Category Archives: Hired Librarians

Hired Librarians: I Could Picture our Clients Relating to Her Very Well

In this feature, Hired Librarians, I interview a recent successful job hunter and the person that hired her.  This week I’m interviewing Mira Geffner, Program Assistant, and the person that hired here, Erika Bell, Manager of Medical Information Services. 

library 2

They work at Breast Cancer Connections, providing medical information services in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Here is how the library is staffed:

We are each here half-time, that’s it for the paid library staff. Other BCC staff and volunteers also help clients in the library when we are not available, and volunteers help with clerical work and special projects.


The Successful Candidate: Mira Geffner

Mira and Erika all dressed up2
Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I am a career changer and a current MLIS student at San Jose State University. I expect to graduate in December 2014.

Why did this job pique your interest?

It sounded perfect! My professional background is in patient education and advocacy. When I started library school, I was really hoping that I’d be able to continue working directly with the public, but as a librarian instead of an educator or advocate. The BCC Program Assistant job description said they wanted someone who could do research for BCC clients, contribute to the BCC blog, maintain the library collection of books/pamphlets/media, and attend weekly Q&A sessions with area physicians and patients. I had started a blog in my Medical Librarianship class, and I had experience coordinating Q&A conference calls with physicians and patients as part of my previous job. Of course as an LIS student, I do database searching every day, and had gained experience with patient-oriented and academic medical databases through my SLIS courses and an internship at a health library. Other aspects of the job appealed to me too, especially the fact that I would be embedded in a thriving non-profit organization with deep roots in the community. To be honest, the job sounded almost too good to be true.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My resume was long, nearly 2 pages. I included current academic work and pre-SLIS professional experience. My cover letter was ¾ page.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

I learned about the job from a friend who had interviewed at BCC before I did, so she was able to tell me a lot about BCC’s “personality” in terms of her interview process and the nature of her interview there. After speaking with her, I read as much as I could of BCC’s website. I wanted to familiarize myself with the organization’s programs and services, and understand its mission and history. I also read posts from the BCC blog, to get an idea of how I could contribute to it.

What did you wear?

Black slacks and a colorful top. Black flats. (I had heard from my friend that the place is pretty casual, so didn’t want to overdo it. I was aiming for dressed-for-work rather than dressed-up-for-interview.)

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

I heard about the job at the end of the semester, so I was finishing up classes and an internship, and was getting ready to leave town for a week. In other words, I had less time to prepare for this interview than I would have liked. At least my resume was pretty close to being up to date, since I had applied for internships in other health libraries five months earlier. To prepare, I updated my resume with a few relevant projects I had done in the past few months, updated my cover letter to draw out the connections between my resume and the job description, and rehearsed some standard interview questions. Jill Klees, the SLIS liaison in the SJSU Career Center, was very helpful, both with shortening my resume and practicing interview skills. I also reviewed the databases from my medical librarianship class, and materials from that class’s consumer health unit. I went back to the health/medical research units from my Introduction to Reference class, to make sure I wasn’t forgetting about any important sources there, and reviewed my health literacy outreach blog and other health-related projects I had done at SLIS to refresh my memory about things that might be relevant to the BCC job. And then I spent some time thinking about how my earlier work with rare disease patients might translate to work with breast cancer patients. Finally, I did what I could to learn about breast cancer. At a friend’s suggestion, I reviewed all the terms relating to breast cancer in the National Cancer Institute’s online dictionary of cancer terms. I also read NCI’s basic introduction to breast cancer, because knowledge of breast cancer or other cancers was listed as a job qualification.

What questions did you ask?

