Category Archives: Cataloging/Technical Services

Further Questions: Does Word Really Get Around?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

The idea of someone’s reputation comes up fairly regularly in career discussions.  Does it really matter?  Has there ever been a case where you haven’t hired someone because of something you heard (or vice-versa)?  And how is this information about reputation transmitted?

YES it really matters!

For good and for bad.

We hear it how we hear it.

We try to be open-minded and fair and recognize that rumors and innuendo can be flagrantly unfair, and so rely on our own careful process.  But we’d consider a bad reputation a red flag and probe, or a goodreputation encouraging, and try to confirm or refute.

People talk, people remember, and Google is powerful and librarians know how to use it.

Why do you [candidate] even have to ask?  If you don’t know, maybe that’s the problem?

– Anonymous


Word does indeed get around, although more locally or regionally than nationally, I think. I’ve never made a hiring decision based on this type of information, but I *have* made decisions about whom to collaborate with professionally. You often don’t have a choice about whom you work with on a day-to-day basis, but presenting and publishing are a lot of additional work, and I would never choose to work with someone I knew (from trustworthy sources) was difficult. Life is too short. 

– Anonymous


Christine Hage - Dark backgroundA candidate’s reputation is very important to me.  I may use references listed on a resume, but I am more inclined to call someone that I know who might have worked with the candidate, even if it was several years ago.  I assume that any reference on a resume is going to give a positive review, but a co-worker might give me a different picture.  Of course I would only use a reference that I knew and whose opinion I respected.

Another facet of reputation is that of the libraries the person has worked in.  I don’t mind taking someone from a library of a different size or setting than my library.  If the person is coming from a small library, then I’d like to hear things like “I want more variety/challenge/faster pace on the job than I’m afforded in a small library” or  “The large library didn’t allow me to give as personal service as I would like to provide.”  The candidate should be able to articulate why they are changing libraries.

Each library has a reputation too and some are almost toxic.  There is a library in our area that has a notoriously grumpy staff and a high turnover in directors.  Previous directors don’t speak highly of the staff either.  I don’t even interview people from that library unless they have only worked there a very short time.  If they say “I didn’t like the atmosphere at “x” library” then I might consider the candidate.

We get a lot of applicants for the positions we post and I won’t “settle” for just anyone.  I want to know why the candidate wants to work here and to believe they will offer services up to or exceeding the services we already offer.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library


Marge Loch WoutersBe good; do good – and understand your actions may follow you throughout your career. It does indeed matter. Librarianship is a crushingly small world. I am often aware of poor AND proud behaviors. If you are always a consummate professional –even when you disagree with board, administration, co-workers or the community – you leave a softer footprint in the library world. If you don’t have to hamstring yourself, why would you?

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library


Marleah AugustineIf I know that a current staff member has worked with an applicant in another organization, or has had a class with the applicant, or that kind of connection, I will ask for the current staff member’s thoughts on that particular person. First impressions are good to know. If I was leaning toward interviewing that applicant anyway, then I probably still will regardless of the current staff’s perspective, but I do take it into consideration with the whole process.

Sometimes an applicant will have already applied once to work at our library and wasn’t hired for some reason. I will discuss the applicant with my colleagues and get their thoughts, why the applicant wasn’t hired the previous time, and any other information they may have to offer. Again, none of this is a dealbreaker, but it may help me choose between two applicants or figure out why I had a certain impression about a person.

Neither of those is really the same as reputation, although that can come into play. I think reputation is more important and more likely to be considered in hiring full-time, professional applicants, whereas I hire part-time paraprofessional staff, for the most part.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Yes, word definitely gets around, especially when the members of a hiring committee are active members of email lists and associations and have constant contact with the profession beyond their own library. Committees I’ve been on haven’t been hateful about it, but if a member recognizes an applicant who is consistently obnoxious or rude in communication, if a person has dropped the ball when serving on committees, or other behaviors that would raise an eyebrow, it definitely is mentioned in-committee. I can even remember one instance where a librarian contacted someone on a conference planning committee to back out of a speaking engagement when they were partnered with someone from a different state they had fired for cause a number of years earlier. Libraries – even writ large – are a relatively small, vocal and social professional community, and it is important to remember that.
I will add that librarianship is also a forgiving community – most of us have made mistakes at one time or another, disagreement is healthy, we generally encourage odd “characters”, and in general we are truly a helping profession with enough room for all kinds of mischief and mayhem, so long as it’s not perceived as hostile. It’s a good idea no matter what your profession to make sure your reputation isn’t something that is hurting, rather than helping, you.
– Anonymous
Laurie PhillipsI would say that in smaller portions of our field, yes, word does get around. When I was involved in a smaller subject-related library association, there were people who got a reputation for job-hopping or for, as one person put it, “she’s had really good jobs for about 5 minutes.” The implication was that the person was able to get some really good jobs but not keep them. I think there are people who’ve gotten a reputation based on what they post on listservs, but that’s probably less often. I don’t think I’ve ever had to apply that to a job candidate.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
Reputation is everything!!! While job searches are supposed to be confidential, if a hiring manager has a close friend working at the library where an applicant is from, they may contact that person to see what you are like to work with.
In addition, if you are involved in ALA or your state library association, this can give you a reputation which can be good or bad. You may become known as the go to person to plan programs or to give complex committee assignments to because you get the job done and you get it done well or you could become known as the person who dropped off the face of the earth after 3 months and never communicated with that committee again. I personally like to think of it this way: anyone in my state or national organizations that I am interacting with is either my potential future supervisor, future employee, or future job reference.
– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries
Terry Ann LawlerYes, reputation matters a great deal. Word does get around if you are a hard worker, fast thinker, creative problem solver or really friendly. It also gets around if you are late, don’t participate, not a team player or have a bad attitude. I have certainly heard from other people about someone for the good and for the bad. When it comes to hiring within a community, your reputation can be the reason people are clamoring for you or the reason you aren’t getting a job.
How does word get around? This depends. In our library system, supervisors talk. We may try to keep our complaints anonymous but we aren’t all that big a community. And, I am surrounded by no less than 7 other library systems (we are a large metropolitan area). I have friends in all of these systems and after a round of drinks, we might let those frustrations fly. We are also a very celebratory community and share great ideas and great people. In addition, if you are on committees with ALA or your local organizations, these people talk as well.
Our hiring process includes past reviews and supervisory references. And, can sometimes include word of mouth. I have absolutely been dying to hire people who who I heard were awesome and who came highly recommended.
I have also declined to hire people who I heard had attendance problems or issues working in a team environment.
I guess the next question should be ‘how do you fix a damaged reputation?’ 🙂
– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library

I do not know if telling schools to tell cohorts not to be rude to the online librarians because they are tainting their schools’ reputations would be something that you would do.

They do not realize a lot of people who participate in hiring decisions may moonlight or be the person covering a cooperative shift for their library that covers the national public and academic queues

and we talk

a lot

on back channel chat

They are poisoning the pool for both themselves and their more illustrious classmates.

I used to work for a large cooperative chat service. It covers the entire US (some schools, some publics, some entire states). However, to get good deals on the service for their own library, libraries have to give a certain number of hours of national coverage.   So a person from New York might be answering a question from California.

In addition to the chat that the person gets for any ask a librarian service, there is a back channel running at the same time for librarians to share for example the fact that the same person is being abusive in 10 libraries in 4 states. So there is the librarian only chat, and the librarian patron chat.

If a rash of rude LIS students come on the librarian patron chat, it gets noted and discussed on the Librarian librarian chat,

“oh that person who wants you to restate their opening paragraph on the reference interview is back–I have already had her 4 times”

“yeah, she told me it was my job to restate her paragraph because the writing center is closed”

If a rash of patrons comes in with this situation, it reflects on the school they are from

“Oh the person who wants you to do her cataloguing assignment is back”

That is not a question like,

“how do I find the LCSH for x”

it is like,

“here is a list of twenty titles, give me the LCSH for each”

It is their homework.

