Tag Archives: librarians

Further Questions: What are your favorite questions to ask in interviews?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What are your favorite questions to ask in interviews? And why? If you can talk a little about the difference between what you ask over the phone versus in-person, that would be very helpful.

This is not a question, but after we’ve asked and answered questions from a candidate, we ask that they write 10 questions they have about the job or the library. We leave and give them all the time they want, they turn in the questions and we thank them, etc. I have found the questions asked reflect very clearly the concerns of the candidate and can be quite revealing.

- Kaye Grabbe, Lake Forest Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundMy favorite question is “If you were on the public service desk and heard a colleague give out mis-information, what would you do?”  I’m amazed at how many candidates will wait until the customer is gone and then approach their colleague.  Wrong answer!  We never knowingly let a customer leave with incorrect information.  Our loyalty is to our customer.  The right answer is to step in and say something like  “I found something different on that the other day” or “There was a recent staff memo announcing a change in that policy.”  Our goal isn’t to beat up on each other, but make sure that customers get good and accurate service.
Another question I ask reference librarians is to list their 10 favorite reference sources.  I selected 10 because it relates to the Dewey Decimal System and someone could go through and name an encyclopedia, a religious book, a social science resource, etc.  There is no right answer, but I like to see if the say the internet, or an online resource.  I seldom get anyone that can give me 10 resources and occasional get a candidate that can’t name a single resource.  Would I want that person on our reference desk?

I realize that interviews can be stressful, but so can serving the public.  Can people think on their feet?  Can they organize information in the head.  These are just two questions that help me evaluate that.

- Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

The thing to remember about a job interview is that it is a conversation.  The employer and candidate should do as much as possible to get to know each other.  Would you feel comfortable working at this library?  Is the management style something you can work with?  Does the libraries commitment to public service match your own.  As badly as you may want a job, you shouldn’t settle.  Keep searching to find a good match.
- Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Laurie Phillips

Generally, in the phone interview (which we’re in the middle of right now), we ask questions that get at a few key points – do you really understand this job and connect with the work? Tell us why you want to do this kind of work. We also ask why they are interested in working at our library and at this university. We try to find out whether or not they connect with our size of institution and our learner-centered approach. If they can’t answer those questions, we don’t go further. In person, we may ask about different aspects of the job – about working in a place where you are empowered (and expected) to take leadership on projects, about being faculty, comfort with teaching.

- Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

It does depend on the position but I do ask everyone in the phone interview, “Tell me about a time that you disagreed with your supervisor or library administration. How did you handle it, what was the outcome?” I also ask questions that clarify if the person meets the minimum qualifications. Some applications will provide specific examples in their cover letter for some of the qualifications like the ability to work in a fast paced environment but sometimes it is hard to tell if they could work in the fast paced environment at my library.

For the in person interview, I write the questions after we decide who to bring to campus so if there were things that we need to address further, if their were any red flags in the interview on the phone, etc. I will write questions that will try to draw those things out while still asking each candidate the same thing.

- Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas

angelynn king

 

I like asking the candidate for specifics about how they handled a difficult situation in the past. It tells us both what they consider difficult and how they define “handled.”
-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Celia RabinowitzIn recent phone interviews we have asked candidates if they used the library and/or consulted with librarians when they were in college. I have come to really like this question. Often candidates aren’t prepared for the question and the point isn’t really to catch them off guard. It is to encourage them to think about how we form ideas and plans for working with our undergraduate students. The answers are often very interesting.

In person we have asked candidates about an instruction experience, or other project, which did not go as planned and how the candidate used that experience to make changes or try different strategies. I also like to ask candidates in person at the end of an interview about identifying areas where they feel pretty confident and places where they see room or a need for growth, development, learning. I think this is a better version of the strengths/weaknesses question (not one of my favorites) because it allows the candidate to respond based on what she has seen and heard during the interview.

The difference between questions over the phone or in person probably have more to do with what we are trying to accomplish in each setting. Phone interviews need to provide a committee with a number of opportunities in a fairly short time to form some general opinions. This can be a good time to refer to specific items on a resume or in a letter and ask the candidate to elaborate. That often puts a candidate at ease since phone interviews tend to be awkward. The “why did you apply,” or “why are you interested” question works well here. An on-campus candidate is going to get that question a lot from other people he meets on campus so the committee doesn’t have to repeat it. Keep questions that might actually lead to some interesting opportunities for conversation rather than ask/answer for the in-person interview.

- Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH.

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Hires should be ready to go on day one.

New England Girls School, ArmidaleThis anonymous interview is with a special librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Reference librarians, library technicians, cataloguers, metadata specialists.

This librarian works at a library with 200+ staff members in an urban area  in Canada

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ No

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

5

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Basic knowledge of statistics, either in terms of scrutinising data for client research or library management purposes.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

None. Hires should be ready to go on day one.

 

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

University of Toronto

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Outside work experiences and internships are key. I don’t give coursework or on-campus student jobs much value.

