Author Archives: Sarah

About Sarah

Librarian. Runner. Wife. Jesus follower. Loves reading, Indiana basketball, trying new recipes, coffee, cuddling with my kitties, cozy scarves, and cardigans.

Further Questions: What about part-time work for MLS degree holders?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

In a tough job market, flexibility is important for applicants. Many LIS blogs/websites suggest exploring part time work, even post grad school, as a way to gain experience and enter the library world. Sometimes this means multiple part time jobs. Do you have MLS degree holders in part time positions (professional or paraprofessional) in your library? Would you hire MLS degree holders for part time positions? What would your advice be for these part time job applicants, and how would you advise applicants for full time jobs to sell any part time experience they may have?

We have, in the past, hired MLS librarians for 20 or 30 hour a week positions. It’s not ideal. I think we’re trying to move away from doing that because it’s difficult to find qualified candidates who are willing to accept part-time employment, especially since PT work doesn’t automatically translate into future FT work here. I think any library experience, whether it’s part time or volunteer is a plus on a resume, especially in a crowded job field; so if your choices are limited to PT, take it, learn everything you can from it and use that to move up.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzI currently have two adjunct library faculty members whose contracts identify a specific number of hours per week/semester they work and not number of credits which is the basis of all other adjunct faculty contracts.  I also have a full-time staff member in a non-librarian position who has a MLS.  The part-time adjuncts are getting teaching and other experience (one is assistant archivist).  They attend library faculty meetings when they can.  Both are geographically tied to the area so there positions are helpful for them and for us.  Both continue to look for full-time positions.

There are many reasons people might be seeking part-time employment and I would consider a MLS holder for a position and consider that they might continue to seek full-time employment.  The nature of part-time work is that we hope to get people to stay but they often do not, and our budgets are sometimes unreliable enough that we cannot offer a lot of job security.

>Part-time experience is experience – period. Anything you learn at a job is worth thinking about and using when you prepare for an interview.  What did you learn about the challenges of being a part-time employee?  What did you learn on the job that was new and enhanced your skills?  Your work experiences in and out of libraries can make you a stronger candidate so use all of it!– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

At my former place of work (FPOW), when I was a director, we often had MLIS degree holders in part-time positions. Often it was a way to supplement income and/or gain experience on their part, and it worked out well for us. They got pay and experience, and we got their labor. In fact, they continue to employ MLIS degree holders in part-time positions. Some have been there for years.

I don’t think there is, and if there is there shouldn’t be, stigma around working part-time doing the same tasks as full-time, employed MLIS holders. You’re doing the same work, just less of it. Where I was director, it was never a consolation prize; we never offered a PT position to someone who applied for an FT one, for example. And based on the number of people with MLIS degree who applied for PT work, I don’t think they felt that stigma either. Thus, if you’re an MLIS holder working part-time and reading this, I’d sell that job like any other, be it FT or PT.

– Anonymous

angelynn kingI have and do work in places with numerous part-time employees, both professional and paraprofessional. It is not unusual to have MLS-holders in library assistant positions, but it’s important for such colleagues to understand that the job description is different and that they will not be functioning as “librarians on the side” — any more than they would be dispensing legal advice or diagnosing engine trouble if they were qualified in those fields.

If you are a degreed librarian in a paraprofessional position, my best advice would be to keep your eyes and ears open and try to absorb the culture and learn as much as you can. Then, if a professional position later becomes available, you will be familiar with the policies and procedures and “speak the language,” which could give you an edge.

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Laurie Phillips

I am more likely to hire a library school student for part time work than someone with an MLS. In the past, I always felt that it was taking advantage of someone with an MLS to hire them for a staff position. I also don’t want people to assume that it’s getting a foot in the door for a faculty librarian position. It’s generally not. That said, the current job market has changed my previous thinking. We currently have one or two MLS holders in part time positions in our library. For one of them, it’s been difficult because she’s capable of doing more and does higher level work (although by no means what we expect of our faculty librarians) and she can’t stay in this position long-term. That’s the difficult thing for us – how long will someone with an MLS stay in a part-time position and will they be miserable? I think, if we’re honest with each other from the beginning, it can work. As for selling part-time experience, you can certainly pull out skills learned or experience gained and apply it to the requirements for a full-time job. We wouldn’t care how you got the experience – full time, part time, librarian or staff. Just that you had it and could apply it.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What can recent grads do to make themselves more appealing to employers? What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment?

