Category Archives: 50-100 staff members

We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit.

Exterior of the University of Exeter Library, with students entering and exiting the building
The University of Exeter Main Library, Benjamin Evans, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Dean & Director

Titles hired include: All of the library faculty and staff in our university library

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

√ CV

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Other: DEI Statement

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Depends if it is faculty or staff. We have search committees, DEI expectations, training and meetings before the job description can be approved by HR. We have a very strong procedure to ensure that we are fair and accommodating to all applicants.  

Faculty run the faculty search, but the dean makes the final decision (provost must give approval)

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

They had a strong sense of self and understood the value they would bring to the workplace. An openness to experience and to joining an academic environment. An understanding of our student-centric campus ethos.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Yes! You can be the smartest person in the room but if you have a low EQ and can’t work with others the hire will not be successful.

One must come with a well formulated concept of self in regards to DEI work and evidence of support/knowledge for our campus population. As a majority under-represented campus, we require a DEI lens/mindset.

If your priority is to work 100% at home. We allow telecommuting, but we are a F2F campus and that requires equal focus on site.

Negative angry-twitter postings. We ALL feel a lot, your level of maturity is reflected in the library-twitter world you inhabit. You do not have to say everything you think. It is called being a grown up

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

what their career goals are. I consider growing people my responsibility and knowing what people want re: knowledge acquisition would be useful

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?

They don’t consider their fit with the campus. Do your homework. 

Sell what you bring to us. 

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

We have. Practice a solid presentation. Two years into COVID/online work there is NO EXCUSE for a lousy presentation. Make sure the lighting is good, sound, your entire face!  I just had an interview for an instruction position and one candidate only had 1/3 of her face visible.

Bring the energy – it is more difficult for us to get to know you. Show interest and excitement.

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?

Connect the dots. I hired a Home Depot manager who strongly connected her skills to running a service desk. She’s awesome

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: we finally got our campus to share. As a state institution, there is one solid number. But it is uneven.

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

So much. 

All search committees have training and overview by the Inclusive Excellence office. HR and the Dean looks to highlight and be aware of all diversities.

1) pre-search mtg

2) mid-way through mtg

3) post-work mtg

We have standard questions and a strong process that enforces an open mind and process

We have rubrics so that we are rating the same skills

We have changed our minimum standards of requirements

We try to present a diverse search committee, as much as possible

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

What DEI work are we engaged in?

What is the strategic plan and how is it incorporated into regular work? It is great to have values and goals, but are they important enough to accomplish!

What new, exciting projects is the library involved in?

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western 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?

√ 51-100

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

Have hope, empower yourself, align your priorities/goals with the institution. There are many good jobs and some bad ones. Be picky even when it feels like you can’t be. 

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

Always share that you speak another language

headshot of Rachel Schmidt

Rachel Schmidt loves all the facets of being a librarian. In her current role, she serves as the Supervising Youth Services Librarian for the Santa Clara City Library. Growing school and local education partnerships, leading story times and providing access to learning opportunities for ages 0-18 are her main priorities. 

Rachel also loves to collaborate with other librarians. Feel free to reach out!

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

1. Application submissions

2. Oral Board (Outside Panel)

3. Interview (Library Staff Panel)

4. Ref check

5. Possible 3rd Interview

Titles hired: Librarian I, Librarian II, Library Assistant, Intern Consultant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ 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?

1. Passion and love of serving community

2. Demonstrated Problem solving and leadership

3. Excited to learn and demonstrate flexibility

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

1. Bad story time demo

2. Not friendly

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

Their compassion for all walks of life.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

Not preparing. Not studying the organization. A little nod to the organiztion goes a long way. Like “ I really love how your Library uses social media to connect with your community” or “One of the main reasons that I applied for this position is that I found that EDI Is deeply embedded into the organiztions strategic plan”. 

Practicing general interview strategies beforehand can really help a candidate warm up for the interview. I suggest revisiting LinkedIn for Learning or any other basic interview courses to get a reminder on the basics. When I am gearing up for an interview, I tend to practice answering questions in my car during my commute so that I can make my answers sound more succinct and I can avoid too much repetition in my experiences/statements. 

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

You need to have a strong internet connection and be able to show friendliness and professionalism. Zoom interviews are very difficult. Also, make sure to take notes and ask a few thoughtful questions after the interview to get more engagement with the panel. 

