Tag Archives: Librarian

Showing up to the interview drunk. Yes, that has happened. Lol.

Reception at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Law Librarians. Washington, DC. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library 

Title: Director 

Titles hired include: Assistant Director, programming librarians, clerks, shelters, custodians

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References 

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

We ask candidates to submit a resume and cover letter, I review (with other staff help, depending on the position). I use a rubric to evaluate resumes of qualified candidates. Invite for in-person interviews, and I use a rubric to evaluate interviews. I am the director and have the final decision. I often delegate that decision to my Assistant Director for clerk and shelver positions. 

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

Quick thinker, evidence of innovative thinking and overall high level of competence and confidence. 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Showing up to the interview drunk. Yes, that has happened. Lol. 

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

Hard to define. You don’t know a person until you work with them. 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

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

Occasionally. The setting matters… make sure your sound/microphone works well, show that you’re comfortable with the technology. 

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

It depends greatly on the hiring agency. We may focus on customer service skills, but another agency may focus on educational level or skills. Read the job ad and job description closely and look for their values. Focus on highlighting how you meet those priorities. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

We use rubrics for comparing candidates. 

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

Ask about priorities for the position, what the job looks like in the day-to-day, how much public service time vs project time you’ll have. Show that you are interested in the details of the position and in the work, not just the paycheck. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Western US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Public, Suburban area, Western US

Speaking about past experience is important, but it’s even more important to address the job you’re applying for.

Photograph of James B. Rhoads and Pavel Podlesnyy, USSR (The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) Embassy Librarian Presenting Vol. 15 USSR Foreign Policy to NARS, 7/31/1970. National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: University Archivist

Titles hired include: Librarian, Library clerk, student employee

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A meal with hiring personnel

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

For open librarian positions the position information is sent to Academic Affairs and then approved by the Board of Governors to be filled. Then a hiring committee of two librarians and an outside faculty member is formed. This hiring committee reviews applicants and selects at least two to interview. Initial interviews are completed online. Second/third interviews are usually conducted over a full day, with separate interviews with the hiring committee, HR, Academic Affairs and potential colleagues in the library. This process includes a meal with the hiring committee and a tour of the library and parts of campus. The hiring committee then reviews the applicants with recommendations from HR and Academic Affairs. An applicant is selected and an offer is made.

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

They studied the library and our unique needs in advance! They also explained their job in their current library very well, so that the non-library faculty member understood by the end.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not addressing the activities of the job they applied for with any competence. 

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

How knowledgeable they are about the job they applied for.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

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

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

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

They forget to ask questions about the job or about the people interviewing them.

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

Yes, I’ve done a few. Be sure you’re in a quiet location with a good background. Be passionate about the job you’re applying for.

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

Research well in advance of your interview so that you are able to competently explain what you bring to the job you’re applying for. Speaking about past experience is important, but it’s even more important to address the job you’re applying for. With public academic libraries applicants can often get an idea of what salaries are like through the state. Researching the organization you’re applying for, is important, as is researching the library/library job you’re applying for.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview 

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

Only the names of applicants are known until they are called for interviews. This doesn’t help with possible name discrimination, or work history discrimination.

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

What are you looking for most in an applicant for this job? How does the work in the library overlap? 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Midwestern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Academic, Midwestern US, Rural area, Suburban area

Further Questions: Do you hire for hustle?

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

This week’s question was prompted by someone who hires librarians:

“Quiet quitting” (taking a step back from hustling and only working your designated hours) is in the news a lot now. This, and a recent tweet from an interviewee whose question about “greatness” fell flat, lead me to ask: when you hire, are you looking for folks who will hustle and go the extra mile? If an applicant asked about work/life balance in an interview, what would you think?


Jaime Taylor, Discovery & Resource Management Systems Coordinator, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts: It’s so funny/not funny that “doing your job” is being framed as “quitting.” I think we all know that’s bullshit, and part of a concerted effort by capital to claw back the little bit of power that labor has been able to gain in the last couple years.

At my library, our hours and workloads are governed by collective bargaining agreements, and the unions we belong to see that our contracts are enforced. I love working in a unionized library! Therefore, questions about work-life balance or our  contracts are welcome in my interviews, and can be the kind of question that demonstrates a candidate is a good fit for our institution. As a hiring librarian and as a supervisor, I do not expect the workers I hire or supervise to “hustle.” I expect them to do their job, and do them well – nothing more, nothing less. Things like professional development and publishing are part of their job descriptions, to greater or lesser extent depending on the position, so I help my staff make space in their working hours to pursue them. We are proud of the work we do and want our institution to be successful, but ultimately I and my staff work to live, not live to work.


Kellee Forkenbrock, Public Services Librarian, North Liberty Community Library: Since I mainly hire for part-time staff, I keep my hustle hopes grounded when selecting new staff. Being realistic about the position you’re hiring for, as well as the salary and benefits (if any) attached to the role, tends to rein in your expectations. Conversely, by not expecting superhero-level work from your part-time staff, you put them at ease so that they do the job they’ve been hired to do. I absolutely expect my interviewees to inquire about work/life balance. As a mother, grad student, writer, & employee, maintaining balance in my schedule is key and I’d expect the same of anyone I hire.


Kathryn Levenson, Librarian, Piedmont High School: Hiring for Hustle?

I like someone who is energetic and able to stay on task. 

I value creativity, so I love it when someone gives me a sample letter to send to parents or students or comes up with a more efficient way to do something and after approval runs with it. 

My assistant walks around playing his ukulele on his breaks which the students love. 

Another big help is when you hire an assistant already known by students in the community. My last two hires have been locals, one a parent of students and the other a former paraprofessional. 


Anonymous (Federal Librarian): As with most federal agencies, we must follow union requirements for work hours closely. We have strict rules against additional hours without some type of compensation, so I never expect any employee to work more than their designated 40 hours. For most types of federal employees, any time we work more than 40 hours, we must get prior authorization. So, while I expect employees to work hard, innovate when possible, and be good at what they do, working longer hours without compensation is never one of the requirements. I monitor all the people on my team to make sure that they are not working more than 40 hours. I would also be required to put an employee on a performance improvement plan if they regularly worked more than the 40 hours after they were asked to refrain. When interviewing candidates, about 65% of the questions asked are behavioral questions. It’s our best effort to get a feel for the candidate’s personality and how they have handled various situations in the past. I think we have done a pretty good job of finding candidates that are really hard workers, so the challenge is reigning it in so that they can achieve their goals without working more hours than required. As for a candidate asking about work/life balance in an interview, I would not have any issue with it. It’s important to know up front what the expectations are for any employee in regard to schedule and what type of hours they would be expected to work. I would hope hiring managers would be honest with answers.


James K. Teliha, Dean of the Library & Learning Commons, Frank E. Gannett Memorial Library, Utica University: First, let me say that the phrase “Quiet Quitting” sounds like the result of cynical journalists desperate because they are forced to create content and are faced with an especially slow news-cycle (as August usually is).  These desperate journos are then forced to create a phrase or phenomenon (usually throwing darts at a wall covered with random words, rolling dice, spinning a wheel, spinning an empty bottle, etc.).  Once an adverb and verb are chosen – voila! a new trend is manufactured to “newsplain” (you know, like “mansplaining”) and cover, and generate tons of content arguing whether said phenomenon is real, and what said phenomenon means for society.  

