Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Oops, I did it again

It's funny because I listened to that song earlier tonight...ah High School, a time of indiscriminate taste in music. Where was I? Oh yeah, I was not in class this week, not because I didn't want to go on a field trip, but because I was in Iowa at the UNI Overseas Recruiting Fair. The fair brings administrators from overseas schools and they interview and hire candidates. It was an incredible experience, as an educator and a job seeker. I felt entirely overwhelmed by not being prepared. The packet says I should have resumes, cover letters, and photos of myself. I had them, but not prepared before 1 am the night before. I also had not, as the packet recommended, contacted schools beforehand. I had, however, been contacted by two schools. You see, librarians are in high demand in well-funded private institutions, because they understand the impact a good librarian can have on a school. So, I started my Friday morning at 4:30 am (even though my alarm was set for 5 and I had gone to bed at 1 am), fussing over my clothes and makeup, packing and repacking my purse for the day (the purse that I had bought on impulse at TJ Maxx, spending way more money than I should have), fretting over shoes, etc. I got to the Sullivan Brothers Convention Center (in lovely downtown Waterloo, Iowa) at 7 am, ready for the experience. Checking my "mailbox" I had invited from 2 schools for interviews, one was in Venezuela and the other was in Ecuador, neither was really where I was interested in going (at the risk of sounding snobby, I don't view South American as international, mostly because I could drive there if I wanted to). 8:00-9:30 we were given a pep talk about what to expect, how to succeed, and heard from successful participants. Be open minded to possibilites was their main point, and be careful, because teaching overseas is addictive.
9:30 to 11 am was a lunch break (lunch, ha!). I ended going to a local restaurant and eating by myself, but also chatting with a lovely couple from West Virginia. All the potential candidates were friendly, "Where do you want to go?", "have you heard from any schools?", etc. Then came the round robin, where all the schools set up tables in the exhibition hall and you find the schools you should have researched beforehand and sign up for interviews. I had 12 possible schools. China was right out, since they don't give work visas to teachers with less than two years experience. Cyprus had hired a librarian 5 days before. Both schools in India looked at me with dismay and said they needed someone with more experience. I set up interviews with schools in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Bangladesh and Qatar. Ok, not a lot to choose from, but it was  start. Venezuela was up first, we had a nice chat, I had spoken with the Director beforehand, we set up a second interview for the next day. Qatar was next, it was a great school/job, but more than I was ready to bite off; K-12 library that needed a lot of work, not my first year, thanks. Puerto Rico was not really sure if they needed a librarian, but they were interviewing, just in case. Ecuador and Bangladesh were Saturday. Meanwhile, I went back to my hotel and slept for 10 hours. Oh, and before I forget, these interviews I'm going to are all in hotel rooms. The convention center is attached to the Ramada, and the administrators all had rooms. It was creepy, poorly lit hallways and sitting in someones bedroom.
11:30 pm, I was sound asleep, and I got an email from Venezuela saying they were going in another direction. But, wait, I had an interview at 2:30? A quick call confirmed that was cancelled. Oh well, I didn't want to go to Venezuela, right? As I was getting ready to walk out the door, I got an unexpected call from Shanghai, they had a job they'd like to interview me for. I was up front, I knew you needed two years experience for a work visa, but she said they might be able to work it out since I had a Master's, it wouldn't hurt to talk to them. Ecuador was a great school, in the capital of Quito, top of the Andes, really low cost of living, but they paid a little too little, and I had it on good authority they had offered the job to someone else already (only because I kept bumping into her, we were competing for the same librarian jobs). Shanghai indeed wanted me, but, alas, the Master's was not enough for a work visa. They took my resume and are keeping me in mind when I have a couple years under my belt.
Which brings me to Bangladesh, where is it, you ask? Well, if I were India, I would put my left arm around Bangladesh. Okay, I thought, it couldn't hurt to go to the interview, what are the chances I'll actually want to do this?
This was a new school, new library, they needed good programs, a solid foundation for future growth. Was I up for the challenge? Definitely, but what about salary, housing, travel to and from, internet, and being in a country that people are generally unable to point out on an unlabeled map. The job was mine if I wanted it. Did I want it? After much dithering (i.e. talking at length to anyone I could think of), I decided that, yes, this is where and what I wanted to be: a school librarian in Bangladesh. So, I signed a contract on Saturday night around 7 pm and have felt awesome since. It feels good and right. It makes everything we're talking about in class immediately relevant, because I'm going to need to do it (ooh, maybe I'll write a mission statement!). Most of all, it feels really good to know that I have somewhere to be for the next two years (and possibly longer), that I, a lowly school librarian, is wanted somewhere.

Sorry for the long post. A map of Bangladesh, courtesy of, for your pleasure:


  1. Six degrees of separation trivia about Cyprus -- Lorna Flynn (@maclorna), better known to SIers as the mom of Steve, was the librarian there and is retiring! She did an awesome essay in the SCHOOL LIBRARIES eBook...

  2. Congrats Emily! I'm happy you're feeling great about your decision, and I think you will have an amazing experience!

  3. So, so, so, sooooo happy for you! I can't wait to chat about this more!

  4. I am so excited for you!!! Congratulations! :)

  5. Congratulations, Emily! What an exciting adventure. Wow, to think of all the things you're going to see and experience - it will be amazing. + wearing a saari year-round = AWESOME.

  6. That's interesting that you say well-qualified librarians are in demand in well-funded private institutions. It seems like the key word in that statement is "well-funded". I suppose the definition of well-funded from country to country, similar to your compensation discussion with different interviewers, means different things. After hearing about the experience of the librarian at St. Francis- I'm thinking that it as not a well-funded private institution? I'm hoping your experience is not the same as hers. What an opportunity! I'm soooo excited for you. Will you keep posting to this blog?

  7. Congratulations, again! This post was really interesting to read, both to hear about your own experience and to learn about international perspectives on school librarianship--glad it's so appreciated elsewhere!


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