Further Questions: Would you hire someone for a librarian position if s/he had no library experience?

So while I was on break, Hiring Librarians turned two. I started doing Further Questions a few months later, in early April of 2012. In honor of that, and because I couldn’t think of what to ask this week, I thought I’d re-ask that original question. It is:
Would you hire someone for a librarian position if s/he had no library experience? If yes, under what circumstances? If not, why not?
For comparison: here is the link to the original post.  I also seem to have formed my own thoughts on the matter in the interim, and I wrote a post about them on my other blog.

Jason Grubb


We hire the right person.

It is always nice when they have library experience, but this not a requirement for entry level positions.

With most management positions we like to see at least 2-5 years of library experience.

– Jason Grubb, Director, Sweetwater County Library System


Ha! I would absolutely consider hiring someone without library experience because I myself had none. There are many skills – database experience, records management, customer service – that translate well. Coming from another field where the importance of confidentiality was understood would help too.

If they were doing a complete career 180 and had the MLS without experience, they probably wouldn’t rise to the top.

– Kristen Northrup, Head, Technical Services & State Document Depository, North Dakota State Library


Marge Loch WoutersWe would definitely hire someone without library experience if they have 1) great customer skills; 2) good decision making skills ; 3)ability to learn and innovate. Love of books, a great sense of organization and experience does not always translate into a great librarian. It’s the intangibles that we like to suss out in our interviews.

I am always encouraging potential candidates – and experienced librarians  – to throw their hats in the ring if they can show proof of mightiness. Show mightiness how?  Immerse in professional library networks/associations and contribute and/or seek out mentors.  Create an active professional presence on social media – write a blog or start a Tumblr, Twitter groups chats (#libchat,  #readadv, #alscchat, #nerdybookclub) and learn about/contribute to the discussion; show the ability to innovate and think outside the box to serve patrons (resting on laurels…ho-hum!)

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library


Laurie Phillips


I’m fine with my previous answer!

Much more thoughtful than my “no” of this morning.

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


I think it depends on what you mean by “librarian position.”  We have various part-time positions in Adult Services that are paraprofessional positions; none of them require library experience except the position that has staff and collection oversight.  Paraprofessionals can do (and are now doing, in many libraries) many of the same tasks as professional librarians.  The difference is in time and training.  The benefit of hiring someone with library experience into a professional position is that they come with an understanding of the theories and values we all have about collection development, freedom to read, cataloging basics, etc.  Someone without library experience can be taught that, but it would be a major investment of time.

I am prevented by City HR from hiring anyone who doesn’t meet minimum listed qualifications—including history of library employment—when the job ad specifically lists it, and we are unable to make changes to our job ads.  Theoretically, even if I could make such a hire, I can’t imagine wanting to; that history of library experience (either work experience or library education) is a basic starting point for training.

– Anonymous


Christine Hage - Dark backgroundThe person would have to be extraordinary (multilingual, super duper talented, extremely well thought of in the community, a customer service expert, etc).  I find it hard to believe that someone would get a masters degree in library science and never have worked in a library as a page, circulation assistant, part-time librarian, or volunteer.  I also prefer their experience to be in a public library as we are a public library.
On the other hand we do hire people with masters degrees in early childhood development as librarians in our Youth Services Department, but they would have to have worked with children before.
– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library
Melanie LightbodyYes, I would (and have) hired librarians with no library experience.  I believe that entry-level positions need not require previous library experience.  With positions such as a children’s librarian or in programming and adult services other experiences could bring a welcome perspective to the job.  I look for customer service, initiative, imagination, facility with technology and strong sense of mission of and passion for public library services.  None of those require library experience.  I consider the MLIS as a good starting point for a professional librarian.
– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County
J. McRee Elrod
SLC would hire a new MLIS graduate,
if they were able to produce and send high quality MARC records.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
I would not hire someone for a professional position with no library experience. If I lived in a different area, I might have to reassess that, but I live in a metroplex with two library schools so we have a lot more applicants to choose from. So in fairness, I should say, I would prefer to hire someone with library experience. Depending on the applicant pool, experience could range from volunteer work, to a practicum, to part time work as a student assistant in college, or even two years of full time library experience. When an employee brings library work experience with them, their onboarding period is shorter and they bring along the perspective of work at another library that could benefit my library. Someone with experience has more realistic expectations of what the job will be like and what effort is required to succeed.
– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

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 me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading! How I wish I had someone to comment to, I’m in an awful way.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

2 responses to “Further Questions: Would you hire someone for a librarian position if s/he had no library experience?

  1. Pingback: Further Questions Questions | Hiring Librarians

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