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LIS Job Hunt Tips

So, for the MLIS graduates that are job hunting, I have a little bit of advice for you.

First: Network like you’ve never networked before and don’t limit yourself to only people from the MLIS program. What about your friends from high school, what are they doing now? Or your roommates from college? Cousins? Your mom’s friends? There is not one bit of me that is joking right now. Who have you friended on Facebook? What are they doing now? Do they work for your local county? Do they work at a museum or other nonprofit that may have a position for a librarian? Widen your networking scope.

Second: Acknowledge that you may have to move for the position you want, even if it’s just a 2-year-plan to get the experience on your resume so that you can get a job in a location you prefer. I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area down to Los Angeles for this job. I did not plan on it. Moving was not my first choice. But I am here and honestly, I’m loving it. If I weren’t loving it, I’d at least have some amazing experience on my resume to set me up for future positions.

Third: Google yourself. See what comes up. How do you look? Are there things that should be cleared up that you don’t want potential employers seeing? Are there things you can do to make what they ARE seeing more appealing? One suggestion I have is to get an page. It’s free, it shows up when you Google yourself (at least, mine does for me), and it’s a one-stop shop where people can find links to the social networking profiles and blogs that you want to share. Also, you can personalize the URL.



When I graduated from the School of Library and Information Science (SLIS) at San Jose State University in December of 2010, I was not working in the field. If you’re reading this you probably know how bleak the job prospects are for new librarians. After months of searching I finally landed a position at the California Institute of Technology doing prospect research aka development research aka advancement research. Nowhere on my business card does the word “librarian” appear, even though my office is in one of the library buildings (which totally brings me joy). When hiring time comes around, managers look for applicants who have their MLIS because we can approach the research in a productive and knowledgeable way.

So what the heck IS prospect research anyway? Well, as a prospect researcher, I’m a part of the development office i.e., fundraising. Here is the longer definition of prospect research from the American Prospect Research Association (APRA). That definition is a little fancy, so let me put it in simpler terms. I research prospects, that is, persons, corporations, and foundations who are prospective donors to my institution. I happen to work for a major research university (sorry Harvard) but most nonprofit organizations including, but not limited to, hospitals, museums, and schools make use of some kind of prospect research.

Before continuing, I want to make it clear that all the research I’m doing is legal and that I’m going through public records and information. Why am I researching people and what do I look for? I’m basically trying to calculate what a person is worth so I can then calculate their capacity to give. I also try to get a sense of what their interests are. Some people don’t want to donate to science and prefer other things such as more immediate humanitarian efforts or the arts. Even if I find that a person has the capacity, that is, can afford to give $10 million, it doesn’t mean a thing if they’re not interested in science and research.

What I do is really sensitive and I can obviously talk about it in general but we have professional ethical guidelines (via APRA) that we follow. Sometimes I may find very sensitive things, like maybe a mention that a prospect is very ill and therefore most of their capital is going toward medical bills. Or maybe I find that one spouse has “sold” a lot of their real estate to the other spouse which often signifies a divorce.

Once I gather information, I then enter it into our internal database, create something like a dossier, and email it to the prospect managers. These are the people in the development office who actually talk to the prospects and ask for gifts i.e., donations.

My job is fun. Every new request is a mystery to solve and each person is different from the next. It also has made me insanely curious about people I meet though of course, I don’t research them. THAT would be creepy.

From my boss: “And may I add how incredibly valuable this work is to your employing institution. Can translate into $millions … it is how us poor, yet intelligent folk can support the mission of the organization we support … in our case, the cure for AIDS, advancements in renewable energy, the study of earthquakes, etc. Sophisticated fundraising shops cannot live without us. We are the CIA of fundraising.”

Feed the People

I received a question from a friend: “What’re the best tools I can use if I want to get an email every time a certain blog is updated?”

My top choice is an aggregator. An aggregator is a website or some software that pulls together (i.e., aggregates) information from online sources. Not just any information, but only the information that YOU want! No need to click from blog to blog to news site to database to webcomic to be able to cover all your days’ readings. Use an aggregator and everything can be found in one customized place.

