Tag Archives: Curtis Memorial Library

Hired Librarians: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

Elisabeth Doucett, whose book, What They Don’t Teach You In Library School, was featured on Author’s Corner about a month ago, suggested today’s post. Ms. Doucett recently hired a librarian who 

did the absolute best job I’ve ever seen to prepare for that interview

Today I’m pleased to be able to bring you an interview with a successful candidate and the librarian who hired her: Sarah Brown, the new Manager of Adult Services at Curtis Memorial Library, and Liz Doucett, the Library Director.  Curtis Memorial is a public library in Brunswick, Maine, with 21.6 FTEs (11 full-time and 26 part -time staff members.)
Curtis Memorial Library, Brunswick, ME
Note: I’d like to be able to turn Hired Librarians into a regular feature, so if you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!

The Successful Candidate: Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown
Where are you in your career? When did you graduate, and how many years of experience do you have?

I graduated from the University of Kentucky School of Library and Information Science in 1996 and have over 15 years’ experience as a professional librarian. First, in an academic library at Pikeville College, in rural eastern Kentucky, in which I supervised the creation of a medical library for a new osteopathic medical school.

My second professional position was with the Tippecanoe County Public Library in Indiana. I was a reference and adult services librarian for over 10 years, working at a branch location that was a joint public/community college library and serving as Interim Branch Manager in 2003.

My current position is that of Adult Services Manager at Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick Maine.

Why did this job pique your interest?

I had wanted to relocate to Maine for many years and I was on the lookout for the perfect combination of location, library and community. Curtis Library is a fantastic library whose mission and vision spoke to me. Their new Strategic Plan showed that they were community focused and proactively working on meeting 21st century community needs.

The position of Adult Services Manager was a good fit for me. I had a strong background in reference and adult services and, anticipating a move to a management level position, I had sought out management and leadership training opportunities. I was confident that with my enthusiasm, experience and skills that I would be an asset to CML and to the service area.

How many pages was your resume? Cover letter?

My resume was way too long! It was 6 pages, plus a cover letter and a page of references.

What research did you do before submitting your application?

I wanted to make sure that this was a library and community that I wanted to work in so I did research on both. For the library I looked at its mission, vision, values, strategic plan, Youtube videos, website, blog, newspaper articles, and several years’ worth of newsletters and annual reports. I also researched the staff using Google, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

For the community I looked at the town web site, the Master Plan for Downtown Brunswick, the Mid Coast Chamber of Commerce, Brunswick Downtown Association, and the local newspaper.

What did you wear?

I wore a gray pantsuit.

Can you describe your process in preparing for the interview?

You know how hard you study for the GRE or a Master’s program cumulative exam? I would say that I studied twice as hard for this interview. I was very excited about this position! In addition to reading and rereading (and maybe rereading once more) the library and community documents listed above, I had a 20 page document with sample questions, answers and behavioral examples. Topics included work experience, strengths and weaknesses, management and leadership style, conflict management, teamwork, customer service, flexibility, challenges and opportunities in adult services, and the future of libraries and librarians. Additionally, I made sure I was current on professional issues by reading professional journals, industry reports, and state library discussion lists.

Compiling and studying these documents really helped me to evaluate myself as a candidate, think about the role and future of libraries, get to know the interviewing library, and concisely articulate how I might fit within, and be an asset to them.

What questions did you ask?

Based on my study of the library and of the community I had many specific as well as general questions for the interviewers: about the library, programming, partners, and the community.

Why do you think you were hired? What set you apart from other candidates?

I know that all of the candidates were very qualified for the position. I feel that I was chosen because I was passionate about the job, the community, the profession, and the amazing possibilities and potential facing libraries as we move into the future.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why you were chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

Don’t be afraid to show your passion! I love being a librarian and I am passionate about libraries and librarianship. I was very excited about Curtis Library and the Brunswick community – and I wasn’t afraid to let that show during the interview process. Do your research on the interviewing library and the community. Be able to articulate why you want the job and what you can offer.

The Hiring Librarian: Liz Doucett

Liz Doucett

What stood out in this applicant’s cover letter?

Sarah’s cover letter was very clear and detailed as to a) how her experience made her qualified for the job at Curtis and b) the degree of passion and energy that she had for her profession. We wanted both experience and passion in the person who got this job so her clarity made it easy for us to include her in our pool of applicants. I would tell any applicant for a job make sure she does the same in a cover letter with a focus on being short, succinct and full of excitement about the opportunity.

