Category Archives: Recruiters

Further Questions: How does the initial selection work?

Here’s the first in a series of six great questions posed by a reader.

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

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?

Laurie Phillips

Because librarians are faculty here, HR does not receive the applications. They are sent directly to the chair of the search committee. The search committee has a rubric by which the members evaluate the applications. Each application must have all of the required qualifications and usually one of the desired to be an A application. The committee meets to go through the applications one by one and assigns Yes, Maybe, and No to each application. The Yes applications are narrowed to the number of candidates who will be phone/Skype interviewed..

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Hopefully I can share some insight into how this process works at the majority of staffing firms. Usually selection at a recruitment agency is a two stage process. The first selection occurrs when a candidate initially sends in their resume (by email or by uploading it via a web portal). This selection is usually carried out by a recruitment consultant scanning the resume (and cover letter/email, if there is one), to screen out anyone who clearly doesn’t have any library/records experience, qualification or relevance. I’ve had teachers, plumbers, and today a welder…
The second part of this stage, with many agencies, is a telephone screening call. Different agencies have different policies – some will register everyone who applies who has some relevant experience/qualification, while others will screen out any who don’t pass the telephone pre-screen – that would generally be candidates with poor communication skills but could also include those with unrealistic expectations (in terms of salary for their level of experience, for example) or who don’t meet other criteria the agency has decided to apply.
Once a candidate is registered with a staffing agency, the second selection takes place when a consultant has a job vacancy and searches through the database to find candidates who are a good match, in order to contact them to see if they are interested. That search is often an automated one, using either codes generated when the database file was created or keywords from within the CV/resume (or a combination of the two).
In order to make sure that your details are amongst those retrieved during this second selection process, it is important to make sure you include all the relevent keywords. For example putting “familiar with a range of online subscription sources” isn’t much help when a recruiter is searching their database for instances of the words ‘Factiva’ or ‘Lexis Nexis’!
I have noticed that many candidates leave recruiters and hirers to make assumptions from their resume – “I’ve worked for x years as a Librarian in y kind of organisation – so it’s obvious I can do inquiries, cataloguing, acquisitions, or whatever’. Well to the database search engine it isn’t obvious, and resumes like this rarely come up in searches. Consequently those candidates find they don’t often get calls about vacancies.
It is important to remember that a recruiter may interview 10-15 people a week, every week. After a few months it becomes impossible to remember all those people – so a database search is really the only practical way to make sure that more than 1 or 2 weeks most recent applicants get a chance. Making sure your resume is searchable, for the types of skills you want to use in your next job, is therefore very important.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
We’ve no HR department.  I as director do the first contact.  A quality control librarian does the final selection based on quality of sample records.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Emilie SmartIn our system, all applications  go through our City HR office.  When we put in a staffing requisition, HR pulls the appropriate applications, grades them (using unknown criteria), and sends us names.  Sometimes they send us 5 names, sometimes 3 names —  you never really know what you’re going to get.  Sometimes (too often) they send us the same names over and over even though we’ve passed over the people multiple times.
We’re not really sure what drives the number of names we receive, nor do we fully understand the grading criteria that is used.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library
Marge Loch-WoutersWe are a fairly small shop (public library serving a 51K population). Each manager handles the initial sorting for positions they are hiring for. The process is adaptable depending on the number of applications the different managers receive for any job opening.
We usually have a huge pool of applicants for youth services jobs – the area I hire in. Once I have a top pool of fifteen to twenty-five candidates, I send them essay questions. This helps us narrow the pool further to 8-10 applicants. Some managers go directly to interviews. I usually have an additional Skype interview before final interviews to narrow the field to a final 4. It helps me get a first read on the candidate and helps me see how they will potentially fit with our existing team of five other professionals in the department. Our final interviews (and essay reading) is usually done with a team of interviewers (usually managers). By the end of this ordeal..oh, ahem, I mean process…we usually have found the match that works great for the library and the successful applicant!
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Dusty Snipes GresFor me it depends upon the position and the pool of applicants. I do read every resume – even the ones on flowered, scented stationery printed using a fancy hard-to-read type font with my name spelled wrong on the cover letter.

If there are a lot of applicants I will submit to each one (if they meet the basic job requirements) a set of questions concerning the job, sort of a pre-interview. Then I will narrow the search from there and usually interview at least three. I have had occasions where the pool was so small that I called all applicants for an interview. If it is necessary I will do a first interview via web/online.

