Posts filed under Library Science

Kate Marchewka: Early Elementary Teacher-Librarian

Name: Kate Marchewka

Age: 33

College & Majors/Minors: University of Wisconsin-Madison | Major: English Literature | Minor: Women's Studies and LGBT Studies || Grad degree: University of Washington, Masters in Library & Information Science

Current Location: Seattle, WA

Current Form of Employment: Part-time Early Elementary Teacher-Librarian

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I'm in my second year as the early elementary teacher-librarian at St. Thomas School, a private PreK-8th grade school in Medina, WA. I get to read picture books, perform felt board stories complete with voices, and sing songs with small children three days a week, and home with my son the other days. It's the best. Also, I get to ply my older kids with stickers and candy to check out books (it works...mwah ha).

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

I found my first job through some random web searching and it (very luckily) ended up being a really great job. I had just moved to San Francisco and was fresh out of college and somehow ended up working for a small woman-owned brand agency, where I learned a ton in a short period of time. It was one of the first places where I learned that being highly specific with words and being a detail-oriented person could make a hugely positive impact on a project.

My current job as a teacher-librarian was also a stroke of luck; I interned here during graduate school and found the posting on our department's online job board. It had been listed by a former student, and was exactly what I was looking for. Turned out that the part-time librarian was leaving at the end of the summer after I'd graduated from my program, so I interviewed and had that extra leg-up to get the job.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

For almost three years, I worked first full-time and then part-time for an online flash sale retailer as a copy editor. I was the first editor officially hired into the role, and although it was a crazy pace and workload, I found that I loved the nitpicky work of editing and immensely enjoyed getting to work with writers on their writing, even if it was about tutus and eco-friendly cleaning tools. I kind of fibbed my way through the interview question, "Do you know AP?", saying, "Yes, obviously," while furiously buying up every book on the style and studying them at home after work. Between the studying and the breakneck pace of the job, I picked up skills to back up my claim pretty quickly. Occasionally, if a writer couldn't quite hit the mark or we were short staffed, I'd get to write copy myself, which was also a ton of fun and a fantastic learning experience. I'd never done that kind of writing before—researching brands to write a brand story, and making up character-limited descriptions for products on the site that millions of people were reading.

“I think that just being a reader makes you inherently better at communicating in multiple forms—written and verbal.”

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

I wasn't the person who was constantly writing on my own for fun, but I have always been a reader with a 'to-read' list 18 miles long, reading-a-book-while-walking-down-the-street kind of thing. So I think that just being a reader makes you inherently better at communicating in multiple forms—written and verbal. It certainly helped in my editing career. And keeping up with the book world has absolutely helped in my career as a librarian. Even though it can be tough to read for fun while being bogged down with undergrad classes, I think it's important to sneak a few in where you can!

Lastly, taking writing classes where your work is torn apart by a pack of hungry undergrads is very good practice for receiving constructive feedback of any sort, and for giving it to others later on down the road. =)

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

I'd say to not let yourself get pigeon holed into the "Oh, an English degree. What are you going to do, teach?" schpiel most will offer. Don't listen to those people, they don't know what they're talking about or how much you have on offer. Try to think about the skills you have and how the things you're passionate about can translate into real work/jobs. I have been a brand manager, a customer service agent, done sales and operations management, and been a copy editor, and having strong writing, editing and communication skills played heavily into every one of those jobs. I didn't ever even think about becoming a librarian until I was in my late twenties, and it was a total light bulb moment and has turned out to be a dream career for me.

You can check out Kate's photography website here, and read her blog here


Posted on April 4, 2016 and filed under Editor, Editing, Librarian, Library Science, Teaching.

Chris Stephenson: Information Architect

Name: Chris Stephenson

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: McMaster University, B.A. in English Literature, interests in Philosophy, Art History & Politics (1997); University of British Columbia, Master of Library & Information Studies (2016)

Current Location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Current Form of Employment: Information Professional, Carpenter, Writer

Where do you work and what is your current position?

As per usual, I currently have many "irons in the fire..." Presently I work in the capacity of Information Architect for a non-profit society started by a former mayor of my city. Here I do records management, historical transcription, advise on best practices for showcasing digital documents, and I participate as a media spokesperson to promote the program and (hopefully!) contribute to raising funds to keep our projects going. We have nearly completed a community transcription project to put the first five years of our historical City Council Minutes online for historians, researchers, students, and the public to use in digital form.

“I’ve digitized nearly forty books so far this year, including some really neat ones from the 1770s.”

