Sunday, December 11, 2005

...of crying over a scholarship I will not win

NMRT wanted people who applied for the Shilrey Olofson Award (a $1000 stipend to the conference) to write a short essay why they should be considered for it. I know that I will not receive the award, because one of the qualifications is being an "active" participant in the library world with accomplishments, and I honestly cannot get any accomplishments until after I have been hired somewhere. But I thought, "Why not apply?" At least I will have vented my frustrations. Although I did not mention that it was simply ridiculous for an unemployed librarian to pay $135 for conference registration. I basically said to myself if this is what it takes, then this is what I have to do. Although spending that much money on any thing other than bills is totally incongrous to why I am on food stamps. The essay is below.

I thought becoming a librarian would be fun, a challenging way to put my love of books in conjunction with my love of helping people. I also thought that I was perfectly suited for the degree, as I love to learn and have excelled in most academic areas. I even moved and accepted a new job to be close to the library school I chose. And then I graduated and disaster struck.

My last semester I had one person tell me that my "fantastic" job should be enough for me and maybe I was not cut out to be a librarian. And I actually started to believe her, started to feel down about myself and who I was as a person. But I persevered. I truly believe that I did not waste $20,000 to give up at a point when I should be cheering. The "fantastic" job would be enough to tide me over until I found a position (more than I would make as a librarian in fact).

Then I got laid off. Newspapers are cutting back and I soon found out that libraries had been doing the same thing. In fact, a week after I graduated, I read a story in the Library Journal about how there were no positions for new librarians, and that all of the experienced librarians had taken them. This being contrary to what I had been told not two years before, with all of the older librarians retiring and making room for a new wave. But I knew everything would be okay. I would be able to find that position in no time and prove everything was good.

Except it has not been. I cannot get hired as a librarian because I do not have enough experience and cannot get hired as a library technician because I have a degree. I have taken to deleting the degree from my resume, because being on food stamps is not where I want to be. And a job is a job.

I want to rummage through the gifts, and the stacks, and speak to children about Narnia and elderly couples about what book will tell them what kind of soil to have in their garden. I want to be in a library. And I do not want to give up. That is why I am literally spending my last dime for the midwinter conference so I can go to the placement center and make connections. This is in the hopes that I realize my dream so that I can help others realize theirs.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

... of Christmas time freedom of speech.

The Memphis Library has received some attention recently in part because of Bill O'Reilly picking up the story. The Bartlett Public Library is upset about a nativity scene that was placed in a public display area. The woman who put up the display is even more upset. She believes that she should be able to have the baby Jesus in a manger to advertise a Christmas show because Christmas is about Jesus. In the story she described this to having Graceland without Elvis. She made a better analogy on Bill O'Reilly's show last night, where she likened it to the Bill O'Reilly Show having another host every day.

Now I do not hold a lot of stock on Mr. O'Reilly's opinions (this piece was part of his war on Christmas agenda), but I was concerned about the library's decision. Everyone who walked by who has been around Christianity (which is most) are aware of what the manger symbolizes whether or not there is a physical plastic baby in the manger. I am also sure that the display identified who put it there, showing that the group involved is a church. So if the intent of the decision was to be non-partisan by omission of explicit religious details, I cannot see how keeping the shell of the display makes sense. Either you allow Jesus or you do not.

I can also understand the library's concern that they do not want to seem like they are leaning more towards one religion over another. Some patrons may feel persecuted by Christianity in general, or fundamental Christians in particular. And to have the baby Jesus directly outside the book stacks might be unnerving for them. This is a particularly hard case.

A win/win scenario would include other groups being able to put forth their religious activities on display whether it be a Yule log next to a pentegram, a menorah, or some other appropriate symbology. That probably is not going to happen.

The New York Library Association has a "Self-Censorship Checklist." One of the questions says, "[Have you] Prohibited use of your meeting room or bulletin board to groups whose views you disagreed with?" If the answer is yes then it says "it's time to review your intellectual freedom practices!" Since the library did not specifically prohibit the display, just pieces of it, the question then becomes how much of Jesus' manger can they take away and still have it be a Christmas manger?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

...of a position?

I have been looking for work for more than six months now, although the heavy part did not start until September. But finally, I have two interviews scheduled in less than four days apart. My first actual librarian interviews.

Some of the questions that were asked, I was stumped by because I had not gone to an interview yet.

1. What are your five favorite reference tools? Sort of a "if you were stuck on an island...?" question. I said (and not in this order) The Encyclopedia Britannica, The Periodical Guide to Literature, Mapsco (or atlas), Google and IMDB. I absolutely rely on Google at home, and was not sure if I should include that as an answer, but the supervisor reassured me that she uses Google every day. The Internet Movie Database is just a resource that I really like and I was hoping it made me sound "edgy."

2. If a librarian you are working with gets a question wrong to a patron, would you correct them? This was a tricky one. I said that if it was more of an opinion, such as pointing someone to a less suitable reference, than I would say no and hope that by the person knowing where the general area was to find that information, they might stumble upon mine. But if it was something that was just wrong, then I would interject, and hope that my colleague and I had a good enough relationship that something like that would not hinder it.

The managing librarian said that the only reason I had got the interview is because she liked the look of my resume, particularly in the font choice of my name. At least my design skills are getting put to good use. I just hope that something else will be soon.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Librarian on the Verge

I am currently looking for a position in the library world. What position I am not entirely sure. I am an unemployed woman in an urban cityscape, so it should not be too hard, right? Wrong.

I have taken to removing the fact that I have an MLIS from my resume for many positions, because not all of the positions I am applying for are "technically" librarian jobs. For example, I recently applied for a position as a circulation clerk in a financially struggling library, so much so that people heard about it throughout the country. The manager I interviewed with was fairly glowing about me during my interview. She does not have an MLIS and I tried to underemphasize it. Both of the people interviewing me just glowed about my resume, and we had a chat about what it means to be a "librarian" vs. "a paraprofessional." I just want to be able to start somewhere. I got a personally signed letter from her a couple of weeks later saying they had chosen someone else. And I am sure it was not a person with a "professional" degree.

Library journal made it abundently clear in its article "The Entry Level Gap": there just are not the jobs out there. When there is a position open, hundreds of more applicants have more experience and training than me. And there is the conundrum. I will never get training and experience if I can never get a job.