Alumna Sarah Naumann Credits SLIS Career Resources for Success Landing Job as Reference Librarian

When SJSU SLIS alumna Sarah Naumann began applying for jobs in anticipation of her graduation in December 2010, she took full advantage of all the career services offered to graduate students at the San José State University School of Library and Information Science.

“I regularly reviewed the SJSU Career Center Job Alerts and the University’s resume toolkit,” she said. But it was the assistance that she received from Jill Klees, SJSU SLIS career center liaison, that gave her the edge.

“I attended two of the school’s online workshops on interviewing,” Naumann said. “The workshops were so amazing! Jill suggested we make an interview script and I thought, ‘What? We’re not in acting school!’”

But the script, which served to prompt thoughtful responses to anticipated questions, is what gave Naumann confidence during interviews, particularly when it came to discussing technology skills. “I took wording directly from the workshop and shaped it to fit my needs when asked about technology skills,” Naumann said. “I was able to share how my MLIS program, which was 100% online, gave me the skills I need to fulfill the job requirements.”

Her preparation and countless number of résumé rewrites paid off. In August 2011, Naumann was hired as a reference librarian at Mills College, in Oakland, Calif. When she is not giving database tours to students or teaching a class on research methods, she works one-on-one with students on specific research questions. 

Additionally, Naumann serves as a liaison for seven academic departments, including social sciences, history, health science, performing arts, music, and dance. (Naumann’s previous career as a professional jazz and ballet dancer and dance instructor primed her for work in the dance and music collections.) As head of these departmental collections, Naumann takes the lead in collection development and manages all faculty communication.

Prior to joining Mills College, Naumann volunteered as an adult literacy tutor and then worked as a paid library literacy instructor for Berkeley Reads, where she worked with students and created a Cultural Arts Literacy program at the Berkeley Public Library, a program she funded using the grant writing skills she learned in LIBR 282 (Seminar in Library Management: Grant Writing.)

To gain academic library experience, Naumann applied for and accepted a position as a circulation assistant at Golden Gate University, where she learned all about circulation. Naumann further expanded her hands-on education by accepting a position as circulation assistant at the Academy of Art University Library in San Francisco, Calif., where she led bibliographic instruction sessions and worked at the reference desk.

For current SJSU SLIS students, Naumann recommends similar work or internship experience, as well as two must-take courses: LIBR 287 (Seminar in Information Science with a focus on New and Alternative Careers for Librarians and Information Professionals) and LIBR 244 (Online Searching), also with Amelia Kassel. “The LIBR 287 course opened my eyes to entrepreneurship in library science, and LIBR 244 gave me confidence to say that I can search for anything and can teach people to search anything.”

As for the job search, Naumann recommends doing the work required to polish your résumé and prepare for an interview. Make sure your early communication with potential employers is timely and shows that you’re flexible, she said. “Above all, be yourself during the interviews. Don’t be afraid to show them your sense of humor.”