The aggregator I use is Google Reader. All you do is sign in using your Google account and poof, you have your own aggregator. Then you go to whatever blog you want to and find the RSS feed option. It’s typically that little orange square w/ the 3 white curved lines or simply a link that says “RSS.” Most blogs will allow you to only get the feeds for the posts or give you the option to get the feed for the comments on the post(s) as well. By the way, RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication” and more info on RSS can be found here or just by Googling RSS.

Handy trick time!

Let’s pretend you can’t find the feed for my blog, You look around the main page and don’t see anything. So, there is a trick: at the end of the url, type /feed/ and it should take you to the feed option. So for example, you’d type and bam! RSS Feed!

Another wonderful thing about RSS is that it’s not only in blogs. For example, I can do a search in PubMed with all kinds of terms and so forth. Then it allows me to do an RSS feed for that specific search and then I get up to the minute search results delivered to my aggregator. MANY databases do this now. I have a bunch of my job searches saved so instead of clicking around to all kinds of job sites, jobs that I may be interested in get delivered right to me and I don’t need to search those sites from scratch.

What I’ve told you is really just the tip of the iceberg of RSS, but it’s enough to get you going and you’ll discover more as you go along.

Another thing to look at is Google Alerts: I have not yet used Google Alerts, but I have a few friends who do. You enter a search term, you tell the Googs if you want emails or a feed (to go into you lovely reader), a couple other details like frequency, and tada! The Google gives you updates about your interests.

Note: I know it isn’t called “The” Google, but it entertains me to call it thus. Don’t try this at home.

Oh San Francisco, how I love you more and more every day. And I love your librarians as well. I especially love the mavericks who are putting on the Speed Dating program at the beginning of next month. I’m no Yente, but I have done my share of formal lectures, teaching people how to…um, “find partners.” (Had to remember that this is my librarian blog, not that other place.)

This speed dating program is limited to persons in their 20s or 30s. First night is Hetero night, second night is GLBT night. I posted the link to the article on a message board and the first comment was “Why only 20s and 30s??” True. How ageist! How very non-San Francisco to leave people out. And isn’t it in the Library Bill of Rights that we can’t deny someone nookie based on their age? (I’m paraphrasing.)

Here was my response:

I can think of reasons why it would behoove the librarians putting on the program to limit the ages to 20s and 30s.

– The pool for available people is larger in these age groups than persons in their 40s and 50s.

– The majority of people tend to choose partners that are near the same age, race, religion, social status, education level, etc. See “Sex in America” by Edward Laumann, Robert T Michael, and Gina Kolata, 1995 Grand Central Publishing.

– Yes, of course there are outliers as there are 30-somethings who date 40-somethings etc. etc. This program is not for those persons.

– And it’s important to consider how the librarians are going to measure the success of this program. People who show up? People who exchange contact information? Number of smiles counted? Bonus points if anyone undresses? Bonus points if NO ONE undresses? By setting some sort of limits on who this program is for, it could make for a more successful program.

Personally, I’m terribly curious about the whole thing. Curiosity killed the cat, so we would want THAT to happen! I wonder if they allow voyeurs the first time around. As Voltaire said, “Once a philosopher, twice a pervert.”

Stay classy.

This, LIBR 246, was one of the most practical classes I took during my MLIS career.

How has my view of social software changed? I already believed that being involved in social software both personally and professionally is becoming a necessity for success. Before this class, however, my view of social software was a bit more optimistic i.e., “If you build it, they will come.” Totally not true. I’ve becoming more realistic in how I view and use social software or at least, my expectations of it.

The technology I found most useful for my personal use was, hands down, Delicious. Delicious, where have you been all my life? I am a lifelong list-maker and categorizer (is that even a word?). Delicious is a whole new way for me to search the internet and be less of a slave to The Google. Also, I find that I learn interesting things about my friends as I follow their Delicious feeds.

The technology I found most useful for professional use was wikis. I started using wikis before I was even in SLIS, but they are a librarian’s dream (as long as they can be maintained). I envision the term “pathfinder” becoming archaic in the not-too-far future.

My one surprise during the course was that I did not hate Twitter. I have a bit of the “hate something because it is popular” gene in me, so I actually didn’t use Twitter personally until this course. I love it. I think it’s great. I learn about exciting things such as the penguin cam at the academy.

