What you bring to the job

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In the July 07 issue of Library Journal, Stacy Russo discusses how her non-library experience helps her as a librarian. She writes, “many of us come to the profession after working a series of odd jobs or with years of dedication to another vocation.” When interviewing for a job or in our current positions we tend to discount this experience because it is not library experience. Prior to becoming a librarian, Stacy worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor. She served a diverse group of people--some pleasant, some hostile. Her one-on-one sessions with clients, “turned out to be excellent training for reference work.” To determine how transferable non-library skills can be, Stacy recommends making a list of the skills learned from your prior work and comparing them to the tasks you currently perform at the library. You’ll find many of the skills transfer easily.

What is the most valuable skill you learned from a non-library job that you apply to your current role? (Feel free to mention the job as well as the skill.)

>> contributed by Leslie


I often gloss over my positions in retail sales, nursing home maintenance and waitressing, but they have had an impact on the librarian I have become. I am first and foremost service oriented. All of my previous positions have been in the service industry. I can really "sell" a book, thanks to my experience in retail and I understand the value of marketing too.

holly said:

I worked for FEMA at Fort McCoy on the Mariel Cuban Boatlift project in the summer of 1980 as a translator in the processing department. The refugees were flown from Miami to the LaCrosse airport and bussed to Fort McCoy, and arrived on base between the hours of midnight and noon. The refugees, including families and children, were dangerously sunburned, hungry and exhausted. We took their pictures, gathered background information and examined paperwork. This was serious reference work and changed my career path forever. Always put yourself in the shoes of the person across the desk from you. Its unbelievable what people live through in a lifetime.

Leslie said:

Thanks, Peg and Holly.

In addition to gaining good skills from our non-library jobs, Holly's comment about thinking from the other side of the desk is so true. As an undergrad I feared the library, with good reason. Some of the librarians were condescending to students and didn't believe in walking them through a search (this was in the early days of non-mediated database searching, so the databases weren't user-friendly). As a staff member, I approached every patron as though that person was just like me-- nervous and a little embarrassed to be asking a question. And it's important to remember that a customer's mood can change just by the way we approach them.

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