Did she meet all of the required qualifications listed in the job ad? How many of the desired qualifications did she meet?

Sarah met all of the required qualifications.

In comparison to the rest of the pool, did the applicant have more, less, or about the same years of experience? What about for the other people you interviewed?

Sarah probably had slightly less experience than some of the other candidates. However, her high degree of preparation compensated for any short-falls in experience.

What was the interview process like? 

We went through all of the resumes received (about 40) and picked out a pool of six candidates. The interview committee (three librarians plus the library’s assistant director and the manager of technical services) then conducted a group telephone interview with each candidate. The final three candidates were invited to the library. Each candidate interviewed again with the interview committee and I then interviewed each one individually. Additionally, the final candidates had bagels and coffee in a large group format with anyone on the staff interested in attending. The candidates were given tours of the library and then went out to lunch (informally) with 2 members of the interview committee. It was an exhausting process for the candidate and the interview committee but by the end it was very clear as to who we were going to hire.

What stood out in this applicant’s interview?

Sarah came to the interview amazingly well-prepared. She had researched the community of Brunswick and Curtis Library and the staff that worked here. She knew by name which staff person did what job in the library. She had ideas about what she would like to accomplish at Curtis. She understood our strategic goals and already had a sense of what she could contribute toward achieving those goals. I have always prided myself on being prepared for job interviews and I can honestly say that Sarah far surpassed any job interview I’ve ever done. On top of that she was very passionate about her work which is refreshing and exciting when you are interviewing for a senior position.

Were there any flags or questions you had about this person’s abilities, and how did they resolve them?

The interview committee was a little worried that we had so few concerns about Sarah’s abilities – we felt like we must be missing something! Happily, Sarah has lived up to our expectations and continues to be a hire for the library of which we are all proud.

Is there anything else you want to tell my readers about why this candidate was chosen? Or any general job hunting advice you want to dispense?

When you interview for a job, I would suggest the following:

  1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Look at every piece of information you can find about the library AND the community in which it is situated. A prepared candidate is very impressive.
  2. Practice answering sample interview questions out loud. You don’t want to memorize an answer but you do want to hear yourself speak out loud. It will help you figure out the topics which you are comfortable discussing and those about which you are less articulate.
  3. Come to an interview with suggestions and ideas. They might not be “right” for the library but they demonstrate that you are willing to put in time and energy and thinking into get this job.
  4. Don’t be afraid to tell interviewers why you want this job. Passion goes a long way in terms of convincing interviewers that you are the right candidate for the job.
  5. When you get to the end of an interview, don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer if you have addressed all of their questions and concerns. You don’t want to leave the interview without having done everything you can can to get that job!

Just to reiterate: If you’re part of a recent hiree/hiring manager pair who’d be willing to be interviewed for this feature, please contact me.  Or please pass along this request!

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Filed under 10-50 staff members, Hired Librarians, Northeastern US, Public

Author’s Corner: What They Don’t Teach You in Library School

Here’s what I think: getting your MLIS is like earning your black belt. What it really means is not that you are an expert, but that you have mastered the basics, and now you’re ready to get down to the serious business of developing library skills. In this guest post, Elisabeth Doucett describes the book she’s written to help with that post-black belt library learning. This piece has also been cross-posted to her blog, If you’re intrigued by her perspective you should check it out!

When I started working after I graduated from college I had no idea of how much I didn’t know. I happily jumped into my first job, assuming that my good education had prepared me to deal efficiently and effectively with anything. Boy, was I wrong!

I found in that first job (I was a receptionist for six months) and the next job and the next job (and every job since then) that every workplace has all sorts of unwritten rules, expectations, and required skills that no one ever tells you about when you are interviewing. And, even when you figure out all of that for one job, the next job generally is completely different.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this is why a mentor is such a powerful tool in helping you be successful in your job. A mentor can tell you what those rules and expectations are so that you don’t have to make yourself crazy trying to figure them out. A mentor is someone who becomes your “path-finder” to an organization, helping you discover the best ways to get work done, interact appropriately with your co-workers and, in general, be successful at your profession.

