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.






ISBN Title Lookup Google Doc Spreadsheet

ISBNDB ended free API access in Dec 2017. While the principles involved here are still valuable, the example will no longer work

We needed to do a quick inventory of some discarded books, and while we could pull the majority of the information from our catalog, we have some donations and other books we had no quick method of getting title data.

We’ll scan the barcodes in using a barcode scanner

This uses the ISBNdb API and a quick bit of importXML

There is a 25 ISBN/day limit on this API key for testing. Google limits importXML to 50/sheet. Please get your own ISBNdb account to implement this.

Here’s the bit of code for the spreadsheet. Copy the example here

=importXML( concatenate( "", A2), "//title")

=importXML( – grabs the XML response from the ISBNdb API

concatenate( – assembles the API call URL – initial APIcall string. Specifies v2 API, XML response, key and the source we’re pulling from (books)

A2 – The cell from which we’re pulling the ISBN from

“//title” – The section of the XML response that we want to put in the cell, in this case the title of the book.

Libguides + Facebook : A new way to do it

I have had  no luck with the regular LibGuides Facebook application.

This may be due to old code on their end, misunderstandings on my end or my insistence on using Chrome.

However, I’ve discovered an alternative to using the regular LibGuides application that allows you a significant amount of flexibility in the way you display your LibGuides content on Facebook.

Start by creating a facebook page for your library.

Once you’ve created the page, search for a ‘Static iFrame’ application. This is the application that we’ll be displaying our LibGuides content in.

I’ve had good luck with the app highlighted in the picture below.

Add the application to your Facebook page, and click on it. you should have a brief editor pane show up.

When you ‘Edit Tab Content’ you get a familiar sight, HTML!

Now, you can develop whatever you want within this framework, but I’ve chosen to use the API utility in LibGuides to display a few boxes from our public Library websites.

To get the code, open a new tab and sign in to LibGuides

  In the API Utility you get to choose what you want to show for each API call you make. I’d suggest using boxes from your system that get the most use, like Search or Browse functions, as well as a LibAnswers widget if you subscribe.

When you generate an API call, you can choose to embed the code using Javascript.

Copy this embed code, and, place it wherever you want within the HTML of the Facebook page.

[Here’s a hint, you can develop the page using any HTML editor you prefer. I set a master div width of 500px and the result was great. I then copied and pasted the HTML back into the facebook page after everything was tweaked the way I wanted it to be.]

And that’s it! Here’s the first draft of our Library Facebook page. Click to open a larger version.

Linking to Reserve Detail Screens in VTLS Virtua

A tip of the hat to my colleague in New York, she comes up with some of the best questions and gets me to explore Virtua in more detail.

Here is how to link to a reserve detail screen in VTLS Virtua.

First, I’ll show you how I figured this out.

Here is a unaltered link to an individual instructor in Virtua

The majority of the detail on this link can be removed. The most important parts are

the search=, function=, rootsearch=, u1=, and t1= portions.

This search leads to a page where you can see the individual faculty member. As we see from t1=, they are identified by an individual number, not by their name.

Here’s the fun part. Virtua seems to use the cache to link to the detail screen. It’s not clear that the Reserve Detail URL is a search of any kind at all.

An unaltered link to a detail screen looks like this.

Here’s the difference: function=RESERVEDETAIL

So all we do is switch out the fuction=RESERVESCAN element on the first search with function=RESERVEDETAIL

To create additional search strings for individual faculty members, you can do a search in the ‘Reserve Search’ search box for the faculty member. Copy the URL into Notepad and find the t1= number for that faculty member. Then using the base URL

http://<Your Virtua System Here>?search=RESERVEINTR&function=RESERVEDETAIL&rootsearch=RESERVESCAN&u1=2015&t1=

you can plug any faculty identifying number on the end, leading to a direct link to a list of that faculty members reserve items.

You can link to a specific course as well

More on Direct Linking to Bib Records with VTLS Virtua

As mentioned in a previous post, I had a question from a colleague in New York City about direct linking to bibliographic records in the VTLS Virtua OPAC.

Here’s what was discovered.

You can link directly to an Item list record by using a URL as follows.

You can link directly to a Full Record by using a URL as follows

You can link directly to a MARC record by using a URL as follows

Let’s break that down as to how and why that works. The part of the URL that controls this is the &function= portion of the URL.

&function=INITREQ leads to the Item List

&function=CARDSCR leads to the Full Card view

&function=MARCSCR leads to the MARC record view

If you want to try this out on your own VTLS system, replace everything before the ? sign with your own base URL for your iPortal.

Ours at CNA-Q is so the URLs for us would be.




We are running VTLS Virtua 48, so your own system may differ in some substantial ways. I found this set of URL patterns by looking at the default links on the default skin for the VTLS 48 iPortal.

Direct Linking to Subject Searches in Virtua

I got a question from a colleague New York City about creating links to subject searches in VTLS. In other conversations with other VTLS users I’ve realized that this may or may not work depending on which version of Virtua you are running.

The principles behind it are common across VTLS systems, so you may need to experiment until you find a solution. I figured this out by looking at the default searches in the iPortal, combined with some work searching the Virtua documentation.

To do a subject search, here’s the URL pattern

u1=21 means Subject Search. This will search your LC subject headings

t1=substance%20abuse%20treatment is your search.

When you have spaces between works you need to use URL Encoding to pass on exactly what you mean to Virtua for your search.

The Innovative Educator: 10 Proven Strategies to Break the Ban and Build Opportunities for Student Learning with Cell Phones

This is a very cool and comprehensive post on tactics you can use to use cell phones and smartphones in the classroom. It takes into account the resistance that many of us experience when seriously moving forward on mobile device friendly projects.

What speaks to me in this article is the focus on working with the tools you already have. We need to be the people who solve problems

The Innovative Educator: 10 Proven Strategies to Break the Ban and Build Opportunities for Student Learning with Cell Phones.