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Cover Letters

Yesterday, I sent off my first application of the season (to a magazine in Seattle!). BG is sending his soon (although not to a magazine!), and probably Chris is, as well. With reading between the lines of the job ad to guess the org’s real needs and with deciding upon the best way to say, “My experience is much more relevant to your job than you think!”, I had forgotten how arduous and consuming writing a cover letter can be. After my previous job search, I think I learned the cover letter genre pretty well, but I’m certain I didn’t learn everything. What are your cover letters like, Internet? What seems to work best; likewise, what works though it probably shouldn’t? Horror stories? (Stories and advice need not be limited to job applications.)



My cover letters have evolved into five paragraph themes. I modify the introduction and conclusion to the specifics of the job and the community (I mentioned “my fellow Iowan, Buffalo Bill Cody” in the letter for this job), and occasionally I have to tweak something in one of the body paragraphs, but essentially it’s just the same letter written in the same stupid inverted pyramid form we all once learned.

Is there a page limit for librarians? I know academics can get away with 2-3 pages, but for most everyone else, going over 1 is pushing it. When the letter I just finished threatened for a while to bleed onto a second page, but then I realized half the stuff I was trying to say I didn’t need to, cut it, and voila!: conciseness! That’s not usually enough space for five paragraphs for me, so if my letters are themes (now, I’m curious, and must go look!), they’re shorter.

But I think they’re probably not. Even during the endless job search last year, I applied to a lot of different types of jobs, and that variety prevented me from reusing whole letters. I do have enough cover letters now that I can borrow liberally from them (I lifted one entire paragraph for my last), but I often find it necessary to write most of it anew in order to tailor my argument to the audience.

Which I guess brings me to another question: did/do you apply for what might be considered similar jobs across all libraries? I mean, were you applying now, would you aim to be a children’s librarian here and reference librarian there?

yes, i remember having seen that paragraph…

1: Speaking of Buffalo Bill, I saw a job ad the other day for an editor of the Bill Cody archive. The pay was > $60K!

In Iowa? Or where? I wonder why they want an editor for an archive. . . must be engaged in some kind of publishing venture.

As for your question from a month ago, I was applying for pretty similar jobs—branch manager or director at small rural libraries. I actually only applied for three jobs before one of them hired me, but I used a similar letter when I was applying for part-time paraprofessional positions (mostly youth services assistant jobs) when I was in library school.

No, the job was in WY. It was listed in the Chronicle.