Author Archives: Emily@HiringLibrarians

Further Questions: What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of ?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics?


Anonymous: Materials challenges!

“An upset patron brings a children’s book to the circulation desk, saying that it is inappropriate for children. She demands it’s removal from the collection immediately. How do you respond?”

Material challenges are on the rise across the United States. Keeping up to date with the ALA’s challenged books, intellectual freedom statements, and the library bill of rights would give candidates a good foundation. The question also gives the candidate the opening to ask the interviewer if the library has a materials consideration form and collection development policy. Some libraries post these policies on their website, which gives the candidate the opportunity to study them beforehand and show the interviewer that they did their research.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Probably the number one topic right now is Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and how that permeates all of our work – critical librarianship, information literacy, accessibility, hiring, collection statements. I would look at the ACRL trends documents and the library’s vision and values statements (and their strategic plan) to determine the issues that will be important to that library and the field.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: The answer to this question depends a lot, or course, on the type of library and even on the specifics of the position available (area of expertise and whether the position is entry-level or requires prior experience). My thinking about this has changed even in the past few years as my smaller public liberal arts college has struggled with enrollment and budget gaps. Current research and writing on a variety of topics is of intellectual interest but not much practical value for the work and challenges we face in my library. When I think about “hot topics” that would help us consider the strengths of a candidate, I might ask a candidate about the integration of our work – to talk about the connections between developing collections, supporting teaching and research, making collections accessible, etc. An example of this integration is the frequency with which we see “Collections Development and Strategies” positions advertised. When we used this title (the last hire we were able to make), we were clear that the “strategies” were not only about materials formats or access, but also about outreach and use.

I think I would be interested in asking a candidate what issues facing higher education in general, and academic libraries specifically, they consider to be of interest and most important for the work they do and the job they applied for. I might hope to hear something about topics such as data privacy, equity and inclusion applied in many areas of our work, approaches to information literacy work with reduced staffing, open education, the effects of the trauma of the past few years on incoming undergraduates, or many others.

My answer to the question about keeping up has changed a lot over the years. As a very early career librarian I often read the top 3-4 journals cover to cover, including articles in areas I had less interest in or knowledge of. Over time I became better and picking and choosing and also added journals in areas outside librarianship. I think following the daily Inside Higher Ed digest is very useful. I read a few of the bloggers faithfully. The same for The Chronicle of Higher Education. These days I rely a lot on Twitter. I have found it incredibly useful identifying newly published blog posts, articles, etc. in librarianship and higher education in general. I’ll admit that I find a lot of blogs and other writing more useful than many of the more traditional peer-reviewed published articles these days.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? The question of what “hot topics” to ask a candidate very much depends on the open position. With Youth Services Librarian positions, we have included questions revolving around “virtual programming,” but I don’t see this as a hot topic. Actually, I am not inclined to ask a question that centers on a “hot topic” because they tend to be short lived.

My preferred question is “What do you see as the greatest challenge facing libraries today?” A candidate’s answer can be very insightful or superficial. I expect to hear an answer focusing on “budget” or “censorship.” The answer to this question may well provide those on the interview committee an opportunity to dive deep into the candidate’s beliefs and values.

What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics? Let’s be honest here, what might be considered a “current issue” in librarianship may well have little relevance to my library and/or community. Once again, the answer regarding knowledge of a current issue depends on the position in question. Being aware of the “current issues” in the community my library serves can be much more important, and ultimately more impactful to the operation of the library, than knowing about a “current issue in librarianship.”


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. virtual programming)? Or what topics have you recently included? I typically don’t answer “it depends” but it really does depend on the level of the position. For example – an entry level librarian’s hot topic might be something like – Have you or how have you changed your reference interview/customer service exchanges to build in a culture of EDI for your users? That question conveys that it is a “must” for the organization but shows the candidate that the organization knows it is everyone’s job to make sure the culture is comfortable and appropriate for users.

If I am interviewing a librarian who might be in a coordinative, managerial or leadership position (all different aspects of some positions as we know) our questions lean more to making sure applicants know that we have put things in motion to integrate and insure EDI is built into the organizational structure (customer service, signage, marketing, professional exchanges, language, etc.) but more importantly that a manager must be committed to “requiring and assessing behavior” and maintaining the new or revised processes as well as a constant evolution that focuses on change for this critical area.

Also – for middle or higher level managers (or this second group addressed) it is important to communicate that organizational documents must be reviewed for needed revisions and additions such as mission and values statements, goals, outcomes, budget allotments, as well as individual employee goals. Adding in interview discussions and questions for all levels communicates not only that an organization is changing but also to clearly communicate new requirements are in place for orientation, staff development and – more than likely – individual evaluations conducted to measure not only presence but application of critical approaches to structuring content and working with users.

Interview committees should also be ready for questions from applicants on the very hot topics of “How is your organization handling gun control?” or “How did/does your umbrella organization and how are you handling the administrative requests throughout the country for removing materials or banning certain materials from the library?”

What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics? Like any current issue in the profession, those interviewing and interviewers need to be aware of the facts and both what general approaches and the narrower approaches that individuals must take to comply or refuse some current issues both in the profession as well as those in the surrounding community or society at large. For the profession certainly – as covered above – EDI, Open materials, book censorship and banning come to mind as those issues most directly in front of us. Societal issues – now overlapping for us in many areas – include some aspects of EDI, staff and user gun control issues, and -of course – public wellness and local, county, state and national health and wellness guidelines. Certainly underpinning many if not all of these areas is free speech and intellectual freedom – mainstays in our profession for protecting practices – but certainly viewed now with new topics guiding discussions.

Keeping up on topics must be a combination of where to look for the facts, terminology to be used and how manners should integrate these issues into work life. Obviously, cornerstone professional journals, identified online vetted forums – by library professionals and specialty journals with opinions by experts are places to find foundational information. Professionals should always; however, seek to find out the breadth of the issue – if for no other reason than to recognize terminology brought into the workplace by staff or by users, and likely flashpoints. Organizational administrators should begin to – if they haven’t already – provide their own information gathering foundation and share that with staff and users as needed. This sharing allows people to see that decisions are made after reviewing vetting environments. For example – pandemic decisions for the organization should have been accompanied with citations to or names of the organizations consulted such as the CDC, initially the WHO and local dashboards maintained by reputable sources such as County Public Health or an organization’s Risk Management office – those people tasked with maintaining valid information. Citing research provides managers with the supporting documentation for why decisions were made (or not) and then both staff and users better understand how decisions came to be. It was especially important during the last two years when the speed of decision making was unprecedented for organizations. Having a pre-defined and advertised approach lent credibility and a valued process and reduced stress for employees as well as avoided many triggers for users.


