Tag Archives: academic librarians

Internal hiring and promotions happen 80% of the time for posted positions.

Bodleian Library, Oxford: Duke Humfrey’s library with a man studying. From Wellcome Collection via CC BY 4.0

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library

 Title: Health Science Librarian

Titles hired include: Library Information Associate, Assistant Librarian 

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

Which of the following does your organization regularly require of candidates?

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

Briefly describe the hiring process at your organization and your role in it:

Job is posted for at least 4 weeks, then director and librarian take candidates based off of a rubric, phone interview with structured questions, interviewees are notified if they make second round, in person interviews, director and librarian meet and discuss candidates and select one to offer position. 

Think about the last candidate who really wowed you, on paper, in an interview, or otherwise. Why were they so impressive?

Library experience, customer service experience, math degree, knowledge of library systems

What do you wish you could know about candidates that isn’t generally revealed in the hiring process?

Internal hiring and promotions happen 80% of the time for posted positions. Also people have people in mind and hire them.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

CV: √ As many as it takes, but keep it reasonable and relevant

What is the most common mistake that people make in an interview?

They don’t share enough details or examples of how they have done or not done something. 

Do you conduct virtual interviews? What do job hunters need to know about shining in this setting?

Yes, a quiet place is best if possible. Headset with mic helps. 

How can candidates looking to transition from paraprofessional work, from non-library work, or between library types convince you that their experience is relevant? Or do you have other advice for folks in this kind of situation?

Tell your story and share your experience. Explain why you want a librarian position and how your previous experience helps you. Share what you learned.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

What does your organization do to reduce bias in hiring? What are the contexts in which discrimination still exists in this process?

We ask all candidates the same prepared questions. We ask staff to sit in on final interviews. We provide questions printed out at the final interview. There is still bias towards people with no library experience. We have HR collect application materials. There is an online portal and screening rubric to record ranking and decisions. 

What questions should candidates ask you? What is important for them to know about your organization and the position you are hiring for?

Ask about the job and university environment? Ask about students and faculty needs? Ask about schedule and coordination for coverage during holidays etc. ? Ask about things you want to know? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10 

Author’s note: Hey, thanks for reading! If you like reading, why not try commenting or sharing? Or are you somebody who hires Library, Archives or other LIS workers? Please consider giving your own opinion by filling out the survey here.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Academic, Southwestern US, Suburban area, Urban area

Further Questions: Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview?

Each week (or thereabouts) I ask a question to a group of people who hire library and LIS workers. If you have a question to ask or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

This week’s question is from a reader. She asks, “Do you send questions to interviewees before the interview? [and I’d love to know why or why not] How long do you give the interviewees to prepare? Also, does that influence how you evaluate the answers/responses?”


Hilary Kraus, Research Services Librarian, UConn Library: I am a huge advocate of sending questions ahead of time, especially for phone or video interviews. We did this the last time I chaired a search committee, and many of the candidates told us it made the interview much less stressful. In addition to reducing anxiety, we found the answers we got were more thoughtful and substantive, which helped us make more informed decisions about which candidates to invite for the next round of interviews. I would recommend providing questions at least 24 hours before the interview; 48 hours would be even better. Candidates already have very full lives, and are taking time out of their day to speak to you. Providing questions earlier will make it easier for them to also carve out enough time to prepare.


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: I’ve just started sending questions ahead of time with the most recent search I’ve led. We send them between a few days and maybe a week ahead of time (I try to make sure there’s a weekend in there), making sure that each candidate has the same amount of time with the questions before their interviews. I think it takes some of the anxiety out of interviews, which can help level the field, since some candidates do well in that situation and some don’t, and the high-stress environment of a job interview usually has nothing to do with the position we’re hiring for. It also helps reduce bias on a socio-economic basis, as some candidates may have gotten formal or informal coaching for job interviews in school or their family and others have not – and, again, that has no bearing on the position.

