Email Lists: A Dose of Common Sense

Let's chat, folks. I know there are tons of things in LibraryLand we could discuss, but for a moment, let's talk about e-mail lists. I know quite a few people (like Griffey) who think that email lists are the (outdated) devil. I happen to like receiving things in email because I haven't yet figured how to acceptably integrate feedreaders into my life, and I prefer conversations via e-mail than via the comment section of blogs, whcih I never remember to go back and check after I've left some inflammatory comment. Anyway, we can discuss fuddy-duddies like myself and our love of the e-mail later. We need to chat about lists, though. If you've been on the NEWLIB list lately, you likely know why.

Lists are good things, if only to keep yourself updated on conversations/arguments/discussion/resource lists that generally make the rounds when people query via email. Lists are very often archived somewhere for future reference, which is super-useful is you know that someone on the ILI-L list recently compiled a list of articles about academic librarians and student success, and want to find that list. It's a neat way to get to know a whole lot of people in your field quickly (so is Twitter). And maybe I'm just extra-stalkery, but it's also a quick way to gauge who is involved, how they're involved, and what they put out for public consumption.

I know, this reeks of Obvious and that spectre CommonSense. But lately, you wouldn't know it, given some of the posts to the list. Let's discuss some offenses that, even if true, you should keep to yourself and not post for God and everybody to see.

1. Making comments such as (and I'm paraphrasing here) "Well, I posted my resume on Monster/Careerbuilder/ALA's resume site/whatever, and no one has contacted me about wanting to hire me!" Wow. Really? None of the top-tier places to work have e-mailed you, or even showed up at your doorstep with a contract in hand? Color me shocked! *ahem* Um, what i meant to say, in a polite and un-mocking manner, is that jobs do not hunt you. You hunt jobs. This is why it is called job-hunting, and not candidate-hunting. Getting your resume reviewed is great, but unless you take an active role in subscribing to job lists, regularly checking employment sites, and making some sort of effort, putting yourself on the web is about as likely to get you a job as trying to boil coffee by holding a cup in your hands. It could happen, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

2. Making comments such as "It's been (x+5) years since my MLS, and no one will hire me. I mean, I know I haven't done any professional development, or gotten involved in any library related organizations at *any* level, and am completely fascinated by these newfangled e-mail machines I see real librarians use on a regular basis. But, I just don't get it. I mean, what, is my MLS worthless?" Forgive my crassness, but yes, it might as well be worthless. If you haven't done any librarianating, anything related to libraries, or even managed to keep up with the changes and discussions in the profession via blogs and other free sources, it says that not only is your MLS atrophying, but that you're really not interested in librarianship as a career choice. Librarianship, for all its cushiness as opposed to those making life-threatening decisions, doing heavy lifting, or repaving the interstate under the unforgiving August sun, is still a fast-paced profession that forces you to keep up with change or die. And in order to keep up with change, you have to be an active participant in some way.

3. Making comments, after letting the list know you are actively jobhunting, to the effect of #2 plus saying "Well, I feel left out because I don't know much about this whole online searching business. I mean, I had a class on Dialog back when I got my (now rusty) MLS..." Come, now. Unless you want to be permanently labeled as a troll and never again taken seriously, this is just silly. Go to your local public library. Get a card. get online. Many academic libraries subscribe to a number of databases (including some from Ebsco) where you can practice and get accustomed to what interfaces look like nowadays. If your last experience with 'online searching' was Dialog, you may have to get accustomed to not using a command interface. (Also, very few people work in DOS anymore, so be prepared for GUI disappointment.) Heck, even Google has advanced search features. But, really. When you say something like this, not only does it reveal that you are about twenty years out of date in your skill set, you upset those librarians who are interested in keeping the profession vibrant and, um, useful. Of course, you will also have other librarians clicking their heels with glee that you're their competition.

