Category Archives: Guest Posts

Authors’ Corners: A Job Hunter’s Booklist

I’m so grateful to the authors on this list, who took the time to work with me to create a post that shared their views and knowledge (Just click the title).  If you wanted to create a library for LIS job hunters, here’s where I’d start:

de Stricker, Ulla & Jill Hurst-Wahl. (2011). The Information and Knowledge Professional’s Career Handbook: Define and Create Your Success. Chandos Publishing.

Dority, G. Kim. (2012). LIS Career Sourcebook: Managing and Maximizing Every Step of Your Career. Libraries Unlimited.

Doucett, Elisabeth. (2010). What They Don’t Teach You in Library School. ALA Editions.

Kane, Laura. (2011). Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science. ALA.

Kane, Laura. (2003). Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science. ALA Editions.

Lowe-Wincentsen, Dawn, & Linda Crook. (2010). Mid-Career Library and Information Professionals: A Leadership Primer. Chandos Publishing.

Luster, Celma Faria. (2013). Extra-Help Librarians . Open Vista Press.

Markgren, Susanne, & Tiffany Eatman Allen. (2013). Career Q&A: A Librarian’s Real-Life, Practical Guide to Managing a Successful Career. Information Today.

Matarazzo, James M., & Toby Pearlstein. (2013). Special Libraries: A Survival Guide. Libraries Unlimited.

Monson, Jane. (2013). Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian: A LITA Guide. ALA Techsource.

Neely, Teresa. (2011). How to Stay Afloat in the Academic Library Job Pool. ALA Editions.

Shontz, Priscilla K. & Richard A. Murray. (2012). What Do Employers Want? A Guide for Library Science Students. Libraries Unlimited.

Smallwood, Carol, Kerol Harrod & Vera Gubnitskaia. (2013). Continuing Education for Librarians: Workshops, Conferences, College, and Other Ways. McFarland.

Stickell, Lois, & Bridgette Sanders. (2013). Making the Most of Your Library Career. ALA Editions.

Woodward, Jeanette. (2011). A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market. American Library Association.

And now you tell me – what books have I missed?  

Leave a comment

Filed under Author's Corner, Guest Posts, News and Administration

Researcher’s Corner: Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part 2 – Resource List

Last week I posted the first part of this research into tenure and promotion by Lori Smith and Penny Hecker.  If you’re a current or future academic librarian (or just interested in the status of librarians), this week’s post provides an excellent resource list to help you learn more about librarians and the various ways they might achieve tenure.

On Tenure across the U.S.

(Penny Hecker)

I created the list of sources below because it’s wise to familiarize yourself with the varying status of librarians within the academy. Just as there are multiple types of academic librarians, there are multiple types of “faculty status” for librarians. Although the argument for how to classify academic librarians began in the 19th century, it wasn’t until 1943 when librarians at the University of Illinois were the first to be granted “faculty status”.

With the variety of terminology, procedures, and criteria that exist across just our University of Louisiana System, determining the “norm” for tenure and promotion practices nationwide would take a monumental amount of research. Therefore, I’ve created a list of sources limited to the publication scope of 2001-2013, except for one article published in 1994. The following sources provide both research and opinion on librarian faculty status. They are organized loosely by descriptive headings and alphabetized by author name or title.

Just the Facts 

Academic-Librarian-Status is a very accommodating wiki source which delineates the main categories and lists several universities under each category. In some instances, there are direct links to the institution’s criteria and procedures for tenure and promotion.

A Guideline for the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure of Academic Librarians (ALA)

Association of College and Research Libraries Standards for Faculty Status for Academic Librarians

Bolin, M. K. (2008, May 28). A typology of librarian status at land grant universities. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), 220-230. Accessible @

Bolin, M. K. (2008, September 5). Librarian status at US research universities: Extending the typology. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 34(5), 416-424. Accessible @

Hosburgh, N. (2011, June 1). Librarian faculty status: What does it mean in academia? In Library Philosophy and Practice. Retrieved April 15, 2014, from

Rosenberg, Bonnie. Faculty status and academic libraries.  www., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.  (Rosenberg wrote this for a library school course and I thought it was excellent. I stumbled across this after I had completed my source-gathering and was tempted to direct readers just to this source because it’s such a great snapshot of faculty status, and it already contains many of my sources.)

