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LSU Foundations Class July 2012

LSU Foundations Class July 2012

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  •  I’m happy to join you today. Thank you, Dr. Paskoff, for this opportunity. My name is Nancy Faget, but you can call me Nancy. The last name is a bit difficult for some to pronounce. I’m extremely proud to be a federal librarian. As a way of describing myself, first I want you to understand that I’m an LSU graduate with my MLIS degree just as you will be. More than a few years ago, I sat in the Foundations class and wondered what kind of a career I wanted. It’s happenstance that I applied to the Department of Army internship when I graduated. Honestly, the only thing I knew about the military was that my sister was a biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers. She seemed to like it. She didn’t have to wear a uniform even though she was an Army civilian. She practiced her profession by determining land qualified a wetland or not. My mother had worked for the government as an auditor for Customs. She simply practiced her profession as a CPA doing audits on companies importing goods into the country.So when I applied to the Army internship, I was pleased to be offered the opportunity to live in Washington DC. It turned out to be a good career choice for me. It’s great fun to continue to be associated with LSU SLIS in the events at ALA conferences. Kristen Cassidy helped me with this last annual event, and I believe she enjoyed the experience. The Careers in Federal Libraries events that we hold help educate students about jobs in Federal government.
  • I learned quite a lot in library school. Imagine that at one time I wanted to be a librarian, school librarian or public librarian working in the children”s section, but I had this notion that I would NEVER work for the government.Ask youself, if you’re a public school librarian who do you work for? The parish --- specifically the parish government of course!How about if you’re a public librarian, who do you work for?Again, the parish is your employer. Even as a librarian at the State library, you’re working for a government entity. So in broad terms, most of you will end up working for the government in a sense.When I finally figured that out, I was stunned so I immediately changed tracks thinking that I would be a special librarian. Ha! I ended up working in an engineering library as a Federal librarian working for the Federal government. Guess I just couldn’t get away, could I?
  • Most of my experience is as a Federal librarian, so just know my remarks come mainly from these experiences. Your MLIS degree is accepted and respected by many outside our profession in ways we don’t even realize. I’ve seen those with an MLIS degree working in many, many different kinds of jobs. You are the only limiting factor in how you apply your degree. There are MLIS holders with many different job titles. And it makes sense, right? Of course your degree prepares you to be a content manager! Of course your degree trains you to be a metadata specialist!When you work in government libraries, you’ll find that you are offered opportunities === more than you can ever accept === to apply your skills to do different projects, participate on different teams, take training and gain experience on the job. You have flexibility -- even at the local government level – to do a “detail” learning a new skill at another library location. It’s very exciting if you want to branch out and take on new projects. Do it to remain relevant and contribute!
  • I highly recommend that you research the jobs that you want, the skills that are critical to have, and use this time in school to your best advantage.Look at the events around “What I wish I’d learned in Library School”. You’ll hear from recent graduates about the training they wish they had. You won’t likely find basic project management skills in a library school catalog, but postings on those blogs are by people who WISH they had learned that skill in school. You might consider taking electives from other colleges on campus. You might want to work in a sci/tech library (a kind of special library), and did you know that curating research data would be a skill to have? Usually folks going into archives would take such a course, but sci/tech librarians should have it, too!I’m looking to train up my staff right now to curate research data. As a Federal librarian, I know librarians who sit on the National Science Foundation Big Data committees so I consider that these skills are now critical to have.The same goes for the Hack Library School blog. You’ll get ideas about the types of electives you should take, the types of skills you should learn and I suppose that goes for all types of career choices.
  • I alluded earlier to the various level of government that might be offering jobs to someone with your degree.All levels of government have similar responsibilities. For example, there are governing bodies so that you have librarians working at the State Library serving the State Senators whereas the librarians working in the U.S. Senate Library serve the U.S. Senators. Librarians working either at the State or U.S. government levels might be doing similar work helping elected officials create new laws. Each level of government has a responsibility for the environment. So the State has a Department of Environmental Quality and the Federal government has an Environmental Protection Agency. Librarians for these organizations help with GIS mapping because they’re tracking things like wetlands, chemicals, air quality. Librarians for these organizations would help to collect reports and regulations and databases so that biologists can monitor the environment or they might be drafting new laws.I know it doesn’t seem as direct, but as a school librarian you are helping the Parish and the State Department of Education fulfill their missions. It’s just a bit more indirect because you’re not sitting in those offices. Ultimately, the tax payers are paying our salaries.
  • You should appreciate that one agency, the Department of Defense, is the largest employer in the United States. That’s just one agency in one branch of Federal government. Add to that all the other agencies in all 3 branches of government. That gives you an idea of the number of jobs that are available at the Federal government level. There are all kinds of libraries in Federal government medical libraries in military hospitals around the worldAcademic libraries that serve different groups such as the Naval Post Graduate school in Monterey, CASchool or public libraries on military bases especially overseas to provide library services to military members and their familiesEach agency has a law librarian who supports agency counsel and some agencies have tons of librarians supporting lawyers such as in the Department of JusticeI run the Army Research lab libraries so our librarians help the chemists, physicists, researchers, students doing internships thereOnce you become a Federal government employee, you can transfer between libraries and stay working for the same employer.
  • Remember a civics course that you took in high school? There are 3 branches of government (Executive, Legislative, Judicial).President Obama is the head of the Executive branch with the heads of the Executive agencies making up the Cabinet (Commerce, Education, Agriculture, Defense, Homeland Security, Energy, Labor, State, Treasury, etc.)The Legislative branch is the Congress, the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as legislative agencies such as the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office, the Library of Congress, the Government Printing Office, etc.)And the Judicial branch includes the Supreme Court, Courts of Appeals, District Courts, Federal Courts, etc.The structure of other governmental entities such as the Louisiana State government may look very similar.
