Category Archives: Cataloging/Technical Services

Further Questions: When and how should candidates check-in after an interview (if at all)?

This week’s question is related to last week’s, but about a later stage of the process. I asked people who hire librarians:

When and how should candidates check-in after an interview (if at all)? Have you ever told someone you’d get back to them by a certain time, and then not been able to do so?

Cathi AllowayWe give interviewed candidates an approximate decision date, but encourage them to call us if the date passes and they have not heard from us. I explain that deadlines are sometimes compromised because we sometimes need additional approvals from the library board or local government officials that may be delayed. We will also tell really good candidates that if they get an offer from somewhere else while they are waiting to hear from us, to feel free to call about it so we can work with them as they make their important decision.

– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

Laurie PhillipsOther than sending a thank you email, I don’t know if it would help to check in. I have had people send follow-up materials that were mentioned during the interview. Yes, there may be a reason why the final decision is delayed (the Dean is out, the Provost’s office hasn’t given us the final go-ahead, a committee member is ill), but in general, we meet to decide as soon after the final candidate as possible. A candidate should find out what the interview schedule is while they are interviewing (are they first, last, what is the schedule). That way they should know when to expect to hear. Otherwise, if the committee is still bringing in candidates, we’re fairly busy with that and may not have a lot of time to respond. Keep in mind, I cannot notify the unsuccessful candidates until I have an absolute yes from the successful candidate. At that point, I write emails to the unsuccessful candidates who visited campus. I have asked job seekers if they prefer email to a phone call and have been told that they prefer email because they don’t have an awkward conversation with me and don’t get their hopes up when I call.

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

I agree with some of the posters from last week. I don’t think that an applicant should “check in” once they have submitted an application, unless they have forgotten to include something, they really want the search committee to know about.  The only other time may be when they are being considered for another position, but they prefer yours and really want/need to know if they are being actively considered, so that they can make a decision.  I have to admit that it is a tad annoying to me as a potential employer or search committee chair to receive phone calls, especially repeated calls from the same person.   I understand from many years of doing this, that the search process can take a long time, and it is frustrating for a candidate to be left hanging.  But the cogs move pretty slowly in academia sometimes, often due to conflicting schedules for meetings, and/or large candidate pools.  I’m afraid that I think it is best to just wait out the process, unless one of the two reasons above are the case.  I don’t mean to sound hard about this, because I, like most people, have been on both sides of the process.  However, everyone needs to remember that search committees want to finish their work and select a candidate as soon as possible too.  None of us is trying to cause hardships for candidates. Once the candidates get a job and serve on a search committee, I think they will better understand why the searches can often take an inordinate amount of time, as frustrating as that can be.

– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands

Marleah AugustineI think it’s best if candidates let at least a week go by. Sometimes the interview process is not even finished and I get calls from candidates. I appreciate their eagerness, but I just don’t have anything I can tell them at that point.
I’ve always (knock on wood) been able to get back to people on time.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Manya ShorrIn my current situation, I’d rather people don’t check in at all within the first two-three weeks after the interview. I know it’s extremely frustrating to wait for a response and that it seems like nothing is happening, but I ask applicants to trust that things are moving forward. There are a myriad of things that could be happening behind the scenes. For example: a panel member may have gone on vacation right after the interview (recently happened here..with two panelists), we may be calling references (do you know how hard it can be to connect with references?), you may be our second choice and we’re waiting to hear if the first person accepts the position (in fact, we may be flying them out here to visit before offering them the position). I’m aware that it feels like torture and it is never our intention to make applicants suffer, but there are protocols in place that we have to follow. So, please, be patient. I promise we have not forgotten about you and we will be in touch soon.
– Manya Shorr, Senior Manager, Branch Services, Omaha Public Library

Randall SchroederI have never had that situation, but if I did miss a promised deadline a quick e-mail asking what is the status of the search would not be received poorly.

One reason that this situation has not been my experience is if I give candidates a ballpark idea of when they will hear back, it is usually a simple matter to send out an e-mail explaining, in general, what the delay is about. If I am down to a few on-campus interviews, it is no hardship to send out a couple of e-mails. If it is more global than that, our new HR software allows me to send out group e-mails quite readily.

My general feeling is that people’s imaginations will come up with much worse explanations in the absence of information. It will save all us much anxiety if I can give candidates an honest answer about the timeline when possible.

In short, I want my candidates, especially my finalists, to feel valued. Why start off a potential collegial working relationship with preventable hard feelings?

– Randall Schroeder, Department Head of Public Services, Ferris Library for Information & Technology Education

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 hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thank YOU for reading!

Tall and tan and young and lovely, the comment from Ipanema gets posted

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Filed under Academic, Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Information Literacy Instruction, Public, Public Services/Reference

Further Questions: Who has input on hiring decisions at your organization?

This week I have another question suggested by a reader.  I asked people who hire librarians:

Who has input on hiring decisions at your organization? (e.g the hiring manager, the person’s potential department members, an external committee, etc.) We often hear that it’s important to be polite to everyone you meet when going in for an interview – do you solicit feedback from non-interviewing staff members?

Laurie PhillipsWe have a search committee, which will generally include those librarians and staff who will work directly with the new hire. We try to keep it small – no more than 4 people. Our policy is to also include one person outside of the person’s general area. The committee has the most input and makes a recommendation to the Dean and Associate Dean, who will have met with the person and reviewed applications of top candidates. We also invite everyone in the library to attend the person’s onsite presentation and we have a small group who are not members of the search committee take the candidate to lunch. We gather feedback from everyone who had contact with the candidate, but obviously, the search committee makes the decision to recommend a candidate to the Dean for hire.

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

Emilie Smart

In our system, we operate a little differently in branches as opposed to the main library.  Hiring decisions for branches are made by the branch manager and the branch dept head with input from the branch services liaison and division coordinator.  At the main library,  senior departmental staff and the division coordinator make the decisions.  It is important to be polite to everyone you meet in the interview process.  It’s also important to listen in the interview.
When we conclude each interview we tell the candidate that he or she will be hearing from us once we have completed interviewing all candidates.  We also tell them that we may not be able to complete the process in a timely manner (through no fault of our own) and that they may need to be patient for a week or so, but we WILL get back with them.  I don’t mind it when a candidate calls after a week to inquire, but I have had candidates who called every other day.  I always tell candidates the first time they call what the status of the interviews is and that we will call them when we are finished.  If they call me back again, I generally take them off the consideration list.  If they can’t be patient, how can they help frustrated patrons?

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

Marge Loch-WoutersThe manager in a department has primary responsibility for hiring decisions and initial selection of our interview pool. We always use a team for interviews made up primarily of other managers at our library. There may also be other staffers involved. The interview team then meets to compare notes and make a recommendation to the manager. But that person ultimately has the final say.

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

Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library SystemHere at Shortgrass all the hiring is done by our management team. We do all interviews as a team (of three) if possible and then make a decision together. Depending on the position we then let the manager who will be directly supervising the position be the one to extend the offer.
Generally, most non-interviewing staff members don’t even meet the candidates, due to the lay-out of the building. Often the Executive Assistant will be the first one to make contact as people walk in the door and if there was anything remarkable (lack of friendliness, etc) about the candidate, I trust she would mention it to me.

– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

On most academic search committees on which I’ve served and/or chaired, those who have input into the actual decision as to who is hired is somewhat restricted.  The “restricted” group usually includes the members of the search committee, the Dean or other “official” of the college , and the department head of the department in which the new person will work.  However, I have always solicited feedback from anyone who has been invited to interview the candidate one on one,  in a small group, or a larger group as when a presentation is required.  That feedback isn’t always in the final decision category. But it could be if many people provide similar, or the same,  pros or cons about a candidate.  In that case, I would hope that the search committee or other final decision maker would take that feedback into consideration.  Being polite to everyone a candidate meets on an interview should be pro forma, whether or not the candidate thinks that the people he/she meets has input into the hiring process. If a candidate can’t be polite to everyone for one or two days,  and it is noticed, that candidate should not be the one selected for the position IMO.

– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands

Samantha Thompson-Franklin

At my library, candidates are introduced to all of the library staff (we are a small staff) and are asked to make a presentation that includes the entire library staff as well as members of the search committee. My library director solicits feedback from all members of the library staff on their view of the candidate(s). In some cases it has confirmed whether the person should or should not be hired for the job.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Marleah AugustineWhen hiring support staff, in our library, the decision rests with the department head. When both the youth and adult departments are hiring at the same time, the two department heads sometimes interview candidates together, but the individual department head is the one who makes the final decision.
In some cases, front desk staff members will have an initial impression of a candidate, and I do take that into consideration. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s nice to hear what kind of interaction the candidate had and whether it was positive or negative.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Colleen HarrisAt our library, all librarian presentations are open to all staff and library faculty, as is the meet & greet, and the candidate spends time with various folks both in and outside their home department. We solicit feedback from everyone in our organization who was able to spend time with the candidate; that information is usually collected via a survey where folks have open-answer slots to comment on the person’s qualifications, skillset, and whether they are an acceptable candidate.
– Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re interested in participating in this feature, email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!

I won’t dance in a club like this. All the girls are comments and the beer tastes just like comments.

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

Further Questions: Are Gaps in a Resume Really a Red Flag?

This week we have the second in a set of reader questions. This person is preparing to leave work for an extended period of time, due to the incipient arrival of twin babies. I’m asking questions of people who hire librarians, and I’m also running companion posts with people who have returned to work after an extended leave. Last week I asked for advice on staying professionally relevant during a leave of absence (and the companion post is here). This week’s question is: 

Are gaps in a resume really a red flag? Have you ever hired someone who has been unemployed for an extended period of time? If so, can you provide any details about how this person discussed his/her absence on a resume or cover letter, or in an interview?

J. McRee Elrod

No.  We don’t even check for gaps in dates.
For those prospective employers who do, one might insert something, e.g., “Rearing children.” That too takes skill and provides experience.
To cover a prison term, perhaps “Volunteer work in an institutional library”?
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah Augustine

Gaps in a resume are not necessarily a red flag, but it is nice to have some sort of explanation as to how that time spent. A simple mention in a cover letter about taking time off for family, travel, education suffices.What gets my attention more as a red flag is if an applicant has had many many jobs that were held for only a short time, and again in that case a short explanation usually takes care of any concern on my part. It’s not a dealbreaker outright.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

Gaps are a red flag if the applicant doesn’t address them in some way in the cover letter (out of the country; position cut during budget cuts; raising a family; unemployed due to the recession). If I don’t see anything it makes me wonder whether the candidate was fired or let go for some reason. This concern is allayed if a reference from the manager at the last place of employment is included.I have hired someone with a substantial gap – she wrote in her cover letter and discussed at her interview that she was raising a family and was now ready to come back into the job market. That person was ready and she was a great addition to our staff and has gone on to an excellent career.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Manya ShorrThe term “red flag” has a negative connotation that doesn’t express how I react when I see an extended leave on a resume. I notice it, but it doesn’t make me question whether the person is qualified. What it does it create a space to have a conversation about the leave. In other words, it would absolutely not preclude me from wanting to interview a qualified person. That said, I think the applicant should come to the interview prepared to talk about how they stayed current in the library world while they were on leave (or how they’ve caught up since they’ve been back). Best practices in public libraries seem to change frequently and the last thing an applicant should do is talk about an outdated program, policy or practice. A leave is fine but falling behind is not.
– Manya Shorr, Senior Manager, Branch Services, Omaha Public Library

Terry Ann LawlerNo.  Unless you were fired from your last job and did absolutely nothing for the last year.  I think over all experience in the fields which I need are more important than a gap in employment   I have, several times, hired people who had gaps in their resume.  People will usually explain a gap in some way, like that they started a family, went back to school, took care of an aging or sick family member, etc.

I  have seen this addressed in the cover letters, which, I think is appropriate.  I think it is not important to give too many facts about a gap, but it is important to address it in some short way.  Maybe a line or two to state why there is a gap and to state how you have kept professionally relevant during that gap. If you spend too much time explaining yourself, you take up valuable page real estate that could be used to talk about your awesome skills.
I think the same goes for a resume.  If you have a chronological based resume (although I would recommend you don’t), you could address the gap with its own date and a brief explanation.  For example:
Nov 1994- Aug 1999 – Electronic Resources Librarian, XXX State Library
Aug 1999-Feb 2000 – Long Term Relative Home Care
Mar 2000- Present – Cashier, Barnes and Noble Book Store
Again, I don’t think it is as important to explain a gap in employment as it is to highlight your skill sets and why you are the right person for the job.  Don’t lie about it, but don’t over stress something you can’t change. Focus on what is positive about you and your employment history and what you learned during that down time.
– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Alice the camel has TWO comments.

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Filed under Adult Services, Cataloging/Technical Services, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Topical Series, Youth Services

Further Questions: How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant?

This week we have a new set of reader questions. This person is preparing to leave work for an extended period of time, due to the incipient arrival of twin babies. We’re going to talk about leaves of absence for the next three weeks – I’ll be asking questions of people who hire librarians, and then I’m going to also run companion posts with people who have returned to work after an extended leave. This week’s question is: 

What do you recommend that a person on an extended leave of absence do in order to stay professionally relevant?

Petra Mauerhoff

We had a staff member from our cataloguing department start an extended leave (maternity leave) at the beginning of this year and before she left she expressed concern about “staying in the loop”, professionally as well as being connected to our organization. Her supervisor gave her homework to do while she is on leave (exercises from the cataloguing course) and will invite her to participate in any professional development activities we might be offering during the year. Of course her participation will be voluntary, but it will be a great opportunity for her to stay connected to the profession and continue her connection to staff as well.
I recommend staff who are planning a leave speak to their supervisors about what the expectations are and what the supervisor would recommend in order to stay professionally connected and relevant while away from their job.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
J. McRee Elrod
Read the appropriate e-lists, e.g., cataloguers should read Autocat, RDA-L, and Bibframe
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah Augustine

This question is close to home, because I recently took maternity leave. I expected to be gone during the months of August and September, planning to take 6 weeks off and then work the next 2 weeks on half-time basis, using vacation time as needed (our policy follows FMLA, and employees are expected to use their sick and vacation time). However, my daughter arrived 8 weeks early, so I ended up being gone in June and July instead. This threw quite a monkey wrench into my work plans, as the day I gave birth was the same day that I had planned to orient my assistant department head to my files and where everything was.

