This makes me wonder what you’d say about me/my library in the future.

John J. Daley. Photo by Flickr user Archives of the Law Society of Ontario

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Adult Services Librarian

Titles hired include: Adult Services Librarian, PT Library Technician, PT Library Technician II

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

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

√ Online application 

√ References 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes  

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

All of our applications are coordinated through 

1) Initial screening: HR does the initial screening based on the requirements of the position and the application filled out via 

2) Reviewing applications: All librarians have a log in to and we evaluate all applicants that passed HR’s initial screening. We then send our top 5 (give or take) applicants to our department head.

3) Department head selects the final list of applicants and schedules a phone interview.

If the job posting is for a PT person in the department, the Dept Head usually has one librarian with her doing the phone interviews and in-person interviews. If the posting is for a librarian-level position, she tries to have all librarians in the department available for phone and in-person interview.

4) After phone interview, hiring committee selects who they want for in-person/Zoom (if they don’t live within a reasonable distance)

5) After in-person interviews, the person is selected.

Our city HR department then takes over again to notify the selected candidate.

Whenever applicants call/visit the library to check in on their application status, we refer them to our City HR. The Library does not respond to these requests.

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

They took the time to look specifically at our library. They made mention of upcoming or recent programs, they read Library Board Minutes, when asked questions about ‘Why do you want to work here’ they had specific reasons for wanting to work at our library. It’s amazing the number of people we interview who I don’t think have even visited our library’s website to learn more about us.

Well thought out and detailed responses. We ask very basic questions relating to customer service and past experiences. Having specific examples is the best. Generic answers are not helpful.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Applicants who speak very negatively about their current or past employer. I understand there’s a reason you want to leave, but you can answer questions without basically trash talking about current/previous jobs. Also, this makes me wonder what you’d say about me/my library in the future.

Being overly negative in general. 

Not having any questions at the end.

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

Willingness to learn. Our staff is learning all the time…new resources that come out, staying updated with technology changes, it can be hard to tell if they will actually be comfortable with constantly learning.

If they will be responsive to our community. We don’t have any questions related to this, so this is our fault. But I want to know if a librarian coming in will be looking at our demographics, looking at our community needs assessment and really create programming and services for our specific communities, not just what they are interested in.

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?

Not having any questions at the end of the interview for the hiring committee. Not researching our library ahead of time if they have never visited.

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

Yes. A microphone that works well and a stable connection to the internet. It is difficult to shine with garbled sound.

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?

I already value other types of experience. I think that library staff and librarians should reflect the community and bring a variety of experiences to our library. I would highlight any experience you have working with difficult customers. How you are able to problem-solve. I can teach you how to use our library catalog and how to use our library equipment, it’s harder to teach people how to engage well with residents.

Also, are there any experiences in your personal life you can pull from, if you don’t think you have relevant professional experience? Do you manage budgets for your house? Do you coordinate family/friend outings and experiences? That shows me you can research different offerings, make decisions, and coordinate logistics. 

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?

The city recently deleted applicants’ names and names of their colleges from applications so the hiring committee cannot be biased by names or reputation of the college.

My department prefers to hire staff that have previous library experience or students currently in library school and in my opinion, that greatly reduces the number of well-qualified applicants. I have tried to talk with coworkers and managers about that, but there’s only so much I can do when I am not the manager.

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

Ask me if there are any upcoming projects/programs/initiatives that were not in the job description but that this person would be responsible for or expected to be a part of.

Ask me what are the challenges working in this department and this library.

Ask me what advice I would give to the person coming in to this position.

Ask why this current position is vacant.

Ask about management styles.

Ask about the culture of our department. Is it more team-based or individual-based?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Other: Texas 😛

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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, 50-100 staff members, Public, Suburban area, Urban area

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