Category Archives: Further Answers

Further Answers: Are People Just Applying for Everything?

Someone who hires librarians recently contacted me for some answers about what job hunters want.  If you’ve got opinions, she’d love to hear them.  Comments are open.

The background:

This person is about to have an opening for a tenure-track, faculty-status, entry-level academic librarian job. Currently the title is Collection Development librarian (a stretch as an entry-level position but with a lot of support and participation from three more senior librarians, and providing an opportunity to grow into the job). When they last filled this position, despite a careful search process, they found someone who has ultimately been less interested in collection and the publishing, etc. required for tenure, and more interested in the reference and teaching aspects.

The question:

Are people just applying for everything? How can this library be sure to are hiring someone who is interested in technical services? The other option is to move another librarian into this position and create a new User Experience Librarian position that would include systems and usability. Would that be a sexier position for a new grad?

fallon bleichI would say, as a job hunter, the longer you are in the job hunting game, the more desperate you are, especially in the LIS field. I try not to apply to jobs that I’m not suited for, but if you aren’t getting any results from applications, it becomes less about THE job and more about A job to get your career started. That being said, I don’t think changing the title of a job will help these employers find someone better suited to the job, unless they completely overhaul what the duties are for that job. A title does attract me to a job, but a well-written job description is even better. Don’t just tell me that I will be doing “library duties”; if the job is primarily collection development, stress this in the job description. That way people who are applying to the job know what you are looking for and you might get better suited candidates. Brief job descriptions are the worst and are becoming a giant pet peeve of mine. And as a side note: I would love a job that was entirely based on collection development! I don’t know what that last person was thinking, but there are plenty of us who love that particular skill that they don’t need to worry about changing the name of the job. We’re out here and we want to work for you!

– Fallon Bleich, MLIS

Leigh MilliganFrom my own experience, library students are very anxious to get a professional position in the library. I was given the impression when I left school that there were not many jobs available, so I can imagine library students and new job seekers in the field could be applying for anything or everything whether the interest is there or not.

Since applying for jobs, I have learned to only apply to jobs tailored to my experience, my interests and me. I feel I will find a job that fits this way, even if it takes a long time, and I won’t be wasting my time or the search committees time if I apply for something I am not interested or qualified for. If you are looking to hire someone for a position geared towards technical services, gear the description towards technical services versus an entry-level librarian position. I personally feel that the User Experience title would be a sexier position geared towards a grad. I feel that Collection Development title can be misleading to newer librarians as they might think Collection Development goes hand and hand with the Reference Librarian field even though in the academic library, Collection Development is part of technical services. User Experience Librarian sounds more geared to those interested in technical services.

-Leigh Milligan, Librarian, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital Patient Resource Center in Philadelphia, PA; Head Editor of INALJ PA

 

I fully understand the trajectory that unfolded with the previous situation. I think there is a tendency for those who want to work in a specific type of library–whether academic or otherwise–to apply for whatever role they think they can reasonably get. That way they are gaining experience and have a chance for internal jobs that suit their fancy more when they come up.
I don’t get the impression from recent graduates of my program that they are particularly picky–it really does seem that they are applying for anything and everything. I think that (aside from the generally lacklustre job market) a huge part of this is because graduates honestly don’t know what they want to do (especially if they have no prior experience in a particular type of librarianship, such as cataloguing or collection development). I’m not sure what types of questions the interviewer asked with the previous applicant, but I think general questions such as “why do you want to be a librarian?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “describe your career goals” would be a good indicator about the aspects of that job that someone may or may not be drawn to. If the person describes the teaching aspect of librarianship as the ideal, it’ll be more obvious that the passion for technical services just isn’t there. Sounds basic, but I think those general feeling based questions can tell you a lot about what an applicant wants from a job and from an environment.
I think the “sexier” position of a User Experience Librarian position would be a stronger draw. And not just because UX seems to be another buzzword! It suggests that there’s more opportunity to connect to the community/patrons, which might address applicant potential fears of being siloed off with their computers. I can’t speak to other LIS programs, but the one I’m enrolled in is very much lacking in technological skills, so I know a lot of its recent grads would jump on the chance to become involved in systems and usability (especially since it can be difficult to attain this experience once in a different role).
-Anonymous

 

That’s a tricky question. The job hunt and market for new grads is quite tough and competitive and anything that will actually accept fresh graduates is going to get a lot of shotgun-approach applications. I didn’t shotgun, but I had a paraprofessional job so I could keep working for the 6 months it took me.

I’d say that if they post the position as such, they should look for some kind of technical services experience on the resume. I’m a metadata librarian and I spent 5 years as a technical services paraprofessional before and during grad school, so I knew what I was getting into. (And personally, I wouldn’t apply for a collection development job precisely because I know what I do and don’t want to do in technical services.) Even experience as a student worker would give some picture of how things work in such a behind-the-scenes job. As part of screening, I’d also ask them questions about how they’d feel about working in the back and why that appealed to them as a librarian. As someone who does want to work in the back, I have good answers for that and I think others would too.

I think the UX position would greatly thin the herd on candidates who are truly qualified. I honestly don’t think library school prepares grads for that position as well unless either they concentrated on it, they had some exceptional professors, or they have additional experience which makes them qualified. Asking people to describe experience or education on the subject would probably do a better job identifying qualified candidates than anything you could ask for collection development. It’s certainly a “sexier” position and one which sounds less overwhelming than collection development.

– Ruth Kitchin Tillman, Metadata Librarian at an undisclosed government library

 

Freelin JonesOn if people are just applying for everything:I am not to the point that I am applying for every academic library position I see on ALA JobList or Indeed.com. I don’t see the point in quantity over quality. However, I’m heading into my third career so I’ve been around the block a few times. My philosophy is that I want a position that suits my particular skills set. I have a background in journalism and marketing with a lot of research and web site architecture. It wouldn’t behoove my career ambitions to apply for positions as an archivist or cataloguer just because they are in an academic library. My search is still limited to reference, e-communications, and digital librarian positions. That is where my library passion is, and would best serve both the institution and myself.

On ensuring they are hiring someone who is interested in technical services: Make it abundantly clear in the job description for the position. I for one pour over the description to make sure that a) I would enjoy the job, and b) I am qualified for the position. I pay less attention to the experience portion and more to the skills required. This is because I have no library experience but I do have 14 years of professional skills in public relations, journalism, and marketing. I have to figure out how to translate those skills to the academic library setting. I certainly understand the mentality of just-getting-your-foot-in-the-door approach to job searching. However, the candidate should be able to articulate why they are the best candidate for a technical services position even if they have not been trained in graduate school or had formal professional experience. So make the posting as technical services oriented to weed out those who are applying for everything, and allows the candidates who are qualified and passionate about YOUR position.

On using the title User Experience Librarian:A ‘sexy’ job title is fine but again I would concentrate on the duties. Again, I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has gone back to school mid-career. My focus is on what I am doing rather than what I says on my CV. I would definitely look at this position based upon the job title, because coming from a marketing background, my initial feeling would be that I would be qualified for it. But again if I were to read the job description and it doesn’t align with the impression that the job title gave, I might not apply at all even if I was the candidate you had in mind. I have found that many job titles don’t reflect the actual job description. So I I tend to base my decision to apply or not on the actual description.

– Freelin Jones, MLS, Academic Librarian for Hire

 

Sorry to take so long with my reply. I have thought about your question a lot. Of course, I don’t know how others feel about this; I can only speak for myself. Personally, I do not apply for everything — however, I do try to be very flexible and apply for many entry level academic librarian positions. There aren’t a lot of options out there for recent graduates, and I have been advised by mentors to be as flexible as possible. Rather than narrowing my choices down to the jobs that suit me, I tend to filter out jobs that I know for sure would NOT suit me.
That brings up another aspect of this question: as a recent graduate, I can only speculate the kind of library position that would be perfect for me. I only want to brand myself so much at this point. I imagine myself doing research, reference and instruction, but my research interests are in copyright and licensing, so I would absolutely apply for a Collection Development position. In most cases that I’ve seen, Collection Development positions require several years of professional experience, so if there were an opportunity to do that job with support from senior librarians, I would jump at it. Having said that, User Experience Librarian is definitely a trend in entry-level positions, and something new grads would be drawn to.
In my program, we were encouraged to explore different aspects of librarianship, so, again, I hesitate to brand myself too narrowly at this point, and I think many recent grads probably feel the same way, considering the job market. Coming at that from a different perspective, I hope (and honestly believe!) I would be able to wear several different hats in an academic library position, filling whatever role needed to be filled.

-Anonymous

 

Ruby LavalleeI graduated 10 months ago, and have been in my position for roughly three months.To answer your first question: yes, many people are just applying for everything they are remotely qualified for. It’s a rough market for a new grad. I applied to any positions that I felt I could do well in, which was a broad range – I made a point of diversifying my coursework and experience, as do many grads coming into a slower job market. It’s usually still fairly obvious where an applicant’s enthusiasm lies, especially if you ask them about their ideas for the position during the interview (if they’re really into the job itself, they’ve probably been imagining how they’d do it).

I think the easiest way to tell if you’re hiring someone interested in technical services is to pay attention to how their interests, both library related and otherwise, line up with the duties of the job description. Does the person you’re looking to hire have a history of investigating technical ideas or new technologies in school or other jobs? Do they have collections of their own, or do they have an interest in budgeting and finance? When you ask them about their research interests or the reason they’re interested in the job, do they at least make a glancing reference to the sort of work they’d be doing the majority of the time? If you hear genuine enthusiasm regarding tech, you can usually tell, and I feel like that’s a decent predictor of whether someone wants to stay with tech services or move elsewhere.