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?

Great customer service is great customer service and we can learn that anywhere. Demonstrate how they go above and beyond and serve with equity. Being welcoming. Skills and job processes can be learned.

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?

Use a rubric and have multiple interviews

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

Work culture. What is a regular work day like? What are your organizational goals? Strategic plan? What would you like to see accomplished in 5 years? How does your Library support professional development? How do staff have fun and bond at work? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

You need to show a confident version of yourself! Show passion. And it’s always great to demonstrate how you have built relationships in your work with partner organizations. Always SHARE THAT YOU SPEAK ANOTHER LANGUAGE…this always gets overlooked.

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

I’ve also received resumes that list a spouse and children as accomplishments, and the person’s ability to crack jokes in the office

11/30/44 Librarian – Elizabeth Edwards. doe-oakridge, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Senior Reference Librarian 

Titles hired include: Library Assistant, Visitor Services Assistant, Assistant Reference Librarian, Vice President of Development, Reproductions Coordinator 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Most hiring is done at the department level. In my department we typically circulate the job description internally, post externally on our website and relevant listservs and job aggregator sites, and accept applications by email/post. The hiring supervisor reviews the applications and shares a short list with the hiring committee. The hiring committee decides whom from that short list to invite for interviews. Interviews are typically about one hour and either happen in person or virtually (during the pandemic we switched to Zoom). Questions are offered in advance (in my department). We then follow up by calling references and finally selecting our top candidates to whom an offer is made.

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

I always appreciate specificity and the ability of a candidate to narrate how their resume experiences brought them to this point in their career and how these experiences connect to the job description. I like evidence that the person has done some homework on our organization and thought about reasons it would be a good fit beyond wages (obviously important). 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

If a person fails to write a substantive cover letter I am unlikely to move their candidacy forward. I also dislike overly personal details on a resume, for example I received a resume recently where the applicant included details about their exercise routines and health. I’ve also received resumes that list a spouse and children as accomplishments, and the person’s ability to crack jokes in the office. These feel like inappropriate content for a resume. 

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

Because I am personally interested in hiring candidates who come from varying backgrounds and minoritized communities I often want to know things about personal identity that are not generally safe for candidates to share (chronic illness, queerness, religious background, socioeconomic status for example). I absolutely understand why people choose not to share these details; what I do try to do is be a little vulnerable in interviews about my own identities (mentioning my wife; referring to a chronic health issue) to make it more possible people will share some of those aspects of their own lives. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

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?

Speaking in vague generalities instead of concrete, specific responses. I also dislike over-use of industry specific jargon which can be a cover for simplistic or rote answers that don’t help me understand the candidate’s thinking. 

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

We have since the pandemic began. I don’t find these very different from in person interviews (perhaps since so many of my work meetings happen virtually now too). Being calm in the face of tech glitches and patient with small delays is helpful and demonstrates that the applicant is willing to roll with unexpected changes. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

I appreciate hearing from these candidates how they see this previous experience building toward what they hope to do in their library career and/or at our specific institution. Hearing them crosswalk their learning helps me understand how they reflect on their work and make decisions about their skills, workplace culture, etc. as they look for compatible work. On some level, we do have t go back to the job description and assess whether a candidate meets required/preferred criteria, but we do try to be flexible and reflect on a person’s full range of experience. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: Our department lists the salaries in the job ad. It is inconsistent across the institution. 

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

In our department we try to be transparent and consistent in the hiring process (not ghosting candidates) and we avoid doing outside research beyond the application (e.g. LinkedIn, Google search, etc.) We assess applicants based on their submitted materials in the first round. As we move through the hiring process the committee has active discussions about how to weigh various kinds of diversity of experience in our hiring, understanding how cultural “fit” can shape our priorities in unhelpful ways. 

We are a majority-white, majority straight, majority-abled, professional class staff and in the midst of reckoning with the way our institutional culture is not necessarily equitable or inclusive. We shouldn’t (in my opinion) hire candidates we cannot enable to thrive once in the door. A lot of our current work in this area has to do with making our workplace inclusive for existing as well as future staff. It is slow going. 

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

I am always happy to hear questions from candidates about labor conditions and workplace climate. 

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?

