Freshly Minted: Rebecca Due
August 28, 2017
Data Collection Specialist, thehealthline.ca Information Network
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rebecca Due, and I am currently working as a Data Collection Specialist for thehealthline.ca Information Network.
My work centers on our database for health and social service information that has a province-wide scope from a non-profit perspective. I make sure all the data is maintained, indexed and available to those with varying health literacy levels. I also help manage the production of a resource for those without access to digital services, Help Yourself Through Hard Times, focusing on basic needs services for London and Middlesex County. My role also includes project work, health literacy and searching concerns, and some web design.
What was it that initially drove you to librarianship?
My first job in high school was at a public library working at a page for one summer and I loved it! When I got older, I realized how passionate I was about working in a non-profit environment after years working in retail. I looked back on my experience working in the library and as a library user, and realized I wanted to be a part of the mission of libraries to provide accessible information to anyone, especially providing services and resources to marginalized groups within the community.
Where did you complete 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 at Western University in 2016. I was driven to complete the program quickly, and was preparing for the job search during the process of completing the program by keeping an eye on what job posts were asking for and trying to learn those skills. I took a multidimensional approach to course selection, taking courses that varied in scope and sector to build on my interests while learning about all these amazing avenues for library and information work.
Unlike most library students in my program, I didn’t have a lot of experience in a library setting before starting the MLIS. That may have made my job search harder initially. My first professional position (although not a traditional librarian role) came after about 3-4 months of searching. Because I wanted to work in a certain area of Ontario, I kept my options broad and applied for positions that interested me in the areas that leaned to the most: health librarianship, teen and LGBTQ+ collections and programming, and community outreach.
How did you do your job search? What were some of the things that worked and didn’t? What was the greatest challenge?
My greatest challenge was finding balance. I like to keep busy, and the idea of being unemployed didn’t sit well with me. I made sure I was organized by using a daily planner, keeping a routine in my life, and making sure I spent some time off the computer. During the job finding part of the hunt, I created a list of bookmarks of job listings on my browser that I checked almost daily. I also created a Facebook group MLIS job seekers, and encouraged members to post jobs that were more off-the-radar than the ones listed on the popular job boards. It’s a closed group for privacy’s sake, but it’s free to join: MLIS Western University Job Sharing Board.
Keeping notes on where I applied and some basic details about the position were key to success in the interviews I had. Most job advertisements will disappear online after the closing date, which makes it hard to prepare for the interview. My advice would be to at least keep track of the important details like part-time, full-time or casual, permanent or temporary, contact details, and some potential pros and cons for the job for you. The best thing to do would be to save each job ad so when you get a call for an interview, you’re prepared.
Is your work as a professional what you expected and prepared yourself for while you were in the MLIS program? Otherwise, what would you have done differently if you knew?
There was a strong focus on management in my MLIS program, which was not matched to what I found working as a professional right out of school. I knew that because I didn’t work in a library setting for a substantial amount of time like some of my fellow graduates, I would have to start small and work my way up. I think it can be frustrating for recent graduates to build such important and valuable skills in an intensive program like the MLIS and not use them right away. But I believe if you have patience, you’ll find your way to the position you see yourself having.
Not doing the co-op placement at Western University was a point of concern for me during the program, and I wish I had done one now that I’ve graduated. It’s an overwhelming and (for me at least) expensive process to go on co-op, but the experience you build seems worth it. The alternative route I took was to volunteer at a local archive, a small collection at the university library and the local public library, which I’m very happy I about. I built important skills and networked in my community which is so important!
Any advice for the many MLIS students who will be soon graduating and looking for their first professional position?
Keep applying, and don’t lose hope! Keep current in the community and profession by joining a listserv, going to conferences, and volunteering anywhere you can. I know its something everyone tells you, but it not only makes a difference in the job search, it also puts your mind at ease to know you’re doing everything you can while you’re on the job hunt.
What do you think is the most important aspect of being an information professional today?
I would say the most important aspect of being an information professional today is how you communicate information. Today, it’s all about being able to provide people with accessible, accurate, and relevant information – but this is something that librarians and information professionals have been focusing on for decades. How you communicate the information you find helps set up how people will receive it, and it’s unfortunately something that some library students or professionals may not be focusing on. In the MLIS program, we hear how important it is for people to have access to information, and focus on how to find it. We become experts at searching. But to me, the largest part of the equation is the attitude you have when you are communicating. It matters how you word your email to your patron, or how you word the details you’re putting on your organization’s website. It matters that the patron feels welcomed by you and comfortable approaching you for reliable information in a reference encounter. Otherwise, they will go find out from someone who has less training and reliability.