Category Archives: Interviewing while Tattooed

Reader Response Requested: The Tattooed Librarian Part III

This is part of the Topical Series: Interviewing while Tattooed.
I did a last minute call asking for people who Interview While Tattooed to get in touch with me.  I asked:

How tattooed are you? What types of libraries have you interviewed at? Did you cover your tattoos?
April Tattoo 1I have three tattoos. two of which are easily covered by normal work clothing. The third is a small tattoo on my inner wrist. I do not cover that one up (and I am going to be getting more tattoos soon).
April Tattoo 2
On library type: Law and Academic.
I am currently a Legal Librarian at a Law Firm in Los Angeles.
On covering tattoos: Not the wrist one. The other ones I do most of the time. I cover them because normal clothing covers them, not because the firm does not allow the exposure of tattoos.
– April, a Legal Librarian, Los Angeles, California
Amanda 1
I have tattoos on the inside of both wrists, and a large tattoo (the start of a half-sleeve) on my upper right arm.
Amanda Tattoo 2
I have interviewed and worked in public libraries.
On covering tattoos: I did not intentionally cover my tattoos, although long sleeves usually cover my larger tattoo. However the wrist tattoos are visible and I’m sure did not go unnoticed. My thinking was that if I covered the tattoos for my interview, I may have to cover them for my job and that wasn’t something I was willing to do. If the tattoos were going to be a dealbreaker, then it was better to know sooner rather than later.
Amanda Viana, Information Services Librarian (and as of July 1, Assistant Director), Norton Public Library in Norton, MA; Head Editor of INALJ MA
Claire tattoo 1I have two fairly large pieces, one on my back and one on my upper right arm. 
Claire tattoo 2
So far, I’ve interviewed at special libraries.
On covering tattoos: Yes, but not necessarily purposefully. The piece on my back is covered most of the time by clothing anyway, and I usually wear a suit to interviews, which covers the tattoo on my arm. That being said, I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to show them off at an interview.
-Claire Schmieder, Head Editor, INALJ New Jersey
Aliqae2I would consider myself to be heavily tattooed. That is, I have tattoos on my lower and upper arms, chest, and legs. To fully cover them all, I would have to wear a long-sleeved, crewneck shirt and long pants.
I have interviewed at public, academic, and special libraries, as well as archives.
On covering tattoos:  Yes. Always. I have a wrist tattoo that is difficult to cover, but I wear a bracelet or a watch when interviewing. I don’t worry about tattoos peeking out. I don’t hide that I have them on social media or at conferences. I consider my tattoos part of my personal life, much like my family or my hobbies, so I prefer to de-emphasize their presence in interviews (and on the job, if necessary) in order to focus on communicating my skills, experience, and ideas.

 – Aliqae Geraci, ILR Research Librarian, Martin P. Catherwood Library, ILR School, Cornell University

Amy Tattoo1 I have a half sleeve on my let arm and a few more medium-sized tattoos on the lower half of that arm. I have a large dewey call number tattooed on my left clavicle/shoulder and another medium sized tattoo on my right forearm. Most of the rest of my ink is on my back, so that wouldn’t really be visible either way.
I have really only interviewed at academic libraries (and honestly, they were both fine art focused, if that makes a difference).
I wore a suit to those interviews, so yes, my tattoos were covered. I have more recently been worried about my lip piercing and have considered taking it out for interviews.
Other thoughts: I have much more work planned, but I’m waiting to get hired into that precious first position. I realize I may not be as tattooed as others, sometimes I feel like I blend in at an art school library, but otherwise, I worry I stick out like a sore thumb.
– Amy Wainwright, Access Services Assistant, Columbia College Chicago

I have six tattoos: three on my left forearm down to my wrist, two on my back, and one on my hip.The arm tatts are flowers, names, and vines honoring my family. The back tatts are a largish cat and moon on my left and right shoulder blades, respectively. The one on my hip is a coffee mug with a kitten pattern on it. I’m planning to have two more tattoos done on my left upper arm in the immediate future, which would bring me up to a full sleeve.

I have only interviewed for professional work at academic libraries. That is my area of interest; it took me ten months and three on-campus interviews to find a job. I have interviewed and successfully been hired for para-professional public library jobs in the past.