The question about creating a User Experience Librarian position is a little confusing to me. It’s not necessarily that a position like that would be a more attractive proposition for a new grad – it’s just a different animal. In my experience at library school, there wouldn’t have necessarily been more applicants for a UX job than a Collections job. They’re both niche interests among library students.
I desperately wanted my User Experience Librarian job because I love tech and asynchronous service systems, but I also love people. This position allowed me to spend some of my time hiding and doing design and tech work, but also allowed me to reach out and deal with patron service and assessment. If you have a real need for UX work (which you probably do) and currently invested librarians interested in moving into collection development, it sounds like a fine decision. But don’t count on it driving your applicant numbers up like crazy.
– Ruby Lavallee, User Experience Librarian, University of Manitoba Libraries
I finished my MLIS in August 2013 and started applying to entry-level positions in academic libraries about six months before. I have an undergrad degree in computer science & before I went back to school I’d been working in the systems department of an academic library for about ten years. When I started my job search I wanted to find a position as a systems librarian but would have also considered entry-level positions in areas where I had less direct experience but had taken related courses & found them interesting (e-resources management, user experience), as long as I thought I could make a case for meeting other requirements in a job posting.
I definitely would not have applied to positions to collection development or reference and instruction. Despite taking several really great courses in these areas, I have very little related experience. My MLIS program had a co-op option though and many who participated found that it was really helpful to get experience in areas they might not have thought they were interested in but found out otherwise with some hands-on experience. If you can find someone who’s worked in technical services as a co-op student and gets pretty excited about the position, that’s probably a good sign. Although given the person asking for hiring advice they conducted a careful search process, they’ve probably already considered this.
During my MLIS there were often information sessions for students interested in working in different types of libraries. The academic libraries session emphasized the research and publishing aspects of the role so I knew these responsibilities would be expected of anyone hired to fill the positions that I was applying to.
As for whether user experience librarianship would be “sexier” for a new grad: I found that I expected my classmates to be more comfortable with technology than they often were and I was a bit surprised at the number who really resisted required technical courses. Even so, for those students who were interested in technical courses, I wouldn’t say my MLIS program offered enough to prepare someone for an entry-level UX or systems position. But the relatively few students who wanted to work in those areas tended to do a lot of work on their own to keep up with developments & trends in the field.
Your correspondent says it would be a stretch to have a new grad function as a collections development librarian without a fair bit of support but I would say that’s of a UX/systems position as well. I’ve been working as a systems librarian in an academic library for about ten months now and even with quite a bit of experience I can’t imagine making the transition from support staff to librarian without the kind of mentorship I’ve had from colleagues.
– Anonymous
Whitni WatkinsAlthough I am a recent library graduate student, I am fortunate enough to already have 4+ years of library technical and management skills under my belt, unlike many graduating library students. The toss up here is that applicants like myself who already have work experience in libraries know what they do and do not like; the flip side to that is, because there has been such a drive on the “lack” of library jobs or the need for experience for the job they want is that some students are applying for whatever library position they come across. I think this situation is sitting at a 75/25 ratio and less students are applying for everything. I only apply for positions that meet my requirements (salary, place and responsibilities).
One thing an employer can do to narrow applicants geared toward that position is to require a copy of the applicant’s unofficial transcript. This will give them a list of the courses the applicant took during their education; students have easy access to their unofficial transcript and it can give great insight on what interests the student has. I attended SJSU SLIS, who had developed unofficial career pathways (http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/current-students/career-pathways) that helped guide students into taking the courses for the focus of librarianship they wanted to pursue.
If the two position were listed Collection Development or User Experience Librarian, I as a technology focused applicant would jump all over the UX position. It is definitely sexier than “Collection Development” but it also is a more specialized position and would in itself, weed out those who are not interested in working with systems or do not have the expertise that a position of that sort would require.
Finally, I just interviewed for a tenure-track faculty position and in that interview I met with the tenure committee who made it very apparent to me what would be required of me if I were to be offered and accepted the position. They also explained tenure to me, as a recent grad. tenure has been more or less a foreign concept as until I received my MLIS I wasn’t being considered for faculty level positions. The employer should put a great emphasis on what tenure is and what it entails. This can be linked to the job description but it needs to be brought up in the interview process foremost, especially as it gets down to the final interviews.
– Whitni Watkins, LMS Assistant, San Jose State University
I fully understand the trajectory that unfolded with the previous situation. I think there is a tendency for those who want to work in a specific type of library–whether academic or otherwise–to apply for whatever role they think they can reasonably get. That way they are gaining experience and have a chance for internal jobs that suit their fancy more when they come up.
I don’t get the impression from recent graduates of my program that they are particularly picky–it really does seem that they are applying for anything and everything. I think that (aside from the generally lacklustre job market) a huge part of this is because graduates honestly don’t know what they want to do (especially if they have no prior experience in a particular type of librarianship, such as cataloguing or collection development). I’m not sure what types of questions the interviewer asked with the previous applicant, but I think general questions such as “why do you want to be a librarian?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “describe your career goals” would be a good indicator about the aspects of that job that someone may or may not be drawn to. If the person describes the teaching aspect of librarianship as the ideal, it’ll be more obvious that the passion for technical services just isn’t there. Sounds basic, but I think those general feeling based questions can tell you a lot about what an applicant wants from a job and from an environment.
I think the “sexier” position of a User Experience Librarian position would be a stronger draw. And not just because UX seems to be another buzzword! It suggests that there’s more opportunity to connect to the community/patrons, which might address applicant potential fears of being siloed off with their computers. I can’t speak to other LIS programs, but the one I’m enrolled in is very much lacking in technological skills, so I know a lot of its recent grads would jump on the chance to become involved in systems and usability (especially since it can be difficult to attain this experience once in a different role).
– Anonymous

Thanks to all these new grads and aspiring  academic librarians who were willing to share their viewpoints.  We’d love to hear yours too!  The comments are open.

And thank YOU for reading!  

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Filed under Academic, Further Answers

Further Questions Questions

Man, we’ve asked a lot of questions on this blog.

Here’s how the Further Questions feature works: every Monday, I email a question to people who hire librarians, as well as for other LIS jobs (38 people, in fact, as of 8/7/2013). These people include public, academic, and special librarians, as well as recruiters and HR professionals. Some of them are directors. Some only hire paraprofessional staff. Some are seasoned hirers, and some are new to the whole management thing. Some people reply very frequently to my questions, and some almost never. You can see a partial list, with bios, here. On Friday, I post the answers I’ve received, and then on Monday I start the process again. I’m always looking for new “people who hire librarians,” especially from under-represented groups such as school and special libraries. If you’d like the opportunity to answer questions when it suits you, please email or contact me.

Some of the questions I think up myself, some I have seen asked around the internets, and some are submitted by readers. My aim for this piece is to ask the people who hire librarians to describe their experience and processes, rather than dispense advice (although we do that sometimes too). If you have a question you’d like me to ask, please email me or use the contact form. Here’s the caveat, because it’s not an advice column, I’m not going to ask what you should do in your specific situation. I might change the question so it has a more general appeal, and so the answers will be more about experience or process. If you want advice, or an answer that’s tailored more to your specific situation, I highly recommend The Library Career People. They provide smart, knowledgeable, highly-nuanced answers, and have been doing so for ten years!

Now to the point of this post. I’m having difficulty remembering what I’ve asked, and I’m sure it’s difficult for you, my dear readers, to see if your question has already been answered.  Therefore, I give to you a list, in reverse order of appearance:

Further Questions Questions

(click above for ALL OF THEM)

20_questions_1954

What is your final piece of advice for Hiring Librarians readers?

Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Please pick one for women and one for men, and feel free to provide commentary as to why you chose one over the others (or share how you might change an outfit). Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits?

How should job seekers display their degrees and certifications in documents like resumes or signatures (in cover letters or emails)? Should they put “John Smith, MLS, MIS” at the top of their resume or when signing a cover letter or email, or should that information be included elsewhere, as in an education section, or text in the cover letter? Does etiquette change if the degrees are terminal such as a PhD or JD (or the MLS)? What about librarians who hold other degrees beyond the master’s level such as a subject area PhD, EdD, etc.?

Does your institution require any type of training to be part of a hiring committee? If so, did you find it useful? If not, what sort of training would be beneficial (diversity, human rights, conflict of interest, etc.)? How do you think training (or its absence) affects candidates?

How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with? How might this affect working relationships later on, either with current colleagues or the new hire? If a candidate you think was amazing was not hired, do you have the ability to reach out afterwards to connect them with other libraries/later openings in your organization? Feel free to answer either personally or “for a friend/colleague.”

Do you ask applicants to address diversity as a part of their application materials or during an interview? By diversity, I mean the applicant’s experience with diverse populations, working in diverse situations, etc.? If so, is this strictly racial diversity or does it expand to other categories such as age, sexual orientation, economic, etc.? If you do not explicitly ask these questions, why not? Do you have other ways of evaluating this, do you not find it relevant to your hiring, or something else?

Can you share your recommendations for post-interview etiquette in regards to thank you notes, follow ups via phone/email, providing additional information, etc.? Do you have examples, either from your own interview history or from candidates you have worked with, where conduct after the interview has influenced the hiring decision?

What questions do interviewees ask you during an interview? Have there been any questions you are particularly impressed by, or others that are more inappropriate? Do you evaluate applicants based on the questions they ask? Why or why not?

When scheduling interviews, is there any value in going first, last, or in the middle? Does time of day or day of the week make any difference either? Being ready is obviously crucial, but is there value in the job search advice that encourages interviewees to set the bar, be easiest to remember, not interviewing on a Friday afternoon, etc.? If you are comfortable sharing, do you have any method that you use to schedule candidates (i.e. reach out to strongest first, use application or alphabetical order, etc.) or is it truly random and therefore something that job seekers shouldn’t focus on?

What advice do you have for long-term job seekers, i.e. those who have been looking for over a year (see our stats on Hiring Librarians; about 40% of those who have taken our survey of job hunters have been searching for a new position for over a year, see the second question under the demographics section)? When it is obvious that a job hunter has been looking for awhile (either by graduation date or lack of a current position in the library world, etc.), do you consider this a red flag? How can job hunters stay fresh throughout a long job searching process?

When is it time to leave your first professional job? Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? Can you share a little about your job history (position/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)?

Generational differences can influence workplace dynamics, but are not often discussed in the context of hiring/interviewing. How have generational differences affected your organization with hiring at any level–for professional, paraprofessional, or even student workers? Any tips for candidates to mitigate generational differences throughout the application and interview process? Or is this not an issue at all?

Do you include role playing, presentations, or skill demonstration in an interview? What are you looking for? Is content or delivery more important? Do candidates prepare for this ahead of time or are they spontaneous?

Does it matter when in the process an applicant applies? That is, do you accept applications on a rolling basis, select a quota, and work from there? Or are applications set aside until a deadline and reviewed all at once? Do you use the same approach for all positions, or are professional versus paraprofessional treated differently in this regard?

Do you think it is possible for applicants to be too qualified to succeed in a position? At what point do you determine over qualification–application/CV/cover letter, phone interview, in person interview? Do you ever include a maximum amount of experience that you will accept in your (internal) rubrics? What are the possible pros and cons of hiring an individual who is too qualified?

What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made while job searching? And what (if anything) led you to those things, and how did you figure out you should do things differently?

How do you determine what questions to ask in an interview? Is there a standardized set of questions for each candidate, or are questions personalized? Does your organization have policies on this to create fairness and equity in the hiring process, or is this not a consideration?

Which would draw fewer red flags, an application packet with no listed address or an address that does not match the listed work experience?

Let’s talk about resumes and CVs. Many skills and qualities listed in articles targeted for job seekers include traits that are fairly subjective: leadership, written communication, presentations, problem solving, work ethic, motivation, etc. How can a resume or CV be used to demonstrate those skills, or is it more appropriate to leave it to examples in cover letters and/or recommendation letters? Additionally, how do employers recognize those skills?

What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

In a tough job market, flexibility is important for applicants. Many LIS blogs/websites suggest exploring part time work, even post grad school, as a way to gain experience and enter the library world. Sometimes this means multiple part time jobs. Do you have MLS degree holders in part time positions (professional or paraprofessional) in your library? Would you hire MLS degree holders for part time positions? What would your advice be for these part time job applicants, and how would you advise applicants for full time jobs to sell any part time experience they may have?

