Hello, library folk. It’s been a very long time since I wrote anything here because not a lot has happened worth writing about for months. However, recently I have had a spot of luck that appears to be unheard of amongst recent library graduates. Earlier this week I had a job interview for the one and only Actual Real Librarian Job that I have ever applied for. And I got it!!! I haven’t even finished my masters yet!!!!! Exclamation mark! Whatever kind of magic or divine interference occurred, I am so horrendously grateful because I had envisioned a horrible future of reaching September, having to move back in with my parents, and signing on for a very long time. Alas, I have landed myself an extremely good job of subject librarian at a university. I feel anxious thinking about how inexperienced I am as I haven’t had to spend years working my way up to it, but I just have to keep telling myself that my new employers do know this. They know my job history and they know that I’m fresh [almost] out of uni. They’re not expecting me to come pre-packaged and ready-made. They know I’ll need training. I can do this. I *can* do this.
So, the interview. I had been asked to prepare a presentation on the relevance of information literacy to undergraduates. I’m fairly sure I kicked ass at this, because I’ve got a good track history of success with presentations. I find it weird that I’m so socially anxious and easily stressed, and yet presentations don’t really worry me all that much. Granted, I almost had a bit of a heart attack when I arrived and saw there were around 10 members of staff in there to watch, but I did good. I recycled parts of a presentation I’d had to do for my information literacy module at uni as well as coming up with some new stuff. When the presentation question time came, I think I did alright at that, too. One librarian asked how I would convince students to come to sessions, and another asked how I would convince students to use library resources instead of Google. I did a good job of the first question (I know this because there were lots of smiles and nods), and didn’t do too badly at the second, either. I couldn’t decide if the fact I was only asked two questions was a good or a bad thing!
So, the interview. In the space between these two events, I had to sit in a room with another candidate for an hour whilst the internal candidate had her interview. That was… odd. Small talk, which I hate with a passion, aplenty. There’s probably no moment more fake than wishing your opposition the best of luck with their interview for the job that you’re both there to get.
Alas, when the time came, it was scary. I was interviewed by the two library directors and a representative from the School I will be working with. They all looked very serious and grown up, and I felt a little like a child being sent to the headteacher’s office to discuss something bad. But it was okay. I do struggle with nerves a lot in interviews. As soon as I start answering a question, I either forget what the question was or forget what I’ve already said. Usually both. I’m often not sure if I’ve actually answered the question or not and eventually tail off when I’ve run out of hesitant points to make. I did this a lot during this particular interview, so what they saw in me is anyone’s guess. Normally I bring a notepad in with me to jot down the question as it’s asked and keep me on track, but I didn’t remember that it was in my bag until after the first question and then didn’t want to look like a weirdo, so I made use without. It was hard. Interview amnesia (also known as blind panic) means that I don’t remember what I was asked afterwards, but I will try to remember now. It also means that when I get the opportunity to ask questions at the end, I have absolutely no idea what the answers are because I’m so busy trying to look like I’m listening that I don’t listen. Good work, brain.
The questions [that I remember]:
– What are the differences between my current job and this post? I outlined that the interview post is a career, but my current job is just something I do to keep my foot in the door, keep up to date with library developments, and support myself whilst I study. I said that, more significantly, my previous job as a graduate trainee had given me the opportunity to gain a holistic view of how an academic library works as a whole, in order to prepare me for working in a much more specific role such as this one.
– How will the university change over the next 5 years, and what will this mean for this post? I rambled on about fees being higher and so the decision to come to university being an investment in the future that each student has to be more sure about than ever before. Therefore the service provided is expected to be of top quality. Specifically for this post it means maintaining an excellent service and making the most of the resources we have. And the cliché of keeping up with modern technology, obviously.
– There was a question about communication that threw me a bit because of the way they’d worded it. How will I communicate [effectively?], or something. Because I wasn’t entirely sure what they wanted from this question I talked about having good interpersonal skills and being approachable and friendly. I said that my language degree had equipped me with the skills to communicate effectively. One of the panel then prompted me about types of communication, so I talked about having good written skills for clear e-mails. Still not sure I gave them what they were looking for. Shrug.
– What is an example of when I have managed a budget? I said that in the library setting I have not had to manage a budget, but that I had shadowed subject librarians in my GT year and seen how they make decisions relating to their budget, and that the acquisitions department had shown me the figures. I then talked about having been president of a society when I was an undergraduate, and how I had to juggle two bank accounts – one for long-term investments, and one for short-term spending. I said that I had to apply for the budget at the beginning of the year and think about making it last the entire year, but also about not having any left at the end so that the same amount, or more, could be applied for the following year. I also said that because it was the LGBT society, I had to make sure that money was being spent on all four letters of the acronym instead of focusing on the L and the G, which would be easy to do. Let me just say that I *hate* coming out in interviews. Makes me squirm every time (the worst was at an interivew when they didn’t know what LGBT stood for, so I had to sit there and elaborate. Mortified.). Alas, it was necessary in order to make my point, as spreading the budget across different subject areas will be something I have to do in this job.
– Don’t entirely remember what the next question was exactly, but it was something along the lines of asking what technical problems I’ve encountered (am likely to encounter?) working with ebooks. This one caught me off guard a bit and I can’t totally remember what I said. I think I started talking about students not being able to find them or not knowing what they actually are. I also talked about servers being down. A panel member prompted me to talk about authentification, which I wasn’t totally sure on, so I talked about confusions with Athens. I also mentioned that at Bradford when students contacted us with problems accessing ebooks off campus, it had been difficult for us to help, as us being on campus didn’t present us with the same barriers due to university wi-fi recognition. I said we’d tried to solve this problem by setting up a laptop to give us the off-campus scenario. I closed my answer to this question by saying that because ebooks are hosted externally, when servers etc. go down communication is key, both between the library and the host, and between the library and students. Ta daaaa.
– How would I make decisions regarding downsizing journal subscriptions? This was probably my favourite question to answer because I actually had some knowledge on it! I talked about how I’d sat in on a lot of meetings regarding subscription decisions at Bradford. I talked about discussing subscriptions with academics – finding out what they think the students need and what the students actually use. I talked about weighing up the pros and cons of buying into a Big Deal or paying an extortionate amount of money for one big title. I also mentioned usage statistics.
– The open access question. Still completely kicking myself for this one. I was asked how I would get academics on board with open access. Not a bloody clue! Open access is not something we ever really talked about at Bradford (unless we did and I was just asleep/not paying attention/out riding dragons that day), and it hasn’t come up at all working at Loughborough or anywhere on my course, so I was completely stumped on this one. I started with a generic answer of bigging up the benefits. I was then asked what the benefits are. I rather feebly attempted to blag it and said something about saving money and opening information up to students, but was challenged on this. I then admitted defeat and said that I was sorry but I didn’t have the knowledge to answer the question. Oh, the shame!
– At the university, all teaching sessions are recorded and put online for students to view. Am I comfortable with this? Obviously I said yes (although added that it sounded daunting but I’d get over it, just to make it sound a bit more authentic and not like I was totally desperate for the job). Inside I was screaming PLEASE DEAR GOD NO DON’T MAKE ME. We’ll see how that goes…
There were a couple more questions which have completely left my mind and fallen into the abyss. I’m assuming they can’t have been too traumatic or too successful either, given they clearly didn’t stand out. Despite the feeling I had of having made it out alive but barely, I suppose I must have done something right because the crazy fools employed me! We’ll just have to wait and see what the future brings.