Tag Archives: California Library Association

Californians, Have you voted? Julie Farnsworth on Hiring Librarians

Voting is currently open for the California Library Association’s 2012 election.  If you’re a member, cast your ballot by October 15th.
This interview is with Julie Farnsworth, who is a candidate for President-Elect. Ms Farnsworth began her library career as a page at the age of 15. She has worked as a public library director at various systems in Utah, as County Librarian for Santa Clara, and since 2003 has been the Director of the Pleasanton Public Library (which is in the 50-100 staff members category). She has also been both a hiring manager and a member of a hiring committee.

Questions about CLA:

In broad strokes, what do you think the CLA’s role is in library hiring and employment?

CLA exists to help its member libraries and librarians.  Hiring and employment is one of the most important and most popular roles of the organization.  Whether through the actual job listings or through the opportunity to network and work together, CLA is a very useful tool for job seekers.

The most important role of CLA is library advocacy which, when successful, means more funds for libraries and more available jobs.

How can the CLA serve unemployed or underemployed librarians?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers mentoring – both long-term and short-term – for new librarians, an online job listing service, job advertising and interview services at the annual conference, programs designed for aspiring job seekers and opportunities for networking.

How can the CLA support library students in order to help them be best situated for future employment?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA offers resume evaluation at each conference as well as programs on how to enhance job seeking skills and knowledge.  CLA was instrumental in starting the Eureka Leadership training which has assisted many librarians to progress in their careers.

I would like to see more programs or individualized feedback on interview skills and self-presentation.  I would like CLA to facilitate paid and unpaid internships by collating the opportunities and distributing the information to job seekers.  CLA could also create a best practices internship plan and train librarians on giving interns the best, most useful experience.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about CLA or your candidacy?

It can feel as though the job search is hopeless or you have no control or influence over your future.  It isn’t true – there are always ways to improve your future prospects. Getting involved with CLA or any other professional or non-profit group can grow your skills, give you experience you can use to illustrate your talents in interviews, teach you about advocacy and introduce you to many other professionals would can assist your efforts to build a career.

Let CLA help you while you search for a job.  It will be useful.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

Good judgment – the ability to assess a situation and respond wisely in the best interest of the organization and staff

Dedication to customer service with real respect for the work we do and the people we work to help

Balance – the ability to see beyond the emotion of the moment to the bigger picture, often using humor, self-acceptance, a sense of the absurd and/or acknowledgement of the faulty nature of all humans, including yourself

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

Yes.  Wanting to censor what we have in the collection in order to “protect” the community.  Being offensive about patrons of a particular age or national origin or disability or any other group status.  Making multiple derogatory comments about different co-workers and bosses.  Stating that you want to leave your current public library job because you are afraid of the patrons.  Criticizing the receptionist in a loud and angry manner for not telling you about the traffic that made you late.

Yes, these are all from my personal experience.  See, you are a better interviewer than you thought!

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

Nothing, really.  They are pretty utilitarian and appropriately so.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

I’d love to see something they particularly liked or learned in each experience, but that wouldn’t be typical.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Only one!

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, but keep it short and sweet

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ Other: Yes, so long as it is true/real and relevant to the position

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Be comfortable with yourself (not the situation, no one is really comfortable in an interview), open and accepting of your strengths and weaknesses.  Be calm.  Be honest about yourself, your hopes, your interests.  Do you really want a job where they are looking for the person you faked being in the interview or a job where they want the real you?  See the people across the table as people and take an interest in what they care about, what they might be feeling and how you can help them be more comfortable.  Understand that an interview is not the measure of your worth, just a chance for those with a job opening to learn more about you while you learn about them.  Do your homework on the organization – it shows preparation and thoughtfulness.  Think what the interviewers might be proud of and bring it up.  You can always call and ask the staff what changes they have made lately that have been successful.

For me personally – hey, I always like people who laugh at my jokes.  😉

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?

Most common of all, they get so nervous that their personality and skills are obliterated.  Interviews are important for functional reasons, not for referendum on the worth of your soul reasons – so learn whatever skills you need to be calm!

Another very common mistake is to focus so much on the perfect answer to the questions that you lose track of the people in the room.  Communication is more about body language and tone than words and that’s very much true in an interview.

The third mistake I see is not engaging your audience.  Ask questions.  Ask follow up questions to their answers.  It’s often said that whoever talks least in any interview wins.  This isn’t so true in an oral board, of course, but in the personal interviews its a big mistake to do nothing but answer.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

Not at all in the mechanics.  Those are dictated by the organization and the public hiring legalities.

We’ve done a better job on getting the word out and certainly I’m fond of my hires and think they are the bees knees, but no functional differences.

Of course, we’ve been doing NO hiring for years and only now allowed to replace key positions.  So I guess that’s a change.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

Don’t give up!  Being a librarian is a great career that I highly recommend and I do believe that jobs will come back.

