Job Hunting Recommendations

So to start, a disclaimer: I certainly don’t claim to have all the answers or claim to be an authority on all hiring situations. It is very likely I’m about to express ideas that directly contradict what others have told you in the past, which is pretty common; everyone has specific ideas about how to best position yourself for being successfully hired and those ideas tend to be all over the map. The reality is that job searching is complex and hiring managers and HR reps are unique, so I highly recommend you use whatever tactic feels best in the situation.

Resume and Curriculum Vitae:

  • When applying to early career positions, a two page resume is warranted
  • When applying to mid career positions, a three page resume is warranted
  • When applying to late career/leadership positions, a CV is warranted
  • All faculty positions (tenure track or otherwise, early career or late) warrant a CV
  • Sending in a longer resume than is warranted for the position will likely only annoy the person reading it
  • For anything measurable, make sure there is a number included, even if it seems like it will be embarrassingly small, the point is to not make it look like you are blowing smoke
  • Include supervisors on your CV for the various positions (Thanks Nicole!)

Who the Job Posting is About:

  • Always follow instructions to the letter when applying for positions
  • HR reps have been known to stick to what may seem like pretty arbitrary rules as a means of making their lives easier (“I would never hire someone who doesn’t send in a handwritten thank you note”) so be very careful to follow instructions
  • The job posting is not about you, it is about the needs of the organization, and the hiring manager and HR rep aren’t thinking about you during the interview process (ultimately) they are thinking about how you will make their lives easier and fulfill organizational needs
  • You are invested in you as a person, they are invested in their organization
  • With that in mind, your goal isn’t to get an interview by showing how awesome you are, your goal is to fulfill the job requirements so completely that they are excited about how much you will benefit the organization

Overall Strategy:

  • One exercise to make sure you are addressing all stated needs in the job posting is breaking down all the different requirements (educational, experience, technical skills, etc.) into bullets and then mapping out how you want to address them in an outline for the resume and/or cover letter
  • Highly measurable or acronym rich elements will be good for the resume (“Planned and executed 15 instruction sessions over Autumn Semester 2020”, “Cataloged over 1,000 books using AACR2 and RDA standards and adept at MarcEdit.”)
  • Anything confusing or narrative that needs a bit more room to breathe will be good for the cover letter
  • Keeping a cover letter to one page will help ensure that your reader doesn’t tune out halfway through (they have probably read a boatload of these) and shows that you can be efficient and concise in your communication (skills that are in general, often lacking)
  • Use a modular approach to writing resumes and cover letters to save time and make this whole process less onerous (because sending out loads of applications is incredibly draining)
    • Keep your CV up to date at all times so that you can just pull the relevant blocks from it when writing a resume
    • Save all past cover letters so that you can pull sentences/paragraphs that you were proud of in the past that fit in with the current job description
  • Never send a blanket cover letter and resume to every posting. It is much easier, but you will have a much lower rate of interviews; always customize for the job at hand
  • This can be as simple and changing up some of the language used so that it mirrors the job description (maybe this library refers to users as “customers” instead of “patrons,” if so you should too)

Sundry Notes

  • Have an identical header across your cover letter, resume, and references sheet (and any other submitted documents), this makes it easier to keep them together when printed out and just looks cleaner
  • (This idea shared on Twitter from an individual who I cannot track down now, thank you awesome Twitterer!) Make filenames easy to read, and provide all required information. For example one scheme might be:
    • LastName, FirstName – Position Applying For – Document Type
    • For example:
      • Dewees, John – Supervisor Digitization Services – Resume
      • Dewees, John – Supervisor Digitization Services – Cover Letter
      • Dewees, John – Supervisor Digitization Services – References
  • Take notes during the interview, it allows you to slow down and think about the question, and also showcases a valuable skill
  • I’m always generally at least a little suspicious of folks who don’t take notes and usually figure I’ll have to repeat myself to them; you can showcase that won’t be a problem right from the jump
  • Read the mission/vision/values for the organization for which you will be applying and use those terms in your application packet and interview process

Genealogical Records Sets Revisited

In February I wrote a blog post about a 2020 goal to digitize record sets held by my organization that would be useful to those engaged in genealogical research and that would be unlikely to be in the digital collections of large-scale genealogical databases such as Ancestry or FamilySearch. Despite the ongoing pandemic that work has actually continued to progress, with digitization of organizational and veterans records coming online steadily, if slower than might otherwise be the case in a non-pandemic year.

