Career Strategies for Librarians
Perfect on Paper: Putting Your Experience To Work
by Valerie Nye

A résumé is one of the most important marketing tools you can create for yourself.  As an important key
to your next job, your résumé should represent your professional history clearly and honestly.  A résumé
with confusing information or misspelled words may close the door to your dream job before you even
have the opportunity to speak to an employer.  Since résumés should aim for perfection, it is important to
allow yourself plenty of time to think about your work experience, to write clearly, and to have your finished
produced reviewed by several people.  Allowing yourself the time to create your résumé will give you the
added confidence of submitting a perfect document for your next job.

A sample resume based on this article’s suggestions can be found at:  http://www.videosalvage.

The Basics
What is the difference between a résumé and a vita?  Résumés are generally the preferred form of job
application for library jobs in public, academic, and special libraries.  Résumés are usually short (1-2
pages), while vitas can be quite lengthy and include a comprehensive list of your teaching experiences,
professional presentations, publications and research.  Since résumés are the preferred form of
application for most library jobs, this article will discuss the résumé format.  

The standard length of a résumé for a library job is two pages and should include a header listing your
name and contact information.  The main section of your résumé will be your job history listing position
titles, places of employment, dates of employment, and a description of each position you have held.  
Finally, you should include the degrees you have earned, publications, presentations, workshops you
have attended, service to the community, and a list of your membership in professional organizations.   

First Things First

The Header
The top of your résumé should contain a header giving clear and concise information including your
name and contact information.  Contact information should include one mailing address and one email
address.  If you have several phone numbers, indicate different numbers with “home” or “cell” notations.  
Listing too much contact information containing various addresses and several phone numbers is
confusing.  Keep in mind, if you list your cell phone as a contact you will need to be prepared to speak
with an employer every time you answer the phone.  It is also best to avoid putting work numbers and
work email addresses on your résumés.  Some employers consider it unethical to use your current
employer to search for a new job.   

Job History
Employers generally prefer résumés listing jobs chronologically.  While it is important to list jobs
chronologically, it is also very important to have the most relevant experience closest to the top of your
résumé, to catch the eye of your future employer.  If you haven’t always worked in libraries, you might
want to divide your work experience into two categories, “Library Experience” and “Other Experience.”  
Dividing your work experience into categories allows you to list all of your library experience
chronologically on the first page of your résumé, while still giving potential employers information about
your job history.  If you are in school and are looking for your first library job, you can list internships and
volunteer experiences you have had in the job history section.  Having library experience rise to the top is

Most library résumés list job duties in a bulleted list rather than in a descriptive paragraph.  A bulleted list
allows reviewers to scan for key words and quickly understand the distinct duties associated with each
position.  When describing your job experience in the bulleted list, use action words and leadership
terms. Unless it is absolutely necessary, do not repeat the same descriptive words in your résumé. provides a plethora of action verbs for job descriptions at:

As you list the duties, responsibilities, and accomplishments for your jobs, describe the activities that
show your greatest responsibility first.  Keep in mind, the activities that prove your level of responsibility
may not be the activities that occupy most of your day.  It is important, however, to have the high-level
responsibilities at the top of your job descriptions.  For example: you are a reference librarian spending
15 hours a week at the reference desk.  As part of your job you also supervise 5 student workers.  As far
as your time allocation goes, supervising the students takes up very little time every week.  On your
résumé, however, you should consider listing supervising students before listing your reference duties.  
Supervising students shows management experience and a great deal of responsibility.  On your
résumé you want your future employer to take notice of the highest level of responsibility you have

Formal and Continuing Education
Degrees earned, schools attended, academic honors achieved, and graduation years are either found
near the top (if you are a recent graduate) or after your job history (if you have been a professional
librarian for several years).  Information about degrees should take up 2 to 4 lines and should provide
only the most basic information.  Many résumés also include a continuing education section listing
pertinent library courses and workshops.  The list of courses should be a short list between 2 and 5
courses with the date the course was taken.  If you are a recent graduate, instead of continuing
education you might create a section titled “Relevant Course Work” listing 2-3 courses that correspond
to the job qualifications in each job posting.

