Applying for Library Jobs Part 1: What to Actually Put on your Library Resume

Jess and I have served on search committees, and we've seen lots of library resumes. But we also supervise the graduate assistants who work in our library's Learning & Research department. That means we interview and hire them. We train them. We evaluate them. We mentor them and provide professional development as best we can. We also get really, really invested in their lives and their success. We can't help it. We help them get jobs when they (sob!) leave us.

One thing we do is help them curate and develop their online presences, professional portfolios, and their application documents - resumes, CVs, and cover letters. 100% of the students who have held assistantships at our library and graduated from library school have found full-time librarian jobs. It would seem that something is working. So we're going to share with you some of the top advice we give fledgling librarians, starting with what to actuallyinclude on your resume. Everybody knows to put their education information and relevant past job experience. Duh. Here's detailed guidance to choosing what items to include and how to talk about your experience. (Whew, finally, right?!)

1. Basic info: Where to find you on the web

Resume readers are going to Google you. That's a given. Make it easy for them to see what they want: a candidate who is conscious of their career (LinkedIn profile or nameplate site), someone who is comfortable with technology (online portfolio), and someone who's curious and communicative (Twitter handle or blog). You don't need to put all of these things on your resume, but you absolutely should provide a link for one of them. P.S. Part Two of this series covers how to get ready for Internet stalking for more help on this! 

Also critical: hyperlink your email address so that you are only a click away!

2. Don't waste space on an Objective Statement

The Objective Statement is out of fashion in the realm of professional resumes and additionally, if you've sent your resume to the right place and person in a packet of application materials, they know what job you're applying for. Use the space for something else:

  • A resume summary statement, if it adds to the story you're trying to tell in the document

  • A personal/professional bio

  • More of #5, below

  • Special sections that highlight your unique abilities, like an industry-specific skills section

    • In libraries, there are LOTS of special skill sets you could highlight: teaching, cataloging, metadata, electronic resources, readers' advisory, scholarly communication...

    • Something that communicates your "soft skills"

3. Don't delete "irrelevant" jobs or experience

A lot of types of experience are relevant to librarianship or library jobs. Keep your items that show experience, training, or expertise in:

  • Customer service, sales, or retail

  • Teaching or public speaking

  • Leadership or supervision

  • Clerical work

  • Service or cashiering

  • Doing a job nobody else wants to do

Only begin to omit jobs or experience when you have morerelevant experience that you need to make space for.

I was once on a hiring committee that chose a candidate as a finalist because in addition to her "relevant" experience she used to manage a grocery store. The committee chair used to work in retail management and said that she values that particular type of experience highly. Between candidates with similar library experience, the retail job got the candidate an in-person interview.

4. Move from Jobs to Experience

Very basic resume formats will list Education, Jobs, Awards & Honors, Volunteering, and maybe Special Skills as the main section headings. You deserve better. Make the sections on your resume work for you. In particular, by this point you probably need to switch from listing your jobs to listing Work Experience (or just Experience, if some of the things you want to put there were unpaid and you're not comfortable considering them work). As you apply for career-level jobs you need to describe the depth of your experience, not just list job titles.

There are standards for resumes, to be sure, but as long as you keep things clear and organized and don't get TOO crazy you can search around for a set of sections that best showcases what you bring to the table. If you do lots of volunteer work (hopefully related to your field in some way) and want to emphasize that, create a Volunteering and Service section to highlight your many organizational involvements and contributions. By contrast, if you just have one great volunteering experience to list, use it to bolster your amazing Experience section instead of leaving it hanging out by its lonesome as a category of one.

5. Tell a story about each job or experience item

While there's not really space for prose on a resume, use bullet points under each Experience item to tell the story of what you did, how amazing you were at it, and what lasting impact you made on your colleagues or company. Include numbers if you have them.

Under each item in your Experience section, use bullet points to outline your achievements and accomplishments and the impact of your contributions. Don't just list out the duties or responsibilities each job included.

  • Responsible for overseeing Everlasting Gobstopper packaging and meeting daily quotas, direct supervision of 25 Oompa Loompas, and periodic chocolate waterfall maintenance.

  • Innovated a new method for improved chocolate production that was subsequently adopted factory-wide, increasing profits on Wonka Bars by 30%.

  • Implemented Friday dance parties on the chocolate riverboat, resulting in improved employee morale measured by increased Oompa Loompa retention.

6. Include your degrees and possibly relevant coursework

Create an Education section (i.e. degrees earned and where) and then also list experiences related to your education as items in your Work or Experience section if appropriate. If you held any kind of significant position - paid or volunteer - that was a major component of your education, include it and use it to illustrate the extent of what you learned and the importance of your degree. For instance, if you were a graduate teaching assistant, a tutor in your subject area, a regular library volunteer, or the founding president of an academic organization specific to your discipline, list it under Experience and show how much you learned or led through holding the position. In other words, don't roll important experiences in with listing an earned degree if they warrant their own entry under Experience.

Alternatively, you can make a section called Relevant Coursework and list classes there. This is a section I like to see on resumes if it represents important recent experience. Of course, this section gets superseded by paid work experience as soon as you've got it.

7. Be specific about your proficiency level with different technologies

Include all the technologies you have experience working with, and find the right names to use when you talk about them. Know if they're standalone or web-based, open source or proprietary, and industry standards or leading-edge developments.

  • Productivity suites - Microsoft Office, the Google Productivity Suite

  • Operating systems - Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, mobile operating systems

  • Instructional design technologies - Learning Management Systems, softwares to create learning objects

  • Anything you know about editing - photo, video, or web editing and the relevant softwares, protocols, or programming languages

  • Library-specific softwares and systems - ILSs, ERMs, InterLibrary Loan systems, cataloging platforms, or metadata standards

8. The one-page resume is dead

Unless the job posting is specific about one page only, most professional jobs warrant 1.5-2 pages. Make them count. Don't include more stuff just to get to the end of the second page.

A Word on Formatting

  • Always always ALWAYS send your application documents as PDFs. There is no other acceptable option. After you've spent all that time choosing a font that's both professional and suits your personality, perfectly aligning everything, and considering your use of white space you need to submit your resume using a file type that will retain all of that formatting. PDF is the way to go.

  • Use tagging, or the built-in section headings function, to create an accessible document that automated resume screeners can read. If you create your document in Word and then make sure you save it as a PDF using the accessibility options, you'll end up with a nicely formatted file that anyone can open, with machine readable text, and with tagged section headings that software will recognize as metadata.

  • Submit your documents separately if that's what's requested, combine them in to a single PDF if not.

  • File names - If there's no file naming convention specified, create a meaningful file name that includes your name. "Resume.pdf" will be lost in the shuffle.

Tools for Resume Creation

That's all for Part One! Stay tuned for the rest of the series; we'll cover creating your online personal brand, writing cover letters, and how to win the hearts of weirdo librarians during The Interview. In the meantime, check out this super solid advice about both applying and interviewing. I agree with pretty much everything he says: How to Land a Library Job .

Have a question about applying for library jobs or perfecting your resume? Let us know in the comments!