Tag Archives: American Library Association

Researcher’s Corner: What are the Qualifications for an Entry-Level Music Librarian?

I’m pleased to introduce another guest post by Joe Clark, who described his research into nine years of job postings on the Music Library Association Job List and identified job trends for us here.

This post delves more deeply into the specific qualifications desired in entry-level positions.  While his research is specific to music librarians, I think there are wider implications for entry-level expectations across disciplines.

Please do click through and read his more formal account of this research, which was published last March in the journal of the Music Library Association. Notes is open access, so the entire article is available online here for free.

So you graduate with your M.L.I.S. degree ready to land your first professional job, but realize that institutions are asking for skills and experiences you didn’t learn in graduate school. Now what?

A firm understanding of the skills, knowledge, and experiences that employers want will give you a leg up in a tight job market. Not only does music librarianship require subject-specific knowledge, but sub-fields within music librarianship differ in required and desired abilities and experiences.

The Study

I examined all of the position announcements on the Music Library Association’s Placement Service Job List from 2008 through 2011 and identified those open to entry-level librarians. I then classed each position into one of five types: 1) public service, 2) cataloging, 3) administrative, 4) hybrid, or 5) archival. Hybrid positions involve work in both public and technical services, while administrative librarians might run a small library as well as catalog, provide reference, and supervise staff and budgets.

I recorded the required and desired traits, abilities, knowledge, and experience for each position by job type, and then compiled the data. I also totaled the numbers for all of the music library positions, which provided a broad picture of what employers wanted in music librarianship entry-level hires. I broke traits sought into the following categories: education, personal attributes, social attributes, experience, general knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs), and technological KSAs.


Most of the entry-level music librarianship positions were in academic librarianship (95%). Twenty-eight percent of the vacancies were in public services, while the remaining four job types comprised between 17 and 19 percent of the advertisements.

As I examined all of the entry-level positions, it became quite clear what employers wanted in terms of education (other than the M.L.I.S. degree, which was a prerequisite for all of the jobs): 72% of positions required or preferred an undergraduate degree in music or the equivalent, and 40% desired a second graduate degree in music. Some public service and archival posts sought completion of music/arts library classes, while 27% of cataloging vacancies required cataloging coursework. A course in archival/preservation techniques was listed in 10% of all vacancies, and this figure was over half for jobs in archival environments.

The most commonly listed personal attributes included organizational skills/ability to prioritize, self-motivation, and flexibility/ability to handle multiple demands. Aptitude for scholarly production and professional development and analytical/problem solving skills appeared less frequently.

Excellent written and oral skills was the most commonly listed trait and the top social attribute. Other required or preferred social attributes included collaborative skills and a strong commitment to public services.

Previous library experience was desired in 42% of the listings, and appeared most commonly in administrative positions and least frequently in public service jobs. Experience with specific skills were also sought; cataloging was required or preferred in 36% of the announcements, and 30% wanted experience in reference and instruction.

The most common general KSA was reading knowledge of foreign languages, required for 25% and preferred for 19% of the jobs. Many of the other general KSAs were specific to the job responsibilities; for example, knowledge of AACR2, LCSH, and MARC21 was needed for positions that involved cataloging (including archive and hybrid posts).


In conclusion, institutions are looking for more than just an M.L.I.S.; they seek well-rounded individuals who can effectively communicate, collaborates, prioritizes, values excellent services, and self-motivates. These skills are in addition to subject expertise, which is highly valued in music librarianship. One should keep in mind that search committee members may want to see other qualifications not mentioned in advertisements.

The entire article, “What Employers Want: Entry-Level Qualifications for Music Librarians,” was published in the March 2013 issue of Notes (69:3), pages 472-493. All preferred and required qualifications for each job type that appeared in more than 8% of the announcements are detailed in the original article.  Feel free to contact me with questions or comments.

Joe Clark

Joe Clark is the Head of the Performing Arts Library at Kent State University. He has published articles in Notes: Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Fontes Artis Musicae, Serials Review, Journal of Library Innovation and The Journal of Academic Librarianship. His research interests include employment trends in music librarianship, collection management, library administration, and American music. He is currently the Placement Officer for the Music Library Association.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academic, Public, Researcher's Corner, Special

Rewrite the Job ad for readability and with realistic expectations

A hunter and his dog quail hunting De Funiak Springs, FloridaThis anonymous interview is with a job hunter who is not currently employed (even if part-time or in an unrelated field), has not been hired within the last two months, and has been looking for a new position for Less than six months.This person is looking in Academic libraries, Library vendors/service providers, Public libraries, and Special libraries, at the following levels: Entry level, Requiring at least two years of experience, and Supervisory.

This job hunter is in an urban area in the Northeastern US and is not willing to move.

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

1. A collegial environment where information is shared readily and all stakeholders are included without second thought.
2. A learning environment where professional development activities are encouraged.
3. An environment where taking on increasing levels of responsibility is possible and encouraged.

Where do you look for open positions?

ALA Joblist, INALJ, LinkedIn, LibGIG (on twitter), HigherEdjobs, SLA, LISjobs, #libjobs RSS feed. I also check on job posting pages of specific places I have researched as places I’d like to work.

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

No (even if I might think it *should* be)

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

I first locate the employer. I am bound by location so the job has to be within commuter distance. Then I research the employer to decide if it will be a good fit for me. Then I study the job ad and redraft my resume to highlight those skills that match the job ad. Lastly, I write a cover letter for the job to emphasize how my skills and experience will contribute to the workplace. Lastly, I put all of that information into the job system if necessary. The whole process takes up to 4 to 8 hours.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?