4. Demonstrating an obvious lack of net-savvy. No, we're not going to notice from your posts that you can't do CSS. No worries. But when you make ill-informed comments, when you hijack a thread, flame folks, and when you generally make ignorant remarks on a public, archived list where your comments will be stored in perpetuity, you are shooting yourself in the foot. The librarians on these lists will not only be new librarians and MLS students, but older or more experienced librarians as well as vendors. The vendors you might not have to worry about so much, but the other librarians have been on, are on, or will be on hiring committees. making yourself look ridiculous on-list may not seem like a big deal, but it's a smallish profession. Names get remembered. Ridiculous posts get discussed off-list, whether you like it or not, as other librarians look for someone to mock so they can feel superior. (I'm not saying I'm above this. it happens.) The job search is competitive enough without you "branding" yourself as the village idiot.

Of course, the folks this post is intended for likely don't keep up with much, and this isn't a blog on the famous must-have lists (though I'm proud to say it did make it onto a list recently mentioned on ILI-L - thanks!), so they probably won't ever read this. But it's a good reminder for the rest of us, too, I suppose. I get snarky on threads and I know it; I do try to censor myself before out and out calling someone a jackass, I swear. But to make a habit of representing yourself as uninvolved, uninterested, and decaying in the skills the profession needs, you can hardly be surprised that you've been interviewing for five years and no one has offered you a job on a silver platter. I mean, of course, *you* can be surprised if you want to be, but the rest of us aren't. We're just hoping you'll apply for the same job we are, because it makes us look awesome.

Also, after seeing what occasionally comes across these lists, it might be a good idea for you to get a 'net alias and set up a dummy email account. Because the next search I'm on, I'm totally scanning list archives for your name.


amy said…
can we figure out a way to get this on every LIS school mailing list?

new grads need to read this!
Kate said… Well-said, Colleen. And must agree with Amy's comment above -- this post is a MUST-READ for LIS students everywhere!
Colleen said…
Ha! I'll do my best to distribute widely. Or, you know, generally make an ass of myself by being bitchy on the list until they stop sending in silly emails....
Anonymous said…
Not only students, but working and non-working professionals as well. I get tired of all the whining some people do on the list about not being able to find a job. I don't mind expressing frustration and asking for suggestions on how to improve things, but some of it makes me want to scream or laugh...or both at the same time. And the oversensitivity is astounding sometimes. Communication (doing it well) is a big thing in most jobs these days and this is a great forum to practice good communication.

Thanks for the great post!
C Rader said…
It's all good but 'librarianating' pushed it deep into the sublime for me. It's my new word of the day and I am just going to go librarianate all over my library. Thank you for brightening my (understaffed so I have to eat lunch in the back room) day.

Now, onto librarianation!!

C-Rad, Librarian Fang
Martha Hardy said…
You totally and completely rock. It is this kind of pathetic crap that drives me away from listservs/email lists. Best quotation: "jobs do not hunt you. You hunt jobs."
Catherine said…
I'm not on NEWLIB-L, so I've been blissfully unaware of the recent kerfuffle, though this is the second time I've seen it referenced in the biblioblogosphere, so it must be quite a thing.

This reminds me of my stock advice regarding email lists, learned long ago in my previous career: Know that, for every person who posts to the list, there are dozens, often hundreds of others who don't post. You don't know who those people are. Never post to a list without assuming that your current boss, your next boss, and every one of your co-workers also read the list.

Oh, and for goodness' sake, before you go on the job market, Google yourself. Criminy.
Colleen said…
@Anonymous - it's true. In the jobhunt, it's a put-up or shut-up kind of thing. It's not pretty, and sometimes it takes awhile, and you may not get your first choice, plum, library-right-beside-your-house thing. But I think people have been brainwashed into instant gratification.

@CRader - Librarianate! When there aren't exciting enough words, I say make them up!

@Martha - I wish I had an artist friend who could draw me up a Far Side-ish cartoon for that: "jobs do not hunt you. You hunt jobs." Cartoonists, please feel free to send me your artistic interpretations.

@Catherine - that is *fantastic* advice, about being aware of the silent (or softly snickering) masses. Also about Googling yourself. It'll keep you from being surprised when the librarian who picks you up at the airport for your interview says, "Hunh. I thought your hair would be longer." (True story.)
Infosciphi said…
As per your usual eloquence and wit, this post is classic. I joined a list this year just to watch the train wreak & quickly quit reading because it was so depressing. My urge to correct so many blatant errors starts to eat into my time. :-)

Ignorance & lack of self awareness seem to ruin a LOT of things across the board.