Papers, Presentations, and Exhibits
If you have any publications your résumé should include a section listing papers, presentations, and
exhibits.  If you have presented and published extensively it isn’t necessary to list every paper and
presentation.  You can choose to limit the list to your most recent papers and presentations, or you may
decide to list the papers and presentations that fit most closely with the job for which you are applying.  
When listing papers that have been published, cite the journal title, article title, and date.  When listing
presentations and exhibits, provide the title and the date.  If the presentation was given in conjunction
with a conference, provide the name of the conference or professional organization as well.  If you are
lacking a formal publication history, include other writing projects such as pathfinders, newsletter
articles, or large research papers.   

Service to the Community
It is especially important when applying for academic jobs that you include information on community
service you have performed in professional organizations and your community.  In this section you will
list the name of the organization, the position you held, the committee on which you served, and the
dates you held the position.  In this section you can also include committee work you have done as part
of your paid positions by listing the name of the committee and the dates of your service.

Honors and Awards

Recognitions and honors prove you have outstanding qualities your supervisors and/or peers value in
your service.  Recognition in jobs and professional organizations is usually listed near the end of the
résumé.  If you have honors on your résumé, include the name of the award, the organization that
presented the award, and the year you were honored.

Professional Organizations
Finally, a résumé should include a list of professional organizations to which you belong.  It is best to
limit the number of professional organizations to the ones that are pertinent to the job, or limit the
number by listing the organization in which you are most actively involved.  Listing more than five
professional organizations on a résumé gives the impression that you are professionally unfocused.       

Leave it Out
Information included in your résumé should not go beyond your professional life.  You should not include
a list of hobbies, a photo, your social security number, information about your family, or your involvement
in religious organizations.  While some of these facts may make you more interesting on paper,
information about your personal life should not be submitted to potential employers.   

An employer may request a salary history and a list of references, but this information should not take up
precious space your resume.  If you are asked to submit a salary history or a list of references, do so on
separate pages.  

Looking Perfect
Visually, your résumé should look clean with predictable headings and section breaks.  The body of your
résumé should have a font between 11 and 12 point.  It is recommended that résumés be printed with
Times New Roman font.  While it may not be the most interesting font, Times New Roman is a serif font
that has proven to be one of the easiest fonts for people to read.  A serif font will allow employers to read
your résumé quickly and with the greatest ease.   

You may consider sparingly and consistently using bold, italics, and larger fonts to add to the readability
of your résumé.  When used properly, these little elements help a reader scan a résumé for pertinent
information.  Do not, however, bold items to highlight job elements you think are especially important.  
Important aspects of your résumé should be discussed in your cover letter.  For more information on
writing cover letters visit:  “Making Your Cover Letter Work for You.”

If you are submitting a hard copy of your résumé, print it on a light colored, high quality paper that is free
of distracting marks.  If you are submitting a cover letter with your résumé, the paper for the letter and the
résumé should be the same.  Most search committees work from hard copy, even if you have submitted
your résumé electronically or have posted it online.  If you are submitting an electronic copy, make sure it
is two pages and includes pertinent information without a heavy reliance on links.  If you decide to post
an online resume or are requested to submit an electronic version, make it available as a PDF in order
to maintain formatting and to ensure it looks good when it is printed.  

Finally, ask several people to review your résumé.  Have your reviewers look for typos and ask them if
they understand each element of the jobs you have described.  The American Library Association also
offers a résumé and cover letter review service for members of the New Members Round Table.  For
more information on the service visit:   Most schools also have a
career service center that will review résumés and cover letters even after you have graduated.

There are few things in life we can look at with satisfaction and say “this is perfect.”  To future employers,
your résumé is who you are, and as an important marketing tool it should represent your professional
experience in perfection.  Sending out well-crafted, thoroughly reviewed résumés will open the door to
the next step in the job searching process, the interview.  Best wishes!

About the Author:

Valerie Nye is a Public Library Consultant at the New Mexico State Library.  She has reviewed résumés
for the American Library Association New Members Round Table since 2002.  

Article published June 2004

Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.