My recommendation to others is, if you are taking an extended leave of absence from a job that you currently hold and will be holding upon your return, stay in touch with those folks that you work with. Make yourself available via email or phone if possible. Even if you aren’t doing the actual work, just staying in touch and keeping up with issues that happen means that you will have less catching up to do when you do return.

If you are working with your supervisor to try to find the best solution for both you and your work, and you have an idea about the time off that you want, just ask. A friend of mine was unsure about whether she was going to go back to work after the birth of her daughter, and she told her supervisor that. Her supervisor worked with her and just hired someone on an interim basis so that my friend could have a year off and her position would be held in the event that she came back to work. You never know unless you ask!

If you are between jobs but are taking an extended leave of absence, keep up with professional developments as much as you can. Read blogs, keep browsing Library Journal.

All of this being said — take time for yourself and focus on the reason you are taking that extended leave in the first place. If you are on sabbatical to work on a dissertation, do that work first before you check in with your job. If you have a baby, that is your first priority and no one should discourage you from recognizing that.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

Keep up on blogs, twitter feeds and, if you don’t already, ask to have remote access to your institutions email system.  Ask a willing colleague to forward meeting notes or policy changes or news that are posted on internal communication networks – wikis; blogs; etc – just so you stay slightly in the loop. Ten-twenty minutes a day spent perusing what’s up will make it feel like you are aware of what’s happening without needing to stress over it. And again, if you have a willing colleague who would drop off  professional print journals after they’ve been routed to the rest of the staff so you can keep up (kind of like homework being dropped off!), that is a way to stay connected.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
I really believe that whenever possible, the person on leave stay in touch with their library, either through listservs and other email methods, occasional phone conversations, conference calls for committees or other pertinent professional events that the person would have attended or in which they would have been involved.    Offer to have those at work call you at home when something of importance is about to happen–more of an FYI or courtesy than actually asking for input or opinions.  I say all of  this, because it the person is truly planning to return to their jobs, it is best to keep abreast of what is going on, rather than have to play major catch up upon one’s return.    The person should also read the literature also, just to make sure that you don’t completely remove yourself from the profession in your absence.  ALA members receive American Libraries, and others may subscribe to that or Library Journal, etc.  And of course there is the web.
Some colleges or universities may frown upon, or just plain not allow active participation in committee work or conference calling.  If that is the case, then I would recommend doing the other things I mentioned above–staying abreast of things on listservs, webpages, occasional phone calls to friends/colleagues just be kept up to speed.  Some people like to just “unplug” when they are away from their jobs, but if one is only on leave, and plans to return at some point, I don’t think that is a good idea for more than a couple of weeks.  In addition to the person on leave remaining informed, it is good for he/she to be remembered by colleagues, not out of sight out of mind.
– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands
Samantha Thompson-FranklinI have some personal experience from 2 short term maternity leaves. So here are a few suggestions that I have:
*Keep up as best as you can with the professional literature, either via online or in print publications
*Become involved or stay involved in any professional association committees at the local or national level
*Take advantage of any professional development opportunities, either face-to-face in your local area or online through webinars
*Continue to keep in touch and network with colleagues
*Look for opportunities to contribute through writing for a blog or a professional publication, if that’s of interest to youSome of these suggestions will depend upon how much time and resources/funding you have available to you, but they should help to you keep you involved and stay professional relevant.

– 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 interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer, by your comments.

*Edited 2/3/2013 to add in answer by Samantha Thompson-Franklin

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Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Topical Series

Further Questions: Any Tips for Out-of-Area Applicants?

Here’s final question in a series of six from the reader who asked when candidates shouldn’t applyif current employment status matters, how the initial selection of candidate works, for some cover letter hooks that worked, and if knowledge of specific tools was important. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

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

Petra Mauerhoff

The geographic location doesn’t matter when we are trying to find the best candidate for the job. As long as the applicant is legally permitted to work in Canada and has the proper qualifications, we want to hear from you.
Since our organization is located in a medium sized town, all the folks with library related education tend to know each other or at least know of each other. When we post a position requiring library related qualifications, we can generally guess whether or not we will have local applicants.
The most important thing for applicants who are not located within driving distance to our office is that they need to be comfortable interviewing either via phone, skype or video conference. When I’m trying to set up an interview via distance an answer such as “but I don’t own a webcam” doesn’t show a lot of flexibility. The onus is on the candidate to make this happen.
Also, don’t have the interview situation be the first time you are actually using this technology. An improperly positioned camera can be distracting and the focus should be on the interview, not on the technology.
If the candidate is from out of the province, it is important that they not only try to gain some understanding about our organization before the interview, but also try to familiarize themselves with the structure of public library services in Alberta in general.
The basics for interview preparation remain the same, no matter what your geographic location: do your homework and show in the interview that you have taken the time to learn as much as you can about our organization, its context and the position for which you are applying.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
J. McRee Elrod
In the case of SLC, location is totally irrelevant, since our cataloguers work from home. It is important to have a bank willing to accept deposits of out of country checks without a large fee.

I know of a case where an American applying for a Canadian job failed to mention that as a result of marrying a Canadian, he was immigrating. He was not considered since the employer did not wish to deal with the increasing difficulties of immigration.

