Ladies and gentlemen in seek of library jobs?
Heed my advice:
Get Thee a Smartphone.
First, the surface benefits. A Fancy Internet Phone is fun and shiny, yes, but when you are deep in the job search, having ready access to email can be handy, especially if you are working part-time jobs that do not afford you computer access (see: retail). You can send and reply to emails, have your calendar at the ready to schedule an interview, and even search for jobs on the go. And when you are out on a job interview, having a nice phone can be a comfort as you drive unfamiliar roads or wait impatiently for a bus to arrive along a foreign route – Google Maps, NextBus, and simple access to the Internet to look up a phone number to call in case you are late can be a great comfort. Interviews are stressful enough without that added element of COMPLETE PANIC. Smartphones can smooth out the process a bit.
But for future librarians – those looking for jobs with kids and teens in particular – let me tell you that so many job postings ask for familiarity with web services and devices and apps, ask for technological proficiency (even passion!) across platforms. During my first interview I was asked, point blank, what kinds of apps I use. I do not have a smartphone, and use my iPad for Goodreads, Netflix, and Bejeweled. I was basically stumped. I was better prepared for my all-day interview last week for a different position – out of many conversations held over the course of the day, a vast majority revolved around the library’s role in a digital future, how we can help students and teens and children best access the information available at their fingertips, and I was asked, point blank, what kind of smartphone I use.
This is making me uneasy because although I consider myself to be a very tech-savvy person, I have been somewhat indignant about getting a smartphone. I do not have one. I sometimes want one and sometimes do not. It’s primarily a financial decision – I have never paid more than 50 dollars a month for my phone service, and during this time in my life where I have to save up money to go to the dentist, it seems irresponsible to double my expenses for a shiny new toy. Plus, now that everyone has one, I hear all about the woes of smartphone ownership – the lost phones, the dropped phones, the slow phones, the phones with buggy software. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been lost in a city and asked a companion to help navigate us back to safety, only to hear that “Well, my phone doesn’t like to do that” or “It’s too slow to be of any help.” That just seems like throwing money away.
Yes, I am stingy, but I am also wary about adding yet another device to my life. On the whole, I want to spend less time looking at screens, not more. I am addicted to the Internet already – do I need to carry my drugs around in my pocket at all times?
But here I am, in a profession where information and information access is digitizing, where mobile access is the future, where keeping up with technology is paramount. Libraries that are hiring right now are trying to stay on top of the game – and you know what is easier than training your more “experienced” staff members to use Twitter or provide chat reference or develop apps? Hiring some young, technologically-hip blood. This is most definitely not a bad thing for libraries – in fact, I think it will become a very VERY important thing. However, it’s a bit frustrating to be sitting in interviews in which 3 years of Master’s work is ignored and instead I am asked about how I use my cell phone. Your MLS program probably isn’t going to give you what you need in terms of technology. I loved my Tech class, but it’s not enough to know how a router works, to know a few html tags, to be able to tinker around in an ILS. If you plan on working in a public service department of any library – public, private, children’s, academic, etc – you need to be comfortable with the kind of technology your public is using – maybe you need to be MORE comfortable than they are, and MORE comfortable than your potential coworkers. You, as a new hire, are a de facto ambassador for the future of libraries, the future of information access. Whether you are indignant about it or not.
If you’re already job hunting, do your research, learn about what libraries are doing cool things with iPhones and such, and don’t get caught off guard. If you are a new MLS students, do yourself a favor and add the expense of a smartphone into your loan budget from the get-go. Use it. Master it. Hopefully in two years when you finish, you’ll be ahead of the game.