Folks who hire LIS workers, please join me next Wednesday at 10 AM Eastern for a free webinar hosted by the Indiana State Library. I’ll be using results from the job hunters survey as well as current research and my own thoughts and ideas to talk about how YOU can improve your recruitment strategies. The goal is a better understanding of how to get clear on your needs, communicate effectively with candidates, and above all center kindness in an arduous process. You will leave with a practical guide to revamping your announcements and reaching great candidates.
This is hosted by the Indiana State Library’s Office of Professional Development, which supports library staff with tons of free webinars each month. Just as an aside, did you know Indiana requires that many public library staff be certified? With continuing education requirements for some? Interesting, huh? This means that they have A LOT of free professional development content, and you don’t have to be a Hoosier to access it.
and More News: No Ads!
For the last year or so I have been (fairly halfheartedly) experimenting with ways to make Hiring Librarians pay for itself and maybe even recompense me for my time. If you want to read more about the costs and strategies, I break them down on the Participate page. I also have a link there for Paypal donations.
My new strategy is to stop running ads and see if folks are interested in being Patreon supporters. If you’d like to help fund the blog for the low low cost of $3, $8, or $12 per month (cancel anytime!) please navigate to: https://www.patreon.com/hiringlibrarians and thank you!
I’m a lurker over at r/libraries (that’s on the Reddit, if you’re not a Reddit person). Recently I came across a highly useful resource created by u/allchickpeas. I asked them if I could share and they said yes.
So you know when people are trying to figure out which MLIS program to attend and you want to give them advice like, “whichever one is cheaper?” Wouldn’t it be great if you could look at program costs for all the accredited online schools, sorted cheapest to most expensive?
Or maybe you yourself are considering getting your MLIS and you have a number of criteria that include how many units you’re planning to take each semester and what you want to pick as your special area of study? Wouldn’t you find it super helpful if someone had already ferreted out all that information and put it together on a spreadsheet?
WELL, THIS IS THE HIGHLY USEFUL RESOURCE I WAS TALKING ABOUT. The incredibly generous and helpful u/allchickpeas has created a
I have a news item for you. I’m on the editorial board of the journal Library Leadership and Management, and we’re seeking articles for a special issue on library organizational decide. Do you have something to contribute? We publish both peer-reviewed and editorial-reviewed articles…
Here is the call:
Library Leadership and Management, an ALA Core publication and a double-blind, peer-reviewed journal, is soliciting submissions for both peer-reviewed and editor-reviewed featured articles for our special issue on library organizational design. Topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
Re-organization case studies
Library organizational structures
Specific organizational structures around liaison programs, specific services, or similar
How libraries as organizations support remote and hybrid work
We strongly encourage proposals from individuals of all ethnicities, races, countries of origin, gender identities and expressions, ages, abilities, religions, sexual orientations, economic backgrounds, scholarly and professional backgrounds and experiences, types and sizes of institutions, and other differences. We are committed to amplifying and highlighting lived experiences from these different perspectives as they relate to leadership and management.
Articles accepted for submission are anticipated to be published in the final issue for 2023. The submission deadline is May 1st, but we will accept submissions on a rolling basis for inclusion in future issues. Please send preliminary expressions of interest via this form
Instructions for Authors and other journal information can be found here. Thank you,
Elizabeth Nelson (Editor) and Cinthya Ippoliti (Assistant Editor)
First, a recommendation. Have you read Obstacles and barriers in hiring: Rethinking the process to open doors by Mimosa Shah and Dustin Fife? Written like that transcript of a “watercooler chat,” it’s filled with thoughtful insight about the hiring process. Shah says, “You mention that the system is “working as designed” for individuals who are already acquainted with it. Often, the advice will be to “think like a white cis-man,” even from well-intentioned BIPOC folks, when it comes to job seeking and salary negotiations. But what if we’re imagining a different future? What if we believe the DEAI statements we write that underscore the need for transformation in the LIS profession? While it’s taken me some time to love and cherish the person I am, I wouldn’t be anything but who I am now: a South Asian American cis woman with her own experiences and perspective.” While it is expressly about Shah’s academic job search, I think hiring managers from all types of libraries will find actionable items as well as sharp analysis.