The last opening I had, 18 months ago, I had 3 applicants and only 2 met any of the job requirements. That was a shock! We ended up having the position taken away from us because we couldn’t fill it. We cannot convince folks that living 90 miles from the nearest mall doesn’t mean that life has come to an end.

– Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Melanie LightbodyAny regular full time or part time position must go through HR first. There is no set limit of applicants who can be accepted. We’re a Merit system county. Everything is prescribed and by the book. Only those meeting the basic qualifications will progress. It is a very fair system, I think.

For extra help, it is a much more informal process. In fact, I’ve several times seen the progress from volunteer to extra help to regular employee.

– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County

Marleah AugustineI do the first round of sorting when I am doing the hiring. I usually go through the applications and narrow it down to those to contact for interviews. For each position, I like to have about five interviews. Sometimes every application looks great and I want to interview them all; sometimes the initial round of applications just isn’t enough and I leave the position open for a bit longer.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Petra MauerhoffUsually *I* do the first round of looking through applicants, because they are usually addressed to my attention, but then I pass the whole stack on to the manager who will be supervising the position and s/he gets to pick candidates who will be interviewed. The number of candidates we decide to interview depends on the overall number of applications as well as the qualifications of the pool of applicants. If we are not sure if there is anyone who REALLY fits the position, we will interview a few more people to make sure we get the one who fits best.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
Paula HammetIn our academic library we have a search committee of 3-5 librarians. The management of the responses to the search is done by our campus Faculty Affairs office, which sends out the acknowledgements of apps, and the letters at the end of the process. The search committee draws up a list of criteria (based an on the position announcement), and a list of questions, based on the criteria.  The questions and criteria have to be approved by Faculty Affairs before the search committee can get access to the applications. [Hint to applicants: read the position announcement carefully!]
The applications are reviewed by all members of the search committee individually, then we meet together to draw up our list of 6-10 semi-finalists (the number varies depending on the position and the number of qualified applications we receive). We typically do short phone interviews with the semi-finalists before narrowing our choices to 3 (rarely more) candidates to invite to campus for a day-long interview.
In the last few searches we’ve done, we have been blessed with strong pools of candidates.  That can make it more difficult to sort through the apps to find the candidates who really stand out as having the specific skills and talents we are looking for (and maybe some we didn’t even know we needed!). Once the committee agrees on a candidate, and a back-up, we discuss our recommendations with the Dean, who will then make an offer.
There are a lot of talented librarians out there looking for work! We usually are really excited about the people we invite to campus, and it can often be a difficult decision to decide on the “right” one to whom to offer the job.
– Paula Hammett, Librarian at Sonoma State University
Samantha Thompson-FranklinOur campus policy for all searches is to have all applications for a position be sent directly to our HR Dept. where they make sure that the applicant has submitted all of the required documents. The applications are then sent on to the chair of the search committee for review by the committees members. If an application is missing any required documents, then those applications will be flagged as incomplete, but the committee chair will still receive the application and the chair and the committee members are free to make their own decision on whether or not to review the application or wait until more documents are received and the application is complete. Each search committee makes its own decision as to how many applications they will select for an initial round of interviews (usually phone interviews initially). Sometimes it depends upon how many applications are received for a position, but usually the initial round of interviews will include about 7-8 applicants.
– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundWe are a medium sized library and when we post a good job (full-time with benefits) we will get between 30 and 40 applicants. The process for interviewing and hiring is slightly different for our lower level positions. Pages, substitutes and hourly employees are selected by the person who will directly supervise them.

We don’t have an “HR professional” on staff so the department managers and I conduct the interviews. Typically I let the direct supervisor or manager sort through the applications and pick out about 10 we might want to interview. As director, I then go through that smaller pool and identify those that we will interview. We do not have a set number of candidates we want to interview. It depends on the importance of the job and the size of the candidate pool.

In the case of full-time employees I participate equally with the manager of the department in the actual interview, but I make the final call on who will be offered the position. We work from a set list of questions so all candidates are asked the same questions and we take turn asking the questions. Generally we talk a bit about each candidate right after the interview, but do a more thorough review after all the interviews are completed.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at

Thank YOU for reading!  Are you feeling kind of zen?  I hope you’ll leave a calmment.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Recruiters, Rural area, Youth Services

Further Questions: Are You Looking for Candidates That Speak More Than One Language?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Does your organization/library give any additional weight to candidates who can speak more than one language?  If so, what languages are you looking for and how do you determine proficiency?