Laurie Phillips

1.       Read – read journals in your field. Keep up on what’s going on. You’ll do much better in interviews!

2.       Take the time to write excellent cover letters to address the qualifications employers are looking for. Also, do as much research on your future employers that you can so you can speak intelligently about how they work.

3.       Work – get a job in a library. Any job. Learn about working in libraries. I did a little bit of everything pre-graduation (special collections/archives, circulation, cataloging, music and art reference, computer lab assistant) and it all ended up serving me well. Even if you work in retail, you can use that to talk about your customer service philosophy.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

angelynn kingRead, read, read. Professional development doesn’t have to cost anything — there are a million sources of information out there that will enable you to keep current in the profession. Librarianship is about lifelong learning, and if you stop learning when you receive your MLS, you will not be able to impress a search committee.
-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

J. McRee ElrodVolunteer work to gain experience.
Study another language.
Learn to program.
 

 
 

 
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

 

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundLook at your job experience and see where you might be weak.

 

  • If you have never worked in a library get a volunteer position that you can list.
  • If you have web skills, offer them to a non-profit so you can provide samples of your work for future employers.
  • If you want to work in children’s services make sure you have experience working with children.  Offer free story times at a local bookstore, day care center or church.
  • If you have decent computer skills offer free training to senior citizens or children in a community center or senior housing development.
  • If you have any journalist skills write articles for your small local newspapers or newsletters.

 

I believe it is important that you are a person spreading the library word, even if you have yet to land a library job.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

 

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Legalities aside, should applicants address a noticeable physical condition in an interview?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Legalities related to discrimination aside, if an applicant comes to interview and has a noticeable physical condition, such as (but not limited to):

  • a brace from surgery
  • bandages from a biking accident
  • using crutches
  • a lazy eye

Should they address it with you? The applicant certainly does not have a legal obligation to discuss anything of a medical nature, particularly if it would not hinder job performance and would not require accommodation. However, not mentioning them (especially if they are temporary and/or embarrassing) may be more problematic.

Have you experienced a situation like this as an interviewer and if so, how did the applicant handle it? If you have not, pretend you are interviewing with a cast on your dominant arm. How might you address that with the hiring committee?

A note from Sarah… my apologies if the question is not worded well. I spent awhile reworking the question to make it clear and to use thoughtful language but if you have other suggestions for me, please pass them along.

Colleen HarrisI’ve been in this situation from both sides. As an interviewer, the only mention I make of any noticeable physical condition is to ask if there is anything I can do to make the interviewee more comfortable; going any further is a likely violation and I stay on the safe side. I assume that if the person is interviewing for the job, they met the job requirements and whatever the physical issue is will not hinder them, or it is temporary, or they’ll be able to do the job with some accommodation to be determined when they arrive.

As an interviewee I understand the stress behind this. I have rheumatic autoimmune disease, which is aggravated by traveling, which of course we do for academic library interviews. This means that come interview time, I often walk with a limp, and I usually use a cane. (A purple cane. With rhinestones. Because even your disability accessories should be fabulous, I think.) So, I know the cane will get noticed, and folks will be curious even if they feel they can’t ask due to propriety and HR reasons. If I notice folks looking, I’ll mentioned that air travel makes my RA flare and the cane makes sure I don’t fall flat on my face while interviewing, and comes in handy for corralling upset patrons. I find that being somewhat humorous about it opens the door for questions (which are usually tentative and polite). Since I can’t hide it, I’m pretty open about my disability and have written about it on my blog, which I assume prospective employers have seen, so I don’t mind bringing it into the open and explaining how I am able to accomplish my duties even with the RA. On hiring committees, however, I don’t expect any mention by interviewees about any disability or health issue (though if you have a funny story about how you broke your arm while attempting to help a library user, it’d probably earn you brownie points, haha).

– Colleen Harris-Keith, Asst. Librarian & Information Literacy Coordinator, John Spoor Broome Library, CSU Channel Islands

Note: Colleen is very happy to discuss her experience with disabilities and the job searching process. Feel free to contact her via the contact form or email address provided on her blog.

