I’ve been applying for jobs since late September as I’ll be graduating in just a couple of weeks with my MLS (or whatever my school calls it). I’m not the sort of person who is dead-set on working in a specific type of library. If anything, the type of library I want to work in is VISIONARY. I want to work at a library that has a vision for the future; that creates change instead of being reactive to it. A tech-savvy library where the librarians know what blogs, wikis, and rss are and are educating their patrons about such things too. I’m looking for a library where management listens to everyone who works at the library, from clerks to professionals. I like a bottom-up or team-based management approach, and have a hard time understanding librarians who think paraprofessionals don’t have valuable insights to offer that might influence decisions. I’ve been to libraries where the staff seems genuinely happy to be there, and libraries where the staff is grumpy and short with patrons. I want to work in the sort of library where people don’t just come in to check out books; where they actually want to BE there. A library that creates a cozy atmosphere that’s conducive to sitting with a good book or magazine, or doing in-depth research. Where they offer free wireless access. A library that is constantly coming up with new ideas for how to improve itself and not only meet the needs of its patrons, but exceed them, with great programs and an even better collection. Is that too much to ask for?
So when people ask me, “do you want to work in a public, academic, government, or corporate library?”, I say I want to work in a visionary library. Unfortunately, job ads tend to lack that description, so it pays to ask a lot of questions at interviews. Like “what is the management style at the library?” If they say that the head librarian makes all decisions, your viewpoint may not be taken into account very much. Or “what do you like about working here?” If they don’t have an answer, then maybe they don’t like anything about working there, and maybe you won’t either. Or “do you offer technology classes for patrons?” If they don’t, you should find out why. Or “what would you like to see someone in this position accomplish or change in the next five years?” If they just reiterate the job description, then they may not have a vision for the future, and you may not have very much flexibility in your job to create change.
I’d be just as happy working with children, teens, adults, students, business people, scientists, scholars, or the elderly. I love people and, as a former social worker I’ve developed a great deal of patience, so dealing with diverse groups has never been a problem for me. But I really want to find that rare library that is constatnly changing and improving its service to patrons; that realizes that its heart and soul is its community (whether that community is a school, a business, or a city) and works with the community to meet the needs of its patrons. I sure hope that library exists, and that it is looking for a spunky, organized, kind of silly, tech-savvy, visionary librarian like me.