Panel Talks to Management Class About Librarianship 'On the Ground'

Panel Talks to Management Class About Librarianship 'On the Ground'

Three recent SLIS graduates spoke to Patricia Katopol’s Organizational Management class on Monday, October 11, as part of a panel on "The New Librarian: What They Didn't Tell Me in Library School.”

Panelists answered questions on skills they wish they had learned in library school and the things that they learned but didn’t expect to use as much as they do. In addition, they discussed leadership in a library setting and answered questions about the hiring process for current students.

The panelists:

Rouse and Weeks were already working in libraries when they received their MLIS from Iowa. Bramstedt graduated in May 2010 and landed a job in Hudson a few months later.

All of them referenced challenges and benefits of the job, including working with people in public service roles.

Teaching & the Library

“Eighty percent of my job is really working directly with people in really active ways,” said Rouse, who graduated in Spring 2009.

As a consulting librarian at a small school (Cornell has about 1,200 students and 80 faculty), Rouse said she is actively involved in the classroom and in lesson planning with professors.

While Rouse had quite a bit of prior teaching experience, she said she was not completely prepared for the experience of going into someone else’s classroom as a librarian.

“There are some days I look at the classroom I have to go into, with the other person there, and I think, I don’t know if I can do this,” she said.

But she said, it got easier with time and she developed a rapport with professors.

Rouse said academic libraries, especially those in a smaller setting, are looking for new librarians who are excited to be in the classroom and can teach in dynamic ways. Another suggestion she had for students was to be ready to multi-task and help out other departments within the library.

“You really have to be a person who is willing to be a part of a larger community on an academic campus,” she said.

She said her library education helped her look for teaching opportunities in reference encounters and gave her a broader view of librarianship and its values. Rouse also got a better insight into the public library side of Cornell. (Cole Library is a dual academic-public library).

Managing for Growth

Jeaneal Weeks (Fall 2009) said she wished she had been more prepared to deal with the intricacies of city government and budgets before she became the Director at the Hiawatha Public Library. Now proposing a budget for the city council to approve is a major part of her job. The first time she hired somebody was also an eye-opener for her.

“It wasn’t easy to dismiss somebody’s resume or dismiss them once they had an interview; it’s a very tough decision between two or three people,” she said.

However, now, Weeks said she has more experience and is more comfortable making the tough decisions.

Hiawatha is the smallest library in the Metro Library Network which also includes the Cedar Rapids and Marion public libraries.

Before the 2008 flood, Hiawatha had 9 percent of Metro’s circulation. Now, they have 16 percent—and that number was higher right after the waters rose. In addition, Hiawatha will soon be undertaking a capital campaign to raise funds for a new building.

She said she learned to set long-term goals and juggle many different objectives while she was getting her library degree and working. SLIS also helped her refine her reader’s advisory skills and gave her opportunities to work in groups.

“It seems a little artificial when you’re doing it in class but it’s really the way you work,” she said.

Weeks and Rouse both feel their schooling helped them form ways to defend their libraries.

“Trying to portray what a librarian does and what the library means to the community…..constantly defending what you’re asking for,” Weeks said.

She said Hiawatha Public is so “buzzingly busy,” librarians must be able to multi-task and keep track of multiple projects.

Using her Skills

Annette Bramstedt (Spring 2010) applied to a wide variety of positions last May. She had taken several courses in archives and special collections, but she had other interests as well.

She is now the Assistant Director for the Hudson Public Library in a town of 2,000 people. There she does a lot of children’s programming and cataloging. She said the community is incredibly supportive of their library—and almost every resident has a library card.

“I see a lot of the same people every day, every week,” she said.

One thing Bramstedt felt unprepared for was preschool storytime, especially since her predecessor had been there for ten years and left big shoes to fill.

However, she said theories she learned in library school have application for her interaction with preschoolers. Bramstedt said she was also glad she took a management class because she ended up in a management position right away.

She is continuing her education through continuing education units (CEUs) offered by the State Library of Iowa and by attending professional conferences.

Bramstedt said practicing interview questions with classmates and colleagues before her job interview was instrumental in getting her the position.

She also recommended that students research organizations and find out about their history and services before applying.