I don’t think you need to worry that candidates will getting them ahead of time to prepare bullshit answers to your interview questions. My experience so far is that good candidates continue to answer questions well, and less good candidates still don’t have solid answers. If anything, it highlights the differences between candidates; some candidates will have taken time to thoughtfully consider and prepare their answers, and others will clearly have not, which may provide you with information about how those candidates approach important work assignments. And, of course, there’s always the opportunity for us to ask on-the-fly follow up questions or have discussion based on a candidate’s response to a question. I think I expect a little more of our candidates now that we’re sending questions ahead of time – if you know what we’re going to ask you but haven’t prepared a response, it doesn’t look good.


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I have never sent questions to interviewees. I guess I’m curious now about what the difference would be. We have already given you some things to respond to in writing, in the ad, so it seems like the interview should be about your ability to answer questions about the job on the spot. If you are really prepared for the job, you should be able to answer interview questions. There are some situational questions that may take a minute to think of an example, but that’s okay. I’d rather have you take your time and answer the question well rather than rambling until you find the answer. I think, yes, we do take that into account when evaluating responses. We may follow up or try to put the person at ease. Honestly, we’re trying to get the best version of you and your ability to do this job.


Katharine Clark, Deputy Director, Middleton Public Library: I’ve never been involved with an interview before where candidates were given the question beforehand. Part of the interview process is seeing how well potential employees can think on their feet and be prepared to give off the cuff elevator pitches to anyone they meet in a professional setting. The only time questions are given ahead of time in my experience are essay questions that are part of the screening process. Use your colleagues and network to find out what types of questions they have been asked in the interview process before and you can certainly come with notes about what parts of your career/job history you want to share with those interviewing you.


Larry Eames, Instruction Librarian, Kraemer Family Library, University of Colorado Colorado Springs: Yes absolutely! I advocate for sending the questions about 24 hours in advance of the interview (shout out to the ability to schedule emails in outlook) so that every candidate has the same amount of time to prepare. I believe in sending the questions in advance because it gives the candidates the opportunity to be their best selves in the first round of interviews and to highlight their talents and accomplishments so that we can make an informed decision about the next round of interviews. It’s also good accessibility practice; you never know how choppy someone’s connection might be or how well they hear over the phone/over zoom. When I get push back, I point out the accessibility element and that we want to make the best decision we can about who we bring to campus and this gives us the opportunity to gather the data we need to do that. I’ve only been unsuccessful in advocating for this practice in one instance. For that search we instead told the candidates what themes each question would touch. Ultimately I think it was better than nothing but would have been far better to share the questions in full in advance. Knowing that the candidates had the questions in advance only influences my evaluation of their responses in that if a candidate is evidently unprepared in that scenario it weighs more heavily in my assessment of their answers.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: We have sent questions in advance for both library faculty and other staff positions for phone interviews although I am not sure we have done that for the in-person interview. I think about this the same way I think about giving students exam questions in advance. Any kind of assessment should not be an attempt to find out what people don’t know, or ask questions which are a surprise. With limited time we should be interested in doing our best to learn about candidates through thoughtful responses to questions. I’m guessing most, if not all, readers have been a candidate and have experienced that silence that seems like hours when you are frantically trying to think of an example or other response to a question from a search committee. Having time to think and prepare may improve the performance of most candidates (which is a good thing, right?). But students who have exam questions in advance don’t all get an “A” on the exam, and candidates will still vary in their overall performance.

I would want to give questions to candidates at least a few days in advance. A week is a good lead time, but sometimes a search is moving quickly enough that we want to schedule the first phase of interviews as quickly as possible. I think supplying questions in advance is very helpful for the phone/video interview and can make what is often a very stressful and awkward experience a little more comfortable and productive for everyone involved. There would be no reason, in my opinion, to evaluate candidates differently when given questions in advance.


Ben Van Gorp, Manager, IT & Digital Experience, East Gwillimbury Public Library: Our library currently offers two questions for each interview candidate. If I had my way I would give the full interview list. It’s an accessibility issue, especially for people who suffer from anxiety.