It would be wise to mention, I think, a willingness to move, and to be interviewed by Skype prior to the move.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Nicola FranklinAs a recruiter one of the things I find frustrating is that my clients can sometimes put their own convenience above their search for the best candidate for the job.  Given two equally qualified, experienced, etc applicants, they will almost always chose to interview the one who already lives locally to the one from further away who says they are willing to relocate.This statement is generally (although not exclusively) more true in the private sector, and less so in the public/government sector (where their equal opportunity guidelines may insist that they interview all applicants who meet a certain minimum standard, irrespective of where they are located).I guess this selection makes it easier to arrange interviews, avoids the need to pay expenses (or explain why they don’t do this), and there is also the thought of someone asking for relocation expenses and/or not being immediately available to start.  Hiring a new member of staff is generally a risky process (a lot is invested in time and money in the initial search, and then in induction and training, and in lost productivity until the new person gets up to speed), and employers always worry that a new hire won’t stay long enough to ‘pay back’ that investment.  Anything that reduces that risk or avoids risk factors is something hirers are generally keen on, therefore.If you are applying for jobs located outside reasonable commuting distance (that could be anything from 30 miles away to out of State or in a different country), then you need to reduce or avoid these perceived problems as much as possible.  Include information in your application pack or cover letter to reassure hirers,  For example, tell them you have relatives locally you can move in with immediately, while you look for somewhere to live.  Tell them you have Skype and are open to having a video interview as a first stage.
State up front that you are keen to relocate to the area at your own expense (and preferably that you know people there).  Employers are always worried that someone who moved just for the job may find it too lonely without friends and family, and leave again quickly.Don’t forget to include all the usual information to demonstrate what a great match you are to all the essential (and as many desirable as possible) characteristics they have put in the job specification.  Most employers will only go to the lengths of arranging telephone or skype interviews or calling someone to travel a long distance for a candidate they are sure is a pretty good fit on paper.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
Laurie PhillipsWe are academic, tenure-track, faculty, so we intentionally do national searches and geographic location has little or no bearing at all. In our most recent search, we Skype-interviewed someone who was out of the country and, if it had come to an on-campus interview, we would have had a discussion with the provost’s office about it. We pay all of the expenses for candidates to visit campus and the university pays a good portion of the hiree’s moving expenses.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
Marleah AugustineWith part-time staff, it is not as much of a concern unless we hire university students who plan to go home for extended periods. For full-time positions, we are always willing to consider applicants who plan to move to our area but are not currently here. Phone interviews are the norm in that situation, although we LOVE seeing an applicant travel here for an in-person interview. It’s much easier to get an idea of who the applicant is in person.
As for tips, do as much research about the area as you can. Show that you’ve looked into what the library offers. Of course this goes for anyone applying, but when you’re in the area you tend to learn a lot by osmosis; when you’re at a distance, it takes a bit more work to do that.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
We do not, generally, pay for relocation, so the location of the applicant doesn’t matter to us, if the applicant doesn’t expect to be reimbursed for moving expenses.
– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Marge Loch-WoutersWe do national searches for our open positions with the understanding that if the candidate moves forward to a final four-five interview, we cannot help with the cost of a trip (wish we could, but we can’t). We have hired a number of out-of-state; out-of-region candidates. I do always look to make sure throughout the process that they understand that while this is an amazing opportunity professionally, it is in a location that is slightly isolated (2-3 hours to a large metropolitan area) – and it’s WI so it is likely to be cold and snowy and dark for significant chunks of the year. Many candidates, in their cover letter, make the case why they want to move into our area (family; want to be in the Midwest; love nature and the outdoors) that give us clues to the fact that they can happily work here and reach their potential.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Dusty Snipes GresThe most important question for an out-of-area candidate is, “How much do you want the job?” It is important to bear in the mind that most libraries are operating with limited and reduced budgets.  Travel and moving reimbursements are usually the first to go the way of cuts. Most libraries are well aware of the expense of looking for a job and offer alternatives: telephone interviews, web cast interviews, Skype, and similar tools. But – sooner or later – there will be the need for a face-to-face interview and there may be a good chance that the applicant will have to pay some or part of the travel.

I am more than willing to spend the time and effort on the preliminaries, and to offer what financial assistance the library can afford,  if I know that the person is willing to pay all or part to come for the interview. I am more than willing to offer the position to someone who is prepared to move. I do need to know there is commitment. And, part of the commitment is knowing whether the candidate really understands the area. Several times we have had final interviews where the person really didn’t know what rural meant, until he drove through miles of farm land and saw no malls or shopping centers. That was the deal breaker and not on our side.

Looking for a job is frustrating and time-consuming. Now, more than ever, the candidate needs to be open-minded about where the job is and what the job entails. The smaller the library the broader the job description. Bear in mind that the hiring library is also frequently in a position where the library desperately needs help, has a very limited budget, a limited time-frame to fill the position, and locally a limited or nonexistent candidate pool. Willingness to travel and willingness to move and expand horizons may get you a job.

– Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Sue HillIn an ideal world I would only hire staff who live within easy walking distance or a short bus ride from our office.  However life is not that simple.

A reality check is essential for both the hirer and the applicant at all stages of the process.

As a recruitment agency I would advise candidates to think carefully about the ramifications of a move before making their application.  It is disappointing for both the hirer and the candidate if a job is offered and then rejected because it did not make sense to make that move.  Equally a long commute can be disruptive to your personal life affecting family relationships and friendships too.  Life in a new city can be lonely. There should be more to life than work and a very long commute although there are times when it is necessary.

When making your application you need to show that you are prepared to move.  I often advise using the address of a friend or family member in the city where the job is located as some hirers have a policy of not looking at applicants who live outside a certain mileage range. If you say you already live there it may mean you won’t get travel expenses when you are invited to interview so you could just indicate that you have accommodation pre-arranged at that address.  If a clear plan to move is indicated within the application then as a hirer I would take that candidate more seriously than one who said ‘I am prepared to move anywhere.’  Invariably those who say that are not.

If planning a move or a long commute then you will need to give careful thought to the effect that either of these may have on your nearest and dearest.  Child or dependent care need to be considered as does the career of your partner.  Not all jobs are replicated globally and so you may need to research the possibilities of appropriate work for them in the new location.  Another consideration is property rental and purchase costs.  These often vary between cities and you need to be sure that you can afford to live in the new location. An alternative is to work Monday to Friday and return home on the weekends.  That can mean two sets of living expenses as well as the travel costs so it makes sense to take a sound look at the economics and the availability of Monday to Friday bed and board.

For more senior roles relocation expenses are sometimes offered by the hirer.  If these are essential to your ability to make a move then you should clarify their availability at the outset of the application process.  If you are planning to move abroad be realistic about your language skills.  Perhaps the working language of the company is English, but when you need a plumber at 2:00 am you can be sure you will need to speak the local language!

– Sue Hill, Managing Director, Sue Hill Recruitment

Melanie LightbodyWe don’t discriminate against out-of-area applicants. That said, my personal experience is that the more the person is tied to the area the more likely they are to work out as a candidate as well as an employee. The last two times that we’ve called out-of-area candidates for our professional positions there was about an 65% chance they’d either turn the interview down immediately or bow out later.

Recently, I hired an out-of-area candidate who worked for about three months before heading back to their home area.

Here is my tip: Use that cover letter to give a sentence or two with very specific reasons you are interested in the particular job for which you’re applying.

I have also seen candidates successfully use personal reasons to show interest. In these cases though the candidates were highly qualified for the positions they were seeking.

– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. 

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware That jaups in luggies; But, if ye wish her gratefu’ prayer Gie her a Comment!

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

Further Questions: How important is knowledge of specific tools?

