For the last three years I have been a youth librarian at my tiny library. Prior to that, I was a dyed-in-the-wool adult services librarian. I also did some moonlighting at a small university reference desk and subbed at another public library. If you had said that I was on track for youth services, I would have thought you were smoking crack. Youth services? Are you kidding? Even my own kids say I have no nurturing instincts.
Prior to my current position, I realized as was at a bit of crossroads. At the same time the economy stunk and I was feeling a bit desperate. The only position I could find was youth services. I liked the library and my co-workers so much I figured I could make it work, so, I said yes to kids. I honestly never thought I was cut out for this work, and yet here I am. Aside from some occasional suicidal/homicidal thoughts during Summer Reading, I love this job. I really believe if a few things had gone differently I would have never tried youth services.
The point of my tedious life story is to keep an open mind. When I am discussing job postings with people, I often see many people reject positions because they weren’t exactly what they had in mind. It seems like many folks are reading the job posting and maybe one or two skills are not a perfect alignment with their idea of a job. Too often, I see a person not considering anything that isn’t completely within their comfort zone.
So, next time you are running through the job postings, take a breath and look at the larger picture. Before you say no to a job posting, consider the following:
Do you have the minimum requirements?
“Minimum” is the key. Libraries post with a minimum set of requirements and then add extras (“desired skills”) that they would like to have in a candidate. Very few libraries will find everything on the “desired” list.
What is the reputation of the library and the Director?
Even a great job will be ruined in a flash by horrible management or bad employee culture. Check around. Find out the employee turnover rate. If this library is chewing up directors and librarians every few months, there is a probably a serious problem that you are wise to avoid. Conversely, if you are excited about the staff and direction a library is headed, even if the job isn’t perfect, I would seriously consider applying.
What do you want from a job?
This is where you need to be clear about your own needs. Like the job posting, separate your requirements, or deal breakers, from your list of desired attributes. Don’t forget to be realistic in developing your list of desires and deal breakers. (Example: Desired: open bar in the staff room. Reality: A pop machine, you supply the money.)
Seldom, if ever, does a career go in a straight line toward success or satisfaction. What my example should tell you is that if you are a librarian and you like being a librarian, be open to different kinds of library service. You never know what might happen.