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For some reason these past few days my zen outlook is taking on some panicky edges. From what I gather from listservs and other online discussions, the professional job market continues to be hotly competitive and difficult in most parts of the country. On average it seems that librarian job searches take from several months to several years. I’ve already been looking seriously for several months and have only gotten 2 interviews, which actually seems amazingly fortunate in comparison to others.

Even though I feel like I’ve been doing everything right for the past several months – hitting all possible national employment aggregators as well as all local listings, and carefully designing my resume and cover letter to address each job specifically, I’m definitely nervous about not finding a job by the time I graduate. I’m not sending out resumes blindly for jobs I’m not suited for, and because of this positions are limited. If anecdotal evidence is true, I may need to send out hundreds of applications even to get a couple of interviews. That’s deflating. It’s even more deflating to consider compromises such as moving to Wayne, Nebraska (just an example – no offense to Wayne!). I really want to stay in New Mexico, or at least in the west, but there aren’t many openings out here. I would rather compromise on a job here than on location, but who knows what kinds of compromises I will eventually have to make?

Then there are jobs like these“visiting reference librarian” positions that ask for every imaginable qualification for a short term position and pay under $35,000. Do they have any idea how much it costs to live in Durango? That is ridiculous. Yet I’ll probably still apply for it, against my better judgment. One can’t help but feel that our profession is becoming increasingly devalued.

Do I have a backup plan? Yes. If the job search stretches into August, I will try to find a month-to-month lease (whether here in Santa Fe or – more likely – Albuquerque I’m not sure yet) and take on a short term job or temping. I don’t mind clerical and administrative work, and it will give me the chance to keep looking. But I would find it disheartening to have put in so much time, effort, and commitment to the profession only to be in that position.

Well, I missed out on ALA yet again…anyone who went feel free to contribute some commentary.  For the most part,  personally I find more localized or focused conferences such as MPLA, VRA, or ARLIS to be more useful.  Or maybe I’m just bitter about ALA’s virulent recruitment efforts.

After spending so much time last week setting up the ledgers and funds for the Georgia O’Keeffe serials collection, today I did indeed have to reinvent the wheel.  Because we were booted out of the system abruptly last week, all the changes were lost.  I had to recreate the whole thing, which was pretty frustrating.  The good news is that I have a really good grasp on how the system works now and how to work with the subscription maintenance.  After today, many of the titles are ready to be checked in.

Eumie also mentioned trying to get grant funding or some other source of money to add a position at the library…and that she would like to hire me, even if it was just for a temporary project.   That would be an incredible opportunity.  It feels good to know that I am making a real contribution there and that she admires my work.  A job would feel even better, but I’ll take the admiration for now.  And it’s good to have daydreams to sustain me while I’m waiting for the job offers to come.

Keeping up my zen outlook to this whole adventure, something will come along…

I had my interview at the University of New Mexico yesterday, and despite the need to project my voice quite loudly over the drilling and hammering (Zimmerman library is still reconstructing after last year’s fire and flood damage – almost their entire serials collection was destroyed or shipped to Texas) I think it went pretty well.  I hit it off with the interviewers and think I would enjoy working in the department (ILL).  Apparently only the reference librarians at UNM get to be called “librarians”, so even though the MLS is a preferred qualification for this position, the title would be “Library Specialist 3.”  I have no problem with that, and the salary is at a professional level.  I’ve never been very hung up on titles, though I can still rightfully say that I AM A LIBRARIAN.   Or at least I will be in August.  So I’m excited about the prospect of this job, though I realize I can’t count on the offer.  All eggs are not in that basket, and I’m still looking at other opportunities.  And hey, the Getty still might call…

So, the question this week is to temp or not to temp? I am reallyreallyreallyreally enjoying the chance to spend half the week hiking and half the week working on fun projects at the museums and writing.  And a little bit of just sitting out in the courtyard watching the sun go down over the mountains.  Yesterday I spent about an hour just watching some lizards chase each other around.  It’s highly therapeutic just being here, being out in the open sky and not trapped all day in an office.  However, I did go in today and take one of those insufferable office skills tests at a temp agency, as I continue to have an uncomfortable anxiety about my money moving in a negative direction.