 For & Against; Pros & Cons; Advice

Coker, C., van Duinkerken, W., & Bales, S. (2010). Seeking full citizenship: A defense of tenure faculty status for librarians. College & Research Libraries, 71(5), 406-420.

Cronin, B. (2001). The mother of all myths. Library Journal, 126(3), 144.

Dunn, S. (2013, March 18). As their roles change, some librarians lose faculty status. In The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 25, 2014

Garner, J., Davidson, K., & Schwartzkopf, B. (2009). Images of academic librarians: How tenure-track librarians portray themselves in the promotion and tenure process. Serials Librarian, 56(1-4), 203-208. doi:10.1080/03615260802690694

Gillum, S. (2010). The true benefit of faculty status for academic reference librarians. Reference Librarian, 51(4), 321-328. doi:10.1080/02763877.2010.501419

Hill, J. (1994). Wearing our own olothes: Librarians as faculty. Journal Of Academic Librarianship, 20(2), 71.

Hoggan, D. B. (2003, July). Faculty status for librarians in higher education. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 3(3), 431-445. doi:10.1353/pla.2003.0060

McKinzie, S. (2010). 590: Local notes — tenure for academic librarians: Why it has to go. Against The Grain, 22(4), 60.

Smith, F. (2006). Tenure and promotion: How university system of Georgia librarians rate what we do. Georgia Library Quarterly, 43(1), 11-16.

Spires, T. (2007). The busy librarian: Prioritizing tenure and dealing with stress for academic library professionals. Illinois Libraries, 86(4), 101-108.

Stouffer, C. M. (2011). Tenure and other sticky situations. AALL Spectrum, 16(1), 11-13.


Lori L. Smith, Government Information Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Lori L. Smith obtained her M.L.S. from Indiana University in 1987, spent a few years as a Government Information Specialist at the St. Louis Public Library, and has been the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern Louisiana University since 1991.


Penny Hecker

Penny Hecker, Associate Professor & Reference/Instruction Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Penny Hecker has worked in both public and academic libraries since 1991. She is currently a reference/instruction librarian and Associate Professor at Sims Library, Southeastern Louisiana University, where she teaches the credit course Library Science 102. 

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: Tenure and Promotion in Libraries, Part I – Louisiana Libraries

I’m happy to provide this two-part informal summary of research by Lori Smith and Penny Hecker on a topic which may be of great interest to you current and aspiring academic librarians.  In this post, Smith and Hecker offer a look at the tenure process within the University of Louisiana system, and their personal reflections.  Next week, they’ll broaden this information by providing resources on librarians’ tenure across the US.

Around 2007 at Southeastern Louisiana University, Lori Smith was assigned to provide tenure and promotion mentoring to Penny Hecker. One day Penny was lamenting how difficult it was to come up with a research topic for a publication.  Lori said it was easiest to pick something related to a task or project you were currently doing.  Since both had just left a meeting at which revisions to the library’s tenure and promotion guidelines had been discussed, Lori suggested an article comparing tenure and promotion requirements among libraries in Louisiana.  They agreed to collaborate on the article and it only took them five long years to get it written and published.  (They’re both very busy people: Lori is the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern and Penny is a reference librarian and an instructor for the university’s credit information literacy course, Library Science 102.)

In order to simplify the research they agreed to focus on the libraries within their own University of Louisiana System, rather than looking at all the academic libraries in the state. The article “Tenure and Promotion: Criteria and Procedures Used by University of Louisiana System Libraries” appeared in Volume 2, Issue 2 (2012) of Codex: Journal of the Louisiana Chapter of the ACRL

Summary of What We Found in Louisiana

(Lori Smith)

Though it did take quite a while to do it, writing the article was actually quite interesting.  The first challenge was obtaining copies of the tenure and promotion policies for the libraries in the University of Louisiana System (ULS).  (The library at McNeese University was the only one that didn’t have its own policy.)  While the university policies were often available online, none of the library policies were.  Fortunately, through my connection with the government documents librarians across the state and the help of some colleagues who used their connections, we were able to get copies of the policies we needed.

