Advanced Information Management for Job Searching

This post is a collection of tools and a workflow I used for my latest job search.


My job search was focused on the Greater Toronto Area. – is a job search tool. It has it’s good points and it’s bad points but the best part of Indeed is… RSS feeds!

My feeds were searches for –

  • Every college and university in the GTA as the ‘Employer’
  • Librarian
  • Knowledge Management
  • Document Management
  • Records Management
  • Instructional Designer Ontario Great job aggregator tool, but no RSS feeds.

University of Toronto iSchool Job Board – Great job aggregator tool, and it has an RSS feed

The Partnership Job Board

Code4Lib Job Board

McGill SIS Job Listserv

IFLA LibJobs Listserv




Google Documents








At CNA-Q, I’ve been operating under contract-based employment for all six years I’ve been here, so I’ve kept my ear to the ground about jobs in Canada. I signed up for the McGill SIS Jobs Board early on, and I push all of those emails into a folder in my Gmail labelled ‘Job Listings’.

As I started actively planning for my move from CNAQ, I went to Indeed and set up all of my RSS feeds for jobs. I knew that I was looking for an academic library job, so I set up alerts for every college and university in the Toronto area. I then created general searches for

  • Librarian
  • Knowledge Management
  • Document Management
  • Records Management
  • Instructional Designer

I put all of these searches in to my RSS reader. I like Feedly, and use it to monitor a lot of news and library blogs. I added all of these searches into a folder called ‘Job Search’

The U of T job board has an excellent RSS feed, so it was added to Feedly too.

I knew of INLJ, but it has a frustrating interface. More importantly, it has no RSS feeds. I started using the Page2RSS service to grab daily changes to the INLJ Ontario page, but that got annoying after a while and I started looking for an option that would allow me to identify individual jobs that are posted. At this point, I came across Feed43. Feed43 setup is a little beyond the scope of this post, but it allows you to identify sections of repeating HTML on any webpage and turn that into a properly formatted RSS feed.

I keep both the individual job Feed43 feed and the Page2RSS feed live in Feedly.

I then subscribed by email to the IFLA job board, the Partnership job board and the Code4Lib Job Board

This put me in a situation where I was checking two locations. I’m always on Feedly, but I don’t check my email as often. I went looking for a tool to turn Email into an RSS feed and I found Zapier. If you’re familiar with IFTTT, then you grasp the basic idea of Zapier.  Zapier provides you with a very simple graphical way to connect services that wouldn’t otherwise talk to each other. Zapier allowed me to create an RSS feed for my Gmail jobs folder. That feed was plugged into Feedly.


Every morning, I’d read through the postings from all of these RSS feeds on Feedly. I’d make very quick decisions on whether to look further at a job, and skipped the majority of the posts that came up.

When I decided to look closer at a job posting, I’d open it up and read the post briefly. If it looked reasonable and matched my skill set I saved it to Instapaper using the share function on my iPad or the plugin in Chrome, depending on where I was reading it.

Once a day, after work was over, I’d review the selection of jobs I saved to Instapaper. Using this method, I found myself finding between 2-5 reasonable jobs per week that matched my skill set and experience. I applied for about 95% of the jobs I saved to Instapaper. I often printed these out and highlighted key words in each job application

Writing Cover Letters

 The University of Toronto has a standard job application format where you email a single file containing a cover letter, resume and references. While each institution  has their own standards for how to receive documents, the University of Toronto standard application format has some real benefits to the job applicant.

  • It keeps your customization within a single document.
  • It provides a way to collect information in one place if there are any special requirements
  • It limits the number of files you have to look at

I do all of my word processing in Google Docs. The U of T format allowed me to have application ‘packages’. If the potential employer was using a particularly stringent format, I could print single pages to PDF and then upload them into the individual Applicant Tracking Systems.

The standard advice for job hunting is to customize your application for every employer. That is wise advice, but if you try to write each application from scratch, you will find yourself without any other time (even at 2-5 applications per week).

I started by very carefully applying for jobs, and re-writing my application for each position. I then approached some very wise friends, including someone who works as a recruiter and a friend at the University of Toronto. These people helped me refine my resume and cover letter to something short, effective and well developed.

After I had a ‘template’ for my cover letters down with input from working librarians and my recruiter friend, I started customizing my letters slightly less. I would start with a previously-written application package for a similar position, then customized each cover letter and resume based on keywords.

Here are some of the things I did to minimize errors.

  • I only used the name of the institution and the name of the job position in the first line of the application package
  • I read through the completed cover letter forward, then backwards
  • I minimized customization to my resume to only ‘critical’ requirements for the job. ‘Optional’ requirements were covered in my cover letter.

Any extra documentation, like salary requirements were placed on sheets after the completed ‘package’. I could tell with a glance if the application package had this extra documentation because it was more than 4 pages.

Please contact me @brettlwilliams if you’d like to see examples of my application “package” format, or if you would like to use the RSS feeds I created for INLJ Ontario.






