Library Work is Not Rocket Science. Why is it So Complicated to Get a Job?

Val KyriakopoulosValerie Kyriakopoulos is a 2011 graduate of Dominican University (MLIS).  Prior to going to grad school, she worked as a backstage technician in the theater for over 20 years.  Currently she works part time as a circulation clerk at the Skokie Public Library, where her favorite part of the job is the patron interaction at the front desk, especially getting to know the tastes of the regulars and being able to suggest things. Ms. Kyriakopoulos has been looking for a new position for more than 18 months, in Library vendors/service providers, Public libraries, and Special libraries, at the entry level and for positions requiring at least two years of experience. Here is how she describes her experience with internships/volunteering:

I volunteer at a museum which has recently moved into a new space and I have been helping to organize and catalog their donated print collection – books and serials.  I’ve been adding items into the online database and also tagging materials so they can be shelved properly.

I also volunteer at a public library, showing movies on DVD to patrons a few times a month in their all purpose room.  It tends to be older patrons that attend these movies so I assist them in any way I can as well.

Ms. Kyriakopoulos lives in a city/town in the midwestern US and is willing to move. Graphic novels are her special passion; she has been collecting them for 25 years. To learn more about Ms. Kyriakopoulos, visit her online portfolio here:

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

Full time opportunity

Takes advantage of my interests and skills


Where do you look for open positions?


ALA Joblist


LinkedIn (sometimes)

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

Look at my current resume, update/rearrange/etc as needed

 Write a position specific cover letter (I never use the exact same cover letter twice)

Fill out online applications if needed

 I spend at least a hour or so every time, sometimes longer depending on how much I obsess over the cover letter.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application

√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage

√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Phone for good news, email for bad news

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Tour of facility

√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Get to know about a candidate’s personality as well as their skills.  Skills can be learned and refined but personalities are important too.  I feel like we’re too hung up on how much practical experience people have (which is important of course) but life experience should count for something too.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

Be more communicative and less uptight and stuffy.  Also be more upfront with what they really want.  I’m tired of trying to guess which hoops I should be jumping through to impress people.

Library work is not rocket science.  Why is it so complicated to get a job?

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

I wish I knew.  My life would be a lot less stressful right now.

Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

I like the idea of this survey.  All of the job advice I see is skewed in a corporate direction.  I understand that libraries are a business but it seems that a more personal approach is needed sometimes.  I feel like I’m just a number to so many of the places that I’ve applied.  Being a librarian should be about people and connecting with patrons and the community and not just about the bottom line.

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one?  Check it out!


Filed under Job hunter's survey, Midwestern US

6 responses to “Library Work is Not Rocket Science. Why is it So Complicated to Get a Job?

  1. Great article! I’ve often wondered why?

    I’m worked as a legal secretary for almost 30 years, and considering changing careers. However, I would have to return to college and study Library Science. I’ve applied for a job as a Library Clerk, as well as networking, but it’s hard to get my foot in the door.

    So, why is it so complicated to get a job working in a library?


  2. Vera

    Is it possible to get reference/librarian practice at your current job? I wish I knew an exact formula to landing a job, but I don’t think there is and often times, it helps to know people who can influence the hiring/interviewing process. I’ve noticed in public libraries, doing the bare minimum is not enough. Those who do 110% advance faster. I started off as a library assistant and volunteered to assist with library programs and reference if they ever needed a hand. Sure enough, they did take me up on that and I think that might’ve helped when I was ready to apply for higher jobs. I know that is not the best advice, but be willing to do more (with a smile!) usually helps.

    As for the other person’s comment about getting into the library field, I’ve heard customer service experience stands out in a resume. So if you can, try to tie in how your experience complements library/customer service.

    Hope this helps!


    • Hi!
      Thanks for responding. Actually, I think your advice is pretty good. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that I’m not allowed to volunteer at the library where I work. I’m not quite sure why, I guess there’s some legal issue or something. It’s a shame because I would love to do more and am willing to help wherever I could.


      • Becky

        There’s a difference between serving as a library volunteer (which our muncipality also forbids to staff) and volunteering to take on additional job responsibilities, like programming, during your normal working hours. I have a library clerk who helps with teen programming – she’s not the primary programmer, but she’s in there helping, and that will improve her chances at moving up the ladder. It never hurts to ask your supervisor if you can do more.


  3. Pingback: Job Hunter Follow Up: Valerie Kyriakopoulos | Hiring Librarians

  4. pigbitinmad

    If they want you to do more, they should start paying more than $8.00 an hour.


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