So far, the articles I have read on “Quiet Quitting” have the authors wringing their hands saying “oh my – people do not view their jobs as the be-all and end-all of their existence!”.  Thank god.  Work should not be the sole determining value of one’s life, worth, or happiness.  These articles have also sounded an alarm, and have set up a false dichotomy:  ‘If people aren’t willing to work nights, weekends, 24/7, then they must just be ‘mailing it in'”.  No,  healthy, normal people work to live, not live to work.  Normal healthy people have some combination of partners, children, parents, assorted other relatives and friends and pets, as well as avocational interests that make us the unique individuals we are.  Sometimes, we need to be at that birthday party, or anniversary.  Sometimes we need to finish a project at work, and may need to do what it takes to make that happen (at work or at home).  I would be concerned for individuals whose sole identity and sense of worth is locked up with their job.  I can tell you in my time leading an academic library, I have more often urged people who work for me to exercise self-preservation than to work harder or longer.  You see, I am far more concerned with someone on my staff burning out than “not hustling”.  or as we said, back in the dot-com days, “work smarter, not harder”.

So no, I don’t “hire for hustle”, and if an interviewee asked about work/life balance, that would give me an opportunity for me to sell them on working for our library.  You see, interviews run both ways – not only are they being interviewed for a job, but I believe job applicants are interviewing me about what kind of workplace we have and what kind of boss I am.  I try to hire people who want this job because they enjoy helping people.  Sure, sometimes a project may require extra effort, or there may be a deadline, but it is incumbent upon the worker to freely choose when those times occur.  As long as our job is getting done and as those working for me are putting in their hours, our library works exceedingly well.  


Angelynn King, Head Librarian, Delaware Technical Community College:

Work-life balance is a core value of our institution, so such a question would not come amiss. It would also give us an opportunity to clarify what is and is not common practice here.


Donna Pierce, Library Director, Krum Public Library: Everyone I have ever hired has been for part-time work.  While I do have some set hours (10-3 Tue-Fri and 2-7 Tue-Fri, plus 10-2 on Sat) once they are hired and proven I am willing to work with their schedules.  I have one person who works the 2-7, 10-2 shift who is going back to school.  She has dropped Fridays and Saturdays.  I can’t offer my staff much – no benefits, not the highest pay in the area, etc. but I can allow them to adjust their schedules.  One lady has kids in school – there are times she can’t work the 10-3 because of school events.  So, she makes up her time later.  Due to the low pay and lack of benefits I also know that if pushed, staff will just quit. (I know because that is exactly what I did when I was working part-time and my boss wasn’t willing to work with the hours I needed!)

I always look for a person who will fit in well with my eclectic crew, who has great customer service skills and is capable of learning.  Then I hope for the person who will take off and go beyond what is required. 


Anonymous: Do I hire for hustle? I don’t think so. 

I like a team that has many strengths. When I look at a possible new hire I ask myself “what kind of worker could benefit the team and the work?” I think that “going the extra mile” can look different from task to task. For example, I had a staffer who was not the strongest at customer service, but absolutely a rockstar with  administrative paperwork/organization. I would purposely set schedules to give them some alone customer service time to make sure those muscles were used, but gave them agency over many (manymanymany) admin projects. I tend to believe that completing the tasks and adhering to deadlines are really all that is necessary.  Going the extra mile is great, but causes burnout, and sometimes resentment. If a person does go the extra mile, a small reward (bringing them their favorite coffee drink, lunch, or similar) acknowledging their efforts has been something I have done in the past. It is never expected, nor asked.

I hustle, but I don’t expect anyone else to work like me. 

If an applicant asked about work/life balance, it would not phase me in the slightest. Many library workers wear 200 different hats and there has been much discussion about burnout, so I would probably say something like the expectation is that you do the work when you are clocked in and you leave it in the library when you clock out. It would sound nicer than that, but you get the idea.


Dr. Colleen S. Harris, Librarian, John Spoor Broome Library, CSU Channel Islands: As someone who has a tough time with work boundaries, I am impressed by people who maintain work life balance and keep their boundaries firm. I hope that people will be enthusiastic about their work, but…it’s a job. The organization pays you to do your job. Not sure about anywhere else, but in most of the academic libraries I’ve worked in, killing yourself for the job didn’t earn you any more money or benefits than the folks who make sure to take their designated breaks and go home after putting in their day. I feel like a lot of institutions, and particularly in higher ed and service professions, learned during the pandemic just how much their organizations depended on their free labor to keep from hiring appropriate staffing, and how far their organizations would continue to go to demand that free labor even under natural disaster. Organizations have had that ‘above and beyond’ without having to pay for it, and then they demand it while also not recognizing the humanity needs of staff – time off to be sick, protections from the virus, and just basic mental health. I think employees had their eyes opened to the very real capitalist drive of their organizations in a way that non-crisis time camouflaged.

I respect interviewees who can describe the ways in which they assert their agency to shape their lives in a healthy way, which is how I would describe work-life balance. I try to take lessons from their answers. I recently saw (probably on Twitter) a meme that passed that said, “If an interviewer asks how you work in a fast paced environment under pressure, ask them if that’s the usual state of things, because if so, that’s a systemic problem.” That hit home for me. We shouldn’t be asking folks to work themselves (or ourselves) to death in environments that are intrinsically structured to be toxic and unhealthy.

There’s also a colonialist and racist not-so-under-undercurrent to organizations and admin expecting that extra unpaid hustle—librarianship is overwhelmingly white, and that’s even more pronounced at the administrative level.

I’d love to see (even in my own organization) more unprompted talk from the interviewer side about how they promote work-life balance and how the organization accepts employee boundaries and manages to function in a healthy way. “Quiet quitting” is really just re-forming employer expectations and exposing organizational gaps that were previously hidden by free labor. They assume the over-and-above is their due because so many employees have done it for so long, so it feels like poor performance when folks ramp back to actually just doing the job they were hired for well, for the time they were hired to do it.

[Side note: I’m being a hypocrite here, and I know it. I’ve put in crazy hours this week after being out all of August with Covid. (And, rare for me, I was out-out. Not-even-glancing-at-email out, not-even-turning-on-my-phone-or-laptop out…and that made me realize it’s been years since I was totally divorced from work entirely.) Missing 4 weeks of August before a semester starts is…unadvisable. I fell off the boundary wagon this week because of the pressure I put on myself, but intend to try again next week—my own efforts at ‘quiet quitting.’ I know that I’m always torn – there’s so much to do and not enough people or time to do it in, pressure from admin, and then the genuine desire to serve our students/users/community. All of that conspires to instigate the “vocational awe” that Fobazi Ettarh describes (read her article, it’s excellent), and paves the way for abuse – often self-inflicted, but definitely organizationally-influenced.]


Jennie Garner, Library Director, North Liberty Library: As a library administrator, my overarching job is to be sure the library runs smoothly and our community sees us as a vital service so that our city leaders also know how important the library is in our city. To that end, it’s my expectation that staff provide exemplary customer service that is above par. Working to ensure that our patrons have a fantastic experience every time they visit the library is our main objective. We try to get to yes as much as possible, whether it’s the library providing the service or linking the patron to the service/need in our community. When I hire, I’m looking for candidates who are invested in providing excellent service to our community. That said, internal customer service is just as important as external service and part of my role as a leader is to be sure our staff has the support they need in order to perform well in their roles. Work/life balance is vital for our employees’ mental health and wellness, which in turn ensures their professional life can be maintained. So, if an applicant asks about work/life balance, I let them know that I value their time when they are at work and expect that they are doing the job we entrusted to them but I also know that their personal life is important. What managers sometimes fail to realize is that when our employees are happy in all sectors of their life, it reflects in their work. If we help support both a positive work environment and convey that we understand that their personal life is their priority, our team tends to organically go that extra mile.

