Advice

As a classmate told me, “we’re people learning to be helpful.” I think this description sums up the library profession pretty well. As practicing librarians, librarians-to-bes, and academics involved in librarianship, we like being helpful.

If you do a Google search for “library job advice”, you’ll find countless number of articles and blogs by librarians on that topic. Everything from students advising other students on what to do while in school, long-time librarians advising newly minted grads on how to get an interview, new librarians compiling lists of “how to ace an interview” and sharing their recent experiences.

I haven’t anything to contribute to that discussion. As a brand-new student, I’m completely insight-free. I don’t have any advice myself, and I can’t evaluate the mountain of advice that is out there as I haven’t yet used it to try for a full-time library job.

I only have the following observations: while practicing librarians seem to give more or less the same advice (intern and volunteer as much as you can), their advice seems markedly different from what’s given by the academics. These academics, mostly professors at library school, seem to be of the opinion that working with one’s professors and publishing papers is the optimal path to follow. In short, professors think that working with them is best, while the librarians say that, in fact, working with them (for free, in case you’re volunteering) is best.

Next, the library profession does not seem to address what it is that one should not be doing. This is despite the fact that implicit in any advice — unless one thinks that one is giving advice to somebody who is sitting on her tushie, picking her nose all day — saying that “you should do X” necessarily translates into “do less Y”. Yet the trade-off is hardly ever admitted, perhaps for fear of giving offense. (Somebody, after all, is responsible for the advisee currently doing Y.) Or, perhaps we do not like to admit the fact that we spin around the sun at the same rate as the rest of the inhabitants of planet Earth do, and so, too, shamefully only have 24 hours in a day, some of which we selfishly prefer to use for sleeping and doing non-library stuff.

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