Academic Library QandA blog post 7 – Syed Towsif Ahmed

by | Oct 31, 2023 | ALIA, ALIA Regional Groups, ALIA Students and New Graduates News, Events, NGAC, Professional Development, South Australia, Tips & resources

Welcome to our Academic Library QanA blog post 7 with Academic Librarian from Flinders University & ALIA New Generation Advisory Committee member, Syed Towsif Ahmed. Thank you to Olivia Larobina, ALIA NGAC for assisting.

1.      How can I highlight and tailor transferable skills from studies to an academic library resume?

The most important thing to understand with any job application is that you are trying to demonstrate, in different ways, why you are the best fit for that specific job/role. A resume, along with the cover letter and responses to selection criteria, is used to answer that question on paper. If someone is trying to highlight transferable skills from studies to their resume, I feel you should first identify what key skills are required for the role (which can be found in the job advert, position description and selection criteria) and then pick out elements of their studies that align specifically with the requirements of the advertised job. It is also important to not just list skills on the resume, but also add a sentence or two explaining how one acquired those skills and provide brief but specific examples if possible. No two academic library resumes are going to be the same and you should tailor the application based on the specific requirements of the role they are applying for.

2.      How can I highlight transferable skills from a Public/School library to an Academic Library resume?

It really depends on the type of academic librarian role you are going for. It is crucial to first identify what the advertised role is asking for in terms of key skills required, and then address them explicitly in their application. For example, if you are looking to apply for a front of house, library services type role, you can highlight any customer service skills acquired through their public library role.

3.      What advice would you give to students/graduates/ALIA Members to highlight volunteering skills in a resume to get the attention of an academic library/selection panel?

Volunteering is a great way to demonstrate prior experience, interest and or/commitment to the sector or role. Most hiring managers, regardless of sector/industry, look for some form of prior experience in that role/sector, and if you have not worked professionally in the sector but can show you have experience volunteering in that role/sector, it can add a lot of value to their application. Volunteering is also a great way of highlighting an applicant’s range of interest/experience beyond professional experience. If an applicant can draw clear parallels between skills acquired through their volunteering experience and the job requirements, then it’s a great way to demonstrate why an applicant is a great fit for an advertised role.

4.      Do you need to have work experience in an Academic Library to apply for an Academic Library role?

I think it really depends on one’s circumstances. My pathway into academic librarianship is probably quite unique because I joined an academic library without having any type of (prior) library experience! What I did have is experience working in the higher education sector (HES) though, and this is what I focused on in my job application. The takeaway, I guess, is that one does not necessarily need prior experience in the specific field/sector/role to apply for jobs in an academic library. Instead, you can focus on the transferable skills/knowledge/experience you can bring to the role.

5.      What advice would you give to students looking for a GLAMR organization placement?

Really spend time thinking about what they want professionally and use websites like LinkedIn to identify professionals working in the sector and then networking with them can be really helpful. All this helps with information gathering, which students can then use to make informed decisions/choices about their placement in a GLAMR organisation.  

6.      What type on Academic Library tools, collection, research and program skills should SNGG learn?

It’s a little hard for me to answer this question because I don’t hold LIS qualifications and so I am unaware of what new graduates currently learn through their studies versus what they should learn. Personally, I have learnt everything on the job and where I needed to know more, I have either taken up professional development opportunities through work or simply paired up with more experienced team mates to upskill myself. Academic libraries are made up of many different teams, ranging from collection management, information management, IT/digital strategy and engagement (ie learning/teaching, research and library services). Each team requires different sets of skills, knowledge and experience so I guess having a broad understanding of these roles when studying is a good start.

7.      Do Academic Libraries provide professional development opportunities?

It really depends on the institution, but yes, most academic libraries provide plenty of professional development opportunities in some form or fashion. If one is already working in an academic library, these opportunities can range from short courses to conferences and even financial support to gain further qualifications. A lot of institutions also offer short term roles/opportunities, for example, via a competitive EOI process. If you are looking to work for an academic library, professional development opportunities may be available in the form of professional placements, casual roles, internships and volunteering opportunities.

8.      What advice do you have to highlight management and metadata skills in selection criteria for Academic Library positions?

Personally, before I started working in an academic library, I did not possess metadata skills. So the way I would’ve approached the selection criteria for this would be to demonstrate my understanding of what metadata is and highlight any form of knowledge/experience I may have regarding metadata skills through my studies. If I don’t have any of that, then highlighting how some other type of experience/skill/knowledge can make up for my lack of metadata skill. Same with management skills – basically highlight how one’s previous experience and knowledge either directly or indirectly meet the requirements of the role!

9.      What does the Academic Library selection process look like?

The selection process is usually multi-pronged. Where you submit an application usually via the institution’s website, and attach a cover letter, resume and responses to selection criteria. If successful, the next step is usually an invitation to attend a panel interview.

10.  What steps should I follow to format an Academic Library resume/cover letter/selection criteria response?

A candidate’s main task when applying for an academic library job (or any job to be honest!) is answering why they are the best fit for the role. In my opinion, resumes, cover letters and selection criteria responses are basically different ways to address this, and demonstrate to the selection panel how well a candidate fits the desired mould. I personally tend to have a standard resume with all my skills/experiences and qualifications highlighted in detail and when I apply for a specific role, I tend to create a resume specifically for the role I am going for (based on the requirements of the role). I tend not to go over two pages, and highlight only bits that demonstrate my suitability for the role. When addressing the selection criteria, I like to use lots of examples, and structure my answers using the SAO (Situation, Action, Outcome) method. If I am attaching a resume and responses to selection criteria, I tend to keep my cover letter short and sweet. I address it directly to the hiring manager and provide a short introduction to myself and touch upon why I wish to apply for the advertised role and mention that my resume and responses to the selection criteria demonstrate my suitability for the role in more detail.

11.  What should I never include in an Academic Library resume?

Never include negative things, such as why one might not be the best fit for a role in the resume. Also never include ‘everything’ in the resume – tailor each resume to the role and only include information that highlights/demonstrates how one meets the requirements of the role. 

#AcademicLibrary #selectioncriteria #resume #professionaldevelopment
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