Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Kidz in the Hall Library

Let me preface this post by saying that I *love* to see children in libraries. It gives me hope that not all of the new generation will grow up to be illiterate idiots. Teaching children to learn to love libraries while young is something that lasts their entire lives. I encourage everyone to bring their children to a library regularly and grow their love of learning and adventure.

On the flip side, while we generally welcome children, we don't always welcome the absentee parenting that comes along with them. We are librarians, not social workers or daycare employees. We are not qualified to tend your children, other than to sit them down and provide storytime, craft-time, or some fun and games. While we welcome children of all ages, we do *not* welcome their behavioral problems, and for parents to expect the library to shut up and deal with whatever comes through the door - um, I think not. that's what I have security for.

"I'm tired of hearing from librarians who don't have kids about how kids should behave in the library." If you're one of the parents who can't rein in their screaming, running-between-the-stacks-and-tearing-books-out kids, I'm sure you *are* tired of hearing from us. Tag is not a game for the library. Nor is cops & robbers, or whatever your kid is doing flying around on their skateboard. Screaming at the tops of their lungs? Vandalism? Fighting? Also not library activities. Libraries may be embracing a role as a community center, but that doesn't mean that your crotchfruit have the right to vandalize it, fight in it, or generally be nuisances in it. If you wouldn't let them do it in the mall or the grocery or in the hallways of their school, it's also unacceptable in the library.

The Library (be it public or academic or what-have-you) - unless they have a specific day-care service, is not your personal daycare. Do not drop your children off and leave. Libraries are no safer than bus stops, and your kidlets are far more likely to stumble across some dirty porninator 'doing his thing' because of our net access. The very fact that you have to be told not to leave your children in a public venue full of strangers in today's age makes me doubt your ability to be a parent. Other places are pretty nice about it, and I don't deal with this much in an academic library. But I do promise you, if I find a child and they can't point to you in their range of vision, I'm calling the po-po and Child Protective Services. Instead of vilifying me, you might thank me for my kind concern. Unless you were *hoping* your child would be kidnapped, if you've got one of the brats mentioned above.

I am not old, though I feel it sometimes. I remember my parents drilling good behavior into me and my siblings, especially if we were bound for public areas, and we were promised a mighty a$$-whupping if we got out of line. I can't help but wonder if today's permissive parenting with the yuppie take on "I want him to make his own decisions, he's a person!" combined with the general reluctance to discipline is directly contributing to the behavior problems we're seeing so much of. There are rarely consequences for poor behavior - teachers aren't allowed to 'fail' children, everyone makes the team, every child is a unique, special snowflake. Rubbish.

I may not have children, but I'm the one who has to deal with your freshman kids who have never been told they can't spell, or write, or form coherent arguments. These are the same kids who act out against professors in college classes because they were never disciplined for doing so in K-12. And parents don't understand how a professor could possibly fail AngelBaby when high school teachers put up with crap and subpar work to keep their jobs and survive in a classroom of thirty-plus kids.

Adult life comes as a rude awakening to kids who are allowed to run rampant with no sense of right and wrong or of appropriate behavior. So yes, I will ask you to keep a rein on your kidlets or leave my library if they're being extremely disruptive. Even in public libraries where children are always welcome, there is still some standard of behavior to observe. And you can condemn me for being a childless spinster - that's fine, because when I look at what your loins have wrought, I thank my lucky stars.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Cover Letter Meme

My first participation in a meme! In librarianchat via the LSW wiki, a few folks decided that, in the interests of helping new graduates (and to amuse ourselves), we'd dust off some old cover letters and post them, with advice. The wonderful Rikhei (who shares my last name, even, and thus is doubly cool) started the meme here. I decided to post the cover letter that got me my current, most-excellent job.

At 3 pages, I realize that this cover letter is far longer than what is usually prescribed. I received cover letter advice from one Professor Lisa O'Connor that recommended the strategy of bullet-pointing each requirement from the job ad and addressing it directly, so that's exactly what I did. I got over seven interviews for academic reference/instruction positions, and more than one offer, so while this length likely isn't the norm, it worked for me.

Cover Letter

I am interested in the position of Reference and Instruction Librarian at the University of Awesomeness. I believe that my experience in academic reference and instructional services, my professional involvement, and my enthusiasm for librarianship would make me a great addition to your team.

Regarding the required qualifications:

