A New Career In A New Town, Libraries

A New Career In a New Town: Communication Between Employers and Job Seekers

I so very much enjoyed writing my last post titled A New Career In A New Town: Librarians On The Move and I really loved the conversation that it generated so what I’m gonna do is start up a new category on this website focused on all things job hunting, moving, and growth as a librarian. And with that, here we go.

COMMUNICATION is something we always need to keep open. I understand that sometimes it is hard to do so. Sometimes there are layers to an organization or group which makes communication difficult. Sometimes it is difficult to deliver the bad news to someone who has applied for a job. There are many things that can make communication between a potential employee and a library looking to fill a position difficult, but no matter the situation communication should always be timely, open, and clear.

An employer who is looking to hire someone should be checking their inbox (or snail mail) at least once a day for new resumes/cover letters. When an employer gets something from a job seeker, they should send them an email/letter back letting the job seeker know that they have received their application and would be getting back to them by a certain date.

This is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after sending in my resume and cover letter for a job opening.

What you see above is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after emailing my resume and cover letter to an employer looking to hire someone confirming that they got my application. Getting this email back from an employer will do something amazing for the job seeker: it cuts down on the stress and anxiety that usually comes with applying for a new job. Let’s face it: finding a great job that inspires you, applying for that job, playing the waiting game, and to top it all off doing the interview thing is tough stuff on a human being. There’s so much excitement, worry, and anticipation with this song and dance. Anything that an employer can do to make it a less stressful experience for the job seeker is welcome. Remember, there are two sides to this employment story. Someone needs a job so that they can live, but at the same time you need a candidate who is not only qualified but full of energy, ready to tackle the work ahead.

This is an excerpt from an email I received 5 minutes after sending in my resume and cover letter for a job opening. (1)

What you see above is an example of how not to do communication with someone who has applied for a job at your organization. First and foremost, the “we got your resume and cover letter” email came SEVEN days after applying. Those seven days were spent worrying “did my email get lost in the internet?” and also “well when is it an acceptable time to email them back?”. This is a stressful game to be playing in your head as a job seeker, and potential employers should try to help minimize this stress. Digging deeper, we see a 24 day lack of communication from the potential employer to the job seeker after they had an interview. Remember that it is OK to say to the job seeker that, while we enjoyed our interview with you the organization has decided to pursue another path.  This is not the easiest thing to say but it helps the job seeker move on and attempt to find another job that they can apply to and focus their energy on.

Open and honest communication between an employer and a job seeker starts off a potential relationship in a good way.. This kind of approach to hiring and job seeking does two things:

  1. It allows the employer to better understand who the job seeker actually is and where they are coming from.
  2. It minimizes the stress and anxiety on the job seeker, which allows them to give the employer a better interview and idea of the kind of person that they are.

Stress and anxiety can change a person drastically. Think of minimizing or eliminating the typical stress and anxiety of the job hunt/interview as a way for you to get the best possible fit for your organization.

 

 

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A New Career In A New Town, Chattanooga, TN, Family, Libraries, Life, Portland, ME, Titusville, PA

A New Career In a New Town: Librarians on the Move

I make an effort to check into LinkedIn at least once a week. As a social network, it is pretty pitiful but as a place where you can update and display your resume it works like a charm. I mostly use it as a way to track what I’ve done in libraries in case I need my resume or to put something I’ve done into an official document/grant/etc.

I’ve been going on there recently because I’ve been updating my resume. Right now I’m in this head space where I am seeing what else is out there when it comes to library jobs and, if it fits some very specific parameters, I am applying to those jobs. I figure this: why not, I’ll only live once, and if something inspires me why not give it a shot? So…I’m applying to some jobs. We’ll see what happens. Maybe it will be my next step, maybe it will just be an interview experience, or maybe it will be nothing. It doesn’t hurt to try something new.

I’ve also had to come face to face with my work history as I update my resume. When I moved to Chattanooga, TN a lot of people told me I was nuts because it was another job and that my resume was growing to look like I go from job to job. This always irked me. To me, it wasn’t about moving from job to job. To me it was all about getting the  experience I craved and moving up into roles which challenged me. I guess it could be an age thing. The people who doubted my moves were also people who had been at the same library for 10+ years. At some point in my life I may like that, but for the moment (and I guess it continues to this day) I crave growth, learning, and adventure.

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“RESUME STUFF”

A new job at a new library in a new town is just that: a way to experience the world, to grow as a person, to learn more, and to give back something to a community. When I was younger I used to think this a lot: “if I’m not growing, then I must be dying” and as I write this post that comes back to me.