Long story short, I’m looking for people who show me that they are interested in library work and strong customer service values when they are at work but I don’t expect them to live and breathe the library.


Jimmie Epling, Director, Darlington County Library System: First we were told by the media and HR gurus of the “Great Resignation.”  Then came the media and HR guru reports of the “Great Regret.”  Now we are told by the media and HR gurus of the “Quiet Quitting.”  This kind of behavior has happened in the past and should come as no surprise now.

Some folks didn’t like their working conditions, which was exacerbated by the COVID-19 restrictions and responses, and resigned their jobs.  The jobs they took proved not to be what they expect and now they regret their decision.  Those with regrets, and who cannot resign because they need to work, have decided they are going to “quietly quit” their job until they find another.

There is nothing new to see here.  Many over the years have quit jobs for ones which they felt would suit them better, only to be disappointed for one reason or another and become disgruntled workers.  As disgruntled workers, they engaged in “just putting in their time” or the minimum work necessary, which now is dubbed “quiet quitting” by the media and HR gurus. 

There is nothing wrong with having some employees who ask about the work/life balance.  Many of us are accustom to having employees who are their just for their paycheck because the work/life balance, as it is now called, falls firmly on the life side of the equation.  When hiring, you can sometimes determine what side the candidate will fall in in that balance.  If you are looking for someone who wants job mobility and to achieve “greatness” at your library, hire that person.  If have a job where you need someone to fill a position that has little job mobility or opportunity for “greatness,” hire the person who will be happy with the job because their satisfaction in life is not tied to the job.  This person just wants to work to live.

When hiring you need to understand three things.  Not every job you have is a step to greater things.  There are candidates who just want to work to live, not live to work for advancement.  Lastly, an employee can become dissatisfied with the job, quit for another job and regret the decision, and ultimately become a quiet quitter.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: My answer partly depends on the type of position. An hourly full-time benefitted position (non-exempt) is designed so that we do not expect, and cannot allow, staff to work overtime or take work home. What I would hope for, and strongly encourage and support, is that colleagues in these positions will engage in library or college-wide work like committees or volunteering for events, and that I and the other supervisors will recognize the time commitment required. So the “extra mile” in this case isn’t about work/life balance or doing more than expected. I have some staff who like to be involved in these types of activities and others who do not – they come to work, do their work, and go home. Support for this work does appear in the position descriptions so that provides us with the opportunity to make note of staff who do this work during evaluations. There is no financial compensation tied to performance evaluations so there really isn’t a carrot or stick.
In my experience, exempt staff know that their work will almost inevitably require them to work beyond the “minimum” at least occasionally. As the library director, I feel like my responsibility is to try to keep some informal track of that and to be sure that we can work out ways to even things out (either on the books or sometimes on the side). Library faculty keep faculty schedules. The demands of teaching, professional work, service, and scholarship are familiar to those of us in academia. The balance and effort can look different for different people and for different career stages. Those expectations are set by the library faculty  – if not how many hours people spend, certainly what success looks like.

I think it is important to work with colleagues to reach a mutual understanding of what work/life balance looks like. There are people for whom work is a refuge for any number of reasons. Those individuals may want to “go the extra mile.” I work hard not to compare one staff member to another as long as each of us accomplishes our work, feels valued, and is given opportunities and support to do extra (like committee service) if it is of interest. So if a candidate asked about it, I think I would encourage them to ask the people who would be their closest colleagues in the library. And I would tell them that balance is probably something that is not static and good communication is key to ensuring that everyone is feeling effective, appreciated, and human.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: Personally, hustle and going the extra mile while ignoring work/life balance would get me to raise my eyebrow. I’ve had too many “earnest” colleagues that drove me crazy if their colleagues didn’t live up to their impossible standards. A refreshed librarian who isn’t freaking out about child or elder parent care is a more productive librarian in my humble opinion.

I have told every person I have ever hired that if they didn’t take their allotment of vacation, please don’t do it thinking they are impressing me. I’m more likely to think you are nuts. Hopefully these candidates did not get into librarianship because of the fantastic pay. One of the advantages of being a librarian should be quality of life. If you are stressing yourself out and you’re not a director, frankly, I don’t believe you are doing it right.

Relax, nobody ever died of library malpractice. The worst thing we do to anybody is inconvenience them.


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: I can’t say I would hire for “hustle”. The expectation should be that employees do the job they were hired to do based on the job description, no more, and no less. (I’ve seen people interview as if they would “go the extra mile” and then once hired, spend their time and energy promoting themselves and not doing the actual duties of their job. So I am suspicious of those who are “hustling” 24/7!) They should do the job well consistently, with true teamwork and accountability, but without the unspoken expectation of “you will give more, more, always more”. 

I don’t like the phrase “quiet quitting” because it is inaccurate. It is not quitting at all, and it is unsettling that the phrase equates “doing your actual job” with literally “not working at all”. I have to wonder if that phrase is an attempted backlash by those who are threatened by the “great resignation” and who want to deny that it is happening.

In my observation and experience as an advisor, the great resignation has been going strong for a couple of years now and shows no signs yet of slowing down. I have many more librarians coming to me for job search advising now than prior to COVID, and right now lots of them are looking to leave the profession altogether, which is an interesting change and a bit sad for librarianship, but not surprising. They are clear that they don’t want to work for employers that bully, gaslight, and exploit them, that overwork and underpay them, punish them for taking sick days when they are sick, offer no raises and no opportunities for advancement, and/or put them in danger, from COVID or patron violence or anything else. They are saying “no” to mistreatment and disrespect and I am 100% here for that.

If an employer wants an employee to do more on an ongoing basis, there should be a clearly defined, real reward for that, beyond an insincere “Thank you so much!” or a t-shirt or free pizza twice a year or whatever.

I think applicants should ask about work/life balance and healthy boundaries during a job interview. It’s smart. It is a huge red flag if an employer objects to that kind of question – that is not a place where you’d want to work.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: Although this is an interesting way of identifying employee performance, I had an immediate negative reaction to most interpretations of this phrase or explanations of what this phrase actually means. My internal dialogue on this issue ended up with me disagreeing with most of the ways to look at this. Because of that, I did a little more digging and I found several articles and streamed interviews as well as blog postings (I consider these resources differently these days) and found an online article that provides background information for the overall concept. And of course – I am not saying that those who use this or define this phase sanctions or justifies all definitions, but it should first be said that there ARE very differing definitions.

So read on. I will give my take – as a manager – on how definitions for this phrase might play out in a workplace when those definitions include “justifiable behavior overall” or “acceptable “for now” or “understandable and ignored” OR – as many say – this is the fault of the manager who chooses to accept it as their fault AND spends significant time attempting to engage employees or “make them happy again” or inspires employees by providing an environment that makes everyone want to “hustle” again once the organization corrects the problem.