I did cover my tattoos for my on-campus interviews. In fact, I designed my artwork on my arm so it could be concealed by a blazer. While my advisor said that I should only work in an environment that would accept my tattoos, I decided to play it conservatively. First, some academic libraries can be formal, and it is not necessarily reflected by their org chart, website, or the institution’s reputation. Second, some people do have unconscious biases against tattoos. I thought it would be better to give prospective employers the opportunity to be open-minded and gracious after they already had a good impression. They don’t know that they are okay with ink until they know someone with ink. “We love New Employee! And she’s covered in tattoos!”

After I was hired, I asked if I could have visible tattoos on the job. I can, and I’m glad for it. I work in a sub-tropical climate, so short sleeved shirts or slightly sheer layers are necessary in the summer. To the best of my knowledge, no one has given my tattoos as second thought.

Liz Scibrarian, blogging on librarianship, science, and science librarianship

I have one small tattoo, 5 medium sized tattoos, and one large tattoo. They are on my back, upper arms/shoulders, chest, and calf.

I have only interviewed at two libraries – and got jobs at both. The first was an arts college in an urban area. The second (my current employer) was a small, liberal arts college in a suburban-rural setting. My current job is as an arts librarian.

On covering tattoos: Yes, and I cover as much as I can daily. For my interviews I wore the same outfit – the only business suit I own (pencil skirt, fitted jacket). I wore grey tights and a high neckline. In both cases I used the interview to assess the attitude and dress code of the library staff. In both cases, they were very open-minded and no dress code enforced (other than the basic rules we hope adults adhere to without formal policy). I’ve been fortunate in both jobs; if I interviewed at a library that required business dress or seemed very socially conservative, I’d probably be wondering if I wanted to work there anyway, regardless of tattoos.

Even though my current employer has no strict dress code (I wear jeans most days, with a nice button-down or other blouse), I try to cover my tattoos. I have been told that it’s ok that I have them and that I can “get away with it” because I’m in the arts, but I’ve found talk of social acceptance disappears when actually confronted with a tattooed person. The drawback to covering up all the time? When a coworker finally finds out I have tattoos, they seem to feel I haven’t been honest which can lead to trust issues (it’s minor, but it’s there).

I have four tattoos. One on my left foot, left hip, right rib cage, and middle on my upper back(between shoulder blades, but slightly higher.)

I’ve interviewed at two public libraries.

I covered my tattoos for both interviews. The first one, I asked about their policy on tattoos during the interview. I had noticed a few visible tattoos and piercings on a few of the workers there before my interview, so I felt more comfortable bringing it up. The second interview I did not ask, because I knew the library was in a more conservative area. Once I started work, I realized that one of the workers had multiple visible tattoos and an eyebrow ring, and the teen librarian had partially purple hair, so I didn’t really ever ask if it was okay, just kind of followed the lead.
– Ashley Jones, Librarian Assistant, Saline County Library, Bryant, AR

Lisa 1I am primarily tattooed on my back and shoulders. I also have a large piece on my upper arm, and small pieces on each foot. Basically if I had a t-shirt, jeans, and trainers on, you’d never know I had ink.

Lisa 2

On library type: Public, academic, private, non-profit, and museum libraries and archives.

Most of my ink is located on parts of my body that would be covered by the sort of clothing that I feel is appropriate for interview situations. The only tattoos that I have that could be seen in my normal interview attire are on my feet. These are generally covered by the bottoms of my pants or nylons, though I haven’t taken any further steps to conceal them (band-aids, cover-up, etc.). If someone was spending enough time studying my feet to actually notice my ink, I’d be more worried about how creepy that was and would wonder whether or not I’d want that person as my boss.

– Lisa L., Local history specialist at a public library, and administrator of the tumblr Tattooed Librarians & Archivists

ElinorI am very tattooed–I have half sleeves and a scattering of other large tattoos in other places. I also have large gauge ear piercings and a few facial piercings.

I have only interviewed at public libraries, though I have interviewed for both rural and urban positions.