Alpha Release: An EZProxy Bookmarklet

When at a journal or ebook, this bookmarklet will create a proxied link in a highlighted, popover window that you can add to a bookmark or link. The first link is a standard link that can be dragged to the desktop or bookmark bar in Windows or Mac computers. Android supports bookmarking to the homescreen The textarea contains the full link, making it much easier to create proxied bookmarks in Mobile Safari.

5-16-2013 8-35-27 AM

This project is based on the generic server-side Javascript bookmarklet described here

If you would like to try out my custom bookmarklet go here and drag the bookmarklet to your toolbar.

Here’s the bookmarklet code

javascript:javascript:var i,s,ss=['',''];for(i=0;i!=ss.length;i++){s=document.createElement('script');s.src=ss[i];document.body.appendChild(s);}void(0);

You can take a look at the server-side javascript hosted in my Google Drive

Link to Javascript

To try it out with your institution’s proxy server, download the code here, and just replace the var proxyURL = ""; with your institutions proxy URL.

Here are some of my development plans for this bookmarklet.

1) Better CSS styling, both more consistent cross-browser and better look & feel
2) Streamlining the javascript (It’s currently very, very clumsy)
3) Cleaning up the whitelisting
4) Re-writing URL’s that have been proxied by Hostname and/or by Port to create a link that will work under any circumstances.

Creative Commons License
Early Beta: An EZProxy Bookmarklet by Brett Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.

Bookbox Update – Pictures

I did an update to my BookBox project, adding additional storage in the form of a rescued 320 GB harddrive from my old media center computer. This was a simple matter of formatting, copying the ebooks and mounting the new drive on the /books folder that I used in the earlier form of the project.

This project has proved extremely robust, running 24/7 for two years.

20130214_200410 - Labels


Bookbox HTML Bookbox Landing



Currency conversion in Google Docs Spreadsheet

One of the complexities of working overseas is keeping a budget. I get paid in two different currencies (Qatari Riyals and Canadian Dollars) and due to the infrastructure in Qatar I have to work with cash for most of our everyday transactions.

While working with my budget spreadsheet on Google Docs, I spotted this cool little formula that has allowed me to seamlessly convert back and forth between Canadian Dollars and Qatari Riyals.

Here’s the formula

=CanadianAmount*(GoogleFinance(“CURRENCY:”CADQAR ; “average”))

In practice here’s how it looks.

I put the two variables QAR and CAD in the spreadsheet itself and call them via &TRIM().  This allows me to reverse the CADQAR to QARCAD variables easily. The “average” modifier gives you a good-enough approximation of the current exchange rate.


What’s cool with this automatic conversion is that I’ve figured out a way to enter an expense in either currency, and have it automatically reflected in an automatically updated dollar amount in both currencies. Spreadsheets FTW!


Here’s a spreadsheet that can help you figure this out on your own.




Sustainable Technology

My article on Sustainable Technology for libraries just went live on the ALIA blog.

Take a look!

Just do stuff… wisdom from Amy

One of my library school friends, Amy, posted on her meteoric success in the library world.

Her secret? Ask! Do stuff!

From my side of things, I was interested in Linux, so I just started installing it on my school laptop.

I screwed up my bootloader a few times, succeeded in crashing my router, hacked a Xbox, fried a few hard drives, installed Apache, a CMS and Koha on my laptop and did some blogging.

I just did stuff… and it was the side projects I did while I was in library school that got me the position I’m in right now.

So, let me echo Amy’s advice. Just do stuff. Ask about conferences. Install Linux. Do an independent study. Talk to experts. Be on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and participate in the communities there. Answer questions.

Build a network.

A response from Springshare re: Libguides + Facebook

I got a comment on my blog from Marc at Springshare regarding my approach to embedding LibGuides boxes within an iFrame in a Facebook page. He provides an excellent background to why Springshare has had difficulties with their Facebook applications. It also gives hints about what we can look forward to on the Facebook/Libguides front.

The comment is worth reading on its own, but I’d like to highlight a philosophical element.

Springshare has designed LibGuides to make the content portable. If I want to, I can dump an XML export of all the work I and the other staff at CNA-Q have done and import it into another CMS with a minimum of effort. I can also duplicate any box or page within LibGuides or outside LibGuides through the API interface.

This open approach gives librarians like myself (who love to fiddle with things) incredible opportunities to create things beyond what Springshare is thinking about. We can mashup the content we’ve created in Springshare and insert it into almost any system that supports web standards.

In our (currently) unreleased library website, based on LibGuides, I’ve had an opportunity to play around with the CSS selectors and other advanced tools that LibGuides provides. Springshare’s conscious decision to leave some of these options open to advanced users massively increases the usefulness of their product.

In short, Springshare doesn’t stop us from getting content out, and helps us modify the content in our LibGuides system.

That’s an awesome philosophy for a company serving libraries to have.