Do you have an open position? Would you like to be able to get the word out to new grads, current students, and iSchool alumni?
Do I have the resource for you!
Hilary Kraus (who you may know as an occasional respondent on the Further Questions series) has created a wonderful spreadsheet that lists the ALA accredited library schools, their career center or job posting site, and notes about requirements, alternatives, etc.
I am curious about who you are. Will you take my brief poll?
I’m also curious about why you’re reading. Will you take this other brief poll too please?
Hey, if you have anything else you want to say to me, please get in contact. I’d love to chat. You can also comment below, email, or reach out on Twitter. If you’ve got feedback about current work/surveys or requests for future work/surveys, I’d love to hear it.
It’s been really interesting to return to this blog, after six years away, and slowly rediscover the sheer volume of information that’s here.
On April 6, 2012 I began the Further Questions feature. Each week, I asked a question to a group of folks who were hirers of library workers, and posted the answer on Friday. Some of the questions I thought up, some were reader questions, and eventually some were thought up by Sarah Keil, who ran it from 2014-2016.
Like the rest of the blog, it’s back, baby. If you have a question for people who hire library workers, please let me know! If you are someone who hires library workers who’s interested in a no-pressure way to reflect on your thoughts and processes, let me know!
If you’re interested in the running list of questions that have been asked, they are linked below. I’ll add each week’s question and link on a semi-regular basis.
Is it possible to do all of your hiring virtually? Some managers are saying that they feel comfortable designing a 100% virtual hiring process for all of their vacant positions. Others are saying that only certain positions can be hired from 100% virtual and that some positions need a hybrid process. So…post-pandemic – IS it really possible to substitute 100% of in person hiring with 100% online/virtual hiring for librarian positions? If yes, can we say that about all positions we hire in libraries? Paraprofessional? Professional/Technical? Hourly?
What are your thoughts on age? A reader asks, “How open or closed are library hiring managers to women over 60?” I’d like to know if you have particular thoughts, observations, or tips for any kinds of folks who are worried about their age (older, younger, or in the middle) affecting their ability to get hired.
How did you learn to hire people? What did you learn through formal training versus through mistakes, mentoring, or some other method? Are there trainings or tools you would recommend?
How do you cope with hiring decisions you might not agree with? How might this affect working relationships later on, either with current colleagues or the new hire? If a candidate you think was amazing was not hired, do you have the ability to reach out afterwards to connect them with other libraries/later openings in your organization? Feel free to answer either personally or “for a friend/colleague.”
When scheduling interviews, is there any value in going first, last, or in the middle? Does time of day or day of the week make any difference either? Being ready is obviously crucial, but is there value in the job search advice that encourages interviewees to set the bar, be easiest to remember, not interviewing on a Friday afternoon, etc.? If you are comfortable sharing, do you have any method that you use to schedule candidates (i.e. reach out to strongest first, use application or alphabetical order, etc.) or is it truly random and therefore something that job seekers shouldn’t focus on?
What advice do you have for long-term job seekers, i.e. those who have been looking for over a year (see our stats on Hiring Librarians; about 40% of those who have taken our survey of job hunters have been searching for a new position for over a year, see the second question under the demographics section)? When it is obvious that a job hunter has been looking for awhile (either by graduation date or lack of a current position in the library world, etc.), do you consider this a red flag? How can job hunters stay fresh throughout a long job searching process?
Does it matter when in the process an applicant applies? That is, do you accept applications on a rolling basis, select a quota, and work from there? Or are applications set aside until a deadline and reviewed all at once? Do you use the same approach for all positions, or are professional versus paraprofessional treated differently in this regard?