√ 51-100 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Northeastern US, Special, Urban area

Unable to articulate what they will bring to the job

View of researchers using the Schomburg Collection From the New York Public Library

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Assistant Director

Titles hired: Librarian, Library Assistant, Supervisor

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ 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:

We post the job ad, review resumes, conduct interviews with 3 to 5 candidates, possibly conduct second interviews with two or three candidates, select one.

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

Well-written cover letter that addresses the specific job, well formatted résumé, solid relevant job experience. Understanding of library work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Lack of required skills, experience, or education.

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

Whether they plan to stay long term or if this position is just until something better comes along.

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?

Being late, unable to articulate what they will bring to the job.

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

We have, due to Covid. They should be sure to check out their technology before the interview starts to make sure it is working properly.

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?

What I look for in this situation is that they have solid customer service experience, such as retail, restaurants, and the like. Showing us that you understand that Library work is fundamentally customer service-based is important.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: We often mention in the ad that we need the states salary guidelines.

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

We are currently working with a DEI consulting firm to improve in this area.

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

They should ask what a typical day looks like, and what the management style of their supervisor is.

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?

√ 51-100

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Northeastern US, Urban area

We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer!

Headshot of Alan Smith. He wears glasses, a white shirt and tie.

Alan Smith is Director of the Florence County, SC Library System and holds a Master of Library and Information Science degree from the University of South Carolina. 

Over the past 20 years he has worked in rural, urban, and suburban public libraries, in a wide variety of roles.

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

I send all applications to the position’s direct supervisor and let them choose who to interview (I will sometimes add in a name too). We interview with a 3-person panel consisting of me, the position’s direct supervisor, and another manager. We rotate other managers in and out and always keep the panel as diverse as possible. After interviewing we score individually and discuss. I defer to the direct supervisor if our opinions differ.

After all this they go through our county’s background check and drug test.  

Titles hired include: Everything! From Branch Library Managers, Information Services Manager, Youth Services Coordinator, Training and Outreach Coordinator, to Pages, Library Assistants, Custodian, Maintenance, Courier…

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

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?

She had a wide variety of experience, none of it in libraries, but really convincingly demonstrated how those skills and experiences would translate to our mission and values. 

Interviews are limited in what they can tell you — and I’ve hired folks with great interviews who turned out not to be great employees — but someone who gives a pleasant interview with thoughtful answers is at least demonstrating that they can do well in a stressful personal interaction, which is a pretty good indicator of customer service skills.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Sounds obvious, but people who don’t show up for an interview and don’t call. We’ve had people do a complete no-show and then continue applying for other positions?! 

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

What kind of coworker are they? Will they help resolve conflicts among other employees or will they just enjoy watching drama unfold? Will they add to or strain social cohesion on the team?

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?

Feeling like they have to answer immediately and not giving themselves a second to think about their answers. We’d rather wait a few seconds and get a well-thought out answer! And, people who are clearly reluctant to talk about their own accomplishments and virtues. This is where you toot your own horn! 

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

Occasionally. Number one is site preparation – interview from a quiet, distraction free environment (as much as is within your control). 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

I’m more concerned whether candidates have done work aligned around a mission or set of values, and whether they have experience building good community relationships and/or working with customers, than whether they have done those things in a library setting. 

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 always use a 3-person panel with members of different races and genders. That doesn’t eliminate individual unconscious bias, of course, but we try to acknowledge it in our discussions about candidates. I do worry about discrimination baked into the process itself, i.e., which candidates’ applications do we never even receive because we didn’t advertise where they would see it, didn’t convince them we were the type of place they would be welcome, etc. 

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

Asking any kind of questions shows a level of interest and critical thinking that we’re really looking for. I like to hear questions about culture and environment (“What’s a typical day like here?” “What do you like most or least about the job?”), and questions about the overall organization’s direction (“What are the library’s top priorities?” “What would a successful person in this position be doing a year from now?”)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: Very limited remote options during early phases of COVID; our County required all-onsite after May 2020.

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

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

I’m always interested in hearing feedback on specific interview questions — questions that are especially illuminating, or well-known questions that are useless. Maybe beyond the scope of this survey though.

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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

We had someone use thinly veiled racist language during an interview which absolutely shut it down.

