Youth Librarian Insights: Happy Hour Recap

Welcome to Winter Quarter!

For some us, this is our last year. For others, there is at least one more ahead of us. No matter if you are just starting the MLIS program or you are finishing, it’s important to know as much about the field as possible.

What’s a better way to learn about the field than by eating cheesy fries alongside practicing Librarians?

Thank you so much to Dawn Rutherford and Kristin Piepho for coming out to talk to us about the job process, what it’s like in the field, and what we can do to better prepare ourselves.

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Here are some takeaways from some of us who attended the event:

Ellie’s “Getting the Job” Takeaways

  • Children’s Librarian jobs often have over a hundred applicants. Make sure you have a kickass cover letter that not only demonstrates your abilities to do the job, but also how much you want to do the job.
  • Have ready-made book talks, storytimes, songs, etc that you can pull out for a variety of age groups (for job interview purposes) and make sure that your allotted x minutes are filled with you showing off your skills, not saying “at this point I would do a craft we don’t have time for right now…” etc.
  • In interviews, take ownership of your role in processes/projects that are group-run. Talk about yourself like your best friend talks about you.
  • Find out all you can about how your application/ cover letter/ interview will be scored. Like answering an essay question in school, make sure you hit all the parts of the question.
  • There’s no way to keep up with the new (kids’/teens’) lit that’s coming out. Find lists of “bests” from sources you respect and read those ones. Also rely on your kid/teen patrons to tell you what to read. Read on your commutes. Read all you can. It’s ok: no one can read it all.
  • Observe professionals doing storytime, etc. Learn from them. Ask them questions.
  • Institutional culture really matters. We are really shaped by the organizations we are part of, especially early in our careers.
  • Outcome-based programming is the way to go. We learn from failure. Be willing to “kill your darlings”- aka programs you love but that don’t actually help Objective X in your master plan. Librarians often want to get it right the first time, and are disappointed by failure- we need to fight this impulse and take risks. Eg- we might love the idea of getting every kindergartener a library card, but if it doesn’t actually help them read better or develop a love of reading, our time and money is better used on programs that do help these objectives.

Melody’s “Real Talk” Takeaways

  • Keep your booktalks short and simple. People don’t want to hear the background story. Get to the exciting stuff.
  • Get involved with organizations only as you see fit. We tend to try to do everything we can because the opportunity is there. In reality, prioritizing your commitments is better than over stretching yourself.
  • Just because you don’t get a position does not mean you are not worthy. There are many factors that go into the selection process; including motivational fit. The important thing is that you went through the process and learned from it.
  • The Pacific Northwest is a difficult area to land your first “real” Librarian job. Your ability to relocate may be the key to your success. The best part is that once you get your first “real” Librarian job, you have a better chance of coming back.
  • Never lose your spark or your enthusiasm. A lot of the job hunting process has to do with timing. As long as you still have a passion for your end goal, you will get there.


Elizabeth’s “Short but Sweet” Takeaways

  • Flexibility, especially in terms of location, is key when you start looking for jobs right out of grad school.
  • Being open-minded and flexible with your career goals can also lead to great opportunities you may not have considered otherwise.
  • It can be difficult to quantify the impact of services to youth, especially teens, but that doesn’t make the outcomes any less valuable.
  • Librarians really love coffee mugs.
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Dawn and her awesome new mug

Want to learn more? Come to our next Happy Hour this quarter!

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