When would you like employers to contact you?

To acknowledge my application
To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

Phone for good news, email for bad news

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

Meeting department members/potential co-workers
Being able to present

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Rewrite the job ad for readability and with realistic expectations. I find most job ads are dry reads with poorly constructed bullet point lists of qualifications. Many job ads have lists upon lists of qualifications that only someone in the job for 5 years could have. There doesn’t seem to be room for learning and growth on the job anymore.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

The job systems are so difficult to get through. I wish there was a better way to submit applications.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Network, network, network. After that, a sparkling cover letter and resume that match the job ad perfectly.

Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

Thanks for all you do to help library job hunters!

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!

Leave a comment

Filed under Job hunter's survey, Northeastern US, Urban area

Author’s Corner: Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian

Our friends at the Library and Information Technology Association have published a brand new guide to becoming a digital librarian. I’m very grateful to editor Jane Monson, who has written today’s guest post. Not only will you get a glimpse of some of the topics covered in the book, but she’s put together some great advice for library students and entry level librarians.

During the past decade or so, the job title of “digital librarian” has become increasingly common as more and more libraries move their content and services online. In my recently published book, Jump-Start Your Career as a Digital Librarian: A LITA Guide, the specifics skills needed to position oneself for a job in this brave new world of librarianship – among them, familiarity with metadata, digital preservation, and web development – are explained by a cadre of experienced professionals in the field. Jump start your career as a digital librarianHowever, when it comes to job searching, the would-be digital librarian faces the same challenges as any other new professional: namely, to stand out in an over-crowded field and somehow find a position that balances both desires (to land a dream job) and needs (to pay the bills).

With that in mind, I would like to share a few kernels of wisdom that both the book’s contributors and I have gathered in our own employment searches, as well as our experiences serving on hiring committees. Much of this advice is specific to entry-level librarians, as they are usually the ones with the greatest obstacles to employment.

  1. Lay the groundwork during library school. In their chapter, “Getting the Most Out of Library School,” authors Micah Vandegrift and Annie Pho discuss ways that the savvy student can take optimal advantage of the opportunities available in library school and emerge as a desirable job candidate. They recommend surveying the job landscape early and often (ideally, before you even begin school); being creative with your coursework and fashioning your own specialty if your program doesn’t offer exactly what you want; putting in work through part-time jobs, practicums, internships, and volunteer work; and connecting with others through online and traditional venues. Knowing what skills employers are looking for by scanning job ads is a good way to target courses and part-time jobs that will give you the best experience in your chosen area. Some schools offer specialized tracks (for example, in digital libraries), but if yours doesn’t you can often create a close approximation using the DIY approach, cobbling together courses from other departments and initiating independent studies. Be willing to spend time outside of school teaching yourself relevant technology skills and keeping up on the latest journals and trade publications. Take advantage of any opportunity to attend professional conferences and workshops, and don’t be afraid to jump into online networking to get your face and name out there.
  2. Get as much work experience as you can while in school. Of the items listed above, “putting in work” may well be the most critical. It seems unfair, but the sad truth is that employment begets employment. Many a new librarian, digital or otherwise, has complained that employers seem unwilling to train new hires with little prior experience. Therefore, one of your main jobs while in library school is to train yourself, outside of the classroom. Don’t graduate without at least one volunteer gig, graduate assistantship, or other library-related job on your resume (and ideally several). If this isn’t possible for you to do, think carefully about your decision to enter library school – unless, of course, you already have significant library work experience prior to enrolling, or you don’t plan on using the degree to work in a library. When choosing a graduate program, weigh heavily the opportunities for students to find work in libraries on campus and in the surrounding area. These experiences are often more important than the classes you take.
  3. Be willing to relocate. There may be some fields that will easily allow you to go to school, undertake a career, and retire all in the same place. Librarianship, unfortunately, is not generally one of them. One important point that Elyssa Sanner and Catherine Wagner make in the chapter “Landing Your First Job,” is that unless you are willing to wait around for a relevant position to open up in your geographic area, the surest way to find a job after graduation is to cast your net as widely as possible. This is not to say that no one ever finds jobs within a targeted location, but these jobs are more likely to require a compromise – they may be part-time, or not in the area you trained for. Limiting yourself geographically may not allow you to make the best use of your library degree, and is bound to make the job search that much more difficult and drawn-out. A reality of librarianship today is that you may have to “pay your dues” by taking that all-important first job in a less than desirable location. But once you have those first years under your belt, you will have much more leverage to go after your dream job in your dream place.

The book has many more tips for navigating library school, applying for your first job in the field, transitioning from one area of librarianship to another, and further developing your career (Roy Tennant has some great advice in this chapter). It offers a wealth of information for both digital- and non-digital librarians alike, culled from the collective wisdom of more than twenty contributing authors – many of them hiring librarians themselves. I’m sure I can speak for all of them in wishing you good luck in your job search!

Jane Monson

Jane Monson received her MLS from the University of Iowa, where she was an IMLS Digital Libraries Fellow. She is currently Digital Initiatives Librarian at the University of Northern Colorado; previous to that she was Digital Projects Librarian at Truman State University. She has been published in Computers in Libraries, is a book reviewer for the Journal of Electronic Resources Librarianship, and serves on various ALA editorial committees.

1 Comment

Filed under Author's Corner

Author’s Corner: A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market

Today’s post is an excerpt from A Librarian’s Guide to an Uncertain Job Market, by Jeanette Woodward (2011. Chicago,IL: American Library Association). It’s got some excellent, very specific advice about the work you can do to be an engaged and smart job hunter. I’m happy to be able to share it with you.