The similarities between the policies were clear in that all evaluated job performance, research/professional activity, and service, but significant procedural variations did arise.  Some libraries did tenure and promotion reviews in the fall, and others in the spring.  The University of New Orleans, which had just recently been moved into the ULS, had deadlines for both fall and spring reviews.  Some libraries used all tenured faculty at or above the rank being applied for as the peer review committee, and others used a smaller number of members.  The required contents of the review portfolio also differed slightly from library to library.  Southeastern seems to be the only institution that requires all job descriptions from the probationary period to be included in the file.  Since colleagues aren’t always familiar with each other’s duties, this is a useful addition to the file.

The weighting of the three areas being evaluated varied widely.  In most cases, job performance was weighted most heavily, followed by research/professional activity, and then service.  The only university that weighted service more heavily than research/professional activity was Grambling.  Given the amount of time that librarians at Southeastern spend on committee work for the Library and University, it may be that Grambling has the right idea.

There was very little detail in the policies about the requirement to “publish or perish.”  Various types of publications were mentioned along with other typical accomplishments within research/professional activity, but rarely was a specific number of publications mentioned.  For early promotion the policy of Nicholls State required a specific number of “scholarly works,” which topped out at three for promotion to Full Professor.  Southeastern’s policy mentioned that two “publications” were required to achieve a rating of “Excellence” in professional activity, and that a “substantial record of publication” was required for promotion to Full Professor.  None of the policies specified that publications had to be based on empirical research, though many included language (“outstanding,” “distinguished,” etc.) that emphasized the quality of the works.

After completing the article, we concluded that:

1) it would be more beneficial for future research if all ULS tenure and promotion policies were published online for easier comparison;

2) future tenure/promotion research in Louisiana might compare its two public university systems, compare its private and public universities, and eventually compare Louisiana to other states;

3) other relevant topics for future research might be faculty opinions about the process and the effect mentoring has on the process.

Our Personal Experiences of the Tenure and Promotion Process


First, I want to note how helpful Lori’s mentoring was to me in the process. It’s common in our profession to have librarians mentoring new colleagues; it’s almost a necessity when climbing the mountain of tenure and promotion. And that’s what it felt like after I completed the process and earned tenure and promotion: like I had just scaled the academic equivalent of Mount Everest for 6 years. I was awarded tenure in 2013 and promoted from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor.

My experience of tenure was closer to the traditional experience of tenure-seeking teaching faculty because I teach credit-bearing term courses in library research to undergraduates. Thus my tenure file, like non-library teaching faculty had to include documentation of peer teaching observations, student opinion of teaching, grade distributions, course content examples, research, publication, and service duties. The aforementioned was in addition to my scheduled daily duties of desk reference and virtual reference. However, I had to jump through the hoops of tenure as a 12-month employee of the university, unlike non-library tenure-track faculty who are usually contracted to work 9-10 months, allowing them the summer to work on necessary activity toward tenure. Thankfully, our library slows down somewhat in summer so the pace is more amenable toward achieving at least some of your tenure goals.

If you think that you want a tenure-track position in an academic library, consider whether or not you will be required to teach credit courses and whether your appointment will be 12 months or 9-10 months. Although the rewards of teaching can be many, there are also many unknowns in dealing with students. These unknowns may affect how much time and energy you have left over to do research, committee work, publishing, and professional activity.


I was awarded tenure in 1996.  At that point Sims Library had only one tenured faculty member and no written policies on tenure and promotion.  We followed the overall university policy, and, since peer review committees were required to have at least three members, I had to recommend faculty from outside the Library to serve on my committee.  I don’t teach any credit-bearing classes, so it was nerve-wracking trying to explain and document my duties thoroughly enough for non-librarians to understand and appreciate what I had accomplished.  Since the committee awarded me tenure but refused my request for promotion from Assistant to Associate Professor, I probably could have done a better job.

In any case, shortly after I was tenured I served on a Library committee that drafted tenure and promotion guidelines for the Library.  We wanted to ensure that librarians in the future would know what was expected from them and that outside reviewers, when necessary, would have an overview of what the Library considered to be superior performance.  The guidelines have been revised many times over the past several years, but I think they’re an invaluable tool for everyone involved in the process.  I certainly wish I’d had them when I was starting out.

To end on a positive note, I did eventually get promoted to Associate Professor and as of this year, I’m well on my way to being promoted to Full Professor.  With sufficient guidance, it is indeed possible to climb to the top of the ladder.


