30 March 2008

Tips and Bits:: Interviewing for a public library position

So you're finishing your MLS. As you're trying to get all your assignments in on time, you know that you also have to start applying for every library position under the sun.

The easiest part is the application process. Sure, it's time-consuming, but you can set your own schedule, do it in your pj's, and choose to either obsess or be all zen about it. If you never hear from them, you can obsess for a bit but still move on.

Interviewing is entirely different. You're so much closer to the promised land, but it can be so much more nerve-wracking. It's a very personal thing, selling yourself to people who can give you the green light or give you the ax. You can't force the outcome you want but you can definitely do everything you can to prove your worth.

  • Prepare to show that you've been wanting this your whole life!
    Or, at least, that this isn't just some decision you made on a whim. If possible, volunteer at the library where you want to be hired. Of course, this isn't always an option. In that case, do something else! Start your own blog detailing your thoughts on your chosen field. Do a one-time program at a local community center. Write a kickass article and get it published in a journal or website. Show that you got it where it counts!
  • Get to know your best friends, librarians and the library.
    People talk about networking incessantly for a reason. It works. Knowing the right people goes a long way and can get you inside tips on jobs that haven't been posted just yet. Before you interview at the dream library of your choice, check it out. What is it known for? What can you contribute? Do you have any ideas for making some aspect of the library more user-friendly? Is there something that you think is absolutely brilliant? Keep track of these things. Not only will this prepare you for your interview but you'll get to become a more informed librarian.
  • Make yourself ready to do a brief booktalk or whip out innovative ideas.
    Sure, booktalks are not everyone's idea of merry fun, but you can still ace them. Know your resources. Look for websites or YouTube videos that give you an idea of how others do it. Talk it over with your classmates/colleagues/BFFs. You might also be asked about what kind of programming you are capable of. It's not always enough to simply mention video games or Twilight proms. Let your personal interests show here. Whether you love crafts, music, or movies, design a rough draft of an event you'd like to be in charge of.
  • Know the facts.
    It's all about supply and demand, baby. Are you applying for a position in a small town where there aren't many librarians with degrees? Or are you trying to get hired in a city with its very own library school? I know a young woman who was hired as a library director without even having her MLS because there were no other candidates in the town where she lived. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone with substantial library experience can go months and years without getting hired if there are many other librarians in the area.

  • Let go of the interview funk.
    Going on an interview is kind of like going on a date. Just because you go on one doesn't mean that you're going to be a perfect match. Just because you want to start making some money doesn't mean that they're the right employee for you. Don't give your interviewers all the power and you're likely to relax more. Easier said than done, I know. Just do what you can. You're a jewel and you definitely belong somewhere.
  • Dress like you own it already.
    Going on a reference interview? Work that power suit. Want to be a teen librarian? Try mixing business casual with youthful flare. Be comfortable but look responsible. For more advice, check this one out.
  • Embrace the stumpers!
    Rare is the interview that doesn't give you a difficult question. Don't panic! It's okay to not know all the answers. Don't immediately think, "Aw @#@$#%!" Take your time (within reason), work it out, salvage what you can.
    At an interview for a teen position, I was asked, "Who is the next big thing in teen literature?" It was sort of like a "Who will dethrone J.K. Rowling/Stephenie Meyer?" type of question. I blanked out. I could only remember authors I didn't like so much. I thought of a couple on my drive home and wanted to drive back so I could peek in their office and exclaim, "Oh by the way!" Yes, I blew this one big-time but I don't think the interview was decided by just this one question. You bet that I will always remember it and always try to have an answer, in case someone asks me again.

