This answer is provided by our guest author, Rachel Kuhn Stinehelfer.
Q: I have an MLIS that I received about 9 years ago. Prior to that, I had about 10 years of experience working as a page, circulation desk worker, supervisor, etc. After receiving my degree, I worked for a year and a half as a reference and systems librarian at a small academic library. Due to a job transfer on my husband’s part, I ended up having to quit that job, and was unable to find a new one in our new location. So I went back to school, and have been working as a web programmer and database designer for the last 5 years.
I really miss working in the library world, and would like to re-enter it. I now live in an area where there are many community colleges. One of the biggest problems I’m finding, though, is that all the job requirements mention wanting “recent” academic library experience — how can I possibly gain some experience while still holding down my current 9-5 job? I don’t see myself getting looked at twice by hiring committees without it, and frankly, I could really use some experience to get back up to speed on library technologies and procedures. I’d be happy to volunteer somewhere, but academic libraries don’t seem real big on volunteers. Is it possible for someone, post-degree, to get an internship? Any suggestions on how to handle this?
RKS: That does sound like a tough position to be in. There are several ways to look at your situation and many opportunities in front of you.
First, I would call a couple of the local community college libraries and ask to speak to the person in charge of hiring or the department head of the area you are most interested in. Set up an informational interview try to see if you can come in person to talk to them and if that is not an option then ask if you could arrange a phone interview. Prepare as if it is a real interview. Have lots of questions (not too many!) and take a copy of your résumé. Look the part – wear a nice outfit and take the conversation seriously. They will be able to talk to you about the job market, their particular library and the skills that they are expecting from a librarian. Be sure to follow up with a handwritten thank you note. All the impressions you are making could lead to a future opportunity.
Second, you mentioned that your skills need updating and refreshing. Taking a class either in person or online would be a real benefit to you – not only will it make your résumé more current, it will show that you are interested in staying current in the profession. You may even make connections that could lead to a job – you just never know.
Third, to your comment about academic libraries not wanting volunteers. I think that is not always the case. Sometimes it has to do with the school’s overall policy, so it is worth a phone call to the libraries you are interested in.
From your perspective it sounds like you are a bit stalled in making that next step, so I hope one or all of these ideas will help you to reach your goal. And good luck!