Covering my tattoos depends entirely on the weather and the seniority of the position I am applying for. At the height of summer I applied to be the manager of a small rural library, so I wore a stylish grey short-sleeved belted jacket over a black camisole, with matching grey and black striped pants, and black square-toed boots. I wore elegant understated jewellery in my ears. My arm tattoos were visible, as were my nose piercings and labret. For my most recent interview it was February, and it was a supervisory position in a large urban library. I wore black slacks and blazer, a pinstriped button down shirt, and my shiny pink metallic Doc Martens. My tattoos were not visible, but I also knew from interviewing with that particular organization before that it didn’t matter if they were. They already have numerous tattooed employees at their branches. When I go to work, I can pretty much wear what I want, and have had nothing but positive feedback from coworkers, management and patrons.

Elinor Crosby, Nova Scotia editor

dawn_tattoo_11I am really tattooed 🙂 I have half sleeves, a chest piece, a giant tattoo on the back of my neck, wrist tattoos, back tattoos, several on my legs and ankles.  (I am attaching pictures to this email. Let me know if you need any more).

I have worked at a public library, a big-ten university library, and now a small liberal arts college. Before I landed my current position, I applied at public and academic libraries. Both appeal to me for different reasons so I would have been happy at either one. My only requirement was that the job be in Massachusetts near Boston because that is where my husband and I wanted to live.
Dawn-neckI did cover my tattoos for my interviews. Not because I am ashamed of them but because I understand that people judge. I own a tattoo shop in Indiana with my husband, who is a tattoo artist. We have been in the industry from a business side for 12 years so I have seen all walks of life come through the doors for tattoos. Even today in 2013, there are judgements made on those of us who are tattooed and definitely towards those of us who are heavily tattooed. I chose to cover my work because I wanted my future colleagues to see me for me. To see me for the skills I have to offer, the talent I possess, the creativity and enthusiasm I have for the library profession. I did not want my tattoos to be the focal point for I am so much more than my artwork. When I get tattooed, I am always consciously placing them on areas of my body that can be easily covered. The neck tattoo, for example, cannot be seen when I wear my hair down. My wrists tattoos are the only ones that are visible and that is because I tend to talk with my hands. There is nothing I can really do about that. I figure if those little tattoos keep me from getting the job then it was not the right job for me anyway.
I, of course, would talk about my tattoos in an interview if someone asked. But I never go out of my way to draw attention to them. I also do not say what my husband does for a living. Again, I know the assumptions made about tattoo artists and the lifestyle. Instead I say he is an artist. It’s not a lie. In terms of showing off my artwork, I usually wait until people get to know me and I have seen and experienced the particular culture of the place I am working. I have never experienced any negative reactions to my tattoos in any of the places I have worked. I know that some people are definitely put off by them and that’s fine. As long as someone is not rude about it, I respect their wish to NOT be tattooed. I also think about my tattoos when I go to professional conferences and the like. Usually my tattoos are covered, again so that people see me. My social media accounts however showcase my artwork so those who follow me online are already aware of my tattoos. It is their prerogative to approach me or not.
Dawn Stahura, Research and Instruction Librarian, Wellesley College.

Sara leg frontI’m not super tattooed but I do have a few visible tattoos. I plan on getting a full sleeve in the future and extending my leg pieces. I have two thigh tattoos that cover almost the entire thigh, a calf tattoo, a small shoulder tattoo, small wrist tattoos, and two hip tattoos. I don’t worry about the hip ones because they are covered regardless.

sara 1I have interviewed at a corporate library, public library, and a membership library (Boston Athenaeum) I currently work at the Boston Athenaeum and a public library. I was offered the position at a corporate library but turned it down.
On covering tattoos: Yes, my interview outfit is a black pencil skirt, tights, blouse, and sometimes a sweater. After starting at a job, I ask what their tattoo policy is and generally I don’t have a problem with showing my tattoos. I would rather cover my tattoos then jeopardize my chances of getting a job. I feel like I interview well and don’t want the interviewers to think less of me because of my tattoos.  sara 3
– Sara, Digital Programs department, Boston Athenaeum.
Sara’s Note: We are in the process of digitizing a large amount of the Athenaeum’s collections. It was only started about a year ago so we are a work in progress, but here is what we have so far if anyone is interested:

Now I want to hear from you!

