Category Archives: Further Questions

Further Questions: Any tips for out-of-area applicants?

Every other week or so, I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question(s) are:

Any tips for out-of-area applicants? How much does the geographic location of the applicant matter to you? Bonus questions: does your workplace offer to cover any aspect of moving costs? What kinds of things should candidates from out of the area ask about/pay attention to in making their decision to move for a new job?

headshot of Greg Currie, who wears a chambray button down shirt and is unsmiling in front of a bulletin board

Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: My library is in a rural area, so almost all applicants are from somewhere out of area.  The location of the applicant doesn’t matter that much, but they do need to express some interest in living our area. Rural living defeats lots of city people, so I tend to be wary of candidate from say, Toronto, who makes no mention of why rural British Columbia is appealing to them. 

If you are applying to a position far away, always good to include a line or two of why the location, as well as the job, is appealing to you.

Candidates should pay attention to housing availability, and commuting times. Is there transit?  If you have to drive, are you comfortable driving in the winter?

Sadly, while my relocation costs were covered, we no longer have funding for the moving expenses of new candidates, at least at any level below senior administration.

Headshot of Hilary, who wears rhinestone cats eye glasses

Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: As an academic librarian, my institutions have generally done national searches, which means we get candidates from all over the country (and sometimes internationally). I’ve heard concerns raised on some hiring committees about whether applicants are really willing to move, whether there may be other family in the mix that would impact their decision (like a two-body problem, where there’s a partner who is concerned about employment in the new location), or whether they’ll back out at the last minute over the relocation issue. I find this frustrating, because it involves making a lot of assumptions about a candidate’s situation and their honest level of interest in the position. I also think local candidates sometimes get a bit of a boost because it’s less expensive to invite them to campus for an interview. It’s not fair of hiring committees to consider where applicants are currently located, but it happens. It definitely helps applicants if they explicitly state something that appeals to them about the move: an interest in the region, reasons why the institution appeals strongly to them, or an enthusiasm for the job that committees can interpret as overriding any concerns about relocation.

From the candidate site, I would recommend doing a lot of research before seriously considering an offer that involves a big move. What’s the cost of living look like? Is there affordable housing to rent or buy that gives you a decent commute? Are there jobs if there are other family members involved? What about schools or other services if you have kids? If you part of a cultural, faith, hobby, or other specific community and those connections are important to you, will you find that in the area where the job is located? What’s the political climate–or even the actual climate (hurricanes? extra hot summers? big snow storms?). And of course, does the job cover any relocation costs? I’ve had a mix of experiences with that, and moving long distances is incredibly expensive and stressful.

Anonymous Federal Librarian: For those that are applying to federal libraries, my only advice is to make sure that you will be happy living in the area where you are applying. Although there are U.S. federal libraries all over the world, most of them are in Washington D.C. or the surrounding area. D.C. is an expensive place to live, and so before even applying to the job, thoughtful consideration should be made to determine if living there is realistic or right for you. Before the pandemic I would say that it was much harder for candidates outside of the DC region to be hired. Our interviews used to be conducted in person with the occasional candidate given a telephone interview. Now all our interviews are virtual, so it makes it much easier. Most of the candidates that apply for the positions where I have been on the interview panel or lead the panel have been in the DC area. I think it’s because of the wide pool of librarians in this area. There are a ton of libraries in the DC area, not just federal libraries, so we get a lot of locals who apply and are qualified. We have offered to people outside the DC area, but we usually get turned down. I don’t know if it’s because of the high cost of living or they just decide not to move, but it has happened. This may have led to a bias against those applying from other areas of the country, but I have made sure to check any bias I may have and evaluate each candidate no matter their location. As for relocation expenses, rarely will you find a government library position that will pay for relocation expenses. The overseas positions yes, that’s expected, but if the job is in the U.S., they will likely not pay for relocation. Positions that will pay for relocation will always state that in the job posting on USA Jobs. The salary for all federal jobs is also posted publicly. Assume if you are offered you will start at the GS level for which you applied at Step 1. You should always look at the locality pay, for example there is an almost $15,000 difference between what someone who is a GS-9 step 1 in Cincinnati makes vs someone in DC. DC will pay more, but it costs more to live here. There is a lot of information on the internet about relocating to D.C. and that is what I would recommend to any candidate interested in relocating here.

Julie Todaro, Dean, Retired :

Any tips for out-of-area applicants? The world of work has changed for out-of-area applicants for so many – given possible online interviewing modes and methods – who can now review a broader range of applicants who might not have been able to travel for the hiring process for whatever reason. In fact, in today’s hiring processes, parts of the process can move more quickly reducing the opportunities for things like advanced travel timelines for reduced fares, allowing for multiple vetting of applicants by more within the organization and applicants can now have multiple opportunities to illustrate their competitiveness! With that said the geographic location of an applicant does not matter to many organizations at all – and – in fact many employers realize their pool is enriched if distances offer:

  • applicants with unique experience or experience and knowledge of different clientele,
  • an applicant pool who has had different educational experience (from programs with different curriculum), or,
  • an enriched workforce with a broader representation of applicants.

With this in mind, applicants might want to:

  • state upfront why they might be different from existing employees,
  • identify specific things they might add to an organization such as a different curriculum in their educational qualification or unique experience in organizations or with specific patrons (as identified in the community by the applicant such as a large deaf population and an applicant’s experience with ASL services, etc.),
  • state they will be “in the area” and can interview in person (if it has been determined that the organization can’t pay or pay much for applicant travel), and, 
  • include in their application/additional letter of interest their proficiency (if they don’t do this already) in online communication as well as the list of software programs and packages they can use/have access to.

Bonus questions: Does your workplace offer to cover any aspect of moving costs? My first thought was to say – “no they did not, for any level.” Given how they operated; however, they might have covered some higher-level applicant costs. When reviewing other HR in other organizations; however, I frequently see the successful applicant being offered a sum of money “not to exceed x amount.” And although funding is still awarded when receipts are presented (in most non-profit or not-for-profit settings) – with that approach the applicant can then choose how they want to spend their relocation funding, etc. 

What kinds of things should candidates from out-of-the-area ask about/pay attention to in making their decision to move for a new job? (Note: In my answer I am not including anything about the job, only about the area.) This list gets longer all of the time but includes – at the very least – cost of living reviewed in terms of “rings” or distance from the position such as within x miles, or within x miles, etc.; work opportunities for others who might be relocating with them; housing costs (rental/sale/build); transportation issues/costs (do they need to buy a car? sell their car? do they want to ride their bicycle?); what their “dollar” is worth in the new setting; health issues such as benefits support for general or specific conditions including no specialists, no hospitals, etc.; area “values” such as commitment to EDI, sustainability? i.e. social justice? political climate?; travel to and from that is, if an applicant likes to travel on their off time but it takes a great deal of time to “get to” the work/living location; or social opportunities given the applicants status such as no single people? or they don’t “see themselves” in the community? or they don’t feel their lifestyle is welcome in the community. And finally, the presence or absence of their leisure activity interests such as they are birders and there are no birding areas to explore…they love to ski and they are miles from water or snow! or they are avid gardeners or conservationists, and it is not possible to grow anything.

By the way, if you’re a job hunter I have a new survey for you! Will you please fill it out?

If you’re someone who hires LIS workers, the current survey is still open. There’s also a mini survey on cover letters.

And if you’re in either or neither of the above categories but you have your own personal professional website, here’s a survey for you!

Other ways to share your thoughts:

If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.


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Further Questions: Do you think it is possible for applicants to be too qualified to succeed in a position?

Each week (or every other week) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question(s) are:

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

Donna wears glasses and a red t-shirt. She is feeding a bottle to a kangaroo wrapped in a grey blanket.

Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library:

Can applicants be too qualified to succeed in a position? Yes and no. Yes, if they think they are “too good” to be doing this “low level” job. No, if they come into the position with an attitude of doing whatever is needed. Just recently I hired my 4th part-time person (myself and 1 other staff are the only full-time people.) This person was formerly a youth services librarian and a library director (at a library bigger than mine.) I am thrilled to have his expertise and experience to help me with programming, especially with the teens. His attitude is one of doing whatever is needed – nothing is “beneath him.”

Celia is running across the finish line of the Clarence Demar Half Marathon

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: Over-qualification is a tricky issue. Given the job market it is understandable that, for many (most?) people, having a job is better than not. Even one for which they are over-qualified. It is often pretty easy to see that in an application. I have hired individuals with an MLS in hand several times for positions that do not require more than a high school diploma, AA degree, or BA (ILL coordinator, Access Services Manager). When a high school diploma is the minimum requirement and an applicant has a higher degree I don’t usually think of that as an over-qualification, particularly if they don’t have any experience doing the work. When they have been doing similar work, had more authority and/or responsibility, or clearly have more advanced skills I know they may find the job less than satisfying. And they may be hoping, and still searching, to find a job that better matches their credentials even after they are hired.

But – I shifted my thinking about this a number of years ago and accept that an individual’s motivation for seeking employment is not my business. I certainly want to know why the job they applied for interests them. But I never ask why they would take a job they seem over-qualified for or whether they might be bored in the job. I assume anyone applying for, and accepting, a position will work hard at it to do well.

The challenge, of course, is that an individual in a position that does not challenge them or use their range of skills will result in their leaving. And these days turnover is always a scary proposition for those of us who have to jump through hoops just to get existing positions filled (not to mention time-consuming). But this happens all the time anyway – people find a job that pays more, is closer to home, has better hours. If a staff member with a MLS working in an hourly benefitted position finds a job that acknowledges and compensates them as a librarian then I am glad we were able to help them get there. And sometimes they stay even when I know they are not using their degree fully. And as long as they are doing good work, and seem happy, I can ask where they see themselves in five years, or how I could help them think about options, but the choice to stay or leave is theirs.

To be honest, the biggest challenge is often advertising an entry-level position for staff or library faculty that does not require any prior experience and getting applicants who have experience at the specific job which often pushes really early-career applicants out. The experienced applicants are not really over-qualified (unless we say their experience over qualifies them which doesn’t make a lot of sense). But the entry-level applicant with little or no experience isn’t under-qualified. And we want to bring new librarians and staff into the profession. I think this is an issue that many of our newer colleagues are grappling with.

Brandon Fitzgerald, Deputy Director, LAC Federal: My short answer to your question is that I try not to rule out candidates for being overqualified before I have an opportunity to speak with them. Everyone has different life circumstances, interests, and goals that led them to apply. Maybe they want to get their foot in the door with my company or a particular library we support. Perhaps they heard from someone in their network something about our company culture that they value. Or they might know how we like to promote from within and are interested in growing with our company. You can’t glean any of that from a resume. If I were applying for a job I felt overqualified for but had my reasons, I would definitely address that in a cover letter to ensure I’d be given proper consideration.

Headshot of Jimmie Epling, who wears a suit and glasses and smiles into the camera

Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: When hiring for a position we often encounter an applicant who appears to be over qualified for a job. The first impulse of many is to pass on the candidate because in their mind that person “is over qualified and we should not be hired because (insert a favorite excuse).” My belief is not considering a candidate on the grounds the person is over qualified is either shortsighted, discriminatory, or both.

Why might it be shortsighted? This person is interested in the position you have to offer and offers a set of skills needed for the job. What is the logic of hiring someone who doesn’t have the skills and must be trained to do the job? Someone who appears over qualified will very likely be able to learn and perform the job duties required without a lot of training…read “short learning curve.” This staff member will reach the performance level you need soon than someone just meets the job qualifications when hired, saving you staff time and money.

An assumption often made for not hiring someone who is “over qualified” is that person “will not be with you long.” True, this person may be with you only a few months or a year, but the time they are with you may very well be worth it! Hiring an over qualified candidate can provide your library with talents and expertise that even for a short time are invaluable. I’ve often thought, “give me a talented and motivated employee for a year because that person will do more for my library than one who is average will for five years.”

Lastly, not considering someone for a position due to the candidate being, in your view as an employer, “over qualified” is a form of discrimination. As an employer, you have posted the minimum qualifications which the candidate clearly meets. Not interviewing the candidate means you have made a judgement call based on speculation of the individual’s motivations for applying for your open position, not the individual’s qualifications. There are legitimate reasons a person who is over qualified is applying for your open position. You may be able to determine the reasons the person wants the job during the interview. To not offer a candidate with the required qualifications for your job an interview is discriminatory as you are using subjective hiring criteria.

The bottom line is saying a candidate is “over qualified” is a subjective judgement in the eye of the beholder, the employer. Passing on a candidate who appears over qualified is to risk losing a great employee.

Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor: I don’t think it is possible to be “too qualified”, but as a hiring manager or someone on a hiring committee, I want to know that the applicant who may appear “overqualified” really understands the duties of the job they are actually applying for, and that this position is what they are really interested in.

