Traditional librarianship is not so much dying as out of fashion

Market before PassoverThis 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:

Subject liaisons, data managers, information literacy specialists, user experience specialists

This librarian works at a library with 100-200 staff members in a rural area in the Midwestern 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?

√ 26-50 %

And how would you define “hirable”?

Met basic requirements, had required experience, knowledge & skills

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

Applicants not meeting educational requirements are weeded out by HR. We can give HR other rubrics but have not. Then the search committee compiles a very basic “yes” and “no” list. After that it gets more difficult. The search committee comes up with 3 to 5 applicants to contact by telephone; then we like to bring in 2 or 3 candidates for on-site interviews. However, in some cases our administration will allow only 1 on-site interview.

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

Not enough of the right kind of experience – or less of that experience than others who are invited to interview

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?

Tailor resume and cover letter for each position applied to rather than sending the same thing to all employers. Become familiar with the requirements and be sure the employer knows you can meet the requirements. Give concrete examples to demonstrate experience, knowledge & skills during interview.

I want to hire someone who is


How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 100-200

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

√ 5-6

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

√ 7 or more

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

√ I don’t know

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

√ Yes

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

√ Yes

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

Yes, we usually require 2-3 years of experience, which is listed in the official job ad. We are generally so short-staffed that we can’t really provide training, so experience is important.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ I don’t know

Why or why not?

Traditional librarianship is not so much dying as out of fashion, it seems to me. We feel the need to use different terminology and “prove” we’re relevant because we worry so much about being a dying profession. It seems to me that we worry too much, which causes us to abandon traditional library functions even when they are still useful. Then we hire multiple people to redesign websites every year with new bells and whistles but little improvement in accessibility to information. New search capabilities can’t find data or metadata that has not been created in the first place or has been poorly created.

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 100-200 staff members, Academic, Midwestern US, Rural area, State of the Job Market 2015

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