Marleah AugustineIf I personally was an applicant, and I had some sort of condition — especially a temporary one like a recent injury — I would probably briefly address it during the introductions: “Sorry about my cast — I was in a biking accident. I can’t wait until it comes off in August.” I wouldn’t expect the interviewers to address it, as that could be touchy.

Likewise, if I were an interviewer, I would not address it, but I would naturally be curious. It could really show me (instead of tell me) how the applicant handles a situation that is potentially frustrating — do they handle it gracefully? Do they get obviously frustrated when they can’t use their dominant arm? It’s an interesting situation that I have not actually experienced.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Melanie LightbodyI did once have a candidate who had clearly gone through a rough period in her life with the obvious physical scars to prove it.  We did not refer to it, nor did she address it.  She was offered the job, as a matter of fact.  I don’t think there is any obligation to explain yourself to a hiring manager unless you want to.  People are curious and you may be comfortable talking about it.   However,  I think if you as a candidate feel you will be judged by any physical problem or issue then you might want to consider if it is a job you really want.

– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Celia RabinowitzIf someone came in for an interview clearly injured they might want to say something.  They might, for example, indicate when a cast would be coming off. An explanation of what happened in unnecessary.  I would not expect a candidate to offer an explanation.  People who have a chronic or permanent situation, like with a lazy eye, might either be used to putting people at ease by mentioning it, or take the opposite approach and feel they have no need to explain.  I think, as a candidate, you should do what makes you most comfortable since the interview is such a stressful process anyway.

Our responsibility as a search committee is not to expect an explanation.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

angelynn kingI would not expect a candidate to address anything about their physical appearance in an interview. The exception, of course, is when it relates to reasonable accommodation — the search committee really needs to know that. I once spent a very frustrating day with a candidate who told us in advance — twice! — that she needed no accommodation during her visit, then upon arriving indicated that she could not walk long distances or go up or down stairs. We ended up arriving 15 minutes late to a half-hour interview with the dean, which needless to say did not make a good impression. Had the committee known ahead of time, we could have taken care to arrange meetings closer together and in buildings with elevators.

On the other hand, I personally would offer a brief explanation, at least for an obvious injury. People are curious, and it will distract them. On one occasion I felt compelled to confess to everyone that my cat had given me a black eye. I didn’t want them getting too imaginative about the alternatives.

– Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: When contacting applicants for interviews, how long will you wait for a reply before moving on in the process?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

When contacting applicants for interviews, how long will you wait for a reply before moving on in the process? When do you expect a reply, and does it differ by position? Do you have issues with applicants not replying in a timely fashion? Of course, this is very circumstance-dependent, but if an applicant does not reply within a week, or two, and you have moved on, is there anything they can do to salvage the relationship for this position or a potential open position in the future?

Jason GrubbIf an applicant hasn’t replied after a couple of days, we will try contacting them again. We will usually only call or email. If we haven’t heard from the applicant by the time interviews begin then we will not consider them for the position. At this point there is little they can do to be reconsidered. Thankfully, in all my years of hiring, I’ve only not been able to contact an applicant once. Most applicants are very good about responding. Not only is a quick response professional, it demonstrates a genuine interest in the position. The take away for job seekers: if you are on the job hunt sync your email to your phone, set alerts, have the volume on your phone turned up, if messages are left respond promptly.

– Jason Grubb, Director, Sweetwater County Library System

Celia RabinowitzThis is a really interesting question.  In over 15 years of managing searches, I don’t think I have never actually had a situation where a candidate did not reply to a communication about a phone or in-person interview.  These days it is so easy to set up voice mail and email with messages indicating if a person is not accessible (and when they will be), that I might consider waiting if I had that information and the candidate was really strong and we wanted to talk/see them.  But that might also depend on how long it would be before they were available.

If there was no information about the candidate’s availability I would not wait more than one week at the very most (and possibly less).  Without a reply I would assume the person was no longer interested for some reason (and it is really OK for you to communicate that to us – we’d prefer it).  Reestablishing the relationship later would depend primarily on where we where in the search process.  Adding someone to a phone interview list isn’t usually very difficult. But communication at that point would require some explanation on the part of the candidate about why they did not respond initially.  And the search committee would need to decide whether it was worth the risk of continuing to include that candidate.