For Applications that Make the Cut, Do Your Homework

At some point in the near future, you hope to be sitting opposite a library administrator or search committee convincing them that you are the best applicant for the job. However, that meeting will undoubtedly be preceded by many, many small steps. The secret is preparation and that preparation must begin long before the interview.

Focusing On the Job and the Employer

Actually, it all begins as soon as you discover the job announcement. Once you’ve decided that this is an opening you may want to pursue, immediately begin learning more. You’ll need to investigate not only the job itself but also the library and the people, especially senior staff, who work in that library. All of us, I suppose, tend to focus on ourselves. The people to whom you are sending your application are thinking not about you but about themselves and their library. They have a problem- in other words, there is work that’s not getting done and plans that are not being implemented. They are interested in how someone might solve their problem and how well that someone might fit into their world. Your task is not so much to tell them about yourself as to focus on their need.

What the Ad Really Says

Begin by examining the job ad carefully. Check to see if there are other versions online (the library’s own website may have a much longer and more complete announcement since some job lists charge by the word). You can do this by taking an exact phrase from the announcement, enclosing it in quotes, and pasting it into a search engine. Assemble all the versions you can find and keep your fingers crossed that they were written by a librarian and not a human resource professional. What do they really seem to be looking for? How is this announcement different from others you’ve seen for similar jobs? In one sense, your challenge is to become a mind reader.
The job that’s open in this particular library is unique. In many ways, it’s unlike other jobs with identical job titles in other libraries because this library has evolved differently. It has different goals, different needs, and a different cast of characters. Can you read between the lines to discover what these people are really looking for? Focus on them, not yourself. Don’t begin comparing your skills and experience with their requirements until you really understand what they are looking for.

Obtaining More Information

How can you find out more about this position? What do you already know about the library? Your friends and colleagues usually provide the best insights so ask around. Use your social network to get all the information you can. Is this a new position or is the opening the result of a recent resignation? It’s helpful to know whether you will be following in someone else’s footsteps or will help create a new position. Have two positions been merged and would you be expected to do both? These situations have their advantages and disadvantages but it’s a good idea to know what you’re getting into.

a librarian's guide to an uncertain job marketWhen the Library is Far From Home

At the moment, the job market is far from sunny so you may be applying to libraries far distant from home. If this is the case, you’re going to have to do some real detective work and as a librarian, you’re better equipped for the task than job applicants in other fields. Use the Internet to find out all you can about the libraries in which you’re interested, in other words the staff size, names and titles of senior librarians, budget, etc.
If the announcement asks you to reply to someone other than a human resource administrator, find out who that person is. You can probably gather enough information to make some educated guesses about the people who will make the hiring decision. Learning about the human side of libraries will help you better understand what they’re looking for. LIS professionals are so well represented online that you can often learn a lot about them as individuals including their perspectives and preferences. Some of the information will be useful in the cover letter and if you make the cut, it will be invaluable in the interview.

Investigate the Community

Also gather enough information to decide whether this is a place where you’d like to live. Find out about the cost of living, especially the cost of housing, the unemployment rate, the schools if you have children, and other quality of life indicators. As we all know, statistics can be boring and seemingly meaningless. Don’t just look up numbers. What do the numbers really say? Compare them with your home community. Consider whether unemployment numbers are improving or budget cuts have been so draconian that basic services like education and police protection are inadequate. Be sure to bookmark local newspapers to get a feeling for how residents view their area. Though you may be feeling somewhat desperate, you don’t want to have to go through this again. Job hunting takes a lot out of you both financially and psychologically. You’re looking for a stable, supportive environment where you can recharge your batteries and grow professionally. There really and truly are jobs that you should avoid.

Jeannette Woodward is a principal of Wind River Library and Nonprofit Consulting. After a career in academic library administration, most recently as Assistant Director of the David Adamany Library at Wayne State University, she began a second career in public libraries as the Director of the Fremont County Library System in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming.

Woodward is the author of several books including “The Transformed Library: Ebooks, Expeertise, and Evolution,” “Countdown to a New Library, 2nd Edition” (ALA 2010), “The Customer-Driven Academic Library” (ALA, 2008), “What Every Librarian Should Know about Electronic Privacy” (Libraries Unlimited, 2007), “Creating the Customer Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model” (ALA, 2005). She is also the author of “Writing Research Papers: Investigating Resources in Cyberspace”(McGraw Hill, 1999) and “Finding a Job after 50: Reinvent Yourself for the 21st Century” (Career Press, 2007). She holds a masters degree in library and information science from Rutgers University with doctoral study at the University of Texas at Austin.


Filed under Author's Corner

Be Specific … and Be Honest

JJ Pionke

JJ Pionke is currently a graduate student in the School of Information at the University of Michigan. She is looking forward to being an academic librarian, and has spent less than six months looking for a position in an Academic library, for positions requiring at least two years of experience. Here is how she describes her internship/volunteering experience:

I have 10 years of teaching experience, changing careers, 2 overseas internships in information literacy and cataloging, 4 semesters as a TA, 1 internship building an online and physical exhibit.

Ms. Pionke is in a city/town in the Midwestern US, and is willing to move anywhere. In her spare time, she rides a motorcycle, plays video games, and of course, reads a wide range of material including science fiction and Victorian poetry. You can find her at jjpionke.com.

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

job fit, salary, flexibility

Where do you look for open positions?

INALJ, ALA Joblist

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Other: I prefer to see a salary listed but it’s not necessarily a red flag if it is not.

