Interview with Brand-new Librarians II – Kiyomi Deards

For the second post of the Interview with Brand-new Librarians series, I interviewed Kiyomi Deards. Kiyomi is an ex-chemist who quit her full-time chemist work in order to attend an MLS program full-time. She loves science and research and writes at her blog, The Library Adventures of Kiyomi and tweets as @KiyomiD.

I met Kiyomi online and then in person at this year’s ALA Annual Conference. At that time, she was in the middle of her post-MLS job search.  She got a job offer shortly after the conference and moved from California to Nebraska about two months ago to start her new first-professional librarian position. Now she is an Assistant Professor in the Reference and Instruction department of the Don L. Love Memorial Library of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Below she offers great tips and suggestions about how to find relevant work experience while attending the library school full-time from her own experience and talks about her adventurous transition from being an MLS student to becoming a full-time professional librarian.

1. Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Kiyomi Deards and I am an Assistant Professor in the Reference and Instruction department of the University of Nebraska Lincoln (UNL) Library.  I am also the subject librarian for biological sciences, biochemistry, and chemistry.

2. When did you get your MLS, when did you start your first professional librarian position, how long did the job search take, and how did you prepare yourself for it?

I received my MSLIS on June 12, 2010 from Drexel University and began my first paying library position on August 2, 2010.  I first began submitting applications in November of 2009 for a position that began in June of 2010, the position I took at UNL was the third or fourth position I applied for out of 10 applications sent (I withdrew my name from one of these before their review date since I had already accepted the UNL position).

Previously, I volunteered at the IPL2, formerly the Internet Public Library, answering e-reference questions online for a year, and volunteered 2-6 hours per week for a year at a semi-local botany research library.  I used this experience, and my work as a chemist as an excuse to apply for jobs needing up to 2 years of experience, or asking for work in an academic environment.  Research library experience can often be substituted for academic library experience and they are very similar in many ways. Local non-profit museum and botanic garden libraries often need help and are willing to take people on a more flexible schedule as long as their open hours correspond with when you can come in.  If you do web site work you can often work from home in your spare time once you do some initial in person consultation.  In my case I was able to leverage e-reference, website, cataloging, and scientist interaction experience to make myself a more attractive candidate.

3. How did you do your job search? What were some of the things that worked and didn’t? What was the greatest challenge?

My job search was focused on science, technology, instruction or outreach positions.

What didn’t work?

  • In retrospect I could have saved myself a lot of time by just focusing on science and technology librarian positions since that is A) my passion, and B) my background as a chemist.  This would have been a more efficient use of my time and saved me a lot of stress analyzing cover letters I didn’t need to write.
  • If possible try and get a different person to do the final review with a copy of the job listing. I had a very embarrassing incident with Word’s auto-fix feature which neither I or my 3 reviewers caught because the subject area names were only a couple of letters different.  Fresh eyes are really a plus at the final review stage.

What worked?

Illustration by Olivier Caravel in Flickr

  • For the applications that I sent out which were clearly defined as science or technology based positions I had approximately a 45% response rate.
  • Having 2-3 people review each cover letter.
  • Having current and former library managers review my initial cover letters and tell me what I was doing wrong and what was and was not the professional way to state things.
  • I used a modified CV/Resume Format.  I totally ignored the people who said to keep your resume at 1-2 pages. Using my master CV/Resume, which listed everything I’ve ever done, I subtracted only those items irrelevant to the job I was applying for.  My CV/Resume which I submitted always ranged from 3-4 pages long, during my interviews I was asked questions regarding pretty much every item on my resume and told that the things I had listed were part of why they were interested in me.  If it’s relevant, leave it on; if it’s not, take it off.  Don’t worry about the length of the resume, worry about the relevance. (Please note that this advice only applies to academia, I can’t speak to public or corporate librarianship.)
  • Deciding what my area of interest was and letting all my teachers, classmates, friends, and anyone who asked know what that area was while remaining open to suggestions of other possibilities.
  • Not being tied to one geographic area. (I realize this isn’t possible for a lot of people.)
  • Differentiating between what I needed and wanted from a job and an area.  We all have certain things that are non-negotiable so it’s best not to waste time applying for jobs that would put you in a situation where you had to do something, or live somewhere, that you hate.

4. Is your work as the professional librarian what you expected and prepared yourself for while you were in the MLS program? Otherwise, what would you have done differently if you knew?

My degree was a general MSLIS concentration and for my 3 electives I took reference courses in subject areas outside my area of expertise, information literacy instruction, and archives I.  This was nice because it gave me a very broad overview of possible resources available from a university and as libraries and archives work together and have more overlapping areas of interest having some basic knowledge of how archives work.  It also gave me experience in looking at instruction from a library point of view and in creating a lesson plan from scratch (always a bonus when you can say that in an interview).  I think overall I got a good general education which supplements my subject knowledge.

It’s a bit early in my work to define how well it relates to my education since I’m still learning the ropes at my institution but I’ll give it try. These are the things that I learned through the MLS program and I use daily at my work.

  • Evaluation of Resources
  • Creation of Resource Guides
  • Adapting Lesson Plans
  • Reference Interview Skills (This sounds easy but depending on how busy you are when a question is asked it’s really easy to forget to make sure what you answering is really what the person is asking.)

5. Any advice for many MLS students who will be soon graduating and looking for their first professional librarian position?

Professors of practice can be a great resource, ask them for advice, most of them are happy to give it and/or suggest alternative ways to find jobs.  Contrary to popular belief all professional connections do not need to be made in person.  Respond to other librarians on twitter, reply to blog posts, ask questions on list-serves. (If you’re too shy to answer people on public list-serves you can always e-mail them personally.)

An open mind, a willingness to learn, and the ability to connect to others are (in my opinion) your most valuable assets.

About Bohyun (Library Hat)

Bohyun Kim is the Associate University Librarian for Library Information Technology at the University of Michigan Library. Formerly, she was the Chief Technology Officer and Professor at the University of Rhode Island Libraries.
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