All posts by Quetzalli Barrientos

The Importance of Community

As everyone knows, library land is small. Having a profession where we all know each other or know of each other, can be a plus (but also has its drawbacks). This allows us to form our own smaller networks and build our own community. Being an early career librarian, I have quickly realized that while I have treated librarianship as a profession where one works alone, librarianship is in fact a team sport.

This past week, I had the opportunity to attend a conference-like event for my residency program. As most of you are familiar by now, I am part of the Diversity Alliance residency cohort. We have these conferences/gatherings about once a year. This year, we had a dual conference between Virginia Tech and American University.

The program included workshops, guest speakers, presentations and group dinners. Most importantly, all the residents were able to see each other again. While we occasionally see each other at conferences, these diversity alliance gatherings are an opportunity for the residents to catch up. We are able to talk about our jobs, our lives, any updates, and it’s a chance to catch up and learn about the exciting things that the residents are doing at their institutions.

I have been a librarian for only two years, but have realized the importance of having your own cohort. It does not necessarily mean that the people in this cohort are your best friends in the whole wide world. It might be a group of people who are not only your colleagues, but those who are able to be honest and frank with you. This is the group of people that you ask for advice, whether it’s library world or personal life. Above all, they are a support team. They support and mentor you–and you support and mentor them.

I would really encourage other librarians to think about the people they surround themselves with. I was basically put in a cohort as a diversity alliance resident, but after we all met, it just felt natural. We had shared experiences that brought us closer together and built a trust that you just can’t get out of thin air. I was lucky enough to be placed in a cohort, but I have also taken some time to slowly form other cohorts I want to be part of. I try not to force it, so I ask the readers, what is your advice to finding, forming, and nurturing groups like these?

The Season is Here: Conference Do’s and Don’ts

Conference season is upon us! With LOEX and ALA coming up, a lot of us are gearing up to travel and/or present at these conferences. Even with school coming to an end, conferences will certainly keep us librarians busy for the months to come.

The first library conference I attended was during my last semester as a library student. I attended Midwinter Chicago 2015 in order to go to the ALA Job Placement Center. The experience was one I remember very well. I was able to attend with some of my library school classmates and was able to have my resume looked at by another librarian. My main goal was preparing myself for the job search, but I do wish that I had networked more. Back then, I was a bit more shy and felt a little uneasy about interacting with people I did not know.

For a lot of you, this is not your first time attending a conference. For others, it is your first time. Everyone has different goals when it comes to attending conferences. It may be for networking, job hunting, committee work, or you might be presenting. While this post is mostly geared towards first-timers, it is my hope that everyone can get something out of this.

  • Let’s begin with the basics, what do I pack? Conferences are usually 3 or 4 days, at the most. You usually do not need much, but if you’re like me, you overpack. No, you do not need 3 pairs of sandals or 3 “going out” dresses. I am still working on my packing skills, but I find that I usually take one pair of jeans, 2 “work” dresses, 2 business casual tops, one pair of flats, and one cardigan.  As soon as I perfect my packing skills, I will let you know.
  • Check the conference website for transportation directions or accommodations. Make sure you make the proper arrangements and know how to arrive at your final location. Do not leave it at the last minute, because you’ll be left scrambling at the airport or bus station (like me).
  • Before arriving, research the location. If the conference is in a big city, is there a museum or place that you’d like to visit? My favorite conference places are college campuses. I like to look at a map of where I am staying and also the necessary commodities that may be in the area (like the libraries and the school spirit shop).
  • If you have a tablet, leave the laptop at home. I usually take one overnight bag with me and find that the laptop takes more space than it should.  I am in the process of purchasing an iPad and portable keyboard, so that should alleviate some of the bulkiness.
  • Carry a small tote bag with you. Mine has the following: pen, small notebook, hand sanitizer, cell phone, conference packet/schedule, cell phone charger, water bottle, tissues, and a lot of snacks.
  • Take your own coffee mug. Most conferences tend to have coffee breaks, but I like to use my own mug because one could always use more coffee.
  • If it’s your first time, ask yourself, what is your goal? Is it to go to specific presentations? Is it to network? Is it to research something? Organize your schedule. Before arriving to the conference, have a copy of the schedule and choose which sessions you would like to attend. I find that doing this helps me have a calm and productive conference experience
  • If you attend a conference with friends or colleagues, remember to not only talk to librarians you do not know, but sit with them. Have lunch with a new group and get to know them. Food and new friends, what’s better?
  • Don’t forget those business cards! Always keep a couple handy, not only while you’re at the conference, but during dinners or happy hours.
  • Presentation jitters? Take some time before your presentation and go to your hotel room and practice either by yourself or with a friend. Or just take a couple moments to relax and meditate. 
  • Go to a presentation/workshop that is out of your element. I think we tend to attend presentations that are relevant to our job duties or research, and that’s to be expected. However, I like to go to at least one presentation that has nothing to do with my every day duties or research interests, It’s always enlightening to learn something new.
  • Conferences can be draining, so if you feel tired, rest! As always, to prevent burnout, get some rest the night before or try to pace yourself throughout the conference.

