Some of the best people I’ve hired had odd skills that weren’t “official” library duties, but they demonstrated qualities that I wanted in an employee. 

Sophie Smith is the Assistant Director of York Public Library in York, Maine. While attaining her MLS from Simmons College, she worked as a library assistant at the Cambridge (MA) Public Library. Professionally, she has worked at the Nashua (NH) Public Library as a reference librarian and then supervisor of teen services, and as an assistant branch manager at the San Antonio (TX) Public Library. After missing family, fall, and the ocean, she returned to Maine and couldn’t be happier to now be working in Maine. She loves to travel, read, and enjoy nature.

 Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

We solicit applications by email, sort into groups of “meet all requirements,” “don’t meet all requirements but have transferable skills or knowledge to support job requirements,” and “do not meet requirements and have no demonstrated relatable skills”. Depending on the number of applicants, we interview everyone in the first set, and generally many of the second as well. For part-time positions we do one round of interviews, for full-time positions we generally have two rounds–one with the hiring manager and a member of the department (may be a senior person, may be a junior person), and a second round with the direct supervisor and the director. We then discuss candidates, check references, offer the job, and then contact everyone who applied. 

Titles hired include: Head of Youth Services, Library Assistant, Young Adult Librarian, Reference Librarian, Library Clerk

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

 Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

They took time to do research on our library and asked good questions. They were thoughtful.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who call constantly about a job. Cover letters that include inaccurate information (incorrect name of the library, for example). People who are unapologetically rude.

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Their sense of humor. How they collaborate in practice. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant 

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more  

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

Not taking a minute if they need it to answer a question. It’s perfectly fine to ask for a moment to come up with a good example! 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

We have done virtual interviews in the past, in part due to COVID and in part due to candidates who were at a far distance. It is important to be in a space with good lighting that makes you comfortable. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Think about the duties listed in the job and clarify for yourself how your skills are transferable. Acknowledge the difference, show that you’ve really considered it, and convince me it is applicable. Some of the best people I’ve hired had odd skills that weren’t “official” library duties, but they demonstrated qualities that I wanted in an employee. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We post our job broadly, offer a competitive salary, and evaluate all candidates objectively before bringing them in to interview. I am sure there is more we can do. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

I like candidates who ask about the day-to-day culture of the library and about my experience working here. It gives an opportunity to share some of the informal aspects of the job and let the candidate assess how it would work for them. Thoughtful questions that make it clear the person has looked into what we do already and wants to know more! 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: occasionally, as needed and approved by supervisor

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I have used this resource as a job seeker and as an employer and find it to be an incredibly valuable tool. Thank you for making it!

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.


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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Public, Suburban area

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