After digitizing around 8000 cards/clippings of veterans records, I decided I needed a change of pace and switched over to the digitization of organizational records. Briefly, this reformatting of organizational records involved going through our manuscript collections dedicated to specific social clubs, unions, societies, and the like, to identify anything described as a yearbook, directory, or membership list. There were several collections that were large enough to exist independently that were taken care of first, and then we also have a large manuscript collection that has handfuls of records from dozens of different orgs. This was the perfect palate cleanser after the large drawers of newspaper clippings as each of the individual projects was small and able to be brought online and completed in a day or two. Sometimes it’s nice to just have the win and feel like you accomplished something (now more than ever).

The most recent addition was a single yearbook from an American Legion post, the only thing from the folder that could be digitized for privacy reasons, as the other yearbook was too recent to go online. A project definitely able to be accomplished quickly as image capture, editing, metadata, quality control, and upload took me under two hours from front to back. My end goal is to get as large a corpus of these sorts of records online as possible, but I was curious to search one of the last names in the American Legion yearbook, chosen at random, just to see what would turn up. I was very pleasantly surprised by the results.

Ben B. Durfee’s entry in the American Legion, Toledo Post 335 Inc. yearbook, 1968-1969

Clicking around I stumbled across the name of Ben B. Durfee in the American Legion, Post 335 Toledo 1968-1969 yearbook. Durfee is a pretty fun name and seemed likely to be fairly unique so that the number of results would be lower and more likely to be relevant. I plugged it into our collection’s general search box to see what sort of results I would get. The name returned 44 results so I started clicking on things that looked promising and attempted to get some context for this individual generally.

I also checked Benjamin B. Durfee in our obituary index to see if I could get a death-date for him and ended up with two entries, one for the obituary and one for a newspaper article about Durfee. The article in particular has a title of “Longtime Toledo lawyer was WW ll naval officer” which tracks with everything else we’ve seen so far, confirming the entry in the American Legion yearbook as to his profession as an attorney, as well as the fact that he was a veteran. So the obituary indicates he dies in 2000 at the age of 81 and it puts his birth-year at around 1919.

Ben Durfee’s Senior Photography from 1937 Edelian

A Ben Durfee shows up in the 1937 edition of the Edelian, the yearbook for Edward Drummond Libbey High School. The math seems to confirm we’re talking about the same person here; if he was born in approximately 1919, he would have been 18 in 1937, the age of a senior in high school. This accounts for the resources that we would normally consider to be “genealogical records” but to my surprise, additional resources were returned in the search related to Durfee.

Toledo Troopers yearbook, November 15, 1973

The Toledo Troopers were a women’s professional football team playing out of Toledo in the 1970s and somewhat to my surprise, it appears that Durfee also represented the team as their attorney of record as noted in the 1973 yearbook for the team. The Troopers materials were digitized separately in an effort to document the team itself, without thinking of those materials necessarily as genealogical in nature, though of course they are that too.

Toledo History Vertical Files – Buildings – 1980-1984
Toledo History Scrapbooks – Buildings – G-O
Toledo History Scrapbooks – Apartments

As an attorney, it would appear that Durfee was active in real estate development, as a number of scrapbooks that have been digitized specifically for their relevance to our architectural records collections mention Durfee for projects that he was involved in, as well as one mention of the location of his offices in a major downtown Toledo building.

This was an arbitrary name chosen for the fact that it looks fairly unique (and fun to say aloud) that resulted in a wonderfully surprising amount of information that was already in our repository, and the great thing is that the “research” to uncover it took all of two or three minutes. It took significantly more time to write up a quick blog post about this than it did to actually uncover the information. Granted, this was some serious dumb luck; I imagine most names picked out of that American Legion yearbook wouldn’t have the same level of results, but this exemplifies exactly why this work is important and why bringing an increasing amount of these types of hidden genealogical records online will be a boon for researchers.