What are your tips for conference success? Share below in the comment section.

 

The Merging of ACRL and the Diversity Alliance

As many of you know, I am a resident librarian at American University in Washington, DC. In my first post for ACRLog, I posted that my residency is  part of a program called the Diversity Alliance. This program began with four schools. American University, West Virginia University, University of Iowa, and Virginia Tech University. These schools hired resident librarians and we began during the summer/fall of 2015. According to the ACRL Residency Interest Group, a residency position is “post-degree work experience designed as an entry level program for recent graduates of an MLS program.”

Almost two years later, the eight residents have formed a close cohort where we support, listen, and uplift each other.

So, what exactly is the Diversity Alliance? The Diversity Alliance began as a small collaboration of four schools, but over the past year and a half, has grown significantly. Since its founding, the Diversity Alliance saw the potential in not only their own residency programs, but in the potential as an organization and its opportunity for growth. The American Association of Research Libraries (ACRL) announced that they would unite “academic libraries who share a commitment to increase the hiring pipeline of qualified, talented individuals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. By thinking bigger and broader, across all academic libraries, we will introduce and welcome to the job market underrepresented racial and ethnic groups with work experiences that advance academic/research libraries.” 

“The commitment of each library leader to create one or more residency positions will increase the numbers of opportunities for professionally underrepresented racial and ethnic groups to gain the knowledge, skills and competencies to thrive in an academic context.”

It started with 4 schools and now 24 other universities (and still growing) have pledged to establish a residency program at their libraries.

As a resident, it’s been a great experience to be able to attend conferences and have people come up to me and ask me about my residency. I have spoken with many who want to bring a residency position to their university and who want to know more about my experience.  I have noticed that the conversation of residents and residency programs has increased and that more interest continues to rise. 

However, we have to remember that residency programs are not a new concept. The Mary P. Key Diversity Residency Program from Ohio State University was initiated in 1989 and its past residents include Courtney Young, former president of the American Libraries Association and Jon Cawthorne, the current Dean of Libraries at West Virginia University. As you can see, residencies have the potential to create top-notch librarians.

My hope is that years from now, we can look back at former residents of the Diversity Alliance and be proud of their accomplishments and show that residencies are beneficial in mentoring and allowing librarians the opportunity to explore the different facets of academic librarianship.

Over the past year and a half at American University, I have been able to kick-off my career as an academic librarian. I have had the support of my wonderful colleagues, my amazing mentor, and the support of American University. Through this residency, not only have I been able to get a great start on my career, but I was also able to participate and contribute to the university through committee work. During my time at American University, I have served on university-wide faculty committees, search committees for the library, and pursue my own interests outside of reference and instruction.

It has been a great experience and one I am lucky to have. That is why I am happy to share that American University will be hiring a second resident librarian! I am excited to have a second resident working alongside my colleagues and myself at American University.

Be sure to check out the job post and make sure to apply. If you have any questions, please email the address in the job listing or myself at Qlbarri@american.edu.

 

 

Should’ve, Would’ve, Could’ve: The Library Job Hunt

About two years ago, I was already applying for jobs in preparation of graduating from library school. I spent countless hours looking at job posts, writing cover letters, preparing for phone interviews and being anxious about that coveted on-campus interviews.

Throughout my residency at American University, I have been able to participate in two (and one ongoing) search committees. This has allowed me to see the job hunting process from the other side and has allowed me to reflect on how I apply and prepare for the job hunt. Getting to look at other cover letters, resumes, watching people interview, and interacting with job candidates puts a different perspective of looking at the whole process.

While in library school, I was lucky enough to have supervisors that revised (many times) my cover letter and resume. Not only that, but spoke to me about the interview process and even set up a mock presentation. It was great preparation for interviews, but in the end, you have to experience it in order to reflect on it later on. Although there is no going back, it’s good to have these experiences for future job hunting.

So, what would I have done differently? (and definitely do for next time)

Be organized!

