By Francesca Marineo, MLIS Candidate, June 2015, UCLA
In a time when most ‘entry-level’ positions, librarian or otherwise, require “2-3 years of experience,” it can be extremely disheartening for recent graduates to start the job searching process. I myself, a second year MLIS student at the University of California, Los Angeles, have not too long ago begun to search for my first career position in the field of academic librarianship.
Graduating in a month and a half, my colleagues and I are all hoping to find that high paying, full-time dream job. Unfortunately, it’s not usually that easy. Nonetheless, as I read through tens, twenties, thirties of applications, I feel like I have at the very least established a solid foundation for the qualifications required by these positions. On that note, I would like to share with you, future and current students, as well as recent graduates, how I made the most of library school.
I was very fortunate to become friends with the American Library Association (ALA) student chapter president during my first couple of weeks at UCLA. One of the programs the student chapter provides is a mentor-mentee program matching up first-year and second-year students. Mentored by my friend and then ALA president, Nick Auricchio, I quickly became his protégé, taking up the office of vice-president in my first year and becoming active in the organization.
In my second year, I took over the office of president and have had the incredible opportunity of leading my colleagues on and off of campus. Being a member of a student organization has allowed me to connect with people within the profession as we conduct local tours and hold professional panels. Furthermore, as ALA president, I was nominated and selected to participate in ALA’s Student-to-Staff program this June at the Annual Conference in San Francisco, CA, which I know will be of great benefit to me professionally.
I became a student member of ALA quite early on, when I took advantage of the low student rates to join ALA and the California Library Association (CLA). I also joined the Special Library Association, so that I could attend their holiday party; this has become a tradition for me. The summer before my second year, I also joined the Association of College and Research Libraries, as my focus centers on academic librarianship. Additionally, I became a member of California Academic and Research Libraries (CARL), when I received the Southern California Instruction Librarians (SCIL) Student Scholarship.
Part of this scholarship included attendance at SCIL Works 2015, a small, but profound regional conference, which was held this past February in Los Angeles, CA. I also attended ARCL this past March in Portland, OR. This was an especially memorable and educational experience. I was able to connect with colleagues in my specific area of librarianship and attend presentations on topics of particular significance to me. Furthermore, I participated in roundtable discussions on library school and early career librarians, which I found most insightful.
This was actually my second national conference, as I attended ALA the previous year in Las Vegas, NV. While I had an incredible time at ALA, I truly enjoyed the intimate nature of ACRL and recommend to any library student or new librarian to attend division conferences relevant to your field.
I have held three different student positions on campus during my MLIS. This has been an excellent opportunity for me to get firsthand experience in an academic environment with a variety of duties and responsibilities. In my first year, I joined the Nitrate Project team at UCLA’s Cataloging and Metadata Center as a student assistant. A grant funded project cataloging digitized images of nitrate negatives, I created and maintained metadata for thousands of images, including those in the Los Angeles Times collection, with two fellow student colleagues. This year I work as a student assistant in the UCLA Digital Library, where we work in conjunction with the Cataloging and Metadata Center and various other departments, digitizing images and providing content management support. Currently, we are digitizing the UCLA University Archives photograph collection.
During the summer between my first and second year, I had the unique opportunity to work as the Senior Fellows Program assistant. A professional development program for high-level library administrators, I provided administrative support to the program under the direction of Dr. Beverly P. Lynch. This position was especially significant to my development as an aspiring academic for it gave me the opportunity to connect with 16 highly talented and influential library administrators. They inspired me to attend ACRL, pursue my focus on information literacy instruction, and provide a current system of support as I begin my professional endeavors.
While my actual employment in libraries on campus has been extraordinarily beneficial, I do not think that I would be prepared to enter the profession without the experiences and skills I have developed in my internships. As an intern, I have been exposed to the types of institutions in which I would like to work and the patrons that I hope to serve. My work experience has focused on administration and cataloging, while my internships attend to my true calling - reference and instruction.
At UCLA, we have a strong internship program. Each year, two days are dedicated to an internship fair, at which various internship sites advertise their positions. I feel very fortunate to live in a large city that caters to all aspects of the information profession. Most students in our program decide to do internships and are placed at their desired internship sites. While not required, course credit is offered for internship hours worked. Most internships are unpaid, which can be difficult for those of us on a student budget, but I strongly urge you to consider interning purely for the valuable experience that you will receive.
In order to get a variety of skills and experiences, I interned at three different sites during my second year. My first internship was at Pepperdine University, West Los Angeles, CA. A graduate campus for the business, education and psychology schools, I was able to observe the inner workings of a one-librarian graduate library. As I aspire to have liaison responsibilities, this internship was great for understanding the librarian-faculty relationships that support such collaboration.
My second internship was at the Santa Monica Public Library, Santa Monica, CA. Although I am through-and-through an academic, I wanted the understanding of working in a public library. Moreover, the skills I developed there, mainly reference and instruction, have been transferable to academic environments. Finally, I currently intern at Pasadena City College, Pasadena, CA. Working in the reference department, I am using the site as a foundation for a class project writing a grant, working on a special project developing assessment tools, and getting to observe Academic Senate Meetings, which are an important part of institutions with shared governance.
My journey through library school has been quite robust. Above I have outlined a series of my experiences, which I believe should be a part of any MLIS program. Some of the highlights include connecting with colleagues at conferences, receiving firsthand knowledge of different information institutions at my jobs and internships, and leading my colleagues as the ALA @ UCLA student chapter president. Although each item outlined above isn’t necessary to achieving success in the real world, I believe these experiences have provided me with a strong foundation of skills upon which I can demonstrate my value as an emerging professional. With a strong resume in tow, I look forward to the road ahead.
Francesca Marineo is a second-year MLIS student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Graduating in June 2015, she hopes to begin her career as an instruction librarian at an academic institution. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.