With the political pressure libraries are facing these days, it would be great to know where potential hires stand politically, but that runs the risk of being accused of discrimination

A white man with glasses shows off a large illustrated book
Plymouth City Librarian Bill Best Harris, pictured here in 1976, who researched the Mayflower’s link to Newlyn CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Director

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Clerk and Substitute

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

√ Other: I just wanted to specify that directors are hired by the library board’s personnel committee and the directors hire the rest of their staff.

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

List the position on our website, relevant listservs and Facebook. In the past, I have taken applications directly on FB, but in the future I will probably do online applications through our website. I review applications as I receive them and depending on the amount of good candidates, either schedule phone/virtual interviews first or skip directly to in-person. After all the in person interviews are completed, I review references for my top choices and make a final decision. Even if I have an internal candidate in mind, I do list the job and interview any other strong candidates in case they may want to be put into our substitute pool. 

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

She was a recent college graduate who had work study in the college library. During that placement, she effectively replaced a full time librarian who went on leave and worked on digitizing an oral history project the college had started in the 1970s. It was a really useful experience that had led her to decide she wanted to be a librarian, and I could see how much she would add to our library. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who have a lot of complaints about their past jobs (especially customer service complaints), people who want a quiet job with lots of sitting and people who gush about how much they love reading.

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

With the political pressure libraries are facing these days, it would be great to know where potential hires stand politically, but that runs the risk of being accused of discrimination.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume:  √ Only One!  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Revealing personal information that I don’t want to know because even if I can’t consider it, just knowing it all makes it difficult for me.

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

I have. Test your equipment beforehand, but know that it will probably fail when you need it the most. Try not to show frustration and stay calm when that happens. 

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?

My library doesn’t require an MLIS for any positions so I don’t ever expect candidates to be librarians, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do the work. To me, library work is customer service work, so any customer service experience is helpful. I also like candidates with experience in educational settings and with IT work. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: I always list it when I hire, but the library board usually lists none or a range when hiring a director.

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

I don’t know if we are doing this work, honestly. I always try to think about increasing the diversity in my library, but I know there are some changes that need to be made to our job descriptions to avoid discrimination. I know that we (yes, I’ve been guilty of it myself) often think too much about age and gender when hiring, and I’m not sure how to fix that.

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

Anything and everything about the work they will be doing! But I get really excited when they ask philosophical questions about libraries and library work. That shows me they are really engaged and interested, and not just looking for any old job. I do think it is important that they know the pay, benefits and other things that are required of them; I don’t ever want to discourage someone with these things, but I do know that they won’t be good enough for everyone, and I don’t want people to sacrifice their financial wellbeing to work at my library.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Rural

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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

Please don’t follow up with calls and emails unless you haven’t heard a single peep and the job application window is closed. We are busy and understaffed, so following up feels like nagging because it takes away time I could actually be using to try to fill the position. That said, I will always, always, always reply to all applicants, even if just to say we haven’t selected them for an interview, because I believe that basic courtesy is so important to keep from making the job hunt even more demoralizing than it already is.

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 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Public, Rural area, Southeastern US

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