Doesn’t Hurt to Try [Farewell]

It is with a heavy heart that I must tell y’all this is my last post for Hack Library School. When I agreed to write for the site I did not expect to only do so for a single semester, but I am glad I have at least been able to share my time at the Smithsonian, my love of mathematical databases, and ways of supporting scholarly communication with all of you. There is much more I was planning to share, but instead life, in the best way possible, got in the way. So instead I am going to tell you that story, and how it could, hopefully, happen to you.

It is the end of my first year of library school and I am checking my email, sorting through a pile of library list-serve messages (side-note sign up for library list-serves they are great) when one containing a job listing catches my eye. By this time I have seen plenty of these message and rarely do I look at them twice, as a first year library student they seem like something that won’t be important until the far off time of next year. This one though was special, it wasn’t just a job it was THE JOB. The job I had been telling everyone I wanted even before I started library school, mathematics librarian. At first I was a bit angry, how dare this position, a rather rare one, be open now instead of next year when I would have a chance of getting it. The more I looked at the job the angrier I got, it seemed nearly perfect. Eventually the anger abated, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this nearly perfect job. My mind became a roiling sea of contradictory notions. I am only halfway through my degree but I do have strong qualifications in mathematics which are rare among librarians but no one is going to hire someone they have to wait a year for but won’t you hate yourself for not at least trying to get THE JOB? It was this last one which won out because in the end even if I had no actual chance of landing the position I would just be happier if I at least tried. So I did.

It felt weird putting together an application while also thinking I did not have a hope of getting the job. Still I wrote my cover letter, polished the little library experience I had gained in the past year into the shiniest resume I could, and pushed submit. Trying for the job was such a great weight off my shoulders, I pretty much forgot about it. That’s why when I got an email in my inbox asking to schedule a phone interview I was so shocked. I was excited but kept from getting to excited by telling myself I was assuredly the wildcard candidate they are only interviewing because of my weird background and there is not chance of it going farther. This made me so relaxed about the phone interview I ended up taking it outside while sitting in the Smithsonian gardens, a location I wholeheartedly suggest to you. Again after the phone interview was over I sort of relaxed because I was still sure it was not going to go further. So of course I was again surprised when they asked for an in-person interview. This time I was a bit nervous because being there made it real for the first time, but it still felt like a free shot. Even if I did not get this position I was not in any worse of a spot than anyone else in my program, with a year left of school to complete and a job search ahead.

As this is my last post I clearly did get the job, so I did not have to deal with the job search but I do have to deal with finishing my program. This is actually the most stressful part of this whole thing. While they would have waited the university wanted me to start in January. This meant I would have to finish my program remotely. This would not have been a problem, except I was missing a required class which was not being offered online during the spring or summer. Thankfully my program is flexible and is allowing me to take an equivalent class I found at a different university to fulfill the requirement, but there were definitely nights I lost sleep worrying about how I was going to make things work. But it did work out and I start THE JOB in less than a month now.

I am going to finish up here with some advice. First of all take as many of your requirements as early as possible so you have as much flexibility as possible to accept opportunities as they arrive. Having one requirement left was annoying, but if I had waited to take more of my required courses until the end I never would have been able to make things work. Second, cultivate as many different types of experience as possible as they will be what differentiate you from the rest of the pack. Finally, if you see a posting for THE JOB apply, you never know when you will get lucky and if you try you might just get it.

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