Librarianship is too willing to change with the wind

Condiment Stand in Center MarketThis 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:

I have hired two night supervisors. This person is responsible for the security and safety of the building, in coordination with the college’s security department, from approximately 5 PM until midnight. This person is also responsible for shelving, shelf maintenance, supervision of work-study students, and light reference work.

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in an urban area in the Northeastern US.

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

√ 75-100

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

Met the basic requirements for the position as outlined in the job ad.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

I have been in charge of hiring for two LIS positions at my library. No applications were weeded out by HR. I did an initial weeding in both instances and then brought applications I was unsure about to the attention of the other members of my department. The three of us comprised the search committee. Final interviews were conducted with me and with my boss, the Director of the library.

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

They simply did not meet the basic qualifications for the job as outline in the job ad.

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

√ Other: I have done so on a few occasions, when it has been requested by the candidate.

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

Make sure that they are applying for jobs they are actually qualified for and would like doing. Enthusiasm for the position is important, but it’s also important that the actual job qualifications be examined closely before applying. I have found it quite easy to tell when someone is applying for a job simply because it is open, they would like to work for the college, etc.

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?

√ 2

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

√ 3-4

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?

It is not an official requirement, but it seems to show up in all job ads as a desirable thing. I think in most cases someone with experience will be chosen over someone without it, all other things being equal.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ Other: Librarianship is too willing to change with the wind instead of make some kind of stand and define what the purpose the profession serves.

Why or why not?

I think librarianship’s embrace of technology has largely helped librarians become less viable in the general public’s eye. Thus, librarians need to do a better job of articulating why contact with a human matters when doing research and learning new skills in general. Librarians have too willingly replaced themselves with search engines and databases by not arguing for the importance of librarians in helping people to use these tools.

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

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

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

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