We notice.

And it is not just the middle of the night Chat service backups (some of whom btw are moonlighting and in hiring positions).  It is people covering for big systems. The student may think they are only being rude to a peon from a local public library, but even THAT is bad judgment, since so many people in librarianship talk to each other.  We notice when the same question comes through, and it is an LIS homework question given at the same time to 5 different libraries but has the same typo in each.

If you have to do cooperative coverage, you are seeing from all over the country as they come in. It may sound like we are being petty, but when somebody demands that you catalog 20 items, or tells you,

“I do not have time to get this print ref assignment done by visiting a library–go pull all the books or find somebody who can”

(both of which I have experienced)… After a while, even though you KNOW not all graduates of that school do it and you know good people from that school, you get a jaundiced view.

– 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 me at

Thank YOU for reading! If you like reading, you might also like commenting.  You’re very welcome to try it out here.


Filed under Academic, Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Circulation, Further Questions, Paraprofessional, Public, Public Services/Reference, Special, Youth Services

Further Questions: Is becoming a librarian still a reasonable dream?

If Yahoo can write article based on Reddit, I suppose I can use it for this week’s question.  It comes from this Reddit post, written by a librarian who graduated two years ago.
This week I asked people who hire librarians:
What advice would you give to someone who’s been searching for a librarian job for two years?  Is it still a reasonable dream?   
Marleah AugustineI think anything that you feel passionately about and truly want to spend your life (or even just a portion of it) doing is a reasonable dream. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time for my position, but I do have a few pieces of advice:

Be willing to compromise – whether it’s by relocating or by taking a position in reference even if you really want to be a children’s librarian. Sometimes you aren’t in the right area. I’m in Kansas, and I’ve seen several job postings come across our listserv. I’m also on the PubLib listserv, and I’ve seen several job postings there as well. Maybe you’ll need to take a lower-paying job to get started, but it still gets you out there and your foot in the door. Even volunteering at a library where you may want to work can be beneficial. You’ll already know the folks there, and you may hear the inside scoop about people leaving sooner.

About those listservs – find the ones that are relevant to your area (both location and job specialization) and GET ON THEM! Maybe join your local/state/regional/national library associations too. I’m an introvert, and networking does not come naturally to me, but it is something that needs to be done if you’re looking for the “ins” to getting a job.

Make yourself more marketable – maybe taking a class to further build your resume would be helpful. has free online courses that are very applicable to librarianship – and they’re fun, too. A few months back, I took one that looked at social psychology and social issues in The Walking Dead. Looks like they’re offering a course on language learning using technology (very relevant right now), as well as one on social issues in comic books (fun! and still relevant!). Build a LinkedIn profile and learn more about how to use it to maximize potential.

Read blogs. Get to know current issues in librarianship. Get to know some of the big names. Start a blog. Keep your Goodreads profile up to date. These things may not help directly, but they keep you in the field, they can give potential employers something to look at when they Google your name, and they can help you keep the passion alive for what you really want to do. You’ll also learn about great things that those big names are doing and see what the cool trends are – definitely something for when you have an interview, or even send in a cover letter that will make you stand out. Maybe these things will lead to you further honing your specialty area (I used to think I wanted to work in an academic library, but I fell in love with public libraries and changed my track).

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Laurie PhillipsWow, this is rough.  I’d love to be able to give hope but we recently had to choose not to fill our open tenure track position in order to save our operating budget and our staff during lean times. Universities are going leaner because the population of 18 year olds entering college will not rebound until about 2016. I would say a couple of things – as a lot of the people who responded said, make sure you are completely prepared in a very competitive market. Make sure your resume and cover letters are impeccable and positive. Don’t just apply to hundreds of jobs. Tailor each letter carefully to match the job qualifications. Make sure you address each qualification – don’t make the committee hunt for your qualifications. Apply for jobs that you really want. It sounds like you have varied experience, but they may be working against you a bit. If you have archival experience, is that what you really want? Are you applying for other jobs just because you want a job? Careers in archives are really hot right now and I feel like we get a lot of applications for people who really want archival jobs but are settling because they need a job. If that’s coming through in your applications, make sure you can defend it or get rid of it. I am very impressed by people who can take seemingly unrelated experience and make it fit well with the job we’re advertising. Sell yourself for THAT job. Not just A job. I know that’s hard when you’ve been looking for so long, but it’s what you need to do to get a job. Another thing that someone else who responded mentioned is to take temporary jobs that keep you in the field. Get your foot in the door and keep your experience relevant. Good luck! And try to stay positive – I hope it is still a reasonable dream. I have been a librarian for 24 years and still love what I do.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

I think it is time to see a career counselor, sign up for  a librarian temp agency or part-time as needed positions. Clearly there is something out of line with the positions for which the person has been applying. S/he may be applying too high and not have enough experience. As a law librarian, I won’t hire someone with a degree if they have no experience for a librarian job. I will hire them for a library assistant job, so they can get to know the publications and the structure of the law.

S/he should also be active in local library associations – volunteer for a committee and attend meetings. If people know you, they will consider hiring you. Other, more experienced members will also be happy to have an informational interview with another member. They might know someone looking for a temp or about a job that has not been announced.

S/he should also have a professional look over his/her resume with an eye towards redoing it. S/he should also do interview practice with a professional. S/he should look over clothing, hygiene and makeup. The profession does not need another dowdy entrant. Get a new haircut, current, hipper clothes.

The bottom line is that there are too many people graduating from library school and not enough jobs. What can the candidate do to make herself/himself a star?

– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP

I do have some general advice I can offer without knowing a job seekers history. The short answer to the question, “is it still a reasonable dream?” is that it depends.

It depends on if you can or are willing to move. Many times people are stuck with a geographic area due to family or other commitments.

It depends on if you can take a reduction in salary. If your career before librarianship pays a lot more, you have to decide if you can take the pay cut to get your foot in the door.

It depends on if you have library experience. Most entry level positions are asking for library experience and a practicum usually isn’t enough. You have the option to take a support staff position to get your foot in the door. If you cannot afford to do that financially, then you will need to find a library to volunteer at that is in your chosen area.

It depends on networking. If you aren’t already involved in your state library association, you need to start. Go to the next annual conference and show up at round table meetings to meet people and volunteer to serve on committees.

So really it depends on if you can make one or all of these sacrifices. I can say these things from experience. I could not move for family reasons when I got my MLS in 2006 so I stayed in a support staff position until I was offered a professional position in 2010. All the while I was very active in my state library association on committees and giving presentations. It was difficult and sometimes I was a little hard on myself but in the end it paid off and was a reasonable dream, just not in the timing I had originally anticipated.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library SystemIn a conversation with someone who has been searching for a librarian job for 2 years, I would first want to find out exactly which jobs s/he has been applying for. Perhaps a pattern of applying for jobs not suited for the experience will emerge. I would also want to know how they have been spending their time while searching for a library related position. Are they doing library related volunteer work? Even just a few hours per week would mean having some current library related content on the resume and this might open up doors for paid employment.
I have spoken to folks struggling to find employment who refused to apply for any term/contract positions. After a certain amount of time I do not believe it is smart to limit your choices that way. A few months of employment could lead not only to valuable experience (not to mention income), but would also provide possibilities for professional networking, which could lead to other job opportunities.
There are many free educational opportunities in the form of webinars and MOOCs available online that would allow someone currently looking for work to stay current in the field. Indicating participation in these educational events on your resume (to a reasonable degree) will show potential employers that even though you are not currently working, you are passionate about librarianship and are engaged in the field.
Generally speaking, the biggest issue in not finding employment often appears when someone is limiting their geographic location too much. If you are unable to leave your current location and the library market is saturated, you may not find a job in your field. In that case, landing a meaningful librarian job may not be a reasonable dream until you are able to follow your dream job to its location.
As long as a candidate is flexible about the location of a position and is willing to, at least temporarily, accept term/contract positions I believe that someone making an effort to find a library position stands a good chance. If you have a friend working in the library field, ask them to review your resume and provide feedback to find out what might be holding you back from landing that dream library job.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
J. McRee ElrodIs it still a reasonable dream?Yes.

