2015: New job, new courses, new sets of interests.

So, I’ve been meaning to crank this blog post out for several weeks, since moving to the mountains in late November, in fact. But you know how moving is, stocking the place, discovery every day, new habits, etc.  Today I woke up early with a mission. Took a long, hot Saturday morning shower, got dressed, put on my Martinho Da Arcada apron, and got started with the crock pot dish of the upcoming week: pot roast with carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and whole jalapeno peppers. Once the crock pot composition was completed I was starving for breakfast, pancakes with fresh blueberries inside and on top! But no, no, delay gratification. Let’s post to the blog!

OK. This blog post, and subsequent posts, are going to be a combination of ideas, a reflection the state of things right now. Maybe later we will unpack it all. Maybe not. So here it goes. Not necessarily in this order, the relocation, the new job, the new MOOC(s) on poetry and critical pedagogy, the new monastic lifestyle, and new research interests. First, though, I want to take a quick look at the new job and how I ended up at Western Carolina University in the North Carolina Smokies.

It was all very random. But it didn’t start the way one might expect. A job announcement on the CUA LIS listserv and on INALJ.com that advertised a summer internship at the Federal Reserve research library caught my attention. I applied online, submitting my resume, list of references, and a cover letter. Ironically, I interned at the Fed in 1986 as an undergraduate in the then section called Mortgage and Consumer Finance, where I conducted a research project on the future feasibility of adjustable rate mortgages. The chief librarian phoned and invited me in for an interview a few days later. It was four blocks away. The interview went well and they offered me the internship. I started in mid-May.

In early June I flew out to the Special Libraries Association conference in Vancouver. More about that in a previous series of blog entries that start here: https://raymmaxx.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/sla2014-day-one/

In late June, the announcement for the Western Carolina University (WCU) librarian position came out. I received it through three channels, the ILI listserv, the CUA LIS listserv, and INALJ.com. Largely on a whim, but with some interest because it was in my home state, I went to the website and applied. At this point, I had applied for literally dozens of library jobs, academic and non-academic positions, in the DC area, in Virginia, in North Carolina, and in Tennessee, all in anticipation of completing my coursework and comprehensive exams by late summer 2014.  Permanent jobs. Temp jobs. Contract headshop jobs (hated to do this because of the high differential between what they charge the client and what they pay the librarian. But I did it. You know who you are.). Most got a non-response. A small percentage got lukewarm responses.

Then, the second week in July, still on the Fed internship, I got an e-mail from the WCU search committee about scheduling a Skype interview. Now it’s getting interesting, but it’s my third Skype interview and I know that foreplay doesn’t always result in a marriage proposal, so to speak. But I say yes, and we do it. If nothing else, it’ll be a good professional development opportunity, I tell Filomena, I tell myself.

The WCU Skype interview went well, I thought. But I was overcome with second guessing and self-doubt because I hadn’t managed to make it to 2nd base on any of the previous Skype interviews. In the interim, I attended the annual conference of the Society of American Archivists, igniting a new set of professional and scholarly interests.  It was a great conference, that concluded with ThatCamp, my first. I loved it! Here is a blog post from the conference: https://raymmaxx.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/blogging-saa14-save-this-space/

I was mildly but delightfully surprised when I got a phone call and an email the following week inviting me to Cullowhee for a face-to-face interview.  Filomena was very busy with a project she was working on, so I saved the news until she was less occupied with work, coinciding with a two week vacation in Lisbon. Again, I didn’t have a strong feeling that I’d get the job, but I convinced us both that going down to NC for the interview would be a learning experience in itself. In Lisbon, we managed to get a special tour of the Mafra Library, an amazing 17th century library described by some as Europe’s first Enlightenment library.  Don’t miss it if you visit Portugal. Here is a link to their site:   http://www.palaciomafra.pt/en-GB/Library/ContentList.aspx 

I flew into Asheville on September 11. We (my host and I) made the hour drive to Cullowhee. It was love at first sight, the fall foliage, the mountains. All day interviewing the following day was exhausting. I had a good feeling but I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t certain I did well enough to get an offer. But I had a good feeling. Upon return to DC, I e-mailed my professors at CUA to tell them how it all went, where I thought I had performed strongly, and where I had definite weak areas.  Here is a note I wrote to my Cullowhee host:

Dear           ,

I am still processing everything from Thursday and Friday and hoping to do a blog entry, but wanted to get back to you with a thank you note and initial thoughts.

Thanks again for hosting me and setting the whole interview up.  I know these things require planning, logistics, etc., and lots of work.  It is quite an investment, especially when you still have your normal work to get done.  So I just wanted to express my appreciation for your efforts.

 I wish I had boned up more on collection development and on actual business information sources but I also think the core courses I took gave me the foundation to quickly learn whatever specific parts I need to grasp.  CUA has a course in University and College Libraries that would have better prepared me, but just like the other course in Business Information, neither was offered during my time there.

All the librarians and staff were so friendly and open and willing to engage. Several complimented me on the presentation and I was happy to get that feedback because I wasn’t sure how it would be received.  I enjoy doing those types of things and hopefully that came through.

And of course, the place is beautiful, the scenery, the mountains, even the campus – all clean and pristine and beautiful.  All that adds quality to life!  

I hope this works out, you guys like me, and I get an offer.  But I already feel very fortunate just having gone through the interview experience. So whatever the outcome, I am chalking this one up as a win.

Well, thanks again.  I will look forward to hearing from you.  Also, whatever the outcome, I hope to bring my wife down this fall to see the beautiful mountain scenery as the leaves change colors.

Best regards.


Several weeks passed. In the interim I continued to apply for jobs, mostly in DC, had phone interviews and even got a face-to-face interview for a temporary, 6-month fill that I didn’t really want. Then, the first week of October, my prospective department head phoned me and offered me the job. I was ecstatic! Filomena and I packed the 2002 Ford Focus and drove to Cullowhee the week of Thanksgiving.  The faculty/staff newsletter gave me this nice introduction:  http://thereporter.wcu.edu/2015/01/state-department-retiree-joins-hunter-librarys-reference-department/

4 thoughts on “2015: New job, new courses, new sets of interests.

  1. Congrats, Ray!! I’m on the prepping for comps/applying to jobs that I’m not yet qualified for since I won’t technically graduate and have my MLIS until May road and it is terrifying! I am so glad that you have had such a happy ending to the job hunt and I hope you really enjoy it :). It was great having Digital Collections in LAM together!


  2. Applying and applying and applying was discouraging when I was in the middle of it. But somehow, I think doing it again and again made my cover letter and resume better and more focused each time. So keep that in mind. And good luck!


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