  • Interviews are not a walk in the park for interviewers either.
    I was once told, "Make them laugh. If you do, you have them in the palm of your hand." Uh, this isn't necessarily true, but laughter does help all involved. I've been on various interviews in several cities and they've all been different. Some interviewers are warm, and others keep their distance because they don't want to give you false hope. Don't let the feel of the atmosphere hamper your opportunity to shine. Make eye contact frequently, and if you're in a panel interview, don't ignore the library assistant. They're all people and social rules of the considerate kind still apply.
  • Be patient.
    I know. It's agony waiting for a reply. Few things in the world suck more than that. Still, be chill. Let it happen. Stay positive. I kicked serious library booty at one of my recent interviews but heard nothing for a while. Friends asked me about it and I was already telling them, "I never heard back from them." Next Monday morning, I got a really good phone call from their HR department. So it happens when it's supposed to. Not a second earlier, unfortunately.
  • Spread the good karma, people!
    In the social world of librarians, nothing grates me more than a librarian who doesn't pass on the good stuff to the newer generation. If someone shows interest in the library profession, see what you can do to make them feel like they're choosing a pretty sweet career. Become a mentor or just give out some precious pearls of wisdom. Let's make sure that people who want to become librarians have a network!
  • It's all about perspective...
    If the interview got you the job, rock on. If not, then you might want to consider thinking about what went wrong. In some cases, the "wrong" had nothing to do with you. Maybe there was someone who was a better fit, for a reason that you didn't know about. Maybe they already had someone in mind. Maybe they're promoting someone who is already inside the system. That tends to happen with some full-time positions. The part-timer who has been working for their department for awhile is pretty much the best candidate. No matter what the reason is, work on your interviewing technique. Chances are you'll be better the next time around when the better job opens up.
  • ... and it's all about evaluation.
    If you really want to improve, get the guts to call up the leader of the interviewing committee. Do it when you've gotten the anger out of your system. Be calm and friendly. See if he/she can give you a short summary of some of the things you can work on. In all your obsessing over the job, you might have missed something. Knowing for sure will help you accept the outcome and get you prepared for that future most excellent librarian position.
  • Do your best to see the positive and get proactive.
    I've been to interviews where I thought they'd be silly not to hire me. Ha. Ha ha ha. Yeah. Those didn't always work out. I'd totally take it personally and avoid those libraries because I felt they wronged me. This was absolutely pointless.
    In terms of general life desires, there have been things I've wanted that, honestly, would have been bad choices. There is no guarantee that any job one applies for would be the dream job. So if it didn't work out, there's probably a reason for it. You never know what kind of seed is planted when a door closes on you.
  • This is the time for your ultimate adventure!
    So it didn't work out. I know some people with their MLS who are disappointed by the lack of jobs they can apply to. "People kept saying that there were jobs everywhere but I can't find a single thing," they say. Well, it could be because they don't have enough experience or they haven't networked with the right people. It takes time and effort to work on these issues, but they are so worthwhile. So go out and make it happen!
    It's also normal to want a job at the library that's a ten-minute drive from home. Alas, it doesn't work that way. If you can, apply to other cities, other counties and states, other countries even! Go beef up your resume. Go meet people. Do it while you still can!

I don't claim to know all the answers but I can share what I've learned over time.

Good news for teen librarians. Maybe. Some librarians can be relatively young so there might be some more turnover than in other library concentrations. So keep your resume updated and keep scoping out choices. Go to ALA conferences if you get a chance and go to the job center booths. Go to the expected job search sources but try new ones as well. You know what resource I've found to be extremely useful? MySpace Jobs. I've found some pretty sweet job postings there. Who knew?

Other good news for teen librarians. When talking to a New York Times Librarian of the Year about choosing between public or academic libraries, she confided, "Being a teen librarian will keep you young." I don't know about you but that's a pretty nice selling point for me.

On that note, give it your best, let the petals fall where they will, and learn everything you can about what it means to be a wicked awesome librarian. May the force and the library gods be with you!

26 March 2008

Manga:: Fave characters?

I'm married now but there was a time when I wanted to have at least twelve L babies. Okay, maybe not really. I can say that I wanted to knit a scarf for him, though. Or play Apples to Apples with him. I don't know, something awesome. Something that would make him sit in that mysterious way, with his thumb at his teeth.

Out of curiosity, which five manga characters would you totally bake homemade cookies for? Here's my list:

i) Osaka (Azumanga Daioh) because she's random and so frikkin' adorable
ii) L (DeathNote) so I could see his thought wheels in action
iii) Nodame (Nodame Cantabile) because she loves food and I'd want to hear her say, "Gyabo!"
iv) Natsumi (You're Under Arrest) because of her energy and gluttony
v) Hoshino Hajime (Love Roma) just because he makes me laugh with his independence

I'll throw in Banpei-kun from Ah My Goddess! Sure, he's a robot, but he's loyal and pretty darn cute. Some choc n' chip won't hurt him. Ha ha.

Feel free to comment with your top choices!