I was interviewed by a three-person panel, and I asked them to each tell me what they love about working here. I don’t remember all of their answers, but I remember them all smiling at each other when I asked and Erika kind of laughing and saying it was really hard to know where to start because the list of things she loves about the place is so long. Erika’s boss was on the panel as well, and she told me she had been with BCC for more than 10 years, and that she really enjoys having a chance to work with and mentor people who are newer to the organization. They all said they love the women they work with. I can’t remember exactly how I asked, but I’m pretty sure I asked Erika something about how much patient education she does vs. research/providing information. I didn’t have a “right” answer in mind, I just wanted to understand something about where BCC’s Medical Information Services model fits in the world of consumer health librarianship. And I asked something about the typical resources she consults to handle client requests, because I wanted to understand if I would need to be able to search PubMed like a wizard or if she uses lay sources more of the time.

Why do you think you were hired? What set you apart from other candidates?

Well, that’s a hard one to answer. How do we ever know how the world sees us? I felt like the job – which combines library skills with an ability to assimilate and communicate medical information and interact with clients in a non-threatening way – was a great match for my past experience and my coursework at SJSU. And although I did not have the knowledge of breast cancer or another type of cancer the job description called for, my comprehensive knowledge of another disease from my previous job showed that I could learn about breast cancer and would be motivated to do so. I also think my experience providing support and information services to patients at another non-profit showed that I was a good match for the position. Even though I would need to start with the basics in learning about breast cancer, I tried to demonstrate that my perspective working in other non-profits and with other types of patients would make it possible for me to begin contributing quickly at BCC. Throughout the interview, I tried to convey that the job they were offering was exactly the job I wanted. When they asked where I see myself in five years, I said “with a Master’s degree in Library & Information Sciences, working in a consumer health library.” That was actually one of the questions I hadn’t prepared for, but I think it was the answer I gave most quickly and directly. A job like this one in a place like BCC is what I’ve wanted since before I started the program at SLIS. So the job just felt to me like a great fit, and I tried to convey that to the panel.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

These are things your readers probably know, but I’m going to write them anyway: there is soooo much serendipity in the process, so don’t take things that happen in the job search too personally. Do reflect on how you conduct yourself in interviews, and think about things you would like to do differently, but try not to turn things that happen in the job hunt into a judgment of you as a person. I also can’t say enough about the importance of building and tending your networks. I attend local networking/social events when I can and go to conferences. I participate in LIS student and professional groups on Facebook and on LinkedIn, and read the CALIX and CAPHIS mailing lists (and participate very occasionally in both). I also keep in touch with internship supervisors, some faculty, and students I’ve worked with on class projects or otherwise gotten to know. I would never have known about this job but for a phone call from a SLIS friend, and I believe her recommendation influenced BCC’s decision to interview me.

The Hiring Manager: Erika Bell

Library table

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Mira’s cover letter was very well written and contained specific, concrete examples that demonstrated her professional experience and qualifications.  Her passion for working as a consumer health librarian was evident in the letter.  Mira was honest about her lack of experience in the cancer field, but displayed confidence in her ability to acquire those skills on the job.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Mira met all but one of the qualifications listed in the job ad.  The job ad listed “knowledge of breast cancer or other cancers” as a qualification, and Mira did not have this specific experience, but she did have professional experience working in other health-related fields.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience?  What about for the other people you interviewed?

Mira had more experience than many of the applicants in the pool and less experience than some others.  A few applicants were actually overqualified, and for that reason the job didn’t seem like a good fit for them.

What was the interview process like?

I first screened resumes and cover letters and selected a dozen or so that I felt were well qualified.  These applicants were phone screened by our human resources volunteer.  Based on feedback from the phone screen, we then invited a subset of the phone-screened applicants to come in to the center for an in-person interview.  We conducted the interview as a team of three which included myself (BCC’s Manger of Medical Information Services), BCC’s Director of Programs and Services and BCC’s Program Associate.  Candidates were asked a series of pre-scripted questions and then given an opportunity to ask questions of us.  A tour was conducted upon the candidate’s request.

After our first of round of in-person interviews, we selected a candidate, who declined the position due to another job offer.  That applicant happened to be a colleague of Mira’s and recommended her for the position.  Because Mira was referred by this person, we did not conduct the initial phone screen in her case, and instead brought her in immediately for an in-person interview.

