Nov 04 2007
Let’s say your wanderlust has flared up, maybe you’re an Anglophile, or perhaps your partner has found a dream job in London. Whatever it is, suddenly you’ve found yourself looking to find a library job on another continent. Having recently conducted a job search in the U.K., I’d love to share a few tips I wish I’d known.
How do you get there?
The first thing you’ll need to work out is your visa. If, like me and many of the ex-pats I’ve met here, you’ve moved for your partner’s job, you’re probably allowed to work as part of their visa. Otherwise, are you in a country that participates in the Working Holidaymaker scheme? Do you qualify for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme? If you want a short term experience you can also seek inspiration at the International Relations Round Table’s International Exchanges Committee website.
Before you go
Before my husband and I decided to move, we had to gauge whether I would be able to find a job. I joined several U.K.-related library lists months in advance to check the volume of position postings. LIS-LINK is one of the most general and useful, but there are many more specialized ones at www.jiscmail.ac.uk. You can also sign up for the weekly Jinfo Jobs Update at www.Jinfo.com, which focuses more on the information sector than libraries, but does provide weekly listings in your mailbox.
Sites like www.lisjobnet.com, www.jobs.ac.uk, and the local newspaper’s online recruitment section can help you pinpoint the positions in your area. I also periodically checked the websites of the local city council (for public library positions), colleges and universities in the area, and large businesses who might be hiring. Be careful: as many places seem to be moving away from using “librarian,” I found I missed library positions unless I searched for words like “information” or “technology.” This is also useful in finding non-library positions for which you are qualified.
Every job searcher is told to network, but when you are moving to a different country this can be quite challenging! I e-mailed friends of friends, asked former coworkers and professors for contacts, and told anyone and everyone that I was looking for work in Scotland. (Incidentally, this made a great icebreaker!) At the ALA annual conference, I made a point of going to the International Librarians Reception and met as many people as I could. There, I spent the evening talking to a couple of Scottish library school instructors, who were very encouraging and helpful.
Last, you can work on your resume, which may need minor tweaks. Do you have acronyms or local spellings that might confuse the hiring committee? Are the buzzwords different? Although “information literacy” is big in the U.S., I hear it much less in the U.K. setting. Instead, people talk about “customer focus” and “value for money.” Consider joining the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the U.K. equivalent of the ALA, both because it’s important to show your commitment to professional development and because the newsletters provide useful information to help you integrate into the U.K. library scene. As U.S., Canadian, Australian, and EU postgraduate qualifications are accepted in the U.K., you’re able to join as if you held a U.K. degree.
Now that you’re in the country, it’s a good idea to sign up with the library and information recruiting agencies. They can help with both temporary and full time employment, are friendly and helpful, and are completely free! You can try Sue Hill, TFPL, and CILIP’s own recruiting arm, INFOMatch. Unfortunately, they don’t tend to have a lot of positions outside of London or other big cities, so it might also be prudent to try non-specialist agencies as well.
One thing I heard before coming to the U.K. was that libraries are much more flexible than in the U.S. about allowing you to switch “specialties,” and so I job hunted accordingly. Although I was a reference and instruction librarian in the U.S., it seemed those types of “liaison librarian” positions were much rarer here, so I applied for almost anything for which I was qualified. This may be your opportunity to try something different!
Many job listings give a day or week when interviews will be held — pay attention to these dates. I learned the hard way that interview times are assigned, not negotiated, when the only two librarian-level positions I’d seen in months scheduled interviews for the same day at the same time, on opposite sides of the city. Luckily, one interview was willing to switch, but only because another applicant also needed to trade.
Also, remember all that networking you did? When it comes to the nitty gritty of whether to ask for a different interview time, salary expectations, or employers’ reputations, having local knowledge can really be invaluable. David, one of the library school instructors I met at the annual conference, patiently helped me de-Americanize my resume and adapt my cover letter to U.K. conventions. He also mentioned that in the public sector, if a salary range is given, the organization will probably have budgeted up to the maximum — so you might succeed in negotiating up from the minimum.
With a bit of luck, and the work I put into preparing before I arrived, I was able to find a position within three months of arriving. I’m somewhat surprised to find myself in a systems librarian position, but although there has been a learning curve my institution has been very supportive and now I have a whole new set of skills. Adapting to the U.K. work culture has been a challenging experience in and of itself, but I trust that if you’ve been resourceful enough to find a job, you’ll do great at bridging the cultures as well. Good luck!
IRRT International Exchanges
Qualifications from Overseas
Jaclyn Bedoya is an Electronic Resources Advisor at Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland. She has lived and worked on three continents.