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

My first packet took about a day because I didn’t have anything put together. Now that I have everything organized, I probably spend a few hours on each packet with proofreading and updating any information.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage
√ To follow-up after an interview
√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Be specific in what they are looking for and be honest. Example: if there has been a round of retirements as a cost saving measure, knowing that would be useful.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

Be more communicative and be explicit in what they are and are not looking for.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

How well you fit with what they are looking for.

Do you have any comments, or are there any other questions you think we should add to this survey?

Ultimately, I think getting hired is a confluence of things, including fit. The job market can be an intimidating place but staying positive, keeping skills sharp, and continuing education while you look, are the keys to finding a job that will make everyone happy.

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one? Check it out!

Leave a comment

Filed under Job hunter's survey, Midwestern US

Further Questions: Does Where You Go to School Matter?

This question is from a reader who considering a second Master’s. For more information on this topic, please take a look at these two posts:

Further Questions: When Should Library Students Start Applying

Researcher’s Corner: Does Choice of School Matter? Becoming an Academic Law Librarian

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Does where you go to school matter?  Would attending a for-profit school count against a candidate? Do you hire for any positions that require a second Masters? If so, do you give more weight to candidates from prestigious schools?

Laurie Phillips

On if where you go to school matters: – yes and no. We have found that certain library schools tend to produce more marketable candidates. Their curriculum is more up-to-date and their students are more polished and ready for a library faculty position. So, in a way, yes. No, in that if you are an excellent candidate and have all of the skills we’re looking for (hard and soft) and can express yourself well about those skills, then the name of the school on the diploma has no bearing. In our case, the MLS must be from an ALA-accredited program and there are no exceptions to that rule.

On if a for-profit school would count against a candidate: – I don’t know. Would this be for a second master’s degree? I don’t think we’ve ever had someone apply who fit this category so we’ve never had the conversation. It might, but since we don’t require a second master’s degree for any library faculty position, it may have no bearing at all.

On if she hires for any positions that require a second Masters: No, we do not. Several of us have a second master’s degree, but for three of us, it’s in the same field (music), so obviously we can’t all be working with the School of Music. People end up with liaison responsibilities that sometimes have little or no relationship to their educational background.

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

Times may have changed since my days hiring cataloguers for an academic library (professional staff of ten).  Western Ontario was the first one year MLS program in Canada.  We found their graduates less versed in practicalities than library tech graduates.   We tended to favour two year programs.
We valued second degrees, e.g., nursing for the medical cataloguer, music for the music cataloguer, and second languages for all.  We were not that concerned with institutions attended for the subject degree.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah AugustineI think as long as you stick with an accredited program, you are good to go. I think it also may be a good idea to choose a school that folks who are going to possibly hire you in the future are familiar with. For example, for a while my husband and I planned to move out to the Bay Area, so I chose San Jose State’s online MLIS program. I could complete that while still working my current job, and in the event that we moved there, folks in the library world would likely be familiar with the faculty and the program itself. I ended up not following that path, so I don’t know if it would’ve given me the edge or not.

I do not hire for any positions that require a second Master’s degree.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Christine Hage - Dark backgroundIt depends on the type of job I’ve posted.  All of our librarians are required to have a degree from an ALA accredited program.  Here in Michigan we are fortunate two have two ALA accredited programs, but one offers more practical public library type classes, while the other is a bit more theoretical.  I tend to hire from the closer school that is a bit more practical even though the other school is more prestigious and my alma mater.  The accreditation is important to me.

I recently got burned when I hired an IT Manager from a for profit school.  Three months after he was on the job I actually called to verify he graduated, because he truly didn’t have the knowledge or skill I expected from a person with a BA in IT Management.  Many of the courses were online and frankly I’d never consider a candidate from that school again.  I figured if he successfully graduated from the school they must be selling the degrees.  I’m less impressed with online degrees.  I feel that the face-to-face interaction with other students and faculty is important.

A second master’s is not important to me, but I have hired people who got their library degree after another masters and that is important.  It seems to me that an attorney, teacher, accountant, public administrator that went back to get a library degree really wants to be a librarian.  The first masters may be helpful, but the library degree is more important to me.  I’ve had two attorneys work as children’s librarians and they were good, but not because they formerly were attorneys.  They were just good librarians.

What really impacts my decision more than anything is the candidates attitude and personally.  Library science isn’t brain surgery and we can teach someone one the job what they need to know about our library.  I can’t change a person’s personality or attitude.  If they don’t sparkle at the interview, when I assume they are presenting themselves at their very best, they aren’t going to sparkle on the job.  The public library is an institution of people serving people and people skills rule.

– Christine Hage, Director, Rochester Hills Public Library
Petra MauerhoffIt doesn’t matter to me at all where you went to school. I have heard colleagues say that they prefer hiring candidates from certain schools, but this is not at all the case in our situation. I have never encountered the situation of having an applicant from a for-profit school, but I don’t THINK it would matter, either.
We currently do not have any positions that require a second Masters degree. I would probably have an unconscious bias towards someone from a more prestigious school…
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

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 contact me.

Thank YOU for reading!  If this is that once in a lifetime, this is the thrill divine, go ahead and leave a comment.


Filed under Academic, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public

In Today’s Economy, Candidates Need to Know if They Will be Able to Pay Their Bills

Rachel ChenaultRachel Chenault is a 2006 graduate of the University of Alabama SLIS.  Although she was a children’s librarian for two years (where she discovered she loves story time), she now works as an academic reference librarian at South University. Prior to being hired, she spent six months to a year looking in academic libraries for reference or cataloging librarian positions. She is in a city/town in the Southern US, and when asked if she was willing to move for a position, said:

I recently relocated, so not right now.