Thanks for reading! We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or from your closest rooftop. If you have a question to ask, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Filed under Further Questions

Smoking while with members of the search committee

A man in a cap browses a colorful book shelf
Image: Tommy T. Gobena visiting Dilla University library. From UNICEF Ethiopia on Flickr via CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for an:

√ Academic Library

Title: Head of Content Curation

Titles hired: Library Director; Head of Research Services; Electronic Resources & Serials Librarian; Discovery & Systems Administrator, etc.

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ 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

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

As a supervisor, I generally chair the search committee for positions within my own department; and serve on other search committees as well.

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

They modeled kindness, respect, and diplomacy in their interactions.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Disrespect; talking over everyone else at a meal and not letting the search committee members get a word in edgewise; smoking while with members of the search committee.

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

How well they get along with people in the workplace from day to day, not only in terms of respect, but also in terms of how they might continually burden others with their own anxieties.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

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

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

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

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

Trying to perform, even while in casual conversation, instead of communicating like an authentic human being.

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

Yes. They should be familiar with virtual presentation software and how to best situate their camera, lighting, etc., as well as having a strong connection (dialing in by phone for audio, for example, if their home network has bandwidth issues).

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?

Show that they’ve done their homework in researching the new library. Demonstrate that they understand the responsibilities, the environment, and the people, and what attracts them to this new role.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We have required online training in anti-bias hiring techniques from HR.

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

Ask us what we find fulfilling for ourselves here, and what we hope to see from the new person in this role in the short term. They should be familiar with our library’s mission, and our institution’s mission and values. And they should know the responsibilities and the organizational structure as described in the position ad.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? Or are there any questions you think we should add?

Our main challenge for the past 2 years has been getting approval to post positions. Like many other libraries, we are short-staffed due to normal attrition and not being permitted to hire replacements. The resulting double/triple workloads cause ripple effects, with the remaining people seeking other jobs due to burnout and little hope for improvement; thus exacerbating the situation. This is not limited to libraries; it’s pervasive across academia lately.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Academic, Southeastern US, Suburban area

Most people have not heard of us before applying with us

A group of four white people are having a discussion in front of book shelves. One man looks bemused.
Image: Special Collections Tour with Dr. and Mrs. Arnfield From Flickr user Topeka Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for:

√ Special Library

√ Other: government library

Title: Librarian

Titles hired include: library technicians & librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ 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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes

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

HR pre-screens initial applicants. Those deemed qualified are passed to the hiring panel (where I would be), who assess & invite ~4 candidates for interviews. References are checked and the hiring manager makes the final selection based on all the information gathered. The selection is passed back to HR, who extend the offer. 

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

Part of it was out of their control by the time they got to the interview: they had experience working with a niche type of materials our library offers. Part of it was in their control: They expressed a genuine interest in us and made the interview a conversation with give & take on both sides, both revealing the breadth & depth of their experience and knowledge and giving a small insight into what they would be like as a colleague. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Revealing they over-stretched the truth of their experience & expertise on their resume

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

It’s almost impossible to assess how they’ll *really* work on a team or on complicated projects, because that’s just not testable in the average library hiring process, and self-assessment isn’t always reliable. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only one! 

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

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 displaying any curiosity about your potential new workplace. Especially in government hiring the questions we are allowed to ask are often formulaic and can’t be personalized for each candidate. Ask us follow up questions if you think of them. When we hand the floor over to candidates for their questions, that’s the time to really dive in and get a conversation out of us. Put together thoughtful questions about the organization – ask us about upcoming projects, recent challenges, jot notes about what we mention during the questions and ask us to expand, etc. This is another way of expressing enthusiasm about the position and getting to know the people you might be working with (and vice versa) that a surprising number of candidates forgo entirely. 

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

We do. My advice: Don’t overthink it, and keep it simple. You don’t need to stare into the camera the entire time or try to make it look like you don’t live in a house. Make sure your audio & camera (if relevant) are working, have a non-distracting (decently clean, no TV blaring, etc) background, & smile. Not that different than an in person interview really.  

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?

Take a copy of the job description you’re interested in. Highlight in one color everything you have experience in, or transferable experience in, and make notes on what that experience is to make sure it’s mentioned somewhere in your resume or cover letter. Make it really easy on the committee to see your qualifications. Highlight in another color everything you don’t have experience in, and do some research, even if it’s just passively watching a webinar. Hiring managers want to know that A) you can already do something, or B) you wouldn’t be difficult to train. Saying in an interview “I’ve never done X, but I’ve watched a webinar and worked on a committee with people who did, and I see (fill in the blank of) these parallels to Y, which I’m very experienced in” goes a long way. And it’s a step further than the majority of candidates go, which will make you stand out. It is more work, yes, but if you’re stretching for a job that’s not a clear cut match for you, I strongly recommend it. Doing this is what helped me make multiple big jumps across very different types of library work in my career. 

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?

Every time a position is filled, there is a meeting to determine A) if the position really needs a masters B) how to advertise it as broadly as possible, with emphasis on under-targeted populations. If I had the power to do so I would love to see the additional step of blind reviewing materials to reduce potential name and gender bias. Appearance bias is hard to avoid with in-person or video interviews, but we try to select diverse panels and offer pre-hiring anti-bias training that helps the panel identify internalized biases as well. 

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

Most people have not heard of us before applying with us. We know that so don’t be afraid to admit it. Ask us a lot of questions about our structure, our history, our challenges, our successes, our goals, our work culture. Really dig in. As I mentioned before, what we can ask you is often structured and limited. Your questions are your time to get all the information you need, information we will happily give even if government hiring isn’t easily structured to let us offer it outright.  

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Other Organization or Library Type, Special, Urban area

Focus should be on how the candidate can make a contribution

young man and male librarian stand on opposite sides of a desk, black and white
Image: Librarian at desk with patron from The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director – retired

Titles hired include: Librarian, Library Assistant, Page, Division Manager, Supervising Librarian, Executive Assistant, Police Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Applications are prescreened by HR and hiring manager, finalists invited for panel interviews

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

Clearly prepared, understood the job as advertised, researched the organization and could express why they wanted to work there and why they were a good fit for the role.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Rude to HR or support staff, only interested in the benefits, critical of previous organizations or managers

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

work ethic, ability to deal with stress

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this 

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

Lack of preparation, not knowing anything about the organization they’re interviewing with, not asking any questions

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

Be mindful of what’s in your background

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?

Study the desired qualifications and tie in your experience where you can

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

Applications are carefully evaluated based on minimum qualifications only

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

Questions I like to hear are things like “What would you expect the person you hire to accomplish in the first 6 months?” or “How can the person you hire best help the library to be successful?” Focus should be on how the candidate can make a contribution.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Public, Suburban area, Western US

There is no “magic” question

Heather has worked in public libraries for several years, happily serving in every staff role. She cites the best part as helping staff reach their goals.