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Filed under 50-100 staff members, Elections/Candidates, Non-Anonymous, Public

Californians, Have you Voted? Teresa Landers on Hiring Librarians

Voting is currently open for the California Library Association’s 2012 election.  If you’re a member, cast your ballot by October 15th.
This interview is with Teresa Landers, who is a candidate for President-Elect.  Ms. Landers has over 33 years of experience working in public libraries in 4 different Western states.  For the past three years, she has been the Director of the Santa Cruz Public Libraries, which is in the 100-200 staff members category.  Ms. Landers has been both a hiring manager and a member of hiring committees.

Questions about CLA:

In broad strokes, what do you think the CLA’s role is in library hiring and employment?

CLA is a professional organization. Its mission is to represent and serve the needs of its members who are the staff of all our libraries in California.  CLA’s role is therefore to do what it can to help make the connection between those looking for work and those wanting to hire. This is achieved through several services which are described below.

How can the CLA serve unemployed or underemployed librarians?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

The jobline is the primary source of connecting those looking for work and those looking to hire workers.  Offering professional development opportunities helps prepare both the unemployed and the underemployed by teaching the skills that are in demand by potential employers.

In California we are fortunate to have an organization, Infopeople, which offers free and low cost training and development. It used to be largely supported by State and Federal funding. In these challenging times those funding sources are threatened and Infopeople has had to get more creative in finding support but continues to be an invaluable resource to all California librarians.

The Eureka! Leadership Program and CLA sponsored mentoring programs are both excellent resources that serve our profession well by preparing emerging leaders.

I think CLA can do more at the annual conference for job seekers and employers. Maybe this can also be developed into regional job fairs.  At a minimum, providing practice interviews and resume review would be valuable additions to the conference program.

How can the CLA support library students in order to help them be best situated for future employment?  Please name specific programs or services that exist, or that you would like to see enacted.

CLA does have a library school representative on the Executive Board. This provides good input from the student perspective while providing  the student with excellent leadership experience.

Perhaps the two Library Schools in the State could be the sponsors of the conference program and regional job fairs that I mentioned in the previous question.

Internships are another excellent way for library school students to get professional experience and to get known by potential employers. CLA could work more closely with the library schools and work with them to figure out how CLA can play a role in brokering this process.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers about the CLA or your candidacy?

I know this is a difficult hiring environment for new graduates. I do believe the job market is loosening a bit. In my library we are no longer reducing and have started adding back. We are also starting to see more retirements which will result in more opportunities for new graduates.  I know this isn’t directly related to CLA or my candidacy but if there is a way the CLA President can help, I will be looking for it.

Questions from the survey:

What are the top three things you look for in a candidate?

1. Technical skills

2. An understanding of the changes facing libraries and a willingness to be flexible, innovative and not afraid of change.

3. Able to relate to people and understand the meaning of excellence in customer service.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers, either in the application packet or the interview process?

I hate it when candidates have not done their research on the library and specific job for which they are applying.  I actually had a phone interview with a candidate who asked where the library was located.

What are you tired of seeing on resumes/in cover letters?

I find objectives to be useless. If  someone is applying for a job with my organization then that is their objective. They will have time to talk about career goals in the interview.

Is there anything that people don’t put on their resumes that you wish they did?

I like to see a connection between the jobs they have performed and what knowledge, skills and abilities doing that job required.  For customer service and supervision, I am very willing to give credit for non-library jobs that show they have specific skills.  I can teach them how to use our computer system or how to do do a reference interview but the basic ability to relate to people is either there or it isn’t.

How many pages should a cover letter be?

√ Two is ok, but no more

How many pages should a resume/CV be?

√ As many as it takes, I want to look at every accomplishment

Do you have a preferred format for application documents?

√ No preference, as long as I can open it

Should a resume/CV have an Objective statement?

√ No

If applications are emailed, how should the cover letter be submitted?

√ I don’t care

What’s the best way to win you over in an interview?

Show interest in the position and knowledge about my library. Be confident, make eye contact with everyone, let your personality show so we can both look for best fit.

What are some of the most common mistakes people make in an interview?
Not dressing appropriately. Not being prepared. Not asking specific and interesting questions.

How has hiring changed at your organization since you’ve been in on the process?

I am in an unusual situation in that my first three years at my current organization involved severe reductions. It is only now that we are starting to hire again. We have several staff who have gotten their MLS and have been waiting for several years so the next couple of librarian hires will most likely be in-house. In about another 6 months or year we will start hiring from the outside.

We are changing our interview process and trying to make it more of a dialogue between candidate and interviewers. We will do this by providing some questions ahead of time and having less questions with more time to go in depth. We are also going to include a session where the candidate meets with the staff in the division where the opening is and will spend some time talking with them and doing a session where they have to “teach” something.

Anything else you’d like to let job-seekers know?

No matter how badly you need the job, remember that fit is important from both perspectives.

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Filed under 100-200 staff members, Elections/Candidates, MLIS Students, Public, Western US