Here’s penultimate question in a series of six from the reader who asked when candidates shouldn’t applyif current employment status matters, how the initial selection of candidate works, and for some cover letter hooks that worked. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

As archivists and librarians, the tools we learn are a bit of a crapshoot. How important is that an applicant have previous knowledge in the specific tools or system that your library uses? Is it very important, we will not consider an applicant without that experience/ideal, but we will consider someone with training as a substitute (example: took EAD course but did not use EAD in a job), it’s more important that someone is willing to learn new technology and tools (perhaps demonstrated by the other tools they already know), or something else entirely?
Petra MauerhoffGenerally, we are more interested in how you can move forward with us. How adaptable are you in learning new tools? How flexible are you in helping us find more efficient and effective work flows?
Having experience with the same ILS or other tools we use helps, because we know it will cut down some of the required training and we like having someone with experience who might bring a different perspective. However, it is not a must and we have hired people whose experience was with completely different tools and have found their background and experience brought valuable contributions to our work environment.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundWhen I’m hiring a librarian I assume they are coming with a basic knowledge of library research tools. I often ask them to list 10 tools they would include in their reference collection if they could only work from those 10 tools. Personally I don’t have 10 favorite tools, but I’d like to see if they can go through Dewey and give me an encyclopedia, dictionary, atlas, almanac, or even the Internet and some favorite websites or search engines as a basic tools. I’m amazed at how often a candidate cannot name 3 tools. This certainly is not a deal breaker question for me because I know people are nervous at interviews, but it can provide an interesting peek into their thought process.

I am interested in know if they are familiar with any library automation systems. It doesn’t have to be our system (Polaris), but learning an automation system from scratch is a bit of a training hurdle. If they can use one system, they can easily learn another. If they aren’t even aware of library automation software that would be a problem. In terms of software, I want people to be familiar with the basic Microsoft programs and a web management tool, like Joomla. In our library the website is managed by a team so it wouldn’t be the responsibility of one person, but if they have the concept of how a website is built and managed that is a good sign to me.

I’m assuming that most Librarian I candidates are coming with a common core of knowledge. I’m much more concerned about their customer service, team work, leadership, problem solving and creative skills. We can teach someone to go to a specific resource that they aren’t familiar with, but it is very tough to teach someone to smile and be welcoming to each and every customer when that is not his or her natural outlook on library service.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Melanie LightbodyIt depends on the the tool. If you’re applying for a cataloging job you need to be familiar with cataloging rules (AACR, RDA etc). If you are applying for a reference position, it is more important that you understand a systematic approach to reference work than it is to know the intricacies of any one tool. The question would be how much of the position you are applying for includes usage of a specific tool. As a rule of thumb, I favor a broader knowledge of systems over specific tool knowledge. My experience is those who understand the bigger picture do better day to day at their job. And yes, demonstrated willingness to learn would give weight to your app.

– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Marleah AugustineI think that a willingness to learn is the most important thing. Experience with the exact same tech and tools is great, but experience with similar tools can be just as good. Knowing that someone took a course about a particular tool but doesn’t actively use it at least lets us know that they have been exposed to it and are aware of it. I will not discount someone just because they don’t know our specific systems and software, but it is helpful to know what the applicant has used and what they know.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Emilie SmartIt is unrealistic to expect every candidate to have experience on specific tools.  Not every library uses the same things to do the same work — ILS’s are different, databases, books…  Tool availability is often more budget-based than need-based.
I expect reference candidates to have experience doing some reference work.  They should know how to search a database, conduct a reference interview, create a spreadsheet, manipulate HTML code.  I don’t care if they are familiar with Sirsi or Innovative or if they’ve never used a Gale database because their previous library subscribed to EBSCO.  Using our available tools is part of our training process, so what tools they have experience with is less important than what kind of tools they have experience with.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
J. McRee Elrod
Very important is knowledge is standards: ISBD, AACR2/RDA, MARC, LCC (and/or DDC), LCSH, probably OCLC, and in some situations NLM/MeSH and RVM.  It helps to have used a cataloguing software and an ILS, but considering their variety, experience with particular ones is less important.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Manya ShorrAt this point in my management career, I almost always put customer service skills above experience when it comes to hiring front line staff. We have too many people in our profession that don’t seem to want to work with the public and I feel like it is my duty to help turn that around. If someone is dedicated, curious, and willing to try I figure I can teach them anything. It is, however, difficult to teach anyone to be nice and welcoming. In other words, when you interview with me, please demonstrate that you are excited to work with the public. You can do this by smiling, maintaining eye contact, and answering the questions in an enthusiastic way. This doesn’t mean be maniacal, just act like you want the job. I’m willing to train and teach you!

– Manya Shorr, Senior Manager, Branch Services, Omaha Public Library

If a person is willing to learn new technology, doesn’t have a fear of it, or of constantly changing technology and other things in libraries, i.e can go with the flow—I would still consider or hire them if they didn’t have the exact type of technology or online systems my library uses. It is very helpful, and may make someone stand out, if they have worked in a library with the same online systems, and knows other technologies in the job description. But I believe that most people who are adept at using technology, enjoy it, and have no problem learning new technologies, can do so on the job. I guess the trick is convincing me as an employer, that the aforementioned “adeptness and willingness to learn” is indeed a trait of the applicant.

– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands

Marge Loch-WoutersThis is less important to us in Youth Services at our library – no doubt because we are on the slightly low-tech side. We feel that learning any specific tools and technology (beyond a basic familiarity with windows office suite; some digital toys like ipads or ereaders or social media) are part of training. We commit ourselves to our new hires to train them in this so knowing our ILS or specific hardware or software rarely plays a part in our decision.

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

Samantha Thompson-Franklin

I think it’s more important to show evidence of being willing to learn new tools and technologies, with specific examples of what you learned and how you used or applied it. Tools and technologies can come and go, and while it can be important to know certain tools, I think that one’s willingness and ability to learn new applications says a lot to a search committee.

– 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 interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! Comment, Eileen, taloo rah

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

Researcher’s Corner: Education, Training and Recruitment of Special Collections Librarians

This post presents research by Kelli Hansen. As in Eamon Tewell’s research on jobs for Academic librarians, you’ll see that she finds that entry-level positions are scarce.  However, she also identifies characteristics and skills that candidates can cultivate to improve their chances, and I’m intrigued by her findings about the increasingly multi-disciplinary nature of these jobs.  I hope you enjoy this post, because I’m very proud to be able to share it with you.


This project started as a student paper in Michael Laird’s class on Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Texas at Austin in spring 2009.  Some of our readings raised questions about employers’ expectations of new special collections librarians.  I was preparing to start my job search at the time, and I wondered whether some of the answers could be found in position advertisements.  Here’s what I found out.

Methodology

For the purposes of this study, I was only interested in job ads for entry-level special collections librarians.  It was difficult to define entry-level because very few job advertisements suitable for recent graduates openly represent themselves as such.  Unexpectedly, it was also difficult to define special collections and even librarian.

In the end, my criteria for including advertisements were as follows:

  1. One year of experience or less; or, length of experience not specified; and
  2. No supervisory duties over other professionals; and
  3. Position assigned to special collections or rare books (with at least 50% of job duties in one of those areas); and
  4. Title and requirements that reflect training in librarianship (as opposed to training in archives, conservation, museum studies, or digitization).

I did not keep track of a total population of job advertisements because I did not intend to estimate the percentage of jobs available to new graduates.  I only wanted a snapshot of the skills and experience employers were looking for in entry-level applicants, and the responsibilities and environments recent graduates could expect in their first positions.