What stood out in Mira’s interview?

BCC’s mission is to provide services to women touched by breast and ovarian cancer in an atmosphere of warmth and compassion.  Mira’s warm and compassionate demeanor stood out in the interview.  She was down-to-earth and easy to talk to, and I could picture our clients relating to her very well.  I could tell during the interview that her personality would be a good fit for the organization, and that we would work well together to accomplish the department’s goals.  I was also impressed by the research Mira had done prior to the interview.  She was familiar with BCC’s history, our programs and services, and our mission, and she expressed a clear and genuine interest in contributing to that mission.  After the interview Mira followed-up with a hand-written thank you note, which was a nice touch.

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

Perhaps the only concern I had about Mira was the fact that she is currently a graduate student, and I wondered if she would be able to successfully juggle school and work. To address this concern, Mira and I discussed a potential work schedule and I gave her the option to reduce her hours when school is in session, if necessary.  We agreed upon a minimum number of hours that would be essential for her to work to get the job done.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

Mira’s skill set and experience got her the interview, but it was really her personality that won her the job.  We interviewed several other candidates with similar or more experience, who definitely could have done the job, but we did not select them because they didn’t connect with us in a way that Mira did.  We really got the sense during Mira’s interview that she would be able to set clients at ease, listen to their needs and concerns, and then be able to find them relevant information to address those needs


If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Hired Librarians, Special, Western US

Hired Librarians: She Said She Had a “Crush” on Us

Here’s the next post in our Hired Librarians feature, where I interview a recent successful job hunter and the librarian that hired her.  This week I’m interviewing Nicole Tekulve, Information Commons Librarian, and Virginia Cairns, Chair of Search Committee/Head of Reference & Instruction.  Ms. Tekulve and Ms. Cairns are Academic Librarians.

UTC Library

They work at the Lupton Library at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, which is in the Southern US and has 31 staff members.


The Successful Candidate: Nicole Tekulve

Nicole@RefDesk

Where are you in your career?  When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I am an early career librarian who graduated in spring of 2011. I have a little under two years of professional experience and about 5 years of paraprofessional experience in public and academic libraries.  

Why did this job pique your interest?

This was actually one of the first questions I was asked in my interview! To begin with, I knew about the UTC Library’s reputation, the innovative projects they worked on, and the type of librarians they employed. I wanted to be a part of team where I would be challenged both intellectually and creatively. I also loved that I would be doing a variety of things- from teaching classes to planning workshops and programs to managing student workers.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My CV was 3 pages long and my cover letter clocked in at a full page.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

For starters, I did some general research about the library, campus, and community. One of the greatest things about this library is that they are very transparent. The library maintains a wiki with tons of information about the organizational structure and past, current, and future projects. I made sure to pour over that information thoroughly.

I also did more specific research related to information commons. I reviewed books, journal articles, and looked at the webpages of many information commons throughout the country. This helped me define my vision of an information commons.

What did you wear (or – do you have a photo of your outfit)?

I don’t have a photo but here’s a recreation. It’s not the typical pantsuit but I wasn’t interviewing at a place that I considered typical.

 

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

A major part of the interview process was developing and presenting my ideas for programs and services that would further the Information Common’s mission to serve as a collaborative hub for the library and on campus. I spent about a week developing the presentation and then at least two or three days refining and practicing. I even went so far as to record myself giving the presentation on my iPhone and listened to it over and over again while making the 4 hour trek to Chattanooga (I realize this is a little crazy).

I also read through this list of interview questions and thought about some potential answers. There’s no way to know what a search committee will ask but even developing sample answers will help you think quicker on your feet when the interview time comes.

What questions did you ask?