Outside of work, Heather can be found out hiking the local trails in Southern California.

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

First step is the online application with supplemental questions, second, the panel interview (internal or external depending on the position); if a two step position then it will be an internal panel second round interview. If a supervisory position, the final candidate would meet with the City’s executive team.

Titles hired include: Digital Navigators, Librarians, Supervisors, PT/FT

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

They were enthusiastic about the opportunity, the organization and understood that working in a public library was a challenge but it was one they really wanted.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Attitude — unwillingness to learn, take direction; unfamiliarity with the job/organization; skills can be learned, attitude cannot.

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

Sometimes attitude isn’t revealed in the interview; there is no “magic” question.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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?

Being honest with themselves about whether or not this is the right position for them

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

Practicing beforehand and staying relaxed; it’s hard for both interviewer and subject; don’t be afraid to admit that this is awkward

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?

Try and build a bridge or tell a story about your experience that links the two; I’ve done x and this is how it relates to or is similar to y

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?

We have not examined our practices for bias, yet, but will be doing so.

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

What can I do to be successful in this role; What would be the most challenging aspect of the position; what is the culture like; what do you like about working there

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Suburban area, Western US

Stats and Graphs: When does your organization first provide salary information?

It’s Staturday!

Welcome to a Stats and Graphs post, in which I examine survey responses through stats and graphs!

The survey that I am calling Return to Hiring Librarians opened on March 25th, 2022. As of today, May 14th, 2022, we have 180 responses. There are 23 questions in the survey. 13 are open-ended and 10 are closed-ended. Of the closed-ended questions, only one measures an opinion (it’s a grid which asks: How many pages should a cover letter/resume/CV be?). The others are primarily demographics but do also ask for things like when salary information is first shared and what materials/tasks are asked for in the application and interview process.

The survey is still open. If you hire library workers, please consider filling it out.

In the past, I’ve posted the stats for all questions. I’m going to try just looking at one question at a time, plus demographics.


I’m starting with the question “When does your organization first provide salary information?” The recent post Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates garnered some discussion which blamed the lack of candidates on not telling folks salary info until after they’d made an offer. While I think that the responses indicated much larger problems than that, I thought I’d take a look at the answers to the salary information question in aggregate.

The good news is that the majority (70%) provide salary information as part of the job ad. In addition, many folks who chose “other” described their desire to make this information available up front, and talked about either successfully lobbying for the change or feeling stymied by their organization’s refusal.

This survey does not use representative sampling, so it would not be appropriate to generalize for our larger population of LIS organizations. However, if your organization does not currently provide this information up front, it might be worth opening a discussion with your administration about the message it sends to candidates when salary is hidden.

Now might also be a good time to mention – this blog collects salary information from currently employed folks. You can contribute yours here. These links, along with the Interview Questions Repository, are always available in the sidebar over on the right there ——–>

When does your organization first provide salary information

Chart of responses to When does your organization first provide salary information

180 responses

It’s part of the job ad 126 (70%)

We only discuss after we’ve made an offer 19 (10.6%)

It’s part of the information provided at the interview 10 (5.6%)

Other 25 (13.88%)

  • I usually bring it up at the beginning of our phone interview. As in, this is when I need you to work and this is the salary range, does that work and would you like to proceed? Our pre-screen from HR asks for a range, we can usually meet or beat it.
  • Salary discussion is handled by the recruiter
  • It depends, but at my current place of work, we now put it in the ad.
  • Only when we make an offer, but I am hoping to change this.
  • I always list it when I hire, but the library board usually lists none or a range when hiring a director.
  • For most jobs it’s part of the ad, at least for the department I manage. There are some in the library who don’t want to include it, but I think it is an absolutely essential piece and I won’t post an ad for this department without one.
  • Our department lists the salaries in the job ad. It is inconsistent across the institution.
  • We list a range in the job ad, and that’s all I can speak to at the interview. HR determines their salary based on education and experience, and discusses specifics in the offer.
  • A range is usually provided during initial HR screening.
  • Pushing to put it in the ad, but it’s not always done
  • My institution does not allow us to post salary information. For staff hires, I provide salary and works schedules at the interview. For librarian (faculty) positions, it can be awkward to have that conversation during the interview with the committee present. I typically do a follow-up to the first interview with candidates we’re interested in bringing to campus that opens the door to discuss salary 1-1 before moving forward as a candidate.
  • We often mention in the ad that we need the states salary guidelines.
  • Only brought up when there’s an offer or is asked during the interview. Would prefer to put
  • We just started providing ranges or minimums in ads this year
  • It’s usually part of the online job description. Faculty are members of a bargaining unit so starting salaries are set in the CBA, but can also be negotiated.
  • The minimum is posted in the job ad (not a range) but is not discussed in detail until an offer is made.
  • It’s a separate phone call with HR that occurs between the first and second round interviews — I hate this system, but we don’t have any say in it.
  • the range is on the job ad, we can answer general questions, then HR makes their final after vetting
  • Desired salary is a question in the HR screening interview and the HR rep can provide the salary range
  • The salary range is provided as part of the interview and negotiated after the offer.
  • Our institution does not post salary information in job ads (which I cannot get them to budge on). So I provide it as soon as I reach out to schedule interviews.
  • Salary Range in job ad, specific salary with job offer
  • As of April 2022, it’s part of the job ad
  • For me, I didn’t find out salary until the interview. Since I started, the pay info is included in the job ad. we finally got our campus to share. As a state institution, there is one solid number. But it is uneven.

Demographics

What type of organization(s) do you hire for? (Check all that apply)

Chart of What type of organizations do you hire for?

180 responses

Academic Library 55 (30.6%)

Archives 16 (8.9%)

Public Library 96 (53.3%)

School Library 2 (1.1%)

Special Library 16 (8.9%)

Other 14 (7.77%)

What part of the world are you in?

Chart showing replies to "what part of the world are you in?"

179 Responses

Midwestern US 38 (21.2%)

Northeastern US 42 (23.5%)

Southeastern US 32 (17.9%)

Western US 28 (15.6%)

Southwestern US 17 (9.5%)

Australia/New Zealand 5 (2.8%)

Canada 8 (4.5%)

UK 1 (0.6%)

Texas 1 (0.6%)

Other 7 (3.91%)

What’s your region like? (Check all that apply)

Chart of responses to What's your region like?

179 Responses

Urban 79 (44.1%)

Suburban 86 (48%)

Rural 43 (24%)

Other 16 (8.93%)

How many staff members are at your organization?