Lori L. Smith, Government Information Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Lori L. Smith obtained her M.L.S. from Indiana University in 1987, spent a few years as a Government Information Specialist at the St. Louis Public Library, and has been the Government Information Librarian at Southeastern Louisiana University since 1991.


Penny Hecker

Penny Hecker, Associate Professor & Reference/Instruction Librarian, Southeastern Louisiana University, Sims Memorial Library

Penny Hecker has worked in both public and academic libraries since 1991. She is currently a reference/instruction librarian and Associate Professor at Sims Library, Southeastern Louisiana University, where she teaches the credit course Library Science 102. 


1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: What Skills and Knowledge do Today’s Employers Seek?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but it is only since graduating from SJSU that I started noticing and appreciating the work that goes into shaping the program. SJSU SLIS not only performs and posts a self-assessment of program performance, but each year it performs and publishes a report on informal research into career trends.  The Associate Director of SLIS, Dr. Linda Main, helps steer this project and very graciously agreed to write a guest post describing the research and findings.  (Incidentally, Dr. Main co-teaches what was one of my favorite classes in library school, the History of Books and Libraries. I highly recommend it, current students.)

A topic of conversation on the minds of many information professionals is the job market. Many practitioners are concerned about being prepared for future employment opportunities – a concern that is echoed by graduate students who hope to be tomorrow’s information professionals. 

To help practitioners, students, and future students gain a better understanding of employment trends in our field, each year, the San José State University School of Library and Information Science (SJSU SLIS) publishes Emerging Career Trends for Information Professionals: A Snapshot of Job Titles.

The informal report explores recent job postings for information professionals.  It’s not a comprehensive study, but instead is a snapshot of job postings during a brief point in time.

To develop the most recent report, we scanned job listings for information professionals posted during the summer of 2013.  We searched general job listings websites, as well as websites aimed specifically at recruiting information professionals.

Emerging Job Trends

After a brief analysis of the data, some trends emerged.  For example, job titles are changing. Many job listings still use titles that we categorized as “traditional” in the report, such as Reference Librarian or Collection Manager.  Yet we also found job titles that reflect some newer employment trends, such as Metadata Manager or Digital Initiatives Librarian.  The report provides many examples of what we call “traditional” and “emerging” job titles.

In addition to exploring job titles, the report also provides a snapshot of job responsibilities included in the listings, along with skills employers seek in job applicants. For example, an Informatics Specialist needs to understand metadata standards, know how to manage digital materials, and troubleshoot software.

And as you might expect in today’s evolving work environments, many job titles suggest a blend of responsibilities.  For example, consider the scope of work for someone who is both a SharePoint Librarian and Research & Outreach Assistant.  That’s one of the positions we found.  It’s a good example of how today’s employers seek job candidates who can offer a range of skills.

The report also recaps what hiring managers are looking for in applicants in terms of their education, skills, and work experience. A growing number of hiring managers are looking for applicants with strong technology skills, leadership skills, and the ability to deal with a rapidly changing work environment.  That should come as no surprise, as our profession is rapidly changing, and even “traditional” work environments are being transformed. 

Tips for Keeping Up with Employment Trends

Conducting this informal research each year helps our school stay in touch with employment trends, which helps us do a better job advising our students about the courses they might want to take, as well as the types of internships and volunteer experience that can prepare them for tomorrow’s jobs.

Of course, we don’t just rely on this one report to advise our students or update our curriculum.  We also rely on input from our faculty, and from advisory groups made up of leaders in our profession.  They help us spot emerging trends, allowing us to ensure that our curriculum is up to date.

And while you may not have access to a formal advisory group like we do, you can follow a similar process.  Chat with colleagues about the trends they are noticing.  Attend a professional conference and see what topics are presented, or at least visit the conference website and scan the list of presentations.  For example, at the recent Library 2.103 Worldwide Virtual Conference, topics included mobile technologies, virtual learning commons, MOOCs, information governance, data visualization, and social media strategies.  Can you picture yourself working in any of those areas?

You can make it a priority to keep your skills up to date by attending conferences, reading blogs, and viewing webinars, like the free career trend webinars offered by our school.  Or to make an even bigger investment in updating your skills, you could complete a post-master’s certificate program.  Several ALA-accredited programs offer these types of certificate programs.  At our school, professionals can complete a post-master’s certificate fully online.

