But remember you can say “no” to a job, and that is a hard skill to master.

Woman at a market stallThis anonymous interview is with a special 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:

cataloguers, librarians, systems librarians

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in an urban 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?

√ 26-50 %

And how would you define “hirable”?

Challenging to define. To some extent depends on position. In this state institution, our hiring goes through human resources general e-mail before it comes to us. The quality of what is passed on to us varies considerably, and our state application form is useless and barely gathers any useful information – it also doesn’t allow attachments.
At bare minimum, I’d say candidates should submit a complete resume or curriculum vitae and a cover letter. Do your best to make sure references can actually be contacted! If you have military or retail experience, remember that some of your supervisors may not be able to give telephone references. Choose people an interviewer will actually be able to reach.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

Application materials are e-mailed through an HR manager or generalist first. My understanding is in the past, they did more rigorous evaluation. Recently, they seem to have shifted to sending us everyone, even candidates who do not meet minimum qualifications. Internally, when there is a vacancy, we form a search committee, usually 3 people. Suitable candidates are reviewed by the committee and decisions are made about who will be invited for an interview. I don’t see it elsewhere on this questionnaire screen, but the HR bottleneck drives me crazy – they are friendly, but not very useful and they aren’t adding value to the process. They also limit what we can say on the public postings, which is frustrating and leads to advertisements that aren’t very enticing.
I also hate to say that we have no money to bring in candidates to interview. I hate that is the case, but we can barely fund our own staff to travel. I would recommend aspiring candidates figure out how (or if) they can deduct job interview expenses from their taxes – I was able to do so in the past. I chair many of the search committees and I am up front with candidates about the interview expenses being on them, to give them an option to withdraw.

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

For my boss (our director), being fired from a previous job (which is a question on our state application) is a red flag.
Most recently, because of the deluge of applicants we are having e-mailed to us from HR, some applicants are not meeting minimum educational requirements, and we cannot interview them.

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?

Be honest.
Be prepared. “Don’t just tell them – show them.” Make a rudimentary portfolio with samples of your work, even if your work was for your MLS program. Point to the portfolio during the in-person interview when asked a relevant question. Take screen shots of electronic products you created, if any. If you have to give a presentation, stick to the time limit!
Show interest in the institution if you really want the job. Read an annual report or two. Know what programs a university offers. Know what public a public library serves, even if you use Census data. Most of this stuff is free on the web.
Write a thank-you note to your contact. I don’t care if you do this by snail mail or e-mail, though purists will argue over which is better. The effort is the important thing for me. I have interviewed 2 librarians in the past year who didn’t follow up after the interview.

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?

√ 3-4

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

√ 2

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?

√ I don’t know

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?

Depends on how the human resources advertisement is worded. If a minimum number of years of experience is listed as required, we are expected to adhere to that as a search committee. However, we have recently (in the last 5-6 years) hired candidates who were fresh out of an MLS program.

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ I don’t know

Why or why not?

I’m not sure how to answer. Everything professional – doctors, lawyers, nurses, etc. – seems at risk now, with the economy. Libraries beat themselves up about being closed, but I think that’s a symptom of the larger economy. Hospitals, malls, and long-time businesses are closing and/or merging…with job loss. I also see a trend towards part-time, rather than full-time positions, which typically won’t pay enough for people to support a family of 4.
I think the smartest thing we can do is continue to keep doing the best work we can, highlighting our value, demonstrating excellent search skills, and developing collections & services to meet the needs of our users. We are reflections of who we serve, and our society has to make improvements before professional work improves.

Do you have any other comments, for job hunters or about the survey?

Try to keep chin up. Even most librarians who have full-time jobs have had less-than-positive hiring experiences. I probably could fill a wall with the rejections I’ve gotten in the past, but I also haven’t been content to stay in the same job for a long time. Try to be the kind of candidate you would want to hire. Put some effort into each interview, whether by phone, Skype or in-person. On the other side of the job search, if you get an offer you want, celebrate it, if only for yourself. But remember you can say “no” to a job, and that is a hard skill to master. Listen to your gut.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibjobmarketsurvey 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, Southern US, Special, State of the Job Market 2015, Urban area

One response to “But remember you can say “no” to a job, and that is a hard skill to master.

  1. I really appreciate the thoroughness of the responder. They have given me a lot to consider to prepare for the job hunt.


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