Sarah Scott: Public Library Professional & Writer


Name: Sarah Scott
Age: 34
College & Majors/Minors: University of Puget Sound, B.A. in Philosophy, minor in English (2001). San Jose State University, Master of Library and Information Science (2012).
Current Location: Bellevue, WA
Current Form of Employment: Public Library Professional & Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I currently work as a Library Associate IV at The Seattle Public Library. In this role, I provide reference and instruction services to the public and serve on the Library Innovation Team. While writing and editing are not the central part of my job, my skills in this area are put to use in various ways, from writing email to writing blog posts for the library's blog. I am also part of a team getting ready to launch a new internal blog about innovation. I anticipate that writing and editing will be an important part of my work on that team going forward.

Outside of work, I have blogged for Public Libraries Online (the blog of the Public Library Association), been a contributing writer for the local community website, written for the newsletter of local literary organization Richard Hugo House, and co-written a book chapter on library innovation for a forthcoming book. I also write poetry and prose in my free time and intend to eventually publish some type of literary work.

What did you do in college to prepare for your post-grad life? 

As an undergraduate at the University of Puget Sound, I worked as a Peer Writing Advisor in the Center for Writing and Learning. In that role, I provided one-on-one writing conferences for my peers and assisted them throughout all stages of the writing process, from formulating a thesis statement to planning a 15-page research paper. I also served on the editorial team of the campus literary arts journal, Crosscurrents, where I reviewed and selected poetry and prose submissions for publication; worked as a Records Assistant in the Office of the Registrar and as a Teaching Assistant in the Department of Philosophy; spent a summer working as the Storeroom Assistant in Facilities Services; and hosted a couple of weekly radio shows on the campus radio station. Working in these various positions helped me to develop experience and skills in various areas, from writing and editing to interpersonal communication, customer service, and public speaking. As I entered the job market, I was able to use these experiences to develop my resume and demonstrate my qualifications.

As an undergraduate, I did not have a clear sense of what I would do in the future. I did not have a long-term career plan. I had learned a lot about poetry and philosophy, but what did that have to do with earning a living? I knew that I would most likely pursue a graduate degree but I was not sure of what discipline to pursue, so I decided to spend some time working, traveling, learning independently, and focusing on my own personal development. My first job after college graduation was in the community library in my hometown of Battle Ground, Washington. While I had never considered librarianship as a career, through that job I discovered that I loved library work. After a few years of working in libraries, I decided to pursue a Master of Library and Information Science degree so that I could become a professional librarian.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job.

I found my first post-college job the old-fashioned way: in the classified ads in the newspaper. This was in 2001, before online job sites became the norm. When I saw an ad for library assistants at the local community library, my curiosity was piqued and I decided to apply. I was invited to take a qualification test, which involved a typing assessment and a card filing exercise. After passing the test, I was interviewed by a hiring panel consisting of the Community Librarian, Circulation Supervisor, and Library Assistant III at the branch I would be working at. They asked me questions about my knowledge of literary genres and my experience serving customers, handling difficult situations, and explaining policies. I was also asked to put a cart of books in order according to the Dewey Decimal Classification system. I received a job offer for a full-time position a few days later.

I worked at the Battle Ground Community Library from 2001-2003, and since then, I have had a number of different jobs and gone through a lot of interviews. I earned my MLIS in 2012, and since then, I have focused my job search on professional librarian positions. The interviews for these have varied a bit depending on the particular position being filled, but the key competencies and responsibilities for professional librarians today include public service (including reference, readers' advisory, and instruction), outreach, programming, resource development, promoting intellectual freedom, leadership support, staff training and development, technology literacy, and communication and interpersonal skills. Some librarian positions include duties such as blogging, social media marketing, website development, and creating publicity pieces such as brochures and press releases.

What is your advice for students and graduates with an English degree?

Build a wide professional network. LinkedIn is a great tool for building your network; attending professional conferences is another great way to do so. Seek out mentors, and become a mentor yourself as you grow in your life and career. Continue learning and investing in your personal and professional development. Study the careers of others who have achieved goals that you want to achieve. If others have done it, then it is possible for you to do it. Set goals regularly and implement plans to achieve them. The book Goals! by Brian Tracy provides excellent advice on goal-setting and achievement.

Visit Sarah on twitter @Sarah_H_Scotttumblr and connect with her on LinkedIn

Posted on February 24, 2014 and filed under Library Science, Writing, Teaching, Book Recommendations.