This week I was contacted by reader Chris Eaker, who was wondering how early is too early to start applying to librarian jobs. So this week I asked people who hire librarians some questions about library students:
Have you interviewed or hired a candidate who is still in school for a librarian position? How early is too early for a student to start applying? Do you take into consideration the particular school a candidate has attended? Has a candidate’s GPA ever affected your decision to hire or interview a candidate?
On how early to apply: In our case, the student should have completed a cataloguing course plus cataloguing field work, since sample MARC record must be submitted.
On weighing schools: Preference would be given to a school known for having a good teacher of cataloguing.
On weighing GPA: No.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
On having interviewed or hired a student: No. Our governmental HR dept will accept applications from students who are 3 months away from graduation, but they won’t come up on a hiring list until they have graduated.On how early to apply: I guess that would depend on the application and hiring practices of the place(s) where they want to apply. In our case, I think getting your application in as soon as possible makes sense just to get on a hiring list as quickly as possible.On weighing schools: Not really, as long as it’s ALA accredited.On weighing GPA: No. I do not know the GPA when I interview candidates — and I don’t really care that much since graduate schools tend to wash out people who make C’s. I also don’t care if they passed their comprehensive exams with distinction. It’s been my experience that academic success does not always correlate with excellent public service skills and the ability to think on one’s feet.– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
We are currently interviewing a couple of finalists for a professional position who are new graduates. I advertised these positions in April and HR passed every one who was graduating in June. For us, many of the decisions on who to qualify are done by the Human Resources Department here. The jobs we advertised did not require any professional experience and I worked with HR to make sure that new graduates were not hampered because they didn’t have any time as a professional. That said, I believe that they took account of non-professional public library experience.I only deal with applicants who have made it through the civil service process and ranked in the top five. However, I always appreciate a graduate of my alma mater. That doesn’t mean I will hire them but I certainly look upon them kindly. I may notice if an applicant has graduated from one of the top-flight library schools, but again this is not a basis of a hire.
I believe positions are should be filled by skills set and the “fit” with the library’s mission and the other library staff members with whom they will be working. That means it isn’t based on GPA for me as a public librarian. I have never even inquired about GPA. I was once told by a mentor that it really doesn’t matter and I’ve found that to be true.– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County
On having interviewed or hired a student:Yes, we regularly interview and hire candidates who are still in school, as long as they will have finished by their start date. We are faculty so the candidate must have finished the MLS before his or her start date. Getting a part-time temporary library’s position is possible while still in school and is beneficial, but not a full-time ordinary faculty position (Ordinary = tenure track and Extraordinary = not tenure track).
On how early to apply: Well, in our case, we were hiring this spring for a position that starts on August 1st and the search was initiated in January. If you are graduating in May, you should start looking at academic jobs (if that’s what you’re looking for) in January. Academic searches take a long time and the search committee will choose a time that is most advantageous for themselves and for getting the best candidate. We wouldn’t start a search in April for a job starting on August 1st (the beginning of our fiscal year) because we want to have things wrapped up before everyone starts leaving on vacation. We have done some searches over the summer, so if you’re graduating in August, that’s also a possibility.
On weighing schools: Not necessarily. We do know which schools tend to produce the best candidates, but we start out with a completely open mind and evaluate the candidates individually. We require an MLS from an ALA-accredited school, not an MLS from a particular school. That said, you shouldn’t discount the quality of a school when choosing one. I think some schools just prepare students better and you will be better able to jump into your new job and will be more prepared to interview intelligently if you have a better education from a really great library school.
On weighing GPA: No, we don’t get transcripts until after we have made an offer, so it has no bearing.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
For librarian positions, we require the MLS, so we don’t interview anyone who has not completed the degree. (Be sure you read job ads carefully, though, some places require you to have the degree by the start date, which means they’re willing to interview students.) It depends on timelines, but it’s not unheard of for an academic library to post a job and not actually start reviewing applications for about 4 weeks. I would recommend starting to apply in your last semester, with the caveat that you need to understand that some places will boot you from the pool if your degree isn’t finished. (A good way to proof yourself for this is to state the month and year of the degree conferral – “August 2012” tells me much more than “degree expected 2012”.) The school a student attended has not mattered to us as much as what a candidate can show us they accomplished in school – if you’re coming out of a big deal school but can’t tell us about projects you worked on, or show a portfolio, your school name won’t boost you above another candidate. Ditto for GPAs – a 4.0 doesn’t tell me the difference between someone who did the minimum required work and someone who really worked to develop their experience. You can actually leave GPA off the resume or CV — we don’t look at it and you want to use that space to instead tell us what you accomplished in terms of actual deliverables that we might be interested in related to the job.
– Colleen S. Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor, Lupton Library,University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Thank you as always to the above for their time and insight. If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.
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