Category Archives: Paraprofessional

Job Hunter Follow Up Year Two: Cristy Moran

Cristy Moran


Cristy Moran took the Job Hunter’s survey on January 4, 2013.

Her responses appeared as There is a “Black Hole” of Information After One Drops a Resume.

We last followed up with her on December 9, 2013.
What’s your current work situation?

I am working full-time in a paraprofessional role at a college library.

What’s your prediction for the next step in your career?

I don’t know what I predict will happen, but I’ve begun applying for librarian positions in local colleges and universities. I promised myself that, if by the end of 2014, I didn’t see any real movement in my applications to local positions, then I’d start expanding my job search. In that sense, I predict I’ll be taking job hunting quite seriously in 2015.

What’s your ideal work situation?

The goal is to work professionally as a librarian in an academic library. I’ve had a lot of difficulty engaging my professional interests because I’m, technically, in a paraprofessional position at my institution.

Your Job Hunt

When did you start your current job hunt?

I started looking again at the first anniversary of my current job. A position opened up at my institution that I was interested in applying for, so I applied. Since then, I’ve been seeking similar opportunities.

In your job hunt, approximately how many positions have you applied to? How many interviews have you gone on?

I’ve applied to no less than seven positions in the last three months. I was interviewed for one and was one of the final candidates, but the job went to someone with more experience. My application has been rejected for another position that I was very well suited for and that my particular experience qualified me for. I haven’t heard from any of the other positions at all.

State of the Job Market

What’s the most ridiculous thing you’ve seen on a job announcement?

I don’t know if I think it’s “ridiculous” but I am bothered that so many job announcements don’t provide a salary range or even a position type/ HR code so that potential applicants can discover salary ranges for themselves.

Your Perspectives

Would you change your answer to “what’s the secret to getting hired”?

I don’t believe there’s a single answer. I don’t think there’s a secret. There’s probably not even a common denominator that any applicant can address. For whatever reason, plenty of wonderful candidates with matching qualifications, desired experience, glowing recommendations, and great personalities don’t even get past applying for a position. They do everything “right.” Yet, they don’t get a call-back. They don’t even get rejection emails. They just stall in application limbo. The only thing they can do is keep being good at what they do now. They can continue acquiring work experience, continue gathering glowing recommendations, and not let disappointment and frustration ruin their good attitudes. Then, they need to keep applying. Because, if there is one thing that ensures one will not get the job it’s not applying for it.

Do you have any advice for job hunters and/or library school students?

Librarianship, in my opinion, is a vocational calling. It’s not something one does for the money or because they just “ended up” with their job. If either of those things is true for you, then it’s going to be an unhappy life of employment and it’s a disservice to the community the library serves and to the library community at-large. Based on that, my advice is simple: If it’s not your calling, then don’t bother looking at it for a paycheck.

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Filed under Academic, Job Hunter Follow Up, Paraprofessional

Further Questions: Does Word Really Get Around?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

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

YES it really matters!

For good and for bad.

We hear it how we hear it.

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

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

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

– Anonymous


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

– Anonymous


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

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

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

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

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

and we talk

a lot

on back channel chat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is not a question like,

“how do I find the LCSH for x”

it is like,

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

It is their homework.

We notice.

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

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

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

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

– Anonymous

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

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


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

For Public Review: Lauren Bourdages

Welcome to crowd-sourced resume review for LIS job hunters!

Please help the job hunter below by using the comment button to offer constructive criticism on her resume. Some guidelines for constructive feedback are here, and the ALA NMRT has brief tips for reviewing resumes here.

This 2 page resume was submitted by a job hunter who says,

This particular resume has been used for Library Technician level (Canadian equivalent of Parapros) positions at public and school libraries for positions involving childrens/teen services and programming

LaurenBourdages-Resume-Page 1 LaurenBourdages-Resume-Page 2

To submit your resume or CV For Public Review,

  • send it as a Word document or PNG or JPEG image to hiringlibrariansresumereviewATgmail.
  • It will be posted as-is, so please remove any information that you are not comfortable having publically available (I suggest removing your address and phone number at a minimum).
  • Please include a short statement identifying if it’s a resume or CV and
  • describing the types of positions you’re using it for (ie institution type, position level, general focus).
  • Finally, you will also need to confirm that you agree to comment on at least five other posted resumes.


Filed under Canada, CV review, For Public Review, Paraprofessional, Resume Review, Youth Services

For Public Review: Unnamed Job Hunter 2

Welcome to crowd-sourced resume review for LIS job hunters!