I think of the work of making genealogical records available online along the same as digitization itself; a person’s lived experience is the “analog” version of a human life, the records that document that lived experience constitute a sampling of the human life in order to create a “digital” version of it. While an Ancestry search would have likely turned up information about Durfee’s birth, death, marriage, and veteran status, we’re able to supplement those standard records with additional information that adds some more samples to the digital version of his life. Durfee was active in the veteran’s community through his participation in the American Legion; he was a National Honor Society member in high school and active in his school newspaper; he was involved with one of the most unique sports groups in Toledo history, the Toledo Troopers; he was involved with real-estate development professionally as an attorney.

All of this information helps round out the picture of Durfee and provides lots more leads for information should you wish to pursue it. The article that mentions where his law practice’s offices were could lead you to pictures of the building and maps of its location to understand where he spent lots of time in his work or what his view might have been like out his office window. Clippings about real estate projects he was involved in could lead to more articles about those projects, or county auditor information about the buildings. Knowing that he was involved with the Troopers could lead to reading all of the rest of the information we have available about the team. This digital version of Durfee’s life becomes a bit more in focus with each record.

Being able to supplement the traditional genealogical databases with our freely available material is a fantastic use of our time, and this throwaway search for a name in our repository reaffirms that fact for me in a wonderful way.

Getting Started with ORCID and LISSA

A colleague of mine recently ran into the surprise of just how much it costs to have a scholarly article published under an open access license and very much did not want to pay the hefty Article Processing Charge and ended up looking for different avenues in which to make their article openly available for folks who wanted to read it. Later in the comments of that post, the LIS Scholarship Archive was mentioned as a possible pre-print repository that could be utilized, something I had not yet heard of. This conversation got me started thinking about just how useful it is for me to be linking to articles or presentations I do here, in terms of utility to the wider field; good for my CV but probably not a whole lot of folks out there swinging by this website to check for what I’ve been doing lately.

I certainly like the idea of contributing to the profession as a whole and maybe giving somebody an idea to build on the work that I’ve done in a meaningful way, to create better things than I’ve been able to. So I started exploring the LIS Scholarship Archive (LISSA) and discovered that it looked like a pretty straightforward way to get involved with distributing my work more widely.

When looking to sign up for an account, one of the options is to use a login from your ORCID account (Open Researcher and Contributor Identifier), which was something I had seen in the email signatures of primarily academic librarian colleagues, and vaguely new about, so I thought I’d check that out first.

An ORCID iD is a user account that can act as a professional social media profile, allowing you to include information on your education, your professional experience, your organizational memberships and more, as well as a link to connect your unique iD with works that you’ve published via the work’s Digital Object Identifier (DOI), a means of persistently identifying a digital object on the web. Thus your ORCID iD, and it’s associated landing page, can become a central point of reference for who you are as a professional and what intellectual content you’ve put out into the world. They even give you a little embed-able HTML that you can put on a personal landing page (as can be seen on the homepage of this site) or your email signature which looks like this:

Clicking on that you’ll see my employment, education, organizational memberships, and the four things I’ve added to the next piece of the puzzle, the LIS Scholarship Archive (LISSA). LISSA is a pre-print repository using the Open Science Framework (OSF) software platform that was developed to allow easier sharing of scholarly research. OSF is used as the platform on which all sorts of different types of subject specific repositories are built, and in this case there is one such version supporting the LIS world in LISSA. The version of the OSF software they are using is the pre-print repository, which typically means that you would be seeing versions of articles before they have been edited and laid out by a journal staff to make them more attractive to a reader but it’s not just articles that can be submitted.

So far I’ve contributed one article that I had published in the non-peer-reviewed Ohio Archivist, the official publication of the Society of Ohio Archivists, two posters that I’ve presented at the 2019 and 2020 Society of Ohio Archivists Annual Meeting, and a presentation at the “Community Engagement @ Your Library” conference. None of these things were research papers or anything, nothing super involved, just attempting to share some workflows and projects that I’ve been engaged with related to street photography, digital libraries, and community driven collecting.