I also think about the librarian profession and how screwed up it can be for those searching for jobs or looking for experience in their current job. Not every library and not every state are created equally, and you’ll see this in the details of every state library organization page and their job opportunities page. For example, the Pennsylvania Library Association recommends a salary of $59,791/year for a “Full-time librarian who supervises at least three professional librarians”. At my current job I am the director who supervises 7 employees and I make $35,000 /year. Go ahead and browse the other jobs on the PALA Library Job Openings and see what else is out there. I see a Part Time Teen Librarian job that pays $30,000/year and a Children’s Librarian job that pays $32,000-$37,000/year. And let’s not forget how hard it might be to “level up” at your current place of work. What if there’s no way to get into management at your current library but all you want to do someday is be a director? What can you do? In both of these cases, you look for your next adventure, a new job at a new library in a new town.

To end, I bring it all back around to my experience and my time in libraries. Despite what others have said, I am not hopping from job to job because I’m discontent. What I’m doing is looking for that next challenge and that next growth opportunity. If I ain’t growing, I must be dying. In the name of complete honesty and transparency, here’s where I’ve and why I’ve made a move. Have fun. And remember, if someone tells you that you need to stick around just so it looks good, give them the truth. You wanna grow. You wanna learn. You wanna go on an adventure. Trust you gut. Follow your heart.

  • 2 years in New Jersey? I was an entry level teen librarian who wanted to gain management experience, plus I couldn’t afford to live and buy a house in New Jersey.
  • 3 years in Maine? I was a teen librarian who got basic management experience and was not able to move up in that library system so I left for a job who really wanted me to come work for them AND which gave me a lot of management experience.
  • 2 years in Chattanooga? I was a Youth Services Manager but I felt the urge to move into a Library Director role, plus life in the South just wasn’t what my family and I were looking for (too hot and muggy for us east coast people).
  • 2.5 years in Titusville? I am a director but I get paid $25,000 below state average and I am looking for work that pays me a better living wage so that my family and I do not need to be on food stamps. I also crave challenge, be that as a director of a bigger library or in a leadership/administrative role at a larger library.
Family, Fidelia Hall, Life, Titusville, PA

Let It Grow

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The idea of home being the most important thing has always been a big focus of my life. My life has always been focused around my family and where we live. A lot of who I am came from my upbringing in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA and a lot of who I am now as an adult comes from the home that I’ve built together with Haley over the past 12 years.

For the last two years we’ve made Fidelia Hall in Titusville, PA our home. At almost an acre with a house and an old church on the property, we’ve got a lot of space to grow and learn about the world around us right in the middle of our little town of 5,500 residents. One of the things we’ve been learning about are gardens and what most people call weeds. We want to understand why these things grow around us and how we can make a garden that incorporates things that we love to look at AND things that are helpful to the environment. We’re getting there. In our two years at Fidelia Hall we’ve planted things that we love (sunflowers, black-eyed susan, mint, chamomile, borage, and much more) and let a lot of what comes naturally grow without interruption. Things such as purslane and dandelions may not be desired by most people in the world, but they’re welcome in our gardens at home.

Our days in the spring and summer are spent preparing and maintaining the gardens as well as sitting back and enjoying them. Sitting in a hammock or chair and doing nothing but looking at how the bees are enjoying the borage become one of my favorite activities. When your home all around you thrives and grows your life becomes just a little bit more magical.

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This morning as we watered the gardens our children Finn and Aero ran around and begged us to spray them with the hose (which we did). The birds all around us chirped, our dog Sonic ran around like a crazy person, and the bees enjoyed the borage. As we watered the gardens, Haley and I talked about what was growing and made plans for years to come. I collected some of those “weeds” to feed to our chickens and rabbits. Those “weeds” were their food for the day, and boy oh boy did they ever enjoy it.

When we have a connection to the world around us, our lives can be significantly better. Everyone deserves a home where they can explore the amazing world we live in. When it comes to life, I say let it grow: let the “weeds” and other plants around you grow and from their growth you will have your own personal growth.

Family, Fidelia Hall, Libraries, Life, Titusville, PA

Six Months in a Leaky Boat

Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl, at the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance, didn’t stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me? I’ll conquer and stay free

Ah c’mon all you lads, let’s forget and forgive
There’s a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat

Like the wonderful Split Enz song above, I feel as if I have just spent six months in a leaky boat. However as I write this I believe that the lines “Ah c’mon all you lads, let’s forget and forgive There’s a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore” sum up where I am now. I am here to tell you a brief tale of what I learned after I had spent six months in a leaky boat.

