Thursday, 13 March 2014

Chapter Review: Interviews

Chapter Review
Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray

Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 10: Interviews

This chapter describes types of job interviews and advice on how to get through one successfully.

Take-away Points:
Interviews are inherently stressful, but applicants should take confidence in the fact that they beat out many other applicants to make it to this point. When a search committee sends you a list of potential interview times do you best to choose one, it would be easier to manipulate your schedule than to ask them to manipulate the schedules of four or five people. While it is smart to have some notes available during a phone interview, don’t write a script; it’s important that the conversation flows and does not feel forced. Even if the interviewer does not ask directly, have your “describe a time when…” questions prepared. Feel free to have questions prepared from your interpretation of the job description. It is okay to ask if you answered the question completely, or if they can repeat the question. It is a good idea to pause before answering a question in order to compose yourself; during a panel situation start off looking at the person who asked the question, after the first sentence look at the rest of the panel. Always remember that even during day long interviews, nothing is off the record. You should endeavor to be warm and personable yet professional and respectful. When interviewing at a place where you would be the only librarian, keep library jargon and acronyms to a minimum. There is no way that you can be successful without doing background research, it will help you ask better questions and be engaged in subsequent conversations; remember no questions translates to “not interested”. When all else fails, you can ask, “what do you like about working here?” Bring a portfolio with materials to take notes and mints (not gum) to keep you prepared and throughout the interview. Another thing to remember is that you can make up for not having the most experience by being enthusiastic, speaking cogently about topics, and knowing why the job is important.

This chapter mentions Skype as a form of telephone interviewing. Their advice about looking into the camera rather than at the screen would have been helpful when I Skype interviewed with the Houston Public Library. I read a few blogs about Skype interviewing and none mentioned that tip. I was surprised when I read that it is acceptable to send one thank you note to the group who interviewed you. In the past, I had been stressed about remembering everyone’s name, but this tip would take me off of the hook. Also, it is worth it to send a handwritten note, rather than an email. There were a lot of friendly reminders in this chapter about dressing appropriately and being pleasant during the interview. I think this is standard interview advice for any profession.

Chapter Review: Cover Letters

Chapter Review
Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray

Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 9: Cover Letters

This chapter gives advice about how to write a strong cover letter.

Take-away Points:
A cover letter is a bridge between the applicant and the job that she is applying for. The vacancy announcement should be the guide as you write the cover letter. Talk about how your work experience, coursework, research, publications, workshops, conferences, or training would bring value to their organization. Try not to parrot back the exact phrasing from the job posting, but use your experience to demonstrate how you have done what they are asking for. Even if you have not done everything on the list of desired qualifications, do your best to describe your authentic strengths and help the potential employers make the connections between your skills and their needs. Be sure to do some research to determine who to address the letter to and use information about the institution within the letter. Refrain from using “to whom it may concern” because it may appear cold and generic; also avoid a gimmicky or infomercial sounding cover letter. Other tips include writing the position number and how you discovered it in the introduction, and don’t repeat your contact information in the body of the letter. The letter should have a professional (concise and direct) tone and be conservative in format and presentation. In some cases, like re-location you can include personal information such as, “my spouse accepted a position in Minnesota” as a reason you are leaving a position in Arizona. The authors recommend applicants apply in enough time to write the cover letter, allow a couple of days for someone else to read it and review it yourself before the submission. A good gauge for the length of the cover letter is the position level that you are applying for, entry level jobs should be 1-1.5 pages, a library director position might be 3-5 pages.   

I often get stuck on what to include on a cover letter, so this chapter helps me a great deal. Since most employers are swamped with applications, I try to keep the cover letter at one page in length. I feel like I could always do more background research on the institution to incorporate into the cover letter and I hardly ever have someone else go over my letter before submitting it. Perhaps, a nice circle of friends could make ourselves available to each other for the review of our application documents. The biggest reason that this is hard for me is the turnaround time; waiting on someone to respond with feedback could make me miss the application deadline. The advice from this chapter gives me an ideal to strive for, and if I keep striking out doing it my way, an incentive to find a way to do it their way.  

Chapter Review: Resumes

Chapter Review
Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray

Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 8: Resumes

This chapter discusses the components of a strong resume and advice on content and conventions that everyone has to consider.