177 responses

0-10 23 (13%)

11-50 65 (36.7%)

51-100 29 (16.4%)

101-200 26 (14.7%)

201+ 27 (15.3%)

Other 9 (5.08%)


I hope you have found, and will continue to find, the statistics and the individual responses interesting and useful. I’m very interested in any feedback or observations you might have. You can communicate with me here via comment, on Twitter @HiringLib, or by email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Stats and Graphs

Further Questions: What are your personal standards for how applicants should be treated?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is:

What are your personal standards for how applicants should be treated? For example, you might make sure that all applicants are notified of your decision promptly, or you might always have water for in-person interviewees, etc.


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: Every library is so different with their hiring practices, but most rely on using their municipality or campus Human Resources Department and they often have standard ways of responding to applications and moving them through the process.

You could get a call that same day after an interview, but most likely will have to wait one or two weeks while other candidates are interviewed and/or move through additional screenings.

I always end an interview with letting the candidate know a rough time line of when they will hear back from us.

Unless an interview is schedule to go longer than an hour, I haven’t offered water. I have always made sure to let them know exactly which desk to go to when they arrive for interview and make sure they feel welcome as we head to the interview location.

How you treat a potential employee also reflects on their decision to take the job, so it’s beneficial to make it a pleasant experience.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: My most important standard is that applicants do not feel lost in the process, particularly at the beginning when materials may arrive over a period of weeks (or longer) and the primary communication is somewhat automated and does not come from the library. We don’t have any direct communication with candidates until we have a first round pool of people we will interview by phone (or Zoom). I always want to schedule those conversations as close together as possible so the process doesn’t drag on for too long. And I think it is important to give candidates a general idea of the next steps and time frame as much as I am able. I imagine that this is true for most of us managing searches. I might not tell them exactly where they fall in the schedule but they should at least know whether it is likely to be one week or three before they hear anything.

I always send names and titles of search committee members to phone interview applicants in advance, and include as many names of people involved in on-campus interviews on the itinerary as I can. Keeping any interview experience on time is important for the candidate and the individuals on campus involved. I have been on the receiving end of people running late and then being told that I need to shorten my time to get a candidate back on schedule. Some things are always out of my control (like the Provost’s schedule) but I try to be sure candidate’s don’t feel rushed.

There is a lot about a search that is not in my control even as the Dean. The office of Human Resources and our university system HR control much of the process and the speed with which digital paperwork is processed. So I focus on the things that I can do to help shape the experience each candidate has.


Justin Hoenke, Library Director, Gardiner (Maine) Public Library: I will always do my best to keep applicants updated on the process. In my last job, I liked to send “all applicants” messages to let them know when the job closed, when we were reviewing applications, and when we were booking dates for interviews. Communication is always the best way to go! There is no such thing as too much info in this process.

Managers & leaders need to do a better job at keeping applicants as up to date and anxiety free as possible.


Anonymous: Consistency is important across the board to ensure that everyone has a fair chance and is treated equally. We always have water available to candidates. We recognize that they may need a little time on their own beyond “bio-breaks”. Communication, of course, is really important as well but some of that isn’t always in our control. The hiring process can sometimes lag for a multitude of reasons. When it does and we have the option to communicate something to candidates, we do.

In the past, we were told we could not communicate with candidates to let them know they did not get the job. What ended up happening was an email was automatically sent to all of the candidates on the day the new hire started. This is often several months after the position closed. Over the last several years, we have gradually become more humane.

A challenge that I see with cookie cutter communication is that candidates have different needs and interests and it may go beyond what they can see while they are on campus for a day. Of course, the standard is that everyone should get the same information but what if the information they want is outside of what is provided? Local candidates likely already have a pretty good feel for the area and the library but candidates who aren’t local will not.

To the degree you are comfortable, ask questions. Will I find my community here? Will I feel safe? Will I thrive? You don’t have to limit your questions to the people involved in the search. You will hopefully do some research into the area and institution/library ahead of time and you may encounter other individuals you can learn from. In those cases, you may feel more comfortable asking questions that may affect you on a more personal level outside of the more formal interview process.

For folks fielding those questions, it is in everyone’s best interest to be as honest as possible. It doesn’t serve anyone to tell someone who is looking for a big city life that your small town can offer all they are looking for. Just as it doesn’t serve anyone to tell a member of a historically marginalized community that your area has everything they ever wanted while you know your white, cishet community only WANTS to be that and it is perhaps decades away from being a reality. Be honest. If you build it, they may come. But not under false pretenses.


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: Applicants are human beings who are part of our profession, deserving of empathy and support. I often refer to the academic library job search as a hazing ritual. So much of it is terrible and doesn’t need to be. While it’s hard to change institutional processes (although it’s always worth trying), there’s a lot that individuals can do to improve the experience. While I have nearly endless thoughts about how applicants should be treated, from big picture items to something as simple as providing rest periods and beverages during a campus interview, the one I want to focus on here is communication. One caveat: because I’ve spent my career in higher education, some of this may not be applicable in other contexts.

Providing consistent, thorough, and open communication is something we owe our candidates. That starts with job ad that is concise, explains the position well, states the salary range, and tells them about our institution. It becomes even more essential when an invitation for a first-round interview is extended. Be clear about who will be doing the interview, how it will be done (e.g. phone vs. video), and provide questions in advance. Tell the candidate when they can expect to hear about second-round interviews. Do your best to get HR to allow you to notify those not selected in a timely manner. If that’s not an institutional norm, it’s an example of something you personally may not be able to change but that you can push back on in the hopes of future improvements.

For second-round interviews, communication becomes even more essential. Make sure they have a full itinerary in advance; if they’re traveling, that includes details of who may be transporting them locally during their trip. Provide an HR contact for any formal accommodations requests, and so they can get detailed benefits information. Proactively address any other logistics, including pronouns and preferred name, food allergies or preferences, whether they’d prefer a walking or driving tour if you’re showing them the campus, and anything else that can make their experience a positive one. If they’re doing a presentation, give them the prompt early so they have plenty of time to prepare, and tell them what you are hoping to learn about their skillset from it.

After the final interviews, let candidates know when they can expect to hear from you. This is sometimes the toughest time with communication, because in my experience the HR rules are very strict. But as a search committee chair, once a hire is complete, I push hard to be able to reach out to the unsuccessful candidates personally. It’s demoralizing to get that far and not get the job, and we owe applicants at the very least an email thanking them for their efforts and wishing them well.