What would your advice be for part time job applicants looking to use the job to gain experience and a foot in the door? In a tough job market, flexibility is important for applicants. Many LIS blogs/websites suggest exploring part time work, even post grad school, as a way to gain experience and enter the library world. Sometimes this means multiple part time jobs. Do you have MLS degree holders in part time positions (professional or paraprofessional) in your library? Would you hire MLS degree holders for part time positions? How would you advise applicants for full time jobs to sell any part time experience they may have?
Does your library/institution have a probationary period for new hires? If so, can you tell us the typical length of this time and how employees are evaluated during probation? If not, are there other ways new hires are evaluated during the early days of their employment (first three to twelve months or so)? Generally, do you think probationary periods necessary for professional positions–why or why not? Feel free to provide answers for other types of library positions, if relevant.
Who hires librarians and what do they do? Can you share with us the composition of the most recent search/hiring committees – number of committee members, their roles in the library, etc.? Are there stakeholders in the hiring process who should be involved but are not, or are only involved minimally (i.e. attending a presentation or meal with the candidate)? How is their feedback treated?
Broadly, what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement? And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk? Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?
How do personality types play out in interviews? Librarians tend to be stereotyped as introverts–so what tips do you have for quiet, shy, and/or timid individuals to sell themselves and ace the interview? Are moments of silence/pauses in conversations, particularly during the more informal periods of an interview day (such as a meal) taboo? So as to not leave anyone out, feel free to provide insight into how more extroverted individuals can succeed in interviews as well.
What value do you place on the post-interview email or mailed thank you note? What advice do you have for individuals interviewing with large committees–do they contact everyone they meet? Or what about other libraries that may not make email addresses easily accessible online–should candidates call and ask for an email address? In short, does sending a note (or not sending one) make or break a candidate’s chances?
Do you Google job candidates? Or look for them on social media, in your library system records (if local), or any other type of informal/formal background check? Have you ever done this and regretted it, or not done this and wished you had? When in the process would you be an online detective and why?
Can we talk about feedback? Is your organization able to provide feedback to applicants who are not hired (after they have been interviewed–not ones who never make the cut)? Why or why not? Oftentimes applicants ask why they did not receive the job only to receive vague answers or be told that the information is confidential. This can be frustrating but there are many reasons why this occurs, so learning about the process might help. On a related note, if feedback cannot be provided what is your advice to job seekers wishing to become stronger candidates in the future?
Can we talk about internal hiring? What is the process for promotions in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?
What value do you place on references? When in the process do you contact references, if you contact them at all? Who do you expect to see on the reference list and does it vary based on where an applicant is in their career? What are some of the questions you ask of references and how do the answers influence your decision to hire?
Traveling for interviews: who pays? Does your library pay for the interview expenses of a candidate such as airfare, hotel, meals, or mileage? Are candidates reimbursed or do you pay up front? Has anything changed in this realm due to the economy, such as a focus on local candidates, paying for travel but not meals, etc.?
How might a candidate overcome a bad first impression? Job searching advice always says to be early, prepare for the unexpected, and research everything ahead of time, but social faux pas can still happen. Can a candidate still advance in the process or land the job if they make a mistake, particularly in an in person interview? Why or why not? Bonus points if you have any related stories, personally or from your libraries.
Would a candidate’s travel plans be a dealbreaker? For example, a reader has a seventeen day trip planned in three months. Would this be a negative factor in your decision? Would you prefer to learn about it during the interview, or is it ok if the candidate waits to reveal until a job offer has been made?
Does word really get around? The idea of someone’s reputation comes up fairly regularly in career discussions. Does it really matter? Has there ever been a case where you haven’t hired someone because of something you heard (or vice-versa)? And how is this information about reputation transmitted?