Be prepared for that moment when the search committee asks “do you have any questions?”! The night before the interview I jotted down about ten questions and grouped them according to the different interviews. I had different questions for each of the different groups I was meeting with. Some of the more general questions were things like “What is the biggest challenge facing the library in the coming year?” and “Why do love working at Lupton Library?”. I also made sure to stay engaged throughout the day and ask questions during the more informal moments like the coffee break and lunch.

Why do you think you were hired?  What set you apart from other candidates?

I think it was combination of experience and personality. I had a year’s worth of professional experience under my belt and I could highlight past projects and accomplishments that I felt would appeal to the search committee. I also tried to make sure that I was myself throughout the process. I mentioned Honey Boo Boo in my cover letter to clue them in on my love of pop culture. For my presentation, I included funny pictures (like dogs walking on tightropes) because I wanted to convey my lighthearted side.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

As far as general advice, I would  strongly recommend that you have someone review your application materials. It doesn’t have to necessarily be another librarian. My sister comes from the corporate world and has helped me immensely with proofreading and formatting.

I also would suggest that you tailor each cover letter and CV to the position that you are applying for. No two jobs are exactly alike so you’ll want to make sure that you are highlighting how you fit for each position.

The job hunting process is time consuming. When I was applying for a slew of jobs leading up to graduation, I treated it as a part-time job. I would come home from work and search for jobs, draft application materials, and follow-up on applied jobs for at least two hours a day. Be willing to invest time in the process to ensure a positive outcome.

The Hiring Librarian: Virginia Cairns

Virginia Cairns

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Nicole wrote an excellent cover letter that covered all the bases (highlighted specifics of how she met the requirements of the job). She also indicated that she knew of our library and the work we have been doing (she said she had a “crush” on us). The crowning detail was a reference to Honey Boo Boo. I had to speak with this person after reading her letter. That’s what a good cover letter should do – make me want to meet you, discuss things further and learn more about you.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Yes. Nicole pretty much met all of them. She was doing a very similar job at another school. Her CV did a great job of outlining the varied duties she was performing in her prior job that matched up with what we were looking for.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience?  What about for the other people you interviewed?

Nicole was right at the top of our pool of candidates. We had probably 3 who shared similar levels of relevant experience and desirable skills.

What was the interview process like?

We phone interview about 10 finalists and then bring anywhere from 2-4 to campus depending. The interview itself is dinner the evening before with the Dean, and then a full day of meetings, a formal presentation, a social hour with the library staff and faculty, campus and library tours, and we close out with a wrap up with the Dean.

What stood out in this applicant’s interview?

Nicole was articulate, she came prepared with questions, she had good examples of projects she had completed and groups she had worked with. She described herself as having a “yes: mentality, which goes a long way in our culture here at UTC. Her presentation was solid and she was clearly comfortable in front of a classroom. She enjoyed interviewing us as much as we enjoyed interviewing her. She established rapport with us very well and had done her homework (she knew who we all were,  by name).

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

No, Nicole was clearly qualified for the job. And she fits well with our existing team in the instruction department and library-wide.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

A good cover letter is the key to making it through the initial onslaught of applicants (in some cases 175+) and landing an interview. Make the letter reflect not only your skills and experience but your personality as well. Get help polishing up both your resume and your cover letter if you feel you need it.

Once you land an interview, do your homework. Learn as much as you can about the library, its services and its people. In the interview, be prepared to treat the day as a two-way conversation – ask us questions just as we are asking you questions. Practice your presentation thoroughly so you’ll be confident and comfortable delivering it. Express your continued interest in the position to the Dean or hiring manager as you wrap up the interview. If possible, follow up with an email or note to the search committee after you get home from the interview, just to cement it as a positive experience and reinforce your interest in the position.


If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Hired Librarians, Information Literacy Instruction, Southern US

Hired Librarians: Who doesn’t want a “…technically savvy and customer-focused librarian!”

This post continues the feature Hired Librarians, wherein we hear from both a successful candidate and the librarian that hired her.  This post features Catisha Benjamin, the new Digital Acquisitions/Collections Development Librarian at Jones eGlobal Library, and Scott Wiebensohn, Manager of Library Services, the hiring librarian.  