Join e-lists in the area of your interest to which jobs are posted.

Keep skils alive, as well as getting experience for your resume and refeences, by volunteering.  Check our hospital and prison libraries for example.

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

In true public law librarian reference-response fashion, the answer is: It depends.

Yes! Is becoming and being a librarian your calling? (Read “Sacred Stacks: The Higher Purpose of Libraries and Librarianship,” by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell if you don’t know the answer to that question.)

Yes! But you need to do more research, get some tough advice about the job application process and your application, interview the people who didn’t hire you, network with librarians who might hire you, etc.

Yes! Re-examine and renew your skill sets, volunteer more (in all types of library and “information” jobs), open up vistas, e.g. become even more adventurous – look all over the world for librarian jobs, internships, etc.

No! If you want to give up the dream, then maybe you don’t have the pigheadedness, the stamina, the drive, or big-enough love for the profession. Because if you think Getting the Job is the tough part, just wait until you Have the Job. Yoiks!

Two years goes awfully fast, even looking for the right job. A lot of us have waited longer than that. And while you’re looking and waiting, keep moving, keep learning, keep writing better job applications, and more to the point, keep your sense of humor and perspective on the profession, on life, and on happiness.

– Laura J. Orr, Law Librarian, Washington County Law Library

Colleen HarrisUnfortunately, a two-year job hunt is not rare in our profession, particularly if you are tied to a particular state or region. I do still think it is a reasonable dream, but would implore applicants to also apply for positions where they can use their MLIS skills in ways that they can later highlight for professional librarian position applications. An example – For the first few years after getting my MLS, I actually worked as a Graduate School Admissions Assistant for a large public university. In that time I learned PeopleSoft and finagling with complex student records, developed customer service skills in a higher education environment both in terms of interacting with students and in building relationships with the staff and faculty of various academic departments, and became involved in that university’s fledgling move to make all theses and dissertations digital-only. It may not feel glamorous, but it’s *useful*, and useful is what you want to highlight.

So, the short answer is to keep the dream alive, but be flexible about your route. You’ll be surprised at how many areas can leverage the skills of an eager MLIS-holder.
-Colleen Harris-Keith, Head of Access Services &  Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library
Samantha Thompson-FranklinI would advise someone who has been job searching for a librarian position for 2 years that becoming a librarian is still a reasonable dream and ambition to have, and to hang in there and don’t give up. They may have to broaden the scope of their job search to include non-traditional librarian positions as a way to get their foot in the door. Also, look for any volunteer opportunities that relate to the person’s career goals and the area of librarianship that they are most interested in pursuing. Sometimes taking a library assistant position may also help them to gain some experience if they have little library experience, as well as provide some income. From my experience of having been on several search committees, we do not discredit that experience if it fits with the experience we need for the position in question.  Doing what you can within the library community will eventually pay off.
– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College 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 me at

Thank YOU for reading! If you like reading, you might also like commenting.  You’re very welcome to try it out here.


Filed under Academic, Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Public, Special

Further Questions: If you hire interns, do you pay them?

The responses to this week’s Further Questions were a little sparse.  I’m hoping that you will have some comments, dear readers, about your own experiences.   

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

If you hire interns, do you pay them?  Why or why not?

Laurie PhillipsNo, we don’t hire interns. We accept SLIS students on placement or for reference observation, but those are not paid because they are part of the requirements for a class or the degree. We also don’t get a lot out of those placements. The observations are just for a few hours. We are more likely to hire a SLIS student for a part time or temporary reference position. It can lead to job openings for a tenure-track position but it can also offer a great opportunity for getting academic library experience and seeing how our organization works. We have a part-time temporary reference position open right now to cover for librarians on leave:

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

It’s my understanding that if interns are hired for no pay, the position is part of a course for school, college or graduate credit. Otherwise, there is a requirement that the position is paid.

We don’t hire or place interns in our public library.

– Kaye Grabbe, Director, Lake Forest (Public) Library, Lake Forest, IL.

Jacob BergEmployment.

Side note to fellow hiring managers: pay your interns. Not doing so is classist, because only the well-to-do can afford to work for free. And because race, ethnicity, gender identity, mental illness, physical ability, and sexual identity, among others, often correlates with class, internships are discriminatory along those lines as well. Also, not paying people to work devalues our professions by sending signals to other employers that our labor, time, and effort is not worth compensation.
-Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University
So, what about YOU?  Have you been an intern?  Paid or unpaid?  Have you hired an intern?  Why did or didn’t you pay her?

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 me at 

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, MLIS Students, Public, Youth Services

Further Questions: What’s the Best Way to Practice for Interviews?

This week’s question is again inspired  by a reader.  Thanks to this and all of the rest of you readers for being inspiring!

I asked people who hire librarians:

It seems a bit wrong to apply and go through the interview process when not interested in a job, but how else can one get practice interviewing?  Toastmasters and public speaking classes are helpful but not quite the same skills required for a presentation and interview – talking about oneself, and thinking on one’s feet.  Any suggestions for gaining the skills to really impress you in an interview? 

Cathi AllowayIdeas:  Ask friends and families to practice interviewing with you, even if they are outside the library field.  They can at least practice a mini-interview if this is a daunting favor for them.  Find out if they have had any good or bad interview experiences, from either side of the desk.

           Practice eating out with strangers, if you can.  If you have a chance to attend a social event that forces you to mix, mingle, and do small talk with people you don’t know, it helps you practice how to think on your feet and have the appropriate etiquette for an interview setting.

           Use your alma mater’s career center.  All of the MLS or MIS programs should allow you access, as an alum, to a career center where they have resources to help you practice.
           Try to book a non-interview meeting with a library director or supervisor.  I did this early in my career to explore options as my family was considering an out-of-town move.  I would ask questions such as:  “Where do libraries post vacancies when they have them?  What are some of the best libraries I can try to work for?  Are there any I should avoid due to under-funding or mismanagement?  Are there non-profits in the area that would be a good fit for me?  What is like to live/work in this neighborhood/area?”  These pre-move interviews ended up resulting, down the line, in jobs.
            Contact your state library organization (hopefully you are a member) and see if there are mentors and/or library supervisors willing to practice interviews.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

Both my department and our library as a whole are chronically understaffed; if I discovered we had spent staff time considering and interviewing a candidate who had no intention of taking the position, it would really frustrate me—and ruin that person’s chance of ever interviewing with me again.  The time spent going over resumes and applications, ranking the candidates, and shuffling staff schedules so the committee can be together for a few hours to conduct interviews is a big investment of staff time on the part of the library; those are hours I could have spent doing collection development, creating programming, helping at the reference desk, or training the person we actually hire.

If someone at my library or in my area wanted to practice interview with me at another time—lunch, the weekend, etc.—I’d be happy to look at his/her resume, give the interview questions, and say how that person would have stacked up in the final ranking.  Something informal like this would probably be much better for the interviewee, anyway: I’d be looking specifically at how they answered the questions instead of focusing on if the person is right for me/the job/my library; the feedback would be immediate instead of after a week or more when we are done with all the interviews.

– Anonymous

Laurie PhillipsAbsolutely do not go through the interview process just for the practice. We are all busy professionals and please do not waste our time if you’re not interested in the job. To prepare for the interview, ask your placement office for commonly asked interview questions or ask professionals for their list. But, if the interviewers are doing their jobs well, they should be asking you questions about how you fit the qualifications. Look at the qualifications and the environment. How would you illustrate your qualifications? For example, if they mention a collaborative environment, be prepared to talk about projects or work you have done in collaboration with others and how you handled the group dynamic. If you can only talk about work you’ve done by yourself, the committee will notice. Do this exercise for each of the qualifications stated in the ad. Maybe even use ads for jobs you haven’t applied for as practice.

