Our MLS schools need to be careful they do not take away the beauty of librarianship.

Vegetable and flower seller and stall, Pike Place Market, Seattle, WashingtonThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:


This librarian works at a library with 0-10 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?

√ 25-75

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

MLIS librarian only, the rest is fit to the team and skills that align with the job needed

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

by a Director of Library Services that is a PHD and MLIS only

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

w/o MLS

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

√ Other: feedback for interviewees only

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

Gear the resume towards the job description without any compromise as to skills or professional integrity. (Don’t send out a one resume fits all applications.)

I want to hire someone who is


How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 0-10

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?

√ Other: none

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?

My university is in close proximity to a MLS ALA approved graduate school. I have had wonderful entry level professionals and some previously hired MLS librarians.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

There is more information now than ever before in the history of humankind. Librarians understand and can teach others how to access information, determine its quality, and develop a broader grasp of POVs on any subject in differing formats. Our problem is two-fold: 1)To the extent that the public perceives the library as a borrow bookstore, we stand in grave danger as a profession, and 2)Library Directors that put para-professionals as the first line of patron contact do harm to the MLS profession. These individuals are not skilled in information science. (They do not know ‘what’ they do not know.) Helping a patron goes much farther than putting a mere requested book in their hand. It understands the patron’s need that prompted the request for the title and is called a reference interview. If the most impressive thing that happens from a patron contact is delight over a resource, “the librarian” has failed as a professional. Librarians are experts in the field of information science, and their knowledge concerning information science should be experientially evident by the patron. I have some librarians that need retraining due to their lack of proactive response to the patrons. I cringe at librarians that hide behind circulation desks or directors that are three glass doors sheltered away from the public. Sadly, as a student with three Masters Degrees and a PhD, I never received the first assistance ANYTIME I was in a college library. I decided to be the difference I noted in work in the library. My love of libraries came from my elementary school librarian that understood my childhood desire to read science books and was a continual support to me in my formative years of primary education. I remember she taught me the Dewey Decimal System and where I could find books on science which was next to philosophy which both became my passion. I spent many hours in her library, and I cannot remember a single title that I found… but I will always remember her. This quality of relationship and expertise is what librarianship is all about and the need for it will never go away as long as humankind can critically reason. Humanity has a quest for knowledge and librarians are its entrusted gatekeepers and guides. Those that believe we can just digitize resources and put everyone in front of a monitor are sadly misguided. I challenge every reader to take a print journal (any title) and compare it to one of the published studies from a database. The experience is entirely different because of the context. The reader of the print journal will flip through the journal, find other articles, see color illustrations, and perhaps see some the the discipline’s industry through ads, etc. The digital reader will most likely want to print it out to use with other studies. However, while still in the database, it is searchable so if I am looking for “diabetes type II” it will take me to each entry, something print cannot do. It also has citation tools, a nice plus for busy researchers. Also, I can quickly do a bibliographic search on a author for other research studies. My point, the experience is entirely different. If I want to write a research paper, give me the database; however if I want to create a professional, give me the print journal to the group to which I shall belong so I can see where I shall fit in. Those that want to provide patrons with ‘only’ digital formats lack knowledge of the library as “place,” and the librarian as an “educator”. Our MLS schools need to be careful they do not take away the beauty of librarianship. A library without a skilled librarian is just a room with filled bookshelves collecting dust in the midst of outdated machines. It is not quiet, it is silent. It is not dead, it is mechanical. Add a librarian, and the room is filled with a quiet wonder, teaming with life, passionately driven by a quest to learn. And she is its conductor, the conduit that makes it all come alive.

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

If the job is worth having, take time to complete your resume not based not what others tell you should be on your resume, but rather “Match your skills, experience and education” to the job description. Always be truthful. Don’t exaggerate as it causes your credibility and teachability to come into question. Its okay to be an entry level applicant that is motivated and has had interships or volunteered. Get recommendations letters from faculty and previous employers. Be a part of an honor society if you qualify. Learn about the library you want to work before your interview. Dress like professional (dark suit, closed leather shoes, avoid too much make-up, high heels, and minimal jewelry, also iron your shirt). Show up on time or early. Don’t be a pest in follow-ups. Send a simple but genuine thank you note. Don’t let your anxiety keep you from smiling and being friendly. Others are deciding what it is like to work with you, if you were hired. Don’t let (idiotic) interview questions unsettle you. If you get a question you do not know how to answer, restate it in a manner that helps you divide the question into two parts. THE CORRECT ANSWER IS YOUR GOOD CHARACTER. Don’t try to sound like the Wizard of Oz that knows all… answer questions based on your education. When asked if you have any questions, respond with interest in career potential with the organization and/or statements of your flexibility in scheduling and filing in for others (not your income, days off, and 401k.) Those questions are for when they offer you the job and then go lightly. Your flexibility in scheduling will put you at ease with others that WILL give input to your hire. If offered a job, take it. Say yes immediately, and express your pleasure in being offered the job. Ask your start date. If you have details that need clarification, work them out AFTER you are hired. If you are asked for documentation, get it quickly, as this is YOUR employment file being completed. Lastly, read a scholarly study before your appointment that is meaningful to you and be prepared to discuss its relevance to the job. As you start your interview, start with the words, I was reading a study about (circulation, reference, database instruction, etc,) by (ex. Smith and Jones, 2014) and I thought how exciting it would be use some of the things they noted if I were chosen for this position. Smith and Jones said good circulation is based on x,y, and z skills. Think for a moment… what is the focus? Not you, but rather your professionalism, your willingness to learn and keep current, and your willingness to meaningfully contribute to the team sitting in front of you. Best wishes for your professional success.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibjobmarketsurvey or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

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


Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Southern US, State of the Job Market 2015, Suburban area

3 responses to “Our MLS schools need to be careful they do not take away the beauty of librarianship.

  1. Anonymous

    this is the weirdest response ever!


  2. Jenny R

    If offered a job, take it? No no no. Negotiate. Even if you are in fact desperate for a job, see what you can get. It might not be salary – it might be training support. It might be moving expenses. It might be schedule flexibility to accommodate a commitment you made to an association. But don’t come in looking like a doormat. I do agree that the interview is not the time to negotiate.


  3. Paulina

    This attitude about paraprofessionals (being detrimental to the future of libraries?) is worrying and distasteful.


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