To sum up: I treat applicants the way I’d like to be treated, not just as a job candidate, but as a person. I hope we can all aspire to that goal.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: To me the gold standard of how an applicant should be treated was how I was treated when I interviewed to be the library director at a small college in Wisconsin. The college president’s assistant made sure everything was taken care of from the moment I left Michigan to when I got on the flight back. The assistant even asked seat preferences and made sure I was on the aisle. When it came time to do my presentation, I had an IT employee right there and during the presentation in case there were any hiccups with a technology system I wasn’t familiar with in the auditorium. In short, the only thing I truly had to be concerned with was showing up and my answers. If you think about it, that is really the object of the game.

On the other hand, I also learned from a disastrous interview process at a small college in Indiana that once the final interview was done, I was abandoned. Since I had been in interviews all day, I was unaware that the area was under a tornado warning, nor did anybody at the school think to tell me. If my wife hadn’t called me while I was driving my rental car back to the airport, I would have driven right into a serious storm. Instead, I took shelter in a shopping mall feeling left at the curb like yesterday’s trash. To add insult to injury, that cold front escorted a spring storm that turned to high winds and snow. My flight was cancelled and I had no place to go. It didn’t seem like the college could have cared less. Needless to say, by the time I returned home, there was no amount of money that could have persuaded me to take the job.

The moral to this story is that when I was in charge of these operations, I wanted my school to be more like the one in Wisconsin and not Indiana. To me it is a question of professionalism and respecting the people who took the time and trouble to indicate that they were interested in your position. It is never a great feeling when you don’t get the job, but being shown some professional respect lessens the pain. Even though I disagreed with the decision, I will always respect that college in Wisconsin. I was relieved that I wasn’t chosen by the school in Indiana. It saved me the difficult conversation of telling them “no thanks.”

Along those same lines, I have always wanted to be prompt in my communication. The mills of academe grind slowly but exceedingly fine. I wanted people to know what the result was. A rule of thumb that I once heard, and I don’t remember where, was to communicate with the candidates the last way you had communication. In other words, if the candidate never passed the mail/email stage, they received an email back that they were no longer being considered. In the email age, that was easy. If they made it to a phone call / zoom / on-campus interview, they got a phone call indicating their status. I figured that while the phone call offering the position to someone was usually fun, calling the unsuccessful candidates was a necessary penance. My mentor at my first college library job suggested to me a long time ago this was part of being a professional. Additionally, you never know when showing respect to other professionals would pay it forward.

At the very least, decision makers need to be empathetic to their applicants. Unless we have been very fortunate, we have been in their shoes. We should understand how they feel putting themselves out there and being vulnerable.


Anonymous: It’s important to me that all applicants are informed if they will not be moving forward. The timing varies on where in the stage they go out of the running. For in-person interviews, I do my best to tell them as much as possible about where the GPS will lead them astray, where to park, where the restrooms are, who to talk to and what to say when they arrive – anything I can think of that will help them visualize how the time between arriving at the library and sitting in the interview room will go. In the interview invitation, I also invite them to tell me anything the library could do to help make the interview a positive experience. It might be awkwardly worded, but I’m trying to give candidates the opening to ask about wheelchair access, if lighting besides fluorescents are an option, or whatever would help them to be at their best. I’m not looking for sensitive information, but if there’s something we can do to help someone be at their best, I want to give that to them. I also provide a copy of the job description, the interview questions, and a pen and try to make it clear that they are welcome to read along and make notes.


Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: My personal standards for hiring library workers include making sure candidates feel welcome, that they get an understanding of what both working at the institution and living in the surrounding community would be like, and that at no time does the interview feel like a test or trap. For my searches, all known interview questions are sent in advance, as are schedules and menus for possible lunch/dinner places (this way candidates can ensure they have something they like to eat without having to declare their dietary needs). I am clear that the dinner between candidate and potential supervisor is not part of the interview, but instead an opportunity to ask questions that might have arisen over the course of the interview itself or simply socialize.

We provide a special Q&A session for candidates to learn more about living in the city and also developed a candidate libguide that provides helpful information on things like local schools, entertainment options, neighborhoods, and affinity groups both on and off campus. We include this guide in all of our advertisements as well. Additionally, when candidates indicate they are a member of a historically de-centered community, we try to make sure these candidates have opportunities to have off the record discussions before or after the interview with other employees who come from historically underrepresented communities. This enables candidates to ask questions and potentially receive answers that are less filtered than they might otherwise be able to ask/receive in a mixed group or during a formal interview.

Because we are in a desert location, we provide ongoing access to water both during the interview and provide a water bottle in welcome packages that are delivered to candidate hotel rooms when they first arrive. We also build in plenty of bathroom breaks (after all, we did just give you gallons of water!) as well as quiet prep time in advance of the presentation portion of the interview. Campus tours (which we get to do while zipping around in a golf cart!) are also key, because I think it is incredibly important to see more than just the building you’ll be working in.

I also try to provide additional optional quiet time throughout the interview as well. This is a practice I picked up from a previous supervisor at a past employer and while I never needed it as a candidate, I have seen how valued it is by candidates who are introverted or who have concerns back at home (kids, pets, work) that they would like to be able to regularly check in on. I’m still working on having this process become a formal norm, but we’re getting there!


Casey Burgess (she/her), Director of Library Services, Musicians Institute, College of Contemporary Music: With all applicants (which are mainly students at my academic college), I do the following:

I give them as much information up front as I can. This includes a job description with the hourly wage and number of hours for the position as well as the employee handbook and any attendance or enrollment requirements up front. I also give them “sample” interview questions (which are the exact ones) and just ask for them to email me their resumes.

For scheduling, I try to work around their schedule and always give the option for a zoom interview as is preferred by the candidate. I provide my pronouns and as for preferred name and pronouns, in case they felt they couldn’t include that on their professional resumes.

Once the interview is over, I give them a rough timeline of events, like when I plan to make my hiring decision and how they will hear from me as well as next steps if they are hired. I try to choose a candidate fairly quickly after the interviews are conducted and I email everyone I interviewed regardless of whether they got the position or not. I always encourage students to apply again next time there is an opening.

The only thing I think I have trouble with is that often these positions open and close very quickly and I’m not the best at advertising positions. However, I recognize that it is a fairly casual interview to match the entry-level position and minimum wage it provides.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: While my personal/professional hiring standards are what I could consider “high,” I have to focus on what my organization allows/includes in their process. What that being said, I have to focus on what I CAN control and what I can’t control, and for those elements of standards I think are necessary or highly recommended but I can’t make them happen, I have to make sure I account for those elements that absolutely should be part of the process but can’t be then figure out the best way to let the candidate know what should be happening but might not be. Also, in answering this question I have to step back to pre-pandemic interviews with the discussion of “what happens in interviews next” on my “to do” list!