Ms. Chenault is an active member of the Alabama Library Association and the American Library Association. She loves to cook, read British mysteries and watch Bollywood movies.  She is also a Jane Austen fanatic and has a:

not so secret passion for cataloging.

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?



Opportunities for Professional Development

Where do you look for open positions?

ALA Joblist

Higher Ed Jobs



University Websites

City Websites

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

Ensure resume is up to date.

Ensure reference contact information is up to date.

Contact references.

Reformat resume/CV as necessary.

Complete Cover letter.

Fill out all necessary paperwork.

Time spent 3-5 hours depending on what is needed.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application

√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage

√ To follow-up after an interview

√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Other: I do not have a preference as long as contact is attempted.

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Tour of facility

√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers

√ Meeting with HR to talk about benefits/salary

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Provide as much information as possible.  At least provide a minimum salary.  In today’s economy, candidates need to know if they will be able to pay their bills with the position or if they will need to secure supplemental employment, etc.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

We all know that everyone is busy and has too much to do.  However, when you are looking for a job, you are already anxious.  Any kind of contact throughout the process is helpful. The sooner the better. Not knowing where you are in the process is one of the worst parts of the hiring process.  If a person knows they aren’t being considered for a certain position, they can move on and spend their energy on other leads for employment.  If a person is waiting to hear from a prospective employer, they might be less apt to go after certain opportunities until they hear something.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Finding the right fit.  When you meet the needs of the employer and they meet your needs as an employee.  It just has to be the right fit for all parties involved.

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one?  Check it out!

Leave a comment

Filed under Job hunter's survey, Southern US

Author’s Corner: A Hodgepodge of Tips for Applicants

Laura Kane has two books which might be useful for you library job hunters and career builders: 

Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science (ALA, 2011),


Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science (ALA Editions, 2003).

So in today’s post, she offers general advice to applicants, what she calls ” What’s Funny, What’s Not, and a Series of No-Brainers.”  I hope from this post you will gain not only a sense of her writing style and viewpoint, but some wisdom for your application process.

I don’t like to think of myself as a Veteran Librarian, but with nearly twenty years in the field, I guess that’s exactly what I am.  Though the thought makes me feel old, I will admit that experience has made me wiser. Throughout my tenure as an academic medical librarian, I have been a member of numerous search committees charged with filling professional librarian positions.  I’ve come to the conclusion that there are certain aspects of a candidate’s application and subsequent interview that can instantly “make or break” them.  I will cover each of these topics here, and hope that this hodgepodge of tips will be helpful to those seeking employment in the workforce.

That’s Funny!

Did you happen to see the OREO cookie commercial during this year’s Super Bowl?  Set in a library, it’s all about the friction that exists between those who love the cookie part, and those who love the cream part of the OREO.  The commercial is called “Whisper Fight,” and though the fight between the cream lovers and cookie lovers turns into complete chaos, nobody speaks above a whisper.  Stacks are toppling, books are raining down, a fire starts, firemen arrive with hoses, and all the while a bespectacled, cardigan-clad librarian looks on in horror and then finally “shouts” a stage whisper, “I’m calling the cops!”  When the police arrive, they whisper through a bullhorn, “You guys have to stop fighting!  We are the cops!”

I could not stop laughing.  I was so tickled that I had to immediately find it on the Web and play it again.  And again.  My 13-year-old son looked on with concern.  “Um, Mom,” he said hesitantly.  “You’re a librarian.  Shouldn’t you be insulted?”  I sobered up immediately and cleared my through.  “Oh! Um… of course.  Yes, indeed.  I am terribly insulted!”  Then I doubled over in laughter again.

Should I have been insulted by the obvious stereotyping going on in that commercial?  No way.  It was so clearly over-the-top that you couldn’t help but laugh.  Yes, there is a pervasive stereotype in our field, but isn’t that the case for most professions?  Most of my fellow librarians have “gotten over” taking offense at the stereotypes.  In fact, many of my colleagues think it’s just plain funny.  My nine-year-old son (I have three sons!) likes to grab some fake glasses, slide them to the end of his nose, and peer down them, saying, “I’m a librarian.”  He’s trying to rile me but he just looks so silly that I end up laughing.

And that’s the point I’m trying to make here.  Librarians have a sense of humor.  I work in an academic medical library.  We handle some pretty serious stuff.  But you can always hear laughter in our meetings, in our offices, and yes – God forbid! – even out in the main library itself.  It’s wonderful to work with a group of people who can be lighthearted and fun when appropriate.

Working in the Virtual StacksSo what does this mean for someone applying for a professional librarian position?  It means that you can lighten up a little.  Don’t go overboard, of course, but let your sense of humor show.  Just two months ago I was on a search committee for a position that had around forty applicants.  I was given a stack of ten applications and had to pick the top candidates from that stack.  Only one candidate made it to the top of my list – the one who stuck a purposely amusing sentence in the end of her cover letter.  Guess what?  She’s the person we hired.  Her cover letter stood out for me because it made me laugh.  I thought, “This person is well-qualified AND she has a sense of humor.”  No matter how qualified a person is, nobody wants to work with a stick-in-the-mud.  A balance of skill, knowledge, and humor goes a long way in my book.

That Is SO Not Funny!

Check out this actual sentence from one of the cover letters in that stack I told you about:

 I saw your posting for a Research Lab Assistant and feel that I am well-qualified for the position.