What can recent grads do to make themselves more appealing to employers? What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment?

Legalities aside, should applicants address a noticeable physical condition in an interview? The applicant certainly does not have a legal obligation to discuss anything of a medical nature, particularly if it would not hinder job performance and would not require accommodation. How would you wish (or how have you seen) this handled?

When contacting applicants for interviews, how long will you wait for a reply before moving on in the process? When do you expect a reply, and does it differ by position? Do you have issues with applicants not replying in a timely fashion? Of course, this is very circumstance-dependent, but if an applicant does not reply within a week, or two, and you have moved on, is there anything they can do to salvage the relationship for this position or a potential open position in the future?

Reader response requested! How do you balance job searching with… ____ life? Another job? School?

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

One question on the Hiring Librarians survey is: Approximately what percentage of people who applied for your last open position would you say were hirable? Can you answer that question for us on Further Questions, and also share how you define hirable.

Is negotiation expected when candidates are extended a job offer? If so, on what matters–salary, time off, other benefits, etc.? Have you ever had a rescind an offer after negotiations? This can be a tricky process, so any advice you could give on facilitating this process with politeness and grace would be appreciated.

Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires? If so, can you tell us the typical length of this time and how employees are evaluated during probation? If not, are there other ways new hires are evaluated during the early days of their employment (first three to twelve months or so)? Generally, do you think probationary periods necessary for professional positions–why or why not? Feel free to provide answers for other types of library positions, if relevant.

What soft skills do you look for in job candidates within librarianship? How can candidates naturally demonstrate these skills to you? Is it ever appropriate to include them on resumes/CVs? How do you evaluate soft skills?

Who hires librarians and what do they do? Can you share with us the composition of the most recent search/hiring committees – number of committee members, their roles in the library, etc.? Are there stakeholders in the hiring process who should be involved but are not, or are only involved minimally (i.e. attending a presentation or meal with the candidate)? How is their feedback treated?

What tips do you have for job seekers attending conferences? How do you suggest they balance networking, attending sessions, and/or interview or informational sessions? Any special tips for first-time conference attendees?

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?

How should interviewees answer tricky questions, such as “what is your dream job?” or other similar questions about weaknesses, strengths, ambitions, etc.? If you can talk a little about preparation for these sort of questions too, that would be helpful.

As you likely know, it’s National Library Week. Therefore, instead of having a question centered around (what often is) a source of stress for many job seekers, let’s celebrate libraries on Further Questions this week. So, tell me, in a sentence or so, what do you a) love about libraries, and b) what do you love about the hiring process?

Conventional job searching tips suggest informational interviews or job shadowing as a tactic to make connections and get your foot in the door with employers. Are these strategies used in your library? Does your library ever receive requests for this? Would you recommend these for job seekers–why or why not?

How do personality types play out in interviews? Librarians tend to be stereotyped as introverts–so what tips do you have for quiet, shy, and/or timid individuals to sell themselves and ace the interview? Are moments of silence/pauses in conversations, particularly during the more informal periods of an interview day (such as a meal) taboo? So as to not leave anyone out, feel free to provide insight into how more extroverted individuals can succeed in interviews as well.

What is your perspective on portfolios, especially if they are mostly comprised of class projects? Some library schools build them into coursework as a graduation requirement. Are they useful or influential in the hiring process? Do employers even look at them? If so, does format (electronic vs. print) matter?

How should applicants address gaps in their employment history? Does it matter if applicants have a long gap for personal reasons (moving for a partner’s career, raising children, illness or injury, etc.) or because the job market is tough? Should gaps be addressed in the cover letter or the resume/CV, or both?

What is the likelihood for interviewing/hiring a candidate from out of state for a position in your library? Legally, applications likely need to be accepted, but in practical terms, how are distance candidates viewed? Is it necessary to disclose in the cover letter a willingness to relocate? What factors influence your institution’s stance?

What value do you place on the post-interview email or mailed thank you note? What advice do you have for individuals interviewing with large committees–do they contact everyone they meet? Or what about other libraries that may not make email addresses easily accessible online–should candidates call and ask for an email address? In short, does sending a note (or not sending one) make or break a candidate’s chances?

Do you Google job candidates? Or look for them on social media, in your library system records (if local), or any other type of informal/formal background check? Have you ever done this and regretted it, or not done this and wished you had? When in the process would you be an online detective and why?

What “hot topics” would you ask candidates about in an interview right now (i.e. the new information literacy framework)? Or what topics have you recently included? What current issues in librarianship do you think candidates should be aware of and how can they best keep up on current topics?

Would you hire someone who has been fired in the past? Would it matter if they were fired for cause or if their position was simply eliminated? What tips do you have for job seekers in this position?

How does your organization value or consider membership/involvement in professional organizations during the hiring process? Is there a difference when hiring for an entry level role vs. a position requiring more experience?

How much does your institution consider ALA accreditation status in the hiring process? If a school was accredited when a candidate graduated, is that good enough to fulfill any accreditation requirements? What if the school loses accreditation or is granted conditional status? How does that reflect on graduates? Does that affect a job seeker’s chances of being hired?

One challenging aspect of job searching is knowing how to balance professionalism with personality, especially since personality can be intertwined with determining “fit.” What aspects of the job searching process, in your opinion, allow for a candidate to exhibit more personality–CV/resume, cover letter, interview, interview attire, etc.? What is your advice for candidates struggling with this issue, and how do you strike the balance from the other side of the table?

Can we talk about feedback? Is your organization able to provide feedback to applicants who are not hired (after they have been interviewed–not ones who never make the cut)? Why or why not? Oftentimes applicants ask why they did not receive the job only to receive vague answers or be told that the information is confidential. This can be frustrating but there are many reasons why this occurs, so learning about the process might help. On a related note, if feedback cannot be provided what is your advice to job seekers wishing to become stronger candidates in the future?

Can we talk about internal hiring? What is the process for promotions in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

What value do you place on references? When in the process do you contact references, if you contact them at all? Who do you expect to see on the reference list and does it vary based on where an applicant is in their career? What are some of the questions you ask of references and how do the answers influence your decision to hire? 

Can you explain what “fit” is and why it is important in hiring a new employee?

I applied for a position a month ago and it was relisted today with the same job description.  Is it appropriate to reach out to the organization and ask for feedback on my application materials so I can know why I wasn’t a strong candidate?  Would reapplying with a different cover letter make a difference?

What would transferable skills look like from an individual transitioning into librarianship from an unrelated job field? This job field could be anything from working in a daycare, to sales, to nonprofit management, etc. Any advice you could provide to adults seeking a career change by going back to school to get their MLS/MLIS/MIS would be appreciated.

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?

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response?  Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?

Does volunteering or completing an internship at your organization help candidates secure a position of any level (professional, part time, or anything in between) at your organization? Many times library school students assume that experience at a specific institution leads to an “in” when jobs open up there, but have you found this to be true? How might you advise candidates looking to secure employment at the specific organizations or locations where they volunteer or intern?

What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take? What are the factors that can lengthen the process? Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application? Keeping these factors and your area of librarianship in mind, how long do think job seekers should expect to be searching for a position?

Should a candidate ever try to connect with you on a social media/networking service? Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you through social media (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, your blog…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances? What about in person (at a conference, etc)? Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.

What are your favorite questions to ask in interviews? And why? If you can talk a little about the difference between what you ask over the phone versus in-person, that would be very helpful.

Aside from library experience, what volunteer and/or work experience do you find valuable in applicants and new hires?

Since it’s impossible to address everything in a cover letter, what portions of the ads should be focused on? What tips do you have for breaking down large ads? Job advertisements are often long, especially in academia, and often contain a lot of information including a position description, qualifications (desired or required), salary, schedule, etc. Feel free to bring in examples from past job ads.

Does your institution require job applicants to submit their SSN on online job applications? How should applicants handle this if they wish to keep that information private until later on in the process?

What education or experience requirements do you have for paraprofessional positions in your library? Of course, these will vary by position but what would you say is important for those pursuing paraprofessional roles, either for their career or while in library school?

From your perspective, how has library school changed in the past decade (or since you graduated, whichever you prefer to consider)? What areas of knowledge or experience do you see lacking in recent graduates applying for positions in your organization? Is there a difference between applicants from traditional and online programs? As a new crop of librarians-to-be start classes this fall, your advice can help them plan and prepare for the future.

How often does your library communicate with applicants throughout the process–from notification of receipt of application onwards? A common refrain in job seeker surveys on Hiring Librarians is that job seekers want more communication throughout the hiring process (i.e. at each stage). Is this realistic? Why or why not? An insight into your processes may give job seekers better expectations for what to expect.

Do you like hyperlinks included in resumes for sample or demonstration purposes? How have you seen this done well (or poorly)?

Beyond conferences, what are your favorite sources for professional development opportunities? This could include anything from technology resources, e-classes, books, blogs, webinars, and beyond, with a preference for free or frugal opportunities for the job seeker wishing to stay current. These can be resources you personally use OR resources you (hope) that applicants for positions at your institution are using. No matter how basic, please share!

How many people have been hired by your organization in the last fiscal year? What is the breakdown of roles (i.e. librarians, paraprofessionals, student/hourly, etc.)? Subjectively, is this figure standard or does it fluctuate year to year?

Traveling for interviews: who pays? Does your library pay for the interview expenses of a candidate such as airfare, hotel, meals, or mileage? Are candidates reimbursed or do you pay up front? Has anything changed in this realm due to the economy, such as a focus on local candidates, paying for travel but not meals, etc.?

Does your organization have educational requirements aside from the MLS/MIS for professional positions? If so, what are they and how were they determined? If not, why? These educational requirements may include things like: specific undergraduate degrees, a second master’s degree, a doctorate, etc. Obviously specific positions may require certain degrees but is there a baseline for all positions, either at the time of hiring, after X number of years, for tenure, etc.?

How might a candidate overcome a bad first impression? Job searching advice always says to be early, prepare for the unexpected, and research everything ahead of time, but social faux pas can still happen. Can a candidate still advance in the process or land the job if they make a mistake, particularly in an in person interview? Why or why not? Bonus points if you have any related stories, personally or from your libraries.

Would a candidate’s travel plans be a dealbreaker? For example, a reader has a seventeen day trip planned in three months. Would this be a negative factor in your decision? Would you prefer to learn about it during the interview, or is it ok if the candidate waits to reveal until a job offer has been made?

Does word really get around? 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?

What if candidates are interested in obtaining another degree? Is it a turn-on or turn-off when applicants mention their desire to obtain a further degree which is not strictly library science, but is tangentially related? (For example: a degree in education, management, etc)

Is salary range included in your job postings? Do you include a salary range in your job postings? Why or why not? Who makes that decision?

Would you hire someone for a librarian position if s/he had no library experience? If yes, under what circumstances? If not, why not?

Is becoming a librarian still a reasonable dream? What advice would you give to someone who’s been searching for a librarian job for two years? Is it still a reasonable dream?

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

Should internships go under employment experience or in a separate section? On resumes, should internships go under employment experience or in a separate section?