What I think we should/and what we accomplish

Information

  • While the general direction of “provide information” should suffice, I think the better I am at providing information that applicants should be aware of/should read, the better applicant pool and the more I can focus on the person rather than on the organization. Specifically and somewhat obviously the Library’s URL but also any specific in depth online content that provides information to provide context to their primary roles – for example – links to the instruction program outline for the organization’s classroom faculty. More in depth public library links online might be links to the Library’s strategic plan specific to future reference projects, renovated public services, special services. The key is to link the applicant to something that peers created that would be in the roles and responsibilities for the successful hire.
  • Depending on whether or not the applicant lives in the area or travels in, pre-interview content should include the mechanics of the interview – timing, parking, location issues, tips on wayfinding, any pre-travel to locations such as booking travel in and out and travel assistance. Often organizations try to minimize costs if applicants must pay upfront and travel is expensive or if the organization typically has an extended reimbursement period. Outlining what the organization can pay is often best done by providing a cap on enrollments and then minimizing possible costs such as avoiding rental cars, choosing hotels, etc. A general rule of thumb might be – the fewer dollars available for reimbursement the more the organization should prepare and make the process easy by providing information. And while some organizations think they are under no obligation to make things easier for applicants, standards should provide elements of common courtesy. Some organizations have marketing packets or media kits about the organization with cost of living, relocation facts, labor market summaries, etc. This packet is pre-designed; however, Human Resources or management personalizes the content with links to more specific employment online content or connections on benefits and salary.
  • Another category of information should be all preparation required to conduct the interview, that is – if presentations are required, technology content, availability of equipment, space issues and any resource information. Other information that might be provided on request might be names of the interview committee members, questions applicants might want answered or prepared in advance, or parameters of the vacancy such as is this a new position, did the incumbent retire, or does the successful applicant have to begin by a certain date. Finally, prior to or “on the day” applicants need to know will there be a guided tour? Are other employees available for Q and A? Can employee workspaces be part of a tour? Are stakeholders part of the interview process? Upper level management? Are timelines outlined for any pre-interview paperwork clear (answers to questions, presentation outline/handouts, creative work/authorship examples, online content submitted, references/completed application information)

Note: Virtual hiring processes often prove problematic for applicants who wish to present using an institution’s authenticated resources. And – while guest or visitor access is typically easily possible onsite or within range of the Library’s network – guests or visitors at a distance are harder to accommodate. To assist applicants, organizations can establish parameters for resources used in presentations (live vs. cached) or open access resources only or web-based content only and if they choose not to, they need thoroughly articulated instructions on access to resources for the interview – typically outlined through scenarios for presentations. Limiting content used allows for new graduates or those NOT coming from other organizations to feel comfortable presenting with those – what some could categorize as – limitations.

Environment/Ambiance

While interview spaces may be limited or may be held at central (or branch or affiliated) locations or in other institutional spaces (city halls, HR interview rooms, open classrooms) or in area commercial environments – overall issues should include does the room need to be darkened for a presentation? Do you want (and have) comfortable seating available? Are there enough chairs and – if needed – can chairs be arranged in an interview? Does there need to be a surface where attendees can write or take notes? Standards might include water for applicants (or coffee, etc.), extra pens/pencils, paper and nearby bathroom accommodations? Does the space lend itself to a lack of or no interruptions?

Processes

Life was easier when – in my opinion – Human Resources – had more control over their processes involving hiring employees. This control could create a standardized approach to letting people know when positions closed, when applicants were to be interviewed and – if they were unsuccessful – making sure respectful timelines were adhered to so – for example – if an internal candidate applied but didn’t get a position – HR could ensure that all applicants were informed before any public notices were distributed. Today’s automated processes do NOT ensure that timelines are met. Often human or management interventions take up an inordinate amount of time to make sure that applicants ARE treated equitably and the process is a respectful one. So while I can regale you with recent bad examples I won’t. Instead I will say that those interviewing should make it clear to candidates what the timelines are supposed to be, what goals are part of the process and where mistakes are made. This detail should be verbal rather than written out so that mistakes that are possible don’t become part of the process. Chairs – during the closing of the interview – should explain how the organization wants things to happen so that applicants – expecting automatic responses – are left waiting and unsure if they should contact HR, the committee or if calls, emails or texts will work and if nothing happens, where is the best place to turn.

At the very least, the process explained with possible problems will provide a context for not only successful timelines but possible fail points. Recognizing these potential missteps (hopefully) makes the organization look less like a failure in their process or unorganized or worst of all – uncaring about both existing and potential employees. Explaining this to applicants sets more realistic expectations and shows that parts of the structure that can be controlled are being controlled with – fingers crossed – improvement possible for existing and future technological innovations.

In short, it shows people care.


Thanks for reading! Comments are open and we’d love to hear your thoughts here, on Twitter @HiringLib, or wherever you like to declaim them from. If you have a question to ask, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

A white woman sits at a desk covered in books, using a typewriter
Image: Anita Ozols works at typewriter in Chubb Library Cataloging Department, shortly before move to the new Alden Library by Ohio University Libraries on Flickr

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

Title: Head of Cataloging

Titles hired: Reference Librarian, acquisitions, circulation

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

It’s a disaster. A committee makes and recommendation and the director ignores it.

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

Currently, we’re over 300% turnover since 2016 and cannot attract candidates.

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

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

we have for COVID but are starting to perform on campus interviews

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?

technical skills

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We have a DEI statement that is ignored

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

What happened to the the last three people that had this job?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

Hiring Better: Search Advocates

A group of men sit on the floor if a room, drinking. There are framed images on the wall behind them, which they have been judging.
Image: Society of Artists’ Selection Committee, Sydney, 1907 / Henry King. From the State Library of New South Wales via Flickr commons

The first run of Hiring Librarians was pretty eye-opening. I learned that there is no secret to hiring and that people who hire library workers have all sorts of contradictory opinions and practices. And I saw that many of those opinions and practices are rooted in internal bias. I am very grateful to the readers who took the time to point out problematic answers, and the problematic questions I was asking. 

In the Return to Hiring Librarians, I’ve been looking for ways to help mitigate harm, both in the posting and in the practice.  So I was really intrigued to read Larry Eames’ survey, because he talks about his work and training as a Search Advocate.  I asked him:

Will you tell me a little more about your experience as a Search Advocate?

I found it a really effective training to equip participants with skills to both diversify hiring and push back against bias in the process. Because it’s designed for a higher ed setting, I found it broadly applicable to library hiring. But even beyond higher ed the tools and skills the program teaches are useful and easily tweaked to be locally specific. Once you’ve been through the program, you remain a member of the Canvas Course so you can return to the materials you develop and discuss during the foundations series, which is definitely something I’ve found myself doing especially during my first search as a committee chair.

He said that the training had been conducted by Anne Gillies, who runs the Oregon State University program. Her program has trained somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000 people nationally and she is a go-to contact for many institutions looking to start their own program.