What’s the Best Way to Practice for Interviews? It seems a bit wrong to apply and go through the interview process when not interested in a job, but how else can one get practice interviewing? Toastmasters and public speaking classes are helpful but not quite the same skills required for a presentation and interview – talking about oneself, and thinking on one’s feet. Any suggestions for gaining the skills to really impress you in an interview?
How many librarian positions are there at your library? Can you tell us a bit about how has this number has changed over time (e.g. higher or lower than last year, five years ago, ten years ago, etc.)? How has your service population changed over those same time periods? Please let us know if your answer is ballpark or exact. Bonus information: are there unfilled positions that will be left unfilled for a substantial period of time?
Should a candidate list a previous subordinate as a reference? How would you feel about a candidate that lists his or her previous subordinate as a reference? Would it make a difference if the candidate was apply for a position that had an equivalent or more amount of staff oversight, or for a job that had less or no staff oversight?
How do you count part time work? How is part time work counted, when looking to see if a candidate meets a requirement for a certain number of years of experience? For example, if a position requires two years of experience as an adult services librarian, and the librarian has worked 20 hours a week as an adult services librarian for two years, should she go ahead and apply? What about if she had worked even fewer hours? Any insight is appreciated!
How are job postings written? How does your institution write job postings? Do you have any input, or does HR do it? Do you list salary? Are you allowed to add things like “strong internal candidate”? Do you include any language about being an Equal Opportunity Employer, or do you encourage any specific demographic groups to apply?
Do you use interns/volunteers? Does your library use interns or volunteers? What tasks do they do? How are volunteers and interns chosen? What qualities are you looking for in potential volunteers/interns?
How can new hires start off right? After hiring, are your new hires put through any sort of probation period? Have any of them been unable to make it through this period? Do you have any general tips for new employees, to help them start off on the right foot?
How can a candidate get an accurate understanding of the workplace atmosphere? Any tips/tricks/methods for a job seeker for seeing through the “Company Behavior” that goes on during an interview, to get a sense of what the “everyday” atmosphere at a library is like? I’ve heard way too many horror stories about people feeling like everything clicked in an interview, accepting a position, and only then discovering that it was a really toxic environment.
Would your library consider hiring ex-felons? These individuals have been working as inmate library clerks. They have the skill-set for circulation desk and book shelving duties. Also they have entered new book titles into the library’s catalog database and managed circulation records. They have been dependable staff members. Would your library consider hiring ex-felons?
What’s a Skype Interview Like? Have you interviewed candidates via Skype or another videoconferencing platform? How do these interviews differ than in-person interviews? Any tips for candidates about to do a Skype interview?
How Can a Candidate Ace Dinner with the Search Committee? Do you have any tips for acing dinner with the search committee? If you do not work for an organization that includes a meal as part of the interview process, do you have any tips do for the more informal, social aspect of mingling or making small talk with your interviewers?
Does Personal Branding Help? Personal branding has become one of the tools recommended by those dispensing job hunting advice. Have you ever hired a librarian who uses this strategy – developing and managing a personal brand in order to shape the image he or she presents on the job hunt and professionally? Do you have any thoughts about this trend? (If you want to read more about branding before answering this question, there’s a recent-ish American Libraries article here.)
Do You Do Any Sort of Pre-Employment Testing? Do applicants have to take a multiple choice test, or provide a writing sample, or do a presentation/sample lesson? Why does your workplace do this, and how can candidates prepare?
Do You Read Hiring Librarians? If so, have you been surprised by anything, or have you changed your mind about any aspect of the hiring process? (I really won’t mind if you say no – this is not a vanity question!)
When and How Should an Applicant Check-In? After submitting an application, when and how is it appropriate for the applicant to check in with you? If they haven’t heard back within a week? Two weeks? Should they call? Email? Drop in?
Does Where You Go to School Matter? Would attending a for-profit school count against a candidate? Do you hire for any positions that require a second Masters? If so, do you give more weight to candidates from prestigious schools?