LISSA will automatically approve your submission on a conditional basis that will then be reviewed by those individuals maintaining the repository. If they find something that violates their terms, there is the possibility that the material will be revoked. I’m very happy to say that hasn’t happened for me, and typically within a week or two you can get a pleasing green banner added to your submission that says the work is good to go and officially accepted.

This all seemed like something I should do from a philosophical perspective, that is, I didn’t really expect that folks would really be seeing the works that I added to LISSA and that they ultimately would just be lost in the churn, not dissimilar to what I expect from these blog posts incidentally. Since I added the materials in the last month or so, the four items have been downloaded a total of 93 times, a totally unexpected outcome that has been delightful to see. It’s a really nice feeling thinking that you are contributing in some tiny way to the larger body of work that we do as information professionals.

If you have any interest in trying to be more richly involved with the larger LIS research and publishing community, and would like more of an audience for those works that you are creating, I would highly recommend getting yourself an ORCID iD and finding a repository such as LISSA to deposit all that hard work into, it’s been a great experience for me thus far.

Quarantine Photography, Part 2

Played around with the Lite Brite a bit more and took a baker’s dozen photographs as I kept adding pegs to the board. Followed that up with a fun Sunday morning playing around with the Photos app in Windows 10 which is a surprisingly fun little movie making utility. The results:

CONTENTdm: Uploading via Tab-Delimited Text File

This post will provide an overview of how to upload resources using the CONTENTdm (CDM) Project Client using the tab-delimited text file (TDTF) along with a number of errors to avoid during this process. This whole blog post is written assuming a Windows environment, sorry Mac users. Also I apologize that the section discussing errors doesn’t provide examples of the specific error messages, but addressing these most commons problems should get you to a solution hopefully.

Uploading Using the TDTF

Importing using the TSTF can be utilized when selecting either the option to upload multiple simple digital objects:

Adding multiple items in CDM

Of while uploading complex objects after selecting “Object List” from the list of methods to add resources:

Adding Complex Objects in CDM
Selecting the TDTF for Complex Object Upload

Generating a Tab-Delimited Text File

Considering the TDTF is a pretty simple data encoding option in a simple .txt file, it can be tricky to create one correctly. Internally, all metadata is generated in an Excel Workbook (.xlsx) file. The headings for each column correspond to the metadata application profile created in CONTENTdm ahead of time. While it is possible to simply use the “Save As” option inside Excel itself to save as a TDTF, I highly recommend avoiding this route. Through some quirk of programming, if any of your metadata fields contain quotation marks, for instance a description such as:

This portrait depicts John "The Barbarian Librarian" Dewees while sitting at the reference desk of the Local History and Genealogy department of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library on July 1, 2020.

The results TDTF will instead save an extra set of quotation marks that will ultimately be uploaded to CONTENTdm and visible to the public:

This portrait depicts John ""The Barbarian Librarian"" Dewees while sitting at the reference desk of the Local History and Genealogy department of the Toledo Lucas County Public Library on July 1, 2020.

I’m assuming anyone reading this takes pride in high-quality and clean metadata, and the resulting public display will drive you to distraction as much as it has myself. Once the double-quotes are in the public display, it’s very difficult to rectify as well, as the Search-and-Replace tool in the web administrator version of CDM isn’t effective at removing these; it will be a manual process to get rid of them. Learn from my mistakes.

All that being said, there is luckily a very simple and straightforward method for correctly generating a TDTF from an Excel Workbook. Simply highlight all of the cells needed, including the header row with your metadata field names, copy them, and paste them into a text editor. For instance:

Highlight and then copy / CTRL+C in Excel…
…and then Paste / CTRL+V in a Text Editor

Displayed above is Notepad++ which is my choice of text editor generally as it’s robust enough to be useful and provide extra utility over something like the Windows standard Notepad, but not so complicated that it gets overly intimidating.