So my best advice is to keep communication open.  If you need a day to think once you receive an email about an offer of an interview, take it.  If you want more time, ask if that is possible.  If you have changed your mind, tell the search chair.  If you are submitting applications and sometimes inaccessible, be sure you have accurate messages with information about your availability and try to check when you can.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Reader Response Requested: How Do You Balance Job Searching with…?

For this week’s question, let’s collaborate. This week you are the experts.

 This week I’d like to know:

How do you balance job searching with… ____ life? Another job? School? I’m going to get you started with my reply (though I’ve been off the job market for about a year and a half), then I hope you will share your tips in the comments.

Sarah Keil imageWhen I was job searching, I remember, at times, being overwhelmed with the job searching process. I was applying for job after job, while working and in school. It’s hard! My advice is to prioritize. This can be easier said than done, but your whole life can’t be spent working, studying, and applying for jobs. It’s just not sustainable!

So prioritize your off hours at home. Make a schedule, set a time limit, decide how many jobs per week you need to be applying for, whatever works best for you. Decide that you’ll work on job applications from 7-9 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. Or decide that you’ll commit six hours per week to the job application process. Or try to apply to five jobs in one week. This can include finding jobs to apply for, emailing references, or working on actual applications itself. I often find I work more effectively if I have a specific block of time to devote to a task. If you structure your job application process like you would structure tasks at work, this can also help prepare you for your next job. Win win!

Aside from prioritizing your time, it’s also important to not work. Destress in ways that are relaxing to you. Cook a new recipe, bake your favorite treat, go for a run, read a good book, watch some tv, get outdoors. A job will eventually happen, but balance in life is important too. Best wishes with your job search!

– Sarah Keil, Instruction and Serials Librarian, Trevecca Nazarene University

 

What do you think readers?

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Further Questions: Any tips for out-of-area applicants?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Any tips for out-of-area applicants? How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you?

Laurie Phillips

This doesn’t really apply for us because we do national searches, pay for travel to interviews, and pay for moving expenses. We expect out-of-area applicants.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

angelynn kingAcademic job-seekers should be aware that while community colleges do hire out-of-area applicants, they typically do not pay for transportation or other incidentals. If you can get yourself here, we’ll be happy to meet you!

-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus

Petra MauerhoffWhenever we list professional librarian positions, we expect that we will have to hire from “away”.

Our region is relatively small and primarily rural, and we pretty much know all the librarians around here.

With our most recent librarian hire (summer 2014) we were lucky to have a successful in-area candidate, who was working at the local post-secondary library and looking for a change. And by
“Lucky” I mean that it made the whole process more convenient, in terms of turn around time for the interview stages as well as relocation (or lack thereof).

For the two professional librarian hires before that one, we ended up hiring from out of region, in one case, from the other end of the country.

While considerations such as moving expenses and relocation time are certainly on our minds during the hiring process, our biggest concern is finding the best candidate for the position. To ensure the best fit we are definitely willing to forgo geographic considerations and incur additional expenses (for relocation) and wait a bit longer for the successful candidate to start the job.

– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

I think this is a marvelous question, and it is highly relevant to the candidates that I often see when conducting searches for my libraries.  Two of the libraries I manage are in somewhat rural areas, so many of our candidates are from out of the area.  Naturally, our search committees will often wonder why the candidate is interested in pursuing a job in our area.  I think that the applicant should do some good research on the library at which they are applying (of course!), and then expressly state in their cover letter the reasons why the want to work at that library and why they are interested in moving to that location.  By being frank and upfront about this question, the applicant can help the search committee to understand their interest in the location of the job, which then allows the committee to turn its attention to the applicant’s qualifications and overall fit for the position.

– Elijah Scott, Director of Libraries, Georgia Highlands College

Celia RabinowitzIf we advertise nationally for a position then the current home of the applicant should not affect our evaluation of any candidate.  That said, if there is a highly qualified candidate who lives fairly close by it might mean having the option of adding a person to the list of on-campus interviews if it would mean not having to pay any travel costs beyond mileage (if it was a day trip for someone).  We try not to let factors like travel costs play a role in our process (and we always pay all travel and accommodation costs).