If you want to show us your ink, you should be able to post html in the comments, or you can email a picture to me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thanks for reading and responding!

Read the other two posts in this series here and here



Filed under Further Answers, Interviewing while Tattooed

Stats and Graphs: The Tattooed Librarian Part II

It’s Staturday!

Today I’m continuing our discussion on Interviewing While Tattooed.

Of 237 responses to the What to Wear survey, 27 indicated that their library (or organization’s) dress code specifically forbade Visible Tattoos.  These respondents included people from all response categories for library type, region, and area type. 20 of the free responses specifically mentioned tattoos, most either to explain that they did not matter as long as the candidate was neat, clean, and professional, or to say that they were a negative.  Only 4 of those 20 mentions also had a dress code that forbade visible tattoos.

So 43, or 18.14% of responses, mentioned tattoos, either by ticking the box indicating their library forbade it’s employees to have visible tattoos, or by discussing them in a free response.

I’m going to quote below all of the free responses that include a mention of tattoos.  The ellipse indicates that the following is the same subject’s response to a different question.

I don’t think professionals (or people who wish to be taken seriously in a job interview) wear nose rings or other facial piercings, visible tattoos, large gauge ear jewelry, crazy hair colors, etc.  If you’re applying for a job at Hot Topic or your local tattoo place – any of those would be acceptable; but they are not appropriate for a library (or most other jobs).

Unless it’s completely, insanely over the top, I don’t judge much on fashion. Some of the most brilliant people I know are the worst dressers or have large tattoos or multiple earrings, etc.. While I don’t expect people to cover all that up, I do expect that when they come to a job interview, they are well-groomed and their clothes are neat, and I do expect that they dress, at a minimum, business casual. I don’t think it’s too much to ask for someone to thrown on a pair of khakis and iron their shirt. They can be a slob once they get the job.

Given the fact that we’re an academic library at a fairly conservative university, obvious tattoos and body piercings would most likely be an issue.  Professional attire would be expected.

The biggest thing is that it would be an indicator of how much homework they’ve done to see who we are.  I don’t think any of the items listed in this survey would be an indicator of ability to do a job or not do a job, neither do I think they indicate quality of character.  In our particular library, though, showing up with super casual dress and tats and piercings would show me that they hadn’t been interested enough in the position to learn about their potential place of employment.  Though some of us are personally much more liberal than our environment, when we’re here we respect the tone of the university overall.

[listing dealbreakers] Visible tattoos of any type.  Piercings of any type.  Really low scoop neck top.  A t-shirt.  Flip flops.  Most show disregard or disrespect.

Clothing can be a distraction and candidates should be aware of that. While the ideal is a place that looks beyond clothing and hair, this is often the first thing people will notice and candidates need to be aware of how they present themselves. Sometimes a less-than-ideal appearance isn’t important when a candidate has other excellent points for them such as a stellar presentation. Also, in some places, a candidate with wildly colored hair, tattoos, and facial piercings may fit right in with the culture. All of this depends on the overall culture of the place where the candidate is interviewing.

Depends on the position and branch location.  Someone with multicolored hair, and lots of tatts and piercings may not be a good fit for a rural branch, but would be unnoticed at our main urban branch.

no no no stilettos – heels are great but not stripper or clubbing shoes please!
take out facial piercings (nose, lips, eyebrows) for an interview.
lowcut or unbuttoned shirts that reveal tattoos are not for interviews. If you have ink on your legs wear opaque tights.

It really depends on the workplace – if you have time, check out the library and see what staff are wearing, and aim for a step or two above that level or formality. When in doubt, go more formal – you can always ditch the jacket/cardigan/ironic pearls once you’re there.

Don’t assume that because you’re interviewing for a children’s or a teen position you can throw formality out the window – yes, there is more latitude, but that’s not without limits.

Visible tattoos, facial piercings, etc., are not dealbreakers, but the interview is your chance to show folks (some of whom are going to be uncomfortable with such things) how “normal” you can present, and you should treat it as such.

I dont’ really care what people wear, but I want people to meet a minimum standard of cleanliness and neatness–plenty of people can do this with multiple piercings. And tattoos–you didn’t ask about those.