Jones eGlobal Library

Jones eGlobal Library is a special library, located in Centennial, Colorado but with clients all over the world.  It has 13 staff members, and it’s growing.


The Successful Candidate: Catisha Benjamin

Catisha Benjamin

Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I graduated from the University of Denver August of 2006 with over 5 years of experience I am currently a Digital Acquisitions/Collections Development Librarian, working to create and enhance K-12 digital libraries. For the past three years I have been employed in the elementary and secondary field, which prepared me for my positions I currently hold. I have also been employed as a university librarian; my first job as a librarian out of library school.

Why did this job pique your interest?

I have built libraries since I started my profession and felt it would be a challenge to assist in building K-12 libraries in a digital format. Something new and different, but exciting!

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My resume including my cover letter is now 5 pages.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

I researched the background of Jones eGlobal and the library. I was already a contract librarian for Jones as well (Education Doctoral Librarian for Jones International University) and asked my former supervisor about the position. Always make sure you network!

What did you wear?

I wore black slacks, a red blouse, a black jacket, and black boots.

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

I researched Jones eGlobal Library and researched library interviewee questions.

What questions did you ask?

What are you looking for in a candidate?
What are the challenges in the position?

Why do you think you were hired? What set you apart from other candidates?

My K-12 background assisted in my hiring process and my library of science degree. I was exactly what they were looking for.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

Make sure to let everyone in your circle know you are looking for a job. They may have a lead for a job. Also make sure you do your homework and research the company before you go to your interview. Interviewers love to see when applicants want to find out more about their company or point out facts about the company.

The Hiring Librarian: Scott Wiebensohn

scott wiebensohn
What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

We were looking for a unique individual with a blended background. This position functions as the primary resource for K-12 collection development and digital content curation. Her cover letter demonstrated that she had the ability to choose from an array of e-books, periodicals, and online resources that would strengthen our library and better our users’ experience. Who doesn’t want a “…technically savvy and customer-focused librarian!”

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Interesting question as I don’t know if a candidate ever truly meets all of the qualifications for a specific job posting. What a hiring team must determine is if the candidate does not meet all of the qualifications can he/she learn the basic and more complex tasks expected. Catisha met a high majority of the qualifications otherwise we would not have interviewed her for our opening. There is only so much someone can write down on paper, thus the traditional need to interview face to face.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience? What about for the other people you interviewed?

I can honestly answer that this candidate had more experience than the majority of the candidate pool. In comparison to the others we interviewed it was plus or minus a year or two.

What was the interview process like?

It was a two round process. The first was an interview with the HR representative who prescreened candidates to determine if they truly met the basic qualifications and if there were any immediate red flags. Then the candidate interviewed in person with the librarian team for about 45 minutes. Following this interview was a conversation with the research and development team and the company President. A discussion followed and a candidate was chosen.

What stood out in this applicant’s interview?

Not only did she have the desired skill set and applicable work experience. she was hungry for the job and had three years of work experience with one of our sister institutions. She also had a contagious smile and a warm personality.

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

We are not a typical library in that we have library users circulating throughout our building. Everything is based on a digital platform within a corporate business setting. Conveying this work environment to each of the candidates was a must and Catisha fully understood because of her prior work with our sister company. So the question was in a straightforward manner and answered clearly and concisely.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

The entire eGlobal Library team is truly delighted to have added Catisha to our library. Even in the short two weeks that she has been with us, she has expressed an eagerness to tackle a variety of level of projects. My best advice is that you have to put yourself in a situation to be mobile. It is also quite helpful to think outside of the box, be strategic, and apply for jobs that are at a level to push you to succeed!