21 March 2008

Road Map:: Pittsburgh in the snow: Hazelwood, Squirrel Hill, and Homewood

When I first came to Pittsburgh months ago, I was: (a) petrified, and (b) annoyed. I was positive I'd skid to insanity driving through the snow, and I wasn't overtly interested in coming to a cold and rainy city. Basically, yes, it's the crappy weather that killed my zeal.

Fast forward a few months...

On a snowy Saturday afternoon, I'm willingly driving on snowy afternoons to capture libraries surrounded by white blankety stuff on the ground. I guess you can say I pretty much got the hell over it.

Voila the good libraries of the day!

a) Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh -- Hazelwood (03.08.08)

This one is not your typical library. It's on top of a laundry service hub and some kind of diner faintly reminiscent of a liquor store. (Hey hey!) The entrance was rather nebulous and hard to find. While it was not the most user-friendly library I've been to, it definitely had its charm.

Here I am, jumping on the snowy sidewalk. I don't know what is up with my zigzag posture. I guess I was trying not to slip...

b) Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh -- Squirrel Hill (03.08.08)

I got my CLP library card here last summer! I have also lovingly browsed materials and typed up essays for homework at this wonderful branch. I'm a sucker for Squirrel Hill as it is the most adorable area I've seen in Pennsylvania.

c) Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh -- Homewood (03.08.08)

When I first visited during December 2006, I took a visit with my then-fiance. A girl in her early teens opened the door for us, just on a whim, and proudly declared, "This is the best library in the city!" You can't buy that type of advertising. It was very touching. I couldn't help but be impressed with the teen librarian's spontaneous tour of the library. Thanks for your hospitality, you guys!

18 March 2008

Review:: Hiroshima Dreams (novel)

On August 6, 1945, Hiroshima was destroyed by an atomic bomb. In Hiroshima Dreams, writer Kelly Easton takes this historic event and creates an interracial family drama that almost-- almost!-- delivers.

The basic gist surrounds Lin and her gift for sight. Yes, that kind of sight. She knows things most young girls do not. She can look into the past and into the future. Pretty exciting stuff, huh? However, it never really brings anything original or memorable. Though the relationship between Lin and her Japanese grandmother is sweet, I can't say that any one particular scene stood out. The story sort of came and went.

What does make this novel rather special is how it portrays parts of Japanese culture in a relatively realistic, non-touristy way. I mean, some of the prose was more formulaic than poetic. There are still some very real moments here. Instead of talking about how hip it is to be a half-Japanese girl, it hints at the difficult family politics of being Asian but choosing to live in the United States, the way Lin's mother does. One particularly moving scene has the introverted Lin being confused for a Chinese girl-- an unfortunate situation witnessed by many Asian Americans among homogeneous American cultures.

This novel is definitely a product of its time. For a teen of the '90s, this is kinda cool. There are references to Buffy the Vampire Slayer back when it was still on TV, to the day the Twin Towers came down, and to the fervor to impeach Bush. Oh wait, that's still going on. In a sense, this is about the fantastical in a very grounded and real setting.

For anyone interested in magic realism with a Japanese twist, give Hiroshima Dreams a shot.

7.65 of 9.
While the portrayal of the culture had a genuine feel, the characters did not. At times, Lin felt a little too orchestrated by complete maturity. Some real-life teens indeed are quite adult-like, but Lin was more like what an adult thinks a gifted teen would be like.
Slow-ish but in a real-time kinda way.
Early teens and up. It helps to have an interest in real Japanese culture, not just in J-pop confections. There isn't really any adult content to worry about at all. It's the kind of book that I think most parents would find pretty harmless.
Like it? Try this!::
In terms of reading a book about another Asian seer, try Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni's The Queen of Dreams.
Further Notes::
It didn't leave me thinking, ooh I'm so glad I read this! I like finishing books and looking back with satisfaction, sadness, joy... anything! This one left me wanting more, but not in a refreshing good way. It was more like disappointment. I don't know if I can entirely blame it on the book, because there were parts that I enjoyed. I was just hoping it would be more memorable.

14 March 2008

Road Map:: Charlottesville, VA; San Antonio, TX; and Pittsburgh, PA

Academia nuts!