Please help the job hunter below by using the comment button to offer constructive criticism on her resume. Some guidelines for constructive feedback are here, and the ALA NMRT has brief tips for reviewing resumes here.

This 2 page resume was submitted by a job hunter who says,

I intend to use it for lower level public library positions such library assistant III, II, or I. I am still in my first year of the library graduate program but am actively applying for positions.

Resume_for _critique_2014 page 1 Resume_for _critique_2014 page 2

To submit your resume or CV For Public Review,

  • send it as a Word document or PNG or JPEG image to hiringlibrariansresumereviewATgmail.
  • It will be posted as-is, so please remove any information that you are not comfortable having publically available (I suggest removing your address and phone number at a minimum).
  • Please include a short statement identifying if it’s a resume or CV and
  • describing the types of positions you’re using it for (ie institution type, position level, general focus).
  • Finally, you will also need to confirm that you agree to comment on at least five other posted resumes.


Filed under For Public Review, Paraprofessional, Resume Review

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

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

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Program Profile: Library Support Staff Certification

Remember this Further Questions post, where I asked If the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) program gave candidates an edge?

I reached out to see if I could do a follow-up post with the people who run the LSSC program and got a very enthusiastic response, despite making contact right in the middle of Annual.  So here for you my dears, is more information about this new program. I find it very interesting, because it allows candidates to pursue certification either through classes or through an e-Portfolio.  It seems like an elegant compromise to the experience v. education clash that crops up so frequently in discussions of library education.

The answers to these “interview” questions were written by the two project directors, Karen Strege and Nancy Bolt, and the program’s research associate, Ian Lashbrook. They tell me that

Karen and Nancy have been with the program since its inception and only recently left when the second IMLS grant which funded the program ended. The program is now managed by the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association and its Director, Lorelle Swader, and Research Associate, Ian Lashbrook. 


Can you give us a brief introduction to the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) Program?

The Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) Program has been discussed for over 30 years. The 3rd Congress on Professional Education in 2004 identified support staff certification as a priority. This led to a year-long needs assessment culminating in a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to establish LSSC. The American Library Association Executive Board approved the program in July, 2009 and began accepting candidate applications in January, 2010. The American Library Association-Allied Professional Association manages the LSSC Program.

LSSC is designed to recognize the achievements of support staff and provides Library Support Staff a way to achieve needed competencies.

ALAAPA logo 1

What kind of work does earning LSSC entail?

LSSC adopted 10 Competency Sets and to become certified, candidates must achieve six of them. Three are required: Foundations of Library Service, Technology, and Communication and Teamwork. The seven electives are Access Services, Adult Readers’ Advisory, Cataloging and Classification, Collections, Reference and Information Services, Supervision and Management, and Youth Services.
Candidates have three options for completing a Competency Set. They may complete a course approved by LSSC. A candidate may also complete a portfolio in a Competency Set. The third way to achieve certification is for the candidate to receive a degree or certification from a community college program that has a Letter of Recognition with LSSC. This occurs when LSSC reviews the community college program and determines that the program covers the three required and three elective competency sets. In order to be eligible for LSSC enrollment, candidates must have a high school degree and at least one year of library experience, paid or volunteer, over the last five years.

How much time does it take and does it cost anything?

Candidates have four years to complete their work towards certification. Once they begin, most candidates complete their certification work in two-three years. The cost to enroll in the LSSC Program is $350. Providers of LSSC approved courses set their fees for candidates to enroll. The cost ranges from $75 to over $1000. Candidates can choose which course to take in a time frame and location that meets their needs. Many of the courses can be completed completely online.
The portfolio option, which allows candidates to demonstrate their experience and knowledge of a competency set through self-directed assignments or the presentation of professional artifacts, currently has no charge associated with it. Portfolios are submitted and then reviewed by two experts in the competency set covered in the portfolio. The submission and review process for portfolios will remain free of charge until January, 2014, at which point a portfolio review will cost $50 for ALA members, $60 for non-ALA members. Candidates have the option to take all courses, complete all portfolios, or a combination of the two.

How many people have earned their certification so far?

There are currently 428 candidates in the program; 60 of those have graduated and become Certified Library Support Staff.

Are there any generalizations you can make about the characteristics of people pursuing LSSC? I’m particularly wondering about things like where they are in their library careers, if they are employed, if their employer paid for certification…

LSSC candidates are library workers who have decided that their career is working in libraries. Our profile shows that 95% are female. In terms of age, 41% are between 45-54; 21% between 35-44; 20% are between 55-64; and 17% are between 25-34.
We are particularly proud that 21% of our candidates are people of color as compared with only 11% of people with an MLS.
We don’t have specific data but we believe most of our candidates are employed, particularly since they must have one year of employment before enrolling.