I would much rather have people coming in with confidence, able to fully show of the abilities they would bring to their role, than just the nerves that comes with job hunting.


Christian Zabriskie, Executive Director, Onondaga County Public Library: My answer is…it depends entirely on the job. For frontline staff I don’t do this since I am looking to see what skills they bring to the positions that we have that are honestly not all that flexible. Sure, I love it when reference librarians come up with new stuff, but it is not a daily requirement of the job. When I am interviewing people for “C Suite” jobs on my personal admin team I absolutely give them the questions ahead of time. Often this will entail doing a presentation or addressing a specific issue. This is another place where I can check for emotional intelligence. For a recent interview for our head of facilities I asked “You have been handed a plan for a redesigned library that you can tell will absolutely not work. Your boss (that’s me), loves it. How do you convince them (me) that this is a terrible idea”. The person who got the job had a great answer that showed her ability to “manage up” and she’s been an incredible asset to the org ever since.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired:

I have never as a supervisor sent the questions ahead, nor as a job seeker have I ever received the questions ahead of time. The only mild exception is if we expected, or I was expected, for a presentation to be given for an audience. Interesting question though.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: What an interesting question! When I read it I first thought of the current Instagram meme of “hard no” or “absolutely not” superimposed over an animal, usually a dog…and said repeatedly! So the simple answer IS a hard no for my organization’s hiring today, but the concept brought back my days teaching in Library School Graduate Education – specifically “Management” in Library School. My general curriculum included a unit on hiring with a major emphasis on the interview itself and part of this was a collection of “ways to handle interviews” including ways for organizations to interview as well as ways for interviewees to prepare. In those days (too many to count) there were many more ways to interview than now but times have changed. Practices have morphed, processes have been automated and federal, state, local and organizational guidelines, rules and regulations have been infused with much needed equity, diversity and inclusion content, with measurement and assessment metrics embedded in processes. So while there are libraries with freedom in interviewing and hiring, there are many more who need to and should conform to a process that is consistent and provides a standard platform for applicants to engage with interviewers.

So why send them out in advance? Standardized questions present the library’s values. Questions in advance allow the applicant to focus on what the expectations are for specific positions in the organization. Questions in advance can emphasize organizational priorities such as customer service relationships, teamwork, flexibility, etc. Questions in advance provide interviewers a standard for comparing answers to organizational expectations.

And what are the prevailing views for NOT distributing questions in advance? Interviewers ask the same questions of each applicant NOT to determine if the applicant “got the answer right” but instead to try to determine what the applicants’ thought processes are, what critical thinking skills they might have, and to find out if applicants DID prepare for the interview. Other reasons for not distributing them can include: do applicant’s bring experience or education to the interview or both? Are they succinct in answers? Can they speak extemporaneously? Do their answers to questions match their resume? What gaps are there in their overall application process, that is, does their resume match the answers to questions but not their resume?

Final thoughts on not sending questions out in advance really focus on the need for more data for a comparison process. There are so many self-help environments for interviewing (beginning with this excellent web environment) applicants often show up with pat answers and generalities while interviewees are left to seek as much data as possible on applicants in trying to determine how applicant one is a better match to the position than applicant two is.


Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject…

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Filed under Further Questions

Dear Crowds, Please check out the Interview Questions Repository!

Have you been on a library interview recently?  Or are you prepping for one?

Sounds like you could use The Interview Questions Repository!

If you’ve had a library interview recently, help this resource grow by reporting the questions you were asked:

http://tinyurl.com/interviewquestionsform

or by sharing this link widely with your friends and colleagues.

If you are about to go on an interview, use the spreadsheet:

http://tinyurl.com/InterviewQuestionsRepository

to help you prepare.

People have recorded questions from more than 300 interviews! But remember, *YOU* are the value of this resource.  To help keep it valuable and current, submit your questions and share this post widely!

Thanks, as always, for reading and contributing!