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 200+ staff members, Canada, Special, Urban area, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Expect duds in the group projects

This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Catalogers, selectors, acquisitions, preservation

This librarian works at a library with 100-200 staff members in a city/town in the Western US

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ You can’t teach the job skills I need in library school

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Field Work/Internships

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Social services to homeless populations and people with mental health disabilities
How to use library specific tools such as specific databases, homework help and other specific resources

 

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Internship or practicum
√ Conference presentation
√ Scholarly publication
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

I do not know specific schools except for the few that I have researched. I rely on ALA accreditation to handle the quality of education. For the field I hire in, the recruits basically cannot break in without paraprofessional experience. (Technical Services)

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

I am reluctant to hire from asynchronous all online programs

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

If they have to work full time, go to school part time. Do the most they can do (not the least). Expect duds in the group projects. If someone duds out and will not do the work, do it yourself anyway. You will learn and the dud won’t…pay attention to what you are doing and let other folks worry about themselves. Study writing before entering the program. Know the style guides used at the school and study them before beginning. Writing is important. Make connections with students and professors. Foster the relationships you make each semester. Use the library. University libraries are amazing whether virtually or physically accessed. Use the library many times per day. Be interested.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

I forgot to write before…if you have paraprofessional experience, share it with your fellow students. Mentor your fellow students if they do not have paraprofessional experience. Helping others helps you articulate your experience in your mind and for your resume.

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, City/town, Public, Western US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

many have no knowledge of higher Ed administration, including governance and budgeting.

School group, Culp, ArkansasThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Public services

This librarian works at a library with 200+ staff members in a suburban area in the Northeastern US 

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

4

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Information Behavior
√ Outreach
√ Instruction
√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

I work in an academic library. Even if they hold an MLS and another advanced degree, many have no knowledge of higher Ed administration, including governance and budgeting.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Collection development and management. Outreach and liaison responsibilities.

 

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Conference presentation
√ Other presentation
√ Scholarly publication
√ Other publication
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

UNC Chapel Hill
U Illinois
U Michigan
U Washington
Indiana Univ

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

San Jose State
Clarion Univ
Kent State

Any from a conditional ALA accredited program

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Do research on the job prospects in your chosen field of librarianship. Look at current job ads and look to acquire the skills of both entry-level and experienced positions through coursework and work experience. If you have no substantial work in a library setting, your chances of getting hired in my library are nil.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

Be sure to refer to the language of the job posting in your cover letters. And, do not apply for a job for which you have no relevant skills aside from an MLS – it really is just wasting your time and the time of the search committee.

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

Leave a comment

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There are many more MLS holders than there are jobs, so we can be picky

school cafeteriaThis anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Catalogers, children’s librarians, reference librarians.

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural area in the Midwestern US

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Vocabulary Design
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Programming (Coding)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

There are many more MLS holders than there are jobs, so we can be picky. Personality is important. People generally learn the theory of libraries while pursuing an MLS, but personal organization, people skills, and enthusiasm are not things that everybody possesses, but are key when working in a service-oriented library.

We want people with experience, but lack of experience is not a dealbreaker. However, if someone received an MLS through an online program, and has no experience, we are not going to grant an interview. As librarians we are concerned about the dumbing down of the education system, which we are a part of, and many of us here feel that an online degree is not the same as immersing one’s self with other MLS candidates.

The things students should focus on while at library school vary from person to person, depending on background. Someone with a BS from a business school should not need to take as many management courses. Someone with an IT background should not need to take as many computer courses. As someone with an IT background myself, one of the things that frustrated me in my program was that I could test out of two rudimentary computer classes and a statistics class if I chose to, but I would still need to pay full tuition for them plus the three elective courses I would have replaced them with. This made no financial sense, so instead of taking nine credits that would have expanded my knowledge, I took three prerequisite courses that I could ace with little effort. Frankly, these courses were not nearly as demanding as when I had taken them as part of my BS. This was an opportunity for the library school to be flexible, and allow me to expand my education. Instead, ¼ of the credits I took and the dollars attached to them were completely redundant.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

How libraries actually work in practice.
How to work with patrons who are stakeholders in the library.
How libraries are funded.
The relationships that libraries have with each other.
How to deal with difficult patrons.

 

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Other: Interpersonal relations training

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Go in person if at all possible. Make friends. Have discussions and debates. Identify mentors and keep in touch with them, even if it is only at a yearly conference. Be memorable.

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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to coordinate with outside agencies for their work once hired

This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

youth services, adult services, outreach services, latino liaison (librarian I)

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Western US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

4

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Collection Management
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Digital Collections
√ Research Methods
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Effective, professional communication skills — especially verbal. The ability to share their experiences in the job interview and also to coordinate with outside agencies for their work once hired. It is not that every librarian should be outgoing extroverts, but they do need to not be hindered from being the first to reach out and establish contact.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ Yes–I value skills gained through a student job more highly

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Skills on the job would be learning the particulars of the library, including the budget process and finance structure.

 

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Internship or practicum
√ Student organization involvement
√ Professional organization involvement

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

They need to have job experience to supplement their coursework.

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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I am looking for a librarian with strong cataloging skills (RDA).

William Fox SchoolThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

librarians. – we’re small so must be a jack-of-all trades. I am looking for a librarian with strong cataloging skills (RDA).

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in a suburban area in the Northeastern.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)

3

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Coding)
√ Web Design/Usability
√ Metadata
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

I had a very brief intro to money management and that’s what I spend a good bit of time working on. Being introduced to methods of how expenditures are tracked (take a look at the questions on the ACRL & NCES/IPEDs surveys) would have been helpful. Never had a programming class and just the basics are helpful just for editing wikis, etc.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Specific library system operation although the basics should be known. How to deal with your particular community (what they’re expectations are, how to get things done), particulars of your collection.

 

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Teaching assistant/Other instructional experience

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

ALA accredited

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

get into a library any way you can do whatever you can. keep an eye on position postings – look at what employers want

Do you hire librarians?  Tell us your answer to, “What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School?”: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibschoolsurvey

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

Leave a comment

Filed under What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School