This anonymous interview is with an employee at a public library who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. When asked, “Are you a librarian?” this person responded, “It’s complicated.” This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:
Department Heads, Managers of large branches, Administration, Cataloging, Acquisitions
This person works at a library with 100-200 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?
√ 25% or less
And how would you define “hirable”?
Strong computer/tech skills, knowledgeable about library processes, ability to plan and execute appropriate programs and events (if in a public services position), practical experience. An MLIS degree is great; however, I expect them to have worked in a library, even as a page or in a practicum course. If they have no real library experience, I’ll want them to be able to give examples on how their past work/life experience may have prepared them to work in a library, such as excellent customer service skills, organization and planning, personal library use, etc.
How are applications evaluated, and by whom?
Initially they are weeded out by a application software (ApplicantPro) which assigns rankings. If they do not meet requirements they are automatically weeded out. Next the top ranked applicants are sent to the hiring manager to determine how many people to interview. They must be interviewed in order of ranking.
What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?
Does not meet requirements, unfavorable past employment with us, ranking lower than 75%.
Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?
What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?
I hire for public services so great communication and tech skills are a must. Everyone I hire will need to be able to assist patrons with tech issues. Being knowledgeable about library functions (in practice, not in theory), is also very important and I need to be able to discern these things from the interview. If someone said on the application that they have advanced computer/tech skills, I need to be convinced of this when I ask computer/tech related answers. I expect them to give specific examples, and not just say “Microsoft”. I need them to convince me that they realize “tech” skills extends to eBooks, tablets, smartphones, software, apps, etc. and are not limited to knowing how to use Microsoft suite.
I want to hire someone who is
How many staff members are at your library/organization?
How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?
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?
√ There are more positions
Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?
Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?
Does your workplace require experience for entry-level professional positions? If so, is it an official requirement or just what happens in practice?
The very basic entry level position requires a high school diploma and 1 year full-time customer service or 2 years part time customer service. This is an official requirement. the next level up require college degree. Library experience is only preferred/strongly desirable.
Is librarianship a dying profession?
Why or why not?
We are busy every day so obvious libraries are still relevant, useful, and needed. We should be rethinking qualifications of front line staff. I don’t necessarily think that having an MLIS is required for some positions, but it’s important to hire knowledgeable and helpful staff members. Supervisors, at the very least, should have the formal training of a graduate degree.
Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?
If you are in LIS program or planning to be in one, PLEASE get some library experience before applying for Post-MLIS jobs, however small it is. Volunteer, work as a page, take a practicum class, whatever it takes. It makes a difference. While a graduate degree is often a requirement for many professional library, nothing beats practical experience.
For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.