My suggestion for improving the course would be to have more professor involvement. I think it is something that is easily lacking in online courses, and I know it takes extra effort to be more present, but I really would have liked to have heard more from the professor, even if it was in comments on our blogs.

How would I sum up my experience? I think this class was a winner. I learned quite a few things I didn’t know whereas I’ve had a couple of courses where I felt like I came out knowing very little more than I went in with.

I like learning. I like knowing things. I’m a bit sad to say that this is my final piece of schoolwork in the MLIS program. I plan on keeping this blog open and blogging library adventures and tidbits and whatever tickles my fancy LIS-wise. Thank you for reading my homework. Now the real fun begins!

“Do you think libraries need policies regarding the use of social software tools? Why or why not?”

In my second semester of library school, I took a class on Archives and Manuscripts by a professor who will remain nameless. He stressed over and over the importance of having policies, mostly because they tend to save your rear-end when a manager or a possible benefactor try to pressure you to do something. This professor told us that the Patriot Act policy for his archives was, that if federal officers come to the archives demanding items to be turned over, we should fake heart attacks.

There is a part of me that refuses to believe he was completely joking.

While I support flexibility, I think it is very important that libraries have policies to govern the use of social software tools. They don’t need to be anything lengthy nor tedious. I think clearly stating the mission of social networking use for the library is a good start. I think it is important that the policy is clear about how the library’s social networking is to be used because often it’s quite different than how a person uses their personal social networking accounts. Having a policy helps staff be better able to address patron concerns about things like blog posts, tweets, and blog comments.

Greater than its parts

"Best trivia I learned while working on this: 'Man, Farmville is so huge! Do you realize it's the second-biggest browser-based-social-networking-centered farming game in the WORLD?' Then you wait for the listener to do a double-take"

Thank you xkcd for the image AND lovely alt-text

Once upon a time in 1998 there was an 18-year-old young adult and her 17-year-old best friend at college in Los Angeles. The best friend’s mom was fond of reading about what’s popular “on the other side of the pond” and mailed to the girls the first couple of books about a young wizard named Harry Potter. The girls devoured the books. It was all they could talk about.

To each other.

Because no one else around them had read them yet. And the girls were shunned by their peers because they became annoying as they moaned on and on about this Harry Potter fellow.

But then, Harry Potter caught on. And soon there were midnight parties and fanfiction and websites and candy and t-shirts and movies and no longer were the girls solitary dorks but they were only two dorks of a bazillion dorky people who painted lightening bolts on their foreheads and discussed what houses at Hogwarts they would be sorted into.

And now I totally forgot where I was going with this. Oh yeah, community! Community changed everything and made it all moonbeams and lollies and golden snitches.

My story, true as it is, is silly. But let’s trade Harry Potter fans for perhaps an LGBT teen (or even adult!) who doesn’t live in an area where they have physical access to community. Or a person who is restricted to their home for health reasons. Online communities can change, enhance, and maybe even save lives. I know I’m getting a little soap-boxy (Harry Potter does that to me), but I see online communities as an integral part of community services that should be offered by libraries. Not everyone can come to your book club or your Wii Bowling tournament, but they may have something to share with others in the community. Yes, running online communities is time consuming and sometimes tedious and slow to be gratifying; however, I think it’s worth the energy. If I had a choice between looking at a wiki of recipes, edited by library staff, or being able to trade recipes and talk with someone else about recipes, I’d vote for the latter. It’s one thing to give a person a book on being gay or African-American or disabled or Christian or anything else and another to give the opportunity and space for community.

And the crowd goes wild…

Image from Epic Win.

I have a little game I play that I call “Ask the Facebook Oracle.” I play this game when I am undecided on some non-life-threatening issue. For example, I’ll post, “What should I have for dinner?” as my Facebook status. A few of the people that see this status are most likely to be ones that I’ve shared a meal with and may be familiar with what I like and not like, and may make some great suggestions. There’s always a comedian, naming foods that I’m allergic to or don’t like (thanks, mom), but in general, it’s proved to be a pretty fun and low-effort way to make (or narrow down) decisions.