 

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Filed under News and Administration

Currently we have an academic president who does not support libraries

Young boy tending freshly stocked fruit and vegetable stand at Center Market, 02181915This anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

There are only 3 of us here at a branch campus and we do instruction and circulation activities. Specific library jobs like cataloging are carried out at the main campus.

This librarian works at a library with 0-10 staff members in an urban area Midwestern US.

Approximately how many people applied for the last librarian (or other professional level) job at your workplace?

√ 25 or fewer

Approximately what percentage of those would you say were hirable?

√ 25% or less

And how would you define “hirable”?

We only interviewed about 4. Others did not have the right qualifications or just did not look “right”.

How are applications evaluated, and by whom?

A committee meets to go over applications and decide who looks eligible.

What is the most common reason for disqualifying an applicant without an interview?

not sure. I was not on committee.

Do you (or does your library) give candidates feedback about applications or interview performance?

√ No

What is the most important thing for a job hunter to do in order to improve his/her/their hirability?

not sure

I want to hire someone who is

a good fit

How many staff members are at your library/organization?

√ 0-10

How many permanent, full time librarian (or other professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ Other: 0

How many permanent, full time para-professional (or other non-professional level) jobs has your workplace posted in the last year?

√ Other: 0

Can you tell us how the number of permanent, full-time librarian positions at your workplace has changed over the past decade?

√ There are the same number of positions

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with part-time or hourly workers over the past decade?

√ No

Have any full-time librarian positions been replaced with para-professional workers over the past decade?

√ No

Is librarianship a dying profession?

√ I don’t know

Why or why not?

On one level (in the media and talk) it seems like it is. Currently we have an academic president who does not support libraries and I think there are others who are only looking at the bottom line for their institutions. On the other hand, the presence of a library is so historical I am not sure it is seen as something to eliminate.

Do you hire librarians?  Take this survey: http://tinyurl.com/hiringlibjobmarketsurvey or take other Hiring Librarians surveys.

For some context, look at the most recent summary of responses.

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Filed under 0-10 staff members, Academic, Midwestern US, State of the Job Market 2015, Urban area

Further Answers: Are People Just Applying for Everything?

Someone who hires librarians recently contacted me for some answers about what job hunters want.  If you’ve got opinions, she’d love to hear them.  Comments are open.

The background:

This person is about to have an opening for a tenure-track, faculty-status, entry-level academic librarian job. Currently the title is Collection Development librarian (a stretch as an entry-level position but with a lot of support and participation from three more senior librarians, and providing an opportunity to grow into the job). When they last filled this position, despite a careful search process, they found someone who has ultimately been less interested in collection and the publishing, etc. required for tenure, and more interested in the reference and teaching aspects.

The question:

Are people just applying for everything? How can this library be sure to are hiring someone who is interested in technical services? The other option is to move another librarian into this position and create a new User Experience Librarian position that would include systems and usability. Would that be a sexier position for a new grad?

fallon bleichI would say, as a job hunter, the longer you are in the job hunting game, the more desperate you are, especially in the LIS field. I try not to apply to jobs that I’m not suited for, but if you aren’t getting any results from applications, it becomes less about THE job and more about A job to get your career started. That being said, I don’t think changing the title of a job will help these employers find someone better suited to the job, unless they completely overhaul what the duties are for that job. A title does attract me to a job, but a well-written job description is even better. Don’t just tell me that I will be doing “library duties”; if the job is primarily collection development, stress this in the job description. That way people who are applying to the job know what you are looking for and you might get better suited candidates. Brief job descriptions are the worst and are becoming a giant pet peeve of mine. And as a side note: I would love a job that was entirely based on collection development! I don’t know what that last person was thinking, but there are plenty of us who love that particular skill that they don’t need to worry about changing the name of the job. We’re out here and we want to work for you!

– Fallon Bleich, MLIS

Leigh MilliganFrom my own experience, library students are very anxious to get a professional position in the library. I was given the impression when I left school that there were not many jobs available, so I can imagine library students and new job seekers in the field could be applying for anything or everything whether the interest is there or not.