Take-away Points:
Since every resume has to be tailored for the job that one is applying for, it would be a good idea to create a master resume and pull the relevant information for each unique resume. Applicants should also create a career portfolio of his/her accomplishments for his/her own memory and it could be the basis of future projects. The authors encourage students and new graduates to talk about technology and current theories to make their resumes more appealing.  

Before going to the IE LEADS conference, I thought I had a strong resume because I incorporated a lot of narrative in my resume in order to help potential employers see how my experience was relevant to their requirements. After reading this chapter and talking to a career coach, I understand that the dots need to be connected more subtly. Choosing the relevant information from my master resume is less overwhelming to committees than a paragraph of prose that details why I would be a good fit. 

Chapter Review: How Employers Hire

Book Title: What do Employers want? A guide for Library Science Students
Authors: Priscilla K. Shontz and Richard A. Murray
Publication Date: 2012

Chapter 6: How Employers Hire

This chapter starts off with some basic information on what happens to your application after you submit it; then it discusses the differences in timing and procedures among various types of libraries and institutions.

Take-away points:
Most employers do not do anything with your application materials until the application deadline has passed. Some employers don’t communicate well, while others are overwhelmed with applicants to respond to everyone. Search committees and hiring directors start with the basic requirements and continue to sift through applicants until they are left with a small number of resumes. Most places will do a telephone interview before inviting an applicant to interview in person. Academic libraries may pay for travel to a long distance applicant and successful applicants could meet with an academic dean or a library director during the notably longer interview process. Public libraries typically hire local applicants and won’t pay travel expenses of out of town applicants, these libraries usually function as a part of city or county departments their processes are standardized. In many cases, the resume will not substitute for an online application, applicants must follow instructions carefully. For school librarians, teaching experience is critical. For federal and state government libraries, positions have to be filled within 80 days of their postings, and all hiring and selection decisions are based on scoring matrices in order to avoid any suspicions of impropriety. In special libraries and non-library environments, applicants must attempt to distinguish him/herself through internships or networks. Lastly, the authors encourage applicants to be resilient in the job search and not take any rejection personally.   


The article compares finding a job to finding a mate, which I think is quite appropriate. We can read all of the job finding and relationship books that are out there but it is probably the chance encounter at an event that leads to the best opportunity. I was surprised that the authors did not mention video chat sites like Skype or Oovoo, as many institutions are using these in lieu of telephone or in-person interviews. I have been on several hiring committees, and believe that the advice that this chapter gives is relevant and accurate  

Speech Review: The Power of Archives: Archivists Values and Value in the Post Modern Age

Speech Review
Title: The Power of Archives: Archivists’ Values and Value in the Post-Modern Age
Author: Mark Greene
Publication:  The American Archivist, Volume 72, Number 1, Spring/Summer 2009

In 2008, Mark Greene, then president of the SAA, proposed a set of archives professional values that included professionalism, collectivity, activism, selection, democracy, service, diversity, use and access, history. In 2011, a committee of the SAA adopted the following professional values; access and use, accountability, advocacy, diversity, history and memory, preservation, professionalism, responsible custody, selection, service, and social responsibility.

More descriptions of archival value system, according to Mark Greene:

Professionalism: We should be developing our specialized knowledge (via research and publications). We should also strive to be motivated by our professional mission, rather than rules and obligations.

Collectivity: This principle works on two levels. On one hand, we should continue to focus on aggregates in digital and analog forms in terms of arrangement and description. In another sense, we can work with other library professionals to make a wider variety of materials available for users.

Activism: Greene bundles activism with agency, our role in shaping the historical record, and advocacy, bringing attention to challenges in the archives. When agency and advocacy are in practiced, we can give voice to under-documented individuals.

Democracy: Archives are critical to keeping the government accountable to the governed.

Service: We provide service to our institutions and to society in general. We should also place the needs of our users over the needs of our collections.

Diversity: This can be a tricky value because although it has the power to increase the relevance and access of the archives it can blind us to the negative impact our intervention. Greene focuses on the importance of encouraging diverse individuals to enter the profession and accessioning/processing diverse archival collections.

