If they speak differently, or better, to me once they figure out I’m the Director, I won’t hire them.

Donald Fowle, librarian in the Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Reference Librarian, Branch Manager, Deputy Director, Finance Manager, Children’s Specialist, Marketing Coordinator, Archives Assistant, Young Adult Specialist, Administrative Librarian, Community Engagement Coordinator

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

√ Other: for leadership positions we include at least one staff member who would report directly to them

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

√ Other: Librarian License for applicable positions

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

All applications are received by our Office Manager. She screens for clearly not meeting qualifications. Those that make it through that phase go to our Deputy Director. He screens for skillset and coordinates the panel. The panel is led by the senior librarian in the channel being hired for, a supervisor or peer for the position being hired, and a member of our diversity committee. The Office Manager arranges for the interviews. Once the interviews are complete, the Office Manager coordinates the background checks and drug tests. For senior level positions – meaning the Administrative team – those come to me directly. Those interviews are typically 3 rounds. They include a telephone interview, a meet and greet with the departments they will support and a formal panel interview. I hold all hiring responsibilities as delegated by our library board. I almost always follow the recommendations of my team. I can only remember one time that I vetoed a decision.

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

They were familiar with our organization and shared how they would fit in it.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

As the director, I most frequently will be the one to greet applicants at the door. Most of the time, they think I’m my Office Manager. If they speak differently, or better, to me once they figure out I’m the Director, I won’t hire them. Equity and the value of every patron is one of our core values. I need to know they will live that out without someone watching. ** I forgot another one. I’m a female. My Deputy Director is a male. If a candidate only speaks to him and refuses to address me, it makes it clear that my leadership won’t be recognized.

Is there anything you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?


How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more  

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

No knowledge at all about who we are or what we do. Asking me questions that you can find on the website such as our hours or locations demonstrates lack of initiative.

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

Yes. Learn the technology. Everyone has rough days or technology challenges so we have grace for that. But if you are applying for a technology librarian, you should be able to share your screen in a common platform.

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?

Our organization focuses on excellent services as a part of our mission. Being able to demonstrate customer or public service makes every applicant stand out. I wish that parents who have taken a break from work would better understand their value. I know this isn’t the same as the question but I find that parents tend to undervalue their experiences at the interview table. 

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 have a diversity committee that has reviewed our interview question bank. We have a member of the committee on each panel. We have recently started clearly defining the necessary skills prior to the interview to make sure that we are all evaluating the same thing. We have also experimented with a focus on numerical evaluation though that had its own challenges.

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 being asked what our priorities are for the early months. I like questions about the culture of the organization because it shows that the applicant understands the value of a healthy workplace.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: We are a large regional system made up of urban and rural areas.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Only during COVID quarantines.

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 101-200 

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, 100-200 staff members, Public, Rural area, Southeastern US, Urban area

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