While I don’t care, I DO appreciate an outfit that isn’t over the top but that does show personality. There are people who manage to convey something about themselves without demanding that all of the attention be on them.

 The more the tattoos and piercings the more important to dress very professionally.

I cannot stand looking at people with piercings anywhere other than small earpiercings (no gauges).  I would never hire someone with a nose ring, eyebrow ring, and especially not a pierced tongue.   I am also very turned off by tattoos although I know a lot of professionals have them.  I hope they have the sense to cover them up for interviews, though.

I work in a corporate environment with a pretty formal dress code. If a candidate wears something too informal, it signals to me that he or she doesn’t understand the nuances of corporate versus nonprofit culture.

However, at my company we value a diverse workforce. This means I am not picky about people who may have piercings, dyed hair, tattoos, etc. Dressing formally is not at odds with this, in my opinion.

It’s not so much what they wear as how they present themselves. If you wear a suit but it’s rather sloppy, I’d rather see you in something a little less formal that you can pull off and feel confident wearing. I work at a state university but in a liberal town, so we’re more accepting of colored hair, piercings, and tattoos BUT, in general, it’s a good idea to tone it down just a little when interviewing.

I like to see someone who is dressed like they’re ready to work. Look clean, neat and show some of your personality. While I personally, don’t mind pink hair, piercings and tattoos, I have to think of our library user base who just might have an issue with trying to interact with a staff member who may seem “distracting” or “unprofessional.” I myself have 5 tattoos, none of which were seen my first few years at my current library. Over time, once people grew to know me and learned about my skills and professionalism, some of the tattoos started to be shown. Now, as Head Librarian, they will all be shown on an unusually hot day. BUT, they will still never appear in front of Trustees, Donors, etc…Be yourself, but you have to be realistic too!

Too MUCH Cleavage! One young, new librarian showed up at an interview with about 5″ of cleavage hanging out…I mean it was horrifying as I kept waiting for one to pop out of her too tight shirt.

Open toe sandals are a deal breaker for me as are flip flops and goes without saying jeans (though I’ve seen them worn). And anything showing off the candidates tattoos – these are too distracting during an interview.

Too casual – t-shirt and shorts. I would perceive a woman wearing a low cut blouse as trying to use sex appeal to get the job (I’m female, by the way).  Anything that is distracting around the face – noticeable tattoos, big, noisy, earrings, facial jewelry, such as tongue or cheek piercings would negatively influence my perception of them, even if they interviewed well. But it might be my age (47) and general conservative attitude towards dress.

Dirty, stained clothes would be a deal breaker.  Also, anything too odd or unusual.  I once interviewed a woman who wore a hat with a fake bird nest (complete with rumpled bird) on it.  I couldn’t hear a thing she said because the hat distracted me so much!  On the other hand, one of the best teen services librarians I ever hired came complete with a nose ring and  an “I ❤ the Dewey Decimal System” tattoo.  Personality makes all the difference!

My tattooed teen services librarian really nailed the interview.  He came full of enthusiasm and ideas about ways to interest teens in the library. It was clear he had thought about the job and really wanted to reach teens. He was respectful but energetic at the same time.  Just a dynamo!

Prefer that job candidates don’t have visible tattoos or piercings other than for earrings.
Too short skirts or too much cleavage revealed is a no-no. No flip flops or short shorts.
For men–no sandals.
Something dressier than jeans or t-shirts for both sexes.
No hats or caps during the interview.

extreme piercings or tattoos put me off

Neutral colors, usually all black, dress shirt and slacks, with a nice shoe. I have a nose ring, an eyebrow ring, gauged ears and tattoos in visible places, which I do not hide during the interview. I’ve learned the hard way that if someone is going to judge me based on my appearance, rather than on my work experience, talents, passions, and performance, then I’d rather not work for those kinds of people/ organizations anyway.

