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Now that I have accepted a job here in Santa Fe, suddenly I’m being inundated with interview invitations.  Sigh.  I really like my job and know it’s an experience I would never get to have otherwise (particularly allowing me to stay in Santa Fe and get to meet people and experience the whole art scene here, which is amazing).  It’s the right thing for me now, but it’s still hard to turn down some of the other opportunities that I applied for.  Most importantly it’s a very important lesson learned – don’t lose confidence, as the opportunities will eventually come with determination and patience.  The process will always take longer than expected.  I’d like to develop these observations into an expanded description of lessons learned by the job searching process, and hopefully an article to help other anxious soon-to-be-grads in similar situations! Taking the plunge is worth it. I haven’t had time to do much writing lately as I’m finishing my last class (Intellectual Freedom) and swamped with papers and presentations, but that’s the next thing on the agenda.  

It gives me a better perspective on how the game is played, and what works and what doesn’t in the application process, for the next time around.  

I had a great conversation with Eumie Imm Stroukoff at the Georgia O’Keeffe today about how these things have a tendency to work out for the best, if in fact you end up taking the least predictable route.  I really admire Eumie, and she and Jenni James have definitely become my mentors and art library role models.  These internship experiences have been such valuable experiences for me, and I really feel involved in the New Mexico library community because of them.

I came home yesterday to a hand-written note in my mailbox asking me to come in to interview at a Santa Fe gallery. Apparently my resume had cut off the pertinent contact information other than address (stupid printer), and they pursued me all the way out to Eldorado to set up an interview. I don’t think anyone’s ever gone to such lengths to contact me. I met with the Director today at one of the biggest and most prestigious galleries in Santa Fe (the first piece that I looked at was a $750,000 Georgia O’Keeffe painting) . I was a little worried they were going to ask me about my impressions of certain contemporary artists (I know pathetically little about the contemporary art market, though that may change), but luckily it’s a gallery of mostly historical paintings and Native American pottery. So those of you who know me know I was pretty much drooling at the idea of actually being paid to work at this place. It’s basically the kind of work I’ve volunteered my time for in my various internships and research projects – researching and cataloging the art in the gallery’s inventory. They get new pieces every day, so it will be very much like working for a museum or an auction house. I was basically offered the job on the spot (contingent on salary negotiation) and accepted this afternoon.

Finally gainfully employed – I’m so excited! I went into information work (originally Museum Studies) with the lofty idea that I would combine my love of art with my love of organization, classification, and cataloging, and find a job in a museum where I could combine these things. Being a registrar has always been a dream. This is also definitely a firm step in the right direction of being an art librarian, as I will get great experience with art research. And who knows who I will meet in the Santa Fe art community? Maybe Val Kilmer will come in and buy a painting. As long as I stay involved with the professional library side of things, I would say this is the best of both worlds.

That actually wasn’t my only interview of the day – I also survived phone interview #2 for a job at St. Olaf College in Minnesota. Yes, I keep moving further south from Minnesota winters for a reason, but being close to family is definitely a compelling draw. The interview went surprisingly well. Maybe I’m getting the hang of phone interviews. I got to talk about my ideas for implementing Web 2.0 concepts in academic libraries and making ILL and circ services more pertinent and useful to patrons.

Though the phone interview and all the other hoops I’ve jumped through have been good experience (I think this will all be so much easier the next time around), I am SO GLAD to be done with this process for the time being. It is no overstatement that job searching is a full time job. I have used more ink on cover letters than all the papers I wrote in college and grad school combined.

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.

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.

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 in that purgatory between starting to apply for professional jobs and actually getting my degree.  It’s challenging, because the general consensus is to begin sending out applications 6 mos. or so before graduation, but most all jobs require the degree in hand.  At this point, it is likely the jobs I’m applying for wouldn’t start before my August graduation date, so I’m stepping up my efforts and finding some really interesting opportunities.  I’m getting much better at writing cover letters to suit the jobs I’m looking for, which is actually a really helpful exercise in self-esteem boosting.  Every time I sell myself in a cover letter I end up feeling really confident and excited about my prospects.  Who needs psychoanalysis?

I seem to be doing something right.  Yesterday I was contacted for a phone interview for an adult services job in a public library.  Yay! My first librarian interview.  I’m running through my mind the kinds of questions I should be thinking about.  I’m usually pretty good at extemporaneous delivery in interviews, but I think I also need to be prepared for trick questions.  There’s nothing worse than dead silence at the end of a phone line as I wrack my brain for something halfway intelligent to say.  The thing is, I’ve never interviewed in a public library, and I’m not sure how differently they approach things than a university.  It was really great experience for me to be on the search committee at UNL this year – I learned a lot about what to put in a cover letter and what the search committee is looking for.  So hopefully that experience will help me out.  I’m also glad that I so recently took courses in collection development, adult services, and ethics.  I think the information I learned in those classes will be really useful for the types of questions I will be asked.

This last week at UNL has been bittersweet.  I’ve come to realize that my work with electronic resources has really been appreciated, and I’ve had so many librarians and staff make the effort to tell me how much they appreciated my efforts.  That means a lot to me and makes me feel like I really accomplished something here, even though often I felt like my work went unnoticed.  That’s the trouble with cataloging and database maintenance.  If you’re doing your job well, no one knows about it and you never get feedback.  It’s only when there are problems that people take notice.  It would be nice to work in public services and get some face to face validation.  But I feel like I have learned so much from the people I work with and all the challenges of implementing ERM and troubleshooting database and e-journal problems.  I know I’m at a really good place right now to move forward into the next challenge.

I talked to the librarian at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum on Friday about a project automating their serials holdings.  They just got a new ILS and at this point still have their records in paper.  I think with my serials background this will be a good project for me.  So the plan at this point is to split my time this summer between the Georgia O’Keeffe and the digitization project at the Institute of American Indian Arts.  Both of them sound really interesting – I can’t wait to get started and meet people in the museum/library community in New Mexico. 

January 2020
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