I definitely have a better grasp on Voyager after realizing that is a very strictly hierarchical database built upon the Access relational model. Unfortunately, rather than setting up the acquisitions/checkin workflow in a systematic step-by-step manner, the Voyager manual leaves the user to his or her own devices in figuring out the order in which the steps must be completed. If you miss one step, you can’t set up a record. It’s kind of like parsing an XML document – as long as the tags are perfect and nested in a precise hierarchy, your document will appear. If not, you must keep going backwards through the steps until the missing link is identified. This is somewhat different than how the Innovative Millennium system is set up, and takes some getting used to.

We ended up having to create a ledger and allocate periodicals funds before any titles could be maintained as serial records. If I had known this from the beginning, the process would have been much simpler. Now it should be fairly straightforward process to add the individual titles as line items. Why couldn’t they just explain that in the manual (another gripe from my inner indexer – the Voyager help manual is very poorly indexed and hard to search). I ended up creating a workflow document for the library to make the process much easier in the future.

As Eumie pointed out today, teaching myself a new ILS and creating a module from scratch will look pretty good on my resume. So…I guess frustration is a fair price to pay.

I also cataloged several records and created holdings and item records. It’s amazing how much I can get done if I only have to work 2 days a week and recuperate with long days hiking. I’m all for abolishing the 5-day work week, at least here in New Mexico.

I rode my bike out to Lamy yesterday, about 8 miles south.  It’s a tiny little town with a railroad depot, dining car restaurant, and railroad/history museum.  I started a conversation with the director of the museum, and he immediately mentioned that they are looking for volunteers.  When he found out I’m getting my MLIS degree, he exclaimed “That’s exactly what we need! Someone to catalog our library!” So I got a tour of the collection, mostly historical books about trains.  They mostly have books and a few videos, and no kind of organizational system whatsoever.  Of course, against my better judgment my inner cataloger was reflexively inching towards the books, murmuring “must catalog and apply subject headings…” It wouldn’t even take all that much time to organize it in a very basic way, but for now my better judgment prevailed and I politely declined.  If I have some free time later in the summer I may head back to Lamy.

In the meantime, I have started my internship at the Georgia O’Keeffe Research Center/Library.  I really enjoy working with Eumie, and she is grateful for my “expertise” with automated ILS systems (I realize that’s redundant, but it just sounds silly to say “ILSs”).  Eumie started out working at MOMA and is quite active in the ARLIS community.  She is a great contact to have here, and even mentioned wanting to add a librarian position in the research center (fingers crossed, and drooling a bit).  Though I haven’t worked with the Ex Libris Voyager system in the past, I figure it’s similar enough to Millennium that I should be able to figure things out.  Of course, I’ve never automated a serials and acquisitions system from scratch, either.  That’s the learning curve – a daunting but interesting challenge.

As I mentioned earlier, I had an interview this week for an Adult Services position in a public library. The process has been pretty intense – round one was a lengthy email questionnaire (more like an essay exam or MLS comps), round two was a phone interview, and round 3 is in-person interviews. This was my first experience with a phone interview, and it was a little rough. First of all, my cell phone reception is a little patchy out here. I’m not sure they could even hear all of my answers. The interviewers were using a speaker phone, making them sound as if they were trapped inside a tin can. I had to have questions repeated several times, which really cut into my concentration. The questions themselves were also not what I was expecting – I spent all morning preparing to discuss my qualifications and experiences relating to the position, and in fact the entire interview consisted of “what would you do if…” scenarios (such as “what would you do if you heard a coworker giving a patron misinformation?”) I hear these types of questions discussed all the time of nexgen and newlib, so they didn’t come as a surprise, but I wish I had more opportunity to showcase my knowledge and ideas. It seemed more or less a way to see how well I could think on my feet.

