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The Silverfish is published monthly by the students of the Information School at the University of Washington.

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The Silverfish

May 2003 Contents:

The View from the Other Side: Finding an LIS job in the "real world", Part 2
iSchool Students Work with PNLA to Establish Leadership Institute
A look at some Directed Fieldwork experiences

The Scoop on Trent Hill

Mall Library Attracts Diverse Patronage
A Place for Reader's Advisory Librarians: Interview with SPL's David Wright
Mickey Mouse vs. The Public Domain
Field Report: Salt Lake City Gets a New Library
Cataloguing: Past Love Affair and Future Riot

The View from the Other Side: Finding an LIS job in the "real world", Part 2

This article is the second of a three-part exploration of the LIS job market.

Sage advice

Like an acolyte seeking the wisdom of teachers and sages on the path to enlightenment, I decided to ask a couple of seasoned professionals for their perspective on the job search. I wanted to find out their stories, how their jobs had evolved, and what insights they had to guide me on my way.

Lisa Abbott is a solo librarian, the Information Specialist at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Library (WKKF) in Michigan. She found her job while still in school at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, through a serendipitous connection. She applied for a position at a public library, and the director of the library forwarded her application to the Kellogg Foundation, which had just dissolved their internal library. She was hired as an outside contractor to WKKF through the public library and had to defend and promote her position to other staff members, who often mistook her for a secretarial temp. "My position was probably too open-ended," Lisa told me. "I walked into a solo librarianship with no written policies or procedures in place and was put under the supervision of a director who, while an amazingly astute and sympathetic boss, was too busy doing the rest of her job to worry about my needs." However, she was eventually successful at insinuating herself into the fabric of the organization.

Becky Withington, another solo librarian, works at the Sound Transit Information Center here in Seattle and is also the President of the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. Becky found her niche through word of mouth, working with her local contacts in the King County Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation libraries to land a job with Sound Transit. She had to carve out her place in Sound Transit, using her skills to build a collection from scratch on a shoestring budget and to market herself to become an indispensable service within the agency. "I have had to define my own role without a lot of guidance," Becky said. "When I started at Sound Transit in 1998 the agency was very small, and my manager knew what was needed but not how to achieve it, so it was left to me to develop the Information Center and its services."

Network and invent

A couple themes have emerged here. The first is networking: both Lisa and Becky procured positions through a social network in which librarians informed each other of opportunities. Lisa notes, "Many organizations, at a loss to know where to start looking for an information professional, turn to their local library for recommendations in the field." This is obviously the most pressing point for we who are about to graduate. Getting to know professionals as well as colleagues will pay off in the future. Plus, it's just more fun.

Another theme is the invention and definition of one's own position. Although the initial job description may seem concrete, many jobs information professionals enter are bound to evolve quickly over time. Becky began with 10 boxes of documents and an empty room. "As a solo I'm responsible for every facet of the Information Center's operations, which gives me a lot of autonomy but also makes it hard to balance everything and find time to be proactive," she said. Lisa also found that autonomy is not always a good thing. She noted, "In retrospect, I would have been happier with more structure -- especially since this was my first 'real' librarian job." It seems to be a reality of the information profession. Technology, knowledge, and society are constantly changing, and libraries are perpetually on the verge of dissolving. We must be prepared to live without structure, define our own roles, and invent our own jobs.

Take a job, any job

I have heard time and again from my European friends that we Americans are too focused on our careers, that work takes too high a priority in our lives. They work to live; we live to work. Don't worry about whether the job is intellectually stimulating, satisfying or rewarding - just as long as it pays the bills. "My advice is to keep your options open -- don't talk yourself out of a position because it doesn't have the 'l' word in it," said Lisa. However, many have done this and found themselves discontented and despondent, spending 40 hours a week doing something that is personally unrewarding. Becky warned, "Think outside the box of traditional library opportunities, but don't go off on tangents that don't interest you just to get a job if you can help it. You won't be doing yourself or your employer a favor."

Does this mean that we cannot follow our bliss? What happened to doing what makes you happy? "Never settle," like the slogan says, right?

As with almost everything else in life, the answer is in neither extreme. The solution is the middle path, the way of moderation. Don't just settle for anything, but never "never settle." Start small and feasible, and work your way to that golden equilibrium, balancing work that suffices and work that satisfies. "My last four jobs (including two in other industries before I went to grad school) all started out as temporary, and all developed into permanent positions," said Becky. Lisa's advises, "Don't write off the humble local library as a possible stepping stone. When I saw graduation looming on the horizon, I applied for a reference position at a public library."

A voyage of self-discovery

Looking for a job, I have found, is like looking for yourself. It is a voyage of self-discovery, a journey which I suspect will never end. Finding a career in which one is truly happy, sufficiently compensated, and simultaneously qualified and challenged, requires in-depth knowledge of one's own strengths and weaknesses, desires and dislikes.

For many Information School students I know (including myself), entering the MLIS, MSIM, Informatics, or PhD programs was their most recent step towards a career that more closely matched the landscape of their soul. Finding the right job is just the next step.

Aaron Louie
Past Vice President, ALISS

iSchool Students Work with PNLA to Establish Leadership Institute
By Katy Shaw

It's not difficult to conjure up an image of the stereotypical librarian. Needless to say, "leadership" is probably not the first quality that jumps to mind-and that is something that today's librarians are working hard to change... FULL STORY

A look at some Directed Fieldwork experiences
By Tim Held

If you want to develop professional skills this summer, or you can't wait to put your classroom knowledge into practice, you should start thinking about directed fieldwork now... FULL STORY

The Scoop on Trent Hill
By SJ Alexander

Trent Hill, a lecturer here at the iSchool, took some time to talk to me on Valentine's
Day about how his first year of teaching here is going, and what he does when he's not chained to his desk... FULL STORY

Mall Library Attracts Diverse Patronage
By Teri Tada

What would a public library be like nestled in midst of a busy mall? iSchool students got to find out during a tour of the Library Connection@Crossroads, located at Crossroads Shopping Mall in Bellevue... FULL STORY

A Place for Reader's Advisory Librarians: Interview with SPL's David Wright
By Joan Hutchinson

At the Information School, with its emphasis on technology, research, and "content management," it's hard for some of us to keep in mind why we joined the program in the first place: our love of books and working with the public. Is there still a place for us in the librarian profession... FULL STORY

Mickey Mouse vs. The Public Domain
By Jenna Irwin

Is it fair to take away revenue from companies because the copyright on one of their cornerstone products has run out? Is it fair to let materials like books and movies moulder into non-existence because they are neither released to public domain nor perceived to be profitable to their copyright holder? Do these two issues have to stand in opposition... FULL STORY

Field Report: Salt Lake City Gets a New Library
By Sarah Bosarge

February 8, 2003, marked the one-year anniversary of the opening ceremony of last year's
Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. Residents celebrated with a parade, a fireworks display, and the grand opening of their new central city library...

Cataloguing: Past Love Affair and Future Riot
By Noella Natalino

The card catalogue reigned in the Ansonia Public Library. The great old Gothic building housed a large reading room, a small children's room in the fluorescent basement, and an open balcony with rows and rows of bookshelves. Not even the wrought iron balcony maze, perfect for hiding from a parent or for a good game of hide-and-seek with a little brother-no, not even the balcony could defeat the card catalogue. It was a mystery, too tall for my short girl body, and irresistible. Today, they speak of anything digital as "sexy modern technology." I disagree: the card catalogue was the sexiest part of any library... FULL STORY

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