My concerns would include: the person would be unhappy with the responsibilities and maybe with the pay, would be taking this job only out of desperation, and/or would be looking to get something “better” elsewhere asap. Or they might be used to being in charge and will still behave that way, in a role where that is not appropriate.

I’d look for this to be addressed in the cover letter, perhaps with the applicant saying something like, “In the recent past my position was one of upper administration; I did that for years and was successful at it and enjoyed it. After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve decided that a position where I can contribute strongly as a team member without the leadership component is what I prefer now.” It is always better for an applicant to convey that their reason for making a change is moving towards something they want, rather than running away from something they don’t want (like the challenges of supervising others, for example). Another reason could be that the applicant wants a healthy work-life balance, but that has to be conveyed with a realistic understanding of what the work-life balance at the new job will be, and without bashing a current or former employer.

The pros of an “overqualified” applicant can be that they may require less training and may already have many desirable skills and years of experience that other applicants don’t yet have. The cons could be: dissatisfaction with the position and a bad fit due to comparison with their former duties, pay, position in a hierarchy, power and control, autonomy, etc.

Thoughtful questions during the interview, that assess how well the applicant understands what the job really entails, should be asked, to determine if they will be happy and comfortable and productive in that specific role.

Headshot of Alan Smith, who wears glasses, a tie and suspenders

Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: I don’t believe I’ve ever rejected an application solely because of overqualification, though it’s possible other employers may do this, especially those who get a huge volume of applications. I have interviewed lots of “overqualified” candidates, hired some, and chosen not to hire others, and it really comes down to the context the candidate provides. 

(Side note: at risk of being pedantic, I don’t like the term “overqualified.” I think of it like the word “unique” — there aren’t varying degrees of unique; something is either unique or not unique, and a job applicant is either qualified or unqualified. In what other context would someone reject something for being too good or too much like what they wanted? Some employers may fear that a candidate who isn’t able to use their full skill set, one they built over a long period of time at great expense, might be dissatisfied with the work or would leave the position quickly. But I also suspect some employers reject “overqualified” candidates because they are intimidated or unsure how to supervise someone with more knowledge or experience.)  

Back to that context: If you are the extremely qualified candidate, just explain why you want this position specifically. Prefer the schedule flexibility of a part-time position? Want fewer responsibilities and a better work/life balance? Trying to gain experience in another area of operations? I’ve hired staff who gave each of those reasons and they all worked out well. 

On the other hand, I’ve rejected highly qualified candidates who seemed to think their experience meant they had nothing to learn, or would automatically perform better than other employees in the department. For example, we once interviewed the former Director of a sizable library system for a paraprofessional circulation position. When asked why they wanted the position, their answer was along the lines of, “I can do these duties twice as well as anyone else, and in half the time. Frankly I should be doing your job.” Maybe that was true! But if they say that to the Director in an interview, I can only imagine how they would treat their coworkers. 

To answer the original question, though, I don’t think it’s possible for candidates to be too qualified to succeed in a position per se. However, an extremely qualified candidate may not succeed in a position because they feel simpler tasks are worth less effort, are dissatisfied with the work, or are trying to meet the standards of the position they used to hold, or trained for, rather than the one they have. 

Julie Todaro, Dean, Retired:

Do you think it is possible for applicants to be too qualified to succeed in a position? 

Although both applicants and employers have many things to consider in the hiring process, a great deal of care should be taken when qualifications are considered. This includes employers needing to be very careful in:

  • Getting clarification on whether or not the organization’s qualifications are measurable for assessing applicants, and if not, instructions on how to assess applicant hard-to-measure qualifications,
  • Which qualification categories are being considered? (ex. HR guidelines – as we know – typically include specifics such as:)
    • one or more specific degree(s) or professional designation(s) or certification(s),
    • specific industry knowledge such as proficiency with hardware or software products,
    • the number of years of experience – in general or in specific institutions or with age levels, etc. unique materials or other areas of the profession,

                and the more typical – no matter the level or type of position –

  • skills and abilities to perform tasks such as lifting, pushing loaded carts of materials, etc.
  • Creating a rubric for identifying/measuring quantifiable qualifications and determining presence of non-quantifiable elements/areas (ex. concepts such as time management, multi-tasking, teamwork, decision making and commonly used attributes such as taking initiative, commitment to continuous learning, flexibility, optimism, valuing critical elements of society or the profession),
  • Choosing required vs. preferred qualifications needed for a position,
  • Determining the latitude in making decisions such as substitutions for experience? education? etc., ranges in categories such as a range of years or presence and placement in an educational program (enrolled in …candidacy status for PhDs),
  • Assessing educational or training curriculum present in entities providing preferred or required qualifications (ex. is the graduate school granting their degree presenting contemporary curriculum?)
  • Determining terminology (ex. only specific credentialling, experience and what ‘experience’ means such as the meaning of post graduate work, etc.)

And just like employers, applicants need to be careful in matching their education, training, background, etc. to the organization’s identified areas and in providing honest representations of what IS and ISN’T present.

Giving the many issues surrounding current hiring practices – qualification issues might also 


  • Who determines if an applicant possesses the qualifications as stated; and,
  • The question at hand – the “over” qualification of an applicant.

Beyond the determining of what you need and who has what if an organization does have latitude to hire someone with more qualifications that advertised or needed employers should take great care to:

  • explain the position to applicants – specifically what the person is supposed to do and NOT supposed to do,
  • identify compensation issues and if they affect the salary placement,
  • share other benefits of the position at hand such as access to travel funding, personal technology,
  • be clear about opportunities for advancement that is:
    • can someone in a position “transfer” to another? be promoted? or must they apply and compete for other positions that their qualifications more closely match?

Final recommendations

In my last institution, rejecting someone from an applicant pool because they were “overqualified” was not allowed. This meant that applicants applying for positions with the thought of getting their foot in the door and bypassing our processes had to have the situation very carefully explained to them. I must add; however, that when we did end up doing this – against my better judgement – I might add – it failed twice – once with the employee being clearly told – becoming unhappy they weren’t “using their degree” and “applying” for a position or title change and ultimately leaving unhappily after – frankly – doing a mediocre job at the job they were originally hired to do. In the second event, an employee would literally NOT stop doing other people’s work – again – work they felt they were qualified to do even though it isn’t why they were hired. In that case, the employee was let go – again, because they could not accept the fact that this process applied to them.

I should also add that there is an additional category – and that is an employee who completes a qualification during their employment and then – upon completion – being qualified for another position, but – again – not being able to automatically “move into another position.” Even with careful explanations, it worked FOR the employee on one instance and against the employee in another. In the first, they followed our recommendations, keep within their original job, applied for the other position and was awarded that position. In the second instance, they appeared to disdain their current position as they increased their qualifications and not only did other work – as the earlier example, they did not do the work they were hired for. In that instance the person left before they were let go for poor performance.  

So, with the burden on employers to make it clear and an equal burden on the employee to follow processes, all employers want to assist employees in advancing along a career path. If an organization wants to be clear, written continuing education pathways with clear explanations of the benefits of existing qualifications and increasing educational, attribute and competency attainment are an important part of the infrastructure of an organization committed to employee growth and continuous improvement practices that include increasing experience and education. 

NOTE: Because no one knows what really makes up a professional position until they have the specific professional experience and/or credential, there are a number of people who will apply saying “they know they can do the job” or “they used the library a great deal in getting their credential” and they just know they can now be successful in the position, no matter if they have the credential or not. A longer list of overqualified applicants might include those who are:

  • simply looking for any job and can’t get one in their field,
  • are burned out in their field and are seeking an entry level position only,
  • looking for an opportunity to change positions but are seeking a position that will help them gather information about another area and thus want a lower level or “any” job,
  • want to get into an organization by volunteering (and the organization allows that), and we have those who are admitting they “don’t want to work as hard” as their original qualification required in a position and they want a position that doesn’t extend – for example – beyond a more classic workday and they know they are overqualified, etc.

My same thoughts as stated above exist for these reasons as well – think carefully about hiring anyone who isn’t – in some way – committed to your patrons, their services and resources, the organization and their peers/the workforce. We aren’t in business to help someone else only find themselves, and although that sounds callous, people may well be applying for positions because of any of the five areas above, but they shouldn’t and don’t need to share that with the hiring manager. Employers must realize that if applicants express these reasons and you DO hire them, you are culpable in possible behaviors – because “you knew it when you hired them.” Obviously, managers should focus their time on the MANY applicants who are committed to their work and will be an asset to the organization. 

By the way, if you’re a job hunter I have a new survey for you! Will you please fill it out?

If you’re someone who hires LIS workers, the current survey is still open.

Other ways to share your thoughts:

If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Leave a comment

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Further Questions: Do you have any tips for internal candidates? 

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question(s) are:

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?

Anonymous: My initial response is, where to begin?  It has been a long time and, frankly, I am still not over it. Being an internal candidate can be fraught and there are a lot of things that come into play that you don’t really have a lot of control over. Your colleagues have formed opinions about you and your work. They may have seen that time you acted human. They have probably seen you grow. They also may have some biases about all of it. Other candidates come in with a clean slate.

It is important for colleagues to attend your interview and presentation sessions, especially the people who think you should get the job. Some may think you will get the job and skip this part of the process but, that means that if they submit feedback saying they think you will be good, it is entirely possible that their experience from working with you for years will be dismissed because they didn’t see how well you performed in the interview process.

Years of being a hard worker and good colleague can be dismissed much more easily than one would expect.

Own it. You want to position? Tell people. Encourage them to support you by coming to your interview sessions. Tell them how amazing you are and will be. Of course, you think they already know but, now is not the time for letting your work stand for itself. It is time for you to stand for you. This is your chance. What do you have to lose? You keep doing what you have been doing? You find something better somewhere else?

I thought my years of service was enough. I thought I had strong relationships with my colleagues. I also thought that for an entry level position, there would be training, I couldn’t be expected to know things I had not been trained in. One mistake I learned was, as someone who is pretty easy going and can roll with things, I didn’t have a lot of questions. I knew what I thought I needed to know. I knew who to ask if anything came up in the future but, I felt like I knew what I was getting into. I have since learned that you have to ask questions. I thought if I asked questions, I would look like I didn’t know how to find that information and, it seemed weird to ask what they were looking for in the position, what was expected, what kind of timeframe, etc., because I felt like I knew all of those things. I was doing much of the work. But, the whole thing is weird. Try to find things that you do want to know or have clarification on. Will there be funding for professional development and, hearing directly what others are expecting isn’t a bad idea.

Someone else was hired. Someone who would be my supervisor.

I chalked it up to a huge learning experience and started quietly looking for another job while putting forth my best effort to be collegial. I thought I would work well with others and move along. But, things after the interview actually got worse.

The department head told my new supervisor that I had applied for the position they just accepted and they didn’t think I would “make trouble” but just wanted to make sure they were aware of that potential. Then the department head told me what she had said. For the next year, I experienced a lot of what was called “object lessons” in which I was reminded in a demeaning way, one-on-one or in departmental meetings about how I didn’t get the job.

There was also an active push to “put me in my place” conducted jointly by the department head and my new supervisor. It was hard not to take it personally. It was certainly a blow to my self-esteem on a pretty regular basis.

My new supervisor refused to acknowledge me. I was accustomed to working very closely with this position but they would go out of their way to not interact with me.

I went from feeling like a model employee and someone everyone would want to work with to being suspect.

I encourage you, throughout the process and no matter the outcome, stand up for yourself. Make the best of the situation until you can move up and out – if it turns toxic, try to get out as soon as possible.

One of my biggest regrets of that whole time was not speaking up and not standing up for myself.

When the department head and my supervisor called a special meeting to admonish me for changing my time off for sick leave twice in one week and telling me the next time it happened they would write me up, I wish I had just told the truth: “My dental hygienist got sick. They moved my appointment to another one and she had to audacity to go into labor the day I was supposed to get my teeth cleaned so that appointment had to be rescheduled.”

Instead, I just quietly renewed my vow to find a new job.

One last bit of advice – have a colleague who knows their stuff and has served on hiring committees read your cover letter and resume and offer edits. Ask about the process. As a staff person, I had no idea what was involved in the interview process for librarians because we were excluded from much of it. Additionally, my whole life I had been told that cover sheets should be straight to the point and just have high level information. Your resume is where you demonstrate your knowledge and experience. That may be true in other industries but it is not in libraryland. We are out here combing through cover letters, working through our matrix to make sure you say in a narrative format that you can do all of the things being asked for in the job ad and speak about it with passion, eloquence, and an awareness of current trends and pitfalls. (So, we end up with 3 page cover letters that try to hit every single element because, “that’s how it’s always been done”).