I think we have written about this before, but I recommend not indicating that you are willing to relocate.  If you are applying for the job, I assume you are really interested and that means relocating.  If you have a specific reason for wanting to relocate (new job for a partner, getting closer to family, etc.) I think it is fine to mention  that but be careful not to leave the impression that your only interest in the job is the location.  So don’t apologize for, or feel a need to explain, your current location.  I think geographic diversity is important.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: How do you define hirable?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

One question on the Hiring Librarians survey is: Approximately what percentage of people who applied for your last open position would you say were hirable? Can you answer that question for us on Further Questions, and also share how you define hirable.

Laurie Phillips

I would say 25%. That reflects the number of people who met the criteria to phone interview. They meet all of the required qualifications and one of the desired (usually). If they don’t meet the required, we can’t move forward. This is one of the main reasons why applicants have to address the qualifications. If you don’t show us that you’re qualified, we can’t even consider you. I have to say, though, that one person made me reconsider what I had asked for. I thought this candidate would have been excellent but the committee wouldn’t agree because we had asked for experience and probably shouldn’t have. That’s where those of us who are hiring learn from our mistakes!
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

A disappointingly small percentage of our applicants for librarian positions are hirable.  Generally, these are people who have failed to read and respond to our thoughtfully crafted job ads listing requirements.  If you do not meet the minimum requirements for a position, please do not apply.  If there is wiggle room on the preferreds, by all means, make that case in your cover letter.  Generic “shotgun” applications that bear no clear connection to the position posted are a waste of the search committee’s time and a cause for frustration.

– Anonymous

Jessica OlinI don’t know real percentages. We have HR filter out the people who don’t meet the minimum requirements. For our last open position, that meant a high school diploma and either library experience or customer service experience in a higher ed setting. Of the applications we did see, I’d say about 25% looked good enough that we’d be willing to talk to them, but we only invited 6 in for interviews. We normally only invite three, but that time were hiring for two part time positions and wanted to cast a slightly wider net. As for what “hirable” means to us, we look at things like willingness to learn and interest in the library (as opposed to just “I need a job”). We ask ourselves if we think this person can do this job with a reasonable amount of time allowed for learning.

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

Julie Todaro“New” librarian applicants: I will receive around 200 applications for my “entry” level jobs…that set typically includes the people who check off that they want their resume/application submitted for “everything for which they are qualified” …and so I will get about 20 people in this set of 200 – maybe a few more – who are technically qualified but didn’t want that job specifically OR now have a job.
Of the rest, a large number of people who not only meet the basic qualifications but exceed them by many years. For those we use the same vetting process, that is, do they have experience in instructional design (if we require or prefer that) so no applicant is “over qualified” it’s the match of specifics that counts.
So at least 150 or more may meet basic qualifications. The decision for interviewing then moves to “preferred” which is why I always tell people to carefully word but absolutely including all that they prefer. It’s a much more important category now – especially for entry level or lower experience required – because we need to be able to distinguish among those many applications.
As an aside, we have the grid from HR to use in vetting people, but we have a secondary grid that includes requirements and preferred categories to measure AND we use a designation to indicate “how important is that preferred” with either a ranking (as it is #1 on our list of preferred) or an A, B, or C…This makes sure our process is clear.
And does this vary? Yes, by time of year…for example and obviously – many more in any spring and post May graduation dates. Luckily I can hire year round even though they are faculty and are on annual contracts.
“Experienced” librarian applicants: So this is where it gets tricky …for general management jobs we get an “okay” number of fewer than 125. But a fewer number of these are qualified, that is, if we require 3 years of management experience, we really mean it…so we can’t take people who coordinated or managed projects or money…we have to have people who – as they say in HR – “signed timesheets.” I have also had people misrepresent their time to look like management – and often completely unintentionally – but it is always caught by HR as they compare actual experience. Another bug in this is that HR only counts full time…so if you were a part time librarian or managed part time, then for one year of management experience, you will need 2 years of part time management experience.
Specific to functions….finding someone to be in Technical Services and Automation – for me – was hard…so I had MANY applications from people who were tech experts but had not worked in Technical Services. And – for my position – you needed to have had experience in Technical Services to manage many of the traditional and non-traditional functions.  So of the 125 who applied only about 10 had the requisite required experience I needed.
– Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College

