will take awhile. Even if they want you bad, they'll still have to interview multiple candidates. For example, I have a part-time paraprofessional position I'm trying to fill at my academic library right now. I have a strong internal candidate that I want to hire, but I still have to interview a few alternates.

Trick is, in the two weeks since the position was posted, I received 63 applications. That's a lot of people to sort through!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:51 AM on August 21, 2009 [1 favorite]

nthing call them, and let them know you have an offer elsewhere. I don't know about libraries, but in other fields this is standard operating procedure.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 5:44 AM on August 21, 2009

Call Anonymous Library -- not the HR department, in particular, but your former supervisor. Ask her what's what, and how things are going with the hiring process.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:19 AM on August 21, 2009

Agreeing with those who say call them. I had a similar, non-library job search experience. I interviewed at dream job A. Things seemed to go well, then I heard nothing for about three weeks. In the meantime, i interviewed for and was offered job B. Rent was due. I took job B. First day on job B, Job A called me and offered me the job. Apparently the delay was because in my interview, I had expressed an intense desire to have health insurance. It took them a while to negotiate that with their board.*

The worst that can happen if you call is that they say "no, we are not considering you" and then you know to take job B.

*Job B didn't have health insurance. I was really kind of an idiot in my 20s.
posted by mkim at 5:49 PM on August 21, 2009

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