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PhD to LIS: How to Make the Switch



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How to move into a library and information science career from a humanities PhD

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PhD to LIS: How to Make the Switch

  1. 1. PhD to LIS How to Make the Switch Amy Hildreth Chen English and Communication Librarian University of Iowa @amyhildrethchen Branko Collin, “Rails near Naardermeer,” Creative Commons.
  2. 2. Millie Jackson Senior Associate Dean University Libraries University of Alabama With thanks:
  3. 3. Jen Teitle Assistant Dean Graduate Student Development University of Iowa With thanks:
  4. 4. Brady J. Krien Doctoral Student English University of Iowa With thanks:
  5. 5. John Russell Associate Director Center for Humanities & Education Penn State University With thanks:
  6. 6. Melissa Barton Curator of Prose & Drama Collection of American Literature Yale University With thanks:
  7. 7. Shannon Supple Curator of Rare Books Smith College Chair Rare Book & Manuscript Section With thanks:
  8. 8. Lynn Eaton Director Special Collections George Mason University With thanks:
  9. 9. Elizabeth Ott Curator of Rare Books University of North Carolina With thanks:
  10. 10. Katherine Chandler Project Manager Library of Congress With thanks:
  11. 11. Mattie Taormina Director Sutro Library California State University With thanks:
  12. 12. Remember Reflect Learn Locate Apply Interview Negotiate
  13. 13. REMEMBER
  14. 14. Librarians and archivists have their own degrees, specializations, conferences, journals, and professional culture.
  15. 15. A research background provides insightful perspectives, but not professional experience as a librarian or an archivist.
  16. 16. REFLECT
  17. 17. What types of places could you work?
  18. 18. LIS folks work not only public and academic libraries but also in government archives and libraries, historical societies, museums, companies, and even with private collectors.
  19. 19. Those employers all provide excellent opportunities!
  20. 20. However, this presentation focuses on academic libraries.
  21. 21. What types of positions should you pursue?
  22. 22. Common specialties include academic department liaison, archivist, collection development, data curation, digital humanities, metadata and cataloging, outreach and engagement, research services, subject specialist, special collections curator, and scholarly publishing.
  23. 23. Transferable Skills
  24. 24. Academic Hierarchy Knowledge Archival Research Editing Foreign Languages Information Literacy Project Management Programming Languages Student Life Knowledge Subject Expertise Teaching Web Design Writing
  25. 25. Transferable Qualities
  26. 26. Communication Drive Empathy Endurance Flexibility Life Long Learner Networker Self Motivated Warmth
  27. 27. Read more on the topic: Transferable Skills and How to Talk About Them skills-and-how-to-talk-about-them/
  28. 28. LEARN
  29. 29. Ideally, you’d choose to focus on library positions during your PhD, settle on a specialty, and pursue work experience years before you graduate. But that does not have to be the case to be successful.
  30. 30. Job
  31. 31. Seek out opportunities to work or volunteer in your intended specialty at your academic library.
  32. 32. Identify a mentor you would like to learn from, a project you want to contribute to, or a skill you are interested in acquiring.
  33. 33. (Yes, you would do this work on top of whatever academic responsibilities you have in order to complete your degree.)
  34. 34. Skills to seek out:
  35. 35. Altmetics Archival Description Cataloguing Collection Development Database Management Data Curation Data Visualization License Agreements Librarianship Principles and Terminology Metadata Schema Project Management Rare Book Description Reference Interviews Technology User Experience Testing Vendor Negotiation
  36. 36. Informational Interviews
  37. 37. Contact a librarian in your intended specialty at your institution, request a thirty minute meeting, and then ask them a set of prepared questions.
  38. 38. Make your questions specific to the person.
  39. 39. To write your questions, look up their institutional website presence, their social media, their personal website if they have it, and/or their CV.
  40. 40. Then, contact another person in your intended specialty at different institution.
  41. 41. Talk to at least three people in different types of locations, such as a large public university, a medium sized private university, and a small liberal arts college.