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

This advice could be generalized but I am writing it from the perspective of a public library administrator. Look online and in books for really tough questions. Practice interviewing with a friend. If that friend is also a library professional or even a manager in another field, all the better.

Also, scour a library’s website and look for clues about what the institution values. And do not neglect looking for the library’s budget online.  Think about how things are allocated. Think about questions that you could be asked based on what you see in the library’s online presence and in the library’s budget.  This research will also likely help you generate thoughtful questions of your own.

– Christy Davis, Library Director, Klamath County Library Service District 

I’m not opposed to applicants going through the interview process unless they absolutely, positively know they don’t want the job. But if they aren’t sure or just don’t think they want the job I don’t have any problem with them interviewing. A good interview or learning more about a particular position can change someone’s mind. It’s also good networking, for both sides, assuming the person is interviewing within his/her area of professional interest.
As for your second question, about interviewing skills, there are no Secrets to Getting a Job Offer. A good interview depends on so many factors that I’m not sure where to begin. I’m also more likely to be critical of the employer’s interviewing skills than of the interviewee’s skills, unless the latter is blatantly flaunting rules of common courtesy. Nervousness, the wrong socks, a little late, etc. are not grounds for crossing someone off a potential hire list. I also encourage applicants to contact the interviewer(s) afterward to find out why there wasn’t a job offer. My tips: Preparation, preparation, preparation. Read and reread the job description, prepare answers to potential questions, and focus, focus, focus on the job you are interviewing for, not the job you want it to be.
– Laura J. Orr, Law Librarian, Washington County Law Library
J. McRee Elrod
I agree it is wrong.
I would suggest asking a mentor to practice with you.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Thinking about it, I’m not sure how helpful practice interviews really are. From a public library perspective, which is the kind of atmosphere we have. Practicing presentations for a tenure-track academic position is different. But we’ve certainly hired people who were nervous and stumbled and generally uncomfortable. And we’ve rejected plenty who were confident and polished. It’s the content of the answers, not the presentation.

There are specific kinds of answers that are certainly count against a candidate, such as going off on a tangent about a total jerk supervisor. But since you’re never going to be told what those bad answers were, I don’t know how doing extra interviews will help.

– Kristen Northrup, Head, Technical Services & State Document Depository, North Dakota State Library

This is how I look at jobs I interviewed for where I did not get the job offer!

Unfortunately, the interview is the best practice, but, if you can find a mentor who is willing to practice with you, or find a friend from library school and you can help each other practice. Find some interview questions online and just start running through them. I have also heard of individuals practicing in front of a mirror, but I haven’t tried that myself. If you can go to professional conferences, network, meet hiring managers, and ask them what kinds of questions they ask at their interviews. Most of us will be willing to dish out a few questions you could practice with.

As far as a job presentation, you can practice on your own, but it is always best to get a few friends who will be honest with you and give you pointers for improvement.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

We only invite for interviews candidates in whom we have a real interest, and expect that the candidates we invite only accept if they have a genuine interest in our organization.  We will know if you are just using us for practice, and won’t like it.  Should you ever apply for a position here that youare interested in we will remember, and your application will not be seriously considered.  If you aren’t really interested in a position you won’t be convincing in an interview anyway, so the approach seems of questionable value even were it not of questionable integrity.

What impresses me in an interview is the person, not the slickness of a presentation.  It’s not about self-promotion on the candidate’s side, or ambush questions on the interviewer’s side.  It’s about making meaningful connections between the organization’s needs and a candidate’s experience and qualities.

Being thoroughly prepared is critical to your success in an interview.  Learn all you can about the position and the organization, and think about what you learn in relation to your experience and who you are as a person.  Get sample interview questions from the web and write out answers to them; the process of writing will help you articulate your ideas and sharpen your insights.  Then read and re-read those answers – perhaps even aloud – add to them, refine them, and get comfortable with them so you have some practiced language to use at interview time.  Read some articles, attend webinars or other professional development events, and talk to colleagues about your ideas to give you practice expressing them and get you more actively engaged with current issues and trends. You might also get a friend to do a practice interview with you; wear your good outfit, sit in an unfamiliar office, and treat it very formally.

All of this can help make what you know and believe and have done come to mind more readily and fluently when you are thinking on your feet, make you more confident and persuasive, and demonstrate that you are serious about the work and the particular position.  I want to hire someone who has ideas, who thinks, who cares, and who has a good work ethic; those qualities will impress me, self-promotion or showmanship will not.

– Ann Glannon, Associate Director, Wheelock College Library, Boston, MA

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 me at

Thank YOU for reading! My heart is fine, fine, lonely comments.


Filed under Academic, Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Public, Special

Further Questions: How many librarian positions are there at your library?

This week I’ve been thinking about the job outlook for librarians, and I decided to ask a related question here.

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

How many librarian positions are there at your library? Can you tell us a bit about how has this number has changed over time (e.g. higher or lower than last year, five years ago, ten years ago, etc.)?  How has your service population changed over those same time periods? Please let us know if your answer is ballpark or exact.  Bonus information: are there unfilled positions that will be left unfilled for a substantial period of time?

Laurie PhillipsWe currently have 11 faculty librarians. It remained steady for many years at 12, I believe. I don’t think we had added any, but positions have certainly changed over time. We chose to not fill a tenure track faculty position last year (someone had been in the position on an interim basis) because we were asked to make operating budget cuts and we could balance not filling that position against the cut. We were told that we would not lose that position permanently but, given the university’s financial situation, we may have lost this position entirely. We also have someone on phased retirement (half time right now) and may lose that position when he fully retires because of the budget cuts. Our student body has gone up and down. We were growing, then Hurricane Katrina hit us hard for several years. We were back up then had a serious enrollment shortfall this past year and it looks as if our enrollment going forward will be smaller. Our librarians are stretched thin, with regular responsibilities, liaison activities (teaching and collection development), university committee responsibilities, and desk duties.

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

Special Libraries Cataloguing has had about 20 distance cataloguers for some years.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Marleah AugustineWe currently have 4 librarian positions (MLS preferred, but we do have one librarian without an MLS). These correspond with each of our departments (each librarian heads a department). We also have administrative staff that are full-time but are not librarian-specific. At this time last year, we only had 3 librarians because our children’s and YA areas were combined into a single Youth Services department; they have since been separated into two departments and we moved back to having 4 librarians (as we did about 3 years ago). Before we had a YA area at all, we had 3 librarians. (Confusing enough?) Our service population has grown over the last few decades and shows no signs of stopping. This includes both the town where we are located and also the surrounding towns in the area (many residents of other towns come to our library instead of or in addition to their local library).
The biggest staff change is that each department used to have a full-time “assistant head”. We’ve added a wider range of part-time positions instead and now only one of our 4 departments has an assistant head. So, in some cases, those assistant head positions are considered unfilled and, if we move away from that model, will remain unfilled.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Christine Hage - Dark backgroundWe are a suburban public library serving 100, 435 people. That is our census population and it went up slightly since the 2000 census.  Our community is pretty much built out.
We have 130 employees and 53 of them are librarians, although most of them are part-time.  It comes out to 22.2 FTE librarians.  Counting all employees we have a total of 61.83 FTE.  These numbers haven’t changed much over the last few years although we about the same number of employee hours, we have fewer actual full time positions.
We are an independent taxing authority library, which means we are not part of municipal or county government.  In fact we are a governmental unit in and of ourselves.  This means that in full control of our hiring.  I can change a position from full-time to part-time or visa versa.  I can eliminate and create positions, based on our budget.  I can change a job focus and title at will.  This gives me a lot of flexibility.
– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library
Potentially, there are 6 MLS positions at our library. However, of those positions, only 3 are filled by MLS holders.  To keep it interesting, we have two MLS folks in non-MLS positions who are working part time. This is largely because our MLS positions require supervisory skill and experience. The two MLS folks in non-MLS positions are not supervisory material, sad to say. Supervision of others is just not in their skillsets although they are certainly very good at other things. This frustrates me and them but I realize it may be common in small to midsize public libraries for staffing and budget structure to not allow for full time professional MLSs who are non-supervisory.  This level of professional librarians (or lack therof) has remained fairly consistent for about a decade. However, in the late 1990’s there more full time MLS supervisors, probably 5 as opposed to the 3 now.
– Anonymous
Jason GrubbFirst we have to decide how we are going to define the word “librarian.” In my opinion and in the opinion of most of our patrons, anyone that works in a library is a librarian. That being said we have 61 employees in our organization and I consider everyone of them a librarian. Over the past five years this number has decreased slightly while our service population has grown. The real trend has been to move from full time positions to part-time positions. 75% of our employees are part-time. 10 years ago this number was over 50%. We currently have three unfilled positions that will most likely be left unfilled or possibly eliminated.
– Jason Grubb, Director, Sweetwater County Library System