Jeanne Sahadi, CNN Business on August 26, 2022 said in What Managers Should Know about ‘Quiet Quitting.’ “‘Quiet quitting’ is annoyingly imprecise and misleading.” Sahadi goes on to say that definitions are mixed in that some identify it as “doing the bare minimum at work or just not going above and beyond.” And others with a different take say it is “about setting healthy boundaries.” Similarly others say “it’s about taking back control of your time and standing up to employers expecting you to do more without paying you more.”

I think, however, that these are completely different situations and performance levels even within single definitions. In fact – you need to address these phrases separately (if in fact they do represent “quiet quitting”) including:

  • “doing the bare minimum”
  • “just not going above and beyond”
  • “setting healthy boundaries”
  • “taking control of your time”
  • “standing up to employers expecting you to do more without paying you more.”

When you separate these statements and phrases out or uncouple them, they are – in my opinion – distinctly different and should be identified for leaders, managers and employees as individual performance issues.

doing the bare minimum” No matter how you say or what tone you use, although doing the minimum on a job may still constitute “doing your job” it is still a negative descriptor. The repercussions could include a refusal of team members to work together and certainly a lack of trust in the manager who is perceived as not treating people equitably either through pay or roles and responsibilities. With that said, the answer lies in the definition of “bare minimum.” In the purest sense – again, although sounding negative – if you look up bare minimum, it is characterized as perfectly acceptable, making it okay to be – and they use this word – “mediocre.” Therein lies the problem …that is, although one can say the bare minimum is acceptable the additional explanation used with this is that to be mediocre is to be “not very good.”

To move beyond this, managers have to decide on what employees must do to be at least acceptable in their job performance. In addition, organizations need to have clear definitions of additional evaluative aspects or attributes such as enthusiasm for work, specific attitudes or at least the lack of negative attitudes, teamwork behaviors designed for a successful team and specific statements of what “at the very least” means. No one wants to work alongside someone getting paid what they are getting paid when there might be noticable differences and someone – who doesn’t have to be “hustling” or going above and beyond – is receiving the same benefits, etc. So while intrinsic pride in work and accomplishment is not possessed by everyone, all of the elements must be working at a baseline level to move something along or forward.

“just not going above and beyond” While I am sure that some employees choose to – either overall or at some times or in some jobs or with some managers – NOT go above and beyond, a manager has to decide how they will ‘manage’ this person and process. And – if an employee does want to commit to only this, they should do so in such a way that no one is aware of this – least of all the person or persons who evaluate them. That being said – four issues should be addressed (and this content is specifically for libraries and non-profit environments.)

  • An employee choosing to work in this mode should carefully assess their own goals to make sure their performance is up to acceptable performance standards so that the work they are hired to do DOES get done. They also need to ensure that those around them – a team, intermittent partners, clients/users, etc. do NOT have to either take on more themselves or settle for less than good work.
  • An employee forced to work in this mode because of a health reason or short term non-work situation should first determine if it IS possible to maintain their minimum and if not, they need to decide how they will ensure that work gets done or done differently, without compromising the work of others or their work life relationships. If they need to reach out to their manager they need to either informally or formally discuss how their job will be done, but possibly differently, to see if that is acceptable through informal means or through more formal means – for example FMLA – so that work activities are ensured but perhaps in different ways or at different times.
  • A manager who suspects this is the case needs to first determine if this is acceptable behavior in the short term both for the employee, the team, etc. If it is, then it doesn’t need to be addressed but if an evaluation period is due, and aspects of work or team work or team product or user needs being met – then the manager needs to decide how to carefully decipher evaluative criteria so it is clear that the evaluation clearly and fairly assesses and addresses work.
  • If a manager suspects that this is the case and it is a long term issue, they must first verify if it is an issue for aspects of work or team work or team product or user needs being met. If this is thought to be the case through third party information or observation the manager has to decide based on specific evidence, gathered appropriately and then determine if the situation needs to be corrected or management expectations of employees needs to be corrected or the work itself needs to be corrected so that work matches employees skills, remuneration, etc.

If it is determined that there is one or more employees who practice this, managers must investigate these minimum attitudes to determine if the problem lies within the organization, their management style, the nature of the work, team members or other issues such as umbrella organization issues, societal issues, etc. Clearly the vision of the organization along with its goals/outcomes, etc. needs to be attained through fairly distributed work with reasonable and fair rewards. In the absence of more traditional incentives – which is endemic in many libraries – then the organizational culture, employee “drivers,” non-traditional and traditional incentives need to be explored.

“setting healthy boundaries” There is nothing wrong with setting healthy boundaries, but both employees and managers need to couple these issues with the “no above and beyond” issue previously addressed. When explored together one needs to be sure that “not going above and beyond” is not just another part of “boundaries.” That is especially important because one should NOT assume that it is unhealthy to go above and beyond and that simply isn’t true for everyone. In fact some would argue that our profession has nothing BUT jobs that are very hard, not as well paid as they should be and require above and beyond. Also – service professions are known for attracting people who are there because their satisfaction comes from a variety of things – and going above and beyond and the extra mile is one of those things that brings satisfaction.

But there are other things that cause people to go above and beyond such as a position that is an internship where enthusiasm, and “above and beyond” are noted; succession planning often means that you are doing YOUR job but showing you can do other things as well; a job that has training for not what you are doing now, but training for what is next – which is often above and beyond – and MANY of our jobs where it says – literally – a professional in the organization is expected to work a minimum of 40 hours a week.

“taking control of your time” Like the other areas, if one feels the need to do this, the implication is that their current job is NOT well planned and possibly that the organization does not have control of what they are asking for and from whom. This makes the most sense to me and I don’t think I would have said this two years ago in just this way but there are several issues here.

The pandemic found us – for the most part – providing many of the same services but in greatly reduced or with completely different modes and methods. Also employers as well as managers – for most of the pandemic – did not have the control they needed and did not have the ability to say – thoughtfully or otherwise – stop doing it this way and do this instead. In addition, we are returning sporadically and this means that few have had the chance to say – what shall we leave behind or what needs to adapt or what needs to go forward. With that in mind there are a few solutions and – dragging out my “go to” I first am going to suggest that people use paradigm shifts to identify the way things were, the way things are now and the way things will be – and the specific date for that beginning. So no matter what you do – use these visual or organizational techniques to make it clear. Also consider then using those shifts for each general job description so that managers can personalize even more of what was, is and will be – but drilled down to more individual applications.

One additional technique is a reboot of any or all roles and responsibilities. This approach should present very different parameters. That is, consider the following:

  • reducing the breadth of roles and responsibilities by asking people to identify – in priority order – what one of three teams the might not serve on for one year
  • reducing the number of teams or committees overall by putting the team on hiatus or by keeping the same teams but providing a stop-out (temporary) of work for a specific length of time …everything does NOT have to “come back” at one time
  • reducing team goals or outcomes to fewer than3
  • reducing new initiatives (mutually agreed upon among teams) to focus on one or two instead of what often happens where one teams new project create work for many
  • delaying new initiatives, but picking a specific future date for critical initiatives such as software upgrades, etc.
  • changing the size of a new initiative with a pilot rather than a full scale release

These decisions often provide the much-needed respite with a calmer atmosphere or more reasonable ramping up for returning to normal while still providing the basic services for which the organization exists. This in turn provides employees – seeking a “slow down” with a natural more accepted way to slow down or step back, but more importantly – provides them with an organized work flow to an end date before more engaged or charged work environments will return.