Seeing as how I'm married to a serious academic of the highest erudition (a phrase he chose while gleefully reading over my shoulder), it's a wonder that I am not more entrenched in the realm of academic libraries. I seriously considered it for awhile, and may again in the future. So here's a glimpse at some visits to some prestigious university libraries.

a) Alderman Library and Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA (01.03.08)

As some of you know, I fell in love with Virginia and not just because of the glorious UVA campus. I think the food had something to do with it. We just had to visit UVA during our trip to Monticello, mainly because my love is such a Thomas Jefferson nut.

I don't think I've ever felt as cold as I did on that Virginia afternoon, so the fact that these pictures were even taken at all is an absolute miracle. This project motivates me to do some really insane things during really insane weather. Too bad the pictures don't really describe that.

b) Elizabeth Huth Coates Library
Trinity University in San Antonio, TX (2.22.08)

I worked here for a year as a library assistant before I got married, so I have quite a close relationship with this one. I learned a lot about what I want and don't want out of a job. Most of the people here are absolutely amazing and I continue to have friendships with quite a few of them.

It also was my bread and butter as an undergrad, as it was where I did my work study. Oh, the epiphanies. I used to shelve while listening to my mixed cassette tapes on my Walkman. Yes, I'm that technologically challenged. I used that thing till roughly 2003...

Oh yeah. I also made out in the stacks here a few times. You know, standard library fare. But moving on! Above is a pic I took in April of 2007 right by the parking lot next to the library. As an employee, the pay isn't that great, but the gorgeous campus layout made it totally worth it.

c) Information Sciences Building and Library
University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA (2.5.08)

This is the school I would have done my MLS at... had I not seen the gigantic price tag. Ha ha! No thanks! That prestigious degree can take a hike. As one of my librarian friends confided, librarians really don't get paid so much so there's no need to go to the big flashy schools. Just get the damn thing. Still, I went to the SIS library to focus on Capstone for my online MLS program.

Yes, I am in my last semester of library school. Behold my senioritis running rampant!

But this is what I think of working in libraries!

03 March 2008

Face Off! :: The Other Boleyn Girl (film) vs. Rose of Versailles (anime)

Wow. I'm amazed.

If unexpected comments translate to popularity, then my last Face Off entry (Death Note vs. Code Geass) has been my Homecoming Queen title. I guess people either lovah da anime or da comparisons.

So now it's time to look to dramatic tales of a historical nature. Both The Other Boleyn Girl and Rose of Versailles deal with centuries-old royalty: sixteenth-century England and eighteenth-century France. And man, are they frickin' scandalous.

The Other Boleyn Girl

Basic plot:
Two sisters get caught in the game of pleasing the big hairy king, Henry VIII.
Conniving social climber (female, of course):
Anne Boleyn herself. There is criticism that her character is portrayed as a scheming and power-hungry hussy when she has normally been described as quite religious. Well, Miss Philippa Gregory may have taken some slight artistic license in creating this scandalfest...
King who's relegated to the sidelines:

Henry VIII becomes a boy toy. All that Eric Bana really does is brood and look steamy in what looks like massive strands of ferret fur. Film critic Josh Larsen speaks of him as "absolutely Fabio-lous ... ready to burst from the cover of a romance novel at any moment." Well, now that I think about it, yeah sorta.
Scandal simply for the shock factor:
Just about anything horrible imaginable happens here. I'd love to list them, but honestly, that would give too much away. Besides, you have an imagination. Think about horrific things that happen between sisters, brothers, and lovers, and sho' 'nuff, it goes on here.
Yummy not-so-major character:
Ah, Jim Sturgess. I have to admit-- I've spent many a day watching him play Jude in Across the Universe. He plays George Boleyn and only becomes an interesting character much later in the film.
Annoying recurring scenes (in case you missed them the first ten times):
Sex. Lots and lots of sex-- but without any flashes of flesh. So you won't catch a peek at Scarlett Johansson's always-present weapons of mass seduction. And thank goodness. The love scenes were awkward enough.

Rose of Versailles,
or Berusaiyu no Bara

Basic plot:
Oscar-- a woman who acts like a man-- is the moral compass and protector of royalty at Versailles.