Since applying for jobs, I have learned to only apply to jobs tailored to my experience, my interests and me. I feel I will find a job that fits this way, even if it takes a long time, and I won’t be wasting my time or the search committees time if I apply for something I am not interested or qualified for. If you are looking to hire someone for a position geared towards technical services, gear the description towards technical services versus an entry-level librarian position. I personally feel that the User Experience title would be a sexier position geared towards a grad. I feel that Collection Development title can be misleading to newer librarians as they might think Collection Development goes hand and hand with the Reference Librarian field even though in the academic library, Collection Development is part of technical services. User Experience Librarian sounds more geared to those interested in technical services.

-Leigh Milligan, Librarian, Magee Rehabilitation Hospital Patient Resource Center in Philadelphia, PA; Head Editor of INALJ PA

 

I fully understand the trajectory that unfolded with the previous situation. I think there is a tendency for those who want to work in a specific type of library–whether academic or otherwise–to apply for whatever role they think they can reasonably get. That way they are gaining experience and have a chance for internal jobs that suit their fancy more when they come up.
I don’t get the impression from recent graduates of my program that they are particularly picky–it really does seem that they are applying for anything and everything. I think that (aside from the generally lacklustre job market) a huge part of this is because graduates honestly don’t know what they want to do (especially if they have no prior experience in a particular type of librarianship, such as cataloguing or collection development). I’m not sure what types of questions the interviewer asked with the previous applicant, but I think general questions such as “why do you want to be a librarian?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “describe your career goals” would be a good indicator about the aspects of that job that someone may or may not be drawn to. If the person describes the teaching aspect of librarianship as the ideal, it’ll be more obvious that the passion for technical services just isn’t there. Sounds basic, but I think those general feeling based questions can tell you a lot about what an applicant wants from a job and from an environment.
I think the “sexier” position of a User Experience Librarian position would be a stronger draw. And not just because UX seems to be another buzzword! It suggests that there’s more opportunity to connect to the community/patrons, which might address applicant potential fears of being siloed off with their computers. I can’t speak to other LIS programs, but the one I’m enrolled in is very much lacking in technological skills, so I know a lot of its recent grads would jump on the chance to become involved in systems and usability (especially since it can be difficult to attain this experience once in a different role).
-Anonymous

 

That’s a tricky question. The job hunt and market for new grads is quite tough and competitive and anything that will actually accept fresh graduates is going to get a lot of shotgun-approach applications. I didn’t shotgun, but I had a paraprofessional job so I could keep working for the 6 months it took me.

I’d say that if they post the position as such, they should look for some kind of technical services experience on the resume. I’m a metadata librarian and I spent 5 years as a technical services paraprofessional before and during grad school, so I knew what I was getting into. (And personally, I wouldn’t apply for a collection development job precisely because I know what I do and don’t want to do in technical services.) Even experience as a student worker would give some picture of how things work in such a behind-the-scenes job. As part of screening, I’d also ask them questions about how they’d feel about working in the back and why that appealed to them as a librarian. As someone who does want to work in the back, I have good answers for that and I think others would too.

I think the UX position would greatly thin the herd on candidates who are truly qualified. I honestly don’t think library school prepares grads for that position as well unless either they concentrated on it, they had some exceptional professors, or they have additional experience which makes them qualified. Asking people to describe experience or education on the subject would probably do a better job identifying qualified candidates than anything you could ask for collection development. It’s certainly a “sexier” position and one which sounds less overwhelming than collection development.

– Ruth Kitchin Tillman, Metadata Librarian at an undisclosed government library

 

Freelin JonesOn if people are just applying for everything:I am not to the point that I am applying for every academic library position I see on ALA JobList or Indeed.com. I don’t see the point in quantity over quality. However, I’m heading into my third career so I’ve been around the block a few times. My philosophy is that I want a position that suits my particular skills set. I have a background in journalism and marketing with a lot of research and web site architecture. It wouldn’t behoove my career ambitions to apply for positions as an archivist or cataloguer just because they are in an academic library. My search is still limited to reference, e-communications, and digital librarian positions. That is where my library passion is, and would best serve both the institution and myself.