We have 7.5 master’s level librarians and 1.5 other staff for an FTE of 9 at our combined unit of Main library and Educational Resource Center.  The total staff was increased from 8 to 9 FTE about a year and a half ago, the first net increase in over 25 years.  During that 25+ years almost every position except for the Director and Reference Librarian was a part-time position at some point.  We revise the responsibilities, scope, and titles of positions and adjust our organizational structure to adapt to new needs most of the time, and make permanent changes to our total staffing level rarely.

One reason we were able to get a new position funded was the increase in our student FTE.  Our main population, the undergraduate enrollment, has increased, but we have also added several distance and other non-traditional programs over the years.  In roughly the last ten years our reported FTE has grown from under 1,000 to over 2,000, with a big jump the year preceding when we got a new position.  That increase, as well as the changing nature and needs of our populations and the changing nature of our resources and services, was part of the justification in our request for the new position.

The only time in the last several years that vacant positions have intentionally been unfilled for any substantial period was during the recent recession when the College had a hiring freeze.  The Library staff is so small that a single position represents a big percentage of our staff.  Since we don’t have any margins in our capacity and are noticeably hampered by any vacancy, we start a hiring process as soon as a staff member gives notice.

– Ann Glannon, Associate Director, Wheelock College Library, Boston, MA

There are nine librarian (MLS) positions at my library, out of a total staff of 35. All are full-time. This excludes the director, so you might consider it ten.

The number has grown by two or three in the last ten years. We’ve only been able to receive funding for one new position in that time, so the rest of the changes involved cutting back other staff positions.

One priority here is growth from within. We are very far from a library school or major metro area, and not appealing to new grads, so any time a paraprofessional employee is interested in getting their MLS via online education, that is fully supported. They receive tuition assistance, they get four paid hours per week to do homework, and we figure out a way to get them into a professional position when they graduate. It works well. There have been four instances of this in the last ten years and we have one person currently enrolled. It was not my personal situation.

Our service population is unusual because we are a state library. The state itself is experiencing a very new population boom, but not enough yet to directly impact us. Most of our substantial work is with (and for) the state’s public and school libraries, and they are increasingly self-sufficient. We used to do their cataloging, for example, but most of those projects have been completed in the last few years without new libraries being created.

– Kristen Northrup, Head, Technical Services & State Document Depository North Dakota State Library

Celia RabinowitzMy library has seven librarians.  That includes me and a librarian/archivist who helps at reference and does some instruction.  We had seven librarians from 1995-2002 and then lost one position at the time when I was promoted to director (the position I had been in was eliminated).  In the early 2000s we added a new line for a patron services librarian.   We have done some reconfiguration.  In the past four years we had three librarian retirements so we now have three senior library faculty and four junior faculty.  The average age of the librarians has completely shifted!  We had a cataloging librarian/archivist and used a retirement to promote the cataloging librarian to head of the unit and associate director and turned her position into a full-time archivist.

A few things have changed on campus and in the library.  Our student population grew by over 400 students in the past 15 years.  The library faculty and staff size have remained the same.  In 2004 the librarians became full faculty which means we participate in the same process as the academic departments to request new lines when they are available or to replace lines that open up when someone resigns or retires.  On my campus a department can keep a faculty line if the person in it is denied tenure.

Our new core curriculum was implements in 2008 and the librarians are much more involved in instruction at the lower level.  We have made an intentional shift in our approach to hiring and are asking any new library hires to participate in teaching in the first-year seminar.  Six of the seven librarians currently teach in that program and four of us (including me) are liaisons to departments for instruction.  We have no unfilled positions and are not likely to have any for a while, I think.  Given current budget constraints there is no guarantee that an unfilled position could be filled right away (or that it would stay in the library).  I have told everyone that they are not allowed to win the lottery at least until the budgets are in better shape!

– Celia Rabinowitz, Director of the Library, St. Mary’s College of Maryland

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 me at

Thank YOU for reading! If you like reading, you might also like commenting.  You’re very welcome to try it out here.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Circulation, Further Questions, Paraprofessional, Public, Public Services/Reference, Special, Youth Services

Further Questions: How do you count part time work?

This week I have a Twitter question.  I asked people who hire librarians:
How is part time work counted, when looking to see if a candidate meets a requirement for a certain number of years of experience?  For example, if a position requires two years of experience as an adult services librarian, and the librarian has worked 20 hours a week as an adult services librarian for two years, should she go ahead and apply?  What about if she had worked even fewer hours?  Any insight is appreciated!

Marge Loch-WoutersWe count years worked in a library – whether full or part-time – in exactly the same way.  It is immaterial whether you worked 5 or 40 hours a week in terms of longevity. In our opinion, you experienced/observed and immersed yourself in the library for every day you worked, no matter how many hours you put in.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
We do count part time work at my academic library. One year for every part time year worked (both for professional and non-professional positions). I know it is different at all institutions, but our online applications do not ask how many hours a candidate worked part time. So in the case of the Twitter question, four years of part time work would equal 2 years of full time work, no matter the hours so you could apply.
– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries
In house–part time work is almost always pro-rated  (20/h/wk–22 yrs–11years exp).  However, I look at the whole candidate, and work experience is work experience–the only time it seems to be counted differently is management–and even then, every little bit counts, even life experience.  Its really how you package your time working outside of a field.   If you feel like you can do the job, and sell yourself through your resume and cover letter to get an interview, than YES!  definitely apply.  That leap of faith might be the best thing for you and the workplace.
– Virginia Roberts, Director, Chippewa Falls Public Library
Marleah AugustineIf I were that applicant, I would go ahead and apply. The burden of deciding whether the experience is enough lies with the interviewer, I think. I’d rather see someone who has worked part-time for that amount of time who has great potential and ideas rather than someone who has worked full-time for that amount of time and doesn’t have those other things. If the rest of your application speaks to the quality of your work and the potential that you have, I wouldn’t worry so much about the exact number of hours and if it qualifies you. Fewer hours than 20 can get iffy, but again, I think that lies with the interviewer and whether the rest of the application is enough to bring the applicant in for an interview.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Cathi AllowayI would not mind hearing from someone who had been part-time for 2 years, IF they can make a convincing case for having experience.  The applicant should specify that a job is part-time or x hours in the week in the resume.  In the cover letter, the applicant should explain how their part-time status still makes them meet the basic job requirement of 2 years experience.  This could include:

  • part-time work included a wide range of experiences, major responsibilities, or major projects making the candidate viable.
  • part-time work included a lot of overtime hours.
  • other valuable experiences outside of library work such as other relevant non-library jobs, volunteer experience, workshops, formal education that supplement the part-time work.  For example, if an applicant had 2 years of part-time retail work and 2 years of post MLS part-time library work, I’d see that as equal to 2 full-time years; retail or hotel/restaurant work is a good customer service training field.
 Overall – if you are really interested in a job, but lack the basic posted qualifications, PLEASE explain why you think you meet the qualifications or deserve consideration in the cover letter!  To blatantly disregard basic requirements without a “pitch” as to why you should be considered makes the employer think you are careless, lack attention to details, or spray-painting your vita everywhere and not motivated for that particular job.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library
angelynn king
In response to this question, part-time work has indeed counted at every place I have worked, but it is calculated as a full-time equivalency. In other words, if your hypothetical half-time librarian had worked for FOUR years, she would be qualified for the job with the two-year experience requirement.
-Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College, Owens Campus
Jacob Berg
When we ask for years of experience, we’re looking for a period of time as opposed to something more like credit hours. If you work part-time for two years, I see nothing wrong with that being two years of experience. It may be a naive assumption on our part, but we assume that you do take at least some of the job home with you, that though you may work twenty hours per week, you are spending more than that amount of time thinking about the job. These candidates can and should apply.
– Jacob Berg, Director of Library Services,  Trinity Washington University

1) Apply anyway.