Larry Eames, Instruction Librarian, Kraemer Family Library (soon to be Digital Curation and Scholarship Librarian), University of Colorado Colorado Springs:

Having recently been an internal candidate, my advice is don’t assume your colleagues know everything about you. Especially in other departments, people may know what you do vaguely, but don’t be afraid to say things that feel redundant. Also it’s going to be weird to talk about group work that you had a role in in the library. Just prepare yourself for that.

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: One piece of advice which is also, I think, a pitfall to avoid is the urge most internal candidates probably have to find out who the other candidates are. It is helpful for search committee chairs or supervisors to provide space for internal candidates to be away from work on the days other candidates are making site visits if they are happing in person. This really benefits everyone involved, and especially the candidates.

Be sure to treat the process as if you were an external candidate to some degree – update your CV/resume, and if asked for a cover letter write it as if you were applying for a position at a different institution. Read the job ad carefully and prepare. If the job you are seeking adds leadership, management, and/or supervision to your work spend some time thinking about how you will help the search committee and other participating in the process begin see how you would approach this new role. As much as being an internal candidate means you are more familiar, it also means current colleagues may need to be intentional about thinking of you in new ways. The virtual/in person experience is where you can refer to people or projects that you know your colleagues are probably familiar with and that may give you an advantage but also means your colleagues also know a lot more about your work than they will of the other candidates.

I also suggest being thoughtful about references and, if you are able, ask at least one person outside your institution to be on that list.

One last piece of advice – if you feel comfortable, it could be helpful to inquire about whether your application is appropriate. I think this is probably more important if you are thinking of applying for a leadership position like director, dean, associate dean, etc. If the Provost or other senior administrator recommends against it there could be a lot of reasons, and there might not be anything stopping you. But you may want to consider whether it’s worth the time and mental energy.

Anonymous: Of all the job searches I have been involved with, both as a candidate and on the search committee, an internal candidate is the trickiest and without clear communication, can easily turn into a dumpster fire floating down a flooded street.

If you are on the search committee, you are playing with a grenade with the pin pulled out. If you don’t hand it carefully and with clear communication, you could have a HR and PR disaster on your hands. Of the dozen or so I’ve been a part of, the search committee, even if it won’t explicitly say so, has already made up its mind from their prior experience working with the candidate. They are either the heir apparent and the search is for show…thus pissing off the candidates that wasted their time applying…or they have decided that there is no way on God’s green earth that they will hire the internal candidate but nobody has the guts to say so. So, the poor schmuck spends the time feeling like they are on the 50-yard line of the stadium with a spotlight on them being judged during the search process. Sadly, even if they don’t know it, they have already been judged.

In either case, there are going to be poisonous feelings from either the outside candidates who had no chance or the internal candidate who had no chance.

So how do you know if you are the internal candidate that has a chance or no chance? You don’t until you apply unless you are really good at reading tea leaves. Because of employment law and policy, nobody is going to run the risk of a complaint or lawsuit to be honest about one’s chances. It is similar to what political scientists say about incumbent political candidates. If you start the election cycle under 50% in the polls, you are in trouble. Most everybody feels they know what they need to know about the candidate. Disastrous results that I have witnessed were failed internal candidates who made it their life’s mission to sabotage the outside candidate who got the job. This includes a small-town public library where the rejected internal candidate recruited their friends in town to harass the library board and ghosted the successful candidate’s social media accounts to prove that they were not a good political fit for the town. All before the successful candidate’s first day on the job.

I’m not surprised that there is little response to this question because I have yet to meet anybody who felt at ease with this process. We just have to be honest that it is a nasty minefield.

My only tip for candidates and search committees is empathy, empathy, empathy. Both are in impossible situations. Search committees in particular need to understand that the reputation of their institution and library are at stake. I was a stalking horse candidate for a well-regarded private college that was going to go with their internal candidate no matter what. After a horrible trip for an on-campus interview that involved tornados, blizzards, and cancelled flights…none of which the college helped me with…the flush letter that informed me that it was going with the internal candidate beat me home. They weren’t even trying to be artful about it. I had fulfilled a policy requirement.

Needless to say, that well-regarded bit disappeared when I opened the letter. I have also not been bashful when other people asked me if they should apply to this school with a resounding, “HELL, NO!”

Treat candidates like they are respectable professionals, not like a disposable asset that checked off a list requirement.

Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Put your best foot forward and apply for the job with the best possible letter of application that you can. Don’t assume that your colleagues know about all of your projects and skills and how they fit the job you’re applying for. Spell it out just like we would expect anyone to do. If you interview, don’t make it weird for your colleagues. They obviously know you, so you can’t act like they don’t. One thing I’ve been told by HR is that, when an internal candidate interviews for a job, we use everything we know about that person, good or bad. Make sure you can choose people who aren’t on the search committee to be your references. The people on the search will already be able to have input. Don’t expect preferential treatment, but do expect to be treated like all of the other candidates. 

Jess Herzog, Director of Adult Services, Spartanburg County Public Libraries: My organization does a lot of internal hiring, and hands down the most important advice that I can give is to avoid acting like you already have the job. Act like you’re an external candidate and put your best foot forward. I’ve had to skip over internal applicants because they didn’t put in the work: no research into programming we were offering, no new ideas, sometimes even concerning answers about customer service questions. All the same questions still apply to internal applicants, and I sometimes am even more analytical with internals because I’ve had the opportunity to get to know them, either in person or through other colleagues and what they have to say. The interview is a time to address both successes and failures, and with internals, I expect to hear some reflection on the work they’re doing in the library. I expect to hear really specific reasons why they want to be in this role or in my department, because they have an idea from the inside what working here is like. The successful internal movement that I’ve facilitated is because those employees prove in the interview that their interest is enthusiastic, work is valuable, their ability to plan and implement is successful, and their knowledge is specific to our department’s role.

Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System:  There are two tips I can offer internal candidates.

Internal candidates need to be proficient and excel at their current job with their library. Internal candidates have a readily available work record and coworkers as references. Poor performance or attitude in a current job does not bode well for a candidates potential in another job within their library.

It is very important that internal candidates who do not get the job they want to not become resentful or disgruntled. Internal candidates who “quietly quit” on the job are not going to be considered favorably for any future job by management. It is sometimes difficult to accept not getting a job, but do not let that be reflected in future performance or attitude as it will be noticed. It is a measure of internal candidates’ character how they face disappointment and act in the future.

Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: Applying for a job as an internal candidate is easier in some ways but more challenging than others. The advantages are that you are familiar with the organizational culture and priorities, you probably personally know the interviewers, and since you’re still an employee, your job performance is at least adequate. 

On the other hand, that familiarity goes both ways. The hiring committee knows much more about your work experience than they would with an external candidate, so minor things that may not come up in an external candidate’s reference check would be considered. An internal candidate also faces higher expectations in regards to knowledge of the library. For example, in interviews we sometimes ask some version of, “what would you say to a patron who says a certain book is inappropriate for the collection?” With an external candidate, we’re looking for a thoughtful answer. An internal candidate should give a thoughtful answer, too, but also indicate familiarity with our Collection Development policy and our Request for Reconsideration form. 

There are a few pitfalls to avoid. Probably the most common is taking it for granted that the hiring committee will assume you have certain skills and experience. For example, everyone in the library may use Microsoft Office every day, but when they ask about work technology experience in the interview, still mention that you’ve made flyers in Publisher and book order lists in Excel, etc. 

Another pitfall is focusing heavily on successes in your current position, without giving a good sense of what you would bring to the new position. If you are in Reference and want to move to Cataloging, don’t just tell us how great you are at Reference; tell us how the skills you picked up in Reference will make you a great Cataloger. Of course, this requires being very familiar with the new position, so talking to someone else in the new department beforehand can be very helpful. Finally, this may not need to be said, but do tell your current supervisor that you’re applying for another position internally. They will definitely find out anyway, and it doesn’t help your candidacy if they find out from the other position’s hiring manager instead of you. 

All that said, our library generally tries to promote from within whenever possible, and internal candidates have several advantages. 

By the way, if you’re a job hunter I have a new survey for you! Will you please fill it out?

If you’re someone who hires LIS workers, the current survey is still open.

Other ways to share your thoughts:

If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Why is it Taking So Long?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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? At what point in time (if any) should a candidate contact your organization to check the status of an application?

Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: We generally allow a month from the time that we advertise until we sit down as a committee to review applications. There is usually a date by which your application will receive full consideration, so don’t expect to hear before then. We do a full review of applications as a committee, and that usually will take place the week after the closing date. Once we agree on candidates for first round interviews, we put our calendars together to determine when we can interview people in a given week. Depending on schedules, holidays, etc., that could be a week or two in advance. We then contact candidates for that first round and make sure we have questions written for that round of interviews. We conduct those interviews, then meet shortly after that to decide on candidates for the next round. In the case of our most recent search, we had to re-advertise nationally and it got held up, so that meant that we could only notify candidates before the holidays that we would be inviting them for a second round. At that point, we and the dean have to agree on our availability for the second round because those interviews are essentially all day. That may be a week or two in advance, especially since the person will be asked to do a presentation and we want to give them time. In our current process, we are then inviting our top choice to campus so we can meet each other face to face before anyone has to make a final decision. That will depend on availability for travel. So, all told, it could take 3 months or so from start to finish. We’ve done it more quickly over the summer, on a very tight timeline, but the longer timeline is more likely during the school year. With faculty hires, the new hire then has to provide transcripts, written references, and the contract has to be prepared. Academia moves slowly…

Anonymous Federal Librarian: The federal hiring process can be incredibly frustrating and confusing. Most government agencies post their open positions on USA Jobs. Most postings are open for two weeks. It’s after that, where everything gets chaotic with no set timelines. In a perfect process, the job gets posted for two weeks and then closes. A week after that, the hiring manager will get a list of candidates and resumes that have been certified. If a candidate has been certified, they will get a notice from USA Jobs that says they have been referred to the hiring manager.  In my agency, I have about three weeks review resumes with the hiring panel, decide who to interview, complete the interviews, conduct reference checks, and submit my ranked list of candidates.  HR within a week will usually certify my ranked list. Then within a week after that, they will notify the top choice candidate. The top choice will usually have 48 hours to decide. If they decline HR will reach out to the second-choice candidate until there are no candidates left on the hiring list. So, if I submit a list with two names and both turn it down, I either must wait to repost the position, or I can go back and select a candidate that I didn’t rank. Candidates not selected in theory should be notified within a month of the interview that they were not selected, as their status will change in USA Jobs.  That is what is supposed to happen, however that is almost never the reality. I have applied for positions and been notified that I made the certification list and not received an interview, and my status doesn’t change. I have applied for positions where I either turned down the position, withdrew from consideration, or was not selected where my status never changed. I have applied for positions, known who got the job and my status on USA Jobs still says reviewing applications. When I go into my profile in USA Jobs the job I’m currently in and have been for almost two years still lists as “reviewing applications.” A little digging shows I got the job. Yay! In my last hiring action, I was given the cert lists (depending on how the position was posted we may get more than one) and all the candidates turned down the interview on one of the lists. I went back to HR to get more candidates, only to find out the candidates that ended up on that second cert list had their status change in USA Jobs from “not qualified” to “sent to hiring manager” . I blame that on a totally incompetent HR person. I have also applied for multiple government jobs where I didn’t hear anything for months and then after I had accepted another position, the hiring manager reached out to me for an interview. One thing of note is that if you do get an interview and then don’t hear anything, as a hiring manager we aren’t allowed to talk to the candidates about anything regarding the hiring process. The hiring manager isn’t being mean, we are just not allowed to discuss it.  There is an HR contact on each posting and all communication goes to them. If the hiring manager replies at all, they will most likely direct you to the HR person.  It’s painful to me not to respond to candidates and I do want to talk to them, I am just not allowed. The bottom line is the federal hiring process is difficult, and painful, but people can make it through it.

Federal Hiring timeline in a perfect world:

Weeks 1-2 job open for applications

Week 3 candidates are certified and sent to the hiring manager

Weeks 4-6 Hiring manager and hiring panel review resumes, conduct interviews, conduct reference checks, and make a selection.

Week 7 HR reviews and certifies selection

Week 8 top choice candidate is notified.

Week 9 If ranked candidate accepts, they will go through the security clearance process or firm up a start date

Week 10 Candidates not selected will be notified in USA Jobs

Final note, the above timeline almost never happens.

Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: Our hiring process takes longer, and has more steps, than applicants may realize. I expect this is the case for a lot of public sector employers. All things considered, it can be almost a month from the time a position closes to the time a final job offer is made. This is our timeline:

  • Job posting closes: applications are routed to us by the county Human Resources department, which can take a couple of business days.
  • Applications reviewed and candidates contacted for interviews: this can take a week and sometimes more. We use a three-person interview panel, and try to do all the interviews in one block to simplify scheduling. We give the interview candidates a couple of business days to return calls or messages. 
  • Background and reference checks: leading candidates have a background check performed by HR. Sometimes this comes back within a day, but other times the agency has to review paper files and it can take a week or more. 
  • Drug test: the county-required drug test is scheduled only after the background check is returned. Similar to the background check, this can sometimes come back the next day, but can take up to a week depending on how busy the lab is. 
  • Start date: once all of those screenings are clear, we can officially offer the position and set a start date. New employees start every two weeks, and we have to send new hire paperwork to HR before the start date, so if it cuts too close (like getting the drug test results back on a Thursday or Friday before a Monday start date) we may have to push it back two weeks. 

Every once in a while everything aligns perfectly and a new employee starts as soon as I’d like them to. Most of the time, though, it takes longer than we’d like, and certainly longer than the applicants would like! We do tell interviewees that the process can take a while, and we only notify the other interviewees that they weren’t chosen once we have a final offer for someone. This is relevant when the first-choice applicant doesn’t work out and we move on to another candidate. For example, with our timeline above, you might interview on day 5 after the position closes. Another candidate may go through the background check and drug test, but then get a job offer somewhere else and decline our offer on day 20 after closing. We then start over with the next choice. By the time we get to a job offer with them, the other interviewees may have been waiting over a month to hear that they weren’t chosen. 

To be clear, I am not a huge fan of this process. Very often that second-choice interviewee is a great applicant who we want to encourage to re-apply for another position, and it can be demoralizing to wait that long only to be told you didn’t get the job. I know from my own job-hunting experience that the stress and anxiety of waiting for the phone to ring begins the moment the interview is over, even if you know the hiring agency has a long process to go through. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot we can do to speed it up since we are relying on multiple other departments and agencies. 

With all that in mind, it is totally fine for an interviewee to call or email a week (or whenever) after the interview and ask for an update. When that happens I try to be upfront about where we are in the process. On the other hand, if you applied but did not get an interview, there’s not much to gain by contacting us; all we can really say is “we are moving forward with other candidates.” 

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: Hiring stages on my campus include review of applications, phone interviews, campus interviews, reference calls, recommendation, offer. I have not done a faculty search since 2017 so I don’t know whether we are doing in person interviews or not. My most recent staff search included on-campus interviews but those are also local searches with little to no cost associated with them. Missing from this list is the prework of getting approval to fill the position, writing the ad, and putting a search committee together. Also missing is the time search committee members need to complete assessments in the search portal after each stage before moving to the next. How much time each phase takes really depends, these days, on how large the applicant pool is. A search with 50 candidates will take longer than one with 10. Ads that indicate a date when review of applications will begin are very helpful.

For a library faculty member I always hope the process won’t take more than about 8-10 weeks. Much of this depends on keeping the search committee on track and on the sheer challenge of scheduling people’s time for interviews (search committee members and candidates). Weather (I am looking out my office window at a foot of snow that fell yesterday) can definitely be factor up here in the northeast. Toward the end of the process making an offer, waiting to hear a response, and some negotiations may create delays if you are not the top candidate.

If I am chairing the search (which I do for staff but not faculty) then I always try to tell candidates about how long it should be before they hear something either from me or HR. I also encourage them to get in touch if they have questions. I think candidates should wait until the amount of time has elapsed that I indicated before getting back in touch, at least to ask about the status of the search. If you are not given some sense of when to expect to hear something, ask! I’d give it about two weeks at least after each stage before following up if you can. I also hope that most search committee chairs would be patient with candidates calling after two weeks to ask about status.

As an interesting twist, our university system HR is now offering to read and create a smaller first round pool of candidates, and to create questions and do the phone interviews. I declined the offer last fall when we searched for an ILL coordinator (hourly, benefitted, non-exempt staff position). I think part of the motivation for this is to keep searches on track, perhaps manage searches with large numbers of candidates, and ensure uniformity. I don’t know of anyone who has done this yet on my campus. HR is very helpful in handling communication with candidates who don’t progress at all in a search and for lots of other pieces of the process including onboarding. For now, I still like to read all the applications and manage as much of the process as possible.

Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library:

This is so out of my hands that I really don’t think I can answer!  I tell HR that I need a job posted, they post it and send me applications.  Then I interview and tell HR who I want.  Then HR does their background checks.  I follow up to make sure results have been received in a timely manner.  Usually, I make a decision very quickly after interviewing people.  So if they have been interviewed they should know within days that the job has been offered to them.  I don’t think we ever contact people who weren’t offered the job.  But I would say that if you haven’t heard in a couple of weeks to contact the HR department.

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, on Post at discarded on the median of the freeway. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: All About Internships

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question(s) are:

Do you expect that applicants with an MLIS should have completed an internship during their studies? What advantages do internships afford candidates? Does your own organization offer internships, and do your interns have a better chance of finding full time work with your organization? Should internships be included in the work experience section of a resume or CV, or somewhere else? Finally, please feel free to share any other thoughts you might have about internships, including any rants about unpaid work.  

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I think there is a perception that, without an internship, a librarian entering the workforce is at a disadvantage. I also that it depends. If you don’t have any experience working in a library, archives, etc., than an internship can be valuable in a number of ways. The experience can help you decide if this is really the type of work, or working environment, you expected it to and can see yourself in. You can also learn a lot that will help strengthen your resume as you job search. You can also make some professional connections and add a reference contact or two to your list. Of course a lot of this depends on things you may not be able to control. How committed is the internship host to giving you a really robust and meaningful experience that benefits you and the host institution? How much of the work you do goes beyond busywork and allows you really to gain experience and skills? How much mentoring is provided? It might be a good idea to try to connect with someone who had an internship at the same library and to ask for their feedback .

I also think it is important to consider whether (a) you are already working in a library, or (b) you have the time and financial means. If you work part-time and an internship would require you to stop doing that it might not be feasible. No one should feel they have to explain why they don’t have an internship on their cv. If you have had a lot of experience already (I had years of bookstore, public library, and academic library work experience) then it might be less important. That said, almost all applications I have seen in the past few years include internship experience so I think it is important to plan on trying to incorporate one if possible. It doesn’t matter a lot to me where that appears on a cv.

At my current institution we have had a number of interns working in our Archives. We are located not far from two library schools and our Head of Special Collections & Archives is contacted by them and asked to host interns. We put them to work digitizing collections and working, including sometimes participating in conference presentations or helping with primary source literacy classes. My archivist is exceptional when it comes to supporting interns in ways that are mutually beneficial. I know that I don’t have the time or staff to host an intern interested in any other area of academic librarianship, at least not if we really want to do a good job.

I acknowledge that we have really benefitted from the interns we have hosted. I also know that I will never be in a position to be able to provide financial compensation for interns which is, for me, problematic. Our interns have always been enthusiastic and engaged. They are great opportunities for students. And yet the issues around unpaid labor remain. I’m not sure how they will be resolved.

Anonymous Federal Librarian: For federal library positions I think internships could help a lot. To even get through the hiring process, usually there is a need to have done at least something in a library, otherwise the chances of making the list that goes to the hiring manager is slim. While it doesn’t have to be an internship, having experience in a work study situation at a library would help. Even volunteering in a library would set a candidate up to have a better chance at an entry level federal librarian job. There are several agencies that offer paid federal internships, but interns won’t have a better chance of finding full time work with the agency at the end, unless there is an opening.  There are also a couple of government wide programs for internships. The Pathways program allows a work study situation, where current students can’t work more than 20 hours a week while they are also in school. These positions are paid, and the agency is supposed to have a position for the student at the end. It’s always worth applying as library students rarely apply for the program. The other option is not an internship, but it’s an entry level way to get into the government for recent graduates with advanced degrees, and that is through the Presidential Management Fellows program. Once again, there is no guarantee that the candidate will find a placement as there are few library school graduates who apply, so agencies rarely look for candidates, but it’s another program where agencies should have a job available at the end. Any internship experience should absolutely be added to the work experience section of a CV or a resume. Even if it’s unpaid work, it’s still work and relevant to your career goals.

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

Do you expect that applicants with an MLIS should have completed an internship during their studies?

Advising for graduate studies should include discussions on what students are bringing to the master’s including – obviously: general interests and specialized interests but also; experience in libraries (type, what level, etc.); professional or other experience in other workplaces – related; professional or other experience in other workplaces – any/not related. These discussions lead to a student’s self awareness as well as provide the master’s advisors/faculty, etc. with the opportunity to discuss programs of study, required and elective courses, if possible – coursework in other graduate programs that transfer/count; review current position postings to see what employers want as well as work together with students to build a personal pathway through the degree.

Am I avoiding answering the question? Not really but kind of as the answer really is “it depends” but it should depend on the student and his or her assessment of where they are and what they want. Also, I should add that many programs already require internships based on not only faculty and student judgement but also based on state or federal guidelines – with an example being some states require school library certification include an internship, etc. In addition, I would argue that although the advising discussion asks a student to self-reflect, the graduate faculty member’s expertise should include commenting on whether or not the experience they have really DOES give them a real look at what a librarian will do in the workplace as well as the need for students to realize the diverse profession we really are – in that “experience is not experience is not experience” and many types of experiences – even in libraries – do NOT transfer with common knowledge or even awareness. And – of course –  most experiences do not have that all-important critical assessment of decisions, etc. that is so important in a professional’s education. 

I am most reminded of this often when I remember that we had an hourly/adjunct librarian who said they wanted to apply for one of our full time librarian jobs as she wanted to take an easier job where she could “just do reference.” My feelings about that lack of professionalism, (possible laziness?,) and that level of ignorance someone has about their surroundings aside – employees in a library literally may often NOT have an understanding about what other staff do as not everyone has to be or should be cross trained. 

What advantages do internships afford candidates? 

I am going to answer this question to include experiences/lessons learned in an internship, then advantages and drawbacks.

Internship Experiences/Lessons Learned

  • Internships might solidify someone’s commitment to a type of library or size of organization or staff role or – even more importantly – show someone this is NOT the job for them after all. 
  • Internships might provide a positive role model to emulate but also might illustrate the way someone doesn’t WANT to be in their job.
  • Internships often educate people on constituent groups they will serve – something classroom experience can NOT do and that is an invaluable lesson learned.
  • Internships can teach someone what they don’t know about libraries or the profession as well as give them an opportunity to showcase or build on what they do know.
  • Internships can provide direction not about the type or size or constituent group but can also lend information on when someone might take a position. I have heard people say …I want to do this, but not yet…maybe my second job after the master’s will include this level or type of work.

Internship Advantages/Disadvantages

  • Internships offer visibility in a system where a student may be seeking a position. AND – this might be an advantage or disadvantage, but typically an advantage.
  • Internships provide networking for a type of library or size of library, etc. which is clearly an advantage. So while the internship environment may not have a position, another – through a network – might.
  • Internships may offer the advantage of an in depth look at an area of the profession, but too much focus might then narrow perceptions by not providing the broad look at the chosen area – that is, someone may feel there is only the one way they learned in the internship.
  • Students challenged by location, timing, etc. should not narrow down their opportunities for work as many internships do NOT translate to other types of sizes of libraries or types of constituents.

Does your own organization offer internships?

We used to offer internships (or capstones, practicums or field experience, etc.) but no longer do. Why? It is hard work and should be treated as such as the host institution should put in just as much as the student does to fulfill their roles and responsibilities. We discontinued this when we were in the middle of building three libraries at one time and opening all three within one academic year. Managers – literally – could not do justice to a student and the experience-required student learning outcomes – much less complete their own work which was significantly expanded. 

We considered adding some experiences back in, but then hit a wall with the pandemic. And yes – the pandemic actually increased the need for virtual/digital internships but we just couldn’t make the daily changes we needed to make and monitor them as well as make sure – as much as is possible – the safety and security of our own, much less an outside student. We have added one back recently – primarily because the student came to us with something VERY specific they could do for us – with our direction – and it was too good an idea and offered too good a “product” for us to turn down. 

Do your interns have a better chance of finding full time work with your organization? 

We can – if someone is successful – pretty much guarantee that hourly work (19 hours per week or less) is available upon graduation as we hire a significant number of hourly librarians. And the bonus for us is that we are relatively sure they are looking for other work so they may not be here long BUT they have a significant amount of awareness with us already so less up-front training is a much easier hire for a briefer period of time!

Should internships be included in the work experience section of a resume or CV, or somewhere else? 

