What I Wish I Had Learned in Library School, Part III

by Elizabeth on July 14, 2010 · 2 comments

in Job Hunting, librarianship, library school

This is my final entry in what turned into be a series on all the things I wish I had learned while I was in library school.  If you  missed it, you can read part one here and part two here.
This week I want to address 4 skills that I wish I had acquired while I was in library school.  All of these were touched on in some form or fashion in a variety of classes, but I would have loved a class, or even a special not-for-credit, after school, workshop to address some of these.
The first skill is Vendor Relations.  My friend Lauren and I have discussed that we both lack skills in dealing with vendors.  Her encounters with vendors have only come from conferences, but I deal with vendors everyday.  I really wish I knew how exactly I was supposed to handle their incessant phone calls, their pleas for me to try a new project, and 5 minute elevator pitches on why their product is perfect for my library and how they can work with me on the price issue.  I never seem to know what to say.  I’m actually running a free trial on an ebook platform that I’m 95% sure I won’t buy because the ebooks are so expensive.  I didn’t know how to say no and the rep kept calling about it until I finally gave in and am now “running” a free trial.  I say “running” because I’m not promoting it at all.  The trial comes with access to all the ebooks they have, but then when you buy, you only see what books you’ve purchased.  I don’t want to expose the doctors to something and then take it away.  That doesn’t seem fair. 
On the opposite of vendors who call too much, are vendors that I need to talk to and want to hear more about their product, but don’t really know how to go about it.  For example, the vendor the library uses for all of our print journals and some of our databases has provided me with no less than 5 reps to contact.  I have no idea who’s who so I end up calling one, who ends up being the wrong person, and then he/she has to direct me to the right person to talk to.  It’s frustrating because I was dumped into this with no prior knowledge of the system and now I’m just trying to sort through it all to reach the person I need to talk to.  Like Lauren, I also struggle to find ways to talk to them about my needs.  I’m always careful not to bring up money to soon, but in a super small library, it’s always going to be the first issue.  I need to learn to deal with vendors correctly so both of us get what we want.  I do better learning from classes, readings, and presentations.  Does anyone know of some good information on this topic?
Management is something I’ve addressed multiple times.  I wasn’t really prepared to be a manager in my first job (other than managing myself which is hard enough).  I think that I had I worked in a library and worked under a good manager, I would be a better manager myself.  I have a wonderful library assistant who works with me two days a week.  She’s the only person I manage and we get along just fine, but sometimes I wish I knew more.  Having experience would have really helped here.  As much as they tried to teach management in school, I honestly don’t think it’s a skill that can be taught.  It must be learned by watching and by being managed.  If you know of any good people management materials, please share!
Management of people is not the only part of management.  I manage a whole library.  I run the show.  From the cataloging to the decision making to the budget, it’s all my job.  I think this was taught a little better in school, but most days I still have no clue what I’m doing.  I think it would be better if I actually had a copy of my budget and a better idea of how my money get’s spent, but alas, I (still) don’t.  I think that I do a pretty good job running the library, but most of that is just common sense and thinking on my feet.  Hmm…maybe that’s all that management really is?  That would be so easy! 
Resume, interview, and general job hunting skills were something I got from applying to many jobs and then asking why I wasn’t getting interviewed.  I had lots of different people, from my parents to my professors to actual librarians look over my resume/CV and cover letters.  I got lots of advice and most of it seemed to work out pretty well.  I strongly suggest showing your stuff around to as many people as possible and really listening to what they have to say.  Back in the fall when many of my fellow classmates were dealing with job hunting in a bad economy, I asked one of our professors who used to be an assistant dean of our library and did a lot of hiring, to do some workshops on job hunting, resume writing, interviewing, etc.  It turned out to be a great program.  I wish that it had happened earlier in the year, so that I could have gotten more out of it, but I know that many of my classmates did.  I encourage you, if you are still in school, to ask a professor whose really great at resume critiques to do hold workshops like these.  If you are interested in knowing what we covered, email me and I’ll be happy to share more information.  The reason I’m putting this down as a skill I wish I had learned is because I wish that something like this had been offered every semester (or at least once a year) so that as many people could take advantage of it. 
The last skill is the most important I think.  Marketing and advertising are two things that I desperately wish I knew more about.  Lisa mentioned in the comments last week that her school started offering a library marketing course after she left.  I would have loved to take a class like that!  Even while I was in school, I wished for marketing skills because I kept seeing job postings for an “outreach” librarian.  These were more common in academic libraries, but I saw a few postings for public libraries as well.  And now that I’m running the show, I wish I knew more about getting the word out to my patrons, talking to doctors about new things, finding out what they would like to see in the library, etc.  I would have really enjoyed a course like that.  I attended a session on marketing academic libraries at ALLA conference this winter and while some things definitely apply in my own library, one 1 hour session wasn’t near enough.  Does anyone know of any continuing ed courses or know anything about library marketing?  Please share!
I know this was long, and I apologize for that.  I asked several questions that I would love to see some responses to.  In case you missed them they are: 
  • Does anyone know of some good information on improving vendor relations?
  • Do you know of any good people management materials? 
  • Does anyone know of any continuing ed courses in marketing and advertising or do know anything about library marketing and would be willing to share? 
  • Lastly, what are some skills that you wished you learned in library school?

Please share your thoughts in the comments.  Inquiring librarians want to know!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lauren July 14, 2010 at 9:52 pm

I agree with all of these – great post! I, too, would like to hear responses to your questions.


2 Lee Ann July 27, 2010 at 3:07 am

This year, Alliance Library System and TAP Information Services are sponsoring a monthly series of online workshops. The March workshop was devoted to marketing, and although I have marketing experience, I found it helpful. Perhaps you, or your readers, could contact the speakers and see if they could recommend further resources.


~Lee Ann Benkert


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