Freshly Minted: Danielle Ridge
September 12, 2016
Forms and Document Management Administrator, Office of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Danielle Ridge, and I’ve recently been hired as the Forms and Document Management Administrator at the Office of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario.
My job encompasses several aspects. Firstly, I’m responsible for creating internal and external forms that meet the requirements established through the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. I discuss needs and wants with the applicable branches, and use Adobe LiveCycle and Acrobat to create forms that are both useful and accessible.
I’m also responsible for assisting with the processing of Freedom of Information and Privacy requests. This entails reading and interpreting legislation, redacting documents when necessary, and communicating with the requestors.
Finally, I’m involved in the roll-out of a new Enterprise Content Management System, which amounts to creating functional folder structures, training staff on how to use and navigate the platform, and ensuring that the records schedule is being properly implemented.
When did you get your MLIS, when did you start your first professional librarian position, how long did the job search take, and how did you prepare yourself for it?
I began my MLIS studies at Western University in January 2015, and finished the program in August 2016. I was quite fortunate: I interviewed for my current position on August 11, and was offered the position less than a week later.
Prior to earning my Master’s, I had no library or records management experience; instead, I opted to pursue an 8-month co-op with the Federal Government while at Western, which was integral to landing my current position.
I started applying for positions at the beginning of May, the opening of my final term. I had no idea how long the search would take. In fact, I applied to my current position in June, and had actually resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn’t be hearing from them at all. I applied to several other jobs, and interviewed for four of them, in the interim.
How did you do your job search? What were some of the things that worked and didn’t? What was the greatest challenge?
I had an excellent co-op experience, and was very interested in pursuing a career with the public service. I signed up to receive job alerts from the federal government and also from the Partnership Job Board. My tactic was to check my emails as they came in, flag any jobs that looked interesting, and then apply to all flagged jobs on a designated day of the week. I found that by applying to a number of jobs at once, I could streamline the tweaking of cover letters and resumés more efficiently.
I used Pinterest to find some attractive templates, and heeded the advice of a Professor: to keep the cover letter at one page and the resumé at two. I definitely had the most difficult time writing cover letters; I’m not comfortable selling myself, and doing so in a very limited space is challenging. I found that the cover letters for jobs I was both interested in and qualified for tended to write themselves, and those were the applications that got me interviews. So, while it may seem necessary to apply to everything, writing applications for jobs that you aren’t particularly interested in may prove to be a waste of time.
Is your work as the professional librarian what you expected and prepared yourself for while you were in the MLIS program? Otherwise, what would you have done differently if you knew?
When I entered the MLIS program, I was positive I’d end up with an archives-related job. My undergraduate degree is in Studio Art, and all of my previous experience was arts-related. However, after enrolling in a records management class, and then working in information management while on co-op, I realized that organizing, classifying, and training other staff is actually my greatest strength.
I think I was most surprised by how heavily librarianship and information science are reliant upon advanced computer skills. Having used Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator while making art, I was instantly comfortable with the other Adobe products I use in my current role. I wish I had taken my computer skills one step further. There’s a surprising amount of scripting and coding required in my current role. While my manager is going to teach me the components that I’ll need, I wish that I had taken at least some rudimentary courses on Java or HTML.
Any advice for many MLIS students who will be soon graduating and looking for their first professional librarian position?
Start looking for jobs as soon as you can! Even if you don’t actually apply for them, familiarizing yourself with the types of skills that companies are looking for will allow you to fill in any knowledge gaps you may be harboring. If your schedule permits, volunteer or work part-time.
Honestly, I got my current job expressly because of the skills I acquired while on co-op. While your degree provides a theoretical framework, knowing how processes work in real-life situations will put you ahead of other candidates.
Finally, don’t get discouraged! As I’ve already mentioned, I didn’t receive an invitation to interview for my current job until almost two months after I’d applied.