The answer here is – as above – it depends, but if someone identifies their work experience on their resume/CV as paid, unpaid (not volunteer) then it can be included. If – as in our case – our online forms do not make allowances for changing labels, then applicants should label the experience with the position, the location and then the status. Example “Reference Librarian – Intern” x Library, Spring 2022. 3 graduate credits and successful completion of 120 hours on site. Project: xxxxxx with a link to the project completed if at all possible. BE SURE; however, to

  • ask your internship host institution if the wording you use is appropriate (NOTE: nothing is worse than a Linked-In profile where someone has presented incorrect information and even worse – their description doesn’t match their resume nor would it match what they were told if the internship coordinator was contacted;)
  • use approved wording in a cover letter to highlight a particularly successful experience or product a prospective employer can view/link to; and,
  • use the internship coordinator/host institution to serve as a reference – especially if the applicant is a student who has no or very little work experience.

Finally, please feel free to share any other thoughts you might have about internships, including any rants about unpaid work.  

Although I laughed when I read this regarding the “rant,” the reality is if the host institution uses you as an “unpaid worker” it isn’t really an internship. That is, internships – by their definition – indicate a temporary time for training and learning – with on-the-job learning within the parameters of the organization. And while internship participants should have gradual introductions to the work…hopefully culminating with the student being able to work unaided….that student should still be observed at their work to be sure that constituents get what they need while the student gets the immediate feedback they need to make the experience meaningful within the abbreviating timing of the learning project/assignment. 

I feel compelled to add suggestions:

If someone is on a program of study which they feel may be too limiting to them by its type or size of institution or likelihood of openings OR because they might be restricted with no relocation OR their relocation is unknown but probable, one thing they might do is opt for a broader or – in some cases second internship (if they don’t have to have one or if the one they must have a specific/more narrowly defined one.) This broad or general one could be for “adult reference” which might translate to any type or size of library, project management or programming. They might also seek an internship that is generic but much desired – such as a grant-writing activity or mastery of a specific software or something desired and on the horizon such as migration of a system….this would allow the student to go beyond a specific area – such as technical services – to make sure they are more marketable. 

Finally, if there is only the option for the specific internship and it is required, students should request that the student learning objectives include a few more general ones such as “adult reference” or software or system migration to allow for exposure. Another option for the single internship being broader is the one where one travels among departments and instead of picking all departments – which is hardly reasonable given time, staff limitations, etc. the student could focus on two or three departments and visit and work in all OR pick a project that required that the student work with identified departments to not only gain experience but create something that spans the variety of things they need to be more available for that broader job search.

All-in-all I think all students should seek some master’s level activity that is going to put them working with practitioners before they complete their degree. It only enriches the knowledge base and the possibilities. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, on Post at, or sung along to some New Orleans jazz. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: When Should Library Students Start Applying?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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?

Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: The answer to this question is relative to your particular library and the local labor market!

Speaking from a public library perspective, especially a small or medium size library in a rural area, it was once rare to have a library school student apply for a job.  If your library is near a library school, you will have students applying for the position to get experience.  An applicant at a small or medium size library with any library training and/or experience was welcomed, with little attention paid to GPA or school. 

The brutal truth is a candidate’s GPA or the “status” of school’s program mean little beyond your first few months in a job.  What matters is the student’s creativity, flexibility, and resourcefulness once hired.  There are graduates from prestigious library schools who are at best an average employee.         

A boon to small and medium size libraries far from a library school has been distance education programs.  There are those who want to attend a library school, but cannot due to their personal and economic situations.  Distance education has made these programs affordable.  A small and medium size library will always be happy to hire a student in what might be thought of as a kind of “work study” arrangement.

Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Normally, I would say that someone shouldn’t apply until they are in their last semester. However, we have had someone apply and interview in the fall when they are graduating in May. If they are excellent candidates, we may be willing to wait. However, there is something in the back of our minds that this person may keep looking and we might lose them. That would be awful because it’s time-consuming and expensive to do a faculty search. I would say it can’t hurt to start applying. Academic searches take a long time, so you may as well start early. In general, we haven’t taken into consideration a particular school, although there are some schools where there are specialties that we’re interested in for particular positions. We never look at GPA. 

Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor: Usually, I advise students to start applying the semester before they graduate. The hiring process for academic library positions can often take longer than for other library jobs, so in that case, as long as they’d have the degree by the start date, I’d advise them to apply when they see the job posting. Students should make it very clear in their application documents when they expect to graduate.

I would interview students who did not yet have their degree, as long as they were well-qualified, had compelling, well-written application documents, and would have the MLS by the start date. “Too early” would be if the applicant would not yet have graduated by the start date.

As long as the school they are getting their MLS from is ALA-accredited, I don’t care which one they attend.

The GPA predicts academic success, not success in the workplace, so it shouldn’t factor into a hiring decision.

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I think part of the answer about when someone still working on their degree should start applying for jobs depends on a few factors. Does the job ad indicate when the position begins? Is it after you expect to complete your degree? If so, then apply! If not, does it entail changing locations and can you do that if you are still taking classes? And, if you can, do you think you can manage the stress of a new job along with the stress of keeping up with course work? Are there other factors, say for example, having a regular salary and benefits will allow you to manage stress levels so you can finish? So many questions!

I have interviewed candidates who were still in school, usually in the last semester (or the end of the penultimate semester). That’s primarily because we are used to having new library faculty join us in the summer, not mid-year. It might be worth contacting a hiring institution to ask about start date if you think that they will want someone to start before you are able or feel ready. We all know the hiring process can take a while so I’d advise against assuming you know when the start date is if it is not included in the ad.

All of that said, I think applying during the first year of graduate study is probably too early. But looking at ads starting the summer between or early fall of your final year is a good idea, especially for those academic positions that might not even start until the following summer. I usually see the GPA but don’t give it a lot of thought, and I don’t think it is necessary to mention it in a cover letter. Anyone completing the graduate program has met a set of assessment standards which meets my expectations. My interest in the library school is primarily these days about diversity. If you are located near a library school, or two, it is hard to get a pool of applicants with some diversity in the the type of library school education they received which I think is helpful.

Kellee Forkenbrock, Public Services Librarian, North Liberty Community Library: As a current MLIS student (University of Iowa ’23), I love to see students apply for our assistant positions. We hired several students and are able to manage their school schedules with our staffing needs. To that end, we don’t consider GPA or any academic factors in our hiring decisions. During the interview, we ask more pointed questions about their scholastic work and their post-graduate plans. This information gives us an idea as to how they can support library functions, providing g additional expertise that they can add to future resumes.  For us, hiring library students is a win-win.

Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: In general, it depends on the position, the estimated time until graduation, and on the other information in the candidate’s application. Ideally we would see some library work experience in addition to the partial degree. If a candidate had part of an MLS (or even a completed degree) but no library work experience, I would be very careful to make sure they understood what the position entailed, and the realities of working in a public library. 

On the other hand, having an employee currently in school can be very beneficial to the library! In school they are constantly collaborating with others and encountering new ideas about libraries. That can lead to improvements in services, creative ideas for programs, and other positive changes if the library gives the employee some flexibility and freedom.

As for the school attended and GPA, these are not hugely important factors as long as the program is accredited and the GPA is not alarmingly low. It would give me pause if transcripts showed low grades in some technical areas (for example, a Cataloger with low grades specifically in cataloging courses), but I have not been in that situation.

One caveat: students should also know that some employers have specific requirements about hiring professionals with incomplete degrees. For example, our county has a “trainee appointment” status for anyone hired who has not yet met the position’s education requirement. They have a set amount of time to finish the required degree (usually six months to a year) in order to stay in the position. If they do not complete the degree in that time, they could be demoted or out of the job altogether. Just something to keep in mind.

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College:

When Should Library Students Start Applying?

I have a few categories for this answer.

For those working in an organization where they hope to continue to work but as a librarian – you should work with your institution to determine what ARE the next steps or what is the career mobility and how can you plan your graduate degree accordingly. That is, a library may allow you to plan for an internship in their space but at another location OR they may have projects they would LOVE to see – tackled in your class time – that would benefit them…this has you communicating to those in charge that you are making great strides to your ultimate career goal which – you hope – will lead to continuing to work but at a different level. These early discussions allow you to ask when CAN you apply? if that is the process so that you can declare as early as possible.

For those with a goal of working where you are not currently working...asking formally when they take applications….do they offer internships or capstone or service learning opportunities …(giving only educational inroads) so that you can apply for those areas.

For those seeking employment in a completely different setting…you might ask anytime during your master’s program if someone can be your mentor or touchstone during the program. Be specific and outline what this might entail and could include projects to complete, using that person as the working librarian you might need to interview, using them as a reference for a paper you are doing when you need real world application, etc. These activities can be anytime within the master’s but introduce you to either a specific organization as well as a specific type of organization.

Speaking generally, for any applications, I would say when you are immediately ending your second-to-the-last semester or beginning your last…essentially it is when you see “light at the end of the tunnel!” and to do so here are the steps you need to take:

  • What does your target organization need for an active application? a diploma in hand? a transcript in hand? a graduation date? (These could be three different things!)
  • Can you submit an application even though there are no positions open at a given time? How does that process work? 
  • Create a plan for updating your applications as you move along so always ask how CAN you keep your application active. 
  • Identify organizations where there might be hourly or part time or short term positions while you are waiting for a full time position to be advertised.

Oddly – I always tell people to begin their master’s program by looking at the want ads and NOT the recruitment information…and we have a great many to not only visit but subscribe to these days so yes – you need the shiny “you could be here” motivation found in recruitment videos and podcasts, but beginning with the want ads and perusing the master’s programs advertising newsletters (if they are available to you) tells you what those in the field are really looking for so you can begin to design a program that carefully leads you into the profession.

Have you interviewed or hired a candidate who is still in school for a librarian position?  Yes! We have done this, but the interview team does not differentiate this in their questions for applicants for equity in the questions and answers sought. We would; however, – prior to choosing the current student for an interview – answer their questions or broach the issue of when we want this position to start – so that an applicant could see whether or not it is within their timeline to continue in this stage. Many institutions – mine for sure – frequently review open positions to see if something has been open for an inordinate amount of time and I never want to run the risk of having a delay placed on hiring because “I am not moving to fill it so I must not need it!”

How early is too early for a student to start applying? I think if they are in the first half of their program, applying is premature, but interest can be communicated as I explained in earlier answers.

Do you take into consideration the particular school a candidate has attended? Yes, I do as I have worked in library education and understand the concept of specificalizations vs. general offerings..what the different core elements of programs offer, etc. And now – given electronic opportunities – the environment of the internship, mentor opportunities, the capstone, etc. has expanded beyond a specific size city or educational community so students have a great expanded educational setting to choose from. 

Has a candidate’s GPA ever affected your decision to hire or interview a candidate? Frankly, no.but the real question here is do you look at the transcript and if so, what for? I look at starting classes, incompletes, false starts on programs of study but not necessarily negatively …you just have to ask someone how they arrived at a specialization area and then possibly a follow up on a primary field of interest or specialization with a secondary question on what is their “next choice.” A cautionary tale here is the resume that matches the transcript where a career focus is prominently displayed but it doesn’t match the position they are applying for…so an entry level general reference – as a manager/to me – doesn’t seem to be the best match to someone who has in their transcript a preservation focus – for example – with a resume that speaks to their love of conservator work and their ultimate goal of working in a museum as a map librarian. And for more of my opinion for this look at past blog postings on resumes, job applications, etc. for great advice on how to move from a narrowly defined specialization to a more general position to begin or enhance a career.

I do want to add in this posting – although I know it IS getting away from a certain theme of “when” someone should apply – an approach that shows my many years in the profession and is related to “Do I take into account the school someone has attended or more specifically for this column “is attending?” And that approach is – professions have leaders within library education and leaders within the profession-at-large who many students “want to study with” so this is a question in and of itself….Do you give preference or look for a student/applicant who has been mentored by or been a student of a specific library and information leader? My answer to this is absolutely…if I see that an applicant has worked with x or studied under Y or been mentored by x group, and especially if they have a reference from those people I am interested in them. I am also very interested in them because they are likely to have a specific ideology or work ethic or commitment to an EDI infrastructure infused into their learning. In addition, for many years pedagogy was the hallmark of many LS or I programs such as case method study (like business schools) and I knew students had, again – very likely – a more critical thinking approach to problem solving. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, or written as a New Year’s resolution you immediately break. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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?

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: Response time to an offer depends a bit. For a library faculty position I think two weeks is probably the maximum I would prefer to wait. That should give a candidate time to consider the offer, think about what else they have out there, and make reply. Quicker is always better but two weeks seems fair. For staff positions I usually ask the person to communicate back within the week. It’s not uncommon for some staff candidates to accept at the time I offer. I always tell them to think about it for a day, double check benefits, and then get back to me.

