“Basically no one has any experience with BIBFRAME… and why bother asking if you only list MARC in the job listing?”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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?

√ More than 18 months 

Why are you job hunting?  

√ Looking for more money

√ Looking for a promotion/more responsibility 

√ I want to work with a different type of collection 

√ My current job is boring 

Where do you look for open positions?  

many listservs, Indeed, LinkedIn

What position level are you looking for?  

√ Entry level

√ Requiring at least two years of experience

√ Supervisory

√ Department Head 

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

√ Academic library

√ Archives 

√ Public library 

√ Special library 

What part of the world are you in?

√ Mid-Atlantic US 

What’s your region like? 

√ Urban area 

Are you willing/able to move for employment? 

√ Yes, to a specific list of places

√ Yes, as long as at least some of my moving costs are covered 

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

Working in cataloging or with special collections; slightly better pay; location in a major city

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

About 15

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

√ Pay well 

√ Introducing me to staff 

√ Funding professional development

√ Prioritizing EDI work

√ Prioritizing work-life balance

√ Other: Actually being responsive and respectful during the interview process. So many times I’ve been in the final 2 candidates and then just ghosted entirely. Really made me think twice about ever applying at that library again.

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

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

The Process

How much time do you spend preparing an application packet?

About 20-60 minutes

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

Tweak master resume/CV and cover letter to be more “optimized” to the job listing

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

√ Other: Literally as much as humanly possible, but any kind of consistent communication has not been my experience.

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?

For academic libraries, about 1 month for a rejection and 3-4 months for further interviews/offer

How do you prepare for interviews?

Have my resume/CV and cover letter printed out and at hand, as well as the job listing and a “bragfile” or cheat sheet of my accomplishments. I tend to forget my own name under pressure so the more physical materials I can have on hand, the better! I almost never practice answering interview questions, though.

What are your most hated interview questions, and why?

“What are three words you’d use to describe yourself?” Completely pointless; everyone says a variation of the same good qualities. “What is your experience with BIBFRAME?” Basically no one has any experience with BIBFRAME… and why bother asking if you only list MARC in the job listing? “Tell us about the last conference you attended.” I got this once and drew a complete blank and ended up talking about some keynote that wasn’t even library-specific. What does that tell anyone about me as an applicant other than I have a bad memory?

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 the majority of the time or always 
  • Interviewed for a job where an internal candidate was eventually chosen √ Happened more than once 
  • Asked for an accommodation for a disability √ Not Applicable
  • Withdrawn an application before the offer stage √ Not Applicable
  • Turned down an offer √ Not Applicable

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

PLEASE communicate as much as possible during the process. Most of the time I feel like I am just emailing my resume into the void and it’s super discouraging. It’s also discouraging when the job listing says early career applicants encouraged or that they are considering applicants from any background with any experience – and then every single time, they choose someone else and say it’s because they have more experience.

You and Your Well-Being

How are you doing, generally?

√ I’m maintaining

√ I’m somewhat depressed 

√ I’m frustrated 

√ Not out of money yet, but worried 

√ I feel alone in my search 

What are your job search self-care strategies?

Not imagining myself in any position until I get an offer. No looking at apartments, no pricing moving companies, no mapping the bus route to the library. I hate that I have to force myself to be so detached, but I’ve had such bad luck since starting my job search almost 2 years ago that I can’t afford to keep getting my hopes up.

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?

It sucks – and we can acknowledge that it sucks! I have been on hiring committees at my current position and I try to make it as easy as possible for the applicants, and I can only hope that others are doing the same.

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

Thank you for the thoughtful survey! Sorry if I ranted a bit 🙂 It’s been a really tough couple of years where I’ve felt very discouraged at my current position and continuing to apply to other jobs and hearing nothing or just rejections can really get me down. It would be nice to have like a Discord or something where new-ish librarians can commiserate on these things. I’m almost 5 years out of library school, but still in my first “professional” position, so I still feel very new and identify a lot with the new grads.

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)?

√ Less than six months before graduating with my MLIS/other LIS degree, but still before I graduated 

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

√ I was actually hired before I graduated 

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?

I got so lucky with getting my first professional position right after library school, but I also undersold myself A LOT. I even accepted the job before HR even told me what the salary offer was! I think I gave my salary requirement as like $40,000 in 2018 in Washington DC, which was pretty much unlivable even then. I felt really lucky that I got hired for more than I asked for, but looking back, even $52,000 is not a great salary for the area, even in 2018. I felt lucky that I still qualified for subsidized housing instead of thinking that maybe I should value my graduate degree more. Part of it was that I finished my degree in July, got the job in September, and didn’t get my degree until December, so I didn’t feel “official”. I highly encourage new librarians to not undersell themselves! 

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Filed under 2023 Job Hunter's Survey

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