LSSC logo

Have certificate holders expressed that it has helped them to get hired, or to earn increased pay or responsibility?

Yes, some have. We are getting ready to conduct an evaluation of all candidates and that is definitely a question we will ask. Anecdotal messages indicated that they do receive both raises and more responsibility. We will have more thorough statistical data in November 2013.

Have certificate holders reported any other career advantages?

Yes, many have. Certification holders indicate they now understand why they do things in the library. Another comment we hear often is that they feel more confident; they have the knowledge and skills to offer suggestions about library services. Here is my favorite quote because it summarizes what we hear from many:

When I first read Nancy’s email request [for anecdotes about the value of LSSC] and had to reflect on how things may have changed for me since obtaining my certification, my only thought was that my Director took me to lunch. But since then, I have reflected more and have discovered that the process of obtaining my certification has indeed made me a better person, a better employee, and I now have a powerful entry on my resume should I decide to make a change.
The economy is the problem in receiving any promotions or pay increase as all these actions are ‘frozen’ in my little corner of the world and I suspect elsewhere as well. There has been movement in my position at the library and I have benefited from being in the right place at the right time, and further with the right attitude and skills while working towards certification.
But, the personal satisfaction I have as a graduate is a treasure and an investment in myself that I will always be so very proud of. I encourage all paraprofessionals to pursue this certification as I believe it serves to set us apart as knowledgeable and informed individuals serious about our profession, library support staff. And I agree the finances can pose some issues, but I also agree the benefits will be well worth it over time if you can find a way to make the investment.

Is support for job hunting or career development included as a program element?

Not at the present time.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about the program?

Thank you for featuring the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) Program!


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Filed under Library Assistants, Paraprofessional, Program Profile

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

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

Understand the Value of All the Positions in the Library

Jaye Lapachet is a law librarian who has worked for Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP since 2001, spending the last five as the Manager of Library Services with a staff of 0-10 employees.  She has been active in the San Francisco Bay Region Chapter of the Special Libraries Association, and received their 2009 Professional Achievement Award. Ms. Lapachet has also worked in Information systems design at Content Innovations. You can see her quiltwork on  She has been a hiring manager and a member of hiring committees.

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


Understands the job and is not taking the job in hopes of getting something better

Not annoying

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

Tells me they want my job

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

That people know Word and how to use the Internet.

Don’t include references, especially not stacks of glowing reference letters.

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

How they are involved in the Library community.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

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?

√ I don’t care

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

√ Other: Both should be attachments

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


Answer the questions.

Make sure you understand what the job is before you walk in the door.

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

Come on too strong.

Ask if the person in the Library Assistant position will be doing reference.

Not understanding the value of all the positions in the Library (everyone has a valuable role)

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

Exhausted us.

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

Dress up. Don’t wear perfume or stinky soap.


Filed under 0-10 staff members, Law Library, Original Survey, Paraprofessional, Public Services/Reference, Special

Further Questions: Would you hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Would you hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position (e.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not why not?

Emilie SmartI do this all the time.  We have a library school at our local university and our library system has a Student Librarian program.  Many of our student librarians want to stay in our system, but professional positions  don’t come up that often.  I have regularly hired former student librarians, as well as recent library school grads, as paraprofessionals.  After all, it’s usually easier to promote than get hired in.
That being said, I prefer to hire MLIS’s for professional positions — I just don’t always have that option.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Marleah AugustineI would, if I felt like that person could take that position and possibly enhance it and grow it into something bigger and better. Also, promoting from within, when it is possible and when it is the best option, can be very beneficial. So if I felt like that person may have a chance in the future to be hired into a higher position, then I would give them even further consideration.

