Tag Archives: La Crosse Wisconsin

Further Questions: The Tattooed Librarian

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

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

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

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

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

Marge Loch-Wouters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Anonymous

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

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

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

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

– Sarah Morrison, Adult Services Librarian Neill Public Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

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

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



Filed under Further Questions, Interviewing while Tattooed

Further Questions: Who has input on hiring decisions at your organization?

This week I have another question suggested by a reader.  I asked people who hire librarians:

Who has input on hiring decisions at your organization? (e.g the hiring manager, the person’s potential department members, an external committee, etc.) We often hear that it’s important to be polite to everyone you meet when going in for an interview – do you solicit feedback from non-interviewing staff members?

Laurie PhillipsWe have a search committee, which will generally include those librarians and staff who will work directly with the new hire. We try to keep it small – no more than 4 people. Our policy is to also include one person outside of the person’s general area. The committee has the most input and makes a recommendation to the Dean and Associate Dean, who will have met with the person and reviewed applications of top candidates. We also invite everyone in the library to attend the person’s onsite presentation and we have a small group who are not members of the search committee take the candidate to lunch. We gather feedback from everyone who had contact with the candidate, but obviously, the search committee makes the decision to recommend a candidate to the Dean for hire.

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

Emilie Smart

In our system, we operate a little differently in branches as opposed to the main library.  Hiring decisions for branches are made by the branch manager and the branch dept head with input from the branch services liaison and division coordinator.  At the main library,  senior departmental staff and the division coordinator make the decisions.  It is important to be polite to everyone you meet in the interview process.  It’s also important to listen in the interview.
When we conclude each interview we tell the candidate that he or she will be hearing from us once we have completed interviewing all candidates.  We also tell them that we may not be able to complete the process in a timely manner (through no fault of our own) and that they may need to be patient for a week or so, but we WILL get back with them.  I don’t mind it when a candidate calls after a week to inquire, but I have had candidates who called every other day.  I always tell candidates the first time they call what the status of the interviews is and that we will call them when we are finished.  If they call me back again, I generally take them off the consideration list.  If they can’t be patient, how can they help frustrated patrons?

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

Marge Loch-WoutersThe manager in a department has primary responsibility for hiring decisions and initial selection of our interview pool. We always use a team for interviews made up primarily of other managers at our library. There may also be other staffers involved. The interview team then meets to compare notes and make a recommendation to the manager. But that person ultimately has the final say.

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

Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library SystemHere at Shortgrass all the hiring is done by our management team. We do all interviews as a team (of three) if possible and then make a decision together. Depending on the position we then let the manager who will be directly supervising the position be the one to extend the offer.
Generally, most non-interviewing staff members don’t even meet the candidates, due to the lay-out of the building. Often the Executive Assistant will be the first one to make contact as people walk in the door and if there was anything remarkable (lack of friendliness, etc) about the candidate, I trust she would mention it to me.

– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

On most academic search committees on which I’ve served and/or chaired, those who have input into the actual decision as to who is hired is somewhat restricted.  The “restricted” group usually includes the members of the search committee, the Dean or other “official” of the college , and the department head of the department in which the new person will work.  However, I have always solicited feedback from anyone who has been invited to interview the candidate one on one,  in a small group, or a larger group as when a presentation is required.  That feedback isn’t always in the final decision category. But it could be if many people provide similar, or the same,  pros or cons about a candidate.  In that case, I would hope that the search committee or other final decision maker would take that feedback into consideration.  Being polite to everyone a candidate meets on an interview should be pro forma, whether or not the candidate thinks that the people he/she meets has input into the hiring process. If a candidate can’t be polite to everyone for one or two days,  and it is noticed, that candidate should not be the one selected for the position IMO.

– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands

Samantha Thompson-Franklin

At my library, candidates are introduced to all of the library staff (we are a small staff) and are asked to make a presentation that includes the entire library staff as well as members of the search committee. My library director solicits feedback from all members of the library staff on their view of the candidate(s). In some cases it has confirmed whether the person should or should not be hired for the job.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Marleah AugustineWhen hiring support staff, in our library, the decision rests with the department head. When both the youth and adult departments are hiring at the same time, the two department heads sometimes interview candidates together, but the individual department head is the one who makes the final decision.
In some cases, front desk staff members will have an initial impression of a candidate, and I do take that into consideration. It’s not a dealbreaker, but it’s nice to hear what kind of interaction the candidate had and whether it was positive or negative.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library
Colleen HarrisAt our library, all librarian presentations are open to all staff and library faculty, as is the meet & greet, and the candidate spends time with various folks both in and outside their home department. We solicit feedback from everyone in our organization who was able to spend time with the candidate; that information is usually collected via a survey where folks have open-answer slots to comment on the person’s qualifications, skillset, and whether they are an acceptable candidate.
– Head of Access Services & Assistant Professor at University of Tennessee Chattanooga’s Lupton Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re interested in participating in this feature, email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!

I won’t dance in a club like this. All the girls are comments and the beer tastes just like comments.


Filed under Further Questions

Further Questions: Do You Google Job Candidates?

I seem to finally have gotten rid of it, but for a while whenever I Googled my own name I’d get Emily Weak – Who Pooped? (a “science for kids and grown-ups too” type blog I wrote for a former workplace).  I know I’m not the only person who wonders if overwhelmed hiring managers are really taking some of their precious time to investigate candidates on the internet, so this week I asked people who hire librarians:

Do you Google job candidates?  Or look for them on social media, or do any other sort of online sleuthing/informal background check/personal curiosity assuaging?

Terry Ann Lawler

I have never done that, but expect that others do.

– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
Not in the past, but now that you have given us the idea :-{)}
One should never post or send anything via e-mail one does not wish known.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

I just about never Google job candidates. I like to rely on their resume, cover letter, and usually a phone interview these days. The only time I think I ever would sleuth out outside information about a candidate is if I had a nagging feeling or question about the person after examining all the above mentioned tradition sources. I think I have only done this twice ever, and I have been on many search committees.
It isn’t that I am old fashioned, and certainly we as employers have a right to know what we are getting. But it’s more that really strange things can pop up in Google, including getting a different person with the same name. Also, I think that we put a lot of ,maybe innocent, but personal things on our Facebook pages that really have nothing to do with our professional lives. Someone might “like” a particular political candidate on Facebook, or discuss a club or religious affiliation. Is this something that could be held against a candidate unfairly? I believe so. I think that would should rely on the candidate’s veracity on his/her resume, and definitely check references.
If one can Google someone completely out of curiosity and not let it affect their professional judgement about the person’s candidacy, then go for it. But I’m afraid that that isn’t always possible, so I think it is best to err on the side of sticking with the professional.

– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands

I only look at a candidate’s social media if it is an integral part of their application process, or if they mention it frequently. I will only Google a candidate if something comes up in the interview that makes me think it might be useful. I use an agency to screen applicants, so I might do more background checking if we didn’t have that safeguard in place.

– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP

Dusty Snipes GresWell, yes. I Google, look on social media, check newspapers from the area, I am a librarian. I research. And, if I find surprises, I ask for further info. Everyone has a bad day, or a bad boss sometime — just be up front. I have found that I appreciate and value the honesty and candor of the applicant much more than the questionable letter to the editor about the candidate’s habit of Friday night karaoke at the Dew Drop Inn!

– Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System

Marge Loch-WoutersI don’t investigate candidates through social media or google although I know lots of my younger colleagues – and even co-workers – do. I want candidates to sell me on their bona fides. We have a rigorous interview process that includes essay questions and a pre-skype interview that really narrows our field and reveals who has the smarts, stamina and skills and talents that best match our position.

In terms of social media, if they don’t list blogs or tumblrs, I figure it’s their business. People need a place to let their hair down.  I find that a strong social media presense or google hit list reveals far more about a person’s ability to “float to the top of attention” rather than be an awesome day-to-day co-worker and savvy librarian.

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

Marleah AugustineI hire part-time support staff, for the most part. I do not do any online sleuthing; however, I do typically check if the person has a library card with us. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means if they do not have a card, or if they have bills, but it gives me an idea about if the person has been to the library at least prior to applying. It sometimes helps actually if they don’t have a card with us, because then one of their first on-the-job training experiences can be making their own card!