Not bad, huh?  It might have been OK if that had been remotely close to the position for which we were advertising!  Clearly the applicant was copying and pasting and not checking his/her work.  This seems like a no-brainer, but I have seen this happen many times: we receive applications with cover letters that were obviously written in the past for completely different positions.  So here is a tip:  double-check your cover letter!  The cover letter, for me, is the top tool for weeding out candidates.  You can only get so much from an application form; it’s the cover letter that either allows a person to stand out, or causes that fateful toss to the bottom of the pile.


Here’s another tip about cover letters:  prove that you did some research about the position and show interest in some aspect of what you’ve learned.  Study the library’s website and see what kinds of programs and services they offer.  In your cover letter, mention one or two things that stood out or caught your interest.  For example, you could say, “I see that librarians at your institution are involved with developing LibGuides for library patrons.  I have a nursing background and would love to develop a Nursing LibGuide to direct students to authoritative resources.”  Prove in your cover letter that you have invested some time in determining whether you would be a good fit in the organization.  Don’t take the easy way out by using a generic cover letter for all your applications.  That’s the quickest way for your file to be dismissed.

Not So Smart

I always end an interview with the question, “Do you have any questions for me?”  I am flabbergasted and disappointed that many people simply answer, “No.”  Seriously?!  No questions at all?Straight from the Stacks

You should always be prepared to ask some intelligent questions during the actual interview.  I am impressed when a candidate has prepared a list of questions beforehand.  Here is another chance to show that you have given the position some thought and have done some background work to learn about the institution.  Questions like, “Can you explain the requirements for tenure?” or “How does your organization interact with the other campus libraries?” can open up an interesting conversation flow.  So don’t be afraid to whip out that notebook and say, “I’ve written down some questions about the position.”

Make a connection

My 3-year-old son has autism and rarely looks people in the eye.  On those occasions when he does look directly into my eyes, I feel it – ZAP! – an instant connection, no matter how brief.  I never knew the importance of eye contact until it was missing in my interactions with my son.  I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t explain why direct eye contact is so crucial during an interview.  I just know that when it’s completely missing, something is not right.  It can be tough, but be sure to make frequent eye contact with your interviewers.  I don’t mean you should stare continually into their eyes (that would be a little freaky), but just meet their eyes off and on as you answer questions.  It’s a subtle yet very important connection.

A Final No-Brainer

There have been several occasions when the search committee has had trouble deciding between two candidates.  Do you know what eventually tipped the scales in one direction?  A simple thank-you note.  Whether by email or snail mail, it’s always wise to send a letter of thanks to the members of a search committee.  Not only does it show that you appreciate their time, it gives you an extra edge over those candidates who don’t take this simple step.

Just One More

If you only remember one point from this post, remember this one:  don’t ever say, “I became a librarian because I love to read!”  Nothing shows more ignorance about the profession of librarianship than that short phrase.  Enough said.

Laura KaneLaura Townsend Kane, MLS, AHIP, is the author of “Working in the Virtual Stacks: The New Library & information Science” (ALA, 2011), “Straight From the Stacks: A Firsthand Guide to Careers in Library and Information Science,”(ALA Editions, 2003), and co- author of “Answers to the Health Questions People Ask in Libraries: A Medical Library Association Guide” (Neal-Schuman, 2008).  She is the Assistant Director for Information Services at the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine Library in Columbia, South Carolina.  She has also written several book chapters about librarianship career opportunities and several peer-reviewed journal articles on various issues in librarianship.  She is an active member of the Medical Library Association (MLA) and its regional Southern Chapter, and is a Distinguished Member of MLA’s Academy of Health Information Professionals (AHIP). 


Filed under Author's Corner

Be Realistic about How Many Applications Job Seekers are Forced to Put Out

Sofia Becerra

This interview is with Sofía Becerra-Licha, the archivist at Berklee College of Music, a new position charged with formalizing the archives under a grant from the NHPRC. Ms. Becerra-Licha  earned her MSLS with a concentration in Archives & Records Management from UNC-CH (August ’12), where she was a Spectrum Scholar (2010-2011), a Carolina Academic Library Associate  (2010-2012), and was heavily involved as a student leader. She also holds a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and double-majored in music and Spanish as an undergraduate. Ms. Becerra-Licha was hired within the last two months, but prior to that was looking for a new position for six months to a year, in Academic libraries and Archives, for Entry level positions. This new grad describes her  internship/volunteering experience as:

2 years as a graduate assistant in public services at a small branch library. 1 year in a copy cataloging graduate assistantship for a large audiovisual archives. Two semester-long internships/volunteer positions: archival processing (papers) and original cataloging (music). Two months as a volunteer, cataloging videos. All of these positions were part-time and in academic libraries/archives.

She is in an urban area in the Northeastern US and was willing to move anywhere. Ms. Becerra-Licha is a member of the American Library Association (ALA), Society of American Archivists (SAA), and Music Library Association (MLA). She is currently documenting her first year on the job as a contributor to the SAA’s Students and New Archives Professionals (SNAP) roundtable blog series “A Year in the Life.”

What are the top three things you’re looking for in a job?

Interesting work and/or responsibilities

Congenial colleagues

Salary proportionate to local cost of living

Where do you look for open positions?

Professional listservs and websites

Do you expect to see salary range listed in a job ad?

√ Yes, and it’s a red flag when it’s not

What’s your routine for preparing an application packet? How much time do you spend on it?