Black and white image of librarian sitting at circulation desk while a reader browses bookshelves behind them
Image: Librarian at desk and reader at bookshelves From The New York Public Library

This interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director

Titles hired: Adult/Teen/Youth Librarian, Department Managers, Assistant Director, Custodian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No

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

Pretty traditional: Resumes are received by HR, HR forwards candidates to hiring manager. Hiring manager and assistant manager of that department select and interview candidates. Library Director reviews candidate pool with hiring manager to make sure a viable candidate was not skipped over. Hiring manager brings chosen applicant’s resume to director where starting salary is discussed and an offer is made.

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

On paper, I like to see directly relevant experience. This can be something like a decade of teaching in schools in an applicant for a school outreach position, etc… It does not have to be “library” experience.

In person, being friendly and approachable is always the most impactful. This is a service industry – if you can’t at least fake being nice in an interview, there’s little hope you will be nice to angry patrons.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not many, we had someone use thinly veiled racist language during an interview which absolutely shut it down.

I’ve had people lie directly on their resume regarding positions/experience – we don’t bother even contacting them. The library world is too small for that to work.

If you had a bad separation from a library just be honest about it. Good hiring managers know that terminations happen and it is almost never solely an issue with the employee.

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

Long term positivity vs negativity of a hire. The interview can show you someone on their intentional best behavior but you will never be able to determine if that person will become a toxic center in a department until it happens.

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?

Pretending to know everything or dodging a question they don’t understand. If you aren’t familiar with an interview question topic be forthcoming. Show me you are interested in learning and that you are confident in admitting what you don’t know. We can teach someone willing to learn – I can’t do much with someone who is hiding behind a façade.

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

We no longer conduct virtual interviews. This is such a poor method, but I understand its necessity on a case-by-case basis. I would make sure you treat the environment you conduct the virtual interview in as a business-professional setting. Assure there will be no interruptions – book a study room at a local library if possible.

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?

We actively seek out real-world experience that can be brought to libraries. A candidate should be able to show they understand the position they are applying for by drawing direct connections between the desired job duties and their direct experience. “The daycare center also dealt with disruption and squabbles between grade schoolers, we handled it by performing XYZ. This is the approach I would bring to any disruption during a program/play area.”

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?

Administrative review of the candidate pool, direct conversations with hiring managers why certain applicants may not have been selected to interview. Debriefing of managers by administration regarding interview performance and the manager being required to actively defend why they chose a certain candidate.

We investigated blocking out names on resumes/cover letters to avoid bias, but it was clunky and often our applicants rely on their specific positions/experience and references. We also hire directly out of the community for many of our positions and if a patron had a good reputation among the staff this information was more important than preemptively assuming managers were selecting based on someone’s name.

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

I don’t think there’s anything a candidate ‘should’ ask. For some of the higher librarian positions it is good to hear questions regarding the specific duties and expectations of the position (how often is outreach expected, do we serve all schools in the area, etc..)

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Outside of having direct knowledge of someone’s work performance (ie, internal candidates) the next most valuable element to have is a reference from a previous supervisor. I don’t think the importance of this can be overstated. I want to know first-hand how your previous bosses characterized you as an employee. This goes well beyond skills/experience – I want to know if your personality and work ethic were considered a benefit to an organization or a detriment.

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

How often is the Library open? What kind of activities occur in the Library? 

Kathryn Levenson has been the Librarian at Piedmont High School for 6 years. Her passion as CSLA Chair for Freedom of Information is providing resources to Librarians with book challenges. 

She also loves mysteries, travel and cats. 

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

Update job description. Internal Posting. External Posting on EdJoin. Form hiring committee. Review applications. Interview panel. Contact references of 2 to 3 finalists. Committee members rank their choices. Some Discussion. The Librarian makes the final decision after consulting with the Principal.

Titles hired include: Library Assistant 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel

√ Employees at the position’s same level (on a panel or otherwise)

√ Other: Principal

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

Our choice was between someone like me in terms of skills, but with accounting skills as well and someone totally different: more creative, great with kids, had worked as a para educator for many years at the elementary school in our district. Good at working with SPED students and already knew many students. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Arrogance. Rehearsed answers.

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

Dedication. Love helping students. Creative problem solvers. Additional talents.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ We don’t ask for this  

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?

Not really listening to our questions. Saying they can fix our system. Not trying to connect with the panel.

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

We did not pre Covid.

