This week I had an interview and it was an incredibly uncomfortable experience which caused me to think very poorly of my local public library.
Occasionally once a month I peruse the library’s Web site for job openings. I’m currently in graduate school pursuing a degree in library science. My educational background includes a degree in education. Plus, I’m military trained in administration. I also hold a Master’s Educator certificate with Leave No Trace, a Master Naturalist’s certificate with my local state conservation department, and a CIG certification with the National Association of Interpreters. Later this month a Trainer’s certificate with Tread Lightly will be added to my portfolio. In the future I hope to pursue a doctorate in education or library science or perhaps both. During my free time (what little is left) I provide leadership to the Boy Scouts of America as a Venturing Advisor and Roundtable Commissioner. Venturing is a co-ed program for teens and young adults. I also lead a teen group which participates in Colonial Williamsburg broadcasts, cooking activities, and social hours. Plus, our family spends several hours a year volunteering at a nature sanctuary (my last volunteer position was as an actress in a reader’s theater benefit). We also volunteer as living history interpreters for a local state park. We believe in the spirit of giving back to our community and we believe in the power of education.
So when a job opening popped up which did not require a master’s degree, but did require a certain amount of library expertise I thought “why not”. At this point in my life I am still raising teens, and my husband does a nice job of providing for our family, but I am beginning to toy around with the idea of what comes after being a long time stay at home mom. I know I want to work in the library field so I thought it would be nice to begin applying and interviewing now. If I was offered the job, great! If I was not offered the job well at least I would have a little interviewing experience under my belt. After all, I think my last serious interview was about 13 years ago.
Then I received the phone call asking if I was available for an interview. Well, I’m not so out of the loop to think that they would interview just anybody for a middle level position so I was pretty excited. My excitement intensified when I was told to be prepared for a sixty minute presentation on creating a program which would interest local teens. Boy was I ever prepared to present an “out of the box” program. Currently, I’m exploring the idea of bringing Makerspaces into libraries. Not just school libraries, but all libraries. Oh, did I fail to mention that my degree is being pursued at an AASL accredited university? Yeah, I am learning how to become a school librarian and most of my projects revolve around serving teens and young adults. However, I love public libraries and I believe in the spirit of unity and friendship between the two.
In past classes I had heard from school librarians that public librarians tend to look down their noses on those who serve children within the school environment. Based on my experience as a high school page for my local public library, I thought that all libraries loved each other. After all, we are public servants with a mission to serve our patrons to the best of our abilities, and the only way we could do this is by pointing patrons to the resources other libraries might have which the one we work at does not possess. I also held the misconception that all librarians respected one another and their personal expertise. Boy was I naïve!
I won’t go into details of how unprofessional it was of my interviewees to wait almost 15 minutes after the scheduled start of my interview to inform me that they were running late, or to describe how I felt when they finally came for me 20 minutes later. What I will describe is how I felt when they almost immediately began degrading the university I was attending. It was made quite clear to me that I was wasting my time with a degree in educational library science and I should have attended a better university which was accredited. I was stunned. I am attending an accredited university, and I explained that the university was listed on the American Library Association site under the division of the American Association of School Librarian’s. At this point I couldn’t tell if they felt sorry for me or if they felt disdain. However, their next words basically ended the interview for me. They explained that I might be able to find a job at a lower level library like a #2 library, but they were a higher level library and did not recognize the program from the university I was attending. Oh how incredibly self-righteous of them to inform me that I was receiving a substandard education.
When I suggested that the interview was over because I obviously did not meet the position’s qualifications they explained that this position did not require a master’s degree so I was more than qualified. Um, so why even mention my degree program to begin with? I can only guess it’s because they like to twist a self-righteous knife into any school librarian’s back. However, it wasn’t just the educational aspect. I had the impression that based on my university choice everything else I had done in life was now void. They wanted to hear about the “jobs” I’ve held. I clarified if they meant paid. Okay, double negative whammy.
Since I figured the interview was not going to lead up to a job anyway I presented a picture of their dismal teen area and provided examples of how to better reach out to teens. I don’t know if I insulted them, and I really don’t care. I had already made the decision to not take the job even if it was offered to me because I’d rather muck fresh manure than work for anybody who would look down their noses at me because I chose an “inferior” university. So when the call came in that they had chosen to offer the job to someone else I felt nothing. Not joy, not anger, not sorrow, nothing.
Now I’d be lying if I said the interview didn’t initially bother me because honestly it did. I felt like they had tried to degrade and belittle my educational choices. I felt as though all the good I had provided to our community was meaningless and that no matter what I did from here, I could never find a good paying job in the future. However, thanks to a few good friends I now feel differently. I know what I need to do to tweak my resume and how to better present my volunteer work. Plus, I know that my educational choice is not meaningless because I know there’s a library out there, school or public, that would love to have my skills and passion for helping people. My current local public library lost out big. They lost not only a potentially dedicated employee, they also lost my respect.