The questions seem more geared toward what women and alternative-type people would wear.
Is there the same concern over someone showing up to an interview wearing the traditional garb of a hasidic jew, the headdress of a hindi sikh, the muslim woman’s hijab, a male’s sarong, dhoti, chola, caftan, kanga or lungi skirt, the traditional facial piercings still found in India, Persia and Thailand, the traditional ritual facial scarification patterns or tooth modifications of sub-Saharan African cultures, or the traditional tribal face tattoos of Polynesian islanders, as there is towards westerners with tattoos, body piercings, unusual hair styles or dress? If not, our attitudes about dress and appearance are very likely discriminatory.

Since only a few select candidates are ever invited to an in-person interview, we expect them to be professionally dressed. I doubt anyone would be eliminated from the pool based on outfit alone, but t-shirts, jeans, visible tattoos, multiple piercings, etc would not go over well.

showing tats, inappropriate outfits suited to leisure @ home or weekend picnics. Professional and business professional is the rule for interviews, always!

Tune in tomorrow, when I’ll be polling YOU the reader about your tattoos and tattoo behavior.

The other two posts in this series are here and here.  One of those links will not be live until 06/23/2013 at 8AM.


Filed under Interviewing while Tattooed, Stats and Graphs

Further Questions: The Tattooed Librarian

This week I have another question inspired by a reader.  This is part of a topical series on Interviewing while Tattooed. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Should tattooed candidates make any attempt to hide their ink?  Would tattoos make you think twice about hiring someone?  How tattooed is too tattooed?

Emilie SmartArm and leg tattoos would go unnoticed in an interview.  Facial tattoos would be a problem though.  Our current policy doesn’t allow jewelry in facial piercings so I don’t see facial tattoos (especially large ones) going over here (a southern public library) unless the job was not in public services.

If a candidate is concerned that their tatts might negatively influence an interview outcome, then they should cover them up as best they can.

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

Marge Loch-Wouters

I like people to dress like and be themselves.  Clearly we aren’t a buttoned-down place.  My hesitation in this:  if the tattoos displayed would be inappropriate for children to see (nudity, inappropriate language, like that). In that case, we would ask that those be kept covered while working in the children’s area.

In terms of how much ink is too much…if we think that kids will come in and be able to easily interact with the person beneath the ink, the candidate may make the cut.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Colleen HarrisAn interesting question – many of us at my current library have visible ink (sleeves, chest pieces that peek out of dress shirts, etc.) At my current and former institutions (all public university academic libraries), so this wasn’t an issue. (Full disclosure – I’m fully sleeved, and my hands are tattooed as well.)

When I have interviewed, I usually do so full suited or with a cardigan – folks can see the hand tattoos but I don’t put them out on display. When it’s warm, I have a tendency to push my sleeves up – I’m certain I do it in interviews, as well. I don’t advertise my ink, but I don’t actively hide it; I do try to dress to minimize its impact – in interviews, I want people to focus on what I am saying.  As I mentioned above, academic libraries in public universities have been very open to accepting tattoos on myself and colleagues. On the other hand, I was notified by a public library in a very diverse area that I would not be considered as a candidate because of visible ink, so your mileage can and will vary depending on where you apply.

As a hirer, I don’t mind what candidates do about their ink so long as they have a professional demeanor, and make an effort to be sure that it is themselves and their skills on display – I’m hiring for skill and growth potential, not to be inkshop buddies. That being said, my visible work is all pretty tame – it’s probably not a bad idea to go ahead and cover up naked ladies, penii, and other questionable/possibly-offensive images when interviewing, and checking the dress code, if posted, before applying.

As to whether candidates should hide their ink – that’s a personal decision. I usually figure if they’d cull me from the pool because of my ink, it’s likely not a place I would be comfortable working; on the other hand, if I were a children’s librarian, a face tattoo of a tarantula would make it more likely I’d use some serious cover-up so as not to scare the little ones. In short, folks should do serious research as to the cultural flavor of a workplace before deciding to hide – or flaunt – their art, and make sure their skills outshine their ink.

Would any tattoos make me think twice about hiring someone? Well, we’re a heavily public-service oriented library, so racist tattoos would definitely give me pause since we’re here to make our users as comfortable as possible. Aside from that? Probably not.