Finally, there are some outstanding resources that can help you explore career options for information professionals.  Our school offers a web-based career development resource, which is freely available to anyone interested in learning more about careers for information professionals.  On the site, we provide links to other resources that can help you keep up with employment trends in our profession.

Regardless of the path you choose to keep up with changing trends in our profession, I hope you are optimistic about the future of our profession.  It’s an exciting time to be an information professional.

linda mainDr. Linda Main is the Associate Director of the San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. Shereceived her Ph.D. at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). She also holds Masters degrees from the University of Wales (Aberystwyth) and the University of Dublin, Trinity College (Ireland).

She spent many years working in the library of Trinity College Dublin rotating through many different departments including rare books and manuscripts. She was also a project Coordinator for CELDS (US Army Corps of Engineers) and a database coordinator for the Recidivism Database (US Dept. Justice).

Main has written three books and published many articles. Her research interests are in designing information products for a global audience, Web programming languages delivered online and digitization of medieval manuscripts.

Main has been involved in many consultancy projects including projects for the British Library, the Bibliotheque National, the Benito Juarez Autonomous University (Oaxaca, Mexico), the State Technical Library (Prague), Udaras na Gaeltachta and the National Library of Malta. She also works with a small Eastern European consultancy business that develops Web sites and digitizes manuscripts.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: New Academic Librarians’ Perceptions of the Profession

What’s the point of all this relentless search for work anyway?  What happens once a librarian is hired?  How does this step change a librarian’s career, and how can hiring managers help new hires transition into work successfully?  If you’re interested in the answers to these questions, please keep reading.  Laura Sare and Stephen Bales have written a fantastic intro to some of their research on new librarians’ perception of the work.  

In a 2011 study we sought to identify concepts relevant to new academic librarians’ perceptions of librarianship as a profession. We used long interviews and document analysis to develop a grounded theory consisting of six categories that weigh upon novice librarians’ perceptions of the profession and how these perceptions develop:

(1) Deciding upon a career,

(2) Experiencing graduate school,

(3) Continuing education,

(4) Defining the work,

(5) Evaluating the work, and

(6) (Re)imagining the future.

We then analyzed the six categories to theorize how the new librarians’ perceptions shifted from the decision to pursue a new career through the first few years of professional work.

While we did not specifically ask about the job seeking process during the interviews, those hiring new librarians may be interested to learn what our participants found satisfying and dissatisfying about their first jobs so that supervisors can provide support in these areas for better retention and increased job satisfaction. These perceptions tended to appear in the emergent categories Defining the work and Evaluating the work.

What Our New Librarians found Satisfying about the Job

All of the interviewed librarians felt most rewarded through providing service to others, and especially through providing information to patrons, whether it be through reference interviews, instruction transactions, or back-end tasks that allow patrons to find information on their own. The most popular expression of job satisfaction was working with students. Several librarians felt gratified by engaging in transactions where their hard work for the patron was noticeably appreciated. Typical transactions included helping a struggling student get a better grade than he anticipated, helping a student during a library chat service, teaching students that there are better resources for their coursework than just Google, and preparing students for future research.

The study participants that were not on the front line or who rarely directly interacted with patrons also shared this theme of satisfaction through service. One librarian felt gratified after receiving mostly positive comments on the library website redesign project that he had recently completed. Another technical services librarian evaluated a neglected collection, and gained satisfaction from the fact that her efforts were recognized and appreciated by her peers who did not have the time or skills to complete the project themselves. One librarian’s work on completing cataloging enhancements satisfied her because she felt that she helped faculty and students find things they would not have otherwise know about.

Two of our participants were glad they worked at academic libraries that allowed them to be generalists and work in different areas of the library, such as in public and technical service.

Praise from or working with teaching faculty also brought satisfaction to a few of the participants. One librarian learned that the faculty she supported thought she “walked on water” when they sent a letter noting her hard work to her library director. Another found satisfaction when she was able to snare a faculty that was reluctant to bring their class in for instruction, and have a successful teaching outcome.

What Our New Librarians found Dissatisfying about the Job

Most of the new librarians in our study experienced three main themes of dissatisfaction:

(1)    Unsuccessful patron interactions,

(2)    Frustration with intra-institutional politics, and

(3)    Time management issues.