If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!
Thanks so much to Elisabeth Doucett for suggesting this series. Check out her blog, The Irreverent Librarian

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Hired Librarians, Special, Western US

Hired Librarians: A Strong Sense of Who I Was and What I Wanted to Do

Here is our next installment in the feature Hired Librarians, where I interview a successful candidate and the librarian that hired her.  This post features Recent Hire, Youth Librarian Brooke Rasche, and Hiring Librarian Marge Loch-Wouters, who is  the Youth Services Coordinator at La Crosse Public Library and a regular contributor to Further Questions.  

La Crosse Public Library

La Crosse Public Library is in the Midwest, and has 85 staff members.


The Successful Candidate: Brooke Rasche

Brooke Rasche

Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I am still very new to the library world. I graduated in 2011 from Indiana University. I had a job offer before I completed my degree and moved to Virginia right after I graduated. I worked as a Children’s Librarian for about 10 months before I was promoted to Children’s Coordinator for the library system. Then, I applied and was chosen for this job in early 2013.

Why did this job pique your interest?

I was very homesick and really wanted relocate back to the Midwest. However, I also wanted to make sure that I was going into a library where I really fit and I didn’t just apply for everything out there. I wanted to find a library that shared my vision and passions for youth services. This job fit every aspect I was looking for.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

Then were both one page.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

When I was in graduate school I took the “apply to everything” approach. While this worked in my favor and I found a job, I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. I looked at information about the city and the surrounding area. I made sure I could afford to live in the city with the salary they were offering. I checked the library website and looked at every department’s page. I also went through probably years of blog posts on both Marge’s blog and another coworker’s blog Sarah Bryce. Librarians are very honest in their blogs and I wanted to make sure I had a good feel for the work culture before I threw my hat in the ring.

What did you wear?

I wore a black skirt suit and heels. I would always prefer to be overdressed than under, so I was happy with my decision.

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

The interview process was a long one– about 3 months from start to finish. So I was very invested in getting this job by the time the in-person interview happened. I was also traveling over 1000 miles on my dime, so I wanted to give myself the best possible chance I could.

I went through Marge’s blog and read as much as I could about the library and her philosophies. It was also a great opportunity for me to find out things that really mattered to Marge as a manager and as a youth services advocate. I also went though Sara Bryce’s blog and found out about all of the programs that were being done for school age children. I wanted to make sure I went into the interview with knowledge about the programming being offered for all ages.

Then, I made a portfolio that highlighted some of my previous library work. I also included 4 sample programs I thought would be successful with their service population. Since I was only going to be in front of the hiring committee for an hour, I wanted to make sure they left with a strong sense of who I was and what I wanted to do.

What questions did you ask?

I asked questions about the community and library culture.

I also asked “What is your favorite thing about this library? What is the most challenging thing about working in this library?” This question is one of the easiest ways to find out how the hiring committee really feels about their job.

Why do you think you were hired? What set you apart from other candidates?

I think it was my passion and overall flexibility. I was willing to move 1,000 miles and told them specific reasons why. I am very open to change and new experiences and I think it really came through in my interview.

Plus, I am a very outgoing person. I know it is hard for people who are more introverted, but you have to be as outgoing as possible in your interview, especially if you are looking to work with children. The hiring committee is looking for someone to represent their specific department and the library as a whole, so you need to prove that you are going to be a good choice for them.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

Do some research before you apply to every library job you see. Five minutes of googling the library/area could save you an hour of applying for a job you wouldn’t take anyway.

Also, if you are applying for a job that would require you to move- acknowledge it in the cover letter! I have moved over 1,000 miles for both of my professional jobs. I believe I made it past the initial review round because I specifically stated in the cover letter that I was looking to relocate to their area.

The Hiring Librarian: Marge Loch-Wouters

Marge Loch Wouters

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Brooke highlighted information that specifically related to our posting; she answered the playfulness of our ad with playfulness in her response and her cover letter didn’t repeat what was in the resume but rather added depth and clarity to that document. She also explained why she would be willing to move halfway across the country to work for us.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Brooke hit every qualification. In addition to that, she brought some strength in other areas that indicated to me that she would be bringing us even more than we asked for in our ad.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience? 