On ensuring they are hiring someone who is interested in technical services: Make it abundantly clear in the job description for the position. I for one pour over the description to make sure that a) I would enjoy the job, and b) I am qualified for the position. I pay less attention to the experience portion and more to the skills required. This is because I have no library experience but I do have 14 years of professional skills in public relations, journalism, and marketing. I have to figure out how to translate those skills to the academic library setting. I certainly understand the mentality of just-getting-your-foot-in-the-door approach to job searching. However, the candidate should be able to articulate why they are the best candidate for a technical services position even if they have not been trained in graduate school or had formal professional experience. So make the posting as technical services oriented to weed out those who are applying for everything, and allows the candidates who are qualified and passionate about YOUR position.

On using the title User Experience Librarian:A ‘sexy’ job title is fine but again I would concentrate on the duties. Again, I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has gone back to school mid-career. My focus is on what I am doing rather than what I says on my CV. I would definitely look at this position based upon the job title, because coming from a marketing background, my initial feeling would be that I would be qualified for it. But again if I were to read the job description and it doesn’t align with the impression that the job title gave, I might not apply at all even if I was the candidate you had in mind. I have found that many job titles don’t reflect the actual job description. So I I tend to base my decision to apply or not on the actual description.

– Freelin Jones, MLS, Academic Librarian for Hire

 

Sorry to take so long with my reply. I have thought about your question a lot. Of course, I don’t know how others feel about this; I can only speak for myself. Personally, I do not apply for everything — however, I do try to be very flexible and apply for many entry level academic librarian positions. There aren’t a lot of options out there for recent graduates, and I have been advised by mentors to be as flexible as possible. Rather than narrowing my choices down to the jobs that suit me, I tend to filter out jobs that I know for sure would NOT suit me.
That brings up another aspect of this question: as a recent graduate, I can only speculate the kind of library position that would be perfect for me. I only want to brand myself so much at this point. I imagine myself doing research, reference and instruction, but my research interests are in copyright and licensing, so I would absolutely apply for a Collection Development position. In most cases that I’ve seen, Collection Development positions require several years of professional experience, so if there were an opportunity to do that job with support from senior librarians, I would jump at it. Having said that, User Experience Librarian is definitely a trend in entry-level positions, and something new grads would be drawn to.
In my program, we were encouraged to explore different aspects of librarianship, so, again, I hesitate to brand myself too narrowly at this point, and I think many recent grads probably feel the same way, considering the job market. Coming at that from a different perspective, I hope (and honestly believe!) I would be able to wear several different hats in an academic library position, filling whatever role needed to be filled.

-Anonymous

 

Ruby LavalleeI graduated 10 months ago, and have been in my position for roughly three months.To answer your first question: yes, many people are just applying for everything they are remotely qualified for. It’s a rough market for a new grad. I applied to any positions that I felt I could do well in, which was a broad range – I made a point of diversifying my coursework and experience, as do many grads coming into a slower job market. It’s usually still fairly obvious where an applicant’s enthusiasm lies, especially if you ask them about their ideas for the position during the interview (if they’re really into the job itself, they’ve probably been imagining how they’d do it).

I think the easiest way to tell if you’re hiring someone interested in technical services is to pay attention to how their interests, both library related and otherwise, line up with the duties of the job description. Does the person you’re looking to hire have a history of investigating technical ideas or new technologies in school or other jobs? Do they have collections of their own, or do they have an interest in budgeting and finance? When you ask them about their research interests or the reason they’re interested in the job, do they at least make a glancing reference to the sort of work they’d be doing the majority of the time? If you hear genuine enthusiasm regarding tech, you can usually tell, and I feel like that’s a decent predictor of whether someone wants to stay with tech services or move elsewhere.