The public services librarians in our sample felt frustration when they were unable to help patrons at what they felt was an adequate level of professional service. One new public services librarian stated that researching and writing papers as a part of the tenure process took too much time away from her librarianship. An instruction librarian at another institution was greatly disappointed  when a patron did not get the instruction that the librarian felt that they needed. Another librarian dreaded having to tell  patrons things that that they did not want, such as no refunds.

Public service frustrations also frequently involved the new librarians’ interactions with teaching faculty. One participant met with a student multiple times for help on a paper, and felt that the teaching faculty was not doing their job, or should have been doing a better job at helping their students write papers. Another participant reported a frustrating interaction with a teaching faculty member over how to best provide library instruction for a class. She ended up feeling naïve and uncertain about where her job started and the instructor’s job ended. Some of this frustration might stem from the fact that participants sometimes felt that teaching faculty members treated librarians differently, i.e., not as full faculty members. Even some of the faculty status librarians felt that they  did not receive the same recognition and privileges as teaching faculty.

Several librarians were unhappy with the bureaucratic and political elements of work. A common complaint was that library administrators were not listening to the needs, and one librarian remarked that librarians “don’t put enough value on what they do, and they need to publicize it better.” Other librarians actively disliked committee work because of internal politics and/or hostility among colleagues.

Finally, time management was an issue for several of the participants. This manifested both on a work level, where librarians were dissatisfied with the amount of time they had to spend on job functions that they did not consider as important or as “real” (i.e., professional) library work (again, this “real” work was primarily the provision of service to patrons). One librarian had to supervise staff during a rushed institutional reorganization and found it hard to provide the same expected level of customer service to patrons. Time for reflection on their job, or looking into the future of their careers became hard to find due to constant change and a fast pace expected of the librarians.

The participants tended to be concerned with job advancement, so institutions hiring new librarians should show potential hires what advancement opportunities are available to them. Several of the new librarians did not see much opportunity for advancement in their current positions and were disappointed by this realization. Two librarians felt that the only opportunity that they had to advance was through the tenure process. One participant lamented that she wanted to obtain a supervisory position but the only one she would be qualified for was that held by her supervisor. Another librarian monitored other institutions for hoped job opportunities because he saw none where he worked. Other participants were more positive with one librarian aspiring to be an associate dean, one a supervisor, and one just wanting to, “move up one more rung.”

The tenure-track librarians that we interviewed were nervous about tenure and unclear as to how to incorporate their work towards tenure into what they considered to be their professional responsibilities; this feeling persisted even after being on the job for a year or more. Therefore, support in navigating the tenure process and mentoring is important.

For more about perceptions new librarians had of the library profession, please see our article,

Sare, Laura, Stephen Bales, and Bruce Neville. “New Academic Librarians and Their Perceptions of the Profession.” portal: Libraries and the Academy 12.2 (2012): 179-203.

Laura Sare




Laura Sare is an Associate Professor and the Government Information Librarian at Texas A&M University. She has worked with government information for 14 years. Her research interests include government information accessibility and qualitative research.

steven balesStephen Bales is Assistant Professor and Humanities and Social Sciences Librarian at Texas A&M University Libraries. His research interests include the history and philosophy of libraries and librarianship, librarianship and professional identity, and the political economy of the academic library.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: What Not to Do During the Interview

Which is more useful, a prescription or a proscription?  In the case of hiring, I’m more interested in the latter.  Identification of common errors helps candidates avoid mistakes without creating a legion of cookie-cutter candidates, all using the same approach for success.  I’m pleased to present this description of research performed by Melissa Laning and Emily Stenberg, who analyzed 36 essays and came up with the following results.

How can a job applicant stand out – in a good way – from other applicants?  This question is highly relevant for the new MLS graduate applying for jobs since many entry-level positions receive 100+ applications.  On the basis of research we conducted in 2011/2012 and our combined experiences with the recruitment process, we have identified the top 3 behaviors to avoid when you are on the job market. 

Our research involved a content analysis of 36 essays that appeared in The Chronicle of Higher Education between 2007-2011.  The essays were all first person narratives that described a personal experience as either a job candidate or as a search committee member in an academic job search.  The essays were not specific to libraries but the processes described would be familiar to any academic librarian.  The perceptions shared in the essays were then compared to library literature on recruitment and to our own direct observations about library hiring practices.  One area of focus was the job candidate during the application and interview process. What we learned from our research is that at each critical stage of the process, there seems to be a common set of behaviors that separates the applicants who are screened out from the ones who progress to the next phase of the search.