Do You Google Job Candidates? Or look for them on social media, or do any other sort of online sleuthing/informal background check/personal curiosity assuaging?
Further Answers: How Did Prop 13 Affect You? Can you describe how you were affected by Prop 13? Were you laid off or did you have hours reduced? How long did it take to return to work? Did you return to the same level and hours as before you left? Can you see any similarities or differences between what it was like then, and what the library job market is like today?
How important is knowledge of specific tools? As archivists and librarians, the tools we learn are a bit of a crapshoot. How important is that an applicant have previous knowledge in the specific tools or system that your library uses? Is it very important, we will not consider an applicant without that experience/ideal, but we will consider someone with training as a substitute (example: took EAD course but did not use EAD in a job), it’s more important that someone is willing to learn new technology and tools (perhaps demonstrated by the other tools they already know), or something else entirely?
How does the initial selection work? Who does your first round of sorting/selecting applicants for interviews (a computer/an HR professional/you/someone else…)? Is there generally a fixed number of applicants selected for the initial round or does it depend on the position, the pool of applicants, or something else entirely?
Reader Response Requested: What Do You Read for Career Advice? This week you are the experts. Is there a particular publication (book, blog, column, magazine, journal, podcast, etc. etc.) that you regularly read for career advice? How did you hear about this resource and what makes it so valuable to you? Please post your answer in the comments.
How are Library Directors Hired? Can you please give us brief run-down of the process of hiring a library director? What are some of the questions that candidates are asked? What are the most important qualities candidates can demonstrate? Any other advice for hopeful directors?
Does Your Library Do Background Checks? Does your organization do background checks? If it does, what exactly is checked? Credit rating, conviction history, job or education history, etc.? What kinds of things would keep a candidate from getting hired?
Advice for “older” job hunters Just as younger librarians worry about being perceived as inexperienced and skipped over, older librarians worry about stereotypes preventing them from finding work. Can you dispel some of this worry by sharing a story about hiring an “older” librarian? Any particular advice for this type of job hunter? And finally, just for fun, which do you think is a bigger disadvantage in a job hunt: youth or age?
Do You Notify Rejected Applicants? What notifications do you (or your library) send to applicants? Do you acknowledge applications? Share your timeline? Notify rejected candidates? If you do, is it over the phone, via email, or by mail? Do you think employers have any obligation to do this? Or are there practical considerations that make it impossible?
Is Having Been Fired a Deal Breaker? Have you ever hired someone who had been fired from a previous position? Is having been fired a deal breaker, or are there understandable circumstances? Is there anything in your application process which would reveal that a candidate had been fired?
What are the most important “tech skills”? Everyone says it’s important for candidates to have “tech skills”. Can you please explain what, exactly, tech skills are? I realize it varies depending on position, but what would you say are the most important programs and proficiencies for candidates, and why?
What does “or equivalent” mean? Broadly,what does “or equivalent” really mean in a job announcement? And more specifically, could a paraprofessional position ever stand in for librarian experience, if it included some librarian duties such as staffing the reference desk? Can you describe any instances where someone with “equivalent” experience was hired at your organization?
Turning the Tables We all know that candidates have loads of questions for people who hire. But do you have the same kinds of questions for candidates? Do you wonder what they’re thinking about your job announcements, for example, or are you uncertain about the clothes you should wear to interview someone? What questions would you ask of job hunters?
When Should Library Students Start Applying? Have you interviewed or hired a candidate who is still in school for a librarian position? How early is too early for a student to start applying? Do you take into consideration the particular school a candidate has attended? Has a candidate’s GPA ever affected your decision to hire or interview a candidate?
Would You Hire a Person Who Has an Autistic Spectrum Disorder For a Reference Librarian Position? Would you hire a person who has an autistic spectrum disorder for a reference librarian position? Would you prefer if someone with an autistic spectrum disorder discloses that they have one during an interview? Would you as a reference department manager allow a librarian with an autistic spectrum disorder to have a trial period in which they could demonstrate their skills before fully hiring them? Have you ever had someone self-identify as an individual with a disability during the hiring process? How did it change things?