What “hot topic” would you include if you were currently interviewing candidates?  Or what “hot topic” have you recently included?  For example, in an interview about six months ago, I was asked for my opinions on “Bookgate”. What are the current library issues that you think candidates should be aware of?

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

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?

Does participation in the ALA Think Tank Facebook group hurt a candidate’s chances? Would participation in ALA Think Tank hurt a candidate’s chances with you? Why or why not?

Is it standard practice for your institution to ask to contact the candidate’s current supervisor as a reference? At what point do you do this?  How do you handle it if the candidate has not told her current supervisor she is job hunting, or does not want to give you this information for some other reason?  Are they still considered for the position?

Should a candidate list a previous subordinate as a reference? How would you feel about a candidate that lists his or her previous subordinate as a reference? Would it make a difference if the candidate was apply for a position that had an equivalent or more amount of staff oversight, or for a job that had less or no staff oversight?

Does HR screen applications before they even get to you? If so, do they use a program that screens for keywords or do they use some other method? Do you give them any instructions on what you are looking for?

How do you count part time work? How is part time work counted, when looking to see if a candidate meets a requirement for a certain number of years of experience? For example, if a position requires two years of experience as an adult services librarian, and the librarian has worked 20 hours a week as an adult services librarian for two years, should she go ahead and apply? What about if she had worked even fewer hours? Any insight is appreciated!

How are job postings written? How does your institution write job postings? Do you have any input, or does HR do it? Do you list salary? Are you allowed to add things like “strong internal candidate”? Do you include any language about being an Equal Opportunity Employer, or do you encourage any specific demographic groups to apply?

How are oral boards or search/hiring committees formed? When hiring, what committees are formed at your library? Do you use an oral board, a search committee, and/or a hiring committee?  How are the members chosen? What do they do and who are they accountable to?

Do you use interns/volunteers? Does your library use interns or volunteers?  What tasks do they do?  How are volunteers and interns chosen?  What qualities are you looking for in potential volunteers/interns?

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

How can a candidate get an accurate understanding of the workplace atmosphere? Any tips/tricks/methods for a job seeker for seeing through the “Company Behavior” that goes on during an interview, to get a sense of what the “everyday” atmosphere at a library is like? I’ve heard way too many horror stories about people feeling like everything clicked in an interview, accepting a position, and only then discovering that it was a really toxic environment.

Should an applicant include more than one reference from the same job? Do hiring managers prefer to see 3 references from the same library job, or do all 3 references need to be from different jobs, even if some of those are non-library?

How can candidates changing library types, or fields, best present their skills? Have you hired someone whose previous work was at another type of library, or in another field altogether? What made them a good candidate?

Where and how does your library advertise its open positions? Please name specific sites or listservs, where possible.

Would your library consider hiring ex-felons? These individuals have been working as inmate library clerks. They have the skill-set for circulation desk and book shelving duties. Also they have entered new book titles into the library’s catalog database and managed circulation records. They have been dependable staff members. Would your library consider hiring ex-felons?

Do you have any tips for internal candidates? Can you share any stories about successful or unsuccessful candidacies by internal candidates? What are the pitfalls to avoid?

Do You Prefer Long or Short Resumes/CVs? Do you generally ask for resumes or CVs? Do you prefer long or short ones and why? How many pages should it be?

Do you require any sort of presentation or demonstration of skill? Do you require any sort of presentation or demonstration of skill during the hiring process? What are you looking for? Is content or delivery more important?

Will You Tell Us About Your Last Job Hunt? What was your last job hunt like? What was your biggest anxiety, and what did you learn? Did having been a hiring manager influence you to employ any new strategies?

How and when should a candidate decline an interview? What’s the best way to decline an interview without burning any bridges? Under what circumstances should a candidate decline an interview?

What’s a Skype Interview Like? Have you interviewed candidates via Skype or another videoconferencing platform? How do these interviews differ than in-person interviews? Any tips for candidates about to do a Skype interview?

Reader Response Requested: How Do You Stay in Touch after a Conference? This week you are the experts. Do you have any tips for staying in touch with new contacts, for example potential future employers you might have met at a very large library conference? What should you do, and how frequently? Please post your answer in the comments.

Does Library Support Staff Certification Give Candidates an Edge? What value do you see in the Library Support Staff Certification (LSSC) program? Would it give an edge to candidates? Have you ever hired someone with this certification?

The Tattooed Librarian Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink? Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone? How tattooed is too tattooed? (Part of a series that also includes: Stats and Graphs: The Tattooed Librarian Part II and  Reader Response Requested: The Tattooed Librarian Part III How tattooed are you? What types of libraries have you interviewed at? Did you cover your tattoos? Share your answers (and tats!) in the comments.)

How Can a Candidate Ace Dinner with the Search Committee? Do you have any tips for acing dinner with the search committee? If you do not work for an organization that includes a meal as part of the interview process, do you have any tips do for the more informal, social aspect of mingling or making small talk with your interviewers?

What Was the Last Position You Hired? What and when was the last position you hired? How many applicants did you get, roughly? How many did you interview?

Does Personal Branding Help? Personal branding has become one of the tools recommended by those dispensing job hunting advice. Have you ever hired a librarian who uses this strategy – developing and managing a personal brand in order to shape the image he or she presents on the job hunt and professionally? Do you have any thoughts about this trend? (If you want to read more about branding before answering this question, there’s a recent-ish American Libraries article here.)

Could You Hire Two Probationary Workers? In filling a position, could you hire two probationary workers, maybe each half time, and then decide a couple months later who got the job? Why or Why not?

Do You Do Any Sort of Pre-Employment Testing? Do applicants have to take a multiple choice test, or provide a writing sample, or do a presentation/sample lesson? Why does your workplace do this, and how can candidates prepare?

Do You Read Hiring Librarians? If so, have you been surprised by anything, or have you changed your mind about any aspect of the hiring process? (I really won’t mind if you say no – this is not a vanity question!)

Reader Response Requested: Who Are You Anyway? I’d like to know who you are and why you’re here. If you haven’t already filled out the polls, won’t you do so? Any brave souls are welcome to introduce themselves in the comments!

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

When and How Should an Applicant Check-In? After submitting an application, when and how is it appropriate for the applicant to check in with you? If they haven’t heard back within a week? Two weeks? Should they call? Email? Drop in?

Who has input on hiring decisions at your organization?

What can recent grads do to make themselves more appealing to employers? What is the most productive way to spend your pre-employment unemployment?

Does Where You Go to School Matter? Would attending a for-profit school count against a candidate? Do you hire for any positions that require a second Masters? If so, do you give more weight to candidates from prestigious schools?

Do You Google Job Candidates? Or look for them on social media, or do any other sort of online sleuthing/informal background check/personal curiosity assuaging?

Reader Response Requested: Is it the Worst Time Ever to be a New Librarian? This week you are the experts. Economically speaking, is it the worst time ever to be a newly graduated library job hunter? If not, when was worse? Please leave your answer in the comments!

Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You? Can you describe how you were affected by Prop 13? Were you laid off or did you have hours reduced? How long did it take to return to work? Did you return to the same level and hours as before you left? Can you see any similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today?

Further Answers: Any other advice for someone preparing to be off work for a while? (Final post in series about extended leaves of absence)

Are Gaps in a Resume Really a Red Flag? Have you ever hired someone who has been unemployed for an extended period of time? If so, can you provide any details about how this person discussed his/her absence on a resume or cover letter, or in an interview? (part of a series – companion post Further Answers: What happened when you decided to return to the workforce?What happened when you decided to return to the workforce? How did you frame your absence? How long did it take to get rehired? Was the position you found similar to the one you had before you left?)

How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant? What do you recommend that a person on an extended leave of absence do in order to stay professionally relevant? (part of a series – companion post Further Answers: What did you do to stay professionally relevant during your leave? )

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

How important is knowledge of specific tools? As archivists and librarians, the tools we learn are a bit of a crapshoot. How important is that an applicant have previous knowledge in the specific tools or system that your library uses? Is it very important, we will not consider an applicant without that experience/ideal, but we will consider someone with training as a substitute (example: took EAD course but did not use EAD in a job), it’s more important that someone is willing to learn new technology and tools (perhaps demonstrated by the other tools they already know), or something else entirely?

Can You Tell Us About Successful Cover Letter “Hooks”? What is something that an applicant stated in a cover letter that prompted you to give him/her an interview?

When Shouldn’t Candidates Apply? When should someone NOT apply for a position?

Does Current Employment Status Matter to You? How much does current employment status matter to you?

How does the initial selection work? Who does your first round of sorting/selecting applicants for interviews (a computer/an HR professional/you/someone else…)? Is there generally a fixed number of applicants selected for the initial round or does it depend on the position, the pool of applicants, or something else entirely?

Reader Response Requested: Tales of Tackiness and Horror This week you are the experts. What is the tackiest response to a job interview/resume you ever received? Please post your ghastly horror stories in the comments!

Reader Response Requested: What Do You Read for Career Advice? This week you are the experts. Is there a particular publication (book, blog, column, magazine, journal, podcast, etc. etc.) that you regularly read for career advice? How did you hear about this resource and what makes it so valuable to you? Please post your answer in the comments.

Is there a Person Whose Career Advice You Seek?Do you have a peer, mentor, or other person (or group) that you seek out for career advice? How did you meet this person? What makes his/her advice so valuable to you?

What Questions Should Candidates Ask You? What questions should candidates ask you in an interview? (also see the Interview Questions Repository)

How are Library Directors Hired? Can you please give us brief run-down of the process of hiring a library director? What are some of the questions that candidates are asked? What are the most important qualities candidates can demonstrate? Any other advice for hopeful directors?

Are You Looking for Candidates That Speak More Than One Language? Does your organization/library give any additional weight to candidates who can speak more than one language? If so, what languages are you looking for and how do you determine proficiency?

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

Does Your Library Do Background Checks? Does your organization do background checks? If it does, what exactly is checked? Credit rating, conviction history, job or education history, etc.? What kinds of things would keep a candidate from getting hired?

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

How Has the Economy Affected Hiring at Your Library? Have there been freezes? Have positions gone unfilled? Are applicant pools larger? Please let us know what’s changed! And have you noticed any thawing lately?

Should Coursework Go on a Resume? Under what circumstances, if any, would you want to see coursework listed on a resume?

How Long Did it Take to Get Your First Library Job? How long did it take for you to get your first professional, full-time job in the library field? Would you please tell us a little bit about your search for that job?

What’s the Best Piece of Career Advice You Ever Received? And who gave it to you?

Do You Notify Rejected Applicants? What notifications do you (or your library) send to applicants? Do you acknowledge applications? Share your timeline? Notify rejected candidates? If you do, is it over the phone, via email, or by mail? Do you think employers have any obligation to do this? Or are there practical considerations that make it impossible?

What’s the Most Important Part of a Resume? And why?

Is Having Been Fired a Deal Breaker? Have you ever hired someone who had been fired from a previous position? Is having been fired a deal breaker, or are there understandable circumstances? Is there anything in your application process which would reveal that a candidate had been fired?

