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Career Strategies for Librarians
Meet Me at the Placement Center
by Joy Weese Moll

The Placement Center at the American Library Association conference is a physical space in the
convention center where employers and job seekers can meet.  There are five activity spaces within the
Placement Center:

A greeting area where a job seeker can find out which interview table a particular employer has been
assigned at a particular time. The greeter will be able to tell you that, for example, Blue Skies University
is interviewing at Table K at 2:00 this afternoon.
A resume review area where a job seeker can make an appointment to have his or her resume reviewed
by an experienced librarian.
A room with tables where interviews between employers and job seekers take place.
A computer area where job seekers can check email or the Placement Center website for messages.
Booths for employers where job seekers can casually discuss employment opportunities and, in some
cases, arrange on the spot interviews.

Interviewing

To take full advantage of the Placement Center, sign up on the ALA website about a month before the
conference.  Peruse the database of job opportunities.  Send polite messages through the Placement
Center system requesting interviews for any jobs that interest you.  Many employers will contact you
before the conference to schedule Placement Center appointments.  Others may prefer to meet with you
informally at the reception the night before the Placement Center opens.  A few will want you to make
appointments after the conference starts—in most cases, this will still be through the Placement Center
website, which is the default homepage for the computers in the Placement Center.

The only employers who make interview appointments without using the Placement Center website are
the ones who have booths.  At the June 2005 conference, these were mostly large public library
systems.  One job seeker, who was looking for employment in the Midwest, noted that most of these
were on the coasts.  Many of these public library systems were interviewing anyone who expressed an
interest.  Some were making job offers at the conference.  

Academic libraries, on the other hand, did something more akin to a recruitment interview.  It was not
uncommon for the job seeker to learn more about the job than the employer learned about the job
seeker.  Presumably, a successful interview at the Placement Center would increase the chances of
being called for an on-campus interview.  

Expect the unexpected.  Employers who are using the Placement Center for the first time are no more
knowledgeable about the process than job seekers.  I waited nearly an hour for an employer who turned
out to be at the wrong interview table.  While I waited, I stood with another woman whose scheduled
interview was delayed while the previous interview went over the time allotted.  There were tables in the
area near the interview room—convenient for pulling a resume or portfolio out of a bag—but the few
chairs in the vicinity were always taken.  

Some job seekers arrived in suits appropriate for a formal interview.  Most, however, wore the kind of
business casual clothes and sensible shoes that work well for a hot summer day of walking at a
conference.  

Resume Review Service

Don’t miss the Resume Review Service sponsored by ALA’s New Members Round Table (NMRT).  My
experience was excellent.  Several people had already offered helpful suggestions for my resume.  My
reviewer was able to confirm that my resume was in good shape and to offer a couple of suggestions for
polishing it further.

The reviewer was also willing and able to answer questions about the job seeking process.  I could ask
him questions that I wished I could ask a potential employer and he was able to give advice geared to
my specific circumstances.   

Is It Worth It?

On the NEWLIB-L email discussion list, someone occasionally asks if it is worth going to the ALA
Conference just for the Placement Center.  For a librarian seeking a job in a public library system and
willing to move, it may well be.  Others will want to consider the Placement Center in context as one of
many opportunities at the conference.  Will attendance at the conference present evidence that you are
committed to professional development?  Would careful exploration of the exhibit hall give you an edge
on familiarity with library vendors?  Are there conference programs that will increase your job skills and
knowledge?

The experience is relatively low-key, at least compared to the typical all-day academic library interview.  
The interviews gave me confidence that I can indeed have an intelligent conversation with a library
director.  

The Placement Center offers an efficient way to make initial connections with hiring libraries.  The job
seeker can learn about a number of different libraries and openings in just a few days.  Discussing
library jobs with employers at the Placement Center can be an excellent way to begin a job search.  The
job seeker gains some practice with interviews, learns what kind of positions are available, and hears
about what employers want.

About the Author:

Joy Weese Moll will graduate from the School of Information Science and Learning Technologies at the
University of Missouri in December 2005.  She wants to employ her writing, research, and technology
skills in an academic library.  Read her blog, Wanderings of a Student Librarian, at http://joy.mollprojects.
com/myblogs/wanderings.

Article published Sept 2005

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