2) If we do calculate tightly, and in the public sector we often have to, we allow for “time served” at time of possible appointment, not as of the date of the application, which can be months before the appointment.

3) Other types of “experience” can count toward the minimum, e.g. volunteer or work experience in a closely related field, enrollment in a job-related course that has a substantial hands-on, practicum, internship, or similar component, lots of library professional association activities, etc.

4) Think about the reasons for that 2 year requirement: commitment to the profession, exposure to and experience with a wide variety library-workplace tasks, familiarity with the cycle of librarianship (budgets, grants, programs), which can be different in different types of libraries, special, federal, public (local), academic, etc., bibliographic skill development, etc.

– Laura J. Orr, Law Librarian, Washington County Law Library

bonnie smithWhen we indicate that a position requires a minimum of 2 years of experience we mean full-time experience, it definitely matters. We don’t consider applicants who don’t meet the minimum requirements. If you worked part-time you should indicate that in your resume and enter the full-time equivalence (FTE) for these positions. If you have unusual experience that doesn’t follow the expected path for the position you have applied for, that you think should be considered but might not be obvious to the committee, make your case in your cover letter.

– Bonnie Smith, Assistant Program Director for Human Resources, University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries

Sarah MorrisonGreat question!  At our library, there are a couple different things that happen.  First, all our applications are first reviewed by City HR.  HR interprets all “part-time” work as 20-hrs per week, and so they would disqualify anyone in the example you had given.  If the job description lists as a requirement 2 years and the candidate has only part-time experience, s/he would need 4 or more years.  Even if the candidate worked part-time at 30-hours per week, it would be safest to have double the experience.

If the candidate makes it through City HR, perhaps because of strengths in other areas/requirements, I do try to account accurately for work experience (15 hours/week vs. 35, etc.) whenever possible.

I think it’s always worth it to apply, especially if the candidate meets or exceeds requirements in other areas.  If nothing else, it’s good practice at writing a cover letter, and you never know.  I was encouraged in grad school to apply for jobs if I had at least half the requirements; in both of my full-time library jobs, I haven’t met 100% of the listed criteria (I had 2 yrs exp. but part time, good collection development exp. but no management exp., etc.).  The important thing would be to be able to show that those duties or tasks are attainable for you, not necessarily that you’ve done every single one.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian, Neill Public Library, Pullman, Washington

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 me at

Thank YOU for reading! If you like reading, you might also like commenting.  You’re very welcome to try it out here.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Law Library, Public, Public Services/Reference, Special, Youth Services

Further Questions: How can new hires start off right?

It seems to be a new hire focused week here at Hiring Librarians.  This week I asked:

After hiring, are your new hires put through any sort of probation period?  Have any of them been unable to make it through this period? Do you have any general tips for new employees, to help them start off on the right foot? 

J. McRee Elrod

There is no formal probation period, but failure to deliver quality records in a timely matter can result in getting no more work.

Best to double check quality of records, and complete work in a timely manner.

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

The state of Virginia has very specific timelines for classified staff. There is a one year probation period with an evaluation at 6 weeks, 6 months and one year. This is in addition to the annual evaluation that is also done during this time. This is the opportunity for their supervisors to identify issues and find a way to work through them in a clear plan and a time for both parties to determine if this is a good fit. After the 1 year probation, staff are given a performance plan that may just be position expectations or may have special things for the staff person to work on/learn. They are later evaluated based on that PP&E (Performance Plan and Expectations.) The PP&E can be changed during the year to reflect a new need or a change in duties. Once a staff person finishes the probation period, termination is much more difficult, if that is necessary.

I think the probationary period is good for the staff person and the supervisor because it forces both sides to be very clear about expectations and, the staff person knows if they need to change how they do something. It puts the onus on the supervisor, which is where is should be and, if the supervisor finds that their staff person is not responding appropriately, they had time to address it and give the staff person an opportunity to address it.  That is assuming those issues surface in the first year. But, the annual PP&E and evaluation can be beneficial in terms of getting a staff person back on track.

– Anonymous

Marleah AugustineWe have a six-month probationary period for all new hires (from part-time support staff to full-time librarians and all in between). At the end of the six months, the employee has an evaluation to determine whether employment will continue.
I have had instances in which a new support staff hire was let go during the probationary period. They received the same verbal and written warnings as any employee would. 

For employees in positions that include benefits (the basic support staff position does not receive benefits), their benefits kick in after the six month probationary period (sick leave, vacation leave, holiday pay, etc.). They do not accrue sick leave or vacation time during the probationary period.

In the hopes that all hires start off on the right foot, supervisors go through a thorough orientation process with each hire. It covers basic tasks and how-to’s, as well as just getting the employee familiar with different areas of the library and different people on staff. 

My general tips – learn as much as you can, ask questions any time they come up, and never say “No one told me …” (my personal pet peeve). If you make a mistake, be honest about not knowing how that works and ask questions so that you get it right the next time. If you really weren’t told about something, it’s much better for a supervisor to hear “I wasn’t aware of that” and have you recognize your own responsibility in learning some of those tasks. Librarians are in the question-answering line of work, so take advantage of that when you are a new hire.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch WoutersOur library has a six-month probationary period. I would not hesitate to let someone go in that time if they failed to meet the requirements of the job.  While one always allows time for new employees to gain their sea legs and become familiar with routines, procedures and policies, it is usually clear when a new employee is not up to the job.   My best advice for new hires is learn as much as you can as soon as you can and show your skills and talents in a way that supports your colleagues.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

We do have a general probation period which is 9 months for librarians. At our institution the librarian and supervisor should be working together to create a job description and a performance agreement within the first month. The supervisor and librarian should be meeting regularly the first few months of employment to make sure they are on the same page and the librarian is meeting goals. At nine months the supervisor will write a review with a recommendation for continued employment or the librarian will be notified that their appointment will end at the 12 month mark.

If this is not the policy or does not appear to be at the place where you are hired, I would request something in writing regarding expectations for performance.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries


Sherle Abramson-BluhmAt University of Michigan Library – there are different probationary periods for staff and for librarians.
Staff have a six month probation.  I have not had any staff who did not make it through.  A staff member who was hired for a term (1 year) position was not renewed – and might have been let go durring probation if it had been a regular position.
my best tip – is to ask if you are not sure of something – much rather answer a question than fix a problem.
For librarians it is a two year probation.


  • Prepares a training program based on the new librarian’s job description.
  • Trains the librarian for two months.

Supervisor and Librarian

  • Meet to discuss the librarian’s progress to date at the end of the initial training period.
  • Prepare performance goals to be applied to the remainder of the performance appraisal year. 
I have not hired a librarian in my area since I have been here and have no direct experience.  I was very new to Acquisitions when I was hired and had a great deal to learn
and I believe I followed my own tip very well – and 8 years later I am still here
I do know of Librarians who did not make it through, but have no knowledge of the specifics. It is pretty rare.
– Sherle Abramson-Bluhm, Head, Print Acquisitions, University of Michigan

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 me at

Thank YOU for reading!  Go to sleep little baby.  You and me and the comment makes three don’t need any other loving comment.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

Further Questions: How Can Candidates Changing Library Types, or Fields, Best Present Their Skills?