What are the most important “tech skills”? Everyone says it’s important for candidates to have “tech skills”. Can you please explain what, exactly, tech skills are? I realize it varies depending on position, but what would you say are the most important programs and proficiencies for candidates, and why?

What does “or equivalent” mean? 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?

Turning the Tables We all know that candidates have loads of questions for people who hire. But do you have the same kinds of questions for candidates? Do you wonder what they’re thinking about your job announcements, for example, or are you uncertain about the clothes you should wear to interview someone? What questions would you ask of job hunters?

What Should Candidates Wear? Which outfit is most appropriate to wear to an interview with your organization? Why or why not? Please pick one for women and one for men. Bonus question: Can you share any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits? (photo-based question! See also What Should Candidates Wear survey answers.)

Should Candidates Apply for More Than One Job at the Same Organization? Can a candidate apply for two different positions in your organization without seeming desperate? Are there any specific steps s/he should take in this situation? Have you ever hired someone who has done this?

When Should Library Students Start Applying? Have you interviewed or hired a candidate who is still in school for a librarian position? How early is too early for a student to start applying? Do you take into consideration the particular school a candidate has attended? Has a candidate’s GPA ever affected your decision to hire or interview a candidate?

Would You Hire a Person Who Has an Autistic Spectrum Disorder For a Reference Librarian Position? Would you hire a person who has an autistic spectrum disorder for a reference librarian position? Would you prefer if someone with an autistic spectrum disorder discloses that they have one during an interview? Would you as a reference department manager allow a librarian with an autistic spectrum disorder to have a trial period in which they could demonstrate their skills before fully hiring them? Have you ever had someone self-identify as an individual with a disability during the hiring process? How did it change things?

What’s the Best Way for Someone to Get Promoted in Your Organization? What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?

Can We Talk About References? Do you make any judgments based on who is on the list before even talking to the references? Do you expect to see the current supervisor on the reference list? If you call references, what are some of the questions you ask and how do the answers effect your decision to hire?

Can You Explain What “Fit” Is?  And why it is important in hiring a new employee?

Are there any extra or “non-traditional” materials candidates can provide to improve their chances? If a candidate provides a link to an e-portfolio, do you peruse it? Would you like to see a visual resume? Should a candidate bring examples of his/her work to the interview?

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?

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response? Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?

Does Volunteering Help a Candidate’s Chances? What kinds of volunteer or internship experiences (if any) help a candidate’s chances with you and your organization?

Why Is It Taking So Long? What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take? What are the factors that can lengthen the process? Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application?

Should a candidate ever try to connect with you on a social networking service? Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you on a social networking service (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, LibraryThing…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances? What about in person (at a conference, etc)? Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.

What are Your Favorite Questions to Ask in an Interview? And why? If you can talk a little about the difference between what you ask over the phone versus in-person, that would be very helpful.

Would you Hire Someone Without Library Experience for a Librarian Position? If yes, under what circumstances? If not, why not?

Whew!  That’s a lotta questions!  Now here’s one for you:  Which of these would you like to see revisited?  My list of “people who hire librarians” has grown and changed since I asked the first question in April of 2012, and the hiring climate is always changing.  Should I re-ask anything?

Photo: By DuMont Television/Rosen Studios, New York-photographer. Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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Reader Response Requested: How Do You Stay in Touch after a Conference?

This week, you are the experts.  I’m asking people who read Hiring Librarians:

Do you have any tips for staying in touch with new contacts, for example potential future employers you might have met at a very large library conference?  What should you do, and how frequently?

Here’s a response to get you started:

I think LinkedIn could be a really convenient way to keep your name on their radar—post relevant, sincere comments or links at least weekly. I also have been able to stay in contact with a few professional contacts through the exchange of materials. Take advantage of what opportunities present themselves through our regular work. (These aren’t librarians that I’m looking at to hire me, but it keeps us working together.) Take the opportunity to request ILLs from a library more frequently, if applicable. I met one librarian who works at a tribal library and archive; I would send her materials that our patrons donated to us that weren’t of much local interest but would be of greater use to her patrons. I’ve developed relationships with other librarians elsewhere in my region and in my state by working at district-level and state-level committees, and by writing multi-library grants.

I think it’s important, for new or looking-to-move librarians, to be in touch with lots of library staff, no matter where those staff are in the hiring hierarchy. You might not be acquainted with the library director, but knowing the children’s librarian, or the head of AV, would give you a leg-up over other candidates.

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

Please tell us your tips and strategies in the comments!

 

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Reader Response Requested: The Tattooed Librarian Part III

This is part of the Topical Series: Interviewing while Tattooed.
I did a last minute call asking for people who Interview While Tattooed to get in touch with me.  I asked:

How tattooed are you? What types of libraries have you interviewed at? Did you cover your tattoos?
April Tattoo 1I have three tattoos. two of which are easily covered by normal work clothing. The third is a small tattoo on my inner wrist. I do not cover that one up (and I am going to be getting more tattoos soon).
April Tattoo 2
On library type: Law and Academic.
I am currently a Legal Librarian at a Law Firm in Los Angeles.
On covering tattoos: Not the wrist one. The other ones I do most of the time. I cover them because normal clothing covers them, not because the firm does not allow the exposure of tattoos.
– April, a Legal Librarian, Los Angeles, California
Amanda 1
I have tattoos on the inside of both wrists, and a large tattoo (the start of a half-sleeve) on my upper right arm.
Amanda Tattoo 2
I have interviewed and worked in public libraries.
On covering tattoos: I did not intentionally cover my tattoos, although long sleeves usually cover my larger tattoo. However the wrist tattoos are visible and I’m sure did not go unnoticed. My thinking was that if I covered the tattoos for my interview, I may have to cover them for my job and that wasn’t something I was willing to do. If the tattoos were going to be a dealbreaker, then it was better to know sooner rather than later.
Amanda Viana, Information Services Librarian (and as of July 1, Assistant Director), Norton Public Library in Norton, MA; Head Editor of INALJ MA
Claire tattoo 1I have two fairly large pieces, one on my back and one on my upper right arm. 
Claire tattoo 2
So far, I’ve interviewed at special libraries.
On covering tattoos: Yes, but not necessarily purposefully. The piece on my back is covered most of the time by clothing anyway, and I usually wear a suit to interviews, which covers the tattoo on my arm. That being said, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to show them off at an interview.
-Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey
Aliqae2I would consider myself to be heavily tattooed. That is, I have tattoos on my lower and upper arms, chest, and legs. To fully cover them all, I would have to wear a long-sleeved, crewneck shirt and long pants.
I have interviewed at public, academic, and special libraries, as well as archives.
On covering tattoos:  Yes. Always. I have a wrist tattoo that is difficult to cover, but I wear a bracelet or a watch when interviewing. I don’t worry about tattoos peeking out. I don’t hide that I have them on social media or at conferences. I consider my tattoos part of my personal life, much like my family or my hobbies, so I prefer to de-emphasize their presence in interviews (and on the job, if necessary) in order to focus on communicating my skills, experience, and ideas.

 – Aliqae Geraci, ILR Research Librarian, Martin P. Catherwood Library, ILR School, Cornell University

Amy Tattoo1 I have a half sleeve on my let arm and a few more medium-sized tattoos on the lower half of that arm. I have a large dewey call number tattooed on my left clavicle/shoulder and another medium sized tattoo on my right forearm. Most of the rest of my ink is on my back, so that wouldn’t really be visible either way.
I have really only interviewed at academic libraries (and honestly, they were both fine art focused, if that makes a difference).
I wore a suit to those interviews, so yes, my tattoos were covered. I have more recently been worried about my lip piercing and have considered taking it out for interviews.
Other thoughts: I have much more work planned, but I’m waiting to get hired into that precious first position. I realize I may not be as tattooed as others, sometimes I feel like I blend in at an art school library, but otherwise, I worry I stick out like a sore thumb.
– Amy Wainwright, Access Services Assistant, Columbia College Chicago

I have six tattoos: three on my left forearm down to my wrist, two on my back, and one on my hip.The arm tatts are flowers, names, and vines honoring my family. The back tatts are a largish cat and moon on my left and right shoulder blades, respectively. The one on my hip is a coffee mug with a kitten pattern on it. I’m planning to have two more tattoos done on my left upper arm in the immediate future, which would bring me up to a full sleeve.

I have only interviewed for professional work at academic libraries. That is my area of interest; it took me ten months and three on-campus interviews to find a job. I have interviewed and successfully been hired for para-professional public library jobs in the past.

I did cover my tattoos for my on-campus interviews. In fact, I designed my artwork on my arm so it could be concealed by a blazer. While my advisor said that I should only work in an environment that would accept my tattoos, I decided to play it conservatively. First, some academic libraries can be formal, and it is not necessarily reflected by their org chart, website, or the institution’s reputation. Second, some people do have unconscious biases against tattoos. I thought it would be better to give prospective employers the opportunity to be open-minded and gracious after they already had a good impression. They don’t know that they are okay with ink until they know someone with ink. “We love New Employee! And she’s covered in tattoos!”

After I was hired, I asked if I could have visible tattoos on the job. I can, and I’m glad for it. I work in a sub-tropical climate, so short sleeved shirts or slightly sheer layers are necessary in the summer. To the best of my knowledge, no one has given my tattoos as second thought.

Liz Scibrarian, blogging on librarianship, science, and science librarianship

I have one small tattoo, 5 medium sized tattoos, and one large tattoo. They are on my back, upper arms/shoulders, chest, and calf.

I have only interviewed at two libraries – and got jobs at both. The first was an arts college in an urban area. The second (my current employer) was a small, liberal arts college in a suburban-rural setting. My current job is as an arts librarian.

On covering tattoos: Yes, and I cover as much as I can daily. For my interviews I wore the same outfit – the only business suit I own (pencil skirt, fitted jacket). I wore grey tights and a high neckline. In both cases I used the interview to assess the attitude and dress code of the library staff. In both cases, they were very open-minded and no dress code enforced (other than the basic rules we hope adults adhere to without formal policy). I’ve been fortunate in both jobs; if I interviewed at a library that required business dress or seemed very socially conservative, I’d probably be wondering if I wanted to work there anyway, regardless of tattoos.

Even though my current employer has no strict dress code (I wear jeans most days, with a nice button-down or other blouse), I try to cover my tattoos. I have been told that it’s ok that I have them and that I can “get away with it” because I’m in the arts, but I’ve found talk of social acceptance disappears when actually confronted with a tattooed person. The drawback to covering up all the time? When a coworker finally finds out I have tattoos, they seem to feel I haven’t been honest which can lead to trust issues (it’s minor, but it’s there).
-Anonymous

I have four tattoos. One on my left foot, left hip, right rib cage, and middle on my upper back(between shoulder blades, but slightly higher.)

I’ve interviewed at two public libraries.