The only problem with mentors is that good ones can be hard to find (not everyone is willing to dedicate personal time to helping someone else be successful in their job) and when you do find them, they don’t always know how to be a good mentor. Over time I have had several mentors who were all very successful in their own jobs but weren’t sure how to help me with mine. Since I wasn’t sure how they could help me either, things went nowhere pretty quickly!

What They Don't Teach You in Library SchoolLearning from my own experiences with and without mentors is what led me to write What They Don’t Teach You in Library School. I wanted to write a book that would essentially be a mentor for new librarians, sharing with them some of the “secrets” to being successful in their new profession that they might otherwise only discover through painful trial and error.

I wrote the book with three goals:

1) the advice provided had to be very practical and down-to-earth. I wanted to identify work practices that were easy to understand and simple to try-out;

2) the book had to be supportive, just like a real mentor. I wanted readers to walk away feeling like they had been talking to a supportive friend and now had some good ideas that they could try out;

3) the book needed to be informal because I thought that would make the information more accessible.

To support these goals I start each chapter with a statement that describes what you will find in that chapter. This preview statement makes it easy to determine if you want to keep reading or move on to a different topic that might be more relevant to you personally.

The preview statement is followed by an articulation of why you should care about the topic. Again, this is meant to help each individual figure out if the information will be useful. I don’t want readers to waste their time going over information that they already know or don’t think will have value to them professionally.

The book is short, on purpose. I know librarians are generally loaded up with work the minute they walk in the door of a library and personal development time is hard to come by. So, my goal is to share information that the reader can go through quickly and is easy to read. There are lists and summaries and a few other resources that I’ve found helpful. None of this is meant to be exhaustive in nature. It is meant to be more like a conversation between two individuals in which one is sharing information with the goal of helping the other.

Several of the chapters in What They Don’t Teach You in Library School focus on very standard librarian development opportunities: how to manage problem patrons, promotional marketing strategic planning, and facilities management (written by a library director who has been a great mentor to me in this profession, Bob Dugan). In those chapters I’m providing information that you would probably learn over time on the job. However, I included them because sometimes as new librarians we get dumped into situations right off the bat that require more experience than we have, fresh from library school. These are meant to prepare you in case that happens to you.

The remaining chapters present information that I garnered from my business career. I’ve included them because they are not always thought of as skills that are necessary to be a successful librarian but I have seen first-hand how much mastering them can add to a librarian’s professional capabilities. So, you’ll find chapters that tackle topics like networking, managing confrontation productively, public speaking and thinking like a retailer. None of these chapters will make you an expert on the topic but they will give you some common-sense ideas about how to approach the matter at hand in a positive, constructive way. That attitude, in turn, will help your manager to see you as a professional who is doing a great job.

My hope is that over time librarians will start to see the high value of these (and other) business skills and embrace them as being just as important as knowing how to catalog a book, or do a story-time, or conduct a reference interview. I very strongly believe that the more skills we can provide to our communities, the more our profession will stay valuable and relevant as we move into the future.

Liz DoucettElisabeth Doucett is Director of Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick, ME. Previously, she was the Assistant Director of the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield, MA. Liz holds a MLS from Simmons College; an MBA in marketing from the J.L. Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University; and an undergraduate degree from Smith College in art history and classical Greek.

Professional Career
Prior to her library career, Liz specialized in consumer marketing, working at Kraft Foods, Dunkin’ Donuts and Quaker Oats. She then consulted in the same field to multiple Fortune 500 companies. Before getting her MBA, Liz worked as a fundraiser in the development departments at Harvard and Boston University.

Liz is the author of Creating Your Library Brand published by the American Library Association (ALA) in 2008 and What They Don’t Teach You at Library School, published in 2010. She has done presentations on marketing and branding to many different library groups including the Massachusetts Library Association, the Ohionet library consortium and the Maine Public Library Directors’ Institute.

Liz is sure that she has the best job in the world and loves going to work. Every day brings a new challenge and ensures that boredom is never a problem! She believes that libraries have a vital role in today’s communities as focal points of community life, creativity, and learning.

Liz and her husband have three dogs (they rescue older dogs). To relax she loves to read (of course!), enjoying mysteries, thrillers, science fiction and history. She also recently started rug hooking and loves the process of designing a rug and picking the colors to make it come alive.


Filed under Author's Corner