Finally, the file needs to be saved in order to be imported into CDM, and this introduces an extra bit of weirdness. Ultimately we will be importing our metadata as a plain text file, but even if you choose that option during the Save dialogue in Notepad++ (the first option in the file format dropdown selector) the file will not import properly into CDM. Instead save the file without even bothering to select a format in Notepad++ (“All Types”) and instead just manually add “.txt” to the end of the filename wherever you’ve saved the file:

Manually adding .txt to the filename

Once completed, this TDTF will be ready to import into the CDM Project Client.

Errors to watch Out For

The CDM Project Client is nothing if not finicky and then are plenty of problems to look out for when uploading using TDTF. I’ll address these in order of complexity starting with the easiest to fix:

Empty Lines in TDTF
The first one can be found in a prior screenshot:

Empty lines in a TDTF will always throw up an error

Typically when copying over from Excel, a blank line will be added to the bottom of the TDTF, always make sure to delete this as the CDM Project Client will invariably throw up an error and reject your input of new records.

Incorrect File Names
Some of my most frequent issues simply arise out of filenames inaccuracies. Look for this in particular if some of your records get rejected on import but not all of them, there is a good chance that for whatever reason the filenames aren’t matching up the way that CDM expects. This tends to be most common for me when importing multiple simple digital objects, as opposed to complex objects.

Another general purpose but related file naming point is ensuring that the last column of your metadata either has the file or directory names for what it is your are importing into the Project Client. This is covered in most of the OCLC CONTENTdm training but it bears repeating; you won’t get very far in your work if the file names are buried in a center column of your spreadsheet.

Line Breaks and Extra Tabs In Metadata Fields
Another common error can be extra tabs and line breaks hiding inside of metadata fields. For instance if you head to a public collection in one of your CDM collections, copy a field, and then paste it into Excel, it may look perfectly normal but actually be hiding a line break that needs to be removed. Ie. when copying from websites they may be bringing their own text formatting along for the ride.

This may look like a normal field and identical to the rest…
…but when looking at the field we see there are two extra line breaks that shouldn’t be there.

This issue in particular can be a very opaque one, as looking at the spreadsheet potentially won’t display any problems and staring at the wall of text in the TDTF can be very hard to parse. It may take going through cell by cell to identify the culprit.

Image File Size
This is more of a corner case, but an issue that has cropped up when attempting to add really large and high resolution digital objects such as maps and architectural drawings. The Project Client throws up an error message when it runs out of memory, meaning specifically that the asset files are too large. Troubleshooting this is a weird experience too as the CDM Project Client recommends shutting down other programs to free up RAM, but that very rarely fixes the issue for me. I don’t even have a specific file size I would recommend, though keeping individual files at 10 MB in size or less will yield better results. Also note that I say individual files; a complex object made up of 9 MB files should still work ok.

To address this I’ve created actions in Photoshop to decrease image size to a certain percentage. So occasionally what I’ve done is reduce a large file to 90% total size, try and upload, see if it works and if it still shows an Out of Memory error, reduce the new image to 90% total size again, try and upload, etc… until the file is small enough to get online.

Optical Character Recognition
This one is honestly a pretty devious one. If you are importing large amounts of text in need of OCR and see an error along the lines of “The Project Client encountered an unexpected error during OCR” the first thing I would recommend checking is your OCR license limit in the CONTENTdm Project Client:

The OCR option in the CDM menus
If this reads “0 of 10000 pages remaining this month.” you’ve found your problem

Why the CDM Project Client doesn’t just tell you that your license for the month has run out, I have absolutely no idea, but instead it throws up an error that suggested (to me at least) that there was something funky going on with the image itself, not with my organizational OCR license. This for instance can be caused by uploading Large-Size/Low-PPI images, which drain your OCR license incredibly fast. Again, learn from my mistakes.

Identifying File Names in the TDTF
CONTENTdm automatically queries the last column in your TDTF for the filenames and/or directories that will be uploaded from the indicated directory. If the file or directory names aren’t in this last file, CDM will display an error along the lines of “Unable to upload the indicated object type; object must be a file, directory or URL.” Simply moving the position of this column to the end will rectify this issue.

Hope any of this is at all useful to folks out there.