The glutted librarian labor market results in more competitive search processes

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:

Subject specialists, research librarians, catalogers, digital librarians, archivists.

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a rural 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”?

Meets all required and some preferred qualifications.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

Search committee. Rubric used to communicate decision-making process and rationale to HR.

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

Does not meet required qualifications!

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?

Read the job description. Make sure you meet all required qualifications before applying. Take the time to write a cover letter that communicates why you are interested in and qualified for the position, and how you would perform if you were the successful candidate. Center the position and institution in your letter, and don’t rephrase your resume!

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?

√ 1

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 fewer 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?

√ Yes

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

Work experience gained from jobs or internships, but not professional experience.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

Librarianship is not obsolete, but libraries will not hire at the same rate and volume that they once did. The glutted librarian labor market results in more competitive search processes, and the institution has a distinct advantage over applicants. Librarians must understand that there are many qualified candidates for every opening, and so while rejections don’t necessarily reflect poorly on a candidate, the bar is raised for exceptional performance.

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, Northeastern US, Rural area, State of the Job Market 2015

One response to “The glutted librarian labor market results in more competitive search processes

  1. Black ' n Write Reviewer

    “Extraordinary”? Really?!
    I’ve applied for many positions in the past, and interviewed for most of them. The industry is a double-edged sword – I’m sure many people can attest to that – You need experience but no company is willing to provide it. I am currently fortunate, I was given an opportunity with my limited library experience (I had done indexing and records management upon graduating library school).
    I believe some companies/libraries underestimate applicants. I agree, there will always be some people who have nothing to offer, but my opinions are bias, as I’ve never been on the “interviewer-ing” end of things.
    But I always enjoy reading these interviews as it gives me a perspective in the hiring market. Thank you 🙂
    – Krys


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