Freshly Minted: Mary-Rose O’Connor
November 23, 2015
Education Coordinator, Ontario Library Association
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Mary-Rose O’Connor, and I recently started a new role with the Ontario Library Association (OLA), as an Education Coordinator.
This role is crucial in furthering the strategic objectives of the association. I am responsible for the efficient coordination of all education programs and events, maintaining and building strong member relations, and overseeing the Educational Institute professional development calendar.
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 completed my MLIS degree in 2014 and I started my position at OLA in October 2015. I began actively looking for a position within the library field in November 2014. I was fortunate to have been working in a full-time position. Although it was not directly related to libraries, it enabled me to gain many experiences which could be directly applied into a library role. This gave me the ability to be picky in my search for a library position. I found The Partnership Job Board to be very helpful, as it was always up-to-date and I wasn’t particularly interested in extending my search to positions outside of Canada.
As preparation for the job market, I actively sought out professionals who I saw as active stakeholders in informational sciences and/or library work. Through this networking, I was able to acquire an incredible mentor, and I am very grateful for his guidance. In addition to expanding my knowledge, he has introduced me to multiple librarians across Canada, allowing me to expand my list of professional contacts. Once introduced to an individual, I would ask for 30 minutes (or so) of their time to further discuss my passion for library science and explore a bit about each professional’s experience in the field. Although this did not directly translate to a library job, these informational interviews were invaluable to me and as a result, I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge. Mainly I learnt about the processes present in the library system, how these professionals began in their roles, and what their library systems are doing to stay current. This experience also further solidified that librarianship is my vocation – I could not be more excited to be entering into this profession.
I also volunteered at library conferences whenever I could. Volunteering is great; not only do you have the opportunity to take part in engaging sessions and learn from people in the field, but it is also a huge networking opportunity. I always left library conferences on such a high note, and it encouraged me to keep up with my job search. This was needed, especially since a job search can feel draining at times.
How did you do your job search? What were some of the things that worked and didn’t? What was the greatest challenge?
I extensively researched my current and potential professional networks in order to find potential connections which could help me with my job search. In order to ensure my cover letter authentically portrayed my personality and passion for the position, I applied only to roles that excited me. I’m not exactly sure what aspects of my application process were most successful or helpful but I did try to include things in my application that would help me stand out (e.g. interests, a bold statement in my cover letter, etc.). I would recommend only applying to positions that you are really interested in, not to every library position just because you need a job, but I do understand that this is not realistic for everyone.
The greatest challenge for me was getting the initial interview. However, I believe that the informational interviews I had along the way helped me prepare for the interviews that did matter.
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?
Yes and no. I’ve only ever wanted to work in public libraries, and following my own advice of not applying for jobs I am not interested in, I would never look for positions outside of public libraries. However, when I saw the posting for my current position, my initial reaction was “wow, they’ve created a position just for me”. I felt that this position complimented my previous work experience, my passion for libraries and library advocacy. I couldn’t be more thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more about the association, and to learn about all different types of libraries on a much broader level. For me, it was the perfect way to start my library career.
Any advice for many MLIS students who will be soon graduating and looking for their first professional librarian position?
Network! Seek out professionals in the field, get involved and volunteer. The knowledge that I have gained from the professionals I’ve met along the way has been crucial to my success. Not only did I learn more about the profession, but I also learned so much about myself and my goals for my own professional growth.