“standing up to employers expecting you to do more without paying you more” To me, this is a completely different aspect of the question and should be happening – driven by management – no matter what individuals choose to do. THIS is about setting boundaries, performance expectations, assessing client needs and determining where managers draw the line for piling on work, expectations and raising the “minimum” bar. This also involves:

  • making choices of what the organization will continue to do when more is on their plate either with the same employees or – in many cases today – fewer people in the workplace
  • assessing levels and depths of services – instead of three programs a week, only two …instead of on-demand classes – here are the available slots to fill
  • assessing providing original on-demand content instead of “please choose from these three outlines for the instruction
  • instead of returning to all programs and services during open hours – offering hours with staff but no services such as programs, consultations

These approaches need to be accompanied with meaningful data gathering, a decision to NOT hide reductions and management data gathering on salaries, fair wages, per hour comparisons with other area institutions, the cost of living, etc. and – if possible – difficult in retaining employees. And – frankly – this last one is more difficult given the lack of movement in the workforce, employees need to work and not be able to move among other jobs, due to the size and nature of the community, unemployment numbers to name just a few reasons why many employees simply can’t leave.

Finally – it’s relatively clear I don’t like the term and don’t believe we have to live with it either as individuals, members of teams or managers. Instead – we need to get to the root cause of why even one person just wants to – as so many definitions indicate – do the minimum or perform at the lowest level. I am also – in this forum NOT going to begin to outline the tenets of professionalism for any profession but say that many of the definitions above indicate a less-than-professional approach to one’s profession.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, or hidden inside a Kinder Egg along with a cool toy. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Further Questions

if a routine social media scan or other screening reveals a belief in conspiracy theories or misinformation, a library is not an appropriate workplace for that person.

Isabel Miller and Barbara Gittings hugging librarians. NYPL Digital Collections

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Public Library

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Program Coordinator, Library Assistant, Summer Reading Program Coordinator

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Post a job, schedule an interview, make a preliminary decision, check references, make an offer. I am involved at all levels.

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

Able to anticipate needs–either from a customer service perspective or a library perspective. And a strong service orientation–patrons are not “interrupting” your work they ARE your work.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

We do request a criminal record check. Also if a routine social media scan or other screening reveals a belief in conspiracy theories or misinformation, a library is not an appropriate workplace for that person.

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

How they’ll mesh with the team. Whether they’re someone who has good work follow-through or skates by on charm and personality.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One! 

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

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

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

Honestly, not prepping at all. No evidence that they’ve looked at the library’s website, know about its services, or have opinions on how things might be done or what the library is doing well/poorly.

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

Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions. Interest in the institution and the particular place of employment goes a long way.

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

It really depends what skills I’m looking for. Library Assistant skills can be taught. Library values and knowledge about the library ecosystem are valuable for more senior positions since we have a small team without a lot of time/budget for getting people up to speed. In general though strong service orientation, strong technology skills, and willingness to jump into anything right away (flexibility and enthusiasm) are things that I consider to be important.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the information provided at the interview 

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

We try to hire to reflect our community and specifically for more diversity on staff. In terms of actual mechanisms, we have an equity statement on job ads and sometimes we post the positions with organizations that have connections in various communities, but that’s really about it. Put like that, it sounds like we should be doing more.

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

Something that makes it clear that they understand the position, know something about the library in relation to that position and that they’re interested in learning more about the library, the community, the work and have something to contribute.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Canada 

What’s your region like?

√ Rural 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Canada, Public, Rural area

Have a glass of temperate beverage nearby for when you inevitably have a coughing fit.

American Library Association – Library Personnel – Miss Anne Mulhern, Librarian, Base Hospital, Camp Cody, N.M., National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: Associate Professor & Other Really Identifiable Stuff

Titles hired include: Liaison Librarian, Resident Librarian, Department Head, Associate Dean (Different academic levels from Instructor to Professor)

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Cover letter

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Oral Exam/Structured interview

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews

√ A whole day of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Job ad is usually developed by hiring dept. Admin forms a committee, I’ve served on committees and chaired them. We do phone interviews and then a full day interview for faculty lines that usually includes a teaching presentation.  Everyone who participates in the interview gives de-identified feedback

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

They were *prepared* for the interview. Had looked at us and demonstrated interest in what our library was doing (went beyond giant campus initiatives). Had thoughtful questions for the people they met with. Actually responded to the questions we asked and the presentation prompt. Had actually considered what research would look like (part of our responsibilities) . 

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Entitlement / I’m just using this job to something better / you “owe” me this job ; PhDs condescending to work in the library as a backup “because it’s easy”;   Complete disinterest in doing research on a tenure-track line; Shows complete lack of curiosity about the people they would be working with; Openly sexist or racist statements ; 

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

Who is going to turn out to be incredibly lazy or a raging asshole. For anyone in management: who is going to gaslight me 

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more 

Resume: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

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

They haven’t prepared questions they can ask all day.  General questions (what do you enjoy, what would you like to change, goals for next six months, how do you celebrate successes?) show interest in *us* and something more than the job responsibilities. If you’ve reached the in person interview I want to know that you’re at least interested in working *with me*

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

Yes — though I anticipate we’ll go back to in-person for full day interviews in the future.  *please* put your camera at a flattering angle so we aren’t looking at your forehead or up your nose.  Have a glass of temperate beverage nearby for when you inevitably have a coughing fit.  

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

Give clear and specific correlative examples using library language.  You want to join this field, learn some of the jargon and translate it for us.  We’re tired and busy and don’t want to guess if you’ve had experience.  It’s the same for any profession — show us that you want to be engaged in our work — not some mythical idea of what a library is or what academic librarians do. 

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

We have training for the search committee. We have rubrics to evaluate the candidates.  We try to broadly recruit. I don’t have a problem with us requiring the MLS but I know it’s seen as exclusionary (too often when it’s not the MLS it’s A PhD and that’s not inclusive). Adding minimum salary in job ads has helped a lot too.  What ranks people get hired at and a weird preference for extremely underwhelming white guys still tends to be common 

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

How would you like to see the organization grow in the next five years? How might you and I collaborate? What’s something you’re proud of?  — they need to be aware that we are an under-resourced minority serving institution and we’re extremely proud of our students.  We want you to truly want to work with them and also to care about us as colleagues. If the only thing you can come up with “oh you’re in geographic location” or “Oh you’re a Size of College” (both of which I’ve heard for leadership roles)…. nah 

Additional Demographics

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions  

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

I didn’t give you all of the demographic information because there’s really only a few institutions that meet all of those and you’ve not been clear how you’ll de-identify responses.  

Job hunting is awful right now but also exciting. I’ve just talked two different people through negotiating for higher pay as they accepted new offers and it’s exciting.  

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, Academic

I want to see problem-solving, communication skills, ability to facilitate meetings or host programs, and enough technology skills to make the job go smoothly.

Front of the Harry S. Truman Library. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Other: State Library

Title: Library Development Director

Titles hired include: Youth Services Consultant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ HR

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor 

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

√ Online application

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ References

√ Supplemental Questions 

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc)

√ More than one round of interviews 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ Yes 

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

The agency director, with input from the department head, writes a job description for the desired position. (If it’s an existing position, the department head may just need to edit/review.) The HR manager posts it to various sites and monitors applications. Once the deadline is past and a sufficient number of candidates have applied, the department head reviews them with the help of HR and the agency director. First round interviews are sometimes online, due to COVID or if the candidate is too far to travel. They usually include the department head and HR manager. They frequently involve a short presentation related to the job, as well as some scenario based questions. Second round interviews are in person, with the agency director involved, and may also include a demonstration. HR then extends an offer to the desired candidate.