That’s a bit of a tricky question. Since the City handles our application process, we don’t see all the applications that come in for a position. They screen out anyone who doesn’t meet the minimum qualifications stated in the job description, so by the time the applications get to us for review, all we have are candidates who are technically “hirable”, at least in terms of meeting that minimum threshold. So, for me, the definition of “hirable” isn’t “meets minimum qualifications”. For me, a “hirable” person is someone who has demonstrated throughout their career (pre-MLS, post-MLS, I look at a person’s total work history, not just library work)a desire to move up, take more responsibility and try new things. I look for someone who interviews well (even when nervous), is articulate, thoughtful and not afraid to ask questions during an interview. Deal killers for me are poor grammar, job hopping, throwing previous co-workers, bosses or institutions under a bus (don’t ever, ever, EVER do that, seriously), not knowing anything about the library you’re applying to and, for heaven’s sake, TURN OFF YOUR CELL PHONE OR PUT IT ON VIBRATE DURING AN INTERVIEW. So, based on my admittedly biased criteria above, I would say that the percentage of “hirable” candidates that make it to the interview process is probably about 70%. I do give people a lot of leeway (except for those deal-killers above) and I put a premium on a good attitude and a willingness to learn. I can teach someone how to use our computer systems, I can’t teach someone how to be nice.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

J. McRee ElrodOur litmus for hiring if the ability to prode and send a .mrc file of records.  Only about 1.3 of applicants can do so, I assume because of the poor quality of library school cataloguing instruction.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Jacob BergI define hirable as having the demonstrable training, experience, and skillset(s) to do the job. This is one major reason why it’s important to customize cover letters, and sometimes resumes and CVs, to a particular job and job description. Based on that, I’d say that about ten percent of applicants for our last open position were hirable.
-Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University

Marleah AugustineTo me, “hirable” means that the applicant meets the minimum requirements and seems to be a good fit — meaning the applicants seem as though they’d be able to work with a variety of patrons but especially adults (as that’s the department I supervise), they could assist with basic computer questions, they have good customer service, they seem willing to learn, and they don’t seem like they’d get flustered easily. There are also different dynamics among staff members; it never fails that my daytime staff have a slightly different dynamic than my evening staff, and so when the person would be scheduled can also affect my decision about who is “hirable” and who isn’t.

To answer the first question, I would say that about 25% of the applicants appeared to be hirable. I hire for part-time, paraprofessional positions, so we get a wide range of applications just because some people apply for everything that’s available and aren’t necessarily looking to work in a library — so this doesn’t reflect the percentages you might find for an administrative, professional position that has higher minimum requirements.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

In general, I would say 20-30% of applicants for librarian jobs are not hirable because they lack the M.L.S. (It is listed as required, but I guess they are optimistic.) Of the remaining applicants, about half turn out to be unhirable because of poor communication skills: they do not answer the questions asked; do not make eye contact; fail to observe common rules of courtesy; display very low energy; have inadequate vocabularies; or exhibit poor listening skills. Sad but true.

– Anonymous

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Is negotiation expected?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Is negotiation expected when candidates are extended a job offer? If so, on what matters–salary, time off, other benefits, etc.? Have you ever had a rescind an offer after negotiations? This can be a tricky process, so any advice you could give on facilitating this process with politeness and grace would be appreciated.