I covered my tattoos for both interviews. The first one, I asked about their policy on tattoos during the interview. I had noticed a few visible tattoos and piercings on a few of the workers there before my interview, so I felt more comfortable bringing it up. The second interview I did not ask, because I knew the library was in a more conservative area. Once I started work, I realized that one of the workers had multiple visible tattoos and an eyebrow ring, and the teen librarian had partially purple hair, so I didn’t really ever ask if it was okay, just kind of followed the lead.
– Ashley Jones, Librarian Assistant, Saline County Library, Bryant, AR

Lisa 1I am primarily tattooed on my back and shoulders. I also have a large piece on my upper arm, and small pieces on each foot. Basically if I had a t-shirt, jeans, and trainers on, you’d never know I had ink.

Lisa 2

On library type: Public, academic, private, non-profit, and museum libraries and archives.

Most of my ink is located on parts of my body that would be covered by the sort of clothing that I feel is appropriate for interview situations. The only tattoos that I have that could be seen in my normal interview attire are on my feet. These are generally covered by the bottoms of my pants or nylons, though I haven’t taken any further steps to conceal them (band-aids, cover-up, etc.). If someone was spending enough time studying my feet to actually notice my ink, I’d be more worried about how creepy that was and would wonder whether or not I’d want that person as my boss.

– Lisa L., Local history specialist at a public library, and administrator of the tumblr Tattooed Librarians & Archivists

ElinorI am very tattooed–I have half sleeves and a scattering of other large tattoos in other places. I also have large gauge ear piercings and a few facial piercings.

I have only interviewed at public libraries, though I have interviewed for both rural and urban positions.

Covering my tattoos depends entirely on the weather and the seniority of the position I am applying for. At the height of summer I applied to be the manager of a small rural library, so I wore a stylish grey short-sleeved belted jacket over a black camisole, with matching grey and black striped pants, and black square-toed boots. I wore elegant understated jewellery in my ears. My arm tattoos were visible, as were my nose piercings and labret. For my most recent interview it was February, and it was a supervisory position in a large urban library. I wore black slacks and blazer, a pinstriped button down shirt, and my shiny pink metallic Doc Martens. My tattoos were not visible, but I also knew from interviewing with that particular organization before that it didn’t matter if they were. They already have numerous tattooed employees at their branches. When I go to work, I can pretty much wear what I want, and have had nothing but positive feedback from coworkers, management and patrons.

Elinor Crosby, INALJ.com Nova Scotia editor

dawn_tattoo_11I am really tattooed 🙂 I have half sleeves, a chest piece, a giant tattoo on the back of my neck, wrist tattoos, back tattoos, several on my legs and ankles.  (I am attaching pictures to this email. Let me know if you need any more).

I have worked at a public library, a big-ten university library, and now a small liberal arts college. Before I landed my current position, I applied at public and academic libraries. Both appeal to me for different reasons so I would have been happy at either one. My only requirement was that the job be in Massachusetts near Boston because that is where my husband and I wanted to live.
Dawn-neckI did cover my tattoos for my interviews. Not because I am ashamed of them but because I understand that people judge. I own a tattoo shop in Indiana with my husband, who is a tattoo artist. We have been in the industry from a business side for 12 years so I have seen all walks of life come through the doors for tattoos. Even today in 2013, there are judgements made on those of us who are tattooed and definitely towards those of us who are heavily tattooed. I chose to cover my work because I wanted my future colleagues to see me for me. To see me for the skills I have to offer, the talent I possess, the creativity and enthusiasm I have for the library profession. I did not want my tattoos to be the focal point for I am so much more than my artwork. When I get tattooed, I am always consciously placing them on areas of my body that can be easily covered. The neck tattoo, for example, cannot be seen when I wear my hair down. My wrists tattoos are the only ones that are visible and that is because I tend to talk with my hands. There is nothing I can really do about that. I figure if those little tattoos keep me from getting the job then it was not the right job for me anyway.
I, of course, would talk about my tattoos in an interview if someone asked. But I never go out of my way to draw attention to them. I also do not say what my husband does for a living. Again, I know the assumptions made about tattoo artists and the lifestyle. Instead I say he is an artist. It’s not a lie. In terms of showing off my artwork, I usually wait until people get to know me and I have seen and experienced the particular culture of the place I am working. I have never experienced any negative reactions to my tattoos in any of the places I have worked. I know that some people are definitely put off by them and that’s fine. As long as someone is not rude about it, I respect their wish to NOT be tattooed. I also think about my tattoos when I go to professional conferences and the like. Usually my tattoos are covered, again so that people see me. My social media accounts however showcase my artwork so those who follow me online are already aware of my tattoos. It is their prerogative to approach me or not.
Dawn Stahura, Research and Instruction Librarian, Wellesley College.

Sara leg frontI’m not super tattooed but I do have a few visible tattoos. I plan on getting a full sleeve in the future and extending my leg pieces. I have two thigh tattoos that cover almost the entire thigh, a calf tattoo, a small shoulder tattoo, small wrist tattoos, and two hip tattoos. I don’t worry about the hip ones because they are covered regardless.

sara 1I have interviewed at a corporate library, public library, and a membership library (Boston Athenaeum) I currently work at the Boston Athenaeum and a public library. I was offered the position at a corporate library but turned it down.
On covering tattoos: Yes, my interview outfit is a black pencil skirt, tights, blouse, and sometimes a sweater. After starting at a job, I ask what their tattoo policy is and generally I don’t have a problem with showing my tattoos. I would rather cover my tattoos then jeopardize my chances of getting a job. I feel like I interview well and don’t want the interviewers to think less of me because of my tattoos.  sara 3
– Sara, Digital Programs department, Boston Athenaeum.
Sara’s Note: We are in the process of digitizing a large amount of the Athenaeum’s collections. It was only started about a year ago so we are a work in progress, but here is what we have so far if anyone is interested: http://cdm.bostonathenaeum.org/

Now I want to hear from you!

If you want to show us your ink, you should be able to post html in the comments, or you can email a picture to me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thanks for reading and responding!

Read the other two posts in this series here and here

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Filed under Further Answers, Interviewing while Tattooed

Reader Response Requested: Who Are You, Anyway?

It’s time for another Reader Round-Up!

I’d like to know who you are and why you’re here.  If you haven’t already filled out the polls below, won’t you do so?

Any brave souls are welcome to introduce themselves in the comments!

 

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Filed under Further Answers

Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You?

This is a long post, but hopefully you’ll be as fascinated as I am.

I graduated in May of 2011, for a while I felt like I’d landed in the worst possible job market for a new librarian. Entry level positions are scarce, and there seems to be a ravening horde of experienced librarians so desperate for work that they’re taking these precious few spots.

Things could never have been this tough, right?

Then I started working in substitute pools for three different public library systems. Librarians are generally nice, and I began to hear, in each system, sympathetic stories from those who empathized with new grads, because they’d been through the aftermath of Prop 13.

In 1978, Californians engaged in taxpayer revolt. More than 60% of the state voted for Proposition 13, which decreased property taxes. This legislation made it so property value (the amount used to calculate property tax) is assessed at time of purchase, and can not increase more than 2% each year. For both personal and commercial property. It also requires a two-thirds vote for increases in both state and local taxes. I read a lot about it on the librarian’s dirty little secret, but there have been recent murmurings about reform, so you can find some good news articles about it right now as well.

It has had some pretty disastrous ramifications for schools and libraries. Before Prop 13, California was one of top school systems in the country. Now we are ranked 48th. I don’t have a neat statistical fact to describe its affect on libraries (and really, correlation is not causation, so theoretically our school ranking could be the result of other factors). What I do have, are some stories collected from librarians affected by Prop 13. I asked them:

Can you describe how you were affected by Prop 13? Were you laid off or did you have hours reduced? How long did it take to return to work? Did you return to the same level and hours as before you left? Can you see any similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today?

I couldn’t resist sending my experience. I applied to library school in 1980, I think. I wish I still had the letter I received from UC Berkeley’s School of Library and Information Studies. As I remember it, the letter implied ‘if you are even accepted to this graduate program, you will be even more lucky to get a job due to Prop 13.’ I was accepted to the MLIS program and graduated. My first job in records management was followed a year later by my first librarian job as a children’s librarian. I did have to move to southern California for the public library position. I remember that Oakland Public Library was recruiting substitute/temporary librarians around the same time but I didn’t qualify for their list.

– Julia Reardon, Branch Manager, La Palma Branch, OC Public Libraries

blairProp 13 caused a bump down effect at the library I worked at.

I began working in the library field in 1959 at a Los Angeles County branch as a page. Moved to another branch as a library aid. From there to the Pomona Public Library as a circulation clerk. During those times I was going to college part time and doing a lot of the work as a professional librarian without the benefits. Finally got my bachelor’s degree & enrolled in library school at USC while working at San Bernardino County branch as a librarian trainee. Finally got my MSLS from USC & went to work at the Indio Branch of the Riverside City/County Library System. That is where I was when Prop 13 hit. I as a children’s librarian filling the last created Librarian position. When Prop 13 came, my position was the first to be eliminated. As I stated earlier, this caused the bump down affect. I finally moved on to the Colton Public Library where I retired from in 2000.

I loved working in the library field. The one regret I have is not having gotten my MSLS earlier.

The only similarity is the loss of staff due to the loss of revenue. I had to move in order to keep my job.

People today don’t realize the tremendous affect Prop 13 has had over the years to library services.

– Blair Holm, Children’s Librarian

The effects of Prop 13 on me were several.

During all this I worked as a Library Assistant II for the Alameda County Library. LA II’s then were more like librarians than clerks, except we were paid less than genuine, certificate-bearing librarians.

Lots of anxiety before passage of Prop 13. After passage, feelings of resignation and then registering for unemployment benefits. Some relief when rehired (only about one month after being rehired). Resentment, directed (only in my feelings) at the public and those who fought for passage of Prop 13.

I worked half-time for a few months after being rehired, at the Castro Valley branch of the Alameda County Library. More staff (most of those laid off) came back to work and I then worked full-time, as a Branch Manager (Library Assistant III) at a small branch of the Alameda County Library.

I was also studying at San Jose State for my library degree (MLS), which I received in 1980.

I see little difference in the library job market today and before Prop 13. It’s still hard to get a job as a librarian. ( I believe the 1990’s was an easier time to get a library job.) I got my first full-time job as a librarian (with San Mateo County Library) in 1985 after five years of searching. I worked
as a part-time librarian before that (starting in the early 1980s) at the Weekend Library Line (Late-night telephone reference service for the Bay Area, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. I worked one night a week. A story for another survey.)

-Jay Smith, Reference Librarian, San Carlos Library 

I worked in a rural county library in northern California when Prop 13 passed in June, 1978.

Our main library (in the county seat) had been open 6 days a week, and was immediately reduced to 4 days a week.

Our county library (main library, three branches, and a bookmobile) was funded by a dedicated tax rate. Before the June election, we did an analysis with the County Auditor and estimated that we would lose more than 20% of our funding, if the measure passed.

Later that summer/early fall, after the State Legislature released additional state funds to the counties, we were able to re-open the main library to 5 days a week.