She had one year of experience. This put her slightly ahead of the new grads but we had people with more experience also throwing their hats in the ring. I would say her experience put her at the slightly “ less” end of the spectrum.

What was the interview process like?

After our initial closing date we had 76 applicants,. We selected the top 20 to choose two of three essay questions to answer. From that pool, we selected 10 finalists for a Skype interview. After that step we decided on our final four to invite in for an interview with our panel. At that interview, the candidate answered questions, and had a tour of the department.

It took about three months.

What stood out in this applicant’s interview?

Brooke had researched the community; made a cogent case on why she would re-locate; blew us away with her command of the issues and knowledge about the service population; and laughed and talked easily. Since time with the public is such an important part of the job that really put her over the top.

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

No

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

We had an extremely strong field of candidates. Brooke was able to “play’ in response to our playful ad and make the case that she had the experience we were looking for. She came to the interview prepared and articulate with a binder full of examples of her work that related to our job (and not just a collection of everything but just what was germane to our needs).


If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!
Thanks so much to Elisabeth Doucett for suggesting this series. Check out her blog, The Irreverent Librarian

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, City/town, Hired Librarians, Midwestern US, Public, Youth Services

Hired Librarians: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Elisabeth Doucett, whose book, What They Don’t Teach You In Library School, was featured on Author’s Corner about a month ago, suggested today’s post. Ms. Doucett recently hired a librarian who 

did the absolute best job I’ve ever seen to prepare for that interview

Today I’m pleased to be able to bring you an interview with a successful candidate and the librarian who hired her: Sarah Brown, the new Manager of Adult Services at Curtis Memorial Library, and Liz Doucett, the Library Director.  Curtis Memorial is a public library in Brunswick, Maine, with 21.6 FTEs (11 full-time and 26 part -time staff members.)
Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, ME
Note: I’d like to be able to turn Hired Librarians into a regular feature, so if you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!


The Successful Candidate: Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown
Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I graduated from the University of Kentucky School of Library and Information Science in 1996 and have over 15 years’ experience as a professional librarian. First, in an academic library at Pikeville College, in rural eastern Kentucky, in which I supervised the creation of a medical library for a new osteopathic medical school.

My second professional position was with the Tippecanoe County Public Library in Indiana. I was a reference and adult services librarian for over 10 years, working at a branch location that was a joint public/community college library and serving as Interim Branch Manager in 2003.

My current position is that of Adult Services Manager at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick Maine.

Why did this job pique your interest?

I had wanted to relocate to Maine for many years and I was on the lookout for the perfect combination of location, library and community. Curtis Library is a fantastic library whose mission and vision spoke to me. Their new Strategic Plan showed that they were community focused and proactively working on meeting 21st century community needs.

The position of Adult Services Manager was a good fit for me. I had a strong background in reference and adult services and, anticipating a move to a management level position, I had sought out management and leadership training opportunities. I was confident that with my enthusiasm, experience and skills that I would be an asset to CML and to the service area.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My resume was way too long! It was 6 pages, plus a cover letter and a page of references.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

I wanted to make sure that this was a library and community that I wanted to work in so I did research on both. For the library I looked at its mission, vision, values, strategic plan, Youtube videos, website, blog, newspaper articles, and several years’ worth of newsletters and annual reports. I also researched the staff using Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

For the community I looked at the town web site, the Master Plan for Downtown Brunswick, the Mid Coast Chamber of Commerce, Brunswick Downtown Association, and the local newspaper.

What did you wear?

I wore a gray pantsuit.

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

You know how hard you study for the GRE or a Master’s program cumulative exam? I would say that I studied twice as hard for this interview. I was very excited about this position! In addition to reading and rereading (and maybe rereading once more) the library and community documents listed above, I had a 20 page document with sample questions, answers and behavioral examples. Topics included work experience, strengths and weaknesses, management and leadership style, conflict management, teamwork, customer service, flexibility, challenges and opportunities in adult services, and the future of libraries and librarians. Additionally, I made sure I was current on professional issues by reading professional journals, industry reports, and state library discussion lists.