Laurie Phillips

Yes, to a certain extent. At a university, time off and other benefits are not negotiable. Our benefits are set and many of them are governed by the Faculty Handbook. With salary, perhaps within reason. If I advertise a minimum salary, then yes, negotiation can be expected. However, in one search, I sent an email to each finalist letting them know that we had very little wiggle room salary-wise above the minimum. I think we had $2,000-$3,000 at most. All of the candidates stayed in the search. When we made an offer, the candidate said s/he couldn’t possibly accept for that little! In this case, however, the person really should have been paid more, but the position did not require it. I could not and would not go to the provost and ask for more money for an unknown commodity over my already underpaid junior faculty. I finally had to rescind the offer.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Cathi AllowayI wish, I really wish, that more women WOULD ASK FOR MORE!  Because we don’t ask, men still make more in this field!
Female librarians tend to think an offer is an offer and they ask for nothing more.  Yes, it’s true that library budgets are limited, but there are things that can be requested that could be easily accommodated, perhaps more so than the wages:
  • additional vacation time
  • technology – can the library provide a cell phone, laptop, tablet, etc.
  • parking or mileage when applicable
  • training
  • office situation
  • other perks?
And asking for any amount of additional wages is worth a try.  A recent hire here asked for an additional amount to cover the cost of parking.  This person did their research and found out how much it would cost to use the municipal garage.  I said yes in a flash and congratulated her on the negotiation.  She is the kind of person I want on our team.
Over the years, I have always tried to ask for more.  Additional days off have always meant a lot to me, since my family is scattered, and I have usually received them, based on my pitch that I have been in the industry for xx years, and that going back to 5 vacation days a year was a disappointment.
As for people negotiating for jobs here, sometimes they ask for higher wages than the budget can bear.  I will show the budget, when necessary, but remind them that we have annual COLA and merit raise potential.  If someone can’t live off of what we pay, I respect that, and it may not be the job for them.  I have never been on either side of a bad negotiation.  No one should punish you if you ask – and if they do –  you shouldn’t be working there!
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

We don’t really do negotiations here. People are always welcome to try, but our budget is pretty set, so there’s not a whole lot of flexibility in terms of salary; what people are offered is what they’ll get. As for benefits, the City has set benefits it offers and we don’t any authority to make changes to that. We’ve never rescinded an offer, but I do recall that a person once withdrew because we weren’t able to meet her requests for days off, vacation, starting date, etc.  The thing about working for a government agency is that there really isn’t much we can do to sweeten a job offer. We offer what’s allowed by City policy and that’s it. That being said, we’re pretty transparent about it and we make sure all interviewees know what the salary is and what benefits are offered right off the bat so there’s no confusion or unreasonable expectations.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

Celia RabinowitzI don’t think negotiation is necessarily expected but it seems increasingly common.  I have been on both ends of this process.  I have negotiated on my own behalf primarily for salary.  As a director and dean I have negotiated on salary and on “start-up” support in the form of additional professional development dollars in the first 1-2 years of work.  In the two public institutions where I have worked there would not be any room to negotiate about annual or sick leave.  These are set by the state or system.

I have never had to rescind an offer.  I have gone through two rounds of discussion on an offer.  My advice is to be honest in your approach to negotiating.  If there was a salary range posted with the position and you were not offered the top amount and think you should be, ask for it.  If not, ask for what you think you should earn.  Be willing to indicate your current salary if you think it will put your request in context.  Consider asking for slightly above what you want to settle on because the employer will probably come back with something in-between which might lead to a “yes.”

And don’t forget the other things that make up the offer.  Are the benefits really good?  Can you ask about some additional professional development funds and would that lead you to yes?  Be honest, be reasonable (and your future employer should be, too), and don’t be reluctant.  If an offer is made and no agreement on terms is reached, it should be the candidate who turns the position down, not the employer rescinding the offer.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH

Jessica OlinI’ve mentioned before in my responses that I’ve yet to fill a professional position, only non-degreed positions. I only had one person try to negotiate with me, but they ended up taking a position at another institution – a full-time job – so I don’t know how it would have turned out. I know I negotiated and did talk them up a bit. I know others at my institution who’ve done the same (one professor in particular comes to mind).

I think you’ve got to ask, but you’ve got to know what you’re worth and why. Another important consideration is knowing cost of living in the area where the library is located. I’ve heard of candidates expecting $50k for starting positions in the Midwest, which might happen in big BIG cities, but not anywhere else. Anything – salary, time off, moving stipend, etc. – can be negotiated, but know your priorities.

– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires? If so, can you tell us the typical length of this time and how employees are evaluated during probation? If not, are there other ways new hires are evaluated during the early days of their employment (first three to twelve months or so)? Generally, do you think probationary periods necessary for professional positions–why or why not? Feel free to provide answers for other types of library positions, if relevant.

Marleah AugustineI hire specifically part-time, entry level circulation desk staff, and yes, we have a six-month probationary period for each of them. At the end of the six months, we do a formal evaluation at which the employee also gets to set goals for themselves (maybe creating a new program or improving their skills with Microsoft Office, etc.). During those first six months, however, I am not hands-off. I talk with the employee frequently, ask them if they have questions, welcome their questions, and make sure they understand the expectations. I think it helps employees feel that there is a “safe zone”, that they can ask any questions that come up and get comfortable in the position.