All the staff took a 20% pay cut during this time (I recall it lasted a few months), except for me. I was the County Librarian and, apparently, there was some section of the state law that prevented the county from reducing my salary, since I was a County officer.

So I would come to work on Fridays, when the library was closed, and do the regular morning tasks (clear the book drop, process the mail and magazines, search for books which had been requested by patrons in other libraries in our 6-county system–these requests came to us every morning on a TWX machine–etc.)

I would also do whatever administrative paperwork (paying claims, reconciling expenditures, etc.) that had piled up during the week, and would walk up to the court house (which was open on Fridays) to make the cash deposit, file the claims, etc. And chat and listen to those county officials who were closer to the powers-that-be to find out what was being discussed and considered as options for all the county departments.

The cuts of Prop 13 were very demoralizing. They were demoralizing to our staff, some of whom left library employment altogether (the bookmobile driver was laid off, because the bookmobile service was eliminated when Prop 13 passed. When the bookmobile service was restored, he declined to return to his former position.)

They were demoralizing to the public, because the county library system was a recently created service, and they appreciated the resources of a system, the access to books outside of their library, the helpful staff, the decent hours of service, etc.

It was demoralizing statewide in a variety of ways. Prop 13 de-stablized funding for a number of the rural county libraries, many of which were funded from their County’s general fund. (Remember: we had a dedicated library tax rate. Not every county library was funded in this way.) One county library–Lassen–later closed down completely. Another county was so pruned back that they later turned to a private operator to offer a modicum of better service.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: In 1978, with the passage of Proposition 13, almost every library in California was facing a cut in revenue, and the uncertainty was spread throughout the state. As background, you have to understand the differences in how libraries were governed and funded. California law provided for county libraries, city libraries, city-county libraries, special district libraries, school district library districts, and joint powers agencies that provided library services. Some county libraries were considered special districts for funding purposes and had a separate library tax. Some county and city libraries were funded from their jurisdiction’s general fund, which meant that they were in competition with many other programs, including law enforcement and fire services, for a share of that money.

In today’s environment, we have some jurisdictions that are doing better than others in terms of recovery from the recession. A jurisdiction with a lot of high-priced homes, an auto mall, and a regional shopping center with a Nordstrom’s as an anchor store is probably doing better than a jurisdiction with a lot of 99-cent stores and store-front churches on their Main Street.

In addition, the number of library school graduates in California in the class of 1978 is different from today’s picture. In 1978, there were ALA-accredited library schools at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Southern California. The program at San Jose State was focused on training school librarians. At that point, they were not engaged in the distance-education programs and large enrollments that are the hallmarks of their operation today.

There are hopeful signs for library service (and for hiring new librarians) in my opinion.

Librarians are doing a better job in their communities demonstrating the value of what they offer. We are using social media to our advantage in reaching those who are informed by those methods. The move to electronic books is an opportunity to promote our collections to new users who may rarely set foot in the library building. The renewed emphasis on services to children is a good hook to lure in the next generation of adults who may not have been regular library users in many years. Robust services to immigrant populations are showing parents about the importance of reading and libraries for their children, especially if they are from countries without a tradition of public library services.

The two library bond issues that passed in California raised the bar on what a modern library building should look like, and the application process introduced a number of best practices to any community that is looking at new construction or remodeling projects.

That said, I am concerned about the library school graduates who are still looking for work. I hope that they remain involved in the profession, even if their employment takes them to something other than a library-based career. I hope that they are flexible and are willing to gain experience in a community that is not on their radar screen at the moment, or take a position where they will be challenged in ways that are different from their “ideal” job.
-Anonymous

Brian ReynoldsI was working as a Reference/Catalog Librarian at the Shasta County Library in 1978. Pretty soon after the passage of Prop. 13 my work week and pay was reduced by 20%…a five-day week became a four-day week. This reduction lasted for only a few months, fortunately. I retained my rank and salary throughout. To maintain my income, I went back to waiting tables at a local restaurant…a job I had done in college.

I see similar conditions today where many public libraries have had their budgets cut…due to shortfalls in local funding and reductions in State funding. Our own Library has lost about a dozen positions via attrition but has been fortunate not to have to lay off any staff. Many other public libraries in California have not been so fortunate.

There is a strong perception that public libraries are obsolete, nice but not necessary. I believe this falsehood affects staff morale, staff recruitment, and customer attitudes…especially for people who use a public library only rarely. Why support an agency that is, or will soon become, obsolete? Of course, none of this is accurate but the perception is widespread nonetheless. Many people with whom I have spoken who are interested in librarianship as a profession wonder if it’s a good choice. I assure them that it is, but sometimes it’s an uphill battle.
-Brian A. Reynolds, Library Director

In 1978, I was working half time at Santa Clara County (Los Altos), 18 hours a week (so they didn’t have to pay benefits) at Sunnyvale, and on-call at Mountain View Public. Election Day was June 10th and Proposition 13 passed by a wide margin as I recall. I was one of six librarians laid off at Sunnyvale (case of “last in, first out”). Since I needed a full time job to support myself and my daughter, I had to resign my half time position at the County. Prop 13 went into effect on July 1st so I needed to find ANY job fast. From 1978 to 1992, when I became full time at Mountain View, I worked as a Secretary, at a Sales Order Administration position for a laser company ( Coherent), and as a Technical Documents Librarian at an aerospace company (Lockheed) while continuing as an hourly librarian at Mountain View.

I graduated from SJSU in 1975 and through a personal connection, got the hourly job at Mountain View, which was very lucky. It took another 3 years to find the other positions. It was the old story – without experience, you couldn’t get a job and without a job, you couldn’t get experience. Santa Clara County at that time was giving THE test and you got on a list. They finally got to me 3 years later. Once I had that job, the Sunnyvale job came almost at once. These days, I gather, things are much the same, in that openings are few and far between. Public libraries have had to cut hours and positions and salaries, and cutting staff by attrition and not filling vacancies because of the economy.
-Betsy Carlson, Adult Services Librarian, Mountain View Public Library

In 1993, after a series of annual false alarms, a change in statewide funding protocols called the “ERAF shift” led to funding shortfalls at a number of county libraries in California. This was basically a delayed reaction to Proposition 13. I was laid off from Contra Costa County Library after having worked there full-time as a Library Specialist (roughly equivalent to a Librarian II) for over four years.

On returning to work: I was fortunate and was able to return to full-time work (at Oakland Public Library) after just a couple of weeks of unemployment. It was a very competitive hiring environment, since I was competing against other laid-off experienced librarians from other county systems. I was hired into a comparable classification (Librarian II at Oakland, Library Specialist at Contra Costa) but I took a significant pay cut because I was back at Step 1 pay. Some time later, Contra Costa offered to hire me back from their layoff list, but I decided to stay at Oakland and I’m still here.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: I’ve been in the field long enough now to see the job market go up and down several times. I’m not following it as closely as I might be these days, but my sense is that things are a bit better for applicants now than a couple of years ago, though it’s still a better market for employers than for applicants.

– Daniel Hersh, Supervising Librarian for Support Services, Oakland Public Library

I can tell you that Prop 13 meant that my first job was a very low paying private school part-time gig, and that when Prop 13 hit city library budgets (a year or two after it passed), I was laid off from a city library. I was rehired a few months later when someone left.

In general, because of Prop 13 and strained state budgets, cuts came to libraries in bad times. My next layoff was from a county system in 1993. Incredible numbers of branch managers like myself were laid off and then competed for the few jobs left. (I was rehired within a month by a CITY library, as were several other former experienced librarians from affected counties.) I’d have hated to be a newly-minted librarian at that time!
-Anonymous

Cindy MediavillaWhen I graduated from library school in 1977, I was immediately hired by the Glendale Public Library, where I had interned as a student. My job, which was funded by the Comprehensive Employment & Training Act (CETA), consisted of working part-time as the “services to shut-ins” librarian, where I took books to homebound community members. The rest of my 40 hours a week were spent working on the various branch and central library reference desks.

Prop 13 passed at the end of my first year working as a professional librarian. Since I was in a grant-funded position, I was the first person in the library to be laid-off. Another entry-level (non-grant-funded) librarian was also laid-off.

On returning to work: After maybe 3-4 months of being unemployed, I finally got a job in downtown L.A. at Price Waterhouse, where I worked part-time as a cataloger. I had interned at Glendale as a cataloger, so was familiar with the process. At that time (1978), Price Waterhouse had a one-room special library filled with monographs all classified according to Dewey (mostly in the 600s). I was hired to reclassify the books according to a customized system created by Price Waterhouse. I was not enamored of the work, but it was a job, so I didn’t complain. The worst part was commuting to downtown L.A. from Long Beach, where I was living at the time.

In late spring 1979, I applied for a full-time Librarian I job at the Alhambra Public Library. The head of reference there knew my former boss at Glendale and so I was hired roughly a year after being laid-off. I no longer remember, but believe the pay was about the same, but I had much more responsibility at Alhambra. I stayed there for three years.

On similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today: I see lots of similarities between the job situation in the late 1970s and the situation today. I was also laid-off in 1993 during our last economic recession. Personally, that was a lot more devastating in that I had a lot of family obligations, plus we lost our house. Still, professionally, I was able to find temporary employment right away and was back to full time within 6 months.

Today, the employment picture is lot more bleak. Many of my students end up being unemployed for one or two years after graduation. This is the worst it’s been since Proposition 13. In fact, it may even be worse today: lots of competition for so few library jobs. It breaks my heart that my students–many of whom are stellar–can’t find jobs.
– Cindy Mediavilla, Library Programs Consultant, California State Library, and Lecturer, UCLA Department of Information Studies

Maybe this way; I watched it happen, and it was gradual as the state slowly contracted; first nothing then on and on with cuts. The unfinished highway projects, like in front of SFO the freeway to nowhere for years. The state robbing the counties and the cities for property tax money and the different impound accounts…sigh.

The school librarians were the hardest hit, but it was not overnight. So the statue law says the schools have to have a library, not that they have to staff it. If you live in Chappaqua, New York you pay $ 12,000 property tax on a $200,000 house in the 80’s and a further $18,000 in school taxes(no I didn’t make a mistake). Property owners don’t want to pay for things they don’t decide on, or they don’t perceive as value for money. I was the last generation where fiction was put around non-fiction on the shelving because it was worth less, and the librarians told you what you could take out-literally the public librarians told an older teen that book is not for you.

