We’re a public library. A library card is free. Please have a library card.

A woman in a tan suit holds a book. She wears a surgical mask and gloves.
Librarian Regina reviews books to add to the library collections – the work goes on. By Flickr user Michael Neubert

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Youth Services Librarian

Titles hired include: Library Assistant I for YA

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor 

√ Other: If a position is of a supervisor/”librarian” level, there may be a committee of admin and/or the position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application 

√ Other: Resume is preferred for PT. Resume and Cover Letter are required for FT.

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

County HR posts the position 

Applications are checked by an automated system

Approved applications are made available to Library Admin

Admin then send the applications to the manger for the open position 

Mangers review applications and then call people in for interviews 

Managers then offer the job and establish the start date

New Hires must visit county HR prior to start date to complete onboarding paperwork

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

I place more emphasis on in person interviews as so much of the jobs I’m hiring for is based on personality and how well this person will mesh with our kiddos. When it comes to in person interviews, I look for passion. If an applicant can sit there and tell me about why they love libraries, or RPGs, or books, etc. and they have a desire to share that passion and turn it into something we can use… I’m sold. 

Also, We’re a public library. A library card is free. Please have a library card. It’s not required, but if you have a card, I know you use the library, and that’s a great starting point. For people who are moving to town or new to town, this doesn’t bother me as much, but if you’ve lived here your whole life and you don’t have a card… It feels weird that you then want to work here. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Mentioning religion or politics in an interview. Sometimes these things pop up in a relevant fashion, such as work experience. But I’ve had applicants ask if we could pray together as part of our interview, flat out ask about my politics/religion, or mention that they see this job as a good chance to talk to kids about religion/politics.

We also see a number of applicants that think a teen center at a public library will function akin to a school setting; as this shows a serious lack of understanding about who and what we are, this is another deal breaker. 

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

It’s hypocritical of me given my response to number 9… but an applicant’s political and religious preferences or rather how vocal they will be about those beliefs. Clashing beliefs can really stress coworkers out and alienate patrons. People can hold different beliefs and still work together/with the public, but not if one party is going to be overtly religious or political. 

I’d also like a better idea of how independent and self motivated an applicant is. The positions I hire for really do need to be independent and self motivated, and if an applicant needs their hand held, or needs constant reminding/encouragement it will mess with the workflow and morale of the department. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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?

Finding that balance between being professional and showing me who you are and why you’re going to be the best fit for the YA team. I’ve had some excellent, very professional interviews that have left me unsure of if the applicant would get along with my other staff, or if the applicant would be able to build a report with the kiddos; ultimately, I haven’t hired those super professional applicants. 

Ideally, the interview will start professionally, but things may become more lax, or I’ll see that spark of passion and we’ll be able to have a more natural and authentic conversation. 

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

Generally, we do not do phone or virtual interviews. I personally will not do them; I will hold off on an interview for up to a week if it means we can meet in person.

Many years ago when we were seeking a new director, the first round of interviews did include some virtual interviews, but that was an exception given the type of position that was open.

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?

This is an excellent question! And I wish I had a better answer for it…

Applicants should know the type of library they’re transitioning towards, and what those types of institutes are like. For example, if you apply to work at a teen center in a public library, you should expect to have to run/assist with after school/school break programming, and not be as focused on homework help or research papers. This advice is best for the interview stage when an applicant can really show off their relevant knowledge and skills. 

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?

Hiring Managers receive no training in avoiding hiring bias. Our online applications do not ask for age/DOB, sex, gender, or ethnicity so there’s that at least… However, there is other information which must be provided and from which assumptions can easily be made, such as name, address, and hs/college graduation dates. 

I personally do seek out training on bias reduction. Although these trainings are not focused on hiring (often customer service) I feel that some of the information can be translated into hiring bias. I also talk to minority staff about issues with our application process (which is beyond my control, but I do pass along feedback) and how the interview process went and what I as a manager can do to help them feel more comfortable. 

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

I’m not sure what questions I feel like applicants SHOULD ask. If it’s information they NEED to know, I feel like I should provide that in job description or in the interview; I’m not here to trick applicants into asking relevant questions.

But some of the BEST questions I’ve been asked: 

What does the training process look like?

Are there any opportunities for any additional (like CE) training?

What are there chances for upward movement within the department? 

What are your COVID safety policies? 

What are your safety protocols and precautions? (in relation to upset patrons)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: We’re the only sizable city for 90miles, but everything around us is rural; it’s created a very unique environment where despite being located in a proper city, our patrons are mostly rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: I do some virtual programming; while I could run this from home I normally run it from work as I’d rather not use up my home internet data.

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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.

Leave a comment

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

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.