However, I would still give applicants without the MLIS a fair chance and look at their experience and take that into serious consideration.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Laurie PhillipsGenerally, no. I can’t legally exclude someone with an MLIS but I prefer to avoid it. I know that graduates are struggling to find jobs and just want to get a job, but honestly, they won’t be happy as an assistant. First, I have to say that a lot of people think they can get their foot in the door by working as staff at a library. This is absolutely not true. You’d be better off accepting a part-time or temporary librarian position to get your foot in the door. MLIS grads will look around at librarians with faculty status and be resentful after a short time. At this library, there is no way to be “promoted” to faculty from staff. The last time I hired a staff assistant, I had several recent MLIS grads apply. I called each of them to talk about what the job entailed and the pay and, after that conversation, each of them chose to drop out.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Marge Loch-WoutersI would consider someone with an MLIS for a para-pro job (clerk, assistant, etc) – after all,  that’s how I got my start out of the gate as a new MLIS in a crushingly horrid job market (yes, the mid-70s libraries were FULL of those gray haired “Greatest Generation” librarians who refused to retire to make room for us smart young Turks!).  It can almost be an internship and helps young librarians, especially those with no real world library experience except as users, learn from seasoned staff.  Because it is at a fairly responsible level, it allows this person to demonstrate some professional chops and can be a path to promotion or a real resume builder for a job at a different library.  I usually only do this type of hiring, though, if I think the library will have an opening for a professional job and the candidate hired at an assistant or clerk level would easily be promoted into it within a year’s (or less) time. Any longer than that or with no hope of promotion makes me feel like the library is taking unfair advantage of someone who deserves more and better.

I am reluctant, though, to hire a MLIS for a non-professional position  – shelver, page – not only because of the low wage but the nature of the work doesn’t really allow that person to demonstrate any professional chops.  It really dead-ends their chances for advancement in the library they are hired in and doesn’t add to their resume for any other job.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Petra MauerhoffI absolutely would hire an MLIS graduate for a paraprofessional position. I know of a lot of librarians who have simply no interest in being part of management and prefer to be practitioners instead. In a lot of smaller public libraries in particular, often the only “real” librarian positions available are in management and if a librarian wants to work in those libraries but not be a manager, their only option often is to take on a paraprofessional position.
At one of the library regions I managed, our driver, which was the position that had the lowest educational requirements associated with it, ended up being staffed by a person who held a PhD. His educational background did not change the position at all, he received the same pay as any other driver would have received in that position and was evaluated against the same criteria as any other driver would have been.
The same would go for MLIS graduates in paraprofessional positions: as long as it is made clear that the pay range will stay at the paraprofessional level and the responsibilities for the position are outlined clearly, I don’t think it makes a difference if the position is staffed by a paraprofessional or an MLIS graduate.
 I know that within some union environments this can be a contentious point, with the argument being that the librarian is “taking away jobs” from the library technicians/assistants. However, if out of a batch of applicants a certain individual clearly stands out as the most qualified, then it is the obligation of the manager to hire the best person for the job. In the end, having the best person, no matter what their educational background, will end up benefiting the whole organization.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
Colleen HarrisAt my library, MLS holders get the same shot as everyone else in the applicant pile (but I have worked at other libraries where unwritten policy was to never hire an MLS for a parapro slot). At my library, we would rather hire an enthusiastic and energetic team member that we know might move on quickly than someone who will stay forever but be less of an asset. (I will, however, ask during the interview if an MLS holder applying for a parapro position would be willing to commit to us for two years, since the search process is long and tedious, and we do like to have a bit of continuity.)Another thing to think about is that the duties of paraprofessionals can differ greatly from that of a professional librarian – I have had MLS applicants for staff positions go on at length about the work they wanted to be engaged in which was in no way related to the position they were applying for – much of the staff work at my library is process oriented, and comes with different expectations than a professional position. Be aware of the position and its responsibilities. Read the job description thoroughly, and know that there will probably be paraprofessionals on the search committee – treating staff positions as “less” and continually referring to the job duties as “mundane” or “something that would bore me quickly” will insult them and will do you no favors on the job hunt. (Don’t laugh – I’ve seen it done.)

Be ready to answer the question the committee will be most curious about – why are you interested in a (usually) low-paying position you are overqualified for? It doesn’t hurt you to be honest, and it addresses a question they are wondering about (even if they don’t ask it aloud). The assumption, fair or not, is that an MLS-holder is overqualified and may be using the job as a very short-term stopgap while they hunt for a “real job” since we know that the economy is tough and job searches are taking applicants longer than usual. You don’t have to commit to the job for life, but if you can find a way to let the library know that you are really interested in the position, and that while you are there you will give them your best, you can alleviate some of that concern and improve your chances.

In my recent paraprofessional searches, I was surprised to find that there were many applicants with significant years of paraprofessional experience in libraries, whereas the MLS applicants were generally new or soon-to-be grads without any library experience at all. I would not consider the MLS much of an asset for a paraprofessional position applicant – while we appreciate the broad knowledge of libraries, customer service experience across a broad spectrum of industries, deep library knowledge (particularly specialized knowledge like ILL work) and the communication in the cover letter are just as important. Holding the MLS often raises more questions than it solves in terms of a paraprofessional search.

