December 2, 2009

Selecting References

Posted in Interviewing at 9:51 pm by melissaautumn

Recently I’ve had students emailing me for job searching advice, so I thought I’d post a bit about selecting references (for more on asking for references, see this post).

Whoever you select should be able to speak to your skills, knowledge and aptitude for professional librarianship. Although advertisements often request three references, job seekers often will have a pool of five or six people willing to serve as references and then use the three most appropriate names for a given application (or they will provide more than three names).

Potential References include:

  • Professional Librarians – If you have library experience, whether paid or through an internship, practicum or other volunteer gig, it would be best to use your supervisor as a reference. If your supervisor is unable to provide a reference or you are concerned that he or she did not see enough of your work to write a good letter, you can ask a colleague. In fact, if you have any library experience, you may be able to find more than one reference from that experience (ideally people who can speak to different aspects of your work).
  • LIS Faculty – As a new graduate without library experience, it would be appropriate (and expected) to use faculty from your MLS program as references.
  • Non-LIS Faculty – If you have another graduate degree and it is both recent and relevant to the position, you could list that individual. For example, if you have a master’s in history, are applying for a tenure track position in a library, and plan to continue researching the history of libraries as part of your scholarly contributions to librarianship, it would be appropriate to list an advisor who oversaw your research in history.
  • Other Employers – If you have work experience in another setting, you should consider listing a supervisor from that position. Supervisors, regardless of the nature of the work, should be able to speak to your interpersonal skills, initiative and creativity, etc., which will be of interest to a future employer. However, consider this carefully. If you worked for years in the publishing industry and are now earning an MLS and moving into librarianship, you would definitely want to list a former supervisor or colleague. If, on the other hand, you’ve been a full-time student and your last job was two years ago, working the checkout counter in a drugstore, listing a supervisor from that job may be less relevant (you’d probably be better served by listing another LIS faculty member who can speak to your grasp of professional issues).

When you provide a list of references, give the full name, title and contact information (mailing address, email, phone) for each person, as well as an indication of your relationship (phrases like, “Practicum Supervisor” or “Professor for 3 LIS courses, including Instruction in Libraries”).