This week: What do you think of the move away from the wisdom of the expert and towards the wisdom of crowds? What are the pros and cons of tagging in library catalogs? Why do you think so few libraries are allowing patrons to add to library wikis?

No single person can think of everything nor know everything. I certainly can’t. I think the move away from the wisdom of the expert towards the wisdom of crowds can be beneficial for all parties when implemented in certain ways. I’ll still depend on experts for certain things such as medical or legal advice, of course, but I don’t think it’s necessary to go with the wisdom of experts in all subjects. We just need to be thoughtful about when and how we employ the wisdom of crowds. It works great for things like the Penny Jar Example (third paragraph down) and not so great when it comes to ethics and morals (see: Nazi Germany).

I think the pros vastly outweigh the cons of tagging in library catalogs. It’s highly unlikely that the majority of library users are going to be familiar with the controlled vocabulary used in cataloging items. Allowing tags, especially user-generated tags, is going to make things more findable for more people and really, that’s what we’re going for. Yes, it will take some human-power and precautionary measures against trolls and spammers for user-generated tagging to not turn into a circus, but I think it’s worth it.

I speculate that few libraries allow patrons to edit library wikis for different reasons. It takes human-power (which many libraries don’t have to spare) to ensure against malicious content. Only allowing staff to edit the wikis is a way to circumvent such occurrences. I also think that, with some librarians, there’s a bit of fear and a bit of selfishness going on. Fear of a lack of recognition, fear of loss of ownership, fear of being one-upped. I know it’s an elephant in the room, but sometimes the humanness and personalities of people gets in the way of their effectiveness. I’m not saying that this is happening in all libraries, I’m just saying that it seems possible.

Allow me to start by offering a link to my delicious bookmarks.

The three items I bookmarked have quite different numbers of persons who have also bookmarked the sites:
Libraries and crowdsourcing: 3 people
Top 15 Most Popular Social Bookmarking Websites: 398 people
Tag Galaxy: 8727 people!

The three most common tags used for the delicious Tag Galaxy bookmark are “flickr,” “visualization,” and “photography.” I used “flickr” and “photography,” among others. I clicked on “visualization” and found a very cool site that has 4 tools that help you visualize Twitter networks.

Going back to my list, I clicked on the most library-esque link I had and found that one of the other 2 people that bookmarked it seems to also be in library school (though, not at SJSU). Her bookmarks had a wealth of information relevant to what I’m studying. Though this way of browsing the web is limiting, I think it’s brilliant. This has inspired me to create an account for my nonprofit.

This exercise has created a whole new world for me. I imagine that I will lose myself in the depths of delicious when the semester is over.

Online Meetings

What technologies do you find most promising in facilitating internal collaboration and why?

Online meeting technologies such as Elluminate, Cisco’s WebEx and Citrix’s GoToMeeting allow real-time sharing of files, presentations, and desktops of participants, thereby allowing to teach concepts from your computer and allow it to broadcast to the group. Elluminate will require the user showing their desktop time to allow other users to configure their screens, in order to view the entire desktop.

In GoToMeeting, the user allows a member to come into their computer (such as you would see an IT person do) virtually and play around with programs. This is mostly utilized in situations where a computer program or database instruction is not understood. In this way, the moderator is able to physically show the audience what to do, rather than continue to explain concepts they might not understand. There are also platforms for seminars, GoToWebinar and for trainings, GoToTrainings.

Here are some videos to explain more about the Citrix product line:
and help for those seeking employment:
Citrix Careers

Elluminate is a fantastic program for online education. It allows for the uploading of Powerpoint presentations, the ability to ask questions in order, and to use a microphone to hear each other’s voice. The chat box can become quite busy with comments and is the most difficult for new instructors to follow. Elluminate also allows presenters to share their webcams as they present. There is a whiteboard for brainstorming and the ability to get real-time feedback from polls.

Video tutorial for using Elluminate successfully:

Participant Orientation to Elluminate Live! (2)

WebEx is to the corporate world what Elluminate is to academia. WebEx can be used for meetings and conferencing, but also for trainings, webinars, and customer support as well. Where Elluminate allows multiple people to be “Moderators” at one time, presentation control can be passed from one person to another in WebEx. As with Elluminate, sessions can be recorded for later viewing and reviewing.