The question about creating a User Experience Librarian position is a little confusing to me. It’s not necessarily that a position like that would be a more attractive proposition for a new grad – it’s just a different animal. In my experience at library school, there wouldn’t have necessarily been more applicants for a UX job than a Collections job. They’re both niche interests among library students.
I desperately wanted my User Experience Librarian job because I love tech and asynchronous service systems, but I also love people. This position allowed me to spend some of my time hiding and doing design and tech work, but also allowed me to reach out and deal with patron service and assessment. If you have a real need for UX work (which you probably do) and currently invested librarians interested in moving into collection development, it sounds like a fine decision. But don’t count on it driving your applicant numbers up like crazy.
– Ruby Lavallee, User Experience Librarian, University of Manitoba Libraries
I finished my MLIS in August 2013 and started applying to entry-level positions in academic libraries about six months before. I have an undergrad degree in computer science & before I went back to school I’d been working in the systems department of an academic library for about ten years. When I started my job search I wanted to find a position as a systems librarian but would have also considered entry-level positions in areas where I had less direct experience but had taken related courses & found them interesting (e-resources management, user experience), as long as I thought I could make a case for meeting other requirements in a job posting.
I definitely would not have applied to positions to collection development or reference and instruction. Despite taking several really great courses in these areas, I have very little related experience. My MLIS program had a co-op option though and many who participated found that it was really helpful to get experience in areas they might not have thought they were interested in but found out otherwise with some hands-on experience. If you can find someone who’s worked in technical services as a co-op student and gets pretty excited about the position, that’s probably a good sign. Although given the person asking for hiring advice they conducted a careful search process, they’ve probably already considered this.
During my MLIS there were often information sessions for students interested in working in different types of libraries. The academic libraries session emphasized the research and publishing aspects of the role so I knew these responsibilities would be expected of anyone hired to fill the positions that I was applying to.
As for whether user experience librarianship would be “sexier” for a new grad: I found that I expected my classmates to be more comfortable with technology than they often were and I was a bit surprised at the number who really resisted required technical courses. Even so, for those students who were interested in technical courses, I wouldn’t say my MLIS program offered enough to prepare someone for an entry-level UX or systems position. But the relatively few students who wanted to work in those areas tended to do a lot of work on their own to keep up with developments & trends in the field.
Your correspondent says it would be a stretch to have a new grad function as a collections development librarian without a fair bit of support but I would say that’s of a UX/systems position as well. I’ve been working as a systems librarian in an academic library for about ten months now and even with quite a bit of experience I can’t imagine making the transition from support staff to librarian without the kind of mentorship I’ve had from colleagues.
– Anonymous
Whitni WatkinsAlthough I am a recent library graduate student, I am fortunate enough to already have 4+ years of library technical and management skills under my belt, unlike many graduating library students. The toss up here is that applicants like myself who already have work experience in libraries know what they do and do not like; the flip side to that is, because there has been such a drive on the “lack” of library jobs or the need for experience for the job they want is that some students are applying for whatever library position they come across. I think this situation is sitting at a 75/25 ratio and less students are applying for everything. I only apply for positions that meet my requirements (salary, place and responsibilities).
One thing an employer can do to narrow applicants geared toward that position is to require a copy of the applicant’s unofficial transcript. This will give them a list of the courses the applicant took during their education; students have easy access to their unofficial transcript and it can give great insight on what interests the student has. I attended SJSU SLIS, who had developed unofficial career pathways (http://slisweb.sjsu.edu/current-students/career-pathways) that helped guide students into taking the courses for the focus of librarianship they wanted to pursue.
If the two position were listed Collection Development or User Experience Librarian, I as a technology focused applicant would jump all over the UX position. It is definitely sexier than “Collection Development” but it also is a more specialized position and would in itself, weed out those who are not interested in working with systems or do not have the expertise that a position of that sort would require.
Finally, I just interviewed for a tenure-track faculty position and in that interview I met with the tenure committee who made it very apparent to me what would be required of me if I were to be offered and accepted the position. They also explained tenure to me, as a recent grad. tenure has been more or less a foreign concept as until I received my MLIS I wasn’t being considered for faculty level positions. The employer should put a great emphasis on what tenure is and what it entails. This can be linked to the job description but it needs to be brought up in the interview process foremost, especially as it gets down to the final interviews.
– Whitni Watkins, LMS Assistant, San Jose State University
I fully understand the trajectory that unfolded with the previous situation. I think there is a tendency for those who want to work in a specific type of library–whether academic or otherwise–to apply for whatever role they think they can reasonably get. That way they are gaining experience and have a chance for internal jobs that suit their fancy more when they come up.
I don’t get the impression from recent graduates of my program that they are particularly picky–it really does seem that they are applying for anything and everything. I think that (aside from the generally lacklustre job market) a huge part of this is because graduates honestly don’t know what they want to do (especially if they have no prior experience in a particular type of librarianship, such as cataloguing or collection development). I’m not sure what types of questions the interviewer asked with the previous applicant, but I think general questions such as “why do you want to be a librarian?” or “where do you see yourself in 5 years?” or “describe your career goals” would be a good indicator about the aspects of that job that someone may or may not be drawn to. If the person describes the teaching aspect of librarianship as the ideal, it’ll be more obvious that the passion for technical services just isn’t there. Sounds basic, but I think those general feeling based questions can tell you a lot about what an applicant wants from a job and from an environment.
I think the “sexier” position of a User Experience Librarian position would be a stronger draw. And not just because UX seems to be another buzzword! It suggests that there’s more opportunity to connect to the community/patrons, which might address applicant potential fears of being siloed off with their computers. I can’t speak to other LIS programs, but the one I’m enrolled in is very much lacking in technological skills, so I know a lot of its recent grads would jump on the chance to become involved in systems and usability (especially since it can be difficult to attain this experience once in a different role).
– Anonymous

