Category Archives: Circulation

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 hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

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

3 Comments

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

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 hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

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

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

Further Questions: What does “or equivalent” mean?

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:

Broadly,what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement?  And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk?  Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?

Laurie PhillipsI don’t know that we have ever used “or equivalent” in a job announcement. I can’t think where I would use that. That said, yes, pre-professional experience can absolutely stand in for professional experience. If we are hiring for what is essentially an entry-level tenure-track library faculty position, we do not expect a person to come in with professional experience. In our most recent ad, we asked for “a minimum of one year of experience with acquisitions, collection development, or publishing.” Here we’re looking for someone to show that they’re interested enough in this portion of our field to have worked in it and gained some knowledge, but not necessarily as a librarian. In fact, we interviewed a few people who had years of experience in the field as professional, but they were not otherwise a good fit.

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

 

Petra MauerhoffI don’t have a concrete definition of what equivalent experience means, but yes, I have internally promoted and would consider hiring candidates even without ANY library related education. In one situation, the person had been working in the field for over 20 years and in other situations, based on the extremely rural location, we had little or no chance of finding a candidate with library related education.
And yes, I believe that in many situations a candidate with a library tech degree could be as suitable for a position as a librarian.
In my current situation, our bibliographic services department has several library technicians, but also staff without formal library education.
Any type of education, whether at the paraprofessional or the post secondary level will only take you so far. In the end it comes down to your attitude and your adaptability, and whether or not I feel that you will be able to grow with us. I would always hire for “fit” over education. We can teach you what you need to know, for the most part.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
In job announcements in the UK, the phrase ‘or equivalent’ is most often used when specifying educational qualifications, for example if the advert calls for “a Masters in Librarianship or equivalent”.  In this context, ‘or equivalent’ can be taken to mean an equivalent qualification (eg Masters in Information Science, Archives Management or Records Management) or sometimes to mean someone with one or two year’s work experience in place of a formal qualification.
Paraprofessional experience, for example as a Library or Information Assistant, is quite often acceptable as library experience, and has become more so as the numbers of library staff has tended to fall in many organisations and so paraprofessional team members have tended to be engaged in more duties that were formerly restricted to qualified librarians.
As a recruiter I have sometimes put forward candidates who had good quality experience but not a qualification that was being called for – some organisations have been open to this while others have been more rigid and insisted upon the qualification itself.  In my view it is always worth making an application if you can meet most of the other criteria for the post and can demonstrate how your experience is applicable to the requirements of the job.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Marge Loch-WoutersWhen we say “or equivalent” when we are actively searching, we would certainly entertain applications from paraprofessionals as well as professionals in completely different professions (teachers; recreation directors; social workers, etc). A candidate can never assume what the pool of candidates might be for a position they are interested in. Sometimes, non-MLIS candidates with strong resumes and cover letters rise to the top in the process; sometimes the pool is small and we are more willing to look at non-MLIS candidates and sometimes a candidate has an outstanding reputation and we know they could make a great addition to the staff.

We have hired adult and children’s reference librarians and a circulation manager over the years who have had outstanding strengths.  My favorite part is that many have gone on to get their degree and now work far and wide. The strength of one’s experience, commitment to the profession, understanding of the larger vision and picture of librarianship can make a difference. And finally, even with a very tight job market,  you never know until you have tried.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
I am accustomed to “equivalent” be used in relation to training, e.g., British library training plus a university degree being accepted in lieu of an ALA accredited degree.  I would accept paraprofessional experience incataloguing.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

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.com.

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

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

Having Multiple Views on Each Candidate Helps Weed People Who Are Inappropriate for Our Culture

Last days of the Old Library in the Old Building, London School of Economics, 1978This anonymous interview is with an Academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 0-10 staff members.
 

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

1. Strong customer service skills –we are very small, so we don’t have the division of labor that larger libraries do.  Everyone does  reference and everyone does circ, so they absolutely must be capable of maintaining a positive relationship with patrons.
2. Strong technical skills, including library software, troubleshooting, and even a little cataloging.
3. The interest in developing teaching/training programs, and the ability to perform them.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Lack of interest or bad attitude about working with the public. We’ve had staffers in the past who see public-facing work as beneath them, and that absolutely does not work for us. Our library Dean works hands on with patrons, and so does everyone else.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

General statements that you are a “hard worker” or “good teacher.” I like to see concrete projects, accomplishments, statistics, etc.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ As many as it takes, but shorter is better

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

I like people to be honest and open. You can easily tell if someone is simply parroting their prepared notes for an interview; preparation is good, but I want to see you think on your feet as well. Reference specific accomplishments and specific scenarios you’ve experienced.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

I’ve been really turned off by over-aggressive candidates (those who call multiple times after applying or after an interview, when they’ve been given a clear schedule for the next steps).

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

We’ve become much better at vetting candidates by having them interview with multiple people (not necessarily several interviews, but having, for example, two people sit on the phone screen and two different people sit in an in-person). Having multiple views on each candidate helps weed people who are inappropriate for our culture.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Leave a comment

Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Circulation, Instruction, Original Survey, Public Services/Reference

We work with the Public All Day; They Need to Hear You Speak

Belmont Branch Construction, 1956This anonymous interview is with a public librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee at a library with 50-100 staff members.

 

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

People Skills: I want staff that enjoys working with the public as well as with other staff.
Desire for growth: I want to hire staff that are interested in moving up in the organization; or interested in developing their own unique skill sets as a professional. A library is a place of learning, so demonstrate your curiosity!
Trainability: I want to know if you will be able to learn the skills necessary for the job, and willing to learn from your peers.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Sloppy resumes/cover letters: I get a lot of resumes that it is obvious that they just tweaked a template or copied it off the internet, or filled in some online form. Please take the time to make a comprehensive, personal resume/cover letter.
In the interview: if you are too quiet for me to hear you clearly. We work with the public all day; they need to hear you speak.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

For some reason people seem to include that they are physically in good health a lot in their cover letters.
Having no demonstrated interested in libraries. I’ve had applicants with pharmacy tech. degrees and no experience apply; if that is your background please include some information as to why you want to work in library.
Education without any experience, please at least volunteer at a library or do an internship/practicum at one.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

Include customer service experience! I hire for the circulation desk and sometimes don’t hear about a person’s customer service experience until I pry it out of them in an interview. I’ve had people with and an MLIS only talk about their education; if you were a waitress, bartender, worked retail I want to know because it shows me how you work with people.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ .pdf

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Other: If you have one make sure it shows that you could grow in my organization.

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ As an attachment only

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be interested in working with the public, excited is even better. Show me that you are not only interested in the job but also the organization. Bonus points if you show that you are interested in the community. Be enthusiastic about librarianship and aware of recent developments in libraries in general, keep up with your current events.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

They treat it more like a question answer session than a conversation. Feel free to think about what I am asking you, and elaborate on your responses. If there is a natural segue into something  you are interested or know something about than feel free to talk about that.
I like long interesting interviews where the person is comfortable talking to me.
They don’t dress appropriately. Iron your clothes, wear something business like. Don’t come to an interview with me in khakis and polo. Libraries are business casual, but management here tends to be less casual than regular staff so you don’t want to underdress for the interview. If you can walk through the library at least once to get an idea how staff dress, step it up a notch from that or if you see someone in management match their level of dress.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

I hire for the circulation department, library subs, and other management. Since I came on board we look more at customer service skills and trainability over just education. Also for entry level jobs we look more closely at a potential growth path for that employee.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Be willing to move, jobs are hard enough to come by without limiting yourself to a specific location.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Circulation, Entry Level, Management, Original Survey, Public, Substitutes/Pool