Our library faculty are members of the faculty union so there are minimum salary levels for all ranks. Benefits are non-negotiable because they are in the union’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. That’s where the negotiating happens. I could offer start-up funds (well, I could if had any discretionary budget) and it used to be that we might offer a new faculty member some reassigned time (course release) in the first year if they asked for some benefit we could not provide or we really wanted to sweeten the pot. That is also no longer an option, at least for the foreseeable future. I have had a library faculty candidate ask for a higher starting salary. At the time I offered some additional faculty development funds (the librarians also have annual funds for this through their contract). That was acceptable to the candidate.

How we might consider a candidate who turned an offer down is mostly a hypothetical. I don’t think, in over 25 years with hiring authority, it has ever happened to me. I have had people reapply for positions when they were not offered a position the first time (or two). If I thought a candidate was promising enough to make an offer, I’d like to think I would do it again if that person turned out to be a top candidate again. There are a lot of reasons why someone might turn down an offer.

My etiquette tips are for the hiring side to communicate clearly and accurately about time line (and keep in mind that candidates are waiting while you are, too), follow up if things take longer than anticipated (following whatever HR guidelines you need to), and try not to drag any negotiations on for too long. My tips for candidates are to try to reach a decision within a reasonable time, to ask and negotiate for what you want once you understand the parameters of what might not be negotiable, and to consider all of the pieces that go into making a big decision like this.

Anonymous: I have received some really good tips from mentors in the past and am happy to share them! Unless someone has a very good reason to wait longer, I think 2-3 days would be the latest that I would expect a response. I don’t necessarily expect someone to negotiate pay and benefits, but they should if they feel that the pay should be higher. The best piece of advice that I received was when I was offered my current position. I really wanted it but wanted higher pay than was offered. My mentor suggested that I respond by thanking them for the offer, tell them that I was very excited about it and excited to join the institution, and would like to discuss a higher salary. Be prepared with a counteroffer and data to back up your request. In my case, I was able to use ARL salary data to back up my request. Another option to consider if the employer is unable to budge on salary is to ask for additional benefits, such as extra funds for conference travel, hiring assistance for spouse/partner, etc. People accept or decline offers for a variety of reasons, so no, I would not see a candidate declining an offer in a bad way.

Dr. Colleen S. Harris, Librarian, John Spoor Broome Library, CSU Channel Islands: We always hope for a response as quickly as possible (the relief of completing a successful search after racing against the ever present possibility of losing the position, a reality working in a public organization during budget crunches), but of course expect the candidate to consider for a few days. Yes, we expect candidates to negotiate pay, but in higher ed I also expect them to negotiate startup packages (office technology & software, travel/professional development funding, specific office furniture if needed, not everyone realizes you can ask for these). And yes, of course candidates can always decline an offer without burning a bridge. A lot of things go into taking a new job, and even if it’s a good fit professionally (not always the case), life circumstances can always intervene and prevent a candidate from accepting. That’s just the way of work, it’s not personal.

Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: There’s nothing wrong or unprofessional about a candidate asking to consider an offer before accepting. We know that we aren’t the only employer they are considering, and they have families and other jobs and school schedules and all kinds of things to consider. I’d rather them take a day to be sure than accept and then decide it wouldn’t work out. However, once they have all the information from us, I generally expect a response in one business day. Anything longer than that usually indicates that they’re waiting on an offer from an employer they prefer, and will leave once something else is available. 

Of course there are extenuating circumstances sometimes. If someone’s relocating, waiting on a spouse’s job, etc., they may need longer to know whether the position will work out. In those cases just be honest about what you’re waiting for, e.g., “I’ll know next Monday whether my partner got the job they were applying for and then I’ll know whether I can accept.” For me, this shows you’re taking the position seriously and communicating openly. Note that some employers may feel differently, and prefer employees who are too desperate to even consider another offer or delay acceptance! But discovering that before accepting an offer might be a good thing. 

It’s fine for candidates to negotiate pay, and I’d estimate that about one-third of our new hires do it. Unfortunately, as a county department with a fixed budget we usually don’t have that flexibility. We do give information about starting salary and benefits upfront at the time of the interview, so at least there are no surprises. 

As far as declining offers, it does happen occasionally, and it’s up to the candidate to decide whether to burn the bridge. Just don’t ghost us! If the pay isn’t enough, if the interview made you think the job duties weren’t what you expected, etc., just say that. Not only does it leave a positive impression if you ever apply here in the future, it helps us make changes to the position to make it more attractive, and changes to the advertising and interview process to make it more transparent and informative. 

Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: We obviously want someone to be excited about our position, so we would love someone to respond quickly, but that’s not realistic. Just be honest about needing more time and how much time you need. Remember, others have interviewed for this position and are waiting to hear back, and your decision may affect the outcome for them. Benefits, in our case, are not negotiable. We all get the same benefits and even our vacation is contractual. I would say that, if you don’t know the salary at the time of an interview, you should ask. I have had situations where I had to specifically ask a candidate if they understood the salary and would take the job at that salary. We generally don’t have a range. We have an amount we have budgeted and we would not offer less, and we can’t offer more. You could negotiate start date. Yes, I would say that a candidate could decline an offer without burning bridges. We want to know if the job isn’t right for you before you accept and things don’t work out. 

Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: A prompt response is always appreciated, even it is just to say “I need to think about/talk with my partner first”, and a time frame in which to expect a firm answer.

One of the benefits of working in a unionized environment is that pay scales are pretty much set so there is not much to be negotiated. Librarians are paid at scale based on years of experience so some room for negotiation there, and post pandemic we might now be negotiating some work from home days.  Otherwise things are set.

A candidate could decline without burning bridges as long as it was done professionally, and a good reason for declining was provided.  

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer?

While it certainly isn’t required, it is helpful to get a follow up note from a candidate who hasn’t said yes or no yet but are confirming their interest in a position, identifying why they think they are a great match for the job, clarifying an answer to a question or adding new information they fell pertinent to the search Notes can also clarify why they can’t answer immediately or speculating on a date for getting back to you to solidify when you *can* expect a specific answer.

How quickly would you expect a response? I think my response of “within a week” is colored by our current urgency to fill our vacancies. So perhaps it isn’t fair, but I have lost second choice candidates when the first choice takes too long. If we didn’t have such a push to hire, probably two to three weeks is more reasonable; however, the reality is:

  • I expect applicants to make some decisions or gather information prior to an interview about the community etc.
  • The best applicant – taking too long – can often cause irritation within the hiring group or the rest of the institution as the process remains ongoing.
  • Applicants hoping to turn this position down but reapplying when their situation has changed may “burn their bridges” by leaving the organization waiting too long.

Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? I don’t handle this part of the hiring process – our Human Resources department does – but there is possible discussion given the parameters such as: Did my second masters get counted? Is the dollar amount the maximum relocation dollars available? Were all of the years of relevant experience included in the offer? 

Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you? The easiest but most accurate answer is “it depends.” And it depends on some obvious things to all of us…what could make us lose interest for future work or reapplication? 

  • the applicant waits too long to consider the offer
  • the applicant appears to be less than honest with their reason for turning us down 
  • the applicant is told what our negotiation can’t include but tries to negotiate and then turns us down when we can’t meet the requests
  • the applicant says they will accept but don’t want to go to a specific location and seek another location within our system instead (which – sadly – means we will not hire them as I think it is critical that managers get to build their own teams)

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, or whistled in the style of Andrew Bird. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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?

Anonymous: I have pretty good instincts about hires and I should have known that this particular one was a mistake. We interviewed three people for a librarian position. Both had worked at the library at the university in close proximity to our campus. One had been a librarian who, for whatever reason, had not been offered a continuing contract. The other was a staff member who had just finished library school. I felt that the young man who had just graduated from library school was a far better fit for the position. His interactions with me were spot on and I felt like he would excel at the position. The other person was more experienced but, to me, just wasn’t connecting with the challenges of the position. This position reported to me, but both my colleagues and the Vice Provost (who interviews all faculty candidates) insisted that the young man who had just graduated was somehow immature and less desirable. We had another meeting with the more experienced person and I still had reservations, but I went along with it. Sadly, I was correct. The new librarian got another job elsewhere and thrived, but the person we hired was not a good fit and ended up not being offered a contract a few years later. I spent a lot of time attempting to develop and mentor this librarian and I don’t think my feelings at the time of hire affected my ability to work with this librarian, but it just wasn’t ever going to work. I look back on that any time someone is pressuring me to hire a particular candidate. I trust my instincts. In another case, we didn’t hire someone for one position, but I really liked him and had in the back of my mind that I thought he would be great working for me (rather than the job he had applied for). About a year later, we had a staff position open in my area and I hired him and he has been amazing. In fact, he is moving into a librarian role in January. That one was a win! 

Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: Bad hiring decisions can have a disastrous effect on workplace morale and productivity and turnover. This is why it is so important to check references thoroughly, to have diversity on hiring committees, and to encourage/ensure that diverse candidates are applying and are actually considered.

When employees see someone hired who is not qualified, or whom they know – or discover later – to have lied about their experience and qualifications, they can lose hope in general at that workplace. They may resent and distrust the new hire. When fully qualified applicants (internal or external) are not considered, that can have the same effect.

It actually makes sense for people to give up when they see these things happening again and again – why put in effort when there is no reward or recognition for hard work and dishonesty is rewarded? Or when they see someone hired for reasons other than their skills and experience? Having a workplace of demoralized staff who are less engaged than they could be (at best) or running for the exits (at worst) is bad for everyone, though.

If an amazing candidate was not hired at my workplace, I would advise them to apply elsewhere. If they’d already been rejected once it would be a hard sell to convince them to apply there again.

Anonymous: This is a great question. Thank you for asking.

Years ago the library I was working for hired a technician who I did not think was qualified or a good fit for the team. Politics played a bit in the hiring so that annoyed me further.

This person turned out to be a terrible fit with the team and barely did the job that was required. Because of the politics we worked with the staffer as much as we could to engage them and bring them up to speed and it did not go well.

After 2 months of trying (and hearing the support staff complain A LOT) we had a meeting and told the individual that we were going to have to see x,y,z improvements before the 90 day review. I think they worked one more week before they gave notice. Lucky for us there  was not much damage to the team that had to be repaired. The managers understood that we had to try and make it work and hear the staff’s concerns. 

A few years ago my favorite candidate was not chosen for the job. I was super bummed. In my eyes they were the best person for the job and any other person would be a far behind second choice. The hiring committee did not feel the same way and the person they hired is actually really amazing and is a good fit. There are no solid rules about reaching out after the job has been filled, so I sent an email. The candidate was surprised and said that it was nice to know that they didn’t totally mess up the interview and that the committee actually felt that the other person was better suited. We actually collaborated on a project and are colleague-friends. They got another job before another job posting came up at my organization, but I would have told them to apply and I would not have gotten in any trouble. 

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: I am hopeful the process used by the organization has enough “process” and “procedure” and the right people involved to make sure there isn’t two much discord over a hire. To avoid this or to minimize this I suggest:

  • reminding people of the process and who makes the final decision in advance of their accepting membership on the hiring committee
  • a discussion with the committee outlining guidelines with a review of decision making and the concepts of the process together
  • taking good notes during the interviews so that justification for internal members is clear at the point of selection (and yes — personal notes made during interviews are confidential within committee discussions and destroyed post interview)
  • good communication throughout the process with the committee so that they know likely outcomes as candidates are interviewed, then discussed
  • if possible – confidential sharing among committee members when deciding, with – instead of verbal voting – confidential voting for finalists/a finalist
  • as much as legally possible – discussing aspects of prioritizing candidates
  • as appropriate – weighting areas of importance to indicate why some areas are more important than others

There is often a fine line between or among candidates and anything the chair can do to capture discussion and then voting to illustrate choices with weighted scores, the better the process. 

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon, on Twitter @HiringLib, or delivered as a nagging feeling of guilt that I just can’t shake. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page)? If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not? Bonus: if you have *opinions* about the term paraprofessional, please feel free to air them here.

Amy Tureen (she/her/hers), Head, Library Liaison Program, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas: 

Of course I would hire someone with an MLIS for a paraprofessional position! People apply for jobs for all sorts of reasons, it’s not my role as a supervisor to gate keep or second guess why someone with an MLIS would want a paraprofessional role.

As for the term itself, I have no particular feelings about it one way or another. In the context of “professional” versus “paraprofessional” the term “paraprofessional” means the role does not require a professional licensure, whereas “professional” means that some form of industry-specific professional accreditation, whatever it may be in a given field, is required. Some people mistakenly assume that the use of the word “professional” implies a skill level, rather than an accreditation required for a role, so I certainly wouldn’t mind changing both “paraprofessional” and “professional” to terms that are less easily misunderstood and/or weaponized.

Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College: I have hired candidates into paraprofessional positions.  My college is relatively rural, and for reasons I’m not entirely sure of it has always been a much greater struggle to attract library technicians.  If I post for a full time permanent librarian I get 30 or 40 applicants.  For a library technician position I’m lucky to get 3 or 4 people with a library technician diploma.  So often it is just out of necessity. 

While hiring someone overqualified does have the potential for problems, my experience has been very positive.  Sometimes it is giving a librarian actual experience in an academic library that will help them move up and on in a couple of years, another time it was librarian taking a part time paraprofessional position as a way to ease into retirement. 

As long as one is clear about job duties and boundaries, it can work out well.

Alison M. Armstrong, Collection Management Librarian, Radford University: Absolutely!

In general, a lot of people are overqualified for the positions they are in. Libraries are no different. The job market has shifted recently but your location and local library options may be limited since most libraries have more staff positions than librarian positions.

Our library has had several staff members who hold an MLIS, including me, over the years. I was in a staff position while I worked toward my MLIS and, for a time had my degree until I was hired in my current position. I would have had to move if this position wasn’t open when it was.

I personally prefer the term “staff” versus “paraprofessional”. While paraprofessional indicates a level of work that is assisting professional workers, to me, it sounds like the position is in relation to someone else, which bothers me. In reality, however, my staff member’s position is a fairly true “assistant” in that her work is assisting me in my work.

I have had a couple of staff members in that position who have had their MLIS and one who was working on his Master’s in IT. I knew that they likely wouldn’t be in the position long term, which was fine. While they worked for me, they were able to do some higher level work however, that is a fine line to walk. While staff members may be capable of doing higher level work, you want to make sure they are not doing what would be considered professional level work for staff level pay. So while I try hard to not exploit workers by labeling work as “experience” for them, I do have conversations with them about work and what they are interested in and whether there is higher level work that they would want to work on. While I don’t want to exploit them, I also want to make sure they are getting some job satisfaction if they have something they want to pursue. The one working on his Master’s in IT was able to use his Access database skills to create a usage statistics database for us. (Sadly, when he left, there wasn’t time/staff for it to continue to grow.)

A great example of this is with one of my staff members who had her MLIS and I saw a need to document library liaison training and we wrote a training handbook together. She was interested in training so she took on the role of introducing the handbook at a collection development retreat to library liaisons. It was shortly after that event that she was hired an instruction librarian. After she had moved onto a librarian position, we were able to collaborate on a book based on the work we did on our handbook, which was great.

Of course, there is potential for judgement and/or resentment. For the staff person I co-authored a book with, she and I had graduated together. She could have been frustrated about not having a librarian position and take it out in various ways, trying to undercut me, out-shine me, sabotage me, etc. but, thankfully, she didn’t.

In my experience, around two years is a good amount of time if the person is actively looking for a librarian position for them to find something and move up. After two years, it can feel frustrating and they may start feeling stuck. It might be useful to be aware of that and have some honest conversations. In the end, I want my staff members to do their best and if they want to move up (or, move on), I will do whatever I can to support them. Knowing the future goals of your staff is helpful so you can try to help them achieve them.

It is also important to recognize that some people have re-considered their positions in all kinds of careers. Some people willing to take a pay cut and a lower position that requires less responsibility and the opportunity to “leave work at work” and forgo some of the daily headaches that can come with upper management positions.

So, someone my look “overqualified” on paper, but they may be looking to get a foot in the door or just get in a position they will enjoy while they look for the right thing. Alternatively, they may be looking to scale back and want a better work-life balance.

If you have an MLIS and are hired in a staff position, I would encourage you to talk to your supervisor (maybe not on day one – but as you build rapport) about what you want to do in the future (assuming this information didn’t come through in the interview – if it did, build on it). After you have learned the position and are on top of everything, you might see areas in which you could contribute – maybe to a committee, or to a project that you would enjoy. Just make sure you don’t feel like you are being exploited because it is important to recognize those feelings early before it affects how you feel about your work.

Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I currently have two staff members with an MLS in PAT positions. These are salaried Professional/Administrative/ Technical positions. They are Access Services Manager and Systems Manager. Neither requires the MLS and neither is a library faculty member or has the title “librarian”. I also had an MLS-holder in my ILL coordinator position which is an hourly-benefitted non-exempt position. That person was an alum (former library worker) and stayed in the position for about two years before finding a job that compensated her for her credentials.

In two cases the hire had an MLS before starting the job. In one case the person earned their MLS while working here and continues in the same position. The degree did provide the opportunity for the person’s salary to increase. In all cases we selected the right person for the job knowing they were over-qualified. We knew the ILL staff member needed a full-time job with benefits, she was familiar with the library, and campus, and we hoped that she would eventually find something else (which she did). The other two individuals in the more skilled positions may be here longer even though they are not recognized or compensated as library faculty.

I would consider hiring someone with an MLS again for any position for a number of reasons. Jobs are not easy to find, individuals may be re-entering the workforce, needing to say in the geographical area, or more interested in a staff position than in being library faculty with all of the work that entails. My biggest concern with almost any staff hire these days is that people do ask about opportunities for advancement and my staff has been reduced to the degree that there are even fewer opportunities than in the past for changing positions at least inside the library. And, I am also unable to send any staff off for professional development (budget was eliminated about five years ago). So I would like to get those two PATs to ACRL, ALA, or other conferences and would be happy to do that but have no resources. That has implications and consequences that go beyond just helping them stay connected to the profession.

I am not a fan of the term “paraprofessional.” I’m not sure I have a reasonable substitute other than just saying staff member. The college makes clear distinctions between the PAT staff and the Operating Staff (those hourly paid full-time folks). The status gap is really between faculty and staff. I am a staff member, not a faculty member. So we refer to library faculty and to staff. There are differences between expectations for PATs and Op Staff folks including level of education, workloads, etc. People are aware of those and we don’t refer to people as either PATs or Op Staff unless it’s necessary. So I don’t use the term paraprofessional at all. I think it would add confusion and isn’t necessary.

Anonymous: We have hired multiple staff with an MLIS for paraprofessional positions. In my department, they are all library assistants. Two have been at the university for decades, two are recent hires. For the latter, both want or need to stay in the area. I can’t promise promotions, but if they are interested in moving up, I will work with them to give them the opportunity to do so. I believe that, if someone with an MLIS wants a library job and decides to apply for a paraprofessional position, that’s their decision. But I have one librarian in my department who strongly disagrees. They regularly mentor MLIS students to only apply for librarian positions. I have told them that making such a pronouncement doesn’t account for an individual’s life situation.

I have worked as a page, a paraprofessional, and a professional in librarianship. I’m not sure that any of the wording for positions that don’t require an MLIS is adequate or fair. The responsibilities of these positions have changed SO much in the last decades that the title needs to change with it. Calling them an assistant or paraprofessional feels incomplete.

Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library: I am currently considering doing this very thing! I have had part-time people with their MLS working in “paraprofessional positions” – though in a small library we wear so many hats the lines really blur! I would look for someone who is willing to gain experience in libraries even though the position doesn’t require a degree. In the case I am considering the person actually was a director at one time, took time off due to family health issues and is wanting to get back into library work but not necessarily as a director. My biggest factor, with all new hires, is how well they will work with current staff and are they willing to do anything that is needed.

I like the term “paraprofessional” as it lets people know that the person has experience but not necessarily the education. (And education does not mean they can do the job better than someone with experience!)

Jennie Garner, Library Director, North Liberty Library: We’ve hired candidates with MLS degrees to fill part-time support staff positions multiple times. As long as they are able/willing to work the required hours and interview well, we are happy to welcome them to our team. There is no guarantee, just because a candidate possesses an MLS, that they have practical knowledge of day-to-day library work or the skills that sometimes requires. Having new staff at various levels of education and experience can further bring new eyes to our operations. I ask new staff to bring forward questions about why we work the way we do and offer new approaches that may help further operational goals. Some of our best services have come from new staff with innovative ideas at all levels.

It is often a win-win situation when we hire an employee with formal library training and are able to offer someone the chance to hone their library experience. The reality is that working in a library and developing those soft skills often differs from the training we receive in grad school coursework. As part of onboarding, all new staff spend time with each full-time staff person to help them gain insight into the work we do and the services we provide. Additionally, I ask new staff members if they have particular areas of interest and encourage them to share that with us if they’d like cross train. If someone is interested in youth services, collection development, or other areas of librarianship, we try to offer them opportunities to perform tasks related to those positions. My goal as an administrator is to create a learning environment and give staff prospects for growth. Helping someone achieve new skills adds to a positive work culture.

We don’t use the term paraprofessional. All of our staff members are expected to deliver professional customer service and are able assist our patrons with their needs. Patrons care about receiving good service and I’d hazard a guess that they consider all of our staff to be librarians. In 25+ years of library work, I’ve never had a patron ask to speak only to someone with an MLS. We regularly receive compliments from patrons about our staff – part-time and full-time with various backgrounds and education levels.

Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: Well, we have both hourly positions and administrative (professional staff) positions that are not librarians (or library faculty). We have applicants with an MLIS for both. They often think that it’s a stepping stone to becoming library faculty. I can say that sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. We will consider someone with an MLIS for either type of staff position, but more likely for a professional staff position. In fact, we’ll soon have a position open for which we fully expect to receive applications from people with an MLIS. For hourly staff, it’s less likely that there is mobility within the organization and I think we’re pretty aware that someone with an MLIS wouldn’t stay long in one of these positions. If someone with an MLIS has no academic library experience, it’s possible, but I think we’d be more wary. For professional staff positions, it needs to be clear why the position is not library faculty. I don’t want someone to be angry or resentful about their status when they have the degree. 

Heather Backman, Assistant Director of Library Services, Weymouth (MA) Public Libraries: I would consider hiring someone with an MLIS for a paraprofessional position, but they would need to make a good case for their planned longevity in the role as part of their initial application (this is what cover letters are for!) and during the interview. I don’t feel great about that on one level, knowing that the job market for degreed people is often tight. But the unfortunate reality is that as a manager, I need to do my best to avoid frequent turnover, and I would expect that most MLIS holders would greatly prefer a higher-paid, degree-required position and would probably keep job searching. If my new hire leaves before or just as they are starting to hit their stride in the job, that’s a lot of time and energy we’ve invested in hiring and training someone – not to mention the burden on other team members who may have had to carry a heavier workload while the position was not filled or the person was still learning the job – that has now gone to waste. Unless it becomes clear that someone I hire is just not the right fit, I hope that new employees will stay with us for at least a couple of years, so an MLIS holder applying for a non-degree-required position would have to convince me that they would want to stay for that amount of time.

And yes, I *do* have opinions about the term “paraprofessional”! I do not like the divides that can exist in our profession between degreed and non-degreed workers, and I think the term is often used to emphasize the difference between people’s education in a negative way. The ability to pursue higher education is often a function of privilege and resources rather than talent, intelligence, or hard work. The people I’ve worked with, by and large, have done solid work, contributed meaningfully to their libraries, and demonstrated commitment to customer service and giving patrons a great experience regardless of whether they wanted or had been able to earn an MLIS. I prefer to refer to people who work at my libraries as “[department] staff” or “the team” rather than “librarians” and “paraprofessionals”, to emphasize that all have equal value as workers. If there’s a real, meaningful need to talk about people according to their educational level I’ll say something like “(non-)degreed positions/staff.”

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

Would You Hire Someone with an MLIS for a Paraprofessional Position? (E.g. assistant, clerk, page) If so, under what circumstances? If not, why not? Our goal is to find the best match for the job AND given the fact that there is no such thing as “overqualified” in HR terminology – we do not exclude applicants – given level of education. Interestingly, many people do not understand that a master’s in librarianship or information science, etc. does NOT prepare you for every job in the organization. For example – having worked on a circulation desk prepares you for circulation desk work NOT the master’s. And this applies to professional positions as well – that is, your systems personnel positions might require (given the software or hardware expertise needed or the level of knowledge needed) additional education or experience in technology rather than library and information science education or training.

(And I am adding the heading/question)…..Are there any examples of problems when someone with an expanded or additional or different degree has been hired in a position other than the one that is the best match for their credentials?

Sadly yes, I have seen examples where additional or different education can cause problems and – I should say it doesn’t always happen…but….besides the usual accreditation issues for academic libraries….

