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Student Shadow Laurie Dreyer on Spring Conference Lessons: Encourage a Love of Learning

Laurie Dreyer, a graduating MSIS student, attended the UNYSLA event “Career Development, Plan your Future” on Friday April 22, at the University at Albany’s Science Library as a student shadow and authored the following reflection. Dreyer hopes to join an academic organization in an instructional or reference capacity upon her graduation in May.

The day started with keynote speaker Lisa Norberg, a principal consultant at K|N Consultants, emphasizing the non-linear path that library careers often take. Norberg laid out eight steps that early and mid-career librarians can take to help plan the course of their careers:

  1. Define Success. It is important to define success for oneself – how do you want to spend your time? It is also important to help others succeed too, as this will add to your own feeling of success. This definition will likely change often.
  2. Do your job well. Don’t lose focus on what your key tasks are. Instead, take responsibility for your work and do it well. It is important to pay attention when you start to get bored. It can be an opportunity for change, but don’t use that as a reason to stop doing what needs to be done.
  3. Cop an attitude (a positive attitude!). Much of your success at work is based on your positive attitude, even more so than your skillset and knowledge.
  4. Play well with others. Being nice at work is going to make everyone’s life much easier. Learn how to disagree amicably. This skill alone will make you a valuable employee.
  5. Fear no data. Rather, collect the data, analyze the data, and act on the data. Don’t forget the act part; it is the most important!
  6. Give change a chance. It is the one constant of the information world and can take on many forms, so learn to expect it.
  7. Better yet, lead change. This can be done from any position, not just department/organization heads. Leadership and management do not mean the same thing and it is important to learn the difference.
  8. Work unafraid. Explore new areas of your discipline, speak your mind, and research what interests you.

Many of these themes were repeated throughout the day, illustrating to attendees how full of opportunities the world of information can be. Norberg was followed up with some practical advice from Susan Kendrick, a Business Research and Data Librarian at Cornell University. Kendrick reminded us that applicants have very little control over the pet peeves of those hiring. She emphasized that being ‘boring’ was the smartest thing an applicant can do in their application packet. The ‘wow factor’ comes more from the things you have done and the types of opportunities you have sought out, rather than the font that you use to tell people about it.

Tyler Dzuba, the Head of the Physics-Optics-Astronomy Library at the University of Rochester, graciously pointed out the career strengthening that joining professional organizations, like SLA, can do for those early in their careers. Jenna Mayotte, Associate Director of the Portland (ME) Public Library, dispelled the myth that it is impossible to move from academic to public libraries, and even showed us how doing so can make one a more appealing applicant. Four guest speakers agreed during the last session’s Q & A that salary negotiation is one of the most difficult things you can do and shared some valuable tips.

Here are some of the lessons that I took away from this event:

  • If you aren’t excited about the position being offered, don’t apply. When you find one that you are excited about, emphasize what part of the job you are excited about in your application.
  • Figure out what about librarianship makes you LOVE what you do and then find a position that allows you to do that (it might take a while, so have a plan for how to pay your rent in the meantime).
  • Keep reevaluating what your goals are and how you define success for yourself.
  • Don’t accept the first salary offer, it is not going to hurt to ask for more money even if the answer is no, you’ll still get the job (if you want it) and you will be happier that you asked.
  • Pay attention during interviews, you are going to get a very good idea of the culture in the place you are applying to during the interview – use that as your opportunity to interview them!

I walked away with a sense that careers in librarianship are constantly evolving. That the trajectory for library careers is not the same as it was a couple of decades ago. Finding one job and working there for 30 years is no longer the ideal. The ideal now is to affect change, to foster and bring new ideas into the world, to encourage a love of learning, and to spend as much time learning for and about ourselves as we can.

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