Now I tend to mainly read the threads that YOU have replied to. The rubbernecker in me knows that's where the "good" stuff is happening.
Colleen said…
@Infosciphi - I'm still okay with correcting people, though I'm sure it'll wear thin. Also, now you have me nervous about what to reply to, knowing that you're watching for me *grin*

Then again, I find it disturbing that we've gotten so PC that no one will call out extreme moments of idiocy. Isn't that what librarians are supposed to eradicate, when given the chance?
Anonymous said…
But if we're good little ALA drones/clones, librarians should protect people's right to say anything, no matter how stupid.
Colleen said…
@Anonymous - Oh, I'd never argue with anyone's *right* to be stupid, or to say idiotic things. But I also have the right to point it out and mock them loudly, and invite my many internet friends to join me...

I figure freedom of speech is like freedom of fashion. You can make poor choices, sure. But don't expect that you won't be ridiculed.
Drew said…

I can show you a super easy way to incorporate RSS into your life...I'm real lazy right now, but I can either show you at Res, or maybe do an email walkthrough or something.
omg! that list is so depressing, I had to dump it a good while back. it's just a place for people to complain to each other about not getting hired- but they seem to not want to do anything about it either. some of the solutions are so obvious! don't believe their hype! good jobs ARE out there, you just have to work to get them and be willing to make sacrifices.
Colleen said…
@manda - What?! "Work"?! "Sacrifice"?! What are these things of which you speak? I've heard about stories. Heretic! Burn her!

(I am imagining that is the sort of response you got from the list, but I'm right there with you!)
Colleen said…
@Drew - thanks, I may take you up on that. I know about different readers and such, I just haven't found any I like. I have all my RSS feeds delivered to my inbox, which doesn't stress me out as much as seeing 100000000 unread items" in a feedreader...

I know, I'm such a Luddite for such a young librarian...
Monster never worked for me, I just got referred to a site called realmatch which is somekind of new technology
Hear, hear, Colleen! I was once one of those posting-resumes-on-Monster types--here's to wising up!

The fact that I was able to get an awesome job within 3 months of starting an active search--without a degree, without much experience at all--when people with degrees can't find jobs for upwards of five years begs the question: what's the common denominator in all those failed applications?
i'm not leaving my name any more said…
Regards RSS - i have developed a love affair with a search engine at last - Flock - which incorporates social web stuff into the browser and has a nice feedreader aspect. I didn't really bond with RSS before either. It is bulit on Mozilla by the way and is, of course free. Try it out and see if it floats your boat.
i'm not leaving my name any more said…
oh, also, actively searching and getting interviews isn't always enough (a good interview technique helps), sometimes job searching is just really tough.
I'm Kat! said…
Colleen, I find myself surrounded by amusing people.

I came to the "Upgrade or Die" conclusion myself in a Technology class last Fall. My peers took it as a callous and insensitive outlook on humnaity.

And yet, it remains the truth - If you cannot upgrade, or relearn, or retool, it is only a matter of time before your own attrition catches up with you and either forces you out of the job or into early retirement.

I also found the secret to getting a good job: don't look just in the libraries. Look everywhere - especially in the field of your Bachelors. You got it for a reason, right??? I found an Unbelieveable job in my home field, and I didn't even have to relocate.

Being at the right place at the right time is good. Being at the right place at the right time and having the right special resource [job skills, work ethic, degrees] is Great! But if one place isn't working out becasue everybody the is as prepared as you are, you might need to find a new one to increase your value. Good luck!
I know the recent conversation you mean, though I've had to start filtering NEWLIB to immediate archive to prevent myself from getting an ulcer from some of the responses. You make very excellent points! I have given up trying to be a voice of reason because the trolls are so heavy--and some of them I've been dealing with for at least four years on various lists.

They wonder they cannot get hired--but if I recognize your name when I'm reading your resume and that recognition is a bad thing...
Anonymous said…
Hi Colleen--
Just found you courtesy of Annoyed Librarian. Love this post. I was a member of that list you talk about until about 2 months ago. The nastiness was getting overwhelming and frankly, there's just no sense in arguing with people who are bull-headed. I have better things to do.

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