Compiling and studying these documents really helped me to evaluate myself as a candidate, think about the role and future of libraries, get to know the interviewing library, and concisely articulate how I might fit within, and be an asset to them.

What questions did you ask?

Based on my study of the library and of the community I had many specific as well as general questions for the interviewers: about the library, programming, partners, and the community.

Why do you think you were hired? What set you apart from other candidates?

I know that all of the candidates were very qualified for the position. I feel that I was chosen because I was passionate about the job, the community, the profession, and the amazing possibilities and potential facing libraries as we move into the future.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

Don’t be afraid to show your passion! I love being a librarian and I am passionate about libraries and librarianship. I was very excited about Curtis Library and the Brunswick community – and I wasn’t afraid to let that show during the interview process. Do your research on the interviewing library and the community. Be able to articulate why you want the job and what you can offer.

The Hiring Librarian: Liz Doucett

Liz Doucett

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Sarah’s cover letter was very clear and detailed as to a) how her experience made her qualified for the job at Curtis and b) the degree of passion and energy that she had for her profession. We wanted both experience and passion in the person who got this job so her clarity made it easy for us to include her in our pool of applicants. I would tell any applicant for a job make sure she does the same in a cover letter with a focus on being short, succinct and full of excitement about the opportunity.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Sarah met all of the required qualifications.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience? What about for the other people you interviewed?

Sarah probably had slightly less experience than some of the other candidates. However, her high degree of preparation compensated for any short-falls in experience.

What was the interview process like? 

We went through all of the resumes received (about 40) and picked out a pool of six candidates. The interview committee (three librarians plus the library’s assistant director and the manager of technical services) then conducted a group telephone interview with each candidate. The final three candidates were invited to the library. Each candidate interviewed again with the interview committee and I then interviewed each one individually. Additionally, the final candidates had bagels and coffee in a large group format with anyone on the staff interested in attending. The candidates were given tours of the library and then went out to lunch (informally) with 2 members of the interview committee. It was an exhausting process for the candidate and the interview committee but by the end it was very clear as to who we were going to hire.

What stood out in this applicant’s interview?

Sarah came to the interview amazingly well-prepared. She had researched the community of Brunswick and Curtis Library and the staff that worked here. She knew by name which staff person did what job in the library. She had ideas about what she would like to accomplish at Curtis. She understood our strategic goals and already had a sense of what she could contribute toward achieving those goals. I have always prided myself on being prepared for job interviews and I can honestly say that Sarah far surpassed any job interview I’ve ever done. On top of that she was very passionate about her work which is refreshing and exciting when you are interviewing for a senior position.

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

The interview committee was a little worried that we had so few concerns about Sarah’s abilities – we felt like we must be missing something! Happily, Sarah has lived up to our expectations and continues to be a hire for the library of which we are all proud.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

When you interview for a job, I would suggest the following:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Look at every piece of information you can find about the library AND the community in which it is situated. A prepared candidate is very impressive.
  2. Practice answering sample interview questions out loud. You don’t want to memorize an answer but you do want to hear yourself speak out loud. It will help you figure out the topics which you are comfortable discussing and those about which you are less articulate.
  3. Come to an interview with suggestions and ideas. They might not be “right” for the library but they demonstrate that you are willing to put in time and energy and thinking into get this job.
  4. Don’t be afraid to tell interviewers why you want this job. Passion goes a long way in terms of convincing interviewers that you are the right candidate for the job.
  5. When you get to the end of an interview, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer if you have addressed all of their questions and concerns. You don’t want to leave the interview without having done everything you can can to get that job!

Just to reiterate: If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Adult Services, City/town, Hired Librarians, Northeastern US, Public