#1 – Submitting generic application materials

For most entry-level positions, libraries receive an abundance of applications, and the majority of them are from individuals who meet the minimum qualifications for the job.  Search committees have to make tough decisions and a generic cover letter that could have been sent to any opening makes an application easy for them to disqualify at an early stage in the process.  The rock-solid experience reflected in your CV/resume is not enough to distinguish you since others will have equally strong or relevant experience.  You have to convince the committee with a good cover letter to consider you further.

What are the elements of an effective cover letter?  It must be addressed to the person named in the job announcement and be customized to the particular position.  You can accomplish this by telling the employer what interests you in their position, and by matching your skills and experience to the required and preferred qualifications of the job.  It is especially important to address the required qualifications since the hiring institution has no wiggle room in that area.  Either you meet the minimum qualifications or you don’t.  Particularly for soft skills, such as “Ability to work collaboratively”, you need to address the qualifications directly in order for the screening committee to know that you are in the meets category.

Additional tips about the application phase based on our research and observations are to follow the application instructions to the letter and keep your CV/resume current.  These actions also convey to the search committee that you are a qualified and interested applicant. 

#2 – Underpreparing for the preliminary interview

Many institutions will conduct preliminary phone or Skype interviews with candidates to determine who they will invite for on-site interviews.  A common mistake for candidates at this phase is to attempt to wing it.  Strong candidates prepare for these experiences as intentionally as they would for an in-person interview.  One valuable step the candidate can take is to thoroughly explore the hiring library’s website before the interview.  Is there a strategic plan posted and what does it say about the organization’s aspirations?  What big projects are underway?  What positions do search committee members hold?  Knowing this information will serve you well during the interview.  Another valuable way to prepare is to develop responses to anticipated questions.  If you haven’t already been on a number of interviews, you can find quite a few good lists of standard interview questions on the web.  Along the same lines, develop a list of specific examples from your experience that match the job requirements.

Another very important step you can take is to create a list of questions to ask the committee at the end of the interview.  The questions should be designed to give you insight into the culture of the organization and how things work in that environment.  It also signals that you are genuinely interested in working there.

#3 – Neglecting your image

If you are invited for an in-person interview, it means the hiring institution believes you are highly qualified for the position.  The interview itself allows them to identify the person who is going to be the best fit for the job and a good representative of the organization with users, administrators and other external audiences.  With that in mind, interviews are to some extent about personal brand management.

One specific recommendation is to dress professionally for the interview.  This advice also applies to the preliminary screening interview if Skype or any type of video conferencing capabilities are used.  For video conferencing, think also about the background—what will the interviewers see behind you and will it be distracting? Regardless of how informal the organization is on a day-to-day basis or if you are an internal applicant, interviews are a formal event and should be treated accordingly.  The Hiring Librarians blog provides great advice on this topic.  Along the same lines, professional manners are also a critical aspect of making a good impression.  This covers being friendly and gracious throughout the interview process, and in any communication after the interview.  If you continue to believe the job is a good fit for you after when the interview is over, send a note or email to the Search Committee Chair expressing your continuing interest in the position and appreciation for their interest in you.  If you do not remain interested or accept another position, let the Chair know as soon as possible. 

A final recommendation in this area is to take steps to limit access to your personal online presence to friends.  People will search for you. Enough said. 


The areas covered in this brief overview were identified in our research and reading as the most frequent things that candidates do to undermine their own success in the job search.  We have provided some specific ideas about what interviewees can do to avoid these behaviors, but would love to have readers provide further suggestions for what not to do during the interview.

Melissa Laning is Associate Dean for Assessment, Personnel and Research at the University of Louisville Libraries and spends a good deal of her time on hiring librarians. She is a past co-chair of the ACRL Personnel Administrators and Staff Development Officers Discussion Group, and Chair of the LLAMA Human Resources Section. Her recent research projects have focused on academic library recruitment and middle managers.  Melissa received her MLS from the University of Michigan. 