I had a hard time locating advertisements, primarily because of the ephemeral nature of online postings. Eighty-eight position announcements, culled from various print and electronic sources from 2004 to 2009, fit my criteria and were included in the study.

Findings

After I collected all of the advertisements, I broke down statistics for features like salary, professional status, geographic location, and institution type.  I found that the largest number of positions was in the Northeast.  The median salary was $40,000, and academic or research environments made up the overwhelming majority.  Over 75 percent required a single master’s degree – either the MLS or a master’s degree in a subject area.  About 30 percent of the advertisements specified that another advanced degree, in addition to the library degree, was preferred.  Almost half of the advertisements required the candidate to have some experience (of an unspecified amount), and over seventy percent of the advertisements stated that experience of some sort was preferred.

In order to measure more subjective requirements, I also did some basic text analysis on the qualifications sections for common keywords, which I classified into broad categories based on the white paper Competencies for Special Collections Professionals.   In the qualifications, keywords varied widely.  The most common single keywords were history, cataloging, and technology.  The competencies with the highest frequencies were Teaching and Research and Public Service, followed closely by Cataloging and Processing and Information Technology.

When I analyzed the duties sections of the advertisements in the same way, there was much less variation.  The most frequent single keywords for duties were reference and research.  The category with the highest frequency was Teaching and Research, appearing in 73 percent of advertisements.  However, the following categories all appeared in 72 percent of the advertisements: Management and Administration, Promotion and Outreach, and Public Service.  Cataloging and Processing was represented in 70 percent of advertisements.

Conclusions

To summarize very briefly, I reached some of the following conclusions:

  1.  Entry-level positions in special collections are scarce, and they aren’t so entry-level.  Like many library jobs, there’s an overwhelming preference for candidates with some prior experience.  Nearly a third of hiring institutions also prefer candidates with additional graduate education.  These facts indicate a very competitive job market.
  2. The job advertisements reflect overlap among libraries, archives, and museums.  There has been much talk about library-archive-museum convergence over the past decade, and the job announcements confirm that idea.  It may be useful for job seekers to cultivate skills and experience in all three areas.
  3. Institutions seem to be looking for candidates who are both generalists and specialists.  Most of the skills mentioned in the advertisements – reference, research support, instruction, cataloging – apply to librarians of all stripes.  However, the position responsibilities and requirements suggest that aspiring special collections librarians need to combine comprehensive library skills with specialized knowledge of subject areas and materials.

The Future

The full version of this research was published in RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage in September 2011.  I only touched on the surface with this article, and there’s still a lot to find out about hiring and training librarians in this field.  Feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.


Kelli Bruce Hansen earned her MSIS from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2010, and her MA in art history from the University of Missouri in 2003. Currently, she’s a librarian in the department of Special Collections and Rare Books at the University of Missouri Libraries, where she focuses on instruction, outreach, and reference. She can be contacted at hansenkb@missouri.edu.

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Filed under Archives, Cataloging/Technical Services, Entry Level, Guest Posts, Instruction, library research, MLIS Students, Northeastern US, Researcher's Corner

Further Questions: Are You Looking for Candidates That Speak More Than One Language?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Does your organization/library give any additional weight to candidates who can speak more than one language?  If so, what languages are you looking for and how do you determine proficiency?

At Duke, as at other large academic libraries I’ve worked at, knowledge of other languages is a skill we value highly.  We have a number of jobs that require specific knowledge of specific languages, e.g., Catalog Librarian for Spanish & Portuguese Languages, Korean Studies Librarian, etc.  For cataloging, acquisitions, and other technical services positions, reading knowledge of the language is usually sufficient.  (Although for acquisitions positions, which are typically support-staff positions, it helps if you speak the language so you can call up that vendor in Shanghai or wherever and ask why something hasn’t arrived.)  For subject librarian/bibliographer positions, the ability to converse in the language is much more important.

I always say that as an academic librarian, nothing you know or learn is ever wasted — it will come up and be helpful to you at some point.  Languages are a great example of that.  If you speak or read a language we’re not specifically asking for, at some point we will probably need somebody who knows that language for some project, reference inquiry, etc.  So even if we’re not asking for someone who speaks Vietnamese for this reference librarian position, we would be glad to have somebody who speaks Vietnamese on-staff because it will probably come up at some point.  (Our Moving Image Archivist got me to make a phone call to Brazil for her once because she was having trouble placing an order for a film because she didn’t speak Portuguese and nobody there spoke English.  My Portuguese was very useful that day!)  Also, whatever language you speak, a patron who speaks that language will probably end up at the reference desk someday, and then it will be useful.

As I said, we often look for specific languages for specific positions.  Off the top of my head, the languages I know we have specifically recruited for include Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean.  I’m probably forgetting some.  In general, the ones that are most widely used for us are French, Spanish, German, and Chinese.  We don’t have a test or anything for proficiency.  For tech services positions that require only a reading knowledge, I usually say that if you can read a newspaper article in the language and then summarize what it’s about, you probably have the knowledge you need.  (I don’t mean if you can read a 2-page article and say “It’s about politics,” that is good enough — you need to be able to get the details, but not every word and you don’t need to be able to translate on a sentence-by-sentence basis.)

Keep in mind that most languages are related to other languages, so if you can read one language well, you might be able to read its related languages pretty well, too.  For example, if you can read Spanish, you can read Catalan without much trouble.  If you know French and Italian, you can probably make your way through Romanian.  If you can read German, you might be surprised how well you can read Dutch.  Don’t assume that you have to have had formal study in a language to have basic proficiency in it.

– Rich Murray, Metadata Librarian, Digital Collections, Duke University

Marleah AugustineWe don’t actively look for multilingual candidates, but in some cases it is handy. We have an English as a Second Language program at our library, but skills in English are more important for our purposes in that case.

And I should say – we are in a fairly rural area and do not have a highly diverse population, just to give it some context!

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Nicola FranklinWhen I am registering candidates to help with their job search, if they have listed language skills on their resume/CV, then I will ask them to rate their own skill level in reading/writing/speaking.  When I have a job calling for a certain level of proficiency in a language, and I pick out candidates who have said they have this during registration, at that point I will ask them more detailed questions to try and verify their proficiency.

For example, I’ll ask whether they’ve used the language in practice (for example, on holiday, while living abroad, or at work) or just while studying it (alone or in a group setting), whether they would be confident to handle a customer complaint (on the telephone or face to face) in the language, or whether they could write a report or article for publication in the language.  I find that asking someone about confidence with practical applications gets a more detailed and more honest self-appraisal than asking an abstract question (such as – are you beginner, intermediate, or expert/fluent level).