  • We are in a profession where many consider themselves for most of our positions – and understandably so – in a “helping” profession. It is difficult; therefore, when someone who has been educated or trained to be in that helpful mindset is then not allowed or supported for providing a specific service.
  • In the absence of well-defined public services desks, users not reading or understanding signage, single service or one-stop desks, no name tags OR “name only” name tags or a lack of distinguishing other clothing or designation, clients or patrons are upset when it isn’t clear what some can and can’t do at near or similar desks.
  • Understandable resentment builds up when someone ends up doing some or many parts of other people’s roles and responsibilities when they may well be being paid significantly less.
  • Administrators do not “see” vacancies or “need” as readily when multiple levels of people populate desks.
  • Users often identify everyone in a library they see behind a public service desk – a “librarian” and this might communicate people are NOT doing what they are supposed to be doing if people are having to wait for someone to come out to assist when it appears that someone is already there….
  • If managers let others – no matter the credentials – perform tasks that are not in their position description – issues of “keeping current,” “staff development,” “training,” etc. are problematic as not everyone can or should be trained on everything.
  • Tech issued to librarians (iPads, laptops, etc.) – for example – might not be available to all employees, therefore, staff – with credentials different from their position requirements – will not get issued technology to assist users.

And finally our HR department follows strict guidelines for placement on scales. If we hired someone – with a master’s – for a librarian position who had been in a classified position before at another location or even internally – because is they were not hired to work as a librarian before, their placement on the scales is not counted as “professional experience after the master’s degree.” So – for us – it doesn’t help the candidate get placed higher, thus get a salary bump.

Bonus: if you have opinions about the term paraprofessional, please feel free to air them here.

From the list above it’s clear why I don’t offer these experiences – but here are general thoughts as well. Although I have no specific control over my institution’s official titles, we do not use that term in my institution either formally or informally. But it isn’t enough to say “I don’t like it” or “my experiences have shown…” so the “why” of that isn’t as clearly explained…but here is a list with additional information focusing on terminology.

  • There are several definitions for “paraprofessional” so users, clients or patrons may very well see them in a wide variety of ways and – given people’s experiences – previous work with those considered paraprofessionals cause confusion.
  • Many people view “para” as a “lesser” term for a designation.
  • A number of definitions or phrases in definitions are not particularly complimentary. For example some include:
  • an unlicensed person
  • a person who can work in the field but is not a “fully qualified” professional
  • Many definitions as well as postings say assists a professional in “daily tasks” which most may see as boring, repetitive roles and responsibilities.
  • Basic templates for designing postings are lengthy and confusing with much ambiguity as to professional vs. paraprofessional.
  • Our profession has much ambiguity among professional roles and responsibilities, and having another category of uncertainty may cause confusion in compensation, etc.

So – I am not a fan of “too-generic” titles or two specific ones…functional titles should correspond to what HR “counts” as rational for making compensation decisions.

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, or left in the attic of your childhood home. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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Further Questions: Who hires librarians?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Can you share with us the composition of your most recent search/hiring teams or 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?

Anonymous: I’ve just convened a search committee for a Health Sciences Librarian at a small liberal arts college. I am chair as Director of the Library, our tech services librarian is also representing the library and there are two health sciences faculty members on the committee as well. 

While the search committee will select the finalists, other constituents such as the library staff, members of the faculty library committee, health sciences administrators, etc. will be involved in the final, on-campus interview stage. Any one involved in this stage will be asked to share feedback with the committee, which will be used in the final deliberations.

Heather Backman, Assistant Director of Library Services, Weymouth (MA) Public Libraries: Applications for open positions are reviewed by myself, the library director, and the department head who will supervise the new hire. For department head openings, applications are reviewed by myself and the director. Interviews are usually conducted by the same set of people who review applications, plus an HR representative who serves in an advisory role (no decision making authority but she does share her impressions of candidates and we value her input). The director technically has the final authority to decide on a hire, but in practice he, I, and the department head all work together to choose someone, and he will often rely on the department head’s preferences.

Occasionally other library staff will sit in on interviews if they have a particular connection with the position being hired for, and their feedback is also taken seriously. For instance, when I was interviewed, the department heads were there, and when we recently were hiring for a position that would work very closely with one particular front-line staff member, that staff member sat in on interviews (though she didn’t review applications with us).

The other stakeholders involved in our hiring process are the Mayor and his chief of staff. The Mayor (usually via his chief of staff) must sign off on all new hires, and technically he could veto our choice or direct us to hire someone specific, though so far I have not encountered a situation where we were unable to make an offer to our preferred candidate. Neither of these people meets candidates. Usually their involvement comes down to signing an approval form forwarded to them from HR.

Elizabeth “Beth” Cox, Director, Cataloging, Metadata & Digitization Dept., University of Iowa Libraries:

The composition of the search committee and the interview schedule vary depending on the level of the position being filled.

  • For hourly staff, generally positions that don’t require an MLS, the supervisor and one other person from the department comprise the search committee. The candidates meet with the committee, with the other hourly staff in the department, with any other stakeholders, and with HR. Feedback is requested via our standard survey form. Department librarians or staff outside of the department are unlikely to meet with the candidate, unless they would interact with the person in the position.
  • For librarians or other salaried positions that require an MLS or other advanced degree, the search committee generally includes the supervisor (usually department director), a librarian from the department, and a librarian from another department. When possible that last person will be someone who would interact with the candidate if hired. Depending on the role of the position being advertised, the candidates may meet with employees from outside the department. I will often ask people from outside of the department to have a meal with the candidate or give them a tour of the library, so that the candidate can meet a variety of people. All of our candidate presentations are open to the entire library staff. Feedback is requested via our standard survey form.

Gregg Currie, College Librarian, Selkirk College:

As we are a small college and a small library, hiring committees are always the College Librarian and 2 other library staff members – a librarian and a library technician for librarian positions, or 2 library technicians for library technician or student work study positions.  This works well for us. 

Many years ago we did have HR involved, but as they don’t really know anything about library operations their presence didn’t really add anything to the selection process.

Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: We use a three-person panel for almost every hiring decision, whether it’s for a librarian, paraprofessional, or support staff. The panel consists of the manager who will supervise the person hired, myself, and a third person. The third person is usually our Chief of HQ Library Services, but can also vary based on the position (like including our Children’s Services Manager if the position will be working with children at a branch). The odd-numbered panel is helpful if there’s a split decision, but in such cases the tiebreaking vote goes to the manager who will be directly supervising the new employee. 

If a candidate is applying for a promotion in-house or at another branch, we will talk with their current or former managers here to get input. Information gathered this way doesn’t go on a formal score sheet but does give us useful context and can help us narrow down what to ask in an interview. 

Finally, when hiring departmental or branch managers, I like to get input from the employees who will be working under the new manager. I don’t have them involved in the interview itself or have them review applications or anything (that gets complicated very quickly when almost every management-level opening has internal candidates, including current staff of the hiring department), but general preferences: would you rather work for someone with experience doing a certain type of program, with a background in a different type of library, with longer management experience, etc.? Even if those considerations aren’t ultimately the deciding factors, they help us know what to emphasize during orientation and training with a new person.

Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: For librarian/library faculty, the search team is generally chaired by the faculty supervisor for the position. There will generally be three people total on the search. Our current search is chaired by the department head and includes the one other faculty librarian in the department, plus another librarian from outside the department. We try to include anyone who is a stakeholder, but it’s not always possible, especially if a staff member in the department is applying for the position, or may apply. The candidates generally meet with the other library faculty, any staff in the department, and the Dean. If it’s a staff position in a leadership role, it will include a mix of library faculty and staff who are stakeholders or who would collaborate with the new person (peers). If it’s a support staff role, it will usually be chaired by the department head or director, and include any staff in the department who are interested, plus another person from outside the department who works with the person in the role being hired. 

Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: It has been my experience that small and medium size public libraries do not have the staff, time, or resources to conduct extensive, multipart interviews for most positions. As an example, a circulation clerk interview will be conducted by two to three staff members. The interview committee may consist of the direct supervisor, a person who is not a direct supervisor but is on a higher level in the organization, and/or the director.

What has worked for us as a medium size library (by South Carolina standards) is to include a non-employee in the interview process for specific positions. These positions are ones for which require a degree of expertise not broadly found in a small to medium size library, such as branch manager, information technology manager, youth services librarian, bookkeeper, etc. This non-staff member of the interview committee could be a director from another library, a state library staff member with expertise in a specific area, or someone in the county’s human resources department.

For public libraries with branches, the inclusion of a “stakeholder” from the area can be a real benefit to the library and the community. Including a Board member who represents the service area of the branch can be helpful. The Board member is attune to the area served by the branch and can provide some useful insights into the community. The Board member has an opportunity to be involved, in a limited and appropriate way, in a personnel decision for their community. It provides a degree of management transparency for the Board member, and the Board as a whole, that can build Board confidence in the library’s management (which can pay off later when that inevitable difficult situation arises).

There are some very good reasons for doing this:

1) An outside expert can provide questions that can help determine the candidate’s level of knowledge or experience and not be dazzled by a lot of babble. This is critically important when hiring for say an IT position or a branch manager.

2) Especially if there are in-house candidates to be interviewed, a person from outside the library can be perceived as neutral or unbiased. This actually works to the committee’s benefit as it may require the staff who are on the interview committee to truly justify their ranking/choice.

3) A diverse interview committee may be easier to achieve by including someone from outside the library on the committee.

The inclusion of a non-staff person as part of certain interview committees can make a difference for a small or medium size library. I has for my medium size library.

Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: 

Can you share with us the composition of your most recent search/hiring teams or committees – number of committee members, their roles in the library, etc.? Our Human Resources department has – for many years- been very strict about our hiring committees and all related processes including specifically – hiring committees for staffing table positions (all faculty, professional technical and all classified staff.) With the introduction of our newest Enterprise Management System, the same prescribed elements remain for committees but additional restrictions have been placed on advertising and hiring hourly employees (our hourly academic Librarians, our hourly instruction librarians and any hourly classified employees now have to be posted through the online system as well.)

But depending on the focus of committees and time of year we are trying to hire, things vary and – with special permission from HR – we can substitute levels of employees, locations or the number serving given the past two years. But if no exceptions are needed, at least six representatives to sit on committees are:

  • Faculty Librarians – Members to include the direct manager, representatives from the staffing table classified staff with whom they might work, at least one and maybe two peer faculty librarians, the campus manager (if available) and in addition and based on availability – a classroom faculty member either from the campus where the opening is located or based on availability. If the timing is not good for finding a classroom faculty member, we try to ensure that the peer faculty librarian who serves is also – for example -also a teaching adjunct for the college or someone with expanded curriculum experience/classroom instruction.
  • Classified Staff – Members to include – depending on their functional areas – a classified staff member representing public or technical services, administrative assistant w\ork or secretarial work – where the opening is AND – if possible – representatives from several campuses – since – at certain times of the year – classified staff move among campuses to assist as needed.
  • Professional/Technical – Members to include professional/technical employees with similar or exact expertise in specific or related areas or roles and responsibilities as well as the specific or related departments (such as both instructional and institutional technology experience.)
  • Administrative Assistant – Membership in the committee also always includes an administrative assistant – from either the campus with the opening or an available one – to manage communication and paperwork, etc. They are also counted as a member of the committee.

All committee membership must include membership that is: balanced in gender, ethnicity, race, and until last year – all members needed to have been with the college at least 6 month – but as of last year, that is now not required. Members; however, must go through a training (or have attended the online training within a year) and if requested by the Chair – online training AND a HR representative will present to the committee on the need for confidentiality, consistency needed, legal vs. illegal questions, 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)? This is the disappointing part to me….faculty librarians have had and continue to have the requirement to present to the committee (and then any observing attendees complete an evaluation form.) A few years ago – they decided the teaching presentation was no longer open and I think that is a big loss. The committee; however, can take the candidate to lunch – but my approach is any shared meal needs to be after the interview.

My disappointment stems from the fact that I think the broader teaching audience was an integral part of the process. I liked the fact that we could then invite others (faculty librarians, staff from the campus where the vacancy is located, etc.) and then a small reception after the presentation to meet and greet. It is a loss to lose it as part of the process.

How is their feedback treated? As a committee, we choose the questions and the order in which we will ask them – based on recent question sets which – at some time – were approved by HR. Committee members then get copies of the questions with spaces between each one so that notes from each member can be taken in a more standard format, then discussed uniformly. Members also decide in advance of the interviews the weight or importance of each question/answer so that we can compare not only the answers but based on the importance of the question, how individuals answered the most important questions.

We use feedback and discussion to choose and rank three candidates. If the Dean is the chair (and we are hiring a head librarian) references are checked and we indicate rank but after we discuss and rank, we then each complete an online form.and why and send the list to HR. If a frontline faculty librarian is the focus, the three finalists are turned over to the Dean/me and I interview (with the committee chair) the top candidates asking the finalists the most important questions identified based on the opening. Then we rank or re-rank, references are checked and forms are completed and the packet is sent forward.

We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, over at Mastodon @hiringlibrarians@glammr.uson Twitter @HiringLib, or hidden on a slip of paper inside a carnitas burrito. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

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