First, I reread the job description carefully and decide whether I meet the minimum requirements, as well as whether it sees like a genuinely good fit for my interests and skills. Next, I add the position as a possibility on my job applications spreadsheet, which includes fields for deadlines, number of references, and any special instructions. Based on the ad, I decide which references make the most sense for this type of position and contact them, including a few sentences about how my qualifications match up against the requirements and anything else particularly distinctive about the opportunity or my experience in relation to it. (And of course, I always include the caveat that they’re welcome to refuse if they have any reservations whatsoever, no questions asked!)

Simultaneously, I briefly research the institution and area to confirm this would be a liveable option, and to get ideas for connections I might mine for the cover letter. Assuming I don’t need to update my résumé, I draft the cover letter, potentially borrowing phrases from previous letters if I have applied for similar positions, but otherwise spending 30 minutes to an hour on the letter alone.

Overall, I would say an average application packet takes a couple of hours, but the length will depend on the demands of the process. I mostly applied to academic library positions, so another 30 minutes to an hour could go towards having to fill in a lot of the same information again on a general HR site, sometimes requiring the creation of an online account with that system. It’s hard for me to gauge because I rarely worked on a single application exclusively. I imagine I’m not the only one who tended to chip away at tasks in between other responsibilities, as I was taking classes full-time and working part-time.

Have you ever stretched the truth, exaggerated, or lied on your resume, or at some other point during the hiring process?

√ No

When would you like employers to contact you?

√ To acknowledge my application

√ To tell me if I have or have not been selected to move on to the interview stage

√ To follow-up after an interview

√ Once the position has been filled, even if it’s not me

How do you prefer to communicate with potential employers?

√ Other: Email to acknowledge application and any status updates; phone to follow up after an in-person interview. If I interviewed in person, then ideally phone notification once the position has been filled (but an email is definitely better than nothing!).

Which events during the interview/visit are most important to your assessment of the position (i.e. deciding if you want the job)?

√ Tour of facility

√ Meeting department members/potential co-workers

√ Meeting with HR to talk about benefits/salary

√ Other: Information on the area, touring the surrounding area, housing information, etc.

What do you think employers should do to get the best candidates to apply?

Think critically about the job description, particularly the required skillset, rather than recycling from old job descriptions or throwing together a massive wishlist. Be clear about the application process, requirements, and timeline. Avoid requesting an excessive amount of supplemental documents upfront.

What should employers do to make the hiring process less painful?

Be realistic (or at least understanding) about how many applications job seekers are forced to put out and take this into consideration when asking for additional materials, particularly from references. If at all possible, avoid collecting redundant information in time-consuming ways (such as requiring registering for a website or having to enter every single job, when such information is part of the required resume). Above all, communication is greatly appreciated. I understand the back-end is complicated, inevitable hold-ups abound, and there are valid reasons why many details cannot be disclosed. But whenever possible, even something like a generic update on a website saying, “we are now at the phone interview stage” is more charitable than silence. Please follow up in some manner with anyone you interview, whether in person or on the phone, via skype, etc. Professionalism goes both ways.

What do you think is the secret to getting hired?

Being persistent, remaining connected and productive, applying selectively, and honestly, having a bit of luck.

This survey was co-authored by Naomi House from I Need A Library Job – Do you need one?  Check it out!


Filed under Academic, Archives, Job hunter's survey, Northeastern US, Urban area

Researcher’s Corner: Comparative Employability of ALA and CILIP Accredited Degrees

Let’s think internationally today.  Dana Hamlin (née Goblaskas) wrote a wonderful article for the Library Student Journal (hey students, why not try to get that term paper published?), entitled:

Assessing the Transferability of Library and Information Science (LIS) Degrees Accredited by the American Library Association (ALA) and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP). Library Student Journal, 2012, Feb.

Ms. Hamlin was kind enough to summarize some of her key points here for us today.  I think it’s a fascinating topic.  As the world gets smaller, and new grads are encouraged to move in order to find work, it becomes more useful to understand the way degrees are really perceived.  Library Student Journal is open-access, so if you want to read more you should be able to click above and get the full text of her in-depth original article.

The Backstory

When I was first considering library school, I had my heart set on a program in London. As a lifelong Anglophile this seemed like the perfect choice, and I was excited about what networking opportunities and possible jobs might come about from my attending school in the UK. Knowing that the ALA accredits library schools in the US, I did some research to see if the UK had something similar and came across CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. CILIP’s webpage about overseas qualifications explained that, due to a reciprocal agreement, libraries in the UK recognize ALA-accredited degrees, and that Master’s degrees accredited by CILIP are similarly recognized in the US. I figured I was sorted until a nagging feeling made me check ALA’s website, and sure enough there was no mention of any reciprocal agreement. Instead, ALA just recommends that holders of international LIS degrees have their credentials checked by an independent agency.

This discrepancy made me think twice about going to library school overseas, since I didn’t want to risk being considered under-qualified in the US if I couldn’t get a job in the UK. I ended up getting my MLS here in the States, but the quandary of cross-Atlantic credentials stayed in my mind. When it came time to think of a topic for my final research project in library school, I decided to look into how transferable LIS degrees from either side of the Atlantic (including Canada, since the ALA accredits seven programs there) really are.


First, I compared the core competencies of librarianship as defined by each accrediting body, as well as the core curricula from all ALA– and CILIP– accredited programs, in order to determine the similarity of the knowledge base expected of LIS graduates in the US, Canada, and the UK. The latter step involved collecting data about required courses or modules from the websites of every accredited (as of August 2011) LIS program listed by ALA and CILIP.

