posted May 20, 2013 2:42 PM by Julie Steenson
If you have followed my journey from mom to batgirl, you already know that I have committed myself to an unusual career path - correctional librarianship. A year ago, I did not see this coming. After my first semester, the possibilities for my library degree seemed endless and in fact, I was a bit worried that I would never narrow down my interests. Other than motherhood (which was my first calling), I did not expect to experience a vocation, a calling, an overwhelming need to pursue a very specific career. Then I set foot in a prison library, and my life changed.
The problem with a desire to be a prison librarian is that there aren't that many prisons or opportunities for pre-job experience. The good news about wanting to be a prison librarian is that the skills I acquire in a public library setting are very applicable. On top of that, I am a champion of the benefits all around to volunteering, and my desire to learn everything I could about prison libraries turned into a great interning opportunity in a state prison library. I can now pursue this path with eyes wide open.
This week, I went on my very first interview for a position as a prison librarian. It doesn't matter how old you get, interviews can be intimidating. A room full of candidates with unknown qualifications and the overriding fear that you didn't anticipate the right questions can make for sweaty palms.
I think/hope that my interview went well, but no matter what the results, here is what I learned:
Do your homework! Learn as much as you can about the place where you are interviewing and the job you are seeking. I would not have had a good experience if I had not already studied the facility online. If this had been a public library, a pre-interview visit would have been in order, but being a secure institution, I did not have that luxury.
Volunteer, volunteer, volunteer! I know I have said this many times before, usually in the context of my being fortunate to fall into my public library position after volunteering there, but my prison library involvement as a volunteer intern made all the difference in this interview experience. One, I really knew what the job was about, and two, I could discuss relevant issues and ask pertinent questions. I had experience. My questions were sincere, and their answers mattered to me because I could look at this job opportunity and see how it compared to the good and bad of my internship.
You might wonder what the interview and job at the end of the rainbow have to do with choosing Simmons GSLIS over some other program. How is this relevant to you before you apply? Aren't all MLIS programs the same? I will tell you that my being at Simmons GSLIS was met with respect. The librarian on the panel also happened to be a Simmons alum so she knew the values of our program. Beyond that, though, I credit the GSLIS faculty. On day 1, at Orientation Day, we were all advised to get involved, join professional organizations, volunteer... I took that advice seriously and it has repeatedly proven itself. I have also been fortunate to have many professors who have encouraged me to pursue my interests, push myself outside of my comfort zone and go forward with vision. Yes, we learn all the necessary skills to be librarians - the theory and the practice - but it is the GSLIS environment of excellence that drives us to be better, to pursue that dream job, to reach higher than we ever imagined and to do so with confidence.