At Duke, as at other large academic libraries I’ve worked at, knowledge of other languages is a skill we value highly.  We have a number of jobs that require specific knowledge of specific languages, e.g., Catalog Librarian for Spanish & Portuguese Languages, Korean Studies Librarian, etc.  For cataloging, acquisitions, and other technical services positions, reading knowledge of the language is usually sufficient.  (Although for acquisitions positions, which are typically support-staff positions, it helps if you speak the language so you can call up that vendor in Shanghai or wherever and ask why something hasn’t arrived.)  For subject librarian/bibliographer positions, the ability to converse in the language is much more important.

I always say that as an academic librarian, nothing you know or learn is ever wasted — it will come up and be helpful to you at some point.  Languages are a great example of that.  If you speak or read a language we’re not specifically asking for, at some point we will probably need somebody who knows that language for some project, reference inquiry, etc.  So even if we’re not asking for someone who speaks Vietnamese for this reference librarian position, we would be glad to have somebody who speaks Vietnamese on-staff because it will probably come up at some point.  (Our Moving Image Archivist got me to make a phone call to Brazil for her once because she was having trouble placing an order for a film because she didn’t speak Portuguese and nobody there spoke English.  My Portuguese was very useful that day!)  Also, whatever language you speak, a patron who speaks that language will probably end up at the reference desk someday, and then it will be useful.

As I said, we often look for specific languages for specific positions.  Off the top of my head, the languages I know we have specifically recruited for include Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, Hindi, Urdu, Turkish, Japanese, Chinese, Korean.  I’m probably forgetting some.  In general, the ones that are most widely used for us are French, Spanish, German, and Chinese.  We don’t have a test or anything for proficiency.  For tech services positions that require only a reading knowledge, I usually say that if you can read a newspaper article in the language and then summarize what it’s about, you probably have the knowledge you need.  (I don’t mean if you can read a 2-page article and say “It’s about politics,” that is good enough — you need to be able to get the details, but not every word and you don’t need to be able to translate on a sentence-by-sentence basis.)

Keep in mind that most languages are related to other languages, so if you can read one language well, you might be able to read its related languages pretty well, too.  For example, if you can read Spanish, you can read Catalan without much trouble.  If you know French and Italian, you can probably make your way through Romanian.  If you can read German, you might be surprised how well you can read Dutch.  Don’t assume that you have to have had formal study in a language to have basic proficiency in it.

– Rich Murray, Metadata Librarian, Digital Collections, Duke University

Marleah AugustineWe don’t actively look for multilingual candidates, but in some cases it is handy. We have an English as a Second Language program at our library, but skills in English are more important for our purposes in that case.

And I should say – we are in a fairly rural area and do not have a highly diverse population, just to give it some context!

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Nicola FranklinWhen I am registering candidates to help with their job search, if they have listed language skills on their resume/CV, then I will ask them to rate their own skill level in reading/writing/speaking.  When I have a job calling for a certain level of proficiency in a language, and I pick out candidates who have said they have this during registration, at that point I will ask them more detailed questions to try and verify their proficiency.

For example, I’ll ask whether they’ve used the language in practice (for example, on holiday, while living abroad, or at work) or just while studying it (alone or in a group setting), whether they would be confident to handle a customer complaint (on the telephone or face to face) in the language, or whether they could write a report or article for publication in the language.  I find that asking someone about confidence with practical applications gets a more detailed and more honest self-appraisal than asking an abstract question (such as – are you beginner, intermediate, or expert/fluent level).