  42. 42. While specialties cover the same content from location to location, duties vary based on institutional context.
  43. 43. Additional Education
  44. 44. Read the about the field:
  45. 45. Listservs Library Journals Library Organization Websites MOOCs (HarvardX) Online Syllabi and Reading Lists Social Media (especially Twitter)
  46. 46. Seek enrichment opportunities.
  47. 47. Work/volunteer over breaks or open semesters in a different location.
  48. 48. Apply to attend summer programs:
  49. 49. Antiquarian Book Seminars California Rare Book School Rare Book School
  50. 50. I am not addressing whether you should acquire an MLS/MLIS either during or after your PhD.
  51. 51. LOCATE
  52. 52. Look for full-time, grant-funded, postdoctoral, and term appointments.
  53. 53. While some appointments follow the academic year (postdoctoral roles), the majority do not. There’s not a “hiring season.”
  54. 54. Check the following places for positions:
  55. 55. American Library Association Association of College and Research Libraries Chronicle of Higher Education Code 4 Lib Council on Library and Information Resources
  56. 56. Digital Humanities Job Board Digital Library Federation Higher Ed Jobs Rare Book and Manuscript Section Society of American Archivists State Library Associations
  57. 57. Library positions are competitive too.
  58. 58. Be willing to consider a wide variety of locales.
  59. 59. Look for positions that accept the MLS/MLIS or an equivalent graduate degree. If positions require MLS/MLIS and you do not have one, you may apply, but know that HR requirements may prevent you from becoming a candidate.
  60. 60. APPLY
  61. 61. Research the institution, library, and department. Know their history, the demographic they serve, any recent news, and their overall web presence.
  62. 62. Library positions generally are either professional or non-professional.
  63. 63. Professional positions may be tenure track or non- tenure track. They are generally nine-to-five jobs but they include time and money for professional development.
  64. 64. Non-professional positions are nine-to-five jobs without time and money for professional development activities.
  65. 65. Make sure you understand what type of position you are applying for and if it will suit your goals.
  66. 66. Cover Letter
  67. 67. Retype position requirements into a new document in the order that they appear.
  68. 68. Under each job requirement, list your relevant experiences, skills, and anecdotes.
  69. 69. Revise the job requirement into a topic sentence that contains the language of the requirement and a summary of how you meet it.
  70. 70. Revise your lists into concise paragraphs that each include specific skill summaries and an illustrative anecdote.
  71. 71. Add a paragraph at the beginning introducing yourself, naming the position you are applying for, and an outline of your suitability for the position.
  72. 72. Add a paragraph at the end expressing your willingness to be contacted for further questions regarding your interest in the role.
  73. 73. Congratulations, you have a rough draft.
  74. 74. Make sure the letter is two pages or less.
  75. 75. Edit and proofread it. Multiple times.
  76. 76. Enlist the help of friends, faculty, and centers devoted to writing and graduate student success.
  77. 77. Resume
  78. 78. Resume, not CV While CVs may be used, resumes are generally preferred, especially for entry-level positions.
  79. 79. Header List your name, address, phone, email, and website. Keep your website updated and relevant.
  80. 80. Education List degrees, university, and graduation year. Do not include thesis/dissertation title or advisor.
  81. 81. Appointments List academic and library positions chronologically. Under each role, bullet point 2-5 key responsibilities. Include evidence of success. Start each bullet point with different action verbs.
  82. 82. Skills Subdivide your skills based on type. List skills separated by commas, not bullet points. Try to have more than one skill per type. Be specific (schema, standards, programs).
  83. 83. Associations List both academic and library associations. Become active in your library associations by joining sections and volunteering for committees.
  84. 84. Recommendations List three recommenders by their name, title, university, address, phone, and email. Ask each recommender if they will perform this role for you. Send each recommender the job ad and your application materials. Coach academic recommenders to speak to your interest in library roles by preparing bullet points of your motivations.
  85. 85. Formatting Do not include your photo. Do not use non-standard fonts or colors. Ensure readability by using headings and subheadings. Do not use fonts below 12 points.