-Colleen Harris, Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library

My personal feeling is that tattoos are okay but to a limited extent. I think that they fine if they are small and/or are not obviously visible. I don’t think that tattoos are professional looking so if a person had them all over their arms, legs, neck, etc, it would make me think twice about hiring that person, not because I didn’t think that the person was not capable or qualified to do the job but because, unfortunately, of the view of someone with a lot  of tattoos has in our society.  Perhaps in certain types of libraries  it would not be an issue, but I believe that in some academic libraries it would not portray a professional image, in the same that dressing slovenly would be viewed negatively. Just my two cents.

– Anonymous

Cathi AllowayI am on the fence about tattoos, and can tell you that I am aware of a great range of policies regarding them.  In general, it is reasonable for every library to establish what is needed for each situation.
Community standards and environment play a big role in the tolerance level for appearance.  When a library needs to improve its reputation for credibility, reliability, and competence, then a “classic look” for employees may be warranted, especially in a more conservative community where customers and donors value conformity and a professional image.   In other communities that have a high level of diversity and are more liberal, like my current community (a Big Ten college town), we can offer a more flexible dress code that allows tattoos.
An additional consideration regarding tattoos is the nature of the job and the career aspirations of the person.  Library managers need the full business look for presentations, fundraising, networking, and special events.  Although I can’t exactly define “too tattooed”, a large amount of visible  ink may be an impediment to achievement.  I personally enjoy, but do not have, body art, but would have to tell a manager with a lot of tattoos that they may be expected to cover them for certain activities.
An illustration of this:   I once had a meeting with potential donors who quite openly appeared to be evaluating my appearance as I met them at a restaurant to discuss donations. I later received feedback that they wanted to give to a charity that “met their expectations” – and some of them gave.  I wore a moderately priced department store suit that contrasted with their designer clothes, but I guess the fake pearls worked anyway!  Appearance counts, while self-expression through body art and dress are important outlets for many of us.  Hopefully libraries will be open-minded and job applicants considerate of the wide range of public opinions they can encounter with a full body set of tattoos.
– Catherine Alloway, Director, Schlow Centre Region Library

What a great question!   My workplace does not have anything that says tattoos must be covered,  and I personally have nothing against them.

I recently hired an employee who interviewed in an outfit that hid his full-sleeve tattoo.  Seeing the tattoo would not have made a difference in my hiring decision, but I would have appreciated it if he would have let it peak out a little bit, or at least mentioned it.  It’s kind of like hiring an employee and having them show up the first day with a different, shocking dyed color of hair.  It was a bit of a surprise when I first saw it, is all.  It would also be to a prospective employee’s benefit to discover if the new workplace had anything stating tattoos must be covered: can you always work in full sleeves?

Any tattoo is tattooed; the only “too tattooed” or tattoo that would make me reconsider hiring  for the types of positions I supervise would be face/neck tattoos.  The rest of the body—the entire thing—is fair game.

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian Neill Public Library

The short answer to the question of candidates with tattoos is, yes, they should hide their ink. For a job interview, I would always recommend covering up, which should not be too difficult since you would be dressed fairly conservative. I would encourage anyone considering a tattoo to be selective about where you put it since you will not know the policy of future employers.

The last two questions are tied together for me. How tattooed is too tattooed? Anything on the face, neck or hands would be too tattooed and would influence my hiring decision because those are areas that could never be covered up for formal presentations or meetings.

I am personally a tattooed librarian so this most likely affects my opinion on tattoos and the definition of what “too tattooed” is, but I am not on every search committee for my institution, others will have more conservative opinions.

When you do get a job offer, definitely ask what the policy is so you know if you can show off your “I heart Mom” tat!

– Julie Leuzinger, Department Head, Eagle Commons Library, University of North Texas Libraries

Toby Willis-CampAs a tattooed librarian (a frog above one ankle) with a very modified 20-something son, I know that one has tattoos and other modifications  for personal reasons.  However, the workplace is not always a place where one can simply let everything be on display.  It is not a personal affront to have to keep one’s tattoos and other modifications underwrap in the workplace.  Dark nylons or tights, long sleeves and modest necklines are useful tools for keeping the other side of your personality personal.  What I do and show when I am not at work is my business, not my employer’s.

This being said, prominent neck and facial tattoos are career-limiting in public service jobs. I don’t believe that this will ever change even with the openness around tattoos now.

