[Guest Post] “What I Learned in Library School” or Tricks of the Trade: Insights of a Career Resource Librarian

As I am slowly getting adjusted to my brand new life in NYC, I figured this would be a great time to hear from another library schooler about their experience in the MLS. This post is particularly pertinent to me right now since I am working as a Web Applications Intern at the Brooklyn Public Library, and making a drastic shift to prepare myself for a future in the information professions. For those on the edge of graduation, or like myself, in the midst of a job search, this post is for you.

Meet Cheryl Kohen. Cheryl became Career Resource Librarian at Simmons College in December, 2007. Prior to joining the Simmons Library staff, she graduated from both the Simmons College undergraduate program as a double major in English and Philosophy, as well as receiving her Master’s degree from the Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science.  Aside from her duties in the CRL, as a course instructor through the GSLIS Continuing Education Office, Cheryl also teaches a month long online course entitled, “The Career-Savvy Information Professional,”  and reviews career resources for the publication “Choice Review.”  Lastly, since 2008, Cheryl runs a “Career Center” at the Massachusetts Library Association Annual Conference in May, where she helps current librarians search for job and professional development opportunities. Cheryl’s contact info is at the bottom of the post.


As the Career Resource Librarian at Simmons College, where I received my MS in Library and Information Science, and now teach career workshops to future recipients of this degree, I’ve learned many savvy career tips when job seeking and navigating the LIS websites.  Allow me to share.

Getting Out There

Though this statistic tends to change, about 70% of new jobs come from effective networking.  Even while you are still in library school and especially for those who have graduated and are actively job hunting, use your networks!  Does your alma mater have an online alumni directory that is accessible for you to search?  Friends and family who work for the organization?  What about community members?  Have you joined online groups like LinkedIn or ALAConnect? Are you a member of professional organizations?  Do you attend meetings, conferences?  Do you know where to look when locating upcoming events (browse Marian Dworaczek webpage of Library Related Conferences?  Do you volunteer?

Once you’ve started to build your network, keep in touch.  Remember, networking should be a reciprocal relationship.  You don’t want to always approach people in your network by asking them for something: a recommendation, a job, a reference.  Instead, contact someone in your network by sending them an article that you’ve found particularly relevant to the work they do.  Another innovative way to get someone’s attention is to gift them an iTunes song.  For public librarians, I recommend Lunch Money’s “I Love My Library.”

How Many Different Ways Can We Say ‘Information Professional?’

Using a library job aggregator site like Libgig.com in tandem with the social networking site LinkedIn is a great way to explore unique job titles and learn more about various library positions.  As you scroll through the many jobs on Libgig, there are many traditional job titles such as Librarian, Reference, Director, etc.  However, begin to look through some of the alternative titles that interest you, Programmer, Taxonomist, Knowledge Manager, or Information Architect.  Look at the live listings that describe the job functions and requirements for these positions.  What are employers asking for?  What do they require?  What do they prefer?  To learn even more about, say, becoming a Knowledge Manager, use your network of professionals.  Do your professors know professionals with this job title?  If yes, can they introduce you?  Do Knowledge Managers have their own professional association, or a branch/chapter from another association?  Do they meet in your area?

Also, a new feature that Libgig introduced on their 2.0 site is connecting these job listings (company name and contact name) with your LinkedIn network.  As you read through the full job listing, notice the little blue “in” square next to the name of the organization up top.  By clicking on this icon, the user can seamlessly see if the contact person for a job listing is connected to any of their LinkedIn connections.

You Put ‘What’ On Your Resume?

Updating a resume (or crafting a new resume) is always a daunting task.  I describe resume writing as the worst poem you’ll ever draft.  Stylized language is difficult, especially in the information industry where employers are looking for specific keywords and library lingo as proof of credibility.  The question becomes, how do I best convey my experiences and expertise, and what do other librarians put on their resume to do the same?  A trick I discovered when clicking through LISjobs.com is that job seekers can not only post their own resume to this highly useful site, but they may also view other resumes posted.  I’m not advocating these as perfect examples, but viewing other resumes might give you good ideas of what you want to do (or not do!) for your own.

To Quote Mary Jane from Spiderman, “Go Get ‘Em, Tiger!”

Staying behind the computer screen is a start, but go out and meet new professionals!  As information professionals, we’re surrounded by people who love to provide information, and by working in a service-based profession, usually people are happy to help.  So again, use the people around you and reach out to new professionals.  Let people know you are job hunting.  Ask questions.  Be a life-long learner, a good listener, and self-starter.  Blog, tweet, text, post, and then walk away from your seat and go out into the world.  You never know who you might meet next.

Still at your desk?  Feel free to browse through the Simmons College Library Career Guides. Get click-happy through our LIS Career Guide and find more job sites geared toward professionals just like you.

Cheryl Kohen | Career Resource Librarian, Simmons College
Email: cheryl.kohen@simmons.edu
Twitter: @cherylkohen

One thought on “[Guest Post] “What I Learned in Library School” or Tricks of the Trade: Insights of a Career Resource Librarian

  1. Dude, you’re such a professional. Love the blog, but miss your beard. Give a call back, yo. (I hope this isn’t too informal or inappropriate for the blog)

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