In practice, you can’t get a job doing something you’ve never tried.

Market day, KillarneyThis 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:

Mostly subject liaisons / instruction librarians.

This librarian works at a library with 100-200 staff members in a suburban area in the Western US.

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

√ more than 100, but less than 200

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 26-50 %

And how would you define “hirable”?

Possess (or are about to) the MLS, have some practical experience, absence of red-flags in their applications, such as lots of typos or questionable comments (e.g. I dislike group work, etc.)

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

By a committee of usually 5-6 people, all but one of whom are faculty. We use a specific rubric based on the job ad. The rubric must be agreed upon by the entire committee before anyone sees an application. HR does not do an initial weed out. Sometimes the committee chair weeds out people lacking the obvious qualifications (like the degree).

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

Poor match between the position and the background – for example, if I’m hiring an art librarian, I’m going to look at candidates with Art background over the history librarians. Or if I want an instruction librarian, I’ll look for someone who has stood in front of a class before over someone whose instruction consists exclusively of one-on-one interactions.

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

√ Other: Only if they request it, and then feedback is up to the chair. Some are more constructive/informative than others.

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

Match the application to the specific job. I see lots of people who are clearly sending out generic applications. If they stress their interest and abilities in collection development for a job that doesn’t include that, I can tell that not only do they not really want this job, but they didn’t really look at the ad. Someone who has taken the time to address the job ad, emphasize the things that are emphasized in the ad, and know a little bit of something about our institution stands out. Practical experience is a must as well – if you want a job doing reference, you need to have at least some kind of practicum or internship doing it in real life to have a realistic chance.

I want to hire someone who is

genuinely interested in THIS job, not just any job, and whose strengths match what we need. Also I’m looking for independence and self-motivation.

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?

√ There are fewer positions

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

√ Other: No, but several positions were redefined so that they were different. Thus the old job isn’t here any more, and some of that work was moved to staff, but a new job that didn’t previously exist was created in its place.

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

√ Other: Same answer as before – librarian positions were redescribed to do different things, and some of the work of the old position was moved to staff.

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

Some positions officially require experience. Most make it optional, but in practice, you can’t get a job doing something you’ve never tried. Internships and practicum experiences count though, so someone who has done a lot of reference experience as part of their degree would be considered just as much as someone who did it on the job. But if someone applies for a reference job and has never been at a desk, they wouldn’t make the cut.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ No

Why or why not?

I don’t think it’s dying but it’s changing in dramatic ways. I do think some parts of it are going to die as a natural evolution, and if we tether ourselves to those elements of the field we will disappear as well. But if we evolve to match what new needs are, I think there is a future for us. Graphic artists are a good parallel. They used to be all about exacto knives and rubber cement, and the people who stuck to those methods can’t do that work anymore, not because graphic arts disappeared, but because computers became the tool. I think if we’re focusing all our efforts on things that computers do better than we do (or will – like cataloging), then we’ll disappear. But if we focus on services that people need that the didn’t before (like better instruction, student services, digital humanities, etc.) then there is a place for us.

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, State of the Job Market 2015, Suburban area, Western US

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