Second, I developed and distributed two surveys. One was geared toward LIS graduates of ALA- and CILIP-accredited programs, and the second was intended for library employers in the US, UK, and Canada. Through these surveys I hoped to find out a) a rough percentage of how many LIS graduates were able to successfully use their credentials to gain employment overseas, b) how happy – or unhappy – managers were with any international hires they had made, and c) what, if any, knowledge gaps existed between graduates of ALA-accredited programs and those with CILIP-accredited degrees.

Comparison Findings

A comparison of the core competencies of ALA and CILIP showed that the two organizations hold very similar expectations for graduates of their accredited programs. Though presented in two visually distinct ways and employing slightly different language, ALA’s Core Competencies and CILIP‘s Body of Professional Knowledge (BPK) outlined essentially the same knowledge base that is expected of new members of the profession. The only major difference was that the ALA expects LIS graduates to have knowledge of the history of librarianship; the BPK did not address this topic.

Note: In the year-and-a-half since I completed this research project, CILIP has updated their BPK to a new model called the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB), which can be viewed here. This new PKSB lays out CILIP’s core competencies in a more direct and specific manner than the BPK did, but apart from a few additions, the competencies appear to be fundamentally the same.

Although the core competencies are very similar, a divergence occurs between what classes are required (as of August 2011) in ALA-accredited programs and those accredited by CILIP:

ALA v CILIP figure1

ALA- and CILIP-accredited programs also differed in whether or not they required field experience/internships and dissertations/research projects:

ALA v. CILIP figure2

From the data shown in the figure above, it can be presumed that CILIP-accredited programs place significantly greater emphasis on practical experience in the field than programs accredited by the ALA do. In fact, nearly half (46.67%) of CILIP-accredited programs require that applicants have previous related work experience before they can be admitted. Thus it can be argued that graduates of CILIP-accredited programs enter the job market with more hands-on knowledge of the field. However, since the previous work experience of graduates with ALA credentials is unknown and therefore not included in the data, this argument is not thoroughly supported.

Another assumption from the data in the figure above is that CILIP-accredited programs are more academically rigorous than those accredited by the ALA, since 100% of Master’s-level programs in the UK require dissertations of 15,000 words or more. It is noteworthy to mention that students in CILIP-accredited programs who do not complete a dissertation still graduate with what is called a Postgraduate Diploma, or PG Dip, and are still considered by CILIP to be professionally qualified. The PG Dip is not recognized by the ALA as equivalent to an ALA-accredited Master’s degree, even though graduates of most ALA-accredited Master’s programs are not required to complete a dissertation and are therefore earning the CILIP equivalent of a PG Dip.

Survey Findings

From the data gathered in the survey geared toward employers, it can be inferred that employers who hire employees with foreign credentials tend to be satisfied with the speed with which those employees adjust to working overseas, and no major gaps seem to exist in core areas of the professional knowledge base. However, the data from this survey may be biased due to the low number of respondents (13), and unequal representation of employers from varying types of libraries or the countries represented.

The data gathered in the second survey geared toward LIS graduates suggests that graduates of ALA-accredited programs are more successful at acquiring jobs overseas in the UK than CILIP-accredited graduates are in the US or Canada; roughly 81% of respondents with ALA credentials who applied for library jobs in the UK reported being successful, compared to approximately 35% of respondents with CILIP credentials who applied for jobs in the US or Canada. However, according to the data, this assumption is not due to the issue of foreign credentialing.

While conducting these surveys, I also received some interesting comments via email. Three self-identified American citizens wrote to tell me about how they had earned LIS degrees in the UK, only to return to the US and find that libraries would not hire them due to their CILIP credentials. One commented that library administrators told him that “non-ALA degrees would not even be considered, regardless of [the] reciprocity which CILIP currently claims.” Another respondent, who identified herself as a lecturer at one of the CILIP-accredited programs in the UK, shared that a few American graduates of the program had told her that they were denied employment upon returning to the States. In contrast, two respondents with non-CILIP credentials shared that they were able to find professional jobs in the UK without any difficulty. Thus, although not reflected in the statistical survey data, it is clear that foreign credentialing is indeed an issue when it comes to professional LIS employment in the US.


I drew three conclusions from this study: 1) ALA and CILIP expect roughly the same of their LIS graduates, since their core competencies are so similar; 2) required courses in both ALA- and CILIP-accredited courses differ, but neither side of the Atlantic shows a greater deficiency in covering the core competencies than the other; and 3) most ALA-accredited Master’s degrees are effectively the equivalent of CILIP-accredited PG Dips, and graduates of CILIP-accredited programs are more likely to have more practical experience in the field.

If those conclusions are true, then why has it been so difficult for graduates of CILIP programs to have their credentials recognized in the US and Canada? The ALA claims to celebrate diversity, and “promotes the exchange of professional information, techniques and knowledge, as well as personnel and literature between and among libraries and individuals throughout the world” (American Library Association, 2011b, para. 1). Wouldn’t working alongside library professionals who earned their degrees from around the world be a great way to do just that?

Michael Dowling wrote in 2007 that the ALA has changed its policies to be more accommodating of foreign credentials, but that the organization hasn’t communicated this change well enough to human resource departments. However, most of the comments I received about CILIP credentials being denied in the US indicated that this problem has continued since 2007. If the ALA has indeed changed its policies, it doesn’t seem to be communicating them any better. I, for one, would like to see this question of transferability addressed more clearly by the ALA and CILIP, in hopes that more LIS students don’t complete a year or more of study and hard work only to find that their degree is effectively worthless in the country where they’d like to work.

Dana HamlinDana Hamlin (Goblaskas) is an archives collections associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She earned her MLS at Southern Connecticut State University in August 2011, and can be contacted at dgoblask@mit.edu


Filed under Researcher's Corner, UK