I will then put apparently suitable candidates forward to my client, in the knowledge that they are likely to be given a practical test of the language skill level they’ve claimed during the interview stages.  This could be a written or computer based test, or having some/all of the interview conducted in the language, or being asked to give a presentation in it.  I have come across all of these at some point, although I’ve also had clients who take the candidate’s word for their skill level without further testing.  I guess it then becomes something for review during the probation period.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Laurie PhillipsWe only require reading knowledge of a language for people who work with music, mainly because so many of the reference tools in music are in German. I would say German would be the most desirable followed by French or Italian. Catalogers are often required to have reading knowledge of various languages but we do not require that here. I am also the music cataloger and I can read German and a little bit of other languages. Our liaisons to Modern Languages speaks both French and Spanish, which is very helpful, but was not required. I don’t know how one would determine proficiency. In graduate school, I had to pass a proficiency exam in German or French (I chose German). It was a timed translation exam.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

J. McRee Elrod

For SLC speaking is irrelevant. But we do value the ability to read and catalogue other languages. The most needed are nonroman script ones.

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



Terry Ann LawlerWe only give weight to more languages when we have insufficient staff who are fluent in other languages.  For example, if I have only one person on my library’s reference team who speaks Spanish and I’m in an area where a lot of our customers are Spanish speakers, I would make that a priority.

It would not be the only reason I hired someone, however.  If all candidates are equal and one speaks Spanish, I’d go with that person.  If one candidate is clearly the best pick and they don’t speak Spanish, I’d still go with that candidate.
We determine proficiency during the interview by asking a couple of conversational style questions in the language we need.

– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library


Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thanks for reading! I want to live like comment people, I want to do whatever comment people do…

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Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Recruiters, Rural area

Overtly Political Slogans Would Raise Serious Red Flags

business man with hands in pockets by Ambroon FreeDigitalPhotos

This anonymous interview is with a recruiter.  This person has been a hiring manager and a 3rd party library recruiter for a recruiting agency with 0-10 staff members in an urban area of the UK.

What Candidates Should Wear

Should the candidate wear a suit to the interview?

√ Probably, yes (but it’s ok if the candidate wears something a little less formal)

An outfit with a coordinated blazer and trousers:

√ Counts as a suit

Bare arms are inappropriate in an interview, even in the summer.

√ False

If a woman wears a skirt to an interview, should she also wear pantyhose?

√ Either pantyhose or tights. Bare legs are inappropriate

Women should wear make-up to an interview:

√ I don’t care, as long as it’s not over-the-top

Is there anything a candidate might wear that would cause them to be instantly out of the running? If you have any funny stories about horrifying interview outfits, we’d love to hear them.

flip flops, ripped jeans, clothes with overtly political slogans would raise serious red flags. I’ve had someone keep on an outdoor hooded coat throughout an interview, with the hood up, which made me wonder what they were hiding.

Do you expect different levels of formality of dress, depending on the position you’re hiring for?

√ Yes, the higher the position, the more formal I expect the candidate to dress

Which jewelry may candidates wear: (Please select all that are acceptable)

√ Single, simple necklace, bracelet, and/or ring
√ A few simple necklaces, bracelets, and/or rings
√ Earrings

Which hair colors are acceptable for candidates:

√ All of them, even pink

The way a candidate dresses should:

√ Be fairly neutral

How does what a candidate wears affect your hiring decision?

The way someone presents themselves reflects the way they think about themselves, their level of self confidence, their level of care and attention to detail, and how much they respect themselves and the interview process – no wonder it has such an influence!
I think that any well coordinated, smart, outfit that reflects the level of formality at the organisation, with a high level of personal grooming, would positively affect my hiring decision.

What This Library Wears

How do you dress when you are going to conduct an interview?

In a suit.

On a scale of one (too dressed up for my workplace) to five (too casual), khakis and a polo shirt are:


What’s the dress code at your library/organization?

√ Business casual

Are there any specific items of clothing, etc. that are forbidden by your dress code? Please check all that apply

√ Flip flops
√ Short skirts/shorts
√ Logos/band insignia/slogans

Librarians at your organization wear: Please check all that apply

Name tags
Shirt, waistcoat/vest, or other single piece of clothing issued by the library

This survey was co-authored by Jill of Librarian Hire Fashion – submit your interview outfit to her blog!

Photo: Ambro on

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Other Organization or Library Type, Recruiters, UK, Urban area, What Should Candidates Wear?

Further Questions: What is the most important “soft” skill?

**This question is inspired by the segment on non-cognitive skills from the Back to School episode of This American Life. It’s a great episode, if you’re looking for something to listen to:

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

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

J. McRee Elrod

Since our cataloguers work at a distance, the “ability to play with others” important in a workplace does not usually apply.  We value promptness and living up to commitments.  We have no way of measuring this other than experience with the cataloguer, and don’t know how it could be demonstrated in advance.