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

Good presentation skills, ability to problem-solve, obvious knowledge of their field of expertise and our agency’s role

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Pushy or rude, glaring errors in the writing sample questions, hasn’t reviewed our agency website and info to see what we do; bad references

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

It’s sometimes hard to see their judgment/diplomacy when dealing with difficult situations. We need candidates who have good judgment and can be trusted to represent the agency when not under direct supervision.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more 

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Too vague with answers, not specific enough examples of relevant work; not reading the job description (our work isn’t directly with library patrons)

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

Yes – know your technology and also don’t be flustered if something goes wrong, have a backup plan. Have a nice background and no distractions. 

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

Emphasize skill sets related to your knowledge base. I may not need someone who can catalog materials, but could use someone who can work with databases and sort or categorize data. If you can put together a storytime or manage a summer reading program, those are project management and program development skills. I want to see problem-solving, communication skills, ability to facilitate meetings or host programs, and enough technology skills to make the job go smoothly.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

Our HR tries to promote job openings to HBCUs and other diverse audiences, but we primarily hire degreed librarians and the degree is still out of reach for many. 

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

Ask what we hope to accomplish in the position. What major projects are coming up or in progress, or what aspects we want to develop. They need to know that our patrons are the library staff and that we don’t work directly with patrons. 

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Southeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Other: statewide; a lot of rural with some suburban and urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Other: working on work-from-home options 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 51-100 

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 50-100 staff members, Rural area, Southeastern US, Suburban area, Urban area

Find something you genuinely want to know and ask that, it’s very obvious if you don’t actually care about the answer

Librarian in the National Archives Library, 1955, National Archives

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Academic Library 

Title: University Librarian

Titles hired include: Library Assistant

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ Library Administration

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Cover letter

√ Resume

√ CV

√ References

√ Proof of degree 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

Application then interview. At higher level we have presentations and tests 

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

Was very relaxed in the interview and talked like they were actually answering the questions not just saying what they thought we wanted to hear

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Not answering the actual question. Anything that shows they don’t understand what the job is

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Two is ok, but no more  

Resume: √ Two is ok, but no more

CV: √ Two is ok, but no more

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

Talking for ages about something we didn’t ask. Not giving examples

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

Find ways of adapting other experience and making it applicable to the new role

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad

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

Find something you genuinely want to know and ask that, it’s very obvious if you don’t actually care about the answer

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ UK 

What’s your region like?

√ Urban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Never or not anymore 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 0-10 

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

Leave a comment

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

Further Questions: What are the best and worst questions you get from candidates when you say “Do you have any questions for us?”

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

This week’s question is a simple one, suggested by someone who hires librarians:

What are the best and worst questions you get from candidates when you say “Do you have any questions for us?”


Laurie Phillips, Interim Dean of Libraries, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans: I think the worst question is “What does a typical day look like?” That’s impossible to answer because our jobs are so dependent on the ebb and flow of the school year. The first week of school looks very different from finals week and everything in between. Good questions we’ve had recently were about new initiatives that we’re undertaking in that unit, and reporting lines for different tasks that are part of the job description (a good question because some of them are “dotted line” reporting). One asked “What inspired you to be here?” Two of us in the room have been here for more than 30 years and two were much newer, so the answers were varied. It’s a flattering question for the committee, but I have liked it better when someone asks about professional development and organizational culture. People often ask about benefits in first round interviews. That’s difficult for me to answer because I want to be sure they’re getting correct information from HR. 


Gemma Doyle, Collection Development Manager, EBSCO: The worst response I’ve ever gotten when I’ve asked candidates if they have any questions is no questions at all.  Which can be understandable in the moment, since interviews can be stressful and overwhelming, and some candidates might be afraid of asking something that doesn’t come off well.  I always give them my email address and make sure they know they can email me with any questions they think of later, and a lot of candidates take me up on that.  I try to cover as much of the job and the organization as I can in an interview, but I know I forget important pieces, and when candidates ask something extremely basic I always feel like it’s my fault for not being clear enough. 

The best questions I’ve gotten are usually ones that dive deeply into the culture of our workplace or the job and show me that the candidate is really thinking critically about whether or not this is an environment they’ll do well in.  Asking about what performance metrics we use, team dynamics, work/life balance, longevity in the position… these are all things that can affect their day-to-day life in the job that I may not have time to address in a normal 60 minute interview.  I definitely want to know if there are things that make them hesitant about the job, because neither of us want them to be hired and absolutely miserable. 


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: I have a few in both categories; however, I have a third category – what is the most frequently asked question we get from candidates when we say “Do you have any questions for us?”

Best

I rather enjoy it when an applicant wants to ask one or more committee members to identify two or three things that THEY like about the organization – or if a committee member is in a parallel position, two or three things they like about the position. I also like a variation – how long have you been here and what keeps you here or what attracted you to the organization. I also like someone asking a question that is a clarification of something they saw on the website. This communicates that they have not only looked at the website, but they have looked closely and need clarification on how something might relate to them or the job/position for which they are applying.

Worst

General questions like “Is there a probationary period?” or “How soon is my performance evaluation?” or “How am I evaluated?” are rather obvious questions and always – even though they probably shouldn’t – raise questions in my mind, but there ARE ways to find out these things which are important to applicants and rightly so. But I would suggest that people ask them differently “I have a copy of the position description and I am sure that is a measure of my performance but what other tools does the organization use for planning roles and responsibilities? That is, do librarians set annual goals? Do teams or committees set goals? Are goals or outcomes the practice and how is their success measured? How is my success measured?

Specifically though – I have two bad questions – one of the worst questions is one that immediately indicates that you are applying for a job but you don’t want that job…that is, “If I get this job – how soon can I move or transfer to another job?” And that or a close variation – is a question we got which sends all of the wrong signals…clearly you don’t want to be “there” or “in that job” or “serving that clientele” and you are trying to find out – obviously – how quickly you can leave the job for which you are currently applying. (Interestingly in my organization – we do have a minimum of a year someone must stay in a job before they can apply for another job in the organization, so that is an easy answer.)

The other “worst answer” is similar in intent – but framed a little differently – and that is the intent of the applicant is to get a job “near home.” And they don’t want a job that is x miles away from their home. I should add in here, Austin does not have a reliable transportation network of any kind and obviously – right now – gas is high and cars are expensive in general and used cars are hard to come by BUT an applicant should either wait to ask this question until they are alone with the chair of the committee or email afterwards, explaining the high cost of gas, the inability to have reliable transportation, etc. and their question regarding this position at a certain location. (I should also add that our position descriptions do mention “access to reliable transportation.”)

Most Frequent

I can safely say that almost every – if not every – single applicant for a faculty librarian position has asked about our support for their professional development. “Do we support them?”” How much money do they get allocated to them or how often can they travel?” Another approach is someone will say “I am a member of x Association Committee – will you support me in that service?” This answer is far too layered to answer here; however, suffice to say – yes and no …and then we outline some of our processes.