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library


Nicola FranklinAs a recruiter I often search for prospective candidates online – most often on LinkedIn, Twitter and also on the library listserves and other library-specific forums.  I only rarely do a general Google search on someone.  My reasons for looking are twofold:

1) to see whether the person has been professionally active (starting LinkedIn discussions, membership of library groups on LInkedIn, contribution to library-related conversations on Twitter or on the discussion lists, etc)

2) to see how the person communicates and puts their views forward in their profesional life and outside of an interview situation (in a reasoned, professional way or with evidence of bitterness or unprofessional behaviour (such as personal attacks))

Employers have to be careful about how they carry out online searches of potential candidates and how they use the information they find out.  It is very easy to get led into making hiring decisions based on unverified, biased or discriminatory information.

Having said that, people also have to be careful of what they post online.  I recently interviewed someone who had been fired from her position for posting on Facebook that she didn’t like her boss and wanted to change jobs – one of her ‘friends’ told her boss about the posting.

These days what you say about yourself, your profession and your ideas, in all of the online fora taken together, creates a major part of your reputation.  This is very important in how (or whether) you get hired.  Even deciding not to participate makes a certain kind of statement and could lead some employers to be less keen to interview you (or visa versa, of course).

Whether each individual wants to be a part of the digital communication world is of course up to them, but I believe it’s important to be aware of the impression that decision makes on others, so that you can make an informed choice of whether, and how, to participate.

– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Thank YOU for reading!  As always, your comments are amber waves of grain.

*edited 3/4/2013 to add in Nicola Franklin’s answer


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

Further Questions: Are Gaps in a Resume Really a Red Flag?

This week we have the second in a set of reader questions. This person is preparing to leave work for an extended period of time, due to the incipient arrival of twin babies. I’m asking questions of people who hire librarians, and I’m also running companion posts with people who have returned to work after an extended leave. Last week I asked for advice on staying professionally relevant during a leave of absence (and the companion post is here). This week’s question is: 

Are gaps in a resume really a red flag? Have you ever hired someone who has been unemployed for an extended period of time? If so, can you provide any details about how this person discussed his/her absence on a resume or cover letter, or in an interview?

J. McRee Elrod

No.  We don’t even check for gaps in dates.
For those prospective employers who do, one might insert something, e.g., “Rearing children.” That too takes skill and provides experience.
To cover a prison term, perhaps “Volunteer work in an institutional library”?
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah Augustine

Gaps in a resume are not necessarily a red flag, but it is nice to have some sort of explanation as to how that time spent. A simple mention in a cover letter about taking time off for family, travel, education suffices.What gets my attention more as a red flag is if an applicant has had many many jobs that were held for only a short time, and again in that case a short explanation usually takes care of any concern on my part. It’s not a dealbreaker outright.
– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

Gaps are a red flag if the applicant doesn’t address them in some way in the cover letter (out of the country; position cut during budget cuts; raising a family; unemployed due to the recession). If I don’t see anything it makes me wonder whether the candidate was fired or let go for some reason. This concern is allayed if a reference from the manager at the last place of employment is included.I have hired someone with a substantial gap – she wrote in her cover letter and discussed at her interview that she was raising a family and was now ready to come back into the job market. That person was ready and she was a great addition to our staff and has gone on to an excellent career.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Manya ShorrThe term “red flag” has a negative connotation that doesn’t express how I react when I see an extended leave on a resume. I notice it, but it doesn’t make me question whether the person is qualified. What it does it create a space to have a conversation about the leave. In other words, it would absolutely not preclude me from wanting to interview a qualified person. That said, I think the applicant should come to the interview prepared to talk about how they stayed current in the library world while they were on leave (or how they’ve caught up since they’ve been back). Best practices in public libraries seem to change frequently and the last thing an applicant should do is talk about an outdated program, policy or practice. A leave is fine but falling behind is not.
– Manya Shorr, Senior Manager, Branch Services, Omaha Public Library

Terry Ann LawlerNo.  Unless you were fired from your last job and did absolutely nothing for the last year.  I think over all experience in the fields which I need are more important than a gap in employment   I have, several times, hired people who had gaps in their resume.  People will usually explain a gap in some way, like that they started a family, went back to school, took care of an aging or sick family member, etc.

I  have seen this addressed in the cover letters, which, I think is appropriate.  I think it is not important to give too many facts about a gap, but it is important to address it in some short way.  Maybe a line or two to state why there is a gap and to state how you have kept professionally relevant during that gap. If you spend too much time explaining yourself, you take up valuable page real estate that could be used to talk about your awesome skills.
I think the same goes for a resume.  If you have a chronological based resume (although I would recommend you don’t), you could address the gap with its own date and a brief explanation.  For example:
Nov 1994- Aug 1999 – Electronic Resources Librarian, XXX State Library
Aug 1999-Feb 2000 – Long Term Relative Home Care
Mar 2000- Present – Cashier, Barnes and Noble Book Store
Again, I don’t think it is as important to explain a gap in employment as it is to highlight your skill sets and why you are the right person for the job.  Don’t lie about it, but don’t over stress something you can’t change. Focus on what is positive about you and your employment history and what you learned during that down time.
– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Alice the camel has TWO comments.


Filed under Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Topical Series

Further Questions: How Can Someone on an Extended Leave of Absence Stay Professionally Relevant?

This week we have a new set of reader questions. This person is preparing to leave work for an extended period of time, due to the incipient arrival of twin babies. We’re going to talk about leaves of absence for the next three weeks – I’ll be asking questions of people who hire librarians, and then I’m going to also run companion posts with people who have returned to work after an extended leave. This week’s question is: 

What do you recommend that a person on an extended leave of absence do in order to stay professionally relevant?

Petra Mauerhoff

We had a staff member from our cataloguing department start an extended leave (maternity leave) at the beginning of this year and before she left she expressed concern about “staying in the loop”, professionally as well as being connected to our organization. Her supervisor gave her homework to do while she is on leave (exercises from the cataloguing course) and will invite her to participate in any professional development activities we might be offering during the year. Of course her participation will be voluntary, but it will be a great opportunity for her to stay connected to the profession and continue her connection to staff as well.
I recommend staff who are planning a leave speak to their supervisors about what the expectations are and what the supervisor would recommend in order to stay professionally connected and relevant while away from their job.
– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System
J. McRee Elrod
Read the appropriate e-lists, e.g., cataloguers should read Autocat, RDA-L, and Bibframe
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging

Marleah Augustine

This question is close to home, because I recently took maternity leave. I expected to be gone during the months of August and September, planning to take 6 weeks off and then work the next 2 weeks on half-time basis, using vacation time as needed (our policy follows FMLA, and employees are expected to use their sick and vacation time). However, my daughter arrived 8 weeks early, so I ended up being gone in June and July instead. This threw quite a monkey wrench into my work plans, as the day I gave birth was the same day that I had planned to orient my assistant department head to my files and where everything was.

My recommendation to others is, if you are taking an extended leave of absence from a job that you currently hold and will be holding upon your return, stay in touch with those folks that you work with. Make yourself available via email or phone if possible. Even if you aren’t doing the actual work, just staying in touch and keeping up with issues that happen means that you will have less catching up to do when you do return.

If you are working with your supervisor to try to find the best solution for both you and your work, and you have an idea about the time off that you want, just ask. A friend of mine was unsure about whether she was going to go back to work after the birth of her daughter, and she told her supervisor that. Her supervisor worked with her and just hired someone on an interim basis so that my friend could have a year off and her position would be held in the event that she came back to work. You never know unless you ask!

If you are between jobs but are taking an extended leave of absence, keep up with professional developments as much as you can. Read blogs, keep browsing Library Journal.

All of this being said — take time for yourself and focus on the reason you are taking that extended leave in the first place. If you are on sabbatical to work on a dissertation, do that work first before you check in with your job. If you have a baby, that is your first priority and no one should discourage you from recognizing that.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Marge Loch-Wouters

Keep up on blogs, twitter feeds and, if you don’t already, ask to have remote access to your institutions email system.  Ask a willing colleague to forward meeting notes or policy changes or news that are posted on internal communication networks – wikis; blogs; etc – just so you stay slightly in the loop. Ten-twenty minutes a day spent perusing what’s up will make it feel like you are aware of what’s happening without needing to stress over it. And again, if you have a willing colleague who would drop off  professional print journals after they’ve been routed to the rest of the staff so you can keep up (kind of like homework being dropped off!), that is a way to stay connected.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
I really believe that whenever possible, the person on leave stay in touch with their library, either through listservs and other email methods, occasional phone conversations, conference calls for committees or other pertinent professional events that the person would have attended or in which they would have been involved.    Offer to have those at work call you at home when something of importance is about to happen–more of an FYI or courtesy than actually asking for input or opinions.  I say all of  this, because it the person is truly planning to return to their jobs, it is best to keep abreast of what is going on, rather than have to play major catch up upon one’s return.    The person should also read the literature also, just to make sure that you don’t completely remove yourself from the profession in your absence.  ALA members receive American Libraries, and others may subscribe to that or Library Journal, etc.  And of course there is the web.
Some colleges or universities may frown upon, or just plain not allow active participation in committee work or conference calling.  If that is the case, then I would recommend doing the other things I mentioned above–staying abreast of things on listservs, webpages, occasional phone calls to friends/colleagues just be kept up to speed.  Some people like to just “unplug” when they are away from their jobs, but if one is only on leave, and plans to return at some point, I don’t think that is a good idea for more than a couple of weeks.  In addition to the person on leave remaining informed, it is good for he/she to be remembered by colleagues, not out of sight out of mind.
– Sharon Britton, Library Director, BGSU – Firelands
Samantha Thompson-FranklinI have some personal experience from 2 short term maternity leaves. So here are a few suggestions that I have:
*Keep up as best as you can with the professional literature, either via online or in print publications
*Become involved or stay involved in any professional association committees at the local or national level
*Take advantage of any professional development opportunities, either face-to-face in your local area or online through webinars
*Continue to keep in touch and network with colleagues
*Look for opportunities to contribute through writing for a blog or a professional publication, if that’s of interest to youSome of these suggestions will depend upon how much time and resources/funding you have available to you, but they should help to you keep you involved and stay professional relevant.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library
Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight. 

If you’re interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

And thanks to YOU for reading! 

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer, by your comments.

*Edited 2/3/2013 to add in answer by Samantha Thompson-Franklin


Filed under Academic, Extended Leaves of Absence, Further Questions, Other Organization or Library Type, Public, Topical Series

Further Questions: Can You Tell Us About Successful Cover Letter “Hooks”?

Here’s another question from the reader who asked when candidates shouldn’t apply, if current employment status matters and how the initial selection of candidate works. This week I asked people who hire librarians:

What is something that an applicant stated in a cover letter that prompted you to give him/her an interview?

A needed language.  Experience with a needed genre. Experience with a needed classification or subject heading scheme, e.g., NLMC/MeSH.
– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
Marge Loch-WoutersI always introduce an element of play into the job ad itself. If an applicant responds playfully back in the cover letter, they move immediately up in the winnowing process. Of course, the playfulness still needs to be backed up with a resume that shows skills that match our job but it is a powerful hint that they can navigate the job we are offering in the way we are offering it!
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Petra MauerhoffThe one thing that always perks my interest in a cover letter is if I can tell someone has done their homework. They refer to something specific to our library region, be it something related to the geographic challenges, the make up of our system, something they read on our website or read about us elsewhere. This tends to show a genuine interest by the applicant to learn more about what our organization is about. If their qualifications are at all related to what we are looking for, someone who grabbed my interest like that usually gets invited to an interview.
– 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 email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you made a comment here, you could make a comment anywhere.

EDITED 1/17/2013 7:31 AM to add in answer by Petra Mauerhoff


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

Further Questions: Advice for “older” job hunters

This week I asked people who hire librarians:

Just as younger librarians worry about being perceived as inexperienced and skipped over, older librarians worry about stereotypes preventing them from finding work.  Can you dispel some of this worry by sharing a story about hiring an “older” librarian?  Any particular advice for this type of job hunter?  And finally, just for fun, which do you think is a bigger disadvantage in a job hunt: youth or age?

Marge Loch-WoutersI had great luck hiring two older staffers at my previous management position. In particular, we were looking for a level of maturity to balance our team and lend perspective to our efforts.  We really looked for clues that the older applicants were movers and shakers in terms of creative ideas and energy.  It was a delicate balance because some applicants bringing in almost too much experience at a management level and it’s difficult in a non-management position to know if this applicant can blend in with the team without overtly leading it. We felt great about the hires.
Best advice to older job applicants? Stay current and demonstrate ability/knowledge in areas that are trending now – maker spaces; digital content; early literacy chops; Common Core; fiction/non-fiction blending in collections; etc. That way you can stand shoulder to shoulder with younger applicants.
Bigger disadvantage – youth or age?  That’s tough. Young applicants often lack necessary experience and hiring managers know they might have to do a lot of training to bring them up to speed. Older applicants run the risk of too much experience that makes hiring managers shy away. I have hired both demographics and just find that the best candidate, regardless of age/experience, always rises to the top.
– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library
Nicola FranklinDespite legislation in many countries, age discrimination (even if it’s subconscious on the part of the hirer) can still unfortunately play a part in some hiring decisions.  Employers may feel they need someone with a certain amount of experience for them to be able to do their job successfully.
This could be because they feel it will have taken a long time for someone to have gathered the range or depth of skills they think is necessary, or because they feel that someone needs a certain degree of gravitas in order to interact successfully with their patrons or other staff and may assume that only comes with age or length of experience.
It is important to challenge these stereotypes.  People learn skills at different rates – it is perfectly possible for one person to become expert in something after a year or two, while another person may do a job for ten years and never really “get it”.  Some people naturally inspire confidence, at any age, while others will never project a strong personality whatever their age.
If a certain range or depth of skill is required, or certain personality characteristics are sought, these should be assessed objectively (by test, application form, interview, role play, etc), not assumed from someone’s age.How successful a candidate is at getting a job depends much more on their attitude than on their numeric age.  I have met candidates in their 40’s who have been made redundant and are convinced they will never work again – I remember one lady being in floods of tears during her registration interview because of this worry, and it took a long while to coax her to tell me about her skills.  Another candidate, of much the same age who I saw within a week of the first person, hadn’t given such a possibility a thought and was too busy promoting her great skills and experiences to worry about her age!
As a recruiter I put forward candidates based on the match of their skills and personality to the requirements of the job, and I take off any mention of age or date of birth from CVs and resumes.  If a client asked me a candidate’s age I wouldn’t tell them – often I have no idea myself!  It simply isn’t a relevant factor.
– Nicola Franklin, Director, The Library Career Centre Ltd.
J. McRee Elrod

We find retired cataloguers with their long experience make excellent part time distance cataloguers.

– J. McRee (Mac) Elrod, Special Libraries Catalouging
In a recent candidate search I ended up with two finalists who were very different: gender, age and experience. Both had much to offer.  One was a fairly recent graduate, one had been a professional for many years. Because of the nature of the position, I chose the more experienced librarian. There were several reasons.  The person had more experience in a rural library setting, in a position with a similar level of independence that the job required. And the person had done more research and was much more acquainted with the weather, the size of the community and other such factors. Finally, the more experienced candidate really wowed key members of the interview team.
My advice for the “older” applicant is this: project energy, enthusiasm and forward thinking.  Show that you’re aware of current and future trends in the profession; even better, that you have such experience. Do your homework about the institution, the job and the community.  I am surprised at the candidates who don’t. I recently changed jobs myself as an “older” job hunter.  It can be done.
I believe that age is a disadvantage in this job market.  Recent surveys show that even though older workers are less likely to lose their job they have a more difficult time finding another one.  Agism is alive and well even in the field of librarianship.  With the retiring of we who are baby boomers, employers do look for applicants who can take the institution into the future, i.e. succession planning.  Even I feel the pull of nurturing the future leaders in our profession.  As well, I think older workers are at a disadvantage especially for entry level jobs. Just my honest opinion.
– Melanie Lightbody, Director of Libraries, Butte County
I hired an “older” librarian last year.  I passed the question on to her and thought you might like her response:
As an “older” librarian who spent nearly two years looking for employment and was fortunate enough to find work in Georgia a little over a year ago, the frustrations I ran into are not unlike those of new graduates.  We apply for positions based on our abilities, experience and preferences (if possible) and wait.  And wait. And wait some more.  While age isn’t listed on applications or resumes, a look at experience gives some idea about the age of the prospective employee but if you can’t get an interview it’s difficult to sell yourself regardless of age.  Some employers want new graduates to save money, to mold librarians to their institutions’ needs or perhaps because they believe that the brand new MLS candidate will have new ideas, attitudes and energy to bring to the job.  On the other hand, if the system is established and perhaps short staffed and there’s a need for someone who can hit the ground running, the director may be looking for the experienced professional. 
Of the scores of applications I filled out for positions across the country I had only two interviews.  I was willing to travel. I was willing to take a part time position for what was essentially a full time work load.  I didn’t care where the library was located.  As a person desperately seeking employment I was willing to compromise, a lot.  When it comes down to it, my younger fellows and I had the same issue.  We really never knew what our prospective employers were looking for in spite the job descriptions.  My current director wanted someone who knew that people lie. She wanted a librarian who knew how libraries worked and could acclimate quickly. Though it wasn’t her intention, during my first week on the job I was taken from system training to running a branch with some political issues.  To me it was a blast.  To a new graduate it could have been a nightmare.  It all comes under other duties as assigned.
– Response collected by Dusty Gres, Director, Ohoopee Regional Library System
Most importantly, you need to be active in the community: serve on committees, attend meetings, respond to ILL requests, BE HELPFUL!!! Why should people help you if you sit in your office all day and give nothing back? We are all busy, so that is no excuse.You also need to write. Your local chapter newsletter can always use content, apply to present at seminars and write articles that go with them.Be visible, be helpful, contribute.

Also, dress nicely all the time, get a haircut or update your look.

– Jaye Lapachet, Manager of Library Services, Coblentz, Patch, Duffy & Bass LLP
Donald LickleyAs a recruitment agency, we meet and successfully place candidates at all stages of their careers.
In the UK, when the Age Discrimination Act 2006 came into force, in addition to the practical requirements of the new legislation, there was much discussion in recruitment circles about ensuring that job descriptions and adverts were carefully worded to avoid discriminatory practice. Now that the legislation has bedded down and litigation activity on that front has been somewhat less than anticipated, we are a little more relaxed about vocabulary, but we have no problem in adhering to recommended best practice. Certainly we do encounter a few employers who, more or less explicitly, will not look at candidates over a certain age (ironically some law firms can be particularly prone to this).  This kind of attitude invariably comes from managers whose practical skills in managing workplace diversity in general are very undeveloped. A question for job seekers in these circumstances could be – would you want to work for this kind of manager anyway?
I can think of several candidates around statutory retirement age whom we have placed in excellent roles recently. In particular, one candidate who is in the UK on a working holiday has just completed one successful project for us in a major university library service, and is about to commence another.  Another candidate with a long career in public libraries was offered retirement folllowing a workplace restructure, but decided that they were not ready to stop working. They are now developing an impressive portfolio of temporary management roles, still in public libraries. Their feedback to us: “It’s so encouraging to find that someone of my age can get two temporary contracts through a recruitment agency in the short time I have been registered”.  The key to success is always attitude.  Job seekers with a positive, enthusiastic and flexible attitude, alongside excellent, up-to-date technical skills will always do well, regardless of age.
– Donald Lickley, Recruitment Consultant, Sue Hill Recruiting
Terry Ann LawlerUnfortunately for new library school graduates, an older or more experienced librarian generally has broader levels of skills which could really make a difference my community.  I think the older librarian has a huge benefit over the younger one with his or her added years of experience both in the library and in other fields outside of librarianship.  I would not say that it is an issue in my community for an older librarian versus a younger one to get a particular job.  I and everyone I work with have always hired the candidate with the best experience as well as the person who is the best fit for our team, regardless of age.

I would say that one of the exceptions to this would be computer skills.  If you are an older person who has not really kept up with technology, this could hurt you in terms of job competition.

– Terry Lawler, Assistant Manager and Children’s Librarian, Palo Verde Branch, Phoenix Public Library

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email me at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Quoth the raven “CAW-ment! CAW-ment!” Thanks for reading!


Filed under Further Questions