Be bold — take a chance and apply for positions that excite you

Market scene. Women and men. 1922 2This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Catalogers; instruction librarians; reference librarians / subject liaisons (though a second masters in a subject specialty is not required); electronic resources librarians; digital resources librarians; special collections/archives librarians; government documents librarians

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a suburban area in the Southern US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√ 25 or fewer

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ Other: about half

And how would you define “hirable”?

Possessed the required MLS degree (or equivalent degree).
Had at least minimal experience being in a library, whether paid or unpaid, for instance as a volunteer, student worker, or graduate-school intern.
Able to present himself professionally in cover letter and application (used appropriate language and style, demonstrated good writing mechanics, etc.).
Demonstrated something compelling about himself as an applicant (e.g., not just “I had a job” but “I accomplished this and contributed this value to my employer”).
Ability to communicate clearly and professionally during a telephone interview (providing complete yet concise answers and not babbling incessantly).

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

Applications are submitted in an online system and visible to a committee (composed of library faculty and staff, appointed by the library director). The committee weeds out applications which lack posted requirements, such as MLS or equivalent degree, or years of experience if required for a particular position. Then the committee evaluates the remaining applications and selects the top three candidates for telephone interviews, which are scored on a rubric. Based on those telephone interviews, candidates are invited for on-site interviews (after references are checked) or else additional applicants are selected to be interviewed by phone.

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

1. No MLS or equivalent degree.
2. Signs of frequent “job-hopping” in the employment history, or unusual gaps in the employment history which are not explained in application or cover letter.
3. Extremely poor writing and presentation in cover letter and application.

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ No

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

Ask a professional, or someone you trust and respect, to review your cover letter and application for clarity, professionalism, and a compelling presentation of your achievements and contributions. Your cover letter is your first impression, long before you get a chance to make a first impression in person, so be sure that it presents a person with whom we would be excited to have a conversation.

I want to hire someone who is


How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 10-50

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 3-4

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ 2

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are more positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ No

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ No

Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?

Entry-level professional positions do not officially require experience. In practice, we tend to prefer candidates who have at least had “exposure” to a library via a graduate school practicum/internship or even as a volunteer. However, we do regularly hire entry-level professional librarians with no paid library experience.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

Titles may change, and daily tasks may change, but information management is becoming more essential than ever in our information-overload society. I think one important key to remaining relevant is to be able to articulate your skills in the broader terms of information management, not just in terms of traditional libraries, books, serials, etc. Remaining relevant also requires a willingness to diversify and learn new skills, especially with respect to technology.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

Be bold — take a chance and apply for positions that excite you, even if you aren’t sure you have all the needed skills. You might be surprised how small or poorly qualified an applicant pool can sometimes be, and if your application presents you as a compelling, enthusiastic, motivated candidate, that may count for more than specific skills which can be learned.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.


1 Comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southern US, State of the Job Market 2015, Suburban area

One response to “Be bold — take a chance and apply for positions that excite you

  1. pigbitinmad

    I apply to positions where I meet 10,000% of the qualifications and I hear nothing. At least the person writing this is not an arrogant jerk, but unfortunately, nowhere near where I live unlike someone who wants you to have 10 years “professional” experience before obtaining the degree OR an “internship” before working for them (as if having an actual paraprofessional library job while getting the degree is not good enough).

    Everyone knows the degree is not rocket science, but if that is true, then why make it a requirement. I don’t really think I needed to learn about Ranganathan and all that theory in order to do this job. The only thing that was at all practical was cataloging and my job in Technical services.

    The other problem is that you are actually led to believe that Librarianship as a second career is a viable option when it is just as ageist as corporate America (at least in terms of getting your first job).

    I admit, I got into this in my early 40’s after my first career imploded and I did not want to end up a Greeter at Walmart. Now here it is 10 years later and I am more unemployable now than I was when I started. So I guess I can still look forward to be a Greeter.


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