  • There are dozens of special programs for those seeking to enter government service, and there are always new programs to learn about. Government is complex and bureaucratic. You’ll always be learning about government and the various programs available. Agencies compete for talent, so they’re always adding new recruiting programs. Want your student loans paid off? Get a government job and have your Stafford Loan paid off after 10 years in service. By the way, that’s true of public and school librarians as well. The link to the report from Jennifer Manning, Congressional Research Service, is one I highly recommend reading. It lists many programs you might not have heard about before.Want to fast track your career in Federal government? Enter as a Presidential Management Fellow or through the new program Technology Fellows program. Each Federal agency has one or more Chief Information Officers or CIOs depending on the size of the agency. My boss in the CIO in our agency. A few years ago, the Federal CIOs cited librarians as one of the jobs that is critical to the success of government. How smart are they to know that? That particular report is one I refer to often to remind myself of how others see us.
  • You have to begin right away in charting your career path and learning about government if you’re interested in civil service. You might have a dream to one day work at the Library of Congress. Find out which programs they offer, internships, fellowships, and take courses that make you the perfect choice when they look to hire someone.You might have to apply more than one time to a program, so start early and apply often.If you have an undergraduate degree in German and work experience transcribing documents from Holocaust victims, you might have a wish to someday work at the Holocaust Museum. How do you prepare for such an opportunity? What do they look for when they hire someone?Which internships can you apply to so that you have experience in the field that interests you? In Federal government, that’s particularly important. They want to know that you can adapt to working in a bureaucratic, complex organization. You’ll have to be patient and persistent and flexible, but the rewards are great. So having that experience on your resume puts you way ahead of the pack.
  • Your degree qualifies you for various kinds of Federal jobs, not just in libraries. This particular job series is for analysts. Can you do research, write an analysis of what you find, and perhaps make a recommendation? Would you be willing to study how a new law could impact your organization?Would you be able to find and aggregate information and figures on a particular topic?Certainly in any library you might be called upon to do this kind of work, but it would be a regular part of your job. As a reference librarian, you might be researching and recommending a text-a-librarian software application for example.In Federal government, you might do these kinds of studies and research projects as a full-time job, as an analyst.
  • Here’s one for someone who loves to write and edit content, web pages, social media tools, radio or tv scripts or press releases.In this job, you might research information to write a report for the head of the department about a new program. Is the new program, say a health literacy program, understood by the public?To find this information, you could count the number of reference questions you’re getting on a new program. You might see the questions asked on the web page or which questions are being asked at town hall meetings. You might track interactions on social media applications. If you find that yes, the public is asking a lot of questions about the program, you could them make recommendations about improvements. On a different day, you might be writing content for the web pages.On yet another, you might draft remarks for testimony before Congress.
  • Your career in government might help you to understand what you really like doing more than anything else so you can specialize in a particular area.Perhaps you have an undergraduate degree in health informatics, and you would love to work for the National Institutes of Health. You might find a job as a technical editor for the research reports that are generated from that agency. You might love creating educational pieces, providing instruction to patrons. You might develop skills in using tools such as Adobe Connect to create web based tutorials. Eventually you might want to move into the instructional systems specialist jobs so that you can devote more of your time doing this type of work.The job might or might not be in a library situation, but it’s certainly the type of work done by a librarian. You’ll have to make the decision as to whether you only want to work in government libraries or if you also would be willing to work as a librarian in some other part of government.
  • In those government libraries, there are the same types of librarian positions that you would see in any other organization.There are librarians who run the agency catalog working as systems librarians.There are librarians working with MARC or with other kinds of metadata and, their job titles would be cataloging or metadata librarians.You might have the opportunity to be embedded on a project team to work on agency initiatives. They could use someone with your skills to gather best practices and research on a particular topic as they make decisions on how to move forward on a particular issue.
  • IF you do want to consider government civil service, just know that the job market is tight all over.Your degree is the same as his degree as her degree. What can you do to ensure that you’re a better candidate than the person sitting next to you? I think it’s the experience, the internships, the coursework that you did. It’s the committee work you did. It’s the articles you wrote or presentations you made. Going that extra mile in school shows up on your resume, and makes you someone that I would like to hire.If you’re going to do an internship or practicum, try to set one up in a government library. I can help you find those opportunities. Join the discussion lists and introduce yourself to others. Offer to assist with projects but always ask about the time commitment to make sure you can do what’s needed. For the Federal libraries, here are the lists. For the State and parish libraries, join LLA and be involved! Run for an office in your student organizations or even at the State or National level. Be brave!
  • I encourage you to contact me or other government librarians to ask questions and explore possibilities.I remember one LSU student wanting to do a practicum in D.C., but not having a place to stay. One post to the list and 8 people offered that person a sofa for the 3 weeks they would be in the city. Don’t let anything stop you from doing something great.What will I say at the end of my government career? Not many have had an opportunity to serve as I have. It’s an honor, and with experience working in government libraries you’ll understand what I mean. The words I once wrote were spoken by a Presidential Appointee who was testifying on Capitol Hill. I know I’ve saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. The government is indeed, by the people, for the people. I hope you have the joy and privilege of serving your country as I have.

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