  • Master’s degree from an ALA-accredited program. I received my MLS from the University of Kentucky in August of 2006.
  • Experience as a reference librarian, preferably in an academic setting. I have more than three years of academic library public service experience in reference and instructional services at the University of FormerWork. I focused my MLS coursework on academic librarianship and instruction. Though my particular specialty is in the social sciences, I decided to pursue continuing education post-MLS when reference courses were offered in the humanities, medical informatics, and science and technology reference work. Working at the University of Formerwork’s Main Library for more than 3 years while pursuing my degree, I developed my skills in a more practical sense while aiding undergraduate and graduate students in addition to faculty and community members utilizing both electronic and traditional reference sources.
  • Library instruction experience, preferably utilizing electronic library resources and current instructional technologies. I was deeply involved in the University of Formerwork’s information literacy program, where I taught introductory library instruction sessions through the U 101 program, in addition to providing library instruction for undergraduate and graduate students in various subject areas. I have received excellent reviews from students, professors, and my supervisors regarding my teaching. I was also involved in pilot projects to teach the EndNote bibliographic software as part of our library instruction offerings. I was involved in a program to insert academic librarians into BlackBoard distance education course modules to aid professors and students. I have received excellent reviews from faculty, students, and my own supervisors regarding my library instruction sessions at the University of Formerwork. I highly recommend you contact Former Bosslady, one of my references, who supervised my instruction. I taught both electronic resources (both general and subject specific, including search strategies) and traditional reference resources.
  • Demonstrated knowledge of and facility with library related technology. At the University of Formerwork, I was responsible for web page maintenance and creation for the reference and circulation departments as a part of my position. I am also familiar with developing graduate and undergraduate web-based tutorials utilizing Captivate and Camtasia software, podcasting, RSS, wikis and blogs.
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills evidenced by the ability to work cooperatively and maintain effective working relationships with colleagues, faculty, staff and students. I am familiar with working successfully on projects at the department level in groups, as well as cross-campus for different initiatives involving staff and faculty members. Particularly for pilot project initiatives involving librarians working with professors utilizing the BlackBoard course management software and in organizing the U101 library introduction session for new students, I was able to work productively with a number of library colleagues and non-library faculty and staff to accomplish the program’s goals. I pride myself on developing cordial relationships with faculty, staff, student and my colleagues because I believe that is the best way for me to create opportunities to improve my instruction and helps students and faculty succeed in their research.
  • Strong customer service focus and commitment to service excellence. I am fortunate enough to love the work that I do, and I believe that an excellent library team helps more students receive their degrees, be more successful academically. Librarians are the hub of campus, since we are the folks who communicate with faculty, students, staff, and the community at large. I consider it my responsibility to ensure that students are properly prepared to conduct comprehensive research with the skills they need both during their years in the classroom and once they leave. I continue my own education to ensure that I can provide the best service possible.
  • Demonstrated ability to be flexible in a dynamic, team-oriented work environment. While working at the University of Formerwork, the responsibilities of my position were split between the reference and instruction departments. I managed my time in order to supervise graduate assistants at the reference desk, provide instruction, organize and schedule instruction sessions, and organize the library’s involvement in the U101 freshman introduction to the library, among other tasks such as web development and maintenance and reference work. My organizational skills and flexibility allowed me to accomplish all of my tasks successfully, as well as to integrate new technologies into my instruction and library work.
  • Preparation and commitment to conduct independent scholarship consistent with a tenure-track faculty appointment. I look forward to conducting more research on human-computer interaction in the use of educational computing software. I am currently in progress with an MS in Instructional Systems Design in addition to my completed MLS.
  • Commitment to engage in continuing professional development. I have actively pursued professional development, in addition to being involved in various committees on campus (please see resume for professional development activities). I have also won an award at the University of Formerwork Libraries for my professional development endeavors (please refer to resume). I expect to continue my involvement in outside activities to complement my professional work.

Regarding the preferred qualifications:

  • Experience with course delivery software. In addition to formal training in instructional design through the MS I currently have in progress in Instructional Systems Design, I was involved in a program to insert academic librarians into BlackBoard distance education course modules to aid professors and students.
  • Familiarity with social software and Web 2.0 technologies. I am familiar with social networking software such as Facebook, MySpace and Second Life, and was involved in creating a library presence for the University of Formerwork Libraries in these arenas, as well as holding informative session for new students explaining how to use the software to their advantage while remaining safe.
  • A second advanced degree. I am currently in progress of an MS (Ed) in Instructional Systems Design with an emphasis in educational computing.

I hope you will agree that my qualifications and experience in a large university’s reference and instruction department would make me an excellent addition to your library team. Please also find with this letter a list of my professional references, and you may feel free to contact them or myself at (XXX) XXX-XXXX with any questions. I very much look forward to hearing from you regarding this position.



If I had to make any changes, I'd go back and cull those bullet points to be a bit more concise, and I see a few grammatical errors that have me cringing. (Um, "in progress of? Hunh?) I appear to have bludgeoned the committee over the head with my coursework a bit, but I did manage to work in wikis and RSS - not bad, considering that this letter was sent in February of last year, and most of the conferences are *still* presenting on that stuff. I'd also cut out the passive tense, which I apparently had a heated affair with last year when writing cover letters. I can't complain too much, though - I managed to charm my way past an overly long cover letter to the on-site interview, and started last August, despite letting Griffey know that I despise the Beatles. Still here, and loving it!

Thanks to my search committee for reading my overly long letter. Remind me that I owe you chocolate. Or beer. Or both, if you're feeling like a hedonist...

Okay, your turn! Go ahead and post one of your cover letters. It can be great, it can be awful, it can be one that got you a job. Think of it as advice for new grads and what to (or what not to) do...

Friday, May 16, 2008

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.