I will then put apparently suitable candidates forward to my client, in the knowledge that they are likely to be given a practical test of the language skill level they’ve claimed during the interview stages.  This could be a written or computer based test, or having some/all of the interview conducted in the language, or being asked to give a presentation in it.  I have come across all of these at some point, although I’ve also had clients who take the candidate’s word for their skill level without further testing.  I guess it then becomes something for review during the probation period.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Laurie PhillipsWe only require reading knowledge of a language for people who work with music, mainly because so many of the reference tools in music are in German. I would say German would be the most desirable followed by French or Italian. Catalogers are often required to have reading knowledge of various languages but we do not require that here. I am also the music cataloger and I can read German and a little bit of other languages. Our liaisons to Modern Languages speaks both French and Spanish, which is very helpful, but was not required. I don’t know how one would determine proficiency. In graduate school, I had to pass a proficiency exam in German or French (I chose German). It was a timed translation exam.

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

J. McRee Elrod

For SLC speaking is irrelevant. But we do value the ability to read and catalogue other languages. The most needed are nonroman script ones.

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

 

 

Terry Ann LawlerWe only give weight to more languages when we have insufficient staff who are fluent in other languages.  For example, if I have only one person on my library’s reference team who speaks Spanish and I’m in an area where a lot of our customers are Spanish speakers, I would make that a priority.

It would not be the only reason I hired someone, however.  If all candidates are equal and one speaks Spanish, I’d go with that person.  If one candidate is clearly the best pick and they don’t speak Spanish, I’d still go with that candidate.
We determine proficiency during the interview by asking a couple of conversational style questions in the language we need.

– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library

 

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

Thanks for reading! I want to live like comment people, I want to do whatever comment people do…

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

Further Questions: What is the most important “soft” skill?

**This question is inspired by the segment on non-cognitive skills from the Back to School episode of This American Life. It’s a great episode, if you’re looking for something to listen to:

http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/474/back-to-school

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

What is the most important “soft” skill for a candidate to have, and how can it be demonstrated in an application packet (if it can)?

J. McRee Elrod

Since our cataloguers work at a distance, the “ability to play with others” important in a workplace does not usually apply.  We value promptness and living up to commitments.  We have no way of measuring this other than experience with the cataloguer, and don’t know how it could be demonstrated in advance.

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

Nicola FranklinHmm this week’s question is harder than it looks!  Given other things being equal (which they often are; people attend the same/similar MLS programmes after all), it is soft skills that often tip the balance between candidates, so picking out just one to be the most important is hard!

I would say that communication skills are the most important ‘soft’ skill for a candidate to have.  Of course, ‘communication skills’ is a short phrase for a large range of skills.  Unpacking it, you get written, verbal and non-verbal communication, and within each of those are again a range of skills.  For example, within verbal communication you have persuasion, influencing, presenting, telephone skills, reference interviewing, etc.

Candidates can demonstrate written communication skills directly through their resume or application form – is the writing clear, concise, articulate?  Verbal communication skills are harder to show in the application packet, but can still be alluded to indirectly, for example by including experience of chairing meetings, giving presentations, manning issue or enquiry desks, etc, which involve using verbal skills.

I’ve written more about different types of communication skills on my blog.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Marleah AugustineOver time working in a library, I found that empathy and patience is one of the most important skills that people should have in a public library. We work with a wide range of patrons, and it’s very important to be patient and understanding. When I have a tough experience with a patron, I can’t be snippy and rude to them — I don’t know if they just lost a family member, if they have a mental health issue, if they didn’t take their blood pressure medication that morning, or if they just lost their job. Yes, it can be trying, but I have to be able to brush it off and move on with my day — and not take it out on the next person to approach the desk. I might be skewed in this direction because I also have a master’s in psychology, but I think it’s very important for staff to realize that they don’t know what that patron is experiencing and they must treat all patrons with the same level of professionalism and respect.

That skill is also important when working with fellow coworkers. Not everyone has the same work style or method of approaching tasks, but different methods can be equally productive. Staff need to consider that what works for them doesn’t always work for others, and this goes for part-time and full-time staff alike.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Laurie PhillipsOkay, I’ll be the first to admit that I had to look up soft skills because I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Truth is, what you call soft skills are, in many cases, more important to us than anything else. You have to have these basics to come work here. Most of them can’t be demonstrated in an application packet, but you should be prepared to address them in interviews and presentations and to expect that your references will have to address them.

I found any article by Kate Lorenz titled “Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters” on the web. Her top 10 are all crucial in my environment:

1. Strong work ethic – we need people who are thinkers and visionaries but we also absolutely need people who are productive – what we call “do-ers.”

2. Positive attitude – one person we interviewed in my last search asked for feedback on why he didn’t get the job. The main thing was his attitude toward some big projects we were accomplishing over the summer. He sounded like he was dreading the fallout. On the other hand, the person I hired described our approach as “fearless.”

3. Good communication skills – this is a top requirement. Written communication skills are evidenced by your letter. Don’t miss that opportunity. Verbal and interpersonal skills will come out in your interviews and presentations.

4. Time management abilities – the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities is crucial. We are blended librarians who have a lot on our plates. We ask people in the phone/Skype interview to describe situations that illustrate these abilities.

5. Problem-solving skills – again, a crucial skill. We are often looking at creative solutions to difficult problems.

6. Acting as a team player – we are a team-based organization, so we often ask references about the person’s ability to work with others collaboratively. If all of their accomplishments are solitary, it’s hard to see them fitting in here.

7. Self-confidence – we have to put ourselves out there with our students and faculty and project confidence in our abilities and our knowledge in order to be taken seriously.

8. Ability to accept and learn from criticism – our librarians get a lot of feedback and mentoring as part of the rank and tenure process. If they cannot learn from that feedback and respond to it, they will not progress.

9. Flexibility/Adaptability – our jobs change and evolve. We have to be open to that.

10. Working well under pressure – our Learning Commons desk is insane for the first couple of weeks of school. If we can survive that and our teaching load, we’re fine.

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

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

Thanks for reading! All day I’ve faced a barren waste, without the taste of comments, cool comments.

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Further Questions: Advice for “older” job hunters

This week I asked people who hire librarians:


Just as younger librarians worry about being perceived as inexperienced and skipped over, older librarians worry about stereotypes preventing them from finding work.  Can you dispel some of this worry by sharing a story about hiring an “older” librarian?  Any particular advice for this type of job hunter?  And finally, just for fun, which do you think is a bigger disadvantage in a job hunt: youth or age?