Ellen Mehling, Job Search Advisor/Instructor and Brooklyn Public Library’s Job Information Resource Librarian: The best questions applicants have at the end of an interview are those that relate to succeeding in the job, and that show that the interviewee has done their homework re: understanding the job and the employer, like:

“For the first 3 – 6 months of this job, what would success look like? What would be the most important things I’d need to get up to speed on, right away?” or “It sounds like [X] and [Y] are the things I’d need to get a handle on right away, is that correct?”

“How is success measured here? How often are employee evaluations done?”

“Are there any other responsibilities (or challenges) of this position that we have not already discussed?”

The worst questions are ones that the applicant could have found the answers to with a quick look at the library’s website, or questions that reveal that the applicant is focused only on what they can get from the employer, or that they just want a job, any job, rather than the specific position the employer is trying to fill, such as:

“What programs and services does this department provide?”

“How soon do employees get their first raise? How quickly do people get promoted here?”

“How many vacation days will I get, to start?”

Some interviewers are turned off by applicants asking about salary, but I think it makes sense to discuss that early on, and I wish that including salary info in job descriptions, and discussing salary during the hiring process in general, were more normalized. It can be tricky though, so interviewees should gauge how well the interview has gone so far, use their best judgment in deciding whether or not to ask at that point, and know that salary should probably not be the first thing they ask about. If an interviewee does bring it up, it should be in a respectful way rather than a demanding one (tone is so important here), emphasizing that the goal is to make sure that the applicant and the employer are on the same page regarding pay, before investing more time in discussion.


Randall Schroeder, Director, Retired: The best question I ever heard from a candidate which I shamelessly stole when I started interviewing again was:

“In two years, how will you know I was successful or unsuccessful?”

A few of my colleagues on the search committee were completely unprepared for the question and gave pablum answers. Others took a deep dive into what the library needed and what its mission was. When I used it as an interviewee, it gave me a good read as to how much the library really thought about what it wanted from this position and whether it was a good match.


We’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments, on Twitter @HiringLib, carved into my homeroom desk. If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Further Questions

Further Questions: Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more?

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

This week’s question is:

Traditional hiring advice cautions against being a “job hopper.” And yet, switching positions often provides a lot of benefits – broader experience, more connections, better pay, etc.  Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? When you hire, are you on the lookout for “job hopping” and if so, what are the signs? Bonus: Can you share a little about your job history (positions/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)?

There is some more discussion on Twitter and a little bit more on Facebook (if you’re part of the notorious #ALATT).


Anonymous: I think we have always been wary of job hoppers. Will this person stay and be invested in our organization? Will they connect here and stay or always have one foot out of the door? Our librarians have faculty status, so once you’re tenured, it’s a lot harder to think about moving, since there is stability. Money is always, of course, an issue, and career development. I personally was lucky enough to be able to develop my career at one university. If I were still doing the job for which I was hired many years ago, I wouldn’t still be here. I’ve been given many opportunities to grow, develop, change, and move up in the organization. But, when I had the opportunity to apply for the position of director of the library, I found that the upper academic administration did not value my longevity and wanted someone who had experience elsewhere. While I understand that, I didn’t feel like the breadth of my experience here was understood or valued. I know a lot about what’s going on in other libraries and the field. I just haven’t worked at other libraries. So, my answer would be, it depends on who is making the decision. 


Alan Smith, Director, Florence County, SC Library System: As with so many things, it depends on the position, the candidate, and the library’s needs at the time. If they seem like a potentially excellent employee, I’d rather have them here for a relatively short time than settle for someone who seems like they will stay long-term but doesn’t bring much to the table. In just a year or two a great employee can bring in a lot of new ideas, programs, skills, and enthusiasm that can have a ripple effect on other staff too. 

All that is true for most positions, but there are some where expected tenure is a bigger consideration. For anything that requires a lot of specialized technical skill, or long-term on-the-job training, having to do that all over again comes with a bigger financial and adminstrative cost. The same is true for jobs performed by only one person at a time — if there’s no one else in that department to share the load in the event of a vacancy, we may be less likely to risk hiring someone who has only stayed in positions short-term. 

My advice to candidates with a lot of short-term jobs on their resumes is: just tell us why! We understand that people usually have to take what they can find before they get into the field or position they really want to have. If you’ve worked 5 different non-library jobs in the past 5 years, but your dream has always been to work with children in the library, etc., the “job hopping” isn’t necessarily a red flag. On the other hand, if you don’t seem particularly interested in this library position, and can’t give a good reason why you left the previous jobs, it may give us pause. Even saying you left for better schedule or pay is a good explanation; just don’t leave it at “it didn’t work out” or “I didn’t like it.” It’s also important to make a connection between the other jobs and the potential library position. Customer service work in retail or food service is great experience for working at a circulation or reference desk. Working in a call center shows you can stay calm talking to upset customers. Working in a day care or school gives you skills that can transfer to working in a children’s department. But it’s important to make those connections explicitly, because the person reading your application or interviewing you may not. 

Finally, we hiring managers, especially those in mid- or late-career, also need to remember that the job market is not like it is when we started out.  The days when you could get a job you liked, stay in it for years, and count on regular incremental salary increases that outpaced increases in the cost of living, are long gone, and that’s never been the reality for workers under 35 or so. For younger workers, often the only way to get a salary increase has been to wait for a higher level opening in their organization, or to find a job elsewhere. Just something to keep in mind.


Celia Rabinowitz, Dean of Mason Library, Keene State College: I feel like the most recent questions are walking endorsements for thoughtful cover letters!! A CV or resume can put a spotlight on frequent job changes which can happen for lots of reasons. I have noted before that having a military spouse or family members of any age needing care are just two of many reasons why people may change jobs more frequently than what someone might consider usual.

Use your cover letter to provide some context to the degree that a hiring committee needs to know. If you are really “job hopping,” say something about how your skills and experience benefitted from the moves. A search committee may wonder whether frequent moves are an indication of lack of success rather than some other motivation. Whatever the reason, if you have moved around a lot it can help to include references you trust from some of the places you have worked who can support your application if you reach that stage of a search.

I admit that I have become much less apt to assume anything about a candidate just based on dates I see on a resume. A committee certainly does not need a long explanation. Nor should a candidate feel obligated to provide details that may also skirt the boundaries at least of unethical if not illegal. Tell us how your experiences have helped you become a candidate we want to know more about.
My job history doesn’t look anything like I expected. I got my first job one month out of library school in fall 1992. I expected to stay for about 4-5 years. In year 5 I was promoted to Head of Public Services. In year 10 I was promoted to library director. I always tell people that I made my moves by staying in one place, at a very small college. I was happy there and had also established a personal relationship and had other reasons to stay.  Then – 22 years later – my partner and I felt a need to make a change. At that point thinking about moving was incredibly scary and much later in my career than I thought I would make a change. I only applied for one job (we were focused on one geographical area and I wanted to stay at a particular type of institution). I got the job and we moved in 2014. That was 8 years ago. It will be my last move.

The move provided me with opportunities to grow and learn that I would never would have had if I had stayed where I was. I think staying where I was for so long and moving when I did have ended up being the right things for me. I am not built to be a job-hopper. Some people are.


Julie Todaro, Dean, Library Services, Austin Community College: To attempt to clearly express my opinion I am going to comment on each sentence. 