Whole generations were alienated at the library and then by Pat Brown’s then Regan then Jerry Brown’s public policies and wanted spending to stop so then you had Prop.13. By the way I am very liberal, but I saw how it went down. I heard people complain; people who spent $55,000 on a house and all of sudden after 6 years were paying $4,000 a year taxes a percentage lower than New York, but still high compared with the value of the house, and salaries here were lower on the left coast.
-Anonymous

Joni BodartI was a YA librarian in the Bay Area when Prop 13 was passed. I had been fortunate to change jobs just six months before, going from Alameda County Library to Stanislaus County Free Library, and as a result, did not lose my job when ACL closed all its branches. The director in Modesto was determined not to lay off any full time professional staff, so did other cuts. But I can still remember how devastating it was for my friends still at ACL, and how they struggled to support themselves.
-Joni Richards Bodart, Associate Professor, School of Library and Information Science, San Jose State University

In February 1977 I started graduate school to become a librarian. In March 1977 I was hired as a librarian for the Buena Park Library District. At the time they did not require a library degree for librarian but they were looking to upgrade the standards. I was very fortunate to be able to work as a librarian during library school and being able to apply what I learned. I was also very fortunate working for BPLD. As and entry librarian, they had me working in every department giving me well-rounded experience to go with the degree. After Prop 13 passed, I was one of the first to be laid off. I still had a year of library school to finish, but need to work full-time.

I had a friend in library school that had already graduated and was running a small business setting up libraries for business. She also maintained these libraries. She hired me as a cataloguer. This was part time work that I did at home and I was able to speed up my graduation by taking more classes a semester. Later that year I was able to get a part-time reference librarian job at Santa Ana Public Library. I worked both part-time jobs until I graduated in 1980, the last graduating class from the Cal State Fullerton Library School.

It was a difficult time to start this career, there were hundreds of applications for new jobs. So I count myself very lucky to have gained the experience I did while going to library school.

After graduation I moved out of state and worked in a small community college library for about 5 years before moving back to California. I worked for the same library company. This time actually going to the libraries to maintain them. Later I taught at a small Christian school in San Clemente, setting up a library for the school that help get the school accredited. In 1994, someone took a chance on me, once a again, and I started work for OC Public Libraries as an extra help librarian and then as a children’s librarian. In 2004 I promoted to senior branch manager. In 2008 started my current position at the El Toro Library.

My advice to students working on a library degree is to get library experience, even if you have to volunteer. This gives you the edge when you send in an application and/or resume and go to the interview. It will show you if you will like this work. The more experience you have, the easier it is to find a job.

I have been a librarian for 38 years now and have never ever regretted it. I became a librarian because is knew I would be challenged, learn something every day, and provide an essential service to people. It has never been boring and to this day I never know what the day will hold.
– Grace M. Barnes, Senior Branch Librarian,El Toro Library, Laguna Woods Library


If you’re anything like me, and I’m sure we could be twinsies, politics generally put you straight to sleep. But here’s the thing: our work, even if we are academic, or special librarians, is so dependent on the political system. Not just for funding, which is our life blood, but in order to fulfill our missions of promoting things like intellectual freedom, and literacy. I’m trying real hard to keep my eyes open.

I want to take this opportunity to share a few pertinent links with you:

  • Everylibrary is a Political Action Committee (PAC) for libraries. They are running a summer internship, in partnership with Hack Library School. Deadline to apply is March 15.
  • National Library Legislative Day is an ALA event in Washington D.C. that seeks to drum up federal money for libraries. If you know a non-librarian library supporter, they can win an award to attend on a travel stipend.
  • Finally, March 15 is also the deadline to apply for ALA’s Google Policy Fellowship. The Fellow will spend 10 weeks in Washington D.C. researching library and information policy.

If you were affected by the passing of Prop 13, or the ERAF shift, please feel free to join the discussion in the comment section.

If your state has had a similar experience with crippling legislation, please contact me – let me know if you’d like to put together a post about it.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Today’s other post is a discussion of “Is it the worst time ever to be a new library grad?” so if you’ve got opinions about that, please click through and comment there.

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Filed under Further Answers, Op Ed

Further Answers: Any other advice for someone preparing to be off work for a while?

This is the final post in a series of three about extended leaves of absence.

Here is what happened: a reader who is about to leave work due to the incipient arrival of twin babies wrote in to ask if people who hire librarians could give some advice to people in her situation.  I thought that this was the sort of thing where the experiences of people who had been in similar situations might be even more helpful, so I collected some respondents from various listservs and the ALA Think Tank Facebook group, and am now presenting them for your edification.

This week I asked people who had returned to work after a multi-year absence:

Any other advice for someone preparing to be off work for a while?

Kathy JarombekThe one thing that I wish I had done, which I didn’t do for financial reasons, was keep up my professional memberships when I was on leave. I would definitely do that if I had a “do-over” because I think it speaks to your professionalism to do so.

– Kathy Jarombek, Leave of six years.
Prior title: Department Head for Children’s Services, New Canaan;
Current title: Director of Youth Services and Member of the 2014 Newbery Committee, Perrot Memorial Library

Veronica Arellano DouglasI would advise anyone planning on taking some time off of librarianship to read! Our profession changes so quickly and the best thing you can do to prepare yourself for future employment is to stay up-to-date on library trends, practices and research.
– Veronica Arellano Douglas, Leave of two years.
Prior title: Psychology & Social Work Librarian at the University of Houston;
Current title: Reference & Instruction Librarian at St. Mary’s College of Maryland

Don’t discount the skills learned from being a stay at home parent. I feel that it has made me better at time management and juggling multiple responsibilities at work. Although I didn’t have prior work experience in doing storytime, having children was good preparation for my new role!
– Aimee Haley, Leave of three and a half years.
Prior title: Librarian (Public Library);
Current title: Librarian (Public Library)

Miriam Lang Budin I think it helps to remain active in the profession in some way while you are home raising children…even if you’re just going into libraries and schmoozing with librarians. And there are so many ways to stay involved through list-serves, chats, online courses, etc. Many more opportunities than were available back in the dark ages when I was staying home.

One of our children’s librarians is about to go on maternity leave and I tried to convince her to work for us just one night a week and/or one weekend a month, but she wasn’t interested. We would have held her job for her if she’d been able to do that, but now we’ll just have to say goodbye and good luck. I can certainly understand her not wanting to make the commitment to our library when she’s embarking on a demanding and unpredictable new chapter of her life, but I think it is a mistake if she wants to go back to work when her children are older. (Maybe she doesn’t want to…) I know I would be more interested in a prospective employee who found ways to keep her hand in. The job market is quite different than it was twenty-some years ago.
– Miriam Lang Budin, Leave of eleven years.
Prior title: Children’s Librarian, Larchmont Public Library;
Current title: Head of Children’s Services, Chappaqua Library

Cen Campbell

  • Maintain and expand your network. Visit a local library and make friends with people who are already working there. Tell them you’re a librarian and ask what’s going on in the library. Also maintain your old network, even if you think you won’t go back to your old library system. For me this meant keeping up with emails from the Eureka! Leadership Institute and keeping track of former colleagues on Linked In and Facebook.
  • Keep an eye on what professional organizations are doing. Follow listservs, attend networking events if you have flexibility with childcare, keep your membership up to date and flip through American Libraries orChildren and Libraries when they arrive.
  • Volunteer doing something you enjoy, even if it’s not directly related to your previous career (extra points for volunteering doing something that IS related, but it’s not necessary). You’ll do a better job, develop skills and probably get a good reference if you’re jazzed about what you’re doing.
  • Start an online presence. A good old-fashioned blog did it for me, but consider starting a group on Facebook in your area of interest, a Pinterest board, or Twitter account that you update regularly.
  • Serve on a committee or a board in a professional, service or non-profit organization. This can be library related or not. There are so many benefits to this; learn about board governance, network, develop programs or policy, work with other motivated individuals for a good cause etc. Meetings are often in the evening or virtual, and most boards or committees welcome new members.
  • Most importantly: DON’T ASSUME THAT A LIBRARIAN CAN ONLY WORK IN A LIBRARY. You may have to shift your expectations for what your ideal job is, but librarians skills are in high demand in many different places, especially in start-up land. Reach out to organizations who are working on products, services or tools in areas that you are interested in and ask to speak with them about what they’re doing. (I got a consulting gig that way! It works!)

– Cen Campbell, Leave of two years, and gradually adding more part-time projects bit by bit.
Prior title: Teen Services Coordinator/Youth Services Librarian, Stanislaus County Library;
Current title: Children’s Librarian/Digital Services Consultant, LittleeLit.com, Mountain View Library, Santa Clara County Library District

I think the main take away that I would pass along is to stay connected, stay in touch, maintain professional memberships, and do something while you are away.  In addition to the project and the leave replacement, I also wrote book reviews and volunteered in the library and classroom at my kids’ school, which were especially relevant given the position I left and returned to.  I would imagine staying connected is even easier today than it was then (pre ubiquitous Internet and email!).  And be open to opportunities or contacts that might seem tangential or not obviously super-relevant; you never know what can come of them.  Part time work evenings and weekends can help you keep your awareness and skills from getting too rusty, as does taking courses, or going to conferences.

– Ann Glannon, Leave of eight years.
Prior title: Curriculum Resources Librarian (college library);
Returned to work as: Curriculum Resources Librarian (college library) – same position

I would take complete advantage of all of the social networking media available to keep on top of trends and literature. But just by raising little kids yourself, you learn a LOT about kids—child development, different styles, different kinds of parenting, too. You will bring something new to the job by having that experience and paying attention.

– Susan Dove Lempke, Leave of ten years.
Prior title: Children’s Librarian I, Chicago Public Library
Current title: Assistant Library Director for Youth, Programming and Technology, Niles, IL

Jeanette LundgrenAny experience that can be used for a resume is valuable.  I volunteered in my children’s school library, helped run the book fair and became the webmaster for the PTO website.  I also kept my association membership active, that way I could kept abreast of what was happening in the field and stay connected.  There are some great professional blogs out there as well.

– Jeanette Lundgren, Leave of nine years from LIS (five spent working in the tech industry)
Prior to leaving LIS: Information Center Specialist, American Society of Training & Development (ASTD)
Re-Entry position: Reference Librarian, Hudson public library
Current title: Systems Librarian, Becker College

cara barlow

Volunteer in your community. Serving on town boards is a *wonderful* learning experience. If you’re taking time off to be with your children enjoy them! They are young for a very short time, but you can work your whole life.  At the end of the day no one ever says they wished they had worked more and spent less time with their children. Write if you can – it clarifies your thinking. Pursue what interests you and what you love.

– Cara Barlow, Leave of sixteen years
Prior title: State Aid Specialist, Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners
Current title: Supervisor, Music, Art & Media Department, Nashua Public Library

Keep up with the library world as you can, think about how activities you do while staying home can translate to the work place (organizational skills needed with kids, participating in public library events as a parent and selecting books as a parent–these are good if you want to go into/back into children’s services).
-Anonymous, leave of eighteen months and counting
Prior title: Evening Services Coordinator at a University Library

And as a bonus, here is some final advice from a person who hires librarians, Mac Elrod:
J. McRee Elrod

Subscribe to and read the e0lists in your field, e.g., for cataloguers Autocat, RDA-L, and Bibframe.

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

I’d like to say thank you again to everyone above for sharing their stories, time, and insight.  If you’d like to share your own experience in the comments below, or your questions, they are open and waiting for you.

Thank YOU for reading!  

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Filed under Academic, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Answers, Public Services/Reference, Topical Series, Youth Services