Use and Access: Greene’s views on access and use included a discussion of electronic records and revised processing methods. Consistent with his ideas of putting the needs of the user above all else, he states that “rights holders’ interest laws” amount to censorship and diminishes access. He believes that HIPPA and FERPA regulations should have time limits. In all questions of access versus privacy, he would error on the side of access.

History: Most people associate archives with historical resources. Our focus on primary sources is the source of historical accountability.

I started this blog entry with a discussion of professional values because Greene asserts that an embrace of our professional values is the key to asserting our power with resource allocators and the general public. It is kind of interesting to think that the American Medical Association was established in 1847, the American Bar Association was founded in 1878, and the Society of American Archivists was founded in 1936. I’m not sure how long it took those groups of lawyers and doctors to establish their core professional values, but I am guessing it was less than 75 years. Greene’s central message in this presidential address is how can we expect other people to value us, if we don’t value ourselves, and by the way, here are some quotes about our challenges and potential solutions (as stated by some of our favorite archives scholars and leaders).

David Gracy:
  • ·       The depth of the problem was demonstrated with he commissioned a survey on how archivists were perceived by resource allocators. Some of the comments included, “roles not worth fighting budget battles for”, “admired but frivolous activity”, “appear as hoarders”
Mark Greene:
  • ·        “We have to demand, cajole, finagle, bargain, collect points, win friends, influence people, whatever it takes to build and exercise power for our programs.”
  • ·        “We wield power by shaping the historical record, providing access to government information, protecting citizen rights, educating young minds, affecting the ways scholars use and interpret repository materials; provide substance for powerful entertainment.”
  • ·        “We can advocate for the archives by creating concise definition of what we are and why we are important, participating in Archives Month, draft press releases to institutions and local media, talk ourselves up with donors and supervisors.”
  • ·        “Too many institutions behave like janitors clearing away the refuse; not selecting at the onset and de-accessioning at the item level. We are scared of throwing away something important.”
  • ·        “We are trained to appraise and select, let’s do it with confidence; it is one of our powers!”
  • ·        “The resonance of the word primary, in the phrase primary source. Primary connotes first, most, important, chief, key, principal, major, and crucial.”
  • ·        “Assigning professional values can be seen as exclusionary, but this could be a good thing. We should endeavor to share our values, not just degrees, records, repositories, affiliation, or function.”
John Fleckner
  • ·        When it comes to expressing our value, we have to move beyond how [we work] to why [we work].
Gerry Ham
  • ·        “If appraisal is so important to archivist, why do we do it so poorly?”
Maynard Brichford
  • ·        “Not all accession materials are worth extraordinary conservation efforts.”
Susan M. Heathfield
  • ·        “Living your values is one of the most powerful tools available to help you lead and influence others.”

Monday, 10 March 2014

LIB 122: Week 8 (March 4, 2014)

In the past, I have only learned about metadata schemas as they were utilized in the particular projects that I was working on, namely EAD. In this course, I am increasingly appreciative of the exposure to the history and functionality of various metadata schemas. The more that I review archives job descriptions and tried to educate myself on the relevance of alphabet soup terms like METS, MODS, EAD, XML, I thought I would need some clever mnemonic device to keep them straight in my mind. Of course no rote memorization technique is better than genuine understanding, which I have come to obtain through learning about the reasons that these standards came into place, who was invested in their success, and which descriptive void it attempts to fill. 

So far we have Dublin Core which was devised to help librarians catalog the internet which explains its broad interpretations. Now, we have MODS which came out of the MARC camp which was full of old school library catalogers, challenged with the advent of shelf ready library in the 1990’s. The intention of MODS is to provide more granularity than Dublin Core, and it has the added bonus requirement of being written in the highly interoperable XML programming language. The 50 elements within MODS, are based on the 900 MARC fields, but they are given intelligible names rather than the three digit numeric codes that only library catalogers are familiar with. Lastly, MODS does not require catalogers to user AACR2, and it supports any controlled vocabulary or thesauri. Our assignment at the end of class was to match up the Dublin Core elements that we had used for our photo project last semester with the MODS elements that we just learned about. I definitely ran into some confusion as the “dc: description” field could be used for both “mods: abstract” or “mods: tableofcontents”. Once again local standards would determine which elements should be used and we could be consistent within our organization.

Next week is Spring Break at Pasadena City College, so I’ll be back to blog on March 18, 2014….