The climate here in the United States right now is one of fear, paranoia, and anger. Everyone seems to be fed up or fixated with something and social media has all given us a chance to share those thoughts. We are all broadcasting our inner selves and right now our inner selves are kind of dark. Losing two of our most beloved (Bowie and Prince) hasn’t helped make the sun shine more, and political seasons are always bitterly divided these days. February is just kind of blech. I went blank. I got dark. It was not pleasant and I felt an achin’ in my heart.

I think the sun coming out and the gardens full of green and the birds singing and the chickens and rabbits have helped me leave my leaky boat. There is a beauty in being outside, surrounded by brightness and people that you love. It makes the larger world that we all live in ceast to exist. The Trumps and the Clintons and the Kardashians don’t exist when I’m outside enjoying the piece of land that we call Fidelia Hall. All that exists is that moment and that moment is beautiful. Those people and those things that tug at our souls and allow darkness to enter us are not really there. They are not real when we exist in our moment.

I would not trade my recent six months in a leaky boat for anything because after all, it is the tough stuff that help you enjoy the great stuff. Growth, growth, growth. That’s the reason why I’m writing here. This is a living and breathing document and an example of how a human being can change.

 

Family, Libraries

Life and Libraries and 2014

2014 is coming to an end and every blogger and writer out there is going to be writing a year end recap of what’s going on and what to look forward to in 2015. I love these kinds of posts and I usually think about writing my own at the very last minute. But not this year!  I’m gonna get a jump on this thing!

family

The first half of 2014 was busy. The team at the 2nd Floor of the Chattanooga Public Library had a lot of big projects happening. We brought in some big attendance and circulation statistics to the library.  I did quite a bit more traveling than I usually do and spoke to a lot of great librarians. I visited Strathmore Alberta Canada, Baltimore Maryland, New York City, Louisville Kentucky, Nashville Tennessee, Greensboro North Carolina, and San Antonio Texas and had an amazing time learning and sharing with librarians. I found myself kind of tired at the end of it all. Yes, it was all very rewarding but the balance between libraries and general life was a bit off.  I learned about limits and how to take care of myself first and foremost before other things.  A healthy and happy Justin leads to a happy and healthier Justin The Librarian. Everything that we do affects everything else that we do.

JHFinn

In around August I decided to make some changes to achieve more of a balance. I visited family and friends twice in Pittsburgh, PA in August and September.  It was nice to go back there with Haley, Finn, and Aero and be with our extended families and take part in a few weddings.  Seeing the day to day things that happen in life makes you want to chill out and appreciate those things more.  That’s exactly the approach I’ve been taking and it has been wonderful.

JHAero

Haley and I piddle around in our yard a lot.  We take care of our home, our little slice of urban farm/homestead here in Chattanooga.  Finn, Aero, and I play with Legos and we kick around a soccer ball a lot.  We only go out to eat at a Chinese Buffet because it’s awesome and every other restaurant is average and costs way too much.  We eat a lot of vegetables at home.  We play a lot of Nintendo Wii U and have family movie nights.  We have a really cool dog named Sonic The Border Terrier. I really enjoy watering and taking care of my plants, especially our banana plants.

JHBanana

These are the things I look forward to the most these days.  2013 Justin was a bit different….there was something library related in that end of the year toppermost of the poppermost list. This year, there isn’t. That’s not to say that I’m not into libraries anymore….I am, and I still believe that the public library holds the key to unlocking an amazing future for our communities. It’s just that now, well, I have realized that I don’t need to think about them all of the time.  And I’ve also realized that the less that I think about them, the more focused I am on helping them better serve their community.

JHHaley

So that’s 2014, life, and libraries in a blog post. I look forward to everything in 2015: life, family, friends, libraries, travel, music, video games, food, and sleep.  Things are cool. Things are on the level. Life. I’m just gonna live it.

Libraries, Teens, Things

TWO Youth Services Things That I Have Been Thinking About (2014 Edition)

1. WHAT THE HECK ARE WE DOING WITH YOUTH SERVICES?
Kids? Tweens? Teens? Teen Spaces? The Children’s Library?  All of the division by ages in libraries has really been getting to me over the past few years.

Say you’re an 11 year old.  Say your Teen Library is ages 12-18. What if the 11 year old is really into the stuff you have in the Teen Library? Do you not allow them in until they’re 12? Do you make a special secret handshake with that 11 year old and let them in, thus breaking the rules that your library created in the first place?  How do you decide which 11 year old is worthy of being in the Teen Library just because they’re really into something in the Teen Library?

All kinds of ages working together. Adults, tweens, and teens. I like how we all just don't give a crap how old we are and are just really into making 3D printed objects.
All kinds of ages working together. Adults, tweens, and teens. I like how we all just don’t give a crap how old we are and are just really into making 3D printed objects.