Marge Loch-WoutersI had great luck hiring two older staffers at my previous management position. In particular, we were looking for a level of maturity to balance our team and lend perspective to our efforts.  We really looked for clues that the older applicants were movers and shakers in terms of creative ideas and energy.  It was a delicate balance because some applicants bringing in almost too much experience at a management level and it’s difficult in a non-management position to know if this applicant can blend in with the team without overtly leading it. We felt great about the hires.
Best advice to older job applicants? Stay current and demonstrate ability/knowledge in areas that are trending now – maker spaces; digital content; early literacy chops; Common Core; fiction/non-fiction blending in collections; etc. That way you can stand shoulder to shoulder with younger applicants.
Bigger disadvantage – youth or age?  That’s tough. Young applicants often lack necessary experience and hiring managers know they might have to do a lot of training to bring them up to speed. Older applicants run the risk of too much experience that makes hiring managers shy away. I have hired both demographics and just find that the best candidate, regardless of age/experience, always rises to the top.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Nicola FranklinDespite legislation in many countries, age discrimination (even if it’s subconscious on the part of the hirer) can still unfortunately play a part in some hiring decisions.  Employers may feel they need someone with a certain amount of experience for them to be able to do their job successfully.
This could be because they feel it will have taken a long time for someone to have gathered the range or depth of skills they think is necessary, or because they feel that someone needs a certain degree of gravitas in order to interact successfully with their patrons or other staff and may assume that only comes with age or length of experience.
It is important to challenge these stereotypes.  People learn skills at different rates – it is perfectly possible for one person to become expert in something after a year or two, while another person may do a job for ten years and never really “get it”.  Some people naturally inspire confidence, at any age, while others will never project a strong personality whatever their age.
If a certain range or depth of skill is required, or certain personality characteristics are sought, these should be assessed objectively (by test, application form, interview, role play, etc), not assumed from someone’s age.How successful a candidate is at getting a job depends much more on their attitude than on their numeric age.  I have met candidates in their 40’s who have been made redundant and are convinced they will never work again – I remember one lady being in floods of tears during her registration interview because of this worry, and it took a long while to coax her to tell me about her skills.  Another candidate, of much the same age who I saw within a week of the first person, hadn’t given such a possibility a thought and was too busy promoting her great skills and experiences to worry about her age!
As a recruiter I put forward candidates based on the match of their skills and personality to the requirements of the job, and I take off any mention of age or date of birth from CVs and resumes.  If a client asked me a candidate’s age I wouldn’t tell them – often I have no idea myself!  It simply isn’t a relevant factor.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
J. McRee Elrod

We find retired cataloguers with their long experience make excellent part time distance cataloguers.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
In a recent candidate search I ended up with two finalists who were very different: gender, age and experience. Both had much to offer.  One was a fairly recent graduate, one had been a professional for many years. Because of the nature of the position, I chose the more experienced librarian. There were several reasons.  The person had more experience in a rural library setting, in a position with a similar level of independence that the job required. And the person had done more research and was much more acquainted with the weather, the size of the community and other such factors. Finally, the more experienced candidate really wowed key members of the interview team.
My advice for the “older” applicant is this: project energy, enthusiasm and forward thinking.  Show that you’re aware of current and future trends in the profession; even better, that you have such experience. Do your homework about the institution, the job and the community.  I am surprised at the candidates who don’t. I recently changed jobs myself as an “older” job hunter.  It can be done.
I believe that age is a disadvantage in this job market.  Recent surveys show that even though older workers are less likely to lose their job they have a more difficult time finding another one.  Agism is alive and well even in the field of librarianship.  With the retiring of we who are baby boomers, employers do look for applicants who can take the institution into the future, i.e. succession planning.  Even I feel the pull of nurturing the future leaders in our profession.  As well, I think older workers are at a disadvantage especially for entry level jobs. Just my honest opinion.
– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County
I hired an “older” librarian last year.  I passed the question on to her and thought you might like her response:
As an “older” librarian who spent nearly two years looking for employment and was fortunate enough to find work in Georgia a little over a year ago, the frustrations I ran into are not unlike those of new graduates.  We apply for positions based on our abilities, experience and preferences (if possible) and wait.  And wait. And wait some more.  While age isn’t listed on applications or resumes, a look at experience gives some idea about the age of the prospective employee but if you can’t get an interview it’s difficult to sell yourself regardless of age.  Some employers want new graduates to save money, to mold librarians to their institutions’ needs or perhaps because they believe that the brand new MLS candidate will have new ideas, attitudes and energy to bring to the job.  On the other hand, if the system is established and perhaps short staffed and there’s a need for someone who can hit the ground running, the director may be looking for the experienced professional. 
Of the scores of applications I filled out for positions across the country I had only two interviews.  I was willing to travel. I was willing to take a part time position for what was essentially a full time work load.  I didn’t care where the library was located.  As a person desperately seeking employment I was willing to compromise, a lot.  When it comes down to it, my younger fellows and I had the same issue.  We really never knew what our prospective employers were looking for in spite the job descriptions.  My current director wanted someone who knew that people lie. She wanted a librarian who knew how libraries worked and could acclimate quickly. Though it wasn’t her intention, during my first week on the job I was taken from system training to running a branch with some political issues.  To me it was a blast.  To a new graduate it could have been a nightmare.  It all comes under other duties as assigned.
-Joan
– Response collected by Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System
Most importantly, you need to be active in the community: serve on committees, attend meetings, respond to ILL requests, BE HELPFUL!!! Why should people help you if you sit in your office all day and give nothing back? We are all busy, so that is no excuse.You also need to write. Your local chapter newsletter can always use content, apply to present at seminars and write articles that go with them.Be visible, be helpful, contribute.

Also, dress nicely all the time, get a haircut or update your look.

– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Donald LickleyAs a recruitment agency, we meet and successfully place candidates at all stages of their careers.
In the UK, when the Age Discrimination Act 2006 came into force, in addition to the practical requirements of the new legislation, there was much discussion in recruitment circles about ensuring that job descriptions and adverts were carefully worded to avoid discriminatory practice. Now that the legislation has bedded down and litigation activity on that front has been somewhat less than anticipated, we are a little more relaxed about vocabulary, but we have no problem in adhering to recommended best practice. Certainly we do encounter a few employers who, more or less explicitly, will not look at candidates over a certain age (ironically some law firms can be particularly prone to this).  This kind of attitude invariably comes from managers whose practical skills in managing workplace diversity in general are very undeveloped. A question for job seekers in these circumstances could be – would you want to work for this kind of manager anyway?
I can think of several candidates around statutory retirement age whom we have placed in excellent roles recently. In particular, one candidate who is in the UK on a working holiday has just completed one successful project for us in a major university library service, and is about to commence another.  Another candidate with a long career in public libraries was offered retirement folllowing a workplace restructure, but decided that they were not ready to stop working. They are now developing an impressive portfolio of temporary management roles, still in public libraries. Their feedback to us: “It’s so encouraging to find that someone of my age can get two temporary contracts through a recruitment agency in the short time I have been registered”.  The key to success is always attitude.  Job seekers with a positive, enthusiastic and flexible attitude, alongside excellent, up-to-date technical skills will always do well, regardless of age.
– Donald Lickley, Recruitment Consultant, Sue Hill Recruiting
Terry Ann LawlerUnfortunately for new library school graduates, an older or more experienced librarian generally has broader levels of skills which could really make a difference my community.  I think the older librarian has a huge benefit over the younger one with his or her added years of experience both in the library and in other fields outside of librarianship.  I would not say that it is an issue in my community for an older librarian versus a younger one to get a particular job.  I and everyone I work with have always hired the candidate with the best experience as well as the person who is the best fit for our team, regardless of age.

I would say that one of the exceptions to this would be computer skills.  If you are an older person who has not really kept up with technology, this could hurt you in terms of job competition.

– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library

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

Quoth the raven “CAW-ment! CAW-ment!” Thanks for reading!

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