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

Nicola FranklinHmm this week’s question is harder than it looks!  Given other things being equal (which they often are; people attend the same/similar MLS programmes after all), it is soft skills that often tip the balance between candidates, so picking out just one to be the most important is hard!

I would say that communication skills are the most important ‘soft’ skill for a candidate to have.  Of course, ‘communication skills’ is a short phrase for a large range of skills.  Unpacking it, you get written, verbal and non-verbal communication, and within each of those are again a range of skills.  For example, within verbal communication you have persuasion, influencing, presenting, telephone skills, reference interviewing, etc.

Candidates can demonstrate written communication skills directly through their resume or application form – is the writing clear, concise, articulate?  Verbal communication skills are harder to show in the application packet, but can still be alluded to indirectly, for example by including experience of chairing meetings, giving presentations, manning issue or enquiry desks, etc, which involve using verbal skills.

I’ve written more about different types of communication skills on my blog.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Marleah AugustineOver time working in a library, I found that empathy and patience is one of the most important skills that people should have in a public library. We work with a wide range of patrons, and it’s very important to be patient and understanding. When I have a tough experience with a patron, I can’t be snippy and rude to them — I don’t know if they just lost a family member, if they have a mental health issue, if they didn’t take their blood pressure medication that morning, or if they just lost their job. Yes, it can be trying, but I have to be able to brush it off and move on with my day — and not take it out on the next person to approach the desk. I might be skewed in this direction because I also have a master’s in psychology, but I think it’s very important for staff to realize that they don’t know what that patron is experiencing and they must treat all patrons with the same level of professionalism and respect.

That skill is also important when working with fellow coworkers. Not everyone has the same work style or method of approaching tasks, but different methods can be equally productive. Staff need to consider that what works for them doesn’t always work for others, and this goes for part-time and full-time staff alike.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Laurie PhillipsOkay, I’ll be the first to admit that I had to look up soft skills because I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant. Truth is, what you call soft skills are, in many cases, more important to us than anything else. You have to have these basics to come work here. Most of them can’t be demonstrated in an application packet, but you should be prepared to address them in interviews and presentations and to expect that your references will have to address them.

I found any article by Kate Lorenz titled “Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters” on the web. Her top 10 are all crucial in my environment:

1. Strong work ethic – we need people who are thinkers and visionaries but we also absolutely need people who are productive – what we call “do-ers.”

2. Positive attitude – one person we interviewed in my last search asked for feedback on why he didn’t get the job. The main thing was his attitude toward some big projects we were accomplishing over the summer. He sounded like he was dreading the fallout. On the other hand, the person I hired described our approach as “fearless.”

3. Good communication skills – this is a top requirement. Written communication skills are evidenced by your letter. Don’t miss that opportunity. Verbal and interpersonal skills will come out in your interviews and presentations.

4. Time management abilities – the ability to juggle multiple responsibilities is crucial. We are blended librarians who have a lot on our plates. We ask people in the phone/Skype interview to describe situations that illustrate these abilities.

5. Problem-solving skills – again, a crucial skill. We are often looking at creative solutions to difficult problems.

6. Acting as a team player – we are a team-based organization, so we often ask references about the person’s ability to work with others collaboratively. If all of their accomplishments are solitary, it’s hard to see them fitting in here.

7. Self-confidence – we have to put ourselves out there with our students and faculty and project confidence in our abilities and our knowledge in order to be taken seriously.

8. Ability to accept and learn from criticism – our librarians get a lot of feedback and mentoring as part of the rank and tenure process. If they cannot learn from that feedback and respond to it, they will not progress.

9. Flexibility/Adaptability – our jobs change and evolve. We have to be open to that.

10. Working well under pressure – our Learning Commons desk is insane for the first couple of weeks of school. If we can survive that and our teaching load, we’re fine.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thanks for reading! All day I’ve faced a barren waste, without the taste of comments, cool comments.

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Filed under Academic, Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Instruction, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Public Services/Reference, Recruiters

Further Questions: Does Your Library Do Background Checks?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

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?

Emilie Smart

We do not do background checks on classified employees nor does the City’s HR Dept (which handles all City employment applications).

– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Marleah AugustineAt this time we do not do background checks. We do ask that if someone has been convicted of a felony, that they explain that charge. We haven’t had too many issues with it, but I think that a candidate would not get hired if their felony conviction was violence or theft related. As for job or education history, we just call references rather than doing a formal background check.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Nicola FranklinAs a recruiter the type of background checks I do varies depending on the type of role I’m looking to place the candidate in.  For those seeking just a permanent position, I carry out an interview (to fact check their resume for the skills and experience they’ve laid claim to, and to assess personality, attitude and motivations).  Other checks (for example taking up references, medical, credit check) remain the responsibility of the ultimate hirer and are usually carried out by them (although once in a while a client will ask me to carry out the reference checks on their behalf).  For those seeking contract or freelance work, in addition to the interview, I take up the references myself, and also check their eligibility to work in the country where the job is based (UK, USA or elsewhere).  References could be from employers or educational institutes or both, depending on the person’s career history and the requirements of the job.

Reference checking in the UK can be a frustrating process as employers are very wary of committing anything to paper that could later be deemed to be a subjective opinion and so open to legal challenge if it caused any disadvantage to the candidate.  Many written references are therefore little more than confirmation of employment dates, job title and number of sickness days (if any).  To counter this I often take up a verbal reference, as people are often willing to be more frank on the phone.

The main thing that would stop me putting a candidate forward to a client would be lying on their resume/CV, whether about qualifications, length or type of experience or skills.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.


J. McRee Elrod



No.  For a distance cataloguer it is irrelevant.

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


Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thanks for reading! I hope you found some comment ground!

1 Comment

Filed under Further Questions, Public, Recruiters

Further Questions: How Has the Economy Affected Hiring at Your Library?

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

How has the economy affected hiring at your organization?  Have there been freezes?  Have positions gone unfilled?  Are applicant pools larger?  Please let us know what’s changed!  And have you noticed any thawing lately?

We have had freezes on filling open positions.  We have had to use open positions as a “cash-in” to meet budget cuts.

But the interesting thing is the applicant pool.  I had an open position — admittedly one requiring IT/network skills, although I was willing to hire a new graduate.  There were 4 applicants. Four. One of them met the qualifications, was offered the job, and turned it down because it required too much work and travel to small remote branches and locations. So now it is unfilled and must remain so until next year.

So here’s the thing:  There are not many jobs available. But, there are jobs that require moving to a small town, outside of the big city, and miles away from a shopping mall.  Those jobs usually require hands-on, do-most-anything kind of work. If you really want a job, sometimes you have to take what’s offered and it may not be quite what you were expecting.

Is it thawing?  Not yet.  Not here that I can see.  Those who claim to be experts in this type of thing tell me that the 2015 budget year will be the bottom. I don’t know — I do know that the only thing I can really tell applicants is keep trying, broaden your skill set, and don’t forget us country folk.

– Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Nicola FranklinHere in the UK the slow down in number of jobs started back at the end of 2008 (in the private sector).  The public sector carried on much as normal for quite some time, and we only really saw changes there from 2010 onwards once the ‘austerity measures’ of the government kicked in and they put hiring freezes on.  Across the central government there is a total ban on hiring, and in other public sector areas (higher education, public libraries, etc) there have been great reductions.
The big debate here at the moment is about local councils making some or all of their public libraries into charitable trusts, run by volunteers from the local community, in some cases with no professional library staff at all.  While CILIP (the professional body analogous to ALA) have come out to condemn substitution of paid jobs by volunteers, the SCL (Society of Chief Librarians, which is the body for all the Heads of Library services in the UK) hasn’t.
There has been little sign of any thawing in the economy or job market as yet, with all the library recruitment agencies and CILIP having many fewer than normal jobs advertised on their websites. In addition the jobs that are available tend to be either senior management, entry level or calling for rather unusual, specialised or technical skill sets.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
Laurie PhillipsWe have been very fortunate not to have hiring freezes. As a private institution, we are not reliant on the vagaries of state government, thank goodness. Also, we have had a high percentage of faculty turnover since Hurricane Katrina, so the university has been particularly committed to rebuilding the faculty (and our librarians are faculty). I would say, yes, our  applicant pools are larger and more competitive. We’ve made some wonderful faculty hires because we’re getting a great pool of candidates.
– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans
J. McRee Elrod
We continue to have new word-of-mouth e-publishers asking for MARC records, while cataloguing from small libraries has declined sharply. It tends to balance out.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Terry Ann LawlerYes the economy has definitely effected our hiring procedures!  We have had a hiring freeze for years now.  We are currently still frozen on full time positions and have to get permission to hire them on a position by position basis.  Many vacancies have not been granted filling, leaving us perpetually short staffed through out our library system.
Yes, applicant pools are much, much larger.  This means that we have to knock up our criteria in order to make it manageable.  Unfortunately for new grads with little experience, this could mean you’ll need to take on part time or volunteer or intern positions to make your resume fit our criteria.
Also, thankfully, yes, things have thawed a little in our city.  We have been granted permission to fill our part time positions as soon as they are vacant.  That means you do have a chance!
– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
Marleah AugustineWe have not had hiring freezes, but we have reduced our number of support staff members just through attrition. As some staff retire or move on to other jobs, we do not fill that position. Applicant pools are very much so larger — in fact, we just hired replacements in 4 part-time positions, and we had to sort through over 100 applications. And the applicants are highly qualified — it was very hard to even narrow it down for the interview process. In the past, we’ve sometimes only gotten a few applications for a job opening, and those who applied were not the most qualified.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

