Further Questions: Would you hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Would you hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position (e.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not why not?

Cathi AllowayWe have several people with MLSs on our staff who are in positions that don’t require one. We are very clear in the job description, interview, and during the job offer about the status of the position, and leave it to the applicant to make the decision on proceeding with an application or job offer acceptance.  Remembering my days as a job-seeker, I always felt saddest when told I was “overqualified” for a job that I wanted.  Employers often feel that an overqualified person will leave at the first hint of a better-paying job.  Asking during the interview about downsizing can provide some good information. So can contracts that ask for a guaranteed minimum of work, i.e. 12 months.

– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

I just did. And not for the first time. This is a small town with a very transient population. When we receive an application from someone with an MLS who is new in town and waiting for a professional opening (which can easily take a year), we consider them very seriously. As a general rule, the shorter learning curve makes up for the inevitable turnover.

– Kristen Northrup, Head, Technical Services, North Dakota State Library

Yes, I frequently hire candidates with an MLS for support staff positions. If they meet all of the minimum and preferred qualifications and are the best suited for the job. Yes, I do have staff turn over but since they are usually planning to work in an academic library the search and hire process is typically pretty lengthy for professional positions so I do typically end up keeping them for a year before they move on.

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


Lake Forest did this and it turns out well. We hired an experienced MLIS for a Circ desk position; the Head of Circ wanted  her and I thought she’d leave when something professional opened up. In the Chicago suburban area here are many opportunities. She stayed in that part time position for over a year and Adult Services also used her for a sub in Adult Reference. When an opening occurred in Adult Services, we knew she would be a terrific hire and she has been. The reason she didn’t leave for a professional position somewhere else-she really wanted to work at Lake Forest, where she and he family had moved.


We also have had the situation of someone in a paraprofessional position went to grad school and got an MLIS. When a professional position opened, she was not hired by that department because she did not have the skills they were looking for. After another year or so, she was working part time in a professional position and still part time with us in a para position. Another professional position opened in another department and she was hired.


Even though our experience has been positive, I would avoid  hiring someone with the MLIS for a non professional position.

– Kaye Grabbe, Lake Forest Library

There are a multitude of reasons why I would hire someone with an MLS in a paraprofessional position but, from the outset that would have to be something they were comfortable with. Resentment and superiority complexes couldn’t be involved.


I wouldn’t want to hire someone with an MLS and ask them to do professional level work for paraprofessional level pay. However, there are staff positions that can provide experience in an area that will allow them to broaden their skill set. It also allows them an opportunity to try a different type of library or different department without a lot of pressure. It also can give them a start in an organization which may help determine if they want to stay there and try to get a professional position or go elsewhere.


There are more paraprofessional opportunities available and, if someone has the option of taking that position and has a positive outlook, they can benefit from the position and the institution can benefit from having them. While asking them to do higher level work is inappropriate, there are things that they will be able to contribute at a higher level because of their background. Fostering these opportunities is a way to encourage someone as they move toward their future goal, whatever that may be. There may also be professional development options and learning opportunities that they can benefit from.


In the current state of position opening fluctuations, people no longer stay in higher-level paraprofessional positions long term because there will eventually be something that will better suit them that will come along. However, for the relatively short time they are there, the benefits can be mutual.

– Alison Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, McConnell Library, Radford University


Laurie Phillips

I hesitate to hire someone with an MLIS for a paraprofessional position because I don’t want to hire someone who will be miserable in the position or just putting in the time until they can find a professional position. I put in a lot of training time with my staff and I want people who are going to stay in the job for a while. I also don’t have a lot of leeway in salary and can’t afford to pay someone more just because they have an MLIS and I don’t want to take advantage of someone. I also don’t want someone to get the idea that they can somehow get their foot in the door for a professional position by taking a staff position. I will usually call applicants with an MLIS and explain that it is a staff position. Our librarians are faculty so there are huge differences between faculty and staff positions and little chance for a staff member to move into a faculty position. Our Special Collections & Archives has hired someone with an MLIS for a part-time staff position but she was well aware of the situation and chose to take it anyway.

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

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.

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2 responses to “Further Questions: Would you hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position?

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