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?

Be flexible, caring, willing to work around each others’ schedules, and be supportive when the Librarian has last minute meetings.

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?

Be open to all kinds of people. My most recent assistant is the only male in our library system. In our oral interviews, we had 3 female and 2 male candidates, all white. We have a DEI Administrator for the District and a commitment to hiring diverse staff. I especially appreciate people continuing their education at the same time.

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

How flexible are the hours? It is a 50% position but requires extra days at the start and end of the year. How often is the Library open? What kind of activities occur in the Library? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Other: Next to a large diverse urban area.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, School, Suburban area, Western US

For those on the job market, hang in there!

Hilary Kraus is a Research Services Librarian and liaison to kinesiology and psychology at the University of Connecticut. She has worked as a reference and instruction librarian, focusing on the health and social sciences, at universities in the Midwest and New England. 

Hilary holds a BA in English and Creative Writing from Northwestern University and an MSI from the University of Michigan.

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

At most places I’ve worked, the job description is generally written by admin and reviewed by the hiring committee or written/revised by the hiring committee and approved by admin. This is around the time the hiring committee is selected and charged. The job is posted for a period of time, typically around 4 weeks, and then application review begins. The committee agrees on first round candidates and does phone or video interviews, then clears a short-list for campus interviews with admin. Campus interviews (pre-COVID) included dinner the night before and then a full day interview. The hiring committee submits strengths/weaknesses for who they consider qualified candidates among those who visited campus. Admin makes the final decision.

Titles hired include: Reference/instruction/liaison librarians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ 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? 

√ Other: I don’t know

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

They really expressed themselves well in their cover letter, not only highlighting relevant qualifications but also emphasizing why this job appealed to them. I get that people want a job because it means money and security, but as a hiring committee member and future colleague I still want to know why this job was on their list, and that they are actually interested in doing the work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

I try to extend all possible grace, so I ignore minor errors in application materials (up to and including putting the wrong institution name at the top, because I have to say, as a candidate, I would never get over the mortification, so they’ve already been punished enough for that mistake). For me, it’s a deal-breaker if there’s no indication anywhere in the letter that they have any real investment in this specific job.

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

I can’t think of anything specific. We already demand people share so much information in the application process!

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more

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?

I think mistakes in interviews are very candidate-specific. I also don’t like to think of what they do as “mistakes,” but just as not being as successful as they could be. That said, I guess the only one I can really think of that’s helpful is not allowing themselves enough time to think of an answer to a question they didn’t anticipate. Stalling is fine! “What a great question! Give me a moment to consider my answer.” It’s also ok to ask for clarification or elaboration of a question if you’re not sure how to approach it.

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

Yes. This is hard, because not everyone has a good space that meets these requirements, but if you can, try to have: a comfortable chair where you’re sitting up relatively straight, decent lighting, a quality microphone or headset you’ve tested in advance, and a background without too many distracting elements. It’s fine to blur your background or put up a virtual one. Wear something you’re comfortable but professional-looking in — no need for anything extra fancy, especially since mostly the interviewers will just see your upper body.

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?

Lean into what you already know and have done! Many parapros have more library experience than new MLS grads, plenty of skills are applicable in multiple types of libraries, and many non-library folks have lots of transferable skills. But you have to be able to make the connection for the hiring committee, you can’t depend on them to figure it out themselves. As unfair as it seems, they’re also juggling a lot of different responsibilities and probably reading through a ton of applications, so help them see why your background is relevant.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ Other: It depends, but at my current place of work, we now put it in the ad.

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

I wish there was a way to scrub the application docs to make it impossible to assume gender, race, etc., but there really isn’t in academia. Several places I’ve worked used a matrix to ensure that everyone was evaluated in a well-documented fashion, and had hiring committee members write up their notes/reactions for screening and campus interviews without discussion to reduce groupthink. I think those types of things help, but honestly, implicit bias is obviously a real thing at every stage.

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 people like about working at the organization, where they see it heading (even the rank and file folks have opinions on this!), what would make someone successful in the role.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ 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

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

The academic job search process is such a hazing ritual. Thanks for trying to make it better and more transparent.

For those on the job market, hang in there!


Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Suburban area, Urban area

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers.