I look forward to seeing YOUR opinions in the comments.  Thank you for reading!

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Filed under Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Recruiters, Rural area

Further Questions: What’s the Best Piece of Career Advice You Ever Received?

This week, I have asked some people who hire librarians:

What is the best piece of career advice you ever received, and who gave it to you?

J. McRee ElrodRead Margaret Mann’s “Introduction to Cataloging …”‘ although card centric, the principles are basic in this time of flux.  I was so advised by Clyde Pettus, professor of cataloguing at new closed Emory University library school.

This advice could be extended to being familiar with bibliographic tinkers from Panizzi to Gorman.  It’s easy to get lost in the trees and not see the forest.

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

Nicola FranklinThe best piece of career advice I ever received was actually from my high school careers advisor.
At the time I was an animal-mad teenager and doing biology and other science subjects, and she said that if I really wanted to work with animals I needed to get some practical experience, and to try contacting some organisations directly to volunteer.  I did exactly that, contacting local animal shelters and zoos.  Much to my surprise I got asked to go and see the Director of Marwell Wildlife Park (a well respected zoo near Winchester, UK), and even more to my surprise he offered me a volunteer zoo keeper place at age 16.
I worked there on Saturdays and school holidays for the next two years, and then got a  live-in job at a quarantine cattery and kennels at 18.  After 6 months I returned to college and went onto university to do a Bachelors in Zoology.  During my degree I realised that I didn’t really want to spend my whole career mucking out animals, or working in a laboratory, and so in the end I changed tack and went into human resources and recruitment work.

Despite that change, the initial advice (to get practical experience and not just focus on academic qualifications) stood me in good stead and gave me some great experiences that I will remember throughout my whole life.  Whatever field you are trying to break into, volunteering to gain that first taste of real life experience is an invaluable addition to formal qualifications.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Marleah AugustineThe best advice is something that was told to me by my boss-slash-mentor at my library:  don’t sell yourself short. When I moved from my part-time job to my full-time position, I tended to think of myself still as not-a-professional and hesitated to offer my thoughts in the presence of people who had been in their positions longer. If you are new on the job, or if you are interviewing, be confident and don’t be afraid to volunteer information. New hires bring a new and usually welcome perspective to an organization that maybe needs a bit of shaking up.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Emilie SmartThe best piece of career advice I ever received came from the Reference Services Division Head.  When I was a Librarian I, I was offered a transfer from Reference to Computer Division.  I was unsure about making the change — I LOVED reference work and I loved working in the Reference Dept at the Main branch.  Computer Division was an unknown quantity since we didn’t even have staff computers at that time, much less public ones.
The Reference Head asked me if I was going to accept the transfer and when I shrugged she said,  “Take the job in Computer Division.  It’ll be good for your career.”
I took the job.  She was absolutely right too.
– Emilie Smart, Division Coordinator of Reference Services & Computer Services at East Baton Rouge Parish Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at

What about YOU?  What’s the best piece of career advice you ever received, and where did it come from?  Thanks for reading!

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Filed under Cataloging/Technical Services, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Public Services/Reference, Recruiters, Web/Computer Services