Anne graciously met with me for an hour on a Friday night so that I could ask her some more questions:

Do you have any “getting started” recommendations for organizations looking to reduce bias in hiring?

One of the things that we know is a big problem for search and selection is that we are in a hurry. To improve search and selection, we have to slow down. The only way to change the processes is to approach them more slowly and thoughtfully, and really pay attention. 

If an institution were launching a program like [Search Advocates] themselves, I would say they should start by pulling together a team of key people (administration and faculty and so on) that could be involved in piloting. They should be people who will be honest and who also have the respect of the community. The pilot is to see whether you’ve got it right or whether it’s really not quite what’s needed yet. You need to show that you’re learning from the pilot experience, continuing to change and grow and evolve to address your particular institutional context. 

They also need to bring a focus on being facilitative learning partners and flexible thinking. To do this work, we don’t see the world in binaries, we see nuance, and that’s a hard thing for people to do – we’re conditioned to do the opposite. It’s hard for people to use neutral, non judgmental, objective language, we are a culture of judgment and judgment words are what flow freely from people’s mouths. It’s very hard to interrupt.

There’s this thirst for tools. I have a question in my survey that asks, “What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?” Some folks have great answers, some have cursory answers like, “we have a diverse search committee,” and a lot of folks say things like, “I don’t know what to do about this” or “I would like to do something, but my boss doesn’t want to do anything.”

It’s so hard to create change. If the administration is not a champion of the process, it won’t work. We were fortunate that, when we started, our President said, “this shall be.” I would imagine that this program might not launch in quite the same way today; our circumstances are different. Our former President put us on the map by launching the program ahead of its time, so now to some extent we’re the go-to place. And so if we hadn’t been positioned that way, OSU wouldn’t now be taking the lead. Another institution would have.  I think this kind of program was inevitable. Part of the reason our program has remained sustainable is that we developed it at OSU, for OSU, attending to our particular context and challenges. A “one size fits all” kind of approach isn’t terribly popular in this environment.

It’s a big undertaking. And it’s an especially big undertaking in higher education; the way that the so-called merit and reward systems are structured in higher education really does not acknowledge the importance of this kind of work. Equity work may be recognized as service, but the kind of university service that doesn’t count very much compared to other kinds of service to the discipline. So for faculty the P&T systems can serve as incentives not to engage in this work. For this reason OSU changed our promotion and tenure guidelines to recognize the importance of equity work in teaching, research, and service back in 2016. Most recently institutions like UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign) are setting new standards by mandating that equity work be included as a separate category in faculty position descriptions and be evaluated separately as another component of faculty work (in addition to teaching, research, and service).

You’re making me think of the people who say, “we should run the library like a business.” There’s this focus on the bottom line and it really, really doesn’t have to be that way.

There’s a moral problem with that. It’s like the “business case” for diversity, that diversity is only worth doing if it changes the bottom line. Absolutely not. And libraries, like public institutions of higher education, are about providing access to people who otherwise would not have it. That’s hugely important, especially in a society that’s as stratified with discrimination and barriers as we are in the US. Organizations like libraries are absolutely crucial.

Will you walk us through how it might work in practice for a Search Advocate to be part of the hiring process?

We suggest that the Search Advocate should join the process before the job is ever posted. Together with the search committee, they should review the job description and posting for barriers and for opportunities to make it more inclusive and attractive to a wider range of people. They look for unintended messages about who the committee is looking for and other obstacles that may limit the pool. 

We have a tool called the Criteria Matrix which is our primary debiasing tool, an in-depth, inclusive rubric for screening. The Search Committee works together to broaden their understanding of what it means to meet each qualification, while doing justice to the qualification as written and to the needs of the position. We’re essentially setting up a tool that will screen people in instead of screening people out. It’s also prioritizing the qualifications for which we seek strength as a predictor of better performance (beyond just meeting the qualifications), so people will make decisions based on position needs rather than based on feelings of affinity for particular candidates. Strength isn’t a relevant consideration for every qualification.

Advocates are charged to suggest the committee do personal outreach recruiting with a focus on building a more diverse applicant pool. Personal outreach (or network recruiting) always happens, but happens really informally. When it happens informally, we access our usual networks, and they tend to be very much like us, whoever we are. So it doesn’t really create change. 

The Search Advocate works with the Search Committee throughout the process. They do everything that the search committee does and more. We’ve done a lot of thinking about what the bias risks are at each of the stages of the process. Advocates try to front load information and agreements with the committee to build awareness of these bias risks so the committee can be cognizant and think about ways to head those off. The advocate collaborates with the Search Chair who is responsible for facilitating the search process; if the advocate wants to bring additional tools or discussion to the process, the advocate and chair need to plan time for this. I want advocates to read the applications and ask questions that help committee members test their thinking when they begin the screening process, whether or not they are “voting members.” 

We want the advocate to come from far away from the hiring unit, from a different discipline, and be outside the power dynamics, stakeholder relationships, and other complicated relationships within the hiring unit. The mission of the Advocate is to advance equity, validity and diversity in the search and selection process. If they’re embedded in the unit, they have some sort of a stake in who’s going to be hired, or they’re embedded in the power dynamics, or the practices of the unit, or connected in some way to the unit or its stakeholders, they have another interest besides the Search Advocate role, and that becomes a conflict of interest. 

In screening, the advocate is trying to apply the agreed-upon criteria despite not being experts in the subject area; it’s a good way to test the clarity of the criteria the committee has developed. If it makes sense to somebody who doesn’t know your field, then you’ve probably done a pretty good job of articulating it in an inclusive, clear sort of way. 

I want Search Advocates to be engaged all the way through the process. For every search committee meeting. I want them to be providing tools and resources, but mostly asking a lot of facilitative questions, open ended questions, questions for understanding, and maybe moving into the realm of some more assertive communication, if needed, if they see something that they think is really a problem. Our approach is to use the least power interventions possible. A lot of that starts with things as simple as affirming the things that people are doing well. We want to shape a change in behavior as needed, and we want the advocate to be a resource for the committee. And so far, that’s what we’re hearing, that people are appreciative of what the Advocates bring to the process. That it makes the process better for them; it may not be shorter, but it’s better.

If we want to create a culture change, then we don’t want advocates to be communicating with people in a way that produces defensiveness or anger. We want them to be collaborative, and to facilitate awareness of the unintended impacts of the practices they’ve used in the past. I want advocates involved in the interviews; they should introduce themselves to the candidates as the search advocate. They should be involved in asking questions like everybody else, because otherwise they become a weird looming presence sort of sitting off on the side – everybody thinks that’s creepy. 