Thanks to all these new grads and aspiring  academic librarians who were willing to share their viewpoints.  We’d love to hear yours too!  The comments are open.

And thank YOU for reading!  

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Filed under Academic, Further Answers

Advanced Reference Interviewing

School at Anthoston. Census 27, enrollment 12, attendance 7. Teacher expects 19 to be enrolled after work is overThis anonymous interview is with an academic librarian who has been a hiring manager and a member of a hiring or search committee. This person hires the following types of LIS professionals:

Catalogers, systems, reference

This librarian works at a library with 10-50 staff members in a city/town in the Midwestern US.

Do library schools teach candidates the job skills you are looking for in potential hires?

√ Depends on the school/Depends on the candidate

What coursework do you think all (or most) MLS/MLIS holders should take, regardless of focus?

√ Cataloging

√ Collection Management

√ Programming (Coding)

√ Web Design/Usability

√ Research Methods

√ Reference

√ Instruction

Do you find that there are skills that are commonly lacking in MLS/MLIS holders? If so, which ones?

I find some lack practical experience which can be gained either as a staff worker (student workers can gain valuable experience as well) or an internship.

When deciding who to hire out of a pool of candidates, do you value skills gained through coursework and skills gained through practice differently?

√ No preference–as long as they have the skill, I don’t care how they got it

Which skills (or types of skills) do you expect a new hire to learn on the job (as opposed to at library school)?

professional organization involvement beyond just membership;

advanced reference interviewing

Which of the following experiences should library students have upon graduating?

√ Library work experience

√ Internship or practicum

√ Other presentation

Are there any library schools whose alumni you would be reluctant to hire?

I have not experienced any in recent years. There were some in the 70s 80s and 90s

What advice do you have for students who want to make the most of their time in library school?

I would say they should be well rounded in library skills

This survey was coauthored by Brianna Marshall from Hack Library School. Interested in progressive blogging, by, for, and about library students? Check it out!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Academic, Midwestern US, What Should Potential Hires Learn in Library School