Today I met with Jenni James at the Institute of American Indian Arts to discuss my project. I’m really excited to be working with them on a digitization project from the ground up. She gave me a tour of the facility, which is quite new and impressive. They have a great collection of Native American art resources. Some of the instructors are pushing for teaching images, so they eventually want to get their slide collection digitized. Right now they have about 700 images scanned as tiffs, but with no accompanying thumbnail jpgs or metadata. The first order of business is to decide on an image cataloging system suitable for the needs of a small collection. Jenny mentioned the Image AXS system (freely available for non-commercial use and based on Microsoft Access), which I have not worked with before. I told her about my experience with CONTENTdm and the VRA Core, and I think my knowledge will be applicable to what they want to accomplish. It will be really great experience to create some original metadata using VRA Core – and also a great way to integrate my interests.

On a philosophical note, this summer is more than anything a personal exercise in embracing uncertainty. I realized I have become all too tethered to the limiting safety net of staying in one place longer than it suits me and settling for opportunities for security rather than fulfillment. I am uncertain about where this path will lead me, and that is frightening. But for once I am going to take that fear and transform it into momentum. I have the rest of my life to work, and I do not want to regret missed opportunities.

I finally reached my destination of Santa Fe, my vantage point for the next 2 months. The trip was long but fulfilling. I stayed with friends in Cortez, Colorado (just a hop skip and a jump from Mesa Verde) and got a “behind the scenes” tour of the Yucca House ruins from my friend who is an archaeologist. The ancient culture there, and around here, is just amazing. There are potsherds all over the ground and ruins everywhere. I am constantly reminded by the artistic and natural beauty around me why I am down here.

Yesterday I had my first interview (more about that later), and to bolster my courage and give me that tough librarian edge I applied one of my special library tattoos. Did it work? Maybe not, but I still look cool. I need whatever mojo I can get!

I drove into Santa Fe just minutes ahead of a ferocious thunderstorm. I’m choosing to take it as an augury of cosmic forces building to help me along in my journey rather than a foreboding message…

I’m attempting here no small feat – to distill my observations and philosophies of the last few weeks into one cohesive code.  During the course of my perusal of the various library codes of ethics, it dawned on me that this would be an ideal way to create a succinct structure for the more meandering and disjointed observations and declarations of my previous posts.  In particular I was inspired by the short and sweet statements laid out by Rich Gause of the University of Central Florida in his “Philosophy of Librarianship” and wanted to attempt something similar. 

My distillation is even shorter, if not sweeter.  I took some time looking at the various resources we have explored in this course, including the ALA Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights, Fay Zipkowitz’s Case Studies, Mark Alfino & Linda Pierce’s Information Ethics for Librarians, Michael Gorman’s values, Ranganathan’s 5 Laws, and the code of ethics of the American Institute for the Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works.  I came up with 5 statements based upon what I saw to be the most striking, essential, and personally applicable facets of these various resources within the context of the thinking I have done about my own professional development and philosophies of librarianship.

My Professional Ethics of Librarianship:

1. We have a responsibility to care for the cultural resources entrusted to us by our communities.

 2. We have a responsibility to provide equal access to unbiased information for all patrons to promote literacy and the opportunity for lifelong learning.

3. We have a responsibility to continue learning new skills, thinking critically about current issues in libraries, and reaching out to the community and colleagues.

4. We are organizers of information in order to make information more accessible through effective subject analysis, cataloging, and classification principles.

5. We must be responsive to our patrons and our communities.

I feel that these points get to the heart of why this profession continues to be relevant and essential to an information-driven society.  These are the philosophies I try to keep in mind when I consider the course of my career and prioritize my goals at work and in continuing education.

WWALD? (what would a librarian do?)

June 2007