I also want them involved in planning for equity considerations for site visits. Sometimes public presentations, etc. can become problematic if people just ask whatever comes into their heads, whether or not it’s actually related to the job.  Being expected to field inappropriate questions is a nightmare for candidates. Advocates can help the hiring unit prepare these events such that this is less likely to happen. I suggest that the advocate or moderator say at the very beginning, “we’re all here because we’re interested in getting to know this person and their ability to do the job. The focus is on their ability to do the job. But in our desire to make a deeper connection sometimes we ask questions that segue into the personal and we actually can’t be doing that. If that happens, it’s understandable, but I’m just going to interrupt and ask the candidate not to answer and then move on to a different question.” We set it up in such a way that they know what the parameters are and we also aren’t shaming them for asking those questions. Because once you shame people, they get defensive. And people often forget that there are so many limits defining appropriate and inappropriate questions at the interview stage.

After the interviews the search practices vary between units and disciplines. Some search committees are involved in reference checking, some are not. Some submit a written report to the hiring manager, some provide a verbal report, and some just forward a list or recommendation. It’s kind of all over the map at that point. 

What I want is for the advocate to be there and paying attention to equity measures all the way through. The equity focus of advocates is both equity for candidates in the process and equity for committee members, because committee members can sometimes be silenced or their perspectives overlooked. Part of what advocates are charged to do is to make sure that all those voices are heard, and that the strengths that people bring to the process are being leveraged. Advocates are not rigid, inflexible compliance enforcers; they’re not the HR police. They have to recognize nuance, they have to be flexible, they have to be strategic, they have to pick the most important things and not go to the mat for everything, or they lose their audience. And they must be committed to equity and inclusion.

Do you know how many libraries use the program?

Orbis Cascade Alliance is having a workshop series that’s actually coming up next week. Beyond that, I think most of the librarians I’ve seen either participate when their institutions have contracted a workshop with OSU, or when the librarians have registered to attend the OSU series individually as our guests. I’ve seen a real upswing in university librarians, and others who work in libraries. And I’ve seen that at our institution as well, that there’s a real push for and focus on social justice and inclusion that wasn’t as clear 10 years ago. 

When I first got in touch with you, you suggested that I take the workshop and I would like to, but I’m just trying to figure out where I could fit it in with my life.

Actually, all the workshops I have published right now are full. The next ones I’ll be posting start in July. In the fall I’ll be trying a different way of scheduling. Usually I schedule them every other day (MWF or Tues/Thurs) to accommodate teaching schedules. But in the fall we will try spreading some of them out over four weeks, every Friday or every Tuesday, to give people a little bit more rest, recovery, and processing time between. We’ll see how that goes – It’s just a trial run. Non-OSU organizations can send two people to our workshop series for free; after that limit has been met the cost is only $200/person for the whole four-part 16 hour series. If we do it for another institution, they can invite up to 40 people for $3,000. This rate is low because we’re about access. As a land grant employee I also see this as one small way to start giving back by addressing our history of structural racism. Land grant institutions derived tremendous financial benefits because the federal government granted non-ceded (stolen) indigenous lands to us as endowments. 

If you’re interested learning more, signing up for a workshop, or bringing Anne to do a training for your organization, visit searchadvocate.oregonstate.edu She currently has a waitlist of institutions wanting workshops, but is scheduling for 2023.

As always, we’re interested in your thoughts! Consider commenting below or on Twitter.

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I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time

Librarian stands at bookshelves talking to a teen
Image: Librarian with young reader in Browsing Room of the Nathan Strauss Branch for Young People From The New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Library Administrator

Titles hired include:

Librarian, Library Assistant, Clerk, Access Services Assistant, Security Manager, Library Administrator 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions

√ More than one round of interviews

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Recruitment – alternating between internal and external, screened for minimum quals, randomly selected pool of about 20 at a time sent to interview panel (3-5 people), panel interview creates a list of ranked candidates based on score, names are referred out to hiring manager based on score and location/FTE preference, second interview is done at local level (3-4 people usually), selection is made. 

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

demonstrated leadership in answers,  complete answers, good sense of humor, thoughtful and prepared (we send questions at least 24 hrs ahead of time)

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Because we send questions ahead of time, someone who is obviously unprepared (doesn’t have an answer) is kind of a deal breaker. I did a virtual interview this year where the candidate was playing a video game at the same time. Poor answers to diversity and equity questions. 

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

references, and sometimes resume – only the initial hiring panel who makes the list sees the resume generally 

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?

incomplete question answers, answers that are too SHORT. If you have 30 minutes for the interview and you are done in 10, you need to rethink the details in your answers. 

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

yes. Don’t be afraid to communicate issues you have – poor internet connection or equipment, etc.  Otherwise, just relax. We are mostly taking notes and sometimes don’t even have you on our main screen, 

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?

It doesn’t take a lot to convince me. Candidates who can show parallels are actually my favorite because it takes skill to show how you have the skills without having worked in a library before. I try to have some questions to encourage this as well – ie. Tell me about a time you had to teach yourself something complicated, how did you go about it? What did you learn? What would you do differently? – Advice – have an awareness of how the library is part of a larger system, its own type of environment – think about public access on a bigger picture level. Say more than “I love the library” – tell us what a library means to you.  ASK IF THE PERSON HAS SEEN YOUR RESUME.  I tell people if we haven’t, which isn’t uncommon, but others might not think to tell you that before the interview starts. When you answer questions, answer every part – an incomplete answer is the easiest way to rank someone lower in a large candidate pool. When you are finished with your answer, go back and summarize your answer as it pertains to each part of the question – make there be no doubt.  

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview

√ We only discuss after we’ve made an offer

√ Other…

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

random selection pool of applicants, training on bias. Where bias still exists – in my org it does not exist as much for race, sexual orientation, or gender – but it’s very prevalent with older age and weight. 

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

Ask what an average day looks like, how promotions occur (although sometimes asking about this can give a bad impression that you don’t want the job you’re interviewing for so be careful about your wording). Most people ask what we like about working at the library. This is an ok question. Ask what our challenges are as a system or branch. Ask what success looks like for someone in this position after 6 months. Ask what type of employee the manager finds the easiest to manage and the staff the easiest to work with.. Benefits questions are best asked to HR. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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+

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

Again – answer COMPLETELY.  Talk about teamwork, problem solving, and highlight your previous work experience. We do love to hear that you love the library, but make your answer larger than that – why? What does it mean to you? What do you think it means to the public or country at large?  If there’s something specific you need – ask about it – but also be careful. For example, we sometimes have people asking about very specific schedule needs around other responsibilities (school, children, etc). Weekends and evenings are part of public library life and jobs that don’t include one or both are few – so be prepared for that. 

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 200+ staff members, Public, Urban area, Western US