Headshot of Jamie Taylor in front of a white board, wearing a bike cap

Jaime Taylor is the Discovery and Resource Management Systems Coordinator at UMass Amherst. Her professional interests include the racialized and gendered nature of librarianship, rethinking librarian education, flattening institutional structures beyond what is currently fashionable, and providing library services in unconventional settings.  Her non-professional interests include bicycles, cats, and old houses. 

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

I have chaired two search committees at my current organization. At my library, hiring is done via committees, which work with library admin to conduct the search & interview process, then make recommendations to the hiring authority (that is, the Dean of Libraries) about which candidate to offer the position to. Committees have 3-5 members, and include both librarians and paraprofessional staff, per our union contracts. For librarian positions, we usually have a phone interview round & then a finalist round of on-campus, full-day interviews, including a presentation by the candidate to library staff. We have recently begun revamping our processes with a DEI/justice lens, and so this process is under renovation. 

Titles hired include: ILS/LSP administrator; collections analysis librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ A Committee or panel 

Note: The committee makes recommendations, but the Dean of Libraries has the final decision.

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ 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 

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

They had thorough answers to questions about soft skills — the why & how questions; questions about justice, inclusion & equity; and demonstrated through their answers introspection about their work. They showed a growth mindset, through the research & other professional development they do, as well as through their interests inside & outside the library. They showed interest in cross-departmental connections & shared library/university governance. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Since I work for the state & hire other state workers, if a candidate does not meet the minimum requirements listed in the job description I *cannot* hire them, even if they make a very compelling argument that would be convincing in another setting.

Displays of subtle or overt bias or discrimination, especially against existing library staff. I have hired a young trans woman, for example, and we have workers of color and queer workers thorughout the library. I will not endanger my coworkers through my hiring decisions.

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

I wish I had better ways of sussing out which candidates will actually be able to quickly grow into a role that is a step up the career ladder or involves a new skillset. I’ve had libraries take that chance on me, and I think it worked out well for both me and the institution, so I’d like to be able to extend the same when I’m doing the hiring. Anyone can say that they are lifelong learners & relish a challenge, but it’s harder to concretely prove that someone will be successful at something they don’t yet know how to do.

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

Note: Two pages max each for resume/CV & cover letter is probably the sweet spot for early to mid-career positions. In a digital environment, keeping each to only one page isn’t important.

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

Not answering the questions I am actually asking! Please find a way to give a substantive answer to my actual question, even if you don’t have the particular qualification I am asking about. I want to hear specificity and details to know that you know what you are talking about.

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

We are actively trying to make this as equitable and stress-free as possible! As long as we can hear each other, it’s all good.

Virtual or phone interviews make it much easier to have notes on hand to refer to as you speak — take advantage of that!

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?

Make a convincing argument that your skills & experience translate. Tell me why it makes sense. Be confident in them and sell it to me. Customer service experience is always relevant, for example, even if you are only communicating with coworkers.

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 rewritten job descriptions to allow for more kinds of experience to be applicable. We actively advertise in places that are relevant to wider, more diverse audiences. I personally cultivate a diverse professional network & use it when hiring. We have an orientation session for the search committee at the beginning of the process to reinforce methods of bias reduction & have checklists & exemplars to refer to. 

But, since the library is largely staffed by white people, the collective networks of staff are mostly also white. We see names & other possible ethnic identifiers on applications. We are currently understaffed & in a rush to hire, so we may not think we have the time to slow down a process enough to give it proper attention with an anti-bias lens.

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

Please ask something, anything! It looks bad if a candidate has zero questions. Ask us about the culture and supervision style of the unit the position is in. Ask us about what kind of professional development opportunities there are. Ask us why we chose to work at this library. Ask us what exciting projects or changes are on the horizon. Use your questions to show us that you are curious & forward thinking & are aware of trends in the library world.

It’s important that candidates know we are part of active unions governed by collective bargaining agreements, and that we are state workers. These two facts govern the choices a candidate has once they’ve been offered a position – negotiation, selection of benefits. Candidates should also know that unions are only as strong as their members, so expect to be involved in making our institution the best workplace it can be. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Note: New England rural, not flyover state rural, though.

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

Don’t apply for positions that aren’t a good match to your experience & skills. It’s a waste of your time & ours. Instead, spend more time honing your application materials & interview skills for positions that are a close fit.

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Academic, Northeastern US, Rural area