On the other hand, I also work for a major Westcoast digitization centre (Canadian spelling from here on in!) on a project called the British Columbia Historical Books Project. We are systematically digitizing rare materials that tell the narrative of the earliest years of this province. I've digitized nearly forty books so far this year, including some really neat ones from the 1770s. My interest in Pacific northwest history is constantly sparked by handling these amazing accounts of first-hand explorers, Chinook jargon dictionaries, maps, and other rare texts.

In the meantime, I'm honing my job application and interviewing skills as I search for the perfect job in my particular field of librarianship: I'm trained as a legal and legislative research librarian. This is my second career, so I have reserved the right to be a little choosey for the moment.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

My first career job was actually in 'Hollywood North,' another name for Vancouver's thriving film industry. After I finished my English degree my Dad handed me a hammer and said, "If you want to pay off your student loans in a hurry, you should learn to use this." That moment kicked off an informal apprenticeship in carpentry that eventually led me out here to the Westcoast for a ten year career in building the sets for feature films, television and commercials. After while though, I was getting pretty burned out by the long hours, and I started paying attention to a nagging voice that said I should return to my area(s) of interest: writing, teaching, and helping people solve information issues. I took a year off to motorcycle around India and learn yoga and think about how I could make my career dreams possible.

After hanging out at my public library, I started dating this cute local librarian. I asked hundreds of questions about the program she'd recently graduated from, and before I knew it she was helping me with my application for library school. Fast forward to now - we're no longer together, but I have a trusty MLIS under my belt, and I'm as enthusiastic as ever about librarianship. My non-profit job came about after I did a professional experience course and initially approached the society to volunteer, and my digitizing work fell into place as a part time job just as I wrapped up my final semester.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

No matter what job I'm doing at any given time, I always attempt to publish something.  It's a great way to articulate to myself and others my passion for what I'm doing.  In my last reference librarian role I wrote an article for the Canadian Parliamentary Review and a few articles for the local government's website.  Next month I'm contributing a piece to the Vancouver Association of Law Libraries for their online review.  

I've also been writing a lot of reference letters for people lately, and most exciting of all, I'm learning how to effectively do grant writing.  I'm helping to organize a Children's Literature conference this spring and as the "Logistics & Finance" guy, I've been scrambling to find us some money.

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

As an undergraduate pursuing a liberal arts degree I was pretty angsty and had a great many interests and little focused direction. I read broadly, travelled often, had adventures such as living in my van for my final year of school, and really took the time to get to know myself. I also documented my life by writing human interest stories for the newspaper, and challenged myself in other ways: playing music, trying tough new jobs like treeplanting, and hiking everywhere I could. Little did I know until much later, but these extra-curricular events played a large role in forging the guy I am today: an intensely curious and only slightly curmudgeonly fellow. ;)

But to answer the question, I worked in my campus library. I loved that job and I never forgot the feeling of being behind the desk and sending people away with the help and resources they came seeking. Throughout my life I've often worked in libraries - first running the children's programs in my hometown library, and then later as a circulation desk and systems development employee.

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

Find a writer that speaks to you, and read their books at least twice—especially if you're at a time of life when making life decisions. It was Robert Persig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that got me on a motorcycle heading west after my undergrad degree. Matthew B. Crawford showed me in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work that I could be a carpenter and a writer, and constantly reinvent myself. And good old Joyce Cary reminded me to keep my humour and artistic passions in check in his amazing book, The Horse's Mouth.

It was looking into the lives of people doing work that they love that has helped me the most. I'm a firm believer in the value of "Information Interviews." Call up someone in a professional field that interests you and take them to coffee. You'll find that people like to talk about what they do and are thrilled to answer your questions. These people often become crucial later on in ways that you couldn't possibly have predicted. As my Mom says, "If you don't ask, you don't get!" so I always make sure to ask. Turns out it's a great remedy to this persistent curiosity of mine, too!

You can connect with Chris on LinkedIn, and see the Transcribimus website he helped to create!

Posted on March 18, 2016 and filed under Library Science, Librarian, Interview, Interviews.

Joanne Percy: Academic Librarian

Name: Joanne Percy

Age: 42

College & Majors/Minors: University of Hertfordshire, Aldenham United Kingdom: BA Literature (Major) Philosophy (Minor) / University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA: MLIS - Library & Information Science

Current Location: Spokane, WA

Current Form of Employment: Academic Librarian

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I work at a Catholic/Jesuit university as a Reference Librarian. This involves spending most of my time on the desk answering research questions but I also teach a few classes including a Copyright Basics class as well as some general research and database skills classes. We always encourage faculty to help us team teach with them.

Tell us about how you found your first job, and how you found your current job (if different).

