Give me advice on my job search in the NYC area.
March 16, 2013 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I'm a librarian in the southern U.S. looking to relocate to NYC. The catch is that I can't move without a job offer. Am I hoping for the impossible?

About me: I'm currently a professional librarian in the southern United States. I have management, reference, instruction, and interlibrary loan experience, mostly in a public library setting. My references are great (really) and I've got about a decade of experience under my belt. Currently I'm a mid-level manager at a public library system in a smallish southern city.

What I'm looking for: Ideally an academic position paying at least somewhere in the mid-40s in the greater NYC area. (I'm not opposed to staying in public librarianship, but it doesn't seem to pay a living wage in NYC.) I realize that I'm facing an uphill battle, especially since I'm trying to make the switch to academic librarianship while also breaking into one of the most competitive markets in the country.

I guess my question is this: Am I delusional? Is it even possible to land a library job while I'm so far away from the metro area? I recently had a phone interview with an academic library in New England, which is where I grew up, so I wouldn't *hate* going back there, but I'd really like to be in NYC. But am I expecting too much?

My experience is great, I'm well-rounded and extremely employable. But I fear that hiring committees aren't even considering me because I'm from out of town. I know the competition is stiff, to say the least.

Should I be focusing on finding a position up north in a less competitive area and doing time for a couple years before I make the move to the city? Or do I continue to hold out hope? I've been looking since October, and I recently turned 40. I also had a near-death experience this year which made me realize that I wasn't living the life I want to live, if that matters.
posted by carolinecrane to Work & Money (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I wish I could tell you to just go for it, especially after reading your note about a near-death experience, but realistically you can probably have one or the other, at least at first. Can you prioritize which you want more? If it's to be in the city, maybe find a public librarian position and use the state library association to network and make connections with people in academic libraries in the area. Conversely, if you really want to be in academia, prioritize getting experience anywhere you can get it, so you can be positioned to take advantage of academic spots in NYC when they open up.

The reality is that many qualified people get hired, but I can also tell you from experience being on academic librarian hiring committees that public librarians often don't make it through the second round. Not because of any prejudice (and not because you'll be out of town, almost all candidates are), but usually because they do not hold second masters' degrees (which are often required), or do not have collection development or liaison experience, or do not have other required qualifications. And in this market there are a TON of candidates who do have all that, plus grant writing experience or data curation experience or web design experience. Maybe it would be worth looking at some sample academic librarian job ads to see how competitive a candidate you'd be; that might help inform your decision. For example, if you do need a second masters (and don't have one), you might decide to get an academic job somewhere else that will waive tuition for employees, getting experience and an additional qualification at the same time.
posted by stellaluna at 7:14 PM on March 16, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hi, I'm an academic librarian in NYC. It took me almost two years to get my current job, and I was located in the NYC Metro area the whole time. Admittedly, I didn't have as much experience as you do (and it's really fantastic that you do -- a lot of the competition here will not have as much), but I cannot stress enough how incredibly competitive the area is. There are five library schools in the Metro area, and they are churning out graduates like crazy. I really don't know that any place in NYC would even consider you, since you're currently so far away.

What I would suggest, if you want to keep trying, is getting some experience in electronic resources, metadata, and/or web design. I see a lot (relatively) of job postings that want skills related to those areas, and I know a lot of librarians, even if they graduated recently, don't have them.
posted by EggplantPizza at 7:20 PM on March 16, 2013 [1 favorite]

It may not be a good strategy to get into public librarianship here in NYC hoping for an academic job. I don't know about the other systems -- I know they're not in a great position financially -- but Brooklyn has basically not hired any librarians in the last 5 years.
posted by Jeanne at 8:28 PM on March 16, 2013

I'm an academic librarian in the Pacific Northwest, though I have also worked in the Southeast. I think the move into academic librarianship is going to be trickier than finding a job in NYC once you have that experience. Are you willing to make this a two-part process? Find an academic job anywhere -- really, it doesn't matter if you're in the Northeast or not -- and then use that experience to start looking for jobs in NYC.

Most larger colleges and universities do national job searches for librarians, so it's not going to be an issue that you are out of the region. In my experience on a few search committees in three different academic libraries, where you are isn't a consideration. Your work in public libraries would be -- it would be harder to see your experience as relevant as someone who had been in academic libraries even a few years.

Some of the open positions might be faculty positions, some with and some without tenure status. Have you been professionally active, and could you shift your professional focus to academic organizations like ACRL?

I'd also suggest you start looking over job listings, as suggested above, for the kinds of jobs you want, to see if you meet the qualifications. The Chronicle of Higher Ed is great for this. Search for "librarian" or "librarian new york" to get an idea of what's out there.

The ILL experience might be useful, since that's not as popular of an area. Here's one possible opening at Hunter College.

You might also browse some of the articles about the academic job search on
posted by bluedaisy at 10:09 PM on March 16, 2013

Response by poster: I should have mentioned in my original post that my teaching experience is mostly in electronic resources, and I also do collection development for my current library system.

Having said that, you've all told me what I already knew, which is that I need to rethink my strategy for the long-term. Thank you all for the reality check! I'm willing to work on a long-term plan, mainly because my near-death experience had to do with the fact that my sinuses are incompatible with the area of the country I'm living in. The air here is literally making me sick, so I have to move.

Thanks again! It's all great food for thought. I'm going to broaden my search quite a bit.
posted by carolinecrane at 8:12 AM on March 17, 2013

Electronic resources might be a good way to move into academic librarianship -- it's one of those areas where, as I understand, there are more jobs than good folks interested in taking them.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 10:57 PM on March 17, 2013

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