Californians, Have you voted? Julie Farnsworth on Hiring Librarians

Voting is currently open for the California Library Association’s 2012 election.  If you’re a member, cast your ballot by October 15th.
This interview is with Julie Farnsworth, who is a candidate for President-Elect. Ms Farnsworth began her library career as a page at the age of 15. She has worked as a public library director at various systems in Utah, as County Librarian for Santa Clara, and since 2003 has been the Director of the Pleasanton Public Library (which is in the 50-100 staff members category). She has also been both a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.

Questions about CLA:

In broad strokes, what do you think the CLA’s role is in library hiring and employment?

CLA exists to help its member libraries and librarians.  Hiring and employment is one of the most important and most popular roles of the organization.  Whether through the actual job listings or through the opportunity to network and work together, CLA is a very useful tool for job seekers.

The most important role of CLA is library advocacy which, when successful, means more funds for libraries and more available jobs.

How can the CLA serve unemployed or underemployed librarians?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers mentoring – both long-term and short-term – for new librarians, an online job listing service, job advertising and interview services at the annual conference, programs designed for aspiring job seekers and opportunities for networking.

How can the CLA support library students in order to help them be best situated for future employment?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers resume evaluation at each conference as well as programs on how to enhance job seeking skills and knowledge.  CLA was instrumental in starting the Eureka Leadership training which has assisted many librarians to progress in their careers.

I would like to see more programs or individualized feedback on interview skills and self-presentation.  I would like CLA to facilitate paid and unpaid internships by collating the opportunities and distributing the information to job seekers.  CLA could also create a best practices internship plan and train librarians on giving interns the best, most useful experience.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about CLA or your candidacy?

It can feel as though the job search is hopeless or you have no control or influence over your future.  It isn’t true – there are always ways to improve your future prospects. Getting involved with CLA or any other professional or non-profit group can grow your skills, give you experience you can use to illustrate your talents in interviews, teach you about advocacy and introduce you to many other professionals would can assist your efforts to build a career.

Let CLA help you while you search for a job.  It will be useful.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Good judgment – the ability to assess a situation and respond wisely in the best interest of the organization and staff

Dedication to customer service with real respect for the work we do and the people we work to help

Balance – the ability to see beyond the emotion of the moment to the bigger picture, often using humor, self-acceptance, a sense of the absurd and/or acknowledgement of the faulty nature of all humans, including yourself

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Yes.  Wanting to censor what we have in the collection in order to “protect” the community.  Being offensive about patrons of a particular age or national origin or disability or any other group status.  Making multiple derogatory comments about different co-workers and bosses.  Stating that you want to leave your current public library job because you are afraid of the patrons.  Criticizing the receptionist in a loud and angry manner for not telling you about the traffic that made you late.

Yes, these are all from my personal experience.  See, you are a better interviewer than you thought!

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Nothing, really.  They are pretty utilitarian and appropriately so.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

I’d love to see something they particularly liked or learned in each experience, but that wouldn’t be typical.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Other: Yes, so long as it is true/real and relevant to the position

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be comfortable with yourself (not the situation, no one is really comfortable in an interview), open and accepting of your strengths and weaknesses.  Be calm.  Be honest about yourself, your hopes, your interests.  Do you really want a job where they are looking for the person you faked being in the interview or a job where they want the real you?  See the people across the table as people and take an interest in what they care about, what they might be feeling and how you can help them be more comfortable.  Understand that an interview is not the measure of your worth, just a chance for those with a job opening to learn more about you while you learn about them.  Do your homework on the organization – it shows preparation and thoughtfulness.  Think what the interviewers might be proud of and bring it up.  You can always call and ask the staff what changes they have made lately that have been successful.

For me personally – hey, I always like people who laugh at my jokes.  😉

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Most common of all, they get so nervous that their personality and skills are obliterated.  Interviews are important for functional reasons, not for referendum on the worth of your soul reasons – so learn whatever skills you need to be calm!

Another very common mistake is to focus so much on the perfect answer to the questions that you lose track of the people in the room.  Communication is more about body language and tone than words and that’s very much true in an interview.

The third mistake I see is not engaging your audience.  Ask questions.  Ask follow up questions to their answers.  It’s often said that whoever talks least in any interview wins.  This isn’t so true in an oral board, of course, but in the personal interviews its a big mistake to do nothing but answer.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Not at all in the mechanics.  Those are dictated by the organization and the public hiring legalities.

We’ve done a better job on getting the word out and certainly I’m fond of my hires and think they are the bees knees, but no functional differences.

Of course, we’ve been doing NO hiring for years and only now allowed to replace key positions.  So I guess that’s a change.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Don’t give up!  Being a librarian is a great career that I highly recommend and I do believe that jobs will come back.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Elections/Candidates, Public

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