This week’s question is inspired by a Twitter follower.  This person is transitioning from corporate to academic libraries and is looking for tips on presenting his skills.  This week I asked people who hire librarians:
Have you hired someone whose previous work was at another type of library, or in another field altogether? What made them a good candidate?
Cathi AllowayWe have had some candidates for jobs in our public library who had worked in different settings.  We are most likely to interview or hire someone who is switching library types/settings when they:

  • Do research on our setting (public library) and be aware of some of the biggest trends and issues in the field.
  • Demonstrate how their experience applies to our setting.  For example, “I selected mathematics materials for our college, and understand how to stretch collection dollars and buy the most popular and needed materials….”  or “my faculty senate experience has given me valuable insights.  I have some understanding of how elected officials and library trustees perceive libraries and how to garner support for library activities…”
  • Provide reasons for the setting switch that go beyond just needing employment.  “I am interested in public libraries because I like to work with people of all ages in a community….”

– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

Laurie Phillips

Yes, we have hired people from both corporate and public libraries. Success is all in how you present yourself. Learn as much as you can about academic libraries and what is expected in the job being advertised. Then take your skills and show how well they fit with some adaptation. I am often more impressed by someone who can sell how well they fit a position when, on the surface, they may not have relevant experience. It’s all about selling your transferable skills and understanding of the environment.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thanks for the question.  Most of my experience was in a special library/archive when I started full-time in a public library.  The things this candidate will want to focus on in the interview are the skills common to all types of libraries, particularly customer service.   No matter the type of library, we all have experience with irate patrons, with patrons on a deadline, with patrons who can’t print.   Also, be up front in the interview if you don’t have experience in an area.   Say truthfully that you would need more training in [task, say database instruction], but that you do have some experience in [task that requires similar skills, like presenting to the CEO, or at conference].

Is there time during the “transition” to get more experience in the new field before the application process is complete?: work a few hours a week at a local academic library, just to get one’s feet wet, or attend a conference perhaps.  I would even see signing up for an online class as a commitment to the career shift.

Very few of the positions in my library absolutely require past library experience, so we have candidates from many industries.  What makes someone a great candidate here are commitments to public service and to being part of the team.  A candidate with those qualities can beat out someone who has more years in a library but a not-as-great attitude.

Good luck!

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian, Neill Public Library, Pullman, Washington

More important than type of library (although related) is familiarity with the classification(s) used in the position being filled, e.g., a public library cataloguer being considered for an academic position would need to demonstrate knowledge of LCC.

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

I just hired someone a couple of months ago with no library experience but over ten years of customer service experience. I generally hire job candidates with previous library experience, from any type of library, but customer service is just as important! If you are planning to make they move to academic library, do your homework about they institution and include examples in your presentation that show your understanding of academic culture.

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Thanks as always to our hiring librarians for answering this week’s question!

If you are also someone who hires librarians and are interested in being a regular participant in this feature, please email me at

Thanks for reading! Billie Jean is not my lover, she’s just a comment.


Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Public, Special

Take a Course in Linguistics

J. McRee Elrod

Here’s the first response to the new survey, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School? You should recognize a familiar face!

This interview is with J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, founder and director of Special Libraries Cataloging (SLC). SLC currently employs about 20 cataloguers and indexers.  Although SLC is in a rural area in Canada, most employees work remotely. Mr. Elrod worked with Michael Gorman to prepare AACR2 Rule Interpretations that facilitate its use for creating RDA compatible records. He also contributes to the profession as an active participant on the AUTOCAT listserv. Mr. Elrod filled out our original survey and has contributed regularly to the Further Questions feature.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

Should library students focus on learning theory or gaining practical skills? (Where 1 means Theory, 5 means practice, and 3 means both equally)


What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging
√ Budgeting/Accounting
√ Grant Writing
√ Project Management
√ Library Management
√ Collection Management
√ Programming (Events)
√ Programming (Coding)
√ Digital Collections
√ Archives
√ History of Books/Libraries
√ Research Methods
√ Reference
√ Readers’ Advisory
√ Services to Special Populations
√ Outreach
√ Marketing
√ Instruction
√ Soft Skills (e.g. Communication, Interpersonal Relations)
√ Field Work/Internships

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

Ability to catalogue. There should be basic skills imparted in order for the library school to be accredited.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

Local practices.

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Internship or practicum
√ Other presentation
√ Professional organization involvement
√ Other: Cataloguing practicum

Which library schools give candidates an edge (you prefer candidates from these schools)?

University of British Columbia

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

Western Ontario

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

Take all cataloguing and programming courses that are offered, and attempt to have field work in those areas. Take a course in linguistics, and learn to read as many languages and scripts as possible.

Do you have any other comments, for library schools or students, or about the survey?

We should work toward ALS accreditation standards which demand the imparting of practical cataloguing skills.

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

1 Comment

Filed under 10-50 staff members, Canada, Cataloging/Technical Services, Rural area, Special, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School

Further Questions: The Tattooed Librarian

This week I have another question inspired by a reader.  This is part of a topical series on Interviewing while Tattooed. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink?  Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone?  How tattooed is too tattooed?

Emilie SmartArm and leg tattoos would go unnoticed in an interview.  Facial tattoos would be a problem though.  Our current policy doesn’t allow jewelry in facial piercings so I don’t see facial tattoos (especially large ones) going over here (a southern public library) unless the job was not in public services.

If a candidate is concerned that their tatts might negatively influence an interview outcome, then they should cover them up as best they can.

– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

I like people to dress like and be themselves.  Clearly we aren’t a buttoned-down place.  My hesitation in this:  if the tattoos displayed would be inappropriate for children to see (nudity, inappropriate language, like that). In that case, we would ask that those be kept covered while working in the children’s area.

In terms of how much ink is too much…if we think that kids will come in and be able to easily interact with the person beneath the ink, the candidate may make the cut.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Colleen HarrisAn interesting question – many of us at my current library have visible ink (sleeves, chest pieces that peek out of dress shirts, etc.) At my current and former institutions (all public university academic libraries), so this wasn’t an issue. (Full disclosure – I’m fully sleeved, and my hands are tattooed as well.)

When I have interviewed, I usually do so full suited or with a cardigan – folks can see the hand tattoos but I don’t put them out on display. When it’s warm, I have a tendency to push my sleeves up – I’m certain I do it in interviews, as well. I don’t advertise my ink, but I don’t actively hide it; I do try to dress to minimize its impact – in interviews, I want people to focus on what I am saying.  As I mentioned above, academic libraries in public universities have been very open to accepting tattoos on myself and colleagues. On the other hand, I was notified by a public library in a very diverse area that I would not be considered as a candidate because of visible ink, so your mileage can and will vary depending on where you apply.

As a hirer, I don’t mind what candidates do about their ink so long as they have a professional demeanor, and make an effort to be sure that it is themselves and their skills on display – I’m hiring for skill and growth potential, not to be inkshop buddies. That being said, my visible work is all pretty tame – it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and cover up naked ladies, penii, and other questionable/possibly-offensive images when interviewing, and checking the dress code, if posted, before applying.

As to whether candidates should hide their ink – that’s a personal decision. I usually figure if they’d cull me from the pool because of my ink, it’s likely not a place I would be comfortable working; on the other hand, if I were a children’s librarian, a face tattoo of a tarantula would make it more likely I’d use some serious cover-up so as not to scare the little ones. In short, folks should do serious research as to the cultural flavor of a workplace before deciding to hide – or flaunt – their art, and make sure their skills outshine their ink.

Would any tattoos make me think twice about hiring someone? Well, we’re a heavily public-service oriented library, so racist tattoos would definitely give me pause since we’re here to make our users as comfortable as possible. Aside from that? Probably not.

