I was a person very much in this position- the catch22 of library workers

A woman in a black dress sits on the stairs reading a book
Reader, Reading Room, Mitchell Building, State Library of New South Wales. By Flickr user State Library of New South Wales

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Director of Central Services

Titles hired include: Manager of Genealogy; Entertainment, Literature, and Biography Librarian; 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application  

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Other: We use ADP; I’m uncertain which of the hiring tools within it our HR department uses. 

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

Depending on the position, I might help write the job description and job ad and send it to HR to post on our library website as well as external job boards (depending on seniority of the position). We have a paper application, but I can’t remember the last time we actually had to review any of those as most people apply directly through the ADP software. Depending on the level of the position (youth services or librarian or supervisory), candidates will typically be asked to submit a cover letter and resume as well. HR reviews the applications and forwards eligible candidates and their application information back to me and the other members of the hiring panel. From there, the group of us (2 to 4 people) determine who we would most like to meet and send those names back to HR who coordinates scheduling the interviews. Each position has a certain set of predetermined questions we ask during the interview. Once the panel thinks we have a viable candidate, we submit that name to HR to make the offer which they do once they have checked references.

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

The person we recently offered a librarian position was an internal candidate who even though we all thought we knew him pretty well, had some very impressive extracurriculars listed on his resume that helped him to stand out. For example, the position maintains our library’s zine collection, and he has been working on various zine initiatives around town for several years. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

People who in the interview talk more about what the position would mean for them vs what they could bring to the position. 

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

Their enneagram number! 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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

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

Not answering the questions asked. 

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

Yes. And I think we have seen a lot of great interviews in this format; the only one that felt weird was someone interviewing from their current office / library. I understand they were likely doing it during a lunch break or something, and we don’t compensate for interview time, so I get it! It just was sort of off putting. 

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 was a person very much in this position- the catch22 of library workers. My advice would be similar to the advice given to me – figure out SOME way to get library experience whether it’s volunteering or a practicum or asking a friend to allow them to job shadow. Ultimately, I’m hiring for professionalism and customer service skills, but what that means in the library setting is different.

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 overall whiteness of those with advanced degrees means we still see hiring bias when trying to fill “librarian” positions. There are fewer such positions, but it still presents a problem. Even when we list “equivalent experience” we find that people (esp those who don’t work at libraries) don’t always know what sorts of things would qualify them. 

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

How much autonomy will they have to do their job.The library is a bureaucracy, so I know it can sometimes be frustrating for folks with the levels of permission that are in place.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 201+  

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, 200+ staff members, Midwestern US, Public, Urban area

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