  86. 86. Ask a librarian you have a relationship with to critique your cover letter and resume. Revise these documents based on their feedback.
  87. 87. INTERVIEW
  88. 88. Interviews may include phone, video, and campus visits before you are given an offer.
  89. 89. Phone
  90. 90. This interview will be short and direct. Prepare to answer why you want this role at this particular institution. Know who will call and research their role and background. Prepare a few questions for them.
  91. 91. Video Conference
  92. 92. Dress appropriately. Test the technology you will use. Choose a professional location as your background.
  93. 93. Be prepared to explain, with examples, why you are suited for the job. Anticipate questions that address your weaknesses as a candidate and prepare answers accordingly. Keep answers succinct to allow multiple interviewers to engage with you.
  94. 94. Campus Visit
  95. 95. Itinerary Transportation Meals Presentation Interviews Tour After
  96. 96. Transportation Communicate any delays or changed circumstances during travel. The interview begins with the airport pick up and ends at the airport drop off.
  97. 97. Meals Follow the precedence of those scheduled to eat with you. Do not drink if they don’t. If they do, then feel free, but be careful to stay professional. Public universities will not reimburse alcohol expenses. Pay your own way if you chose to imbibe. Choose foods that are not expensive and are easy to eat. Remember your priority is talking to your future colleagues. Bring snacks so that you aren’t hungry during meals.
  98. 98. Presentation Ask about the room’s technology. Answer the prompt directly. Integrate local colors, examples, and images. Pull in information from peer institutions. Finish a few minutes early. Practice and time the presentation to meet the requirements. Answer questions succinctly.
  99. 99. Interviews Become familiar with standards and emerging topics in your specialty. Request a list of interviewers, research each individual, and prepare questions for each person. Also identify how you can be an asset to them. While you should assume you will only use a bit of your preparation, realize that the process will make you more confident.
  100. 100. Interviews People like those who listen. Try to get others to talk. Prepare to address diversity and inclusion issues. Don’t assume your ideas are new. Express your willingness to work together and learn.
  101. 101. Interviews You are interviewing them, too! Ask questions whose answers will help you decide whether this employer suits you. Pay attention to the answers but also the non-verbal signals a prospective colleague provides.
  102. 102. Tour Remember the location of key services and offices. Find where you would work. Observe how people dress, decorate their offices, and other outward signs of workplace culture.
  103. 103. After Immediately write a unique thank you email to each individual you spoke to that succinctly states your appreciation for their time and develops one additional point based on the conversation.
  104. 104. Evaluations combine ability & likeability.
  105. 105. NEGOTIATE
  106. 106. Compare the cost of living between your current and future locations.
  107. 107. Look up salaries in the library department you aim to join as well as other PhDs in the library.
  108. 108. Not all institutions post salaries.
  109. 109. Examine the ARL Annual Salary Survey.
  110. 110. Argue for more than the minimum salary based on your skills and experience, not your degree.
  111. 111. Set a target goal and an acceptable range.
  112. 112. Understand promotion expectations and timelines. Some libraries provide tenure to librarians, some do not, but what tenure and/or promotion means varies by institution and position. Remember tenure requirements look different for librarians than academics.
  113. 113. Identify non-salary negotiation points such as moving expenses, other perks (for example: furlough, research time), professional development funding, and spousal hires, but only use these if there is no budging salary.
  114. 114. Recognize the difference between one time and recurring expenses for the institution. For example, moving costs are one time while salaries are recurring.
  115. 115. Initial salaries set your earning potential for life.
  116. 116. Do not assume you will be able to re-negotiate.
  117. 117. Raises usually come only at promotion and are added to or based on a percentage of your current salary.
  118. 118. Write down the reasons you identified for your target salary.
  119. 119. Practice with a trusted individual over the medium in which the negotiation will occur (likely the phone).
  120. 120. Get everything in writing.
  121. 121. You must negotiate.
  122. 122. Questions? Keep the conversation going on Twitter @amyhildrethchen