By Meredith Farkas | March 5, 2005
I have encountered one major problem in my job search that may or may not be attributable to the generation gap: the fact that many libraries will not consider applications from people outside of their general area. This applies more to public library positions than academic ones, but really, I have no idea whether geography is also considered by academic search committees. This has been one of the most troubling parts of my job search, particularly when I had my old address, because I did not actually want to find employment in my area. I wanted to move. At least now that I’m in Chicago, this is actually an area I’d be happy to work in. But I’d be happy to work in quite a few places, and with the job market being what it is, one has to be flexible geographically. My husband and I both love upstate NY (the Catskills and the Finger Lakes/Syracuse/Binghamton area) as my grandparents lived up there and he went to college there. I love Arizona, Colorado, and Nevada because I’m a big fan of hiking and my dad used to live in Phoenix. I grew up in New Jersey and would be thrilled to go back. I got married in Northern California and it is my absolute favorite place in the world. My husband got his medical degree from the University of Michigan and I think Ann Arbor is fabulous! There are plenty of other places we’d be happy to live in too. We love the outdoors (mountains, caves, lakes, ocean, snow, sun, you name it) so anywhere with things to do outside is perfect for us. But if I apply for jobs in those places, will anyone take me seriously? I know part of it is about wanting a librarian who knows the community, but I believe a large part of it is really related to the fact that they don’t believe a a person will seriously move to their area with no relocation expenses paid (something few public libraries can afford to pay) or that they won’t stay. A friend of mine who was a library director told me that her board wanted to first throw out any out-of-state job applications because they didn’t believe the people were serious candidates. My own job search has confirmed my fears about this as I have only been asked to interview for public library positions in places where I either have had an address (Florida and Chicago) or specific ties to the area (New Jersey). I feel like I should get a P.O. Box in every town I’d consider living in, but that would require hundreds of them! I really don’t know what to do about this.
Is this issue related to the generation gap? I think Generation X is certainly more mobile than the generation before us. Many of us are quite willing to move to a place where we have no ties and make a go of it. I’ve done it myself already when I went to college, Denmark, and grad school in places where I didn’t know a soul. Sure, it’s scary, but it’s great. It opens you up to so many new experiences. Every place has different things to offer, different landscapes, different people. I think the Baby Boomers were more mobile than the generation that preceeded them, but most were still held to places by strong family ties. My parents were the only ones in my family who moved away from the New York, New Jersey area, and no one else in our family understood how we could do it. But now that kind of thing has become the norm. My parents live in Florida, my brother lives in New York, and my sister-in-law lives in Chicago. This is the way things are these days. We move for jobs, for better opportunities. But why is that so frowned upon in public libraries? As a social worker, I’ve lived near the communities I worked in, but I certainly didn’t know much of anything about those neighborhoods until I worked in them. It doesn’t take that long to learn about a service community, and it’s not like a librarian who’s new to the area couldn’t figure it out. But perhaps Gen-X’s mobility is both a blessing and a curse. It tells employers that we’re willing to move for them, but it also tells them that we’re willing to move away. Perhaps not having strong ties to an area makes employers think that we won’t stay. Maybe it makes them think we lack committment. But my husband and I are looking for somewhere to settle down! I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want to move from place to place anymore. But how I find a job in a place I like that doesn’t happen to be near the place I live in currently is beyond me.
Is there something I can do, something I can put in my cover letter, that would tell a potential employer that I was serious about moving to their area? Have any of you had success getting an entry-level library job in a place where you have no connections? I’d appreciate any insights on this issue, because I just don’t know how to crack the code and get a job anywhere outside of areas I’ve already lived in.