As a former library director who had a “no butts, no boobs, no bellies” dress code policy, I think it is best to talk about these things when entering a new workplace.  Find out what the dress code includes and make it work for you. You may be working for a tight a$$, so be prepared to keep your art covered.  You might also be working for someone who has some modifications too, but knows when it’s the right time to have them on display.

– Toby Willis-Camp, a former Director of Libraries for a professional association 

Marleah AugustineTattoos don’t bother me – I have two myself, although they are not usually visible during work (although my next one likely will be). I don’t think candidates should try to hide visible tattoos during the job search / interview. That feels deceptive to me. I’d rather know they are inked up front (or at least not have something hidden and then suddenly see it on their first day at work). The only time I think I would think twice about it is if the tattoos are large and on the neck, or any tattoos on the face. I doubt I would have to worry about vulgar tattoos, but that would also give me pause.
About half of my part-time staff are tattooed, and only once in 5 years have I heard a patron comment about a tattoo in a negative manner (but I’ve heard several positive comments!).
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Ink is relative to location.  I personally don’t care, and my patrons don’t care.  In a smaller, more conservative, more rural library, everyone cared.  It was silly.  I hired and was hired anyway (I have what looks like very obvious piercings–I actually have none–but I always have worn the jewelry to interviews to see what comments might ensue).While hiring is supposed to be about skills, sometimes you have to worry about community fit.  I never have, and have never had problems.  If a candidate is worried–cover the tats.  The person will know soon enough if its an issue or not.
– Virginia Roberts, Director, Chippewa Falls Public Library

Manya ShorrWhen hiring, the most important thing to me is whether the staff person is approachable and neutral. Both of these things can be easily achieved even if the staff person is covered in tattoos. So no, tattoos have little to no impact on my hiring practices. That said, if an applicant (or staff person) has a tattoo that is political or controversial, I would ask them to cover it. We want to create an environment that is as neutral as possible, so that a patron feels comfortable asking any question of any staff person. Of course, this applies to clothing too and not just tattoos. Our latest dress code says, “Clothing or body art that can be reasonably seen as profane, political, or obscene is not to be visible.”

I remember having a conversation with my mom about 10 years ago about tattoos (I’m 38). She was convinced that the people in my generation who have tattoos would never be able to get jobs. I believed that the world would have to change to accommodate all the people with tattoos. I certainly saw more tattoos in Portland, OR than I do in Omaha, NE but even here, it’s commonplace for staff to have tattoos.

 – Manya Shorr, Assistant Director, Community Programs and Services, Omaha Public Library

Randall SchroederI have only one question from the other side of the table regarding tattoos or anything dealing with appearance. Does it affect approachability? If I am hiring you to be a public services librarian to work at a service desk, you can’t frighten the users away. On the other hand, if you work in the back, it probably isn’t that big of a deal. I want people to be comfortable at work but still be able to do their job. A librarian with great people skills and tattoos is still better than a curmudgeon with no skin decoration. Libraries are supposed to be an inclusive place.

This also works both ways on the fashion scale. I worked with a librarian who always wore a three piece pinstripe suit at the desk. The students wouldn’t talk to him either.

Personally, I have no issue with tattoos, but I cannot vouch for everybody on the hiring committee. It may even be a subconscious reaction. It depends on how important your personal style is compared to the job. The tattooed librarian may not want to work at a place where she or he is judged by skin art. In which case, show your glory within reason and taste.

If the job is really important, do your research. There may be a policy on appearance in some places, although that is increasingly rare. If not, what can you find out about the culture of the school? If you think it is an issue, cover until you get hired and then surprise them.

I have worked for a college where the tats would get a raised eyebrow from some of the staff. I have worked for a university where nobody would notice.

– Randall Schroeder, Director of Libraries, Archives and Media at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minnesota

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!When her muscles start relaxin’, up the hill comes Andrew Jackson. Lydia, oh Lydia, that encyclo-pidia. Oh Lydia The Queen of comment.

There will be two more posts in this series, which will go live on 6/22 and 6/23.  When live, links will be here and here.


Filed under Further Questions, Interviewing while Tattooed