I say let’s blow up the whole damn thing and think about how we can reimagine Youth Services. Instead of dividing up our Youth Services by ages, why not focus on interest?  Do you like Legos? OK! That’s the Lego area! Wanna play video games? Sure! Anyone between the ages of 0-18 and their caregivers (I’ll get to that later) can enjoy our video games!  We can keep books divided by age because that’s really helpful but everything else? I say let’s let them all in to explore and enjoy the library.  Think less about the age and more about the interest.

2. RESPECT FOR THE PARENT/GUARDIAN/CAREGIVER CROWD
Like any good librarian that works with folks between the ages of 0-18, I sure don’t want any random adults hanging around in the same space as these kids, tweens, and teens. First up: it’s just weird to be an adult and want to randomly hang out with kids, tweens, and teens in a library.  Second: You already have awesome services directed at your age group at the library (and if you don’t, it is time to use your voice and speak up! Tell your library what you want as an adult!). And Third: WE’VE GOT TO PROTECT THE CHILDREN. The line is stale and old and we say it all the time as librarians but it is true: we have to watch out for our kids, tweens, and teens.  We are here to make their life better and safety is a huge part of that.

A son and his father and Ms. Pac Man. In a library. Together. Sharing and enjoying. So awesome.
A son and his father and Ms. Pac Man. In a library. Together. Sharing and enjoying. So awesome.

But what if you’re a parent/guardian/caregiver? Does that mean we should take you out of the picture and not let you in our Youth Services areas? Sure, we allow adults to always be in our Children’s Libraries with their kids, but we kick them out of the teen library and other areas reserved for youth.  And I’m just not into that.  As I said above, we need to think less about the age and more about the interest. So if you are setting things up in your library by interest, why not let parents/guardians/caregivers be a part of the experiences happening in the library? Let the grandmother use the 3D printer with her 11 year old granddaugther who loves Minecraft. Maybe this 6 year old boy can teach his babysitter just how to use the button maker.  The kid/tween/teen becomes the ONLY reason that the adult can be on the floor.  You wanna see all of this stuff that we have for ages 0-18? Cool! Then hang out with your kid and do things with them in the library!

On another note: Imagine a library that offered adults a library program that did the following: You come to the library. You get to have a few drinks. You get to socialize with other adults. You get to have a great night out at a great program (author talk, maker event, workshop, class, anything!).

BUT WHAT IF YOU HAVE KIDS? You have to think about childcare. How will I take care of my kids and take care of myself? By the time you are done thinking about it all you are tired so you just give up and say “well, I’ll do that some other day when the kids are older.”

Here’s where Youth Services needs to step up our games: PARALLEL PROGRAMMING. I can’t take credit for the name. Corinne Hill (this awesome lady) came up with it during a meeting.  Give something to the parents. Give something to their kids/tweens/teens at the same time. Make everyone happy at the library. It isn’t babysitting. It’s helping out your community. It’s thinking big picture.  It’s taking care of the community you serve in every possible way. The parents/guardians/caregivers get a night out and the kids/tweens/teens get to run around in a library and enjoy some great things.

This post was a little more “soap-boxey” than I usually like but when I started writing it things just came out this way. These are all just ideas.  Recommendations.  Thoughts. Try them and see what works best for you. If you don’t like it, don’t try it. I won’t be hurt!

Family, Libraries, Management

Have Fun

10156145_10100160168817860_274626555249143030_nThe last 14 months of my life have been a blur.  

I’ve been up, I’ve been down. I’ve been to Texas, Alberta, Chicago, Baltimore, Nashville, Chattanooga, Pittsburgh, Greensboro NC, and a few others I can’t remember. I’ve worked with an excellent group of folks in Chattanooga on loads of different projects: turning The 2nd Floor into a must see destination for ages 0-18 and their caregivers, working with The 4th Floor on all sorts of future of libraries stuff, and connecting with the community to make Chattanooga an even better place to live.

It has been a lot of work. I have grown as a person. There are ups and downs.  Nothing ever goes according to plan.  You have to learn how to live in the moment and makes the best changes you can.  Despite the challenges, the one thing that I have focused on in the long run is just how much fun it has been.  That’s what my wife Haley tells me.  Don’t get bogged down by any crap. Move ahead, do what is best, and have fun.

I don’t know why I am writing this blog post other than to just put that idea out into the world: always have fun.  Every situation is unique and challenging in your life. If you see it as fun, you will enjoy it all and have a good life.

Fun is often overlooked and maybe it shouldn’t be. Maybe fun should be at the core of all that we do. Perhaps that we’ll change the world through fun.