What’s the Best Way for Someone to Get Promoted in Your Organization? What is the best way for someone to get promoted in your organization? Are there any particular indicators that show you when a staff member is ready for more responsibility? Do internal candidates have to follow the same application procedures as external candidates? Any other advice for succeeding when you’re already an employee?
Can We Talk About References? Do you make any judgments based on who is on the list before even talking to the references? Do you expect to see the current supervisor on the reference list? If you call references, what are some of the questions you ask and how do the answers effect your decision to hire?
Why Is It Taking So Long? What are the different hiring stages at your organization and how long does each typically take? What are the factors that can lengthen the process? Is there ever a point in time when a candidate should attempt to check the status of an application?
Should a candidate ever try to connect with you on a social networking service? Is it ever appropriate for a candidate to try to connect with you on a social networking service (i.e. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, LibraryThing…)? If so, which ones and under what circumstances? What about in person (at a conference, etc)? Please feel free to include any additional insight you have on networking etiquette.
Whew! That’s a lotta questions! Now here’s one for you: Which of these would you like to see revisited? My list of “people who hire librarians” has grown and changed since I asked the first question in April of 2012, and the hiring climate is always changing. Should I re-ask anything?
Photo: By DuMont Television/Rosen Studios, New York-photographer. Uploaded by We hope at en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Do you know about the Interview Questions Repository? This is a spreadsheet that records responses from a form that asks job hunters to record questions they were asked in an interview, as well as some additional information about interview type and demographics. There are more than 500 responses. It has been open since March of 2013. The bulk of responses are pre-2019; there are maybe 20 or so that are 2020-current. It is still open (go ahead and submit questions if you recently had an interview) and remained while the blog was offline from 2016-2021.
A lot of folks have told me that this is particularly useful. But I ask, is it useful enough?
I am pondering ways that I could revamp this document to make it easier to use and more current. I welcome your suggestions and feedback. Things I am specifically wondering include:
Should I close the current form and start a new one?
Are there different questions that would help with sorting?
Would a different tool (other than Google forms) make a more usable repository?
Are you now or have you ever been someone who hires library workers, archives workers, or other information professionals? Please fill out the new survey!
This is the first step in creating new blog content!!!
Responses will be used to create blog posts here at hiringlibrarians.com and in related work that is primarily of interest to job hunters.
Questions relate to the respondent’s organization, the hiring process, and experience and opinions about hiring and hireability.
There are 23 questions, including multiple choice and demographic questions. It should take 10-15 minutes to complete.
No questions are required. All questions are on one page so respondents may navigate around and look at all the questions before answering any, skip backwards and forwards, edit before submitting, etc.
If respondents are interested in being featured as part of a blog post, they may provide contact information. I will work with them to make sure they approve of everything that is posted. Otherwise, all answers are anonymously recorded.
The basic premise was that I created a survey which could be completed anonymously (or not), by anyone who might hire a librarian, in all library types, as well as in non-library organizations that hire information professionals, and then I posted responses to that survey on the blog. You can see what that looked like here.
I stopped posting new content in 2016 because I was working full time and wanted more of my non-working hours for fun things. But now I am transitioning to consulting and have a lot more flexible time. So, I’ve been thinking about starting the blog up again. I’m currently looking at how I might revamp that original survey
So my question for you is:
If you could ask a large number of people who do library hiring some questions, what questions would you ask?
If you’re interested, the questions I asked on the original survey are:
Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?
What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?
Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?
How many pages should a cover letter be?
How many pages should a resume/CV be?
Do you have a preferred format for application documents?
Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?
If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?
What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?
What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?
Demographic info (library type, region, size, etc.)
I’m also happy to hear any other feedback you might have. Thanks!