Most normal people have a system that helps them be organized during the job search. Two years ago, I was not that person. This past summer when I was looking for apartments, I kept an excel spreadsheet that kept track of the craigslist post, the rent amount, date I emailed the contact person, and other important emails. I only wish I had been that organized back when I was searching for job. Instead, I would find myself overwhelmed by all of the cover letters that I had saved on my flashdrive.

Amount of experience

Looking at job descriptions, I would often see “3 or more years of experience required.” Having had only 2 years of pre-professional experience, I would go back and forth on whether to apply or not. I ended up not applying to most of those jobs, but looking back, I should have. What do you have to lose?

Wanting to cover all the points 

Every job posting is different and they can be brief or very detailed. There would sometimes be a job posting where it discussed the job duties, expectations, requirements, and preferred experience. It’s an exciting feeling to have when you read a job posting and you happen to have the experience that they describe, require, and prefer.

While it’s very tempting to want to cover all the details on the job post, you ultimately have to cover the required and preferred points. You might have room for relevant points, but that usually does not happen. While your cover letter may have some interesting points that are relevant to the job duties, the search committee is looking for you to directly address the required qualifications and any preferred experience you may have. That will be your priority and may not leave room for anything else.

Background research

You’ve applied to a ton of jobs and have finally gotten that phone interview! Take the time to do some background research on not only the library, but the university and their goals. What reports have they released? What are their long and short term goals and strategies? I remember learning this the hard way while on the phone with a library search committee. I was asked, “What are some  resources or programs at the university and/or library that you’d be interested in?”

Easy question, right? Not if you have not done your research. Learn from my mistake. Take the time to look at the university website and find what initiatives they are working on or any programs that you would be interested in knowing more about.

Red flags at a campus interview

I remember going on my first campus interview and 20 minutes in, I already wanted to leave. Of course,  I still had the rest of the day to go, but when you immediately know that this is not going to work out, you still need to power through it. What I should have done is taken that visit as an opportunity to work on my interview and presentation skills. Instead, I continued to be frustrated at the multiple red flags that popped up throughout the day and not knowing what to do about it. However, if it’s an interview that is going well, show your excitement and energy!

Everyone has a different way of searching for jobs and mine come from experiences and mistakes that I have made. I hope that you’re able to use this post as a resource when looking for jobs, either as a new graduate or an early career librarian. What are some of your tips? Comment below!

 

Reflections on library instruction

Happy 2017 to all ACRLog Readers! Like many other librarians, I have hit the road running. For those of you who do not know, I live in Washington DC and with inauguration last week, I was barely at the office. I also attended the Women’s March and it was a mix of emotions, all at once. However, it really made me think how just one person can make a difference. Not just someone who is protesting or marching, but the people in our everyday lives.

I imagine that everyone has a story of a teacher that has truly made a difference in their lives. I have one. When I was in the first grade, my family had moved across the country. We went from East Los Angeles to Burlington, Vermont. I did not know any English and so I had to take an English as a Second Language (ESL) class. My first grade teacher would put in extra effort to help with read, write, and speak English.

Since then, I have remembered her as a teacher who truly made a difference in my life. Someone with compassion, patience, kindness and someone who truly cared about her students. Years later, I still of my first grade teacher. It’s been said before, but actions and words matter. Now, more than ever, how we carry and behave ourselves matters.

This made me think of how I carry myself as not only a librarian, but a librarian in the classroom. Every semester, I teach information literacy classes for the College Writing Program at American University. For those information literacy classes, I have the classroom and the students to myself for 75 minutes.

For those 75 minutes, I have the attention of the students (most of them, I’d like to think) and have the opportunity to interact with them. The current political climate has really made me think of what I say, how I teach, and how I can improve as a teacher. As an early-career librarian and resident librarian, I observed other librarians teach last semester. This project consisted of observing librarians how they prepare for their information literacy sessions, how they interact with students, and their teaching style. After each observation, I would reflect on a teacher’s personality, interactions, conversations, and how they set to convey information literacy.

This process took about two or so months and it really helped me understand how each librarian goes about their instruction. Along with observing the librarians, I also had the opportunity to observe the students and how they reacted to the librarians advice, instructions, and conversations. I think that actually focusing and reflecting on these experiences and observations are important, not only for becoming a better teacher, but to see how others get across to students and their skills.

Going back to the beginning, it has truly sunk in that we as librarians and information literacy educators yield more influence than we think we do. Now more than ever, it is the time to stress critical thinking skills, identifying reliable sources, and also promoting the library as a place of reliability, access, and inclusivity.

For those of you who are curious, I still keep in contact with my first grade teacher. She is still the kind and caring person she was then.