Conniving social climber (female, of course):
Oh, too many to count. Madame DuBarry, the Duchess of Polignac, Jeanne... Except for Oscar, any intelligent woman is portrayed as a manipulative wench.
King who's relegated to the sidelines:
Louis XVI barely even comes out. This is definitely Marie Antoinette's story, and she is definitely all over the place-- dancing and giggling like a bunny rabbit on steroids.
Scandal simply for the shock factor:
Family relations and enemies are not always what they seem. The only thing that's not shocking about this extremely popular story is that the main character is a female stronger than just about any man around. Awesome!
Yummy not-so-major character:
So all the sexilicious characters in this series have the same facial features: glittery cocaine eyes and pointy nose. Even though they all look the same, I vote for André, Oscar's man servant and friend. He means well, he's not pretentious, and he wouldn't mind being molded to Lady Oscar's will.
Annoying recurring scenes (in case you missed them the first ten times):
It's a toss up between the overly dramatic design (stuff constantly turns dark red to evoke blood) and the overly dramatic music (loud and strong, baby). You could do a drinking game to these scenes. They make for great comedy, however. This anime is very much a product of its time. In the opening credits, you even see Lady Oscar wearing bell bottoms.

So in this face-off match, who wins?
I have to say that I enjoyed watching The Other Boleyn Girl more than the group I went with. And when I first started watching Rose of Versailles, I found it overdone and slightly obnoxious. The thing is, the more you watch something, the more it grows on you. I sing the kooky opening song whenever I get a chance. I'm even fond of Oscar's frequent lack of expression. Rose wins because of its time-tested endearing factor. I don't think I could have handled even a half an hour more of Boleyn. It just would have been too painful.

Anime wins again!

02 March 2008

Road Map:: San Antonio, TX:: Bazan Branch

Personal anecdote time, baby.

When we moved from Mexico to the West Side of San Antonio in the late '80s, our mother took us to the Bazan Branch Library (pronounced bah-ZAHN). At the time it was housed at some other building with a ramp connecting the ground floor and the basement, and I used to love to run down the middle. Of course the librarians were not happy with me running wild and about to trip myself. *SNIFF* It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

I remember being nine or ten and still loving to play with the wooden blocks in the children's section. And wasn't there a plastic rocking chair in the shape of a kangaroo? Yeah... Something like that. Good times.

Anyway, here's the old building, back when it was Prospect Hill Branch in the 1950's. I love how the "u" in "Public Library" is actually a "v." How historical.

We used to pass by this tiny building each time we went to the Bazan. I seemed to just know that this was the first place where the library was at. Now it houses a WIC office, but it was abandoned for awhile.

Due to a horrendous lack of space, the library was moved to another building a few blocks down, probably in the 60's or 70's. (I should totally research that.) Unfortunately I didn't get pix of the second building. These are pictures of the third *improved* library, built in 1993.

Oh, the services!
The failed guitar lessons!
The numerous internet sign-ups!
The Mexican trash celebrity magazines!

This is definitely a library where employees *need* to speak Spanish to get by. You don't have to be great at it grammatically but ya gots to be able to lay it all down en español. I know of various library employees who have suffered simply because they can't communicate with their public. I mean, that's hard stuff. You don't get in the profession so you can feel clueless and unhelpful.

To me, this library branch is a piece of home. It's totally not perfect. Teen services there have struggled, and not for lack of trying. They have a bilingual and energetic teen librarian but I've heard that public interest is just not what it should be. Although, I don't know. Maybe it's better now. It's definitely one of these branches that has its own vibe going on. That's not necessarily all negative. Hispanics who do not speak English well-- which, granted, tend to live on the West Side, among other areas-- have a library that definitely does what it can to cater to their needs.

Part of me feels like I should give back to my community, you know? I am likely to end up back in the homeland at some point. I still got San Antonio West Side written all over me. I know this sounds like the same old thing. I mean, librarians talk about this kind of thing constantly-- getting kids to read, getting them to take their education seriously, blah blah blah. I've met many brilliant and literate Latino teens in my time, but we're still waaaay behind. I want to do something about it! I want to focus on those that have not yet been given the opportunities they need. I want them to take a bite out of books, the way I am doing in the picture above. You know what I mean? I want them to feel like they have *options* and that they can go for it with a little bit of animo (energy/desire/focus).

So... yeah. That's a long-term goal. Do my kick-ass librarian thing with struggling Latino kids. Not for my own glory but because I feel like I was given guidance by my teachers and mentors all along. Maybe because I was cute, but hopefully because I was intelligent and constantly looking for something interesting. I don't want to be the only one who had it good.

¡Mucho animo! ¡Si se puede!