When I first graduated in 1996 with my Bachelor's in Literature, I knew I wanted to teach English abroad in some capacity. So I took a 12 week English as a Second Language (ESL) certificate course in London that allowed me to teach ESL anywhere in the world. I taught very briefly in Prague but then moved to the US and taught a summer class at Georgetown University as well as tutoring on the side. My first library job was administrative but led me to realizing that the library field was where my interests lay. I’ve been working in libraries (both academic and corporate,) since 1998.

What was another writing-related job that was important in your career?

I’m actually taking a 2nd Master’s degree right now in Public History and my BA in Literature is really helping. I have to write blog posts as well as regular papers and book reviews and that former degree has been a life-saver! I’m actually working with a local Urban Planning professor as well as city council members to write up the history of a local neighborhood.

 George R.R. Martin and Joanne Percy. 

George R.R. Martin and Joanne Percy. 

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

I spent a lot of time towards the end of my undergrad course looking at ways in which I could travel with my degree. I knew I wanted to travel and I knew teaching would be the easiest way to accomplish both but I was also looking at volunteer work with the Peace Corps.

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

My advice would be to think big. Don’t assume you’ll land the perfect academic or writing position as soon as you graduate. Think of building up your experience and resume by traveling. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities that will pay your expenses and a small stipend as you help communities in other countries. This all brings new experiences and stories to share.

Connect with Joanne on LinkedIn, check out her blog, and view her work on the Gonzaga website


Posted on March 11, 2016 and filed under Library Science.

Sarah Scott: Public Library Professional & Writer

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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 Bellevue.com, 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.

SandraRosa Bryant: Library Associate

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Name: SandraRosa Bryant

Age: 23

College & Majors/Minors: Major: English/Creative Writing. Minor: African American Studies.

Current Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Current Form of Employment: Library Associate

Where do you work and what is your current position?

I am currently a Library Associate at Louisiana State University. During my senior year of college, I created a magazine for the club I was president of at the time, the Black Student Union. I was in charge of editing and layout and marketing and recruiting. It was a big job, but I loved it.

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

I served as an officer (different positions) for the Black Student Union from my sophomore year to the senior year when I was in college. I was also on the Graduates of Color planning committee. I was an on-and-off memeber of a social justice organization called The Conversation. I also had an internship at a bookbindery in Seattle.

What all of these had in common in terms of preparing me for post-grad life was that they taught how to navigate in different settings. They taught me that not everybody thinks the same way and that if you want to connect with a person in as deep and as strong a way as possible, you're going to have to learn how to "speak their language" while still being genuine.

How did you find your current job?

When I graduated from college, my intention was to move to Detroit and find a job and live there for about 2 or 3 years so I could be near to my dad. Well, I did go to Detroit but I couldn't find a job. I had library experience and Detroit had recently shut down a lot of their libraries. When I realized that I needed a new plan, I started applying to library jobs all over the U.S. I didn't limit myself. After doing phone interviews with a few, LSU decided they'd like to hire me and I moved to Baton Rouge.

The application process for a lot of the jobs I applied to wasn't too bad but I was applying to a lot of places so at times it felt overwhelming. I had a generic but detailed cover letter that I tailored to each library I applied to. 

Most of the employers were looking for very library-specific skills. They wanted someone who had worked 1+ years in a library and knew how to use cataloging software and understood classification schemes and that sort of thing. Most of them wanted people who had done behind-the-scenes tech work as well as public services work.  

Since I was applying to a lot of out-of-state positions most of my interviews were phone-based. They were conference calls. Usually a group of 3-5 people would ask me questions about what my previous job was like, what I wanted to gain from the job I was applying for, and where I saw myself in five-ten years.

For the library jobs I applied for, no tests were involved but I did apply to work at a bookstore in Detroit and they had a test, but it wasn't a writing/editing test. They wanted to know if you could fit easily in a book store. They asked questions like "who wrote The Davinci Code" and "from the list below, which magazine would appeal more to men?" and "the register at the counter is broken and you don't have a calculator, a customer brought x and y for $13.98. They gave you a $50 bill. How much do you owe them?"  

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

I think Indeed.com is a pretty good website for looking for work. I also think the internet can be your best friend but you have to be creative with it. Look at blogs that people in the field you're interested in have written and learn from them. Post a question on Reddit about things you're nervous or hesitant or curious about. Find a forum where people in your field post frequently and ask them for advice.

When I was in the process of interviewing for jobs and was stuck between whether to go with the library that wanted me or to wait and hear back from the one I wanted to work at, I went on LiveJournal, found a community of library workers, and asked for their advice. And they gave really good advice and if I hadn't followed it, I'd probably be nowhere near as happy as I am right now.

Posted on February 20, 2014 and filed under Writing, Library Science.