-Colleen Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library

My personal feeling is that tattoos are okay but to a limited extent. I think that they fine if they are small and/or are not obviously visible. I don’t think that tattoos are professional looking so if a person had them all over their arms, legs, neck, etc, it would make me think twice about hiring that person, not because I didn’t think that the person was not capable or qualified to do the job but because, unfortunately, of the view of someone with a lot  of tattoos has in our society.  Perhaps in certain types of libraries  it would not be an issue, but I believe that in some academic libraries it would not portray a professional image, in the same that dressing slovenly would be viewed negatively. Just my two cents.

– Anonymous

Cathi AllowayI am on the fence about tattoos, and can tell you that I am aware of a great range of policies regarding them.  In general, it is reasonable for every library to establish what is needed for each situation.
Community standards and environment play a big role in the tolerance level for appearance.  When a library needs to improve its reputation for credibility, reliability, and competence, then a “classic look” for employees may be warranted, especially in a more conservative community where customers and donors value conformity and a professional image.   In other communities that have a high level of diversity and are more liberal, like my current community (a Big Ten college town), we can offer a more flexible dress code that allows tattoos.
An additional consideration regarding tattoos is the nature of the job and the career aspirations of the person.  Library managers need the full business look for presentations, fundraising, networking, and special events.  Although I can’t exactly define “too tattooed”, a large amount of visible  ink may be an impediment to achievement.  I personally enjoy, but do not have, body art, but would have to tell a manager with a lot of tattoos that they may be expected to cover them for certain activities.
An illustration of this:   I once had a meeting with potential donors who quite openly appeared to be evaluating my appearance as I met them at a restaurant to discuss donations. I later received feedback that they wanted to give to a charity that “met their expectations” – and some of them gave.  I wore a moderately priced department store suit that contrasted with their designer clothes, but I guess the fake pearls worked anyway!  Appearance counts, while self-expression through body art and dress are important outlets for many of us.  Hopefully libraries will be open-minded and job applicants considerate of the wide range of public opinions they can encounter with a full body set of tattoos.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

What a great question!   My workplace does not have anything that says tattoos must be covered,  and I personally have nothing against them.

I recently hired an employee who interviewed in an outfit that hid his full-sleeve tattoo.  Seeing the tattoo would not have made a difference in my hiring decision, but I would have appreciated it if he would have let it peak out a little bit, or at least mentioned it.  It’s kind of like hiring an employee and having them show up the first day with a different, shocking dyed color of hair.  It was a bit of a surprise when I first saw it, is all.  It would also be to a prospective employee’s benefit to discover if the new workplace had anything stating tattoos must be covered: can you always work in full sleeves?

Any tattoo is tattooed; the only “too tattooed” or tattoo that would make me reconsider hiring  for the types of positions I supervise would be face/neck tattoos.  The rest of the body—the entire thing—is fair game.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian Neill Public Library

The short answer to the question of candidates with tattoos is, yes, they should hide their ink. For a job interview, I would always recommend covering up, which should not be too difficult since you would be dressed fairly conservative. I would encourage anyone considering a tattoo to be selective about where you put it since you will not know the policy of future employers.

The last two questions are tied together for me. How tattooed is too tattooed? Anything on the face, neck or hands would be too tattooed and would influence my hiring decision because those are areas that could never be covered up for formal presentations or meetings.

I am personally a tattooed librarian so this most likely affects my opinion on tattoos and the definition of what “too tattooed” is, but I am not on every search committee for my institution, others will have more conservative opinions.

When you do get a job offer, definitely ask what the policy is so you know if you can show off your “I heart Mom” tat!

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Toby Willis-CampAs a tattooed librarian (a frog above one ankle) with a very modified 20-something son, I know that one has tattoos and other modifications  for personal reasons.  However, the workplace is not always a place where one can simply let everything be on display.  It is not a personal affront to have to keep one’s tattoos and other modifications underwrap in the workplace.  Dark nylons or tights, long sleeves and modest necklines are useful tools for keeping the other side of your personality personal.  What I do and show when I am not at work is my business, not my employer’s.

This being said, prominent neck and facial tattoos are career-limiting in public service jobs. I don’t believe that this will ever change even with the openness around tattoos now.

As a former library director who had a “no butts, no boobs, no bellies” dress code policy, I think it is best to talk about these things when entering a new workplace.  Find out what the dress code includes and make it work for you. You may be working for a tight a$$, so be prepared to keep your art covered.  You might also be working for someone who has some modifications too, but knows when it’s the right time to have them on display.

– Toby Willis-Camp, a former Director of Libraries for a professional association 

Marleah AugustineTattoos don’t bother me – I have two myself, although they are not usually visible during work (although my next one likely will be). I don’t think candidates should try to hide visible tattoos during the job search / interview. That feels deceptive to me. I’d rather know they are inked up front (or at least not have something hidden and then suddenly see it on their first day at work). The only time I think I would think twice about it is if the tattoos are large and on the neck, or any tattoos on the face. I doubt I would have to worry about vulgar tattoos, but that would also give me pause.
About half of my part-time staff are tattooed, and only once in 5 years have I heard a patron comment about a tattoo in a negative manner (but I’ve heard several positive comments!).
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Ink is relative to location.  I personally don’t care, and my patrons don’t care.  In a smaller, more conservative, more rural library, everyone cared.  It was silly.  I hired and was hired anyway (I have what looks like very obvious piercings–I actually have none–but I always have worn the jewelry to interviews to see what comments might ensue).While hiring is supposed to be about skills, sometimes you have to worry about community fit.  I never have, and have never had problems.  If a candidate is worried–cover the tats.  The person will know soon enough if its an issue or not.
– Virginia Roberts, Director, Chippewa Falls Public Library

Manya ShorrWhen hiring, the most important thing to me is whether the staff person is approachable and neutral. Both of these things can be easily achieved even if the staff person is covered in tattoos. So no, tattoos have little to no impact on my hiring practices. That said, if an applicant (or staff person) has a tattoo that is political or controversial, I would ask them to cover it. We want to create an environment that is as neutral as possible, so that a patron feels comfortable asking any question of any staff person. Of course, this applies to clothing too and not just tattoos. Our latest dress code says, “Clothing or body art that can be reasonably seen as profane, political, or obscene is not to be visible.”

I remember having a conversation with my mom about 10 years ago about tattoos (I’m 38). She was convinced that the people in my generation who have tattoos would never be able to get jobs. I believed that the world would have to change to accommodate all the people with tattoos. I certainly saw more tattoos in Portland, OR than I do in Omaha, NE but even here, it’s commonplace for staff to have tattoos.

 – Manya Shorr, Assistant Director, Community Programs and Services, Omaha Public Library

Randall SchroederI have only one question from the other side of the table regarding tattoos or anything dealing with appearance. Does it affect approachability? If I am hiring you to be a public services librarian to work at a service desk, you can’t frighten the users away. On the other hand, if you work in the back, it probably isn’t that big of a deal. I want people to be comfortable at work but still be able to do their job. A librarian with great people skills and tattoos is still better than a curmudgeon with no skin decoration. Libraries are supposed to be an inclusive place.

This also works both ways on the fashion scale. I worked with a librarian who always wore a three piece pinstripe suit at the desk. The students wouldn’t talk to him either.

Personally, I have no issue with tattoos, but I cannot vouch for everybody on the hiring committee. It may even be a subconscious reaction. It depends on how important your personal style is compared to the job. The tattooed librarian may not want to work at a place where she or he is judged by skin art. In which case, show your glory within reason and taste.

If the job is really important, do your research. There may be a policy on appearance in some places, although that is increasingly rare. If not, what can you find out about the culture of the school? If you think it is an issue, cover until you get hired and then surprise them.

I have worked for a college where the tats would get a raised eyebrow from some of the staff. I have worked for a university where nobody would notice.

– Randall Schroeder, Director of Libraries, Archives and Media at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota

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 me at

Thank YOU for reading!When her muscles start relaxin’, up the hill comes Andrew Jackson. Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia. Oh Lydia The Queen of comment.

There will be two more posts in this series, which will go live on 6/22 and 6/23.  When live, links will be here and here.


Filed under Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Interviewing while Tattooed, Public Services/Reference, Youth Services