Sunday, May 24, 2009

Employment Drama, Part I

So. It's been an emotional couple of weeks, employment-wise. Facebook friends have already heard most of this, but just so it's all in one place, and for my own narrative satisfaction, here it is:

I have a part-time job at a Suburban Library System. It's not exactly what I want. For one thing, the hours suck. For another, it's not in the area (children's/teen svcs) that I love and am best at. And sometimes it's a bit quiet for my tastes.

But other than that, it's pretty good. The people are friendly and supportive and smart. The work is pleasant and not too hard. And, you know, it's a job. These days, a good job is nothing at which to turn up one's nose. It has benefits, and vacation, and they pay me and all. And until January, because I have a temporary appointment filling in for someone who's filling in for someone who's on maternity leave, I actually have a decent schedule rather than the crappy-shifts-no-one-else-wants hours that I will probably return to when the maternity leave posting ends.

So. That's the job I have.

Suburban Library System is pretty small, and because it's a nice place to work, people don't leave there much. There is a small number of youth lib. jobs in the system, and the librarians working in them seem quite happy and disinclined to go anywhere. Chances are, unless the Powers that Be create a brand-new position, it will be a matter of some years before I get a shot at a job I really want in Suburban Library System. I could be working my crappy-hours job there for quite a while.

So I've been applying for anything else that comes open, especially a children's or teen job. In the last year or so, I think I've applied for a dozen jobs, interviewed for most of them, and gotten two of them. Well, two-and-a-half: first the crappy-hours permanent job at SLS; then the better temporary posting I have now at SLS; and along the way I picked up an on-call substitute librarian position at Big City Library System.

Big City Library System is where, all things being equal, I would most like to work. And, until recently, it seemed like the place where I was most likely to get a job in my specialty. It has a lot of branches, a lot of staff movement, and a lot of funding for various initiatives.

As in Suburban Library System, almost all the postings at Big City Library are internal-- you have to work there already in some capacity to qualify. I applied a little over a year ago for a rare externally-posted position. I didn't get the job, but they hired me on as an on-call then, and I've been working there sporadically ever since.

In that time, I've applied for four other BCLS positions, interviewed for all of them, and gotten none of them. The rules at BCLS tilt the playing field heavily in favor of the applicant with the most seniority. Everything--resume, each interview question, the written portion (and there is always a written part of the interview, administered after the oral section)--has a certain point value, and the most senior finalist is given a 10% point advantage--a hard one to beat, considering that all the finalists are generally pretty good or they wouldn't be finalists.

Preparing for an interview for this library system is no small thing: the applicant is expected to hunt down their future supervisor and learn more about the position (unlike in most library systems, where applicants are discouraged from talking to anyone or trying to get an edge before the interview); there's always a "practical" or presentation component, which involves preparing part of a story time or other presentation, performing a portion it at the interview, and handing in an outline of the whole thing; and the questions are varied, unpredictable, and often seem to have little directly to do with the job in question. Between the unusual criteria--which screen for workplace-politics savvy and for knowledge of the system and its quirks as much as for more standard librarian skills--and the seniority advantage, it's not uncommon for librarians to interview three or four times at BCLS before landing a permanent job there, so my experience hasn't been totally out of line.

After my first failed internal application, and every subsequent one, I was offered a debriefing of the interview. This is as scary a prospect as you'd expect, but every time the debriefers have been practical, kind, and strategic in their advice, down to advising me of what buzzwords are important to refer to next time--and it's generally assumed that there will be a next time.

Back in January, I had an interview that was particlarly close, and my debriefer was very encouraging. I should definitely try again, she said, but might have to dig in and wait, as--due to the economy and the costs of preparing for an International Athletic Event in our region--the city had just imposed a hiring freeze.

So, oh, well. Such are the vagaries of public employment. I resigned myself to working Saturdays and weeding nonfiction at Suburban for the forseeable future, and trying again at Big City when the freeze lifted, probably sometime next year.

To be continued.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


i am waiting with bated breath for the next installment! or has facebook chosen your affections? i miss you here!


ps. i am still ambivalent about facebook. not sure if it will 'take' or not.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i meant to say, 'has facebook stolen your affections.'

12:56 PM  

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