Q & A

Question:

I'm a recent MLIS graduate from the UNO/MU program, and though I have the library degree, my experience is spotty and not very cohesive: I've worked as a circulation page, in a student archivist position, and as grant manager at my local historical society, where I've worked with volunteers- which were all temporary, part-time positions. My first thought was to look for jobs in archives, but most are way beyond my experience level. I'm not sure where to put my focus or where the experience that I do have would be most valued/relevant. My experience with reference is pretty minimal, although I have a few anecdotal examples of when I've provided reference and instruction. Is there any way you can gain reference experience from volunteer work? How can I move forward with my less-than-ideal situation in a tough climate for even the most experienced librarians seeking employment?

Answer:

I believe volunteer work is essential in getting your foot in the door! However, it depends on what library type you are looking at. Academic libraries may not allow volunteers to do reference unless you are willing to go through some training (which would be great for you!). Smaller public libraries might (I know we allow volunteers to help answer certain types of questions, depending on their qualifications). If Archiving is your love.. then volunteer at archival institutions, including museums! When I worked for several years at an academic library, I asked one reference librarian how they chose the specialist area she worked in. Her answer was: it chooses you! You apply for the job and are assigned different fields. We, as information specialists, know how to find information, no matter the area. It’s just a matter of what you end up with. Amazingly enough, I found that to be true. I certainly had a preference for history and law, and women’s studies, but ended up doing Children’s programming and service. That position helped me into the Director’s position I now hold. Choose your library and “sell” yourself and your services. Most of us in the field believe in mentoring! Good luck!

Question:

I'm new to the whole acquisitions game and I'm trying to navigate working with vendors. What kind of approach should I be taking with them? Are they my friends to help me? Are they a tool to get me the best product at the lowest price? Should I be working vendors against each other? Should I be trying to work favors out of vendors?

Answer #1:

I have found that vendors can be tremendous helps, but remember … they are also salespeople!!!!!  This is a public library and when I very first started, my Director advised me to look through our advance catalogs, use Library Journal and School Library Journal and then troll some popular websites to find more popular items to order.  For the first year I followed that advice, and then I expanded into using my vendors.  Now, as Director, I have used the relationships I built with vendors to help me select harder to find items, and some provide great deals for me along the way.   I even have one who donates upwards to $1400 in books to the library every year or so!   I don’t try to “work” favors, they just come naturally if you have a good relationship.  Our lowest price is never through a vendor, but rather through a warehouse such as Ingram.  We will oftentimes review books from different vendors, but order the books from Ingram.  Once in awhile we’ll purchase the vendor’s items so that we don’t “abuse” their kindness…..  (Mid America, Smart Apple, etc.)  I have three vendors I buy directly from at least once a year.   We’re looking at a new library project and have one on line  for large purchases when we open our new building.  Last but not least, I only utilize “plans” for a few items.  We are small enough, we prefer to choose our books on our own.  There are a few bestsellers or genres that we subscribe to, along with Junior Library Guild.  I feel more in control of my budget that way! Good luck – you’ll find your way.  I remember doing my first book order to this day --- scared me silly!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Now, it’s just a matter of sprinkling patron requests in amongst the popular and award winners.  Remember to order for your community.  Learn from all, look at all and order the best.  You can ILL the rest… .:)

Answer #2

We usually don't deal with vendors, there are a few who support the local libraries...so they scratch my back I scratch theirs. 

I deal with 3 personally, Penworthy (Dan Charron) & Gumdrop, (Pam Williams is wonderful) books are a bit more expensive, but very good lasting quality so worth it. Tom & Duane Munson are very supportive of local libraries, and have lots of great deals, & hey lets just say it, pretty nice guys, so I work with them.  Most companies prices are a little high even though they say they aren't, though sometimes they have great deals on slightly older material.  And I also work with these guys because they don't pressure me.  I usually only do 1 appointment a year but I have a very small budget so they know they can't really make a lot and I don't even know if I make it worth their time to drive over...but in a way I respect that too, that they will serve the little guy.

I do think that all vendors are like lobbyists for themselves, obviously, so of course their stuff is "wonderful beyond belief," because they are selling it.  Buying direct from publishers never got me anywhere, they never seem to want to give a discount but YOU HAVE TO ASK!  Bigger outfits, like Baker & Taylor Online, Ingram, can ~sad to say~ get you big price reductions like 40%, and I  get some things from Amazon now.  And you have to make your money move for your patrons, even though you do want to support locally.   I also find if you buy from vendors and suppliers who send preview boxes you tend to buy what is in hand, when actually it may not be the best thing on the subject, so don't get lazy!  Read Booklist reviews, Publishers Weekly reviews, look at stuff online, take suggestions from patrons and you will get the hang of it and develop your own style and favorite vendors.