“Almost every library is struggling with retention and toxic management right now. We aren’t alone”

Man and Hunting Dog: Tallahasee Florida
Man and Hunting Dog: Tallahasee Florida

Please note: this is an anonymous response to an online survey; I do not have any way of contacting the respondent or verifying responses. Their answers may reflect good, bad, or middling job searching practices. I invite you to take what’s useful and leave the rest.

Your Demographics and Search Parameters

How long have you been job hunting?

√ Six months to a year 

Why are you job hunting?  

√ I’m unemployed 

√ Looking for more money 

√ Looking for remote/virtual work (or at least hybrid) 

√ My current job is awful/toxic

√ I’ve been threatened at my job or had to deal with hostility/danger/scary behavior from the public or coworkers

√ I’m worried I will be laid off/let go/fired from my current position 

√ Because I reassessed my priorities after COVID 

√ Other: I want to leave libraries

Where do you look for open positions?  

State listserv, Indeed

What position level are you looking for?  

√ Supervisory

√ Department Head

√ Senior Librarian 

What type(s) of organization are you looking in? 

√ Academic library 

√ Public library 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like? 

√ Urban area

√ Suburban area 

Are you willing/able to move for employment? 

√ Yes, to a specific list of places 

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

Work-life balance, trauma-informed management, competent administrators

How many jobs have you applied to during your current search? (Please indicate if it’s an estimate or exact)

50 at least

What steps, actions, or attributes are most important for employers to take to sell you on the job?  

√ Pay well

√ Having (and describing) excellent benefits 

√ Having a good reputation 

√ Prioritizing work-life balance 

Do you expect to see the salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not 

Other than not listing a salary range, are there other “red flags” that would prevent you from applying to a job?

What my network of friends have said about the place, board reports noting toxic treatment of staff, occupational awe, positions that have clearly been 3 or 4 but were condensed for money.

The Process

How much time do you spend preparing an application packet?

1 hour

What are the steps you follow to prepare an application packet?

Read board reports for signs of toxicity, write CL, file paperwork, submit

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Email 

When would you like potential employers to contact you? 

√ To acknowledge my application

√ To tell me if the search is at the interview stage, even if I have not been selected

√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me 

How long do you expect an organization’s application process to take, from the point you submit your documents to the point of either an offer or rejection?

1 month

How do you prepare for interviews?

Read board reports, google news articles, research previous position holder, utilizing Hiring Librarian interview database

What are your most hated interview questions, and why?

Why do you want this job

During your current search, have you had any of the following experiences:

  • Submitted an application and got no response  √ Happened the majority of the time or always 
  • Had an interview and never heard back  √ Happened more than once  
  • Interviewed for a job where an internal candidate was eventually chosen √ I don’t know 
  • Asked for an accommodation for a disability  √ Happened once  
  • Withdrawn an application before the offer stage  √ Happened once 
  • Turned down an offer √ Happened once  

If you have ever withdrawn an application, why?

Jokingly low financial offer, unprofessional/unprepared interviewers, Roe v Wade was repealed and I did not want to work in another state that immediately banned abortion.

If you’ve turned down an offer (or offers), why?

Jokingly low financial offer I cannot survive on with cost of living and and a disability. Also refusing to increase the offer based on years of experience and internal raise rates.

If you’ve asked for an accommodation, what happened?

They made it.

If you want to share a great, inspirational, funny, horrific or other story about an experience you have had at any stage in the hiring process, please do so here:

I was immediately offered a position in the first interview with a library. I was in shock and it was a red flag, as the directors did not know anything about me and it seemed they decided to hire me before interviewing. I took the job after asking for a week of consideration time and it turned out to be one of the most toxic, unorganized positions I’d ever had, suffering from immense vocational awe. The director kept saying she prayed to god every night on her knees that I would take the position and that I was a blessing. Two weeks later, they threatened to fire me for establishing healthy boundaries.

At another interview, I was provided a jokingly low offer for the amount of experience I have – from a well respected library. I tried to negotiate, breaking down percentage increases per year of experience but was told they could not meet my request because internally nobody else was paid that much. How much current staff are paid – or are underpaid – should not affect the hiring rate of new staff. HR also informed me that the range was specifically posted already to account for years of experience, which was not put in the posting, and turned out to be a lie as it is the hiring range for every position of that level.

What should employers do to make the hiring process better for job hunters?

Post the damn salary and do not inflate it and not expect to meet an applicant’s negotiations.

You and Your Well-Being

How are you doing, generally?

√ I’m somewhat depressed

√ I’m despondent

√ I’m frustrated 

√ I’m running out of money 

What are your job search self-care strategies?

Crying, calling friends

Do you have any advice or words of support you’d like to share with other job hunters, is there anything you’d like to say to employers, or is there anything else you’d like to say about job hunting?

Attending my state lib conference, almost every library is struggling with retention and toxic management right now. We aren’t alone. One of the best presentations I went to was on managers being trauma informed NOT for patrons, but for their staff. It was incredibly validating. I wish toxic managers, who clearly are unhappy with their jobs, would vacate and let the emotionally empathetic staff take over. It’s also okay to look outside of our field – I have gotten several interviews with nonprofits and have been able to translate my skills accordingly. 

Do you have any comments for Emily (the survey author) or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

A survey on librarians leaving the field, why, and where they are going, would be great.

Job Hunting Post Graduate School 

If you have an MLIS or other graduate level degree in a LIS field, what year did you graduate? (Or what year do you anticipate graduating?)


When did you start your first job search for a “professional” position (or other position that utilized your degree)?

√ More than six months before graduating with my MLIS/other LIS degree

In relation to your graduation, when did you find your first “professional” position?

√ 18 months to two years after graduating 

What kind of work was your first post-graduation professional position? 

√ Full Time 

Did you get support from your library school for your first job hunt (and/or any subsequent ones)?


Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about searching for or finding your first post-graduation position?

It’s absolutely brutal and soul crushing.

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Filed under 2023 Job Hunter's Survey

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