For full-time, professional positions, there is also a six-month probationary period, after which the employee receives their full benefits.

I think it’s important for employees to have some time to get comfortable and feel free to make “mistakes”. It can also help the director, or whoever is directly supervising them, remember to check in and verify that the employee is fully trained and able to complete the tasks they are responsible for.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Laurie Phillips

We are faculty, so the only probation is the pre-tenure period. New hires are mentored, supervised by their supervise, but there is an annual peer evaluation by a group of three tenured library faculty. That group evaluates progress toward promotion and tenure and makes contract renewal recommendations. There is also input on the contract recommendations by the supervisor. The way it works is that, if you start in the fall, you have your first evaluation in January and you are recommended or not recommended for a contract the next year. Then, in October of your second year, you have a peer evaluation and a contract recommendation for the following year. Then there is another evaluation in late January where the recommendation is for the year after that. Henceforth, you always have a buffer where, if you are not recommended for a contract, you’d be awarded a terminal one-year contract. You would apply for tenure in your 6th year. So not exactly like a probationary period, but close.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Celia RabinowitzAt libraries where librarians have faculty status and can earn tenure and promotion, sometimes the first contract is for three years.  The formal review at the end of three years includes a recommendation to renew the contract for three more years when the person comes up for tenure or a recommendation not to renew the contract.  At my current institution faculty have a developmental review after year 1 and year 3 but the initial appointment is for five years.  Librarians come up for promotion in that year and if they are not promoted there isn’t much likelihood that they will receive tenure in the following year.  I like to meet monthly with library faculty in their first year so they get feedback and support from me as well as their peers.  And annual self-evaluations provide an opportunity for feedback and communication.

Other library staff positions have a one-year probationary period.  If used effectively I think probationary periods can be very important.  They create clear expectations for progress or accomplishments in the first year which provide an opportunity for assessment which might lead to an extension of probation, removal of probationary status, or termination if warranted.  The first three-year contract for library faculty serves much the same purpose. Goals should be clear with good feedback mechanisms.
Whatever the evaluation process the most important thing is to use the process effectively.  The initial employment period is there to help new faculty and staff learn the job and the culture, and to demonstrate what they bring to the position.  This is often the time when it will be the least difficult to separate someone from an organization if they are not working out. It is important to communicate and to document.
– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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Further Questions: What soft skills do you look for in job candidates within librarianship?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

What soft skills do you look for in job candidates within librarianship? How can candidates naturally demonstrate these skills to you? Is it ever appropriate to include them on resumes/CVs? How do you evaluate soft skills?

Jessica OlinMy library is really small, so everyone works at the circulation desk – even me on occasion. So the biggest soft skill I look for is friendliness. Nothing worse than getting up your nerve to go ask for help only to have the person behind the desk breathe fire at you. And it’s simple: does the candidate smile in a genuine way and/or have open body language? Skills and qualifications are uppermost, but between two equally qualified candidates, we hire the friendlier one.
– Jessica Olin, Director of Parker Library, Wesley College

 

For soft skills, the most important ones to me are communication, problem solving and critical thinking. I look for good communication skills during the interview-even nervous candidates can show good communication skills. Does the candidate look at the interviewers, do they speak well (no mumbling!), do they need to be prompted to answer a question more thoroughly? Problem solving is very important-I like a candidate who can think on their feet. It can be woven into the narrative during an interview-usually we’ll ask a question about dealing with an issue and the candidate can show skills there. Critical thinking is sort of nebulous, but I look for candidates who give thoughtful answers and who ask good questions during the interview. I like a good, interactive experience. An interview shouldn’t be one-sided.

– Margaret M. Neill, Regional Library Branch Manager, Main Library, El Paso Public Library

 

Laurie PhillipsI would say we look for ability to multi-task, deal with stress and conflict in a productive way, solve problems, adapt to change, work easily with others in a team and collaborate. If we address specific skills in the qualifications (which we often do), then yes, address it in the letter, but probably not the resume/CV. Most of these are demonstrated through the questions we ask in the interview, interactions during the interview day, and through the questions we ask of references. That’s a good reason to make sure you choose your references well!

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.

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