Emily Stenberg Emily Stenberg is the digital publishing and digital preservation librarian at Washington University in St. Louis. Previously, she was the metadata librarian at the University of Louisville. Emily received her MLS from Indiana University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

1 Comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, library research, Researcher's Corner

Researcher’s Corner: What are the Qualifications for an Entry-Level Music Librarian?

I’m pleased to introduce another guest post by Joe Clark, who described his research into nine years of job postings on the Music Library Association Job List and identified job trends for us here.

This post delves more deeply into the specific qualifications desired in entry-level positions.  While his research is specific to music librarians, I think there are wider implications for entry-level expectations across disciplines.

Please do click through and read his more formal account of this research, which was published last March in the journal of the Music Library Association. Notes is open access, so the entire article is available online here for free.

So you graduate with your M.L.I.S. degree ready to land your first professional job, but realize that institutions are asking for skills and experiences you didn’t learn in graduate school. Now what?

A firm understanding of the skills, knowledge, and experiences that employers want will give you a leg up in a tight job market. Not only does music librarianship require subject-specific knowledge, but sub-fields within music librarianship differ in required and desired abilities and experiences.

The Study

I examined all of the position announcements on the Music Library Association’s Placement Service Job List from 2008 through 2011 and identified those open to entry-level librarians. I then classed each position into one of five types: 1) public service, 2) cataloging, 3) administrative, 4) hybrid, or 5) archival. Hybrid positions involve work in both public and technical services, while administrative librarians might run a small library as well as catalog, provide reference, and supervise staff and budgets.

I recorded the required and desired traits, abilities, knowledge, and experience for each position by job type, and then compiled the data. I also totaled the numbers for all of the music library positions, which provided a broad picture of what employers wanted in music librarianship entry-level hires. I broke traits sought into the following categories: education, personal attributes, social attributes, experience, general knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), and technological KSAs.


Most of the entry-level music librarianship positions were in academic librarianship (95%). Twenty-eight percent of the vacancies were in public services, while the remaining four job types comprised between 17 and 19 percent of the advertisements.

As I examined all of the entry-level positions, it became quite clear what employers wanted in terms of education (other than the M.L.I.S. degree, which was a prerequisite for all of the jobs): 72% of positions required or preferred an undergraduate degree in music or the equivalent, and 40% desired a second graduate degree in music. Some public service and archival posts sought completion of music/arts library classes, while 27% of cataloging vacancies required cataloging coursework. A course in archival/preservation techniques was listed in 10% of all vacancies, and this figure was over half for jobs in archival environments.

The most commonly listed personal attributes included organizational skills/ability to prioritize, self-motivation, and flexibility/ability to handle multiple demands. Aptitude for scholarly production and professional development and analytical/problem solving skills appeared less frequently.

Excellent written and oral skills was the most commonly listed trait and the top social attribute. Other required or preferred social attributes included collaborative skills and a strong commitment to public services.

Previous library experience was desired in 42% of the listings, and appeared most commonly in administrative positions and least frequently in public service jobs. Experience with specific skills were also sought; cataloging was required or preferred in 36% of the announcements, and 30% wanted experience in reference and instruction.

The most common general KSA was reading knowledge of foreign languages, required for 25% and preferred for 19% of the jobs. Many of the other general KSAs were specific to the job responsibilities; for example, knowledge of AACR2, LCSH, and MARC21 was needed for positions that involved cataloging (including archive and hybrid posts).


In conclusion, institutions are looking for more than just an M.L.I.S.; they seek well-rounded individuals who can effectively communicate, collaborates, prioritizes, values excellent services, and self-motivates. These skills are in addition to subject expertise, which is highly valued in music librarianship. One should keep in mind that search committee members may want to see other qualifications not mentioned in advertisements.

The entire article, “What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians,” was published in the March 2013 issue of Notes (69:3), pages 472-493. All preferred and required qualifications for each job type that appeared in more than 8% of the announcements are detailed in the original article.  Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Joe Clark

Joe Clark is the Head of the Performing Arts Library at Kent State University. He has published articles in Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Fontes Artis Musicae, Serials Review, Journal of Library Innovation and The Journal of Academic Librarianship. His research interests include employment trends in music librarianship, collection management, library administration, and American music. He is currently the Placement Officer for the Music Library Association.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic, Guest Posts, Law Library, library research, Public, Researcher's Corner, Special