As someone who hires paraprofessionals, and who has seen very strong applicant pools in recent searches, my recommendation would be that you make sure that the strength of your application does not depend solely on holding the MLS. (That advice would also apply to applying to a professional position.) Focus on why you are interested in the job, and what you think you can bring to that position that the library needs. My library does not consider staff positions less important than our librarian positions – we run lean, everyone is necessary and highly valued – so make sure you treat your interview for a paraprofessional spot with as much professionalism as you would an interview for a professional position.

– Colleen  S. Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor, Lupton Library,University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
The reverse is more likely.  We hire on the basis of ability to do the work.  We have no hard line between professional and paraprofessional. We have a person with an MA in music who revises cataloguers with an MLS.  Another’s background is automation.  We take test records from technician and MLS graduates alike.  Some techs are better trained as cataloguers than some MLS degree holders.  We don’t have “overqualified” as a consideration.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Yes, we do this frequently – they are a big part of our succession planning, and we usually are able to fill our professional positions from within their ranks.
– Stephen Lusk, Human Resources Director, Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library

My primary requirements for hiring are:

  • someone wants the job for which they are applying
  • will show up
  • will not share life drama inappropriately
  • will not complain

I would hire someone with a MLIS for a paraprofessional position if:

  • they were not aggressive about their intentions to take another professional staff member’s position
  •  if the MLIS was newly minted and they needed to figure out how a library runs, especially if they have no library experience. Working as a library assistant is a great way to understand the foundations of the library
  • they REALLY want to be a library assistant and aren’t continuing to look for a professional position. It isn’t worth my time to hire someone who won’t be there for at least a year.
  • the candidate is upfront with me about why they are applying
– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Toby Willis-CampThe only circumstance where it would be appropriate for a MLIS to be in a paraprofessional position would be one of work rehabilitation/accommodation plan with the ultimate goal of moving into a professional position.  Sometimes it’s necessary to take a few steps back in order to rebuild one’s physical and emotional health, and taking on a non-professional role can go a long way in assisting with this.  This is not a typical hire however, and would take special management of the situation.
Professionals with MLIS degrees and no special needs that apply for anything library that comes up are doing themselves a disservice.  Those who are reviewing the resumes will remember this shotgun approach and not take you seriously.
– Toby Willis-Camp, a former Director of Libraries for a professional association 
I think I might reframe the question a bit to: What should you be aware of when thinking about applying for library assistant jobs once you have your MLIS?

There are a lot of things to consider when applying for and accepting an LA job once you have your degree. If you have to get a job immediately and/or you need health insurance coverage, then by all means apply for whatever you think you are qualified for.
From the hiring librarian’s perspective it can be a difficult decision to hire someone who is overqualified in terms of education. Will the person stay? Will they be happy in that position? Will they get bored doing LA work? Will they get disillusioned if they are unable to use many of their newly acquired professional skills? If you try to give them some professional-level work, will they feel taken advantage of, or expect to be reclassified, or file a grievance for working out-of-classification? (Especially in a unionized environment, there are very clear distinctions between what the librarians do and what the LAs can do.)
Usually when someone has just completed the degree, they are excited about the profession and want to start applying their new knowledge in a professional capacity.  Make sure that is going to be possible if you are hired as a LA. Each library varies. Go into it with your eyes open.
Be aware that it is very difficult to move out of an LA position into a librarian position within the same library. Even if you are one of the very few who do, it can be hard to get the other librarians to see you as a true peer. It will be much easier to move into a professional position if you try other libraries.
If you are in an LA position and have the MLIS, use that time to build your professional credentials and skills however you can.  Apply for adjunct pools. Volunteer or intern in a place where you can use your professional skills. Work on a second masters or write some scholarly articles about a professional subject you know and care about. (especially if you want to work in academic libraries). Take advantage of professional development opportunities available at conferences, workshops, webinars, etc. Get involved in the profession by joining regional organizations, attending national and regional conferences, joining committees, etc. Work on developing a network of contacts.
If you use your time as an LA well to develop your skills, it can really help you overcome that problem of “How do I get experience if I have to have experience to get hired?”
Good luck!
– Anonymous
Thanks as always to our hiring librarians for answering this week’s question!

If you have an opinion to share, the comments are open.  If you are also someone who hires librarians and are interested in being a regular participant in this feature, please email me at

Thanks for reading!

*edited 5/18/2012 7:20 pm pacific to add two responses.


Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Law Library, Paraprofessional, Public, Public Services/Reference