Traditional hiring advice cautions against being a “job hopper.” The way I would like to comment on this is to say “yes, but…” 

  • I realized early on in my career that “hopping” meant different things to different people. It is important to define; therefore, within an organization, an office or department and within a hiring group – what hopping actually means in the context of the job or department hiring. In fact, logically, in some organizations “hopping” might be valued in one department or for one level or one type of position as well as “hopping” might not be seen as a problem. In my opinion; however, for librarians, “less than a year” or “barely over a year” is a hop although my caveats would be:
    • Did someone move within an institution? between or among departments?
    • Were the hops always on an upward trajectory? 
    • Is there an indication that “hopping” was part of the job? (ex. learning various areas? participating in projects? any indication of ‘floating’? 
    • Does the individual in a job possess unique experiences or education they are asked to share broadly?
    • Was hopping ‘unavoidable?’
      • Did the organization downsize and let recently hired go? 
      • Did organization’s merge? 
      • Did manager’s change?
      • Were there external reasons? (Pandemic issues? facilities issues? weather related environmental issues? relocations required?)

And yet, switching positions often provides a lot of benefits – broader experience, more connections, better pay, etc. There ARE many reasons why someone might be moving between or among positions or organizations including opportunities that arise heretofore thought not possible? Benefits or salary significantly better? Are there advancement possibilities? Simply a better match of work roles and responsibilities? A different management style? Or something not typically thought of..flexible work hours needed? A workspace with windows needed? Organizations DO need to have the discussion as to what IS hopping and – if it is present given their definition – and if it – upon review – acceptable for the position available.

Does your library/organization value longevity or variety of experiences more? When you hire, are you on the lookout for “job hopping” and if so, what are the signs? So it depends and it depends. Hiring committee chairs in my organization DO work with hiring teams to discuss what is needed, what is acceptable, what to look out for when reviewing resumes and applications and often – after members have chosen who they want to interview – discuss how each individual’s resume and application matches individuals to the job descriptions and team needs. But to specifically answer:

  • Identify team and organizational needs for the successful candidate as to experience – types, lengths, etc.
  • Look for unexplained gaps within hops.
  • Ask about gaps that are later filled in with hops that indicate issues on your list to avoid.
  • Avoid *extremes* – that is – in assessing “look for many years at one organization with no indication of maintaining professional development or training activities” and for only one type of experience ever, look for an indication of  maintaining professional development or training activities.

The obvious answer to applicants here is – odds are you will need to – at some point – identify all positions held and why you have left those positions. Get a headstart on this and if you don’t want to address things through the application OR the resume, write a paragraph and put it in your cover letter…identify positions, timelines, reasons for applying, reasons for leaving, etc. Invite questions for more specificity or clarification. 

Can you share a little about your job history (positions/length of time) and rationale for changing positions (or not)? I am probably the wrong person to ask about this. In my first job I stayed almost 4 years although relatively miserable and then moved within the organization to a larger library in a position where – although the title was not much different, it was definitely a step up and that was clear to any reviewing roles and responsibilities. I was there for 3 years – happy – but then left to get my PhD. After my PhD I went into a different part of the profession – graduate education full time – and stayed four years – happy – then returned to practice based on relocation needs. All explainable. Then – I have been with my current organization since – and I’ll let you do the math – 1985. While here; however, I have moved up within the organization. Since 1985; however, I have applied for one external job which I did NOT get – then after that – this organization was head and shoulders financially above others – the variety and changes kept me as well as the flexibility. It’s obvious from this, I am not a hopper – but after interviewing dozens and dozens of people over the years, supervising as many people as I do and answering questions from not only my own employees but from colleagues I have some basic recommendations. 

  • Don’t create a 20-20 hindsight that is simply incorrect about why you moved around or up or out or your titles when you moved, etc. In this day and age, reasons for leaving, people to call, postings to read, interview videos posted to the web – catch you in fabrications every time.
  • Do NOT – and I have said this twice before in this forum – let a work coach or resume service hide content, invent or spin reasons beyond recognition. 
  • Address job hopping somewhere – even if – as stated above – it is only to invite questions in cover letters about work history. Show a willingness to explain job paths. 
  • Don’t create one “worklife” representing yourself on an online network site that contradicts the worklife on your resume or application. At best it will look sloppy and at worst it will look deceptive. 

Finally – I don’t believe some recommendations such as “you must stay two years in each job” or “you must stay five years before you can call yourself an expert in an area” or “don’t move from type of library to type of library without spending a significant amount of time at each.” I believe you should be honest and explain yourself or offer to explain yourself in your cover letter, in an enquiry email or at the top of your resume. Transparency or the offer of transparency is critical to success. 


 If you have a question to ask people who hire library workers, or if you’d like to be part of the group that answers them, shoot me an email at hiringlibrariansATgmail.

Leave a comment

Filed under Further Questions

Find a way to connect with the panel even in this situation during informal chat before formal interview starts

Mill Creek, Knott County, Kentucky. This young mountain wife shortly is to become the mother of his first child. The Work Projects Administration’s (WPA) Pack Horse Librarian has for months furnished her with literature on hygiene and the care of infants. She will probably go through her confinement without the aid of expert medical attention, but she will receive the attention of the WPA’s housekeeping aid, if she so desires. National Archives.

This anonymous interview is with someone who hires for a:

√ Special Library

Title: Director

Titles hired include: Bibliometrician, Bioinformatician, Data Scientist, Informationist, E-learning Librarian

Who makes hiring decisions at your organization:

√ The position’s supervisor

√ A Committee or panel 

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

√ Online application

√ Resume

√ References

√ Proof of degree

√ Supplemental Questions

√ Demonstration (teaching, storytime, etc) 

Does your organization use automated application screening? 

√ No 

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

HR screens for qualifications and fit with job announcement.  Hiring manager identifies candidates from HR list and forms an interview panel.  Candidates interview virtually and give a 10 minute presentation related to the area for which they are being hired.  Panel gives numeric rating for key competencies covered during interview.  Regardless of panel numbers, hiring manager makes the final decision.

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

Impressive candidates are highly qualified, confident, excellent communicators, and interested in the organization.

Do you have any instant dealbreakers?

Clear when the candidate hasn’t done any background on the organization or the position.

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

How the employee will fit with their colleagues.

How many pages should each of these documents be?

Cover Letter: √ Only One!  

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

CV: √ We don’t ask for this  

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

Talk too long and don’t read the room.

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

Yes.  Make sure technology is tested and set up for the virtual environment (sound, lighting, background, etc). Find a way to connect with the panel even in this situation during informal chat before formal interview starts.  Even remotely people want to get a sense of your personality.

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

Make sure your resume demonstrates impact and success doing what is required for the job being advertised.

When does your organization *first* mention salary information?

√ It’s part of the job ad 

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

HR has EEO rules in place.  Hiring panels are diverse.

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

Ask something that shows you know about the organization and demonstrates your interest in a particular position.  What does success look like in this position?  This gives you an idea of what the expectations and vision are for the group doing the hiring.

Additional Demographics

What part of the world are you in?

√ Northeastern US 

What’s your region like?

√ Suburban 

Is your workplace remote/virtual?

√ Some of the time and/or in some positions 

How many staff members are at your organization?

√ 11-50 

Is there anything else you’d like to say, either to job hunters or to me, the survey author? 

More and more positions in libraries require specialized skills and there may be non-MLIS graduates filling these positions.  Certificates or continued education in specialized areas are increasingly